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Old 31-10-2009, 14:15   #1
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New York to Cape May to Havre de Grace

Hello all,

I am helping a friend move a 32' full-keel boat from Liberty Landing Marina to Havre de Grace, Maryland next week (yep, sweater time!) I am not familiar with the area and was hoping locals and people familiar with Hudson Bay, New Jersey coast, and the upper Delaware/Chesapeake.

We plan to leave mid-AM on Tues to be out the Ambrose Channel and on the Jersey coast by the evening. Sail through the night to be at Cape May by Mid-afternoon Wed.

The question is, what is the best way to time the tides for the 50mi trip up the Delaware? Is it best to fight the ebb at the mouth for several hours, then catch the flood the rest of the way to the Delaware/Chesapeake Canal? How is the current through the channel? Which way does it flow on ebb and flood?

I appreciate any and all comments and feedback for this trip. I realize it's going to be cold, and possibly snobby if the wind is south. In fact, if the wind does go south (which I'm told it does every few days for about a day), we'll probably duck into one of the harbors on the Jersey coast and wait until it Norths again. Any suggestions for places to duck in an anchor?

Thanks for your help!
Aaron
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Old 31-10-2009, 14:39   #2
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If I remember right it's only about 100 or 110 miles from Ambrose to Cape May. You will probably take the Sandy Hook channel rather than Ambrose. A bit quieter, especially early in the day when all those inbound freighters are coming in. You should get there early morning. Anchor and have a good rest in Cape May. Leave and go through the canal at first light. A 32 foot boat should get under those bridges easily. Disregard the tide. Just go as early as you can see. There's not a lot of daylight this time of the year.

I've never paid much attention to tides going up the Delaware. You win some, you lose some. Once after a tropical depression I was going up the Delaware when a downbound tug asked me how it looked outside. I asked him when the damn tide would turn (it was ebbing). He told me it might not that day!! And he was right, I didn't get to the C&D until well after dark!! This canal is well lit and you can go through at night and anchor in Chesapeake City but I prefer anchoring just north of the entrance to the canal.

The weather looks like NE for the next few days, you should be good to go. Have a safe trip.
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Old 31-10-2009, 14:49   #3
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I've done Delaware Bay once, on a "'Round Delmarva", and we lucked out.

We entered the Bay at Cape Henlopen on the Delaware side right at sunset, just as the tide began to flood. We motor-sailed overnight with the incoming tide giving us a knot or more of push, all the way to the C&D Canal (about 61 nm). The tide kept with us all the way through the canal and all the way down to Tolchester Beach, in the Cheasapeake Bay, a total of about 80 nm. Great ride, and hitting it was totally by luck, since we'd departed from White Stone, Virginia a couple of days earlier.

So, if you head out from Cape May an hour or so before low slack tide, you might get lucky, too.

BTW, we set two-man watches in the Delaware Bay. Lots of shoals and ship traffic. We tried to keep just outside the shipping channel. Some of the markers are unlit, and it was a misty night, so one guy steered and the other was glued to the radar/chartplotter.
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Old 31-10-2009, 15:14   #4
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Aaron - I would suggest you recalculate your distances. From your location to Cape May Canal is a lot longer than you think. I would also suggest that you plan on motoring a good part of the way and go with the tides. From Liberty Marina out through Upper NY Bay and to Sandy Hook alone is a chore under Sail even with a good wind. Bucking the current up the Delaware is not a very good idea. With a six knot boat you will be only making 3 with that deep draft keel. There are no over head bridges to worry about. There are also stops along the way if you get tired. Manasquan Inlet is one but has a RR Bridge just inside to the Bay. Atlantic City inlet is good and wide. Email me off list and I can give you some more information - too much for here. Be Prepared - Long Haul
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Old 31-10-2009, 15:22   #5
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When I go up the deleware I tuck in at henlopen and then buck against 2 hours before slack you don't want to go against it further up or in the canal.
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Old 31-10-2009, 15:26   #6
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I was reading Shellenberger's Chesapeake cruising guide recently and I thought he did a good job offering guidance on this trip:

http://www.amazon.com/Cruising-Chesa...7024131&sr=1-1

If you have time to grab a copy somewhere and read that section before you leave, I think it will help you a lot. It's by far the best Chesapeake cruising guide, bar none, so it's a good investment.
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Old 31-10-2009, 15:34   #7
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Jersey coast is not a nice place in bad weather; a very nasty and shallow lee-shore.

We came south from NYC on Oct. 20th last year and had had our worst night in 15,000 miles of offshore sailing... NOAA predicted 30 knots max, I went to bed and on my wife's watch the log reads...
Quote:
3 reeefs in main, 10% of staysail, force 8 gale gusting force 9 from the west, seas 20 ft...just had a 54 knot gust... running off with wind on starboard quarter but taking green water over the boat.
.

In an on-shore gale any of the entrances on that coast, and from memeory Atlantic City is the biggest until you get to Cape May, would be untenable.

As said, tides on the Delaware were not a problem but we did go with them and the bridges are not an issue but there is lots of traffic. There is a good anchorage, Sasafrass River according to my log, at the Chesepeake end of the canal and a marina or two in the middle.

Good luck and enjoy.
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Old 31-10-2009, 16:29   #8
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In chesapeake city, you may get lucky and snag one of the 3 free docks available if not the anchorage is good with a free dingy dock
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Old 31-10-2009, 17:31   #9
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Hi, Phil --

We remember that storm, too! We left NYC on 10/5, staying outside to Norfolk. Hung around Norfolk for awhile and then saw the forecast, so we decided to do the ditch. We were going across Albemarle as fast as we could, watching the front behind us. By the time we got to the Alligator River, the wind was gusting over 30 so they closed the bridge. We spent the next several days nailed to the dock at "Miss Wanda's" before they'd open the bridge.

Glad I wasn't outside during that one. You're absolutely right, though, that 100 miles from Sandy Hook to Cape May is no place to be in bad weather.

As far as going up the Delaware, I'd suggest rounding Cape May during the last two hours of ebb. You'll go slow, but then you should be able to ride the flood for much of the way up.

If you're going slow, or just want to break it up a bit, there's a nice anchorage on the eastern shore at the Cohansey River. Mean low at the entrance is just under 6', so be careful going in, but the water gets much deeper, soon. Quite a bit of tidal range (5 or 6' IIRC) and lots of current, but if you go around one of the bends you can find it a bit calmer. Good holding.

Good luck on your trip.

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Old 31-10-2009, 18:08   #10
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Hey all,

Thanks for quick comments.

You're right - after posting, I went back and remeasured, finding ~20mi from NY down to the mouth of Sandy Hook/Swash, the Jersey coast to be on the frowning side of 110mi, and the Delaware to be 62mi. So, holding to leaving early AM-Tuesday, I imagine we'll actually get down to Cape May in the mid-evening on Wed.

Is the "Swash Channel" safely navigable, or would we be best to take the Chapel Hill Channel south to Sandy Hook Channel and on out?




Looking at the Barnegat Shipping Channel, it seems we should keep about 5-6mi off shore, but just inside that channel, pretty much the whole way, coming up to loop around Cape May. Is there any need to get off further?

If it's getting dark by the time we get to Cape May Harbor, we'll probably tuck in there for the night, and leave at daybreak. Is it OK to go inside of Prissy Wicks Shoals, or would it be better to take it to starboard and run up the Cape May Channel, or even further south? The Ocean City to Cape May chart (12316) makes going inside Prissy Wicks seem fine; once Cape May light is abeam, make for G 5 and onto the Delaware Channel? Perhaps we'll go over and stay at Henlopen and leave early morning as a few suggested.





Thanks for any further comments.

Phil, you should've had me along during that gale to keep Nellie company. Hope you all are having fun! I'm not sure about this going to the land of freeze from Miami!

Cheers,
Aaron N.
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Old 01-11-2009, 07:15   #11
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blahman,

The Swash Channel to Sandy Hook is navigable. Lots of water in that area as long as you don't run up onto a light or range target.

If you go into Cape May you do not need to come out into the Atlantic again. Take the Cape May Canal into Delaware Bay. The bridges are about 54 feet but a boat your size can get under them easily. There's good water in the canal.
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Old 01-11-2009, 08:50   #12
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Just be careful about heading up Delaware Bay in northwest winds. Almost exactly a year ago, we motorsailed dead into the wind up the bay (always on a schedule, it seems). Winds were 25-30 knots on the nose. What do we care? We have a 60,000 full-keeled, clipper-bowed monster. She was designed for this stuff!

Yeah, right. She may have been, but we weren't! We got beat up and were exhausted by the time we turned into the C&D canal. We also lost of of the trim boards up in the bow pulpit - a wave took it off sometime in the night. Good thing it didn't whack one of us on the head on its way down!!!

It's always said: the prudent sailor will pick and choose his window. I guess we weren't being very prudent, then...
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Old 01-11-2009, 09:34   #13
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Arron,
You should not go around a forum incognito...you need George's pic and not that silly one. Anyone that has sailed a square rigger between a rock and a hard place, like you did, does not need my advise and as I remember your Capt's license is bigger than mine! But then, mine is awarded by an outfit that believes in proving you can sail.

We are in the Grenada, going in the yard Monday and then the kids and grandkids are sailing with us for 10 days in the Grenadines. That will bring the 5 yr-old's sea time up to close to the average Miami sailor and he already has more bad weather time...he sailed on the tri in 30+ knots. When are you and friend or friends visiting?
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Old 01-11-2009, 10:32   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beausoleil View Post
Just be careful about heading up Delaware Bay in northwest winds. Almost exactly a year ago, we motorsailed dead into the wind up the bay (always on a schedule, it seems). Winds were 25-30 knots on the nose. What do we care? We have a 60,000 full-keeled, clipper-bowed monster. She was designed for this stuff!
.
Good point, if you get out of the canal and it's blowing hard on the nose just turn around and go back to the anchorage. Good mud but a bit soupy in spots.
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Old 01-11-2009, 10:51   #15
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Correct - the tide is worst in the C&D Cannal and upper bay.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sabray View Post
When I go up the deleware I tuck in at henlopen and then buck against 2 hours before slack you don't want to go against it further up or in the canal.
I would allow a bit more time. The Delaware is a pain in a NW wind. Because you are constrained by the channel, you simply pound into it, and it is nasty if the wind and tide oppose. In a 32' boat, anything over 15 knots will be uncomfortable, and anything over 20 knots is asking to break something, pointlessly. If the wind is free enough to beat, the sails steady things and it is much better. The good part is that you will know the moment you leave Cape May what you are getting into, and it is easy to turn around.

There is some stuff in my blog about parts of the trip in a 32' catamaran this summer. Given the short winter days and your slower speed, you are going to be sailing at night unless you shorten the runs. To avoid the upper bay/C&D at night, I would leave Cape May really early, 4 am anyway, since the lower part is uncomplicated and less crowded. You are not fast enough to run the Delaware on one tide, anyway. That requires an 8-knot boat.

You'll need fuel after the Delaware; the Summit marina in the C&D is your best bet (just west of the summit rail bridge).

The upper Chesapeake is uncomplicated.

Be careful, and good luck.
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