I arrived on a Sunday in Easton, Maryland to meet Captain Jack at his boat moored in the creek South of Annapolis, where he had found the fees reasonable and spent the previous week. It’s a short walk from the dinghy dock to the Annapolis dock master’s office, where there are showers and visitor facilities. Our small crew of two would be taking Jack’s recently acquired vessel to its new home back in New York’s Jamaica Bay. Jack had taken part in The Foundation for Safe Boating and Marine Information (FSB)’s volunteer safe boating events in Kings and Nassau counties, and invited me to help on the delivery – an offer I gratefully accepted. When I first saw the sturdy looking yellow hull of the 35-foot steel cutter-rigged sailboat, (kitted out for ocean traveling in any water,) I knew this trip could be a wonderful opportunity to rebuild my strength after a terrible auto accident earlier in the year. My physical therapist agreed!
What follows is a photo essay of our journey from Annapolis to New York, in the summer of 2019:
Back Creek to Bohemia River MD - New beginnings
Our journey began the next morning from Back Creek, and Jack set our course out of the creek North into upper Chesapeake bay. The sky was puffy and bright with threatening storms to our West, giving me the feeling that an adventure lay ahead of us, and maybe I could spot a lighthouse or two along the way.
Our first day motor sailing with a helpful current ended on the Bohemia River, a cozy anchorage just before the entrance to the Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) Canal. We were greeted with a summer evening thunderstorm surrounded by trees which provided much-needed relief from the heat. The boat handled this like an old salt. The yellow hull had thousands of sea miles under it, and was eager for more with its new owner. The weather continued to be unpredictable the next day, so we happily spent time looking through charts and weather reports, planning stops (and alternates, if necessary) for the days ahead. We stayed a second night at this spot along the idyllic Maryland coast, creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Chesapeake City MD - The Inn at the side of The Road
With our plans in place the next morning, we joined the canal at Chesapeake City, where we were greeted with a maritime roadside truck-stop style village with a lively night scene, and free government docks at the eastern entrance to the anchorage. A highway bridge built in 1949 makes the skyline seem urban in the quiet country of northern Maryland. The town relies upon the canal to provide a regular tide of boaters following the great loop — a scenic inland route through the heartland of the United States. The holding in the anchorage was good, with room for plenty of other boaters to wait for a fair current and have an affordable meal in the quaint city overlooking the anchorage.
The next day’s weather was uncooperative and our journey was still in its eager beginnings. We again spent the night at Chesapeake City after a relaxed day walking the streets, window shopping, and meeting friendly locals like Harriet at the antique store, and Debbie at the Tap Room pub (which also has a license to sell cases of beer to visitors). That night’s weather forecast showed a window of three days for a good 5-10 knots of breeze, so it was decided to get underway to Delaware Bay the next morning.
C&D Canal to Delaware Bay - Big water, bigger ships
The canal current was predictable and brought us quickly to the Delaware side. As we entered the Delaware River, the current was against us but mild, and we continued South and East into a Southeast headwind. Under power, Jack expertly piloted us to anchor in 15 feet of water just outside a cove near Sea Breeze NJ. We were protected from the East and held in sandy bottom. The tide brought a slight chop to the seemingly exposed anchorage when the Southeast wind played against the outbound current. Riding at anchor, Jack said it felt like we were underway in a moderate sea. I was amazed by nature’s power as we waited for the calm that soon arrived after the next incoming tide. Our anchor did not drag in the night, giving us optimism about making the entrance to Delaware Bay the next day.
Cape Henlopen DE - A protected harbor and rest stop
Our plan was to make Cape May NJ that afternoon. After leaving the cove, we discovered that the timing of the tides and a drawbridge would make that approach less favorable than alternately entering the Atlantic Ocean from the South coast of Delaware Bay, near Lewes. This Harbor of Refuge isn’t only for rough seas! Entering from the North or West between breakwaters was easy. Because of northern icebreaker protection, the inner harbor was like a lake — full of local boaters taking advantage of the flat calm conditions and clean sandy beaches near the state park. Jack put the anchor down and as we sat in the still water with the 10 knot Atlantic breeze, we were fascinated by pods of dolphins playing among the few fellow pleasure boats anchored there. Pontoon boat tours of the nearby lighthouses, kayakers and water-skiers were out making the best of the warm August day. If our last anchorage was the side of the road, Lewes was a big rest stop with full features — including a regular ferry service to Cape May.
New Jersey’s Atlantic Coast - The longest leg
We made the exit into the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Henlopen East, then North toward the Jersey coast just before slack high tide. The outflowing current helped us cross the mouth of the Delaware Bay into the last and longest leg of our journey. Great experiences led to even greater anticipation as we met the rolling ocean waves from behind us, surging us closer to New York, around 140 nautical miles away. The coastline of New Jersey is a long progression of barrier islands, with tricky entrances dotting the sandy shore. Rather than planning an overnight in Atlantic City, we decided to run along the coast through the night while the weather was mild. This was the first overnight for Jack with his boat underway — the anticipation was as thick as the haze surrounding us. Looking to our North that moonlit night, we saw distant thunderheads growing and looking like trouble if we were caught outside! Still, the weather held through the early hours as we found a comfortable course following the coast at a distance of three miles. By motor sailing along the territorial water demarcation line, we were too deep for local fishing fleets — and too shallow for big ships — giving us a sense of comfort while the hours and barely seen trap markers rolled by in the foggy sea.
New York City - Safely home
The shore near Sandy Hook was lit warmly at sunrise, and our course put us in position to enter the Rockaway Inlet jetty just before slack high tide. As we entered our home waters, we passed the tall ship Kalmar Nyckel going out and waved hello to Ambrose Channel. I felt a cool freshening breeze from the South as we turned the final corner of the journey to Jack’s slip in Jamaica Bay. We passed through the Broad Channel A Train swing bridge and saw other locals from Jack’s marina forming a welcoming committee — complete with the dock master’s assistant taking a dock line as the skipper gently put this world traveler into its new berth. Jack had gained a new confidence in navigating coastal passages. Relieved at his success, I thanked Jack for a rewarding and memorable time, wishing him and his fine vessel fair winds to his next port of call!
About the Author, Capt. RJ Coté, FSB&MI Vice President
Captain RJ is a longtime member of the Foundation for Safe Boating and Marine Information (FSB&MI), participating as a kid in FSB’s “Teach & Take a Kid” education program over 20 years ago. In return, RJ’s experience has led him to perform service in the 1st Southern Region US Coast Guard Auxiliary Division as a Qualified Vessel Examiner, Public Educator, and National Staff Branch Assistant in the “I” (Information) Department, and as an executive of Seabreeze Computer Services — a boutique technology consulting firm. A USCG approved Captain since 2003, his role as program director helps fulfill the Foundation’s mission, including ongoing public service sailing and boating safety education. For more information about the Foundation’s free programs or how to get involved, visit them at their boat show booth or on the web at www.boatingandmarineinfo.org — or visit renecote.com to contact RJ about solutions for your technology issues both near- and on shore.
Operating since 1984, The Foundation for Safe Boating and Marine Information is a 100% Volunteer-run, IRS-approved 501(c)(3) Not-for-Profit for recreational boating safety education by and for the recreational fishing and boating community – “The Good Samaritans of the marine environment.” In the tradition of the US Life Saving Service, all programs are supported directly by the community through donations by boaters like you. See our ad in the Service Directory.