Dodging Weather from the Chesapeake to Boston: May 30 2016
We continued north along the Chesapeake Bay through thick fog and zero wind – radar “on” and running lights “on” – check (5/12). The boat ride was smooth. A short two hours later we tucked deep into the mooring field of Annapolis, MD, in order to be as protected as possible for strong winds set to pass through the area – at $35/day on a mooring ball it was a nice bit of insurance against the weather. We love this boater’s town and feel right at home and very welcome. There is a public dinghy dock at the end of every dead end street (there are loads), plenty of large trash bins and a friendly staff in the Town Harbormaster’s Office.
We wandered the cobblestone streets of Annapolis without much of an agenda and chatted with fellow boaters along the way, including getting directions to a local barber shop. Chris got his hair cut at Capistrano’s Barber Shop…a nice cut but (thankfully) not the standard high-and-tight despite every chair being filled with military folks (http://www.capistranobarbershop.com/). These barbers filled us with info about the city…especially great advice for dinner…and off we went in the direction of Vin 909 in Eastport. This place is a local favorite but known as far away as Washington DC. It is housed in a bungalow located in a residential neighborhood. Vin 909 fills up fast so we sat out front with our books and were first in line – the front lawn was full by the time the doors opened at 5.30pm. We shared small plates packed with flavor; steamed clams in a cream sauce with bits of ham, the (barber suggested) spotted pig pizza of spicy soppresata, boar meatballs, tomato sauce, mozzarella and provolone and butterscotch pudding. Delicious!
Gale force winds passed through the area which kept us cabin bound and bouncing around on the mooring ball. But we had some fun distractions. Hey, look who just came into the harbor?! It was Tom and Suzie (s/v Priscilla) on their way from Florida to Rhode Island. We sailed with these guys in the South Pacific. Suzie’s famous quote is, “I’m not a sailor.” Well, after circumnavigating by way of South Africa – it just doesn't fly – she’s a sailor and a great friend. Tom and Suzie spent five months this winter in Cuba and arrived aboard Barefeet with Cuban rum and freshly caught mahi for the grill. Tall tales and amazing photos kept us chatting for hours. It was great fun!
But we cannot stay in Annapolis indefinitely because Boston is our destination so we looked for a weather window to move along. The winds died down so we made an early start at 5.30am for Chesapeake City, MD (5/16). It was a beautiful sunrise. The ride started bumpy but quickly smoothed out. We entered the small basin at Chesapeake Harbor – oops, the depth meter squawked like crazy…dredging is clearly needed (scheduled for summer 2016)…we plowed through the soft mud as low as 4.8ft (gulp – our depth is 5.5ft) and found a spot. The anchor was down and we walked straight to Phil and Lisa’s house to catch up and hang out. The weather stayed chilly and wet so we opted to stay inside. Chris & Phil headed to Tractor Supply for some hydraulic fluid and Erin & Lisa got mani/pedis at the nail salon. Okay, it is May 17th and the temperature is in the 50s. No problem - the pellet stove cranked out the heat on high speed all evening long. It was a lovely night in a cozy kitchen with good friends.
Weather patterns are a bit tough at the moment because wind direction and wind strength seem to be changing with each forecast. We will take it one hop and one forecast at a time. Off we went the next day at the crack of dawn in the hopes of making it down the Delaware River and around Cape May before the winds piped up…maybe all the way to Block Island (5/18)?! Nope, not this time – let’s go for Plan Z…take a slip in Cape May at Canyon Club Marina for a week while the bad weather passes. But first we had to enter the harbor. It required surfing the waves between the entrance breakwaters. Eegads – Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you”…I want this one to count for three days because I drove Barefeet (with Chris calmly lending support beside me). Barefeet side-slipped and swayed between the rock jetties with waves at 2-3 feet and current providing a massive sideways push. I was nervous - glad to have the experience but even happier when it was over.
There is no doubt that we can “smell the barn” of Boston. At this point, each unexpected stop has us anxious to move on to our final destination but Mother Nature holds all the cards. Cape May is described as America’s original seaside resort which means a lot of people have liked it for a long time. It is time for us to give it a try. The fleets of Annapolis sailboats that ghost along with canvas and lines have been replaced by squadrons of Jersey growling sport-fishers complete with gleaming tuna towers and large toucan bill-shaped bows. Let’s go! We picked up a rental car and drove along the dunes to the Rusty Nail (http://www.caperesorts.com/restaurants/capemay/rustynail/). The Nail is considered one of America’s top beach bars located, yep, right across the street from the beach. There are inside tables, barstools in the shade and Adirondack chairs nestled either in the sand under blue and orange umbrellas or around fire pits. Orders taken in the sand are easily delivered with mini-golf type flags on sticks for identification – loaded fries, peel-and-eat-shrimp, wings…yes, the usual Kids Menu, too…and even a Doggie Menu. The afternoon sunshine made The Nail a happening spot where we smelled faint whiffs of the summer yet to come (5/20).
will be tied up at Cape May for about a week while strong winds-on-the-nose and
pelting rain pass through the area. Off we went
for a 50-mile afternoon field trip to Atlantic City (5/21). Chris played a bit of poker at Trump’s glitzy
Taj Mahal Casino and I wandered the vintage boardwalk. The place has a nice feeling of nostalgia but
it abruptly stops just a few hundred yards off the wooden boardwalk with blocks
of boarded up buildings and pawn shops.
Stick to the sparkling chandeliers in the casino or the time capsule
boardwalk complete with sea foam fudge and salt water taffy (16 flavors) from family-owned
Fralinger’s where, “sea air and sunshine have been sealed in every box” since
1885 (http://www.fralingers.com/). Later
in the day the weather turned even nastier (as expected) with sheets of
cold rain. Dinner needed to be inside rather than boardwalk
treats. Our choice was The Irish Pub
on St. James Place (http://www.theirishpub.com/). The Irish Pub is often described
as “a dive” but we felt the pub was warm and welcoming - full of locals
catching up on activities of the past week with laughter and back slapping…and
some friendly bets placed on the Preakness horse race. The sheets rain eased off when we were ready
to drive home for a no drama return trip.
winds howled through the night reinforcing our decision to tuck into a marina –
we were snug. Cape May is located on a
peninsula at the southern tip of New Jersey where the Delaware River meets the
Atlantic Ocean…literally Exit Zero in New Jersey. The area is known for fabulous beaches, great
bird watching and stunning Victorian homes.
The entire city is a Historic District.
Summer is the high tourist season but the yearly climate is pretty mild
- similar to Washington DC. We dodged
the rain drops to soak in the ornate Victorian architecture which we see
as the most intricate of gingerbread houses…quite a job to choose coordinating color
palettes and to paint so many fiddly bits (5/22).
the grey days there is a real shimmer to Cape May. It is creative and mellow with a sense of
humor and a laid back seashore spirit as well as road side produce stands…maybe
a cross between P-town and Key West…nah – just its own, unique vibe where it
seems you just might meet a mermaid. We
are glad to have a few more days to peel back the layers of this onion. There
is a t-shirt shop called Flying Fish
Studio with super clever designs and cuddly soft fabrics…including a
shark design jumping out of the water, teeth bared. The design is on shirts for the whole family - a masculine baseball style shirt, a girlie tank or an infant onesie. The shirts sell out for
the annual Jaws Movie Night when the movie is played on a giant screen
on the beach (http://www.theflyingfishstudio.com/). For all the summer tourist flurry, the town
seems close-knit and rallies around its own – for example – Hank Sauce (http://www.hanksauce.com/). It is three guys from Cape May who were
college roommates that started a hot sauce company. The guys are working to expand and every
restaurant in town has the hot sauce available as a condiment (and for
sale). We tried it and liked it – good
luck Hank Sauce!
Mother Nature continues to morph and change forecasts from day-to-day which has us constantly tweaking our departure date and route because timing the current at Hell’s Gate in NYC is required. Looks like our weather window arrived one day early so we plan to motor for as long as the weather holds (5/24). Our late morning departure gave me a chance for another visit to Flying Fish Studio and some photos of the Cape May Lighthouse. We tossed the lines and headed north along the Jersey shore past Atlantic City and onto Barnegat Bay. Holy guacamole - we are not in the ICW anymore! It’s humpback whales! What are they doing? There is forceful action with their tail loudly slapping the surface of the water over and over and over. The internet seems to say it serves as a warning signal. We are not sure what is being communicated but it is awesome to be in the same waters as these aquatic giants. Dinner was a chicken enchilada meatloaf with refried beans (made before we left the dock).
first night of a passage is always hard because we are not yet tired and
have not yet settled into the slow rhythm. However, twinkling lights ashore and a bright moon kept
things pretty relaxed. We
slow our speed down in an attempt to time our arrival for daylight
hours but we still arrived at Sandy Hook and the entry channel to
NYC just before twilight (5/25). This
arrival time cut our sleeping short because all eyes are needed to transit this busy
place. Plus, neither of us want to miss
sunrise at NYC. Manhattan is always
impressive and today was no exception.
We continued into Long Island Sound and all the way to Old Saybrook, CT,
where we dropped the anchor and settled in for the night. Our move from Cape May to Old Saybrook was a roughly 250 mile jump in 31 hours –
great distance and good conditions.
Old Saybrook has us in a good spot to jump to Block Island without worrying about being squeezed for time in order to catch the current in the Block Island Race (the current can get up to 3 knots). We pulled the anchor after a leisurely morning and arrived in the Great Slat Pond by 1pm (5/26). It is great to be here! We dinghied ashore for a bit of a walk around and a stop at The Oar for onion rings and mudslides. It is the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend but it looks like things are just beginning to open; the dinghy dock is not yet in place, Mahogony Shoals is crammed with tables and chairs, restaurant awnings are missing and Payne’s Donuts is nowhere to be seen. That’s okay – we like the quiet.
The winds were supposed to gain strength over the next day or two so we decided to stay only one night at Block Island. The next morning we headed past Newport, RI, and into Buzzards Bay (5/27). Our destination for the night was Onset, MA, and a pizza dinner at Marc Anthony’s on Onset Avenue – the pizza is awesome and the people watching is entertaining (http://www.yelp.com/biz/marc-anthonys-pizzeria-onset-2). It looks like New England is struggling to round the corner into summer just like the rest of the eastern seaboard. When we returned to the Onset dinghy dock after dinner there was a group of folks having a dock party with pizza on their boats looking very festive. But…bbbrrr…it is not swimsuit weather yet.
The forecast looked good so we started on our final leg for the season (5/28). Phew and yeah. It was a calm, warm ride home which made us feel good about taking our time and being patient for good weather. Later in the afternoon we pulled into Boston Harbor. The place was absolutely hopping during the Memorial Day weekend with countless and all varieties of water vessel zig zagging across the harbor. We tied up at our slip in Charlestown Marina which wrapped up six months of cruising. Our cruising season was a bit chillier and a bit wetter than usual due to El Nino conditions but we were able to see all that we had hoped to see; 1) spend one month in Key West, 2) cruise the waters of Georgia, 3) cruise up the Potomac River to anchor off of Washington DC and 4) stay in new places so that our arsenal of port options up and down the eastern seaboard will be greater. It was awesome!We will spend the summer back at our "home on dirt" reconnecting with friends and family and scattering in a few boat projects here and there…plus a bit of New England cruising, too. My blogs will most likely not start up again until the Fall. Have a great summer and see ya in a few months for the winter cruising season when we will again head south…Bahamas, Cuba…who knows.