It really seemed that we were not going to make it all the way to Canada on this trip. Between the boat issues, the health care requirements, and that all of the Nordhavn Atlantic Group (informal group of Nordhavns and others who are casually travelling together) already in Nova Scotia, that we were just going to run out of time.
But our very good friend, Gordon, was due to arrive into Sydney Airport, Nova Scotia, on 9th August, and we wanted to do our best to get there. Boaters always say the most dangerous thing at sea is a schedule, but we had really believed we had given ourselves plenty of time to get to Sydney by early August, when we made the plans back at the beginning of the year.
So as soon as Ted got the medical all clear, and the windy weather diminished, we used the Chesapeake Bay to head north from York River. We stopped in the Potomac, and at Herrington Bay, to catch up with our friends on Tivoli, Clayton and Deanna, who had also planned to head up to Canada, but they are now stuck in Chesapeake with electronics issues.
We made it through the Chesapeake after a two day stop with Clayton and Deanna; I had to switch out the follow up (FU) lever on the upper station, as it stopped working coming into Harrington Bay Marina. The FU allows me to use the auto pilot to control the rudder with the movement of the FU handle. This makes docking and close quarter maneuvering much easier than having to turn the steering wheel 6-7 times each way to steer the boat. Luckily the lower station one worked fine and the upper station FU had the same faults when located in the wheel house. So the lever will need to be repaired, and I have fly bridge controls again.
The Chesapeake was intense, as there had been huge rains in the past few days, and the area creeks were swollen. They let the flood gates on a dam near Annapolis go to relieve the water build up. With the water came tons and tons of debris. Junk, crap, litter, trees, plastics, drums, barrels; everything was floating in the water ways as we headed north. We had to constantly steer to dodge trees, and garbage.
We finally made it to the top of the Chesapeake, the debris thinned and then cleared. The Chesapeake here is really just a series of large rivers. We anchored off of one only about 5 miles from the southern entrance to the Chesapeake/Delaware canal- the C&D Canal.
Next morning we pulled the anchor and headed out of the Chesapeake. The C&D is about 12 miles long, straight and deep and relatively pretty. We enjoyed the easy ride. By mid morning we made the exit from the C&D into the Delaware River, about 25 miles east of Philadelphia. We turned east to transit the River, wide and deep. As this river feeds Philadelphia, it has a lot of commercial traffic. So we were alert and in contact with barges, and tugs, and container ships, trying to stay out of the way.
We humbly transited an area near Reedy Island, which at high tide completely submerges a mile long breakwater. A couple of years ago, Robbie and Jo (past owners of Southern Star) were buddy boating with several Nordhavns heading to NY. One boat called Ghost Rider hit the submerged jetty after parting ways with the other Nordhavns. Robby and Jo would have been with Ghost Rider, except they had detoured to Baltimore to meet us for our survey and sea trial on Southern Star. Ghost Rider also held a place in our hearts, she was a Nordhavn 47 formerly called JASDIP, and one we had dreamed of owning and had spent many hours back in NZ looking at her photos online.
Ghost Rider struck the rock breakwater at high tide, and was stuck. The owners were new to her, and I can’t imagine their anguish, as they realized the boat was not going to come off the rocks, and she battered with the next low and high tides, wakes from the ferries, and other boat traffic grinding her hull into the rocks. Ghost Rider sunk after a few days on Reedy Reef. And we slowly passaged by Ghost Rider, being very careful, looking and re-looking at our charts. Her presence is felt by all Nordhavns who pass by here.
The Delaware was big, long and BORING. Except of course when we were told to move aside by a 300 meter freighter as he passed us and met two other tugs and barges in the channel. We happily moved aside to let the big boys through. We finally got to the end of the Delaware Bay, and headed over to the north bank to anchor off the Cape Henlopen anchorage. Few Nordhavns anchor here, most traffic prefers to go to Cape May, twelve miles north in New Jersey before departing to the outside for any more northern movement.
We are always a bit anxious when coming into a new anchorage. With only guide book descriptions and charts, and Active Captain Reports and reviews, this anchorage sounded promising. It is formed by two large manmade breakwaters, the outer breakwater, and the inner breakwater.
The outer breakwater was made a hundred years ago for ships to have a safe anchorage before heading out into the North Atlantic. The inner breakwater was made more recently for the Cape May- Henlopen Ferry, which connects New Jersey to Delaware, saving 100’s of miles of additional driving if heading north toward Maryland, Virginia.
We were the one of two boats in the anchorage. A large sailing cat was anchored off the Ferry’s jetty in good position for the forecast south southwest winds. We anchored off the inner breakwater, among a barge/dredge which was not operating when we came in.
We moved next morning when the tugs came around the dredge operation, if we were not going to be in the way they would be noisy. The Cat had move this morning, so we headed off of Lewes (pronounced Lewis) Beach behind the ferry breakwater.
This area looks like the beach playground for Delaware, and New Jersey folks. The beach is nice and long and wide, with rows of low rise condos. Lots of people on the beach, and wading in the coolish water.
I was busy down in the forward head, replacing the flusher controller board, when I heard Jenny talking to someone from our deck. Jenny met Mark, who had stopped by in his Boston Whaler. He was very curious about our travels (New Zealand homeport painted on the transom always starts conversations). He was very friendly offering advice of where to go in the township of Lewes.
We finished the boat chores, checked weather and saw that we were in for 3-4 days of waiting for weather before we could head offshore to Canada.
We launched the dinghy and headed over to the Lewes Canal/harbour. It was about 2 miles from our anchorage and a nice dinghy ride. We took our canvas tote bag for groceries.
Lewes Township was a couple of miles up the canal, and was full of smaller runabouts, sportfish boats, and a few commercial boats, including a harbour pilot base.
We enjoyed walking around the beautiful little village, learn Lewes was settled in the 1600’s by the Dutch, with some Old Dutch architecture; it is the first town in the first state of the US. The town was very nice.
We went back to the boat after buying a few items from the small grocery store and a smoothie in town. We decided to check out the ferry terminal restaurant for lunch.
There we ran into Mark at the guest dock. He was so thrilled to see us again, he shouted “New Zealand” to us when he came toward the guest dock gate; he followed us up to the restaurant. He is a Delaware Lawyer, and stays at the family beach house for a month. Super guy, he was so excited to hear about our life, so different from his.
He asked us to dinner that night, with him and his wife Megan. As were thinking we might haul the dinghy back on board to depart tomorrow, we were thrilled when he offered to pick us up in his whaler.
And so we had a super night with Mark and Megan, and Marks sister Carol.
They took us to dinner at Agave restaurant, a nice but busy Mexican place. He would not allow us to pay. We had learned that we needed to wait another day by Chris Parker, our weather guru, so we offered to have Mark, Megan and Carol out to the boat for lunch. They were so hungry to see our lifestyle. They were quick to accept the invite.
We had a nice lunch and good conversation with Mark, Megan, Carol, Marks Dad, Larry and mother Peg. We felt a bit like a celebrity with all of the questions, and genuine interest in our life by our new friends. They brought us some books on the local history, the local lighthouses, and a pendant form the Lewes Yacht Club. We had made some super new friends.
We texted Mark the next morning thanking him for their hospitality and to say good bye; we planned to depart about 1100 am.
We watched the sky as a squall seemed to be coming through. The weather report was for the small cold front to go through today and for improved weather for the next 4-5 days, winds from the S to SW. 3-4’ seas, dropping to 1-2’ seas.
We spotted a boat heading our way about quarter to 11. Sure enough Mark was coming out to see us off, to pilot us out to the Delaware Bay. Luckily he was there, as I dropped my soft shackle off my anchor snubber, and it just floated there. Mark came over to retrieve it for me.
And so we were off on a rather blustery morning, with confidence that the weather gurus were correct.
We followed a small regatta out of Lewes, bound for Cape May, and back. We had nice photos of the regatta and the light house on the outer breakwater, and of Mark our pilot.