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Old 26-05-2020, 06:45   #1
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Chesapeake + DE bay vs offshore route?

Greetings cruisers,
Currently spending the slow covid days planning a southbound route from Long Island Sound to Florida and onward from there. I've done the trip from Rock Hall, MD up via the C&D Canal and round Cape May last year after we bought our boat, and I've seen much of what there is to see in the Chesapeake in past years. I'm curious if anyone here has any opinions on making the ~175mi slog down the Delaware and MD coast as an alternative to the ~275mi inshore route via the canal.

I recall Delaware bay being snotty esp. coming up to Cape May and not particularly picturesque, but I also don't see any great places to tuck in along DE/MD if fatigue or weather sets in. I suppose that may be why I don't see too many folks planning to go that way. We are relatively light on overnight watchstanding and foul weather experience, so I am doing my best to plan accordingly, it just seems a lot of extra distance to make in what will be chilly weather.

Experiences and opinions would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 26-05-2020, 06:59   #2
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Re: Chesapeake + DE bay vs offshore route?

I have made both the inside and outside routes. You are correct about not many places to tuck in on the outside. However the outside stretch is pretty straightforward and, using your measurement of 175 nm, can be made, even at just 5 kts, in one night and two days. I'd recommend overnighting at one of the anchorages at Cape Henlopen (mouth of the Delaware). If the weather is suitable make an early departure. With less than 36 hours (perhaps a lot less) you are unlikely to get caught out by more than an unexpected squall. If you don't like the weather forecast wait for a better one or make the run inside.
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Old 26-05-2020, 07:30   #3
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Re: Chesapeake + DE bay vs offshore route?

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Originally Posted by dougweibel View Post
I'd recommend overnighting at one of the anchorages at Cape Henlopen (mouth of the Delaware). If the weather is suitable make an early departure. With less than 36 hours (perhaps a lot less) you are unlikely to get caught out by more than an unexpected squall. If you don't like the weather forecast wait for a better one or make the run inside.
This is a good bit of advice. I had thought previously of waiting it out in Cape May for a favorable window but Cape Henlopen would save a few hours and give us the option of running up the bay. Thanks!
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Old 26-05-2020, 07:38   #4
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Re: Chesapeake + DE bay vs offshore route?

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I have made both the inside and outside routes. You are correct about not many places to tuck in on the outside. However the outside stretch is pretty straightforward and, using your measurement of 175 nm, can be made, even at just 5 kts, in one night and two days. I'd recommend overnighting at one of the anchorages at Cape Henlopen (mouth of the Delaware). If the weather is suitable make an early departure. With less than 36 hours (perhaps a lot less) you are unlikely to get caught out by more than an unexpected squall. If you don't like the weather forecast wait for a better one or make the run inside.
+1 I agree much better plan and easier than having to hand steer in the canal for hours.
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Old 26-05-2020, 07:40   #5
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Re: Chesapeake + DE bay vs offshore route?

I have taken the C&D, but only ever to SAVE time and distance. I would never consider it if it was adding 100 miles to my trip. It's long, tedious, boring, uneventful, and with crappy anchorages all the way from Cape May until you get into the Chesapeake.

You tell us nothing about your boat, and speeds you expect, but Cape May to Norfolk is about 150 miles, no simple place to stop between, but in one overnight run you are highly unlikely to be surprised by weather. For us, that doesn't even count as "offshore" but everybody has their own level of comfort.
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Old 26-05-2020, 07:50   #6
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Re: Chesapeake + DE bay vs offshore route?

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I have taken the C&D, but only ever to SAVE time and distance. I would never consider it if it was adding 100 miles to my trip. It's long, tedious, boring, uneventful, and with crappy anchorages all the way from Cape May until you get into the Chesapeake.

You tell us nothing about your boat, and speeds you expect, but Cape May to Norfolk is about 150 miles, no simple place to stop between, but in one overnight run you are highly unlikely to be surprised by weather. For us, that doesn't even count as "offshore" but everybody has their own level of comfort.
Ah yeah, we're a Freedom 39, mono and relatively self-tending. Between 6-7kts is reasonable favorable conditions. It's certainly inshore in my book but we'd rather learn as many hard lessons close to shore as we can. This would be our longest trip by quite a ways.

That said, any thoughts on spots to duck in near Norfolk? There doesn't look to be much before Willoughby bay or elsewhere in the harbor.
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Old 26-05-2020, 07:58   #7
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Re: Chesapeake + DE bay vs offshore route?

Ocean City is about the only decent stop on the outside, but its not real deep inside. I did stop there once with an 8 ft draft--got in near the top of the tide, got fuel, dropped the pick and fixed the running lights, and was out of there in 3 hours.
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Old 26-05-2020, 08:07   #8
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Re: Chesapeake + DE bay vs offshore route?

If you are looking to continue from the southern bay down the waterway Hampton, Portsmouth, and Downtown Norfolk all offer Marinas and Anchorages. If you plan on heading South offshore around Cape Hatteras there are lots of Marinas at Little Creek inlet. And you get greeted by Navy RIBs with machine guns! They usually just look you over and make sure you don’t cross over to the Seal Base. In good conditions you can anchor in 15-20 ft water anywhere along the beach inside or outside of the Bay Bridge Tunnel.
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Old 26-05-2020, 08:22   #9
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Re: Chesapeake + DE bay vs offshore route?

If you've done the Chesapeake enough don't see any real to go that way again unless you start early and have the time for a smell the roses tour. As you know Sept./Oct. are great months to be on the bay or if you need to make a boat show purchase.

As Doug mentioned above, Cape Henlopen has a decent anchorage and not too far out of the way. Cape May is also doable for a quick stop over. It all depends on crew and if you are in "delivery mode".

If it is the essence of time, staying offshore would be the way to go. (plus the fishing would be better)
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Old 26-05-2020, 08:35   #10
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Re: Chesapeake + DE bay vs offshore route?

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Ah yeah, we're a Freedom 39, mono and relatively self-tending. Between 6-7kts is reasonable favorable conditions. It's certainly inshore in my book but we'd rather learn as many hard lessons close to shore as we can. This would be our longest trip by quite a ways.

That said, any thoughts on spots to duck in near Norfolk? There doesn't look to be much before Willoughby bay or elsewhere in the harbor.
Willoughby Bay is our go to spot when we come into the bay from offshore and need a break. The entrance channel is narrow, and a bit confusing on the buoys, but soft bottom all round. Good holding back just east of the marina in 10 feet. Always a fun show there from the Navy flyboys.

There is another anchorage, a bit smaller and more crowded, right across from there on the north side of the ship channel we have used as well. If you prefer a marina, Bluewater is in a bit in on the north side of the Hampton Roads Channel, and very welcoming of transients.
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Old 26-05-2020, 09:12   #11
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Re: Chesapeake + DE bay vs offshore route?

Here in Long Island following and planning the same trip for next late summer, early fall. I have taken both routes. Correct, not many places to duck into. Have you looked at Ocean City? In any event, I'm planning on the long way, Delaware bay, C&D and down the Chesapeake. I will not be in a rush, no emergency making me take the shorter ocean route. I just want to have a good, safe and healthy trip. I chose not to overnight on the ocean when I can sleep on the bay. At lease at this age, lol
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Old 26-05-2020, 10:47   #12
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Re: Chesapeake + DE bay vs offshore route?

We did our first trip south October 2018 (me and wife on 42' Beneteau) from Buzzards Bay to Savannah before continuing south. Headed south we stayed outside as our plan did not include cruising the Chesapeake that time. We just waited for the right weather windows and ended up going Atlantic City to Norfolk in about 30 hours for that leg. It was a very easy combination of broad reaching with a nice NW after the frontal passage, finishing up with about 8 hours of motoring after the wind gave out.

On the return north in the Spring we had a wonderful trip up the Chesapeake to the C&D then down the Delaware to Cape May.

You might check out Bob423. He has a blog and book that talks about his route and stops. He always goes "inside" both north and south. https://fleetwing.blogspot.com/ The book has very specific stops that he uses each time so there isn't much about alternatives but it nonetheless offers one example of how to do the Chesapeake and Delaware route.

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Old 26-05-2020, 12:18   #13
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Re: Chesapeake + DE bay vs offshore route?

Thank you everyone for the insightful replies.
I don't plan to be in delivery mode but I agree with the other posters regarding the meh factor of the C&D canal. I did enjoy Rock Hall very much but as mentioned we've been there and done that for most of the high points in the Chesapeake (I'm former military) so we're happy to save the time and explore points a bit further south.
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Old 26-05-2020, 14:14   #14
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Re: Chesapeake + DE bay vs offshore route?

Did both ways last year and hit some tstm going outside, in a rush!!! Go the short way but give yourself as big a window as possible going South. If looks bad. Have a good trip.
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Old 26-05-2020, 15:16   #15
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Re: Chesapeake + DE bay vs offshore route?

We very much enjoy and prefer the offshore route.
We know the Chesapeake very well as it is home. We use Delaware Bay and the C&D canal when off shore weather is not great. This inside route is no problem, but if conditions are good we will be in the ocean.

Having made the trip up and down the coast a few times we definitely have favorite rest stops. We don't use these every time, but after being in just about every possible port here are our favorites:

Barnegat Bay NJ: easy in easy out plus a usually very restful anchorage with good beach. Onshore restaurants and groceries have been dissatisfying, so we usually just enjoy being on the boat or the beach.

Cape Henlopen DE: we love anchoring just behind the cape and watching the dolphins play under the boat. We find this place very restful.

Lewes DE: sort of and add on to Cape Henlopen. The city marina has great access to good restaurants. Lots of tide here. Call the harbor master for advice timing your approach.

Chincoteague Virginia: Love the slow vibe here. We tie up at the seawall in the downtown park. Restaurants, groceries, excellent seafood shop. Tour the island in the dinghy to see the wild ponies. Strong tides, plan accordingly.

Cape Charles is our favorite first stop in the Chesapeake. Shops, restaurants, and fuel. The marinas have good access to town.

Others have mentioned other good stops in the Chesapeake. To that I would add Norfolk and Hampton are nice get off the boat places if you want a little bit of city.

Beaufort NC: maybe a little farther jump than you had in mind, but if the crew can sustain a watch rotation for two plus days out of Atlantic Highlands you will get there. Definitely a nice place to rest and replenish.
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