Delmarva Peninsula Circumnavigation - Advice ?
I am contemplating a solo circumnavigation of the Delmarva peninsula later this year and could use some helpful advice specifically regarding the Atlantic Ocean leg.
Vessel - S2 Yachts 6.8 meter (shoal draft 2ft swing keel 4.5ft) in average-to-good condition structurally, with 2008 Yamaha 4hp outboard properly broken-in. Only electronic equipment currently used on board are handheld GPS and cell phone. Intention is to use paper nav charts though I currently have no navigational education other than line-of-sight dead reckoning. VHF Radio will be purchased prior to departure.
Skipper - Don't really feel I have earned the designation but as I am going solo...somebody has to do the job. Experience is limited to 10-15 forays on the Chesapeake Bay, averaging probably 4 hours each. Only "extended" outing was a 5 day expedition from the Mayo (western shore south of Annapolis) south around Kent Island to St. Micahels & back. Very little wind during the day, good sailing for 1-2 hours each evening, howling wind two nights. Old engine died and with little experience in tight quarters, I chose to anchor out and not risk others vessels at St. Michaels. Chose to stretch a case of bottled water, a bag of apples/oranges, and 6 bagels for the five days in an effort to remain self-sufficient. Finally touched land after 5 days, had a great time though I did wish for more wind. In short, I tend to be self-taught (through voracious reading and incessant questioning of those who have gone before) and well above average competency at anything I try. Comfortable when heeled to 30 degrees though boat sails better at less than 15. I've read and re-read anything I could find online concerning the route, but find little information about the Atlantic leg. I could take the circle either direction but would prefer counter-clockwise as it would allow me to dip my toe out into the Atlantic anyway if I decide to abort for any reason.
Risk management plan:
Daytime sailing only
No-go in heavy wind or seas
Coast hugging - rarely if ever out of sight of land
No schedule...can hole up or abandon attempt if prudent
3 weeks food & water on board though able to provision in route
2nd GPS as backup
No dinghy or lifeboat
Lack of nav skills, will work on that in meantime
Mainsail and working jib only, no backups
Any advice from experienced skippers is appreciated. One liner conventionl "wisdom" is not what I am looking for.
Don't know where the Delmarva Pen is but I would spend some time looking into some sort of self steering device even if it is an inepensive one, Make sure you have a VHF radio that you can use from the cockpit , practice reefing by yourself, learn to read charts and study them before you go. understand dead reckoning and costal piloting, make sure that you have slightly oversized anchoring gear and that you can anchor by yourself, a depth sounder of some sort is a very nice piece of equipment to have, Good luck and keep the questions coming.
I did the off shore portion of the DelMarVa circumnav (counter clockwise)this past spring.
I basically think that daytime sailing only is difficult to achieve for the off shore portion.
The only possible inlet on the outside that I know of would be Ocean City (I have no experience from Ocean City inlet so I do not know if it safe in any seastate) and you are not going to get there in time before sunset if going counterclockwise.
We sailed in mid May, passed thru Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (in the Hampton Roads area) around 08:30 in the morning. When we passed Ocean City it was pitch black, from memory sometime around midnight. Cheasapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to Ocean City is around 100 NM. Figure average speed of 5 Kt for your boat it will take you 20 hrs to get there (we averaged 6 kts). You will probably not get there before dark.
We got to Cape Henlopen around 07:00 a.m and Chesapeake City in the C&D canal around 7:00 p.m. All in all a 36 hour trip. Excellent conditions SE 15-25 kt. estimate 6-8 ft seas.
Well, I know I don’t speak for everyone, but let me give a list of concerns and some work arounds. For the more obvious ones I won’t mention anything but will call the issue out to your attention.
1. Safety gear. ‘Nuff said.
2. Going from the Bay to the ocean. – IF I RECALL, the Bridge has a clearance of about 20 feet or so. The channels are for large ocean going vessels. You might want to go under the bridge if mast clearance permits but be extremely hesitant to do so as the currents are fairly stiff due to wind and tides and you can get pushed into a concrete piling. Motor boats like to fish there but they have much larger engines than you do. Stay out of the channel (!!!) and stick close to the islands. I used to dive there; its about 20 to 30 feet.
3. Waste discharge.
4. Single handing it - I think you have a good plan with day sailing here and one you can exploit with the swing keel. But the places to tuck can be tricky and I caution you to lay in way points on your GPS first. More on that. If you choose to go, make your daily trips short with lots of smaller individual goals in case things go wrong or not as well as you would like.
5. Places to tuck in - You have more options with your boat than one with a deeper draft. For example: Smith Island Bay, New Inlet, Little Cobb Island, etc. If you combine this with #4 you can see how with good winds you could leap frog several possible stopping points. But there are a few places with a longer run. (I’m thinking Wachapreague Inlet to Chincoteague Inlet) You just don’t want to be pushing at night and run aground. Especially in an unfamiliar area which needs a lot of local knowledge in daylight hours …. with wind and currents. Oh, and waves. The east coast has them too.:smiling:
6. Gear. In opposition to Charlie, I say skip the self steering and to go with a lead line (you can even make it yourself) since your boat is so shallow. But I second his advice on everything else. Baggies for electronics.
7. Nav skills. Even with a GPS you will need to improve this. The coast has a South to North current. It isn’t the Gulf Stream but it is due to it and its one of those little factors you can forget about.
Two last things and I’ll quit.
Avoid getting out of cockpit if possible but especially in (impending) bad weather. So you need to know the weather pretty well in order to reef before it hits. I know you mentioned weather reports in your risk mitigation plan and I applaud you for it. But you have to act on the weather prudently and not just know it or use it for a go/no go decision.
Do not go overboard. Even if you have life vest on and are tied to the boat "just in case". Consider this little vignette. I was sailing with two friends one year with next to no wind. Oddly enough, this was by the South island at the bay bridge tunnel. We decided to duck on the outside in the vain hope of getting some wind (we were creeping with 1-2 knot winds) Guy one is hot and hops of with a fender tied on a long line. Guy two and I are baking in the sun. A light breeze picks up, enough to fill the sails. We check the telltails and adjust the sails, turn back and … Holy $hi% ! :eek: Guy one is under water, one hand flailing above the surface in the univeral sign of "Well, I'm going to die of drowning now and I just wanted you to know that IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!"
This was in less than 5 knots boat speed. With a fender that has much more buoyancy than a lifejacket.
Well, it’s long. But at least it rambles ;)
That can be a great trip. It all depends on the weather. An account of our trip is here: https://rryc.org/DelMarVa.asp
Appreciate the advice. I am off for a sail later today and will try reefing...haven't had the need yet and did not show the foresight to practice before the need arose. Will also be working with sail balance and try some self steering with bungy cords and whatever I can scrounge. Depth sounder is probably not a priority for me right now as the 2ft draft (with swing keel raised) is very forgiving!
While there may not be many true ports along the Atlantic coast leg, all I really need is a little indentation, creek, etc. due to the 2ft draft. I tend to shut it down early in the afternoon in order to have time to properly evaluate any anchorage I encounter. As far as the Bridge/Tunnel, I think overhead clearance is minimum 40ft and with a mast height of 30ft I should be OK, but I appreciate the warning regarding manuevering around the pilings (Bernoulli's principle in the current?) etc.
Weather and navigation warnings taken seriously. As far as nav, I was wondering if hugging the coast makes sense. During good weather, is there a reason to sail more than a mile or two off shore? I don't mind venturing further offshore but I think it is a stretch to consider my boat a coastal cruiser much less an open water vessel.
I plan to purchase a handheld VHF radio and tether it in the cockpit, keep nav chart cheat sheets (I will put those together myself) in the cockpit in order to preserve primary charts below, and wear life preserver at all times while in the Atlantic. I am also considering converting a few of the built in storage bins into flotation after doing the appropriate calculations for minimum bouyancy.
Hud3, thanks for the link to the account of your trip!
Leaving the Chesapeake Bay for a counterclockwise circumnavigation you should exit through the North Channel of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The bridge clearance there is 75'. The 40' high bridge at Fisherman's Inlet leads only to the narrow, dredged channels and marshy baylets behind the barrier islands. You can't get to the ocean directly by going through Fisherman's.
There are a lot of little inlets in Virginia, but only one in the Maryland section. The stretch from Chincoteague Inlet in Virginia up to Ocean City, Maryland is the longest leg that you'll encounter with no access to protected waters (36 nm or so). Here's a link to a great NOAA site for charts/satellite images for route planning: https://demo.geogarage.com/noaa/
The inlets at Chincoteague, Ocean City, and Indian River, Delaware can have fierce currents with standing waves when the tide is ebbing strongly. With an onshore breeze, the waves will be even steeper. Boats that can't power up the backs of the waves can get pooped in those conditions, so watch out.
The only reason for you to stand offshore is to keep out of the surf! :D If the wind has an onshore component, I'd recommend staying off a bit further than if the wind is offshore.
Sounds like a fun trip for you. Fair winds!
Having done this trip my conventional advice would be to tell you not to do it. Way too risky for your experience and boat.
Now that I've warned you and know that you will attempt it anyway...let me suggest a few things.
1. RENT an EPIRB and a liferaft in a bag for the trip.
2. Get a wheel pilot and add some batteries to run it.
3. Leave Norfolk and make Ocean City your first stop. Time your departure in Norfolk to allow arrival inOcean City in daylight. The other inlets can be treacherous especially for an outboard driven boat. Your prop will be out of the water half the time.
4. Consider staying INSIDE...behind the barrier beaches for much of the Atlantic section...hopping out if the weather is nice at Chincoteague to Ocean City. This way you can stay well protected, drop the hook when you need to and still gt some ocean time in. Charts 12210 and 12211 show the route clearly. After Ocean City you need to stay outside to Indian River...and then go outside again around Cape Henlopen. Charts 12214 and 12216 cover this portion of the trip. All of these can be accessed for on line viewing at https://ocsdata.ncd.noaa.gov/OnLineVi...iewerTable.htm
I would agree with Hud and camaraderie. If you could take off in daylight with weather in your favor through the Chesapeake bridge tunnel you could get to a point you could manage. Picking the weather is more than everything - it's the only thing! In less than good weather you are not in a position to complete the trip.
You need to time the Delaware River tide as it flows fast! It sure would be easier if it pulled you toward the D & C canal. If you can get into a DE port then the rest is not hard. You want the tide with you for the D&C canal and for the Delaware River both. You can't do both in a day. Do everything to make that happen. Weather counter to the tide will stand the waves on end and add 2 feet just instantly. The canal does not afford a lot of places to hole up and is narrow with heavy traffic. Its deep bank to bank but it is long and you can't expect to sail any of it.
You need to make good speed. Not sure where you are starting from but you need points to bail out to even in the main part of the Chesapeake. I would chart every hoke, bay access point along the whole route end to end. I would not take the Chesapeake section for granted either. If you attempt this in the next month or so you could be given lessons you can't learn from. Fall brings better winds but they can blow strong and hard and for days on end. The heavy chop will waste you easily if you find some 20 knots plus winds blowing the wrong way on the south end of the bay. 6 to 8 ft chop is nothing your boat can handle or hope to. In 4 to 6 ft you should feel very afraid.
The inside the Bay section should not be assumed to be a given. There are legs long enough that you could become forced to an agenda not of your choosing. The only way you will do this trip is by waiting for your windows and exploiting them as if you had vast experience. Knowing when to wait is more important than knowing how to force the schedule. You have so few advantages that to rely on and no room to bargain. Wanting to do something a lot is not even close to enough. If you just want to believe in yourself then believe enough to be well prepared.
Website links and advice above sincerely appreciated. I recognize some of the obvious risks...undersized, underequipped, and underpowered boat. Relative lack of experience, local knowledge, navigational chops, etc. I took Charlie's advice and decided to practice reefing yesterday and was caught off guard when I realized that my mainsail has reefing grommets, but nothing to tie! In addition, engine mount is loose, anchors are stowed below and difficult to get to, and upper rudder gudgeon is missing its plastic bushing. Boat is not really set up for single-handing. With no autohelm, and the tiller, mainsail and jib sheets all needing constant attention ,there are few good options in emergency circumstances. Everything must be accounted for ahead of need as there is little if any opportunity for second chances. Thoughts began occuring to me in rapid succession. After a hard days sailing and in difficult conditions, would I be able to pull myself back on board if dumped in the drink? How will my rudder repair fare in rough conditions? What is the likelihood of another vessels crowding me in rough conditions near an inlet, leaving me with less room to manuever than I need?
My risk management plan is growing in leaps and bounds...I will definately have a Plan B ready in case I find myself overwhelmed and uncomfortable with the situations I find myself in. Given time and room, I believe I can handle just about anything that might be likely to happen. Under stress, with little time and less space to manuever, I am not so sure.
Life and limb first, dreams and goals second!
please please do not take the delware river or c&d canal lightly - pbalis had it right - if you do not time it right it will not be a good day - i have a 40' and spent a lot of time planning my trip across the c&d to delware river and down to cape may - we left cheaspeake city 2 hours before tide change and put my 56 hp to work as you can not sail the c&d period - i do not think it is allowed - but once out in the delware river it was a great run as we hit the tides there absolutely correctly -
borrows someone reeds and plan when and where to hit the delware and then look for an anchorage -- i think there is one behind the breakwall on the north side of the canal -
assume slower than you are going to go and if you do better stop anyway and rest - i single handed up to long island sound and now looking to go beyond and i on go when i feel the conditions are right and leave at predawn if at all possible depending on the tides and currents -
i do better than 5k but all calculations are done on 5k -
also i am a safety nut - i have jacklines on both sides - have d rings in cockpit and actually clip in with an inflatable jacket each and everytime i pull the hook - i never knowingly take unnessary chances like walking around the cockpit without being clipped in - safety first brings you home
chuck and svsoulmates
on the hook in sag harbor, ny - waiting on a weather window to go north
Thanks for the cautionary words. I am consulting the tide tables & current forecasts right now to gain background information to put the risks into proper perspective.
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