Friday, October 31, 2008

It's Not That Dismal For a Swamp - This feels like it could be a long post. I promise pictures

It seems Connie and Bob sort of like the Dismal Swamp.

So What the Heck is the Dismal Swamp?

Well, bear with me. I will include pictures for those of you with short attention spans.

The ICW or Intracoastal Waterway actually begins in Norfolk, VA. Mile zero is at Hospital Point, just across from Nautica, a huge naval warfare museum and marina. This is a uniquely American concept.

Leaving mile zero southbound you pass through the Jordan and Gilmerton bridges. Then the ICW splits into two alternate routes: the Virginia Cut and the Dismal Swamp.

The Virginia Cut is the more heavily used route and so is of no interest to us or other right thinking cruisers. We take the Dismal Swamp.

To take the Dismal swamp you must make a hard right turn out of the main channel of the ICW at the first opportunity after the Gilmerton. It does not look like much but trust me: take the first right. It will not be the last time you feel insecure on the ICW.

You are now in Deep Creek, of no consequence except that it takes you to the Deep Creek Lock. The Dismal Swamp is higher than all surrounding ground. You lock up to get in and then lock down to get out. This seems strange but if they did not do this the canal would drain the swamp and wreak ecological havoc.

The best lock in the whole world is the Deep Creek Lock.

Meet Rob the Lockkeeper and his dog UTurn:

Two things of interest:

Rob starts talking before you tie up to the lock walls and continues until you have moved your boat too far for sound to carry. He is also one great guy.

His garden. The white bits are conk shells. Rob not only collects them he plays them. And I do not mean he makes a big honking sound. He plays thems like they are trumpets.

Every cruiser returning from the Caribbean brings Rob a new shell for his collection.

Why is Rob so popular?

Well, we were stuck on the free docks behind his lock for 2 days waiting for weather to clear on the Albemarle Sound. Boats were backed up all the way to Elizabeth City and there were no docks or anchorages with space.

Here is Rob's bridgehouse every morning:

We all met for coffee, run and raisin pancakes, donuts, quiche and just about anything else you wanted, all courtesy of Rob (we chipped in of course). He is a giant of a lockmaster.

Of course being stuck for two days on a lock is not all bad. How could it be?

One night Connie and I wanted to go for Mexican so we canvassed the group to see if anyone else would like to join us. Here was the result:

Here are Greg and Michel from Argonauta, Connie and Ken of Restless, Bob and Jan from Banshee and Dave and Lynn from R.J. Greenstone. Chuck and Barb from Goldwatch and Joe and Punk Pica from Carolyn Ann joined us when I was too unstable to take any more pictures.

We all started with jumbo Margueritas. At this restaurant these were 34 oz drinks mixed in the proper proportions. Most of us had two or more drinks. We found our way home.

To give you an idea of how backed up things were due to fear of bad weather in the Albemarle here is the scene at the South Creek Lock when we tried to lock down to the Pasquotank River:

We have never been so jammed up at a dam in our whole lives.

Two more boats came for a total of seven in the lockdown that run.

Finally, and this is important only for the next post, is a picture of Meredith's wake while transiting the Dismal Swamp. More to come on this.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dismal Swamp, Good Neighbours

Yesterday we left Hampton heading for Elizabeth City. We chose to take the Dismal swamp because it is very pretty and very protected. Winds were forecast at 25 kn. but we had only the mouth of the Elizabeth River to cross from Hampton to Norfolk.

Things did not work out as planned.

Winds were 30 gusting 35. The tidal current was 180 degrees opposed to the wind and it came over a very shallow bank which divides Hampton from Norfolk. Waves were a good 6 to 8 feet and short frequency. Meredith loved it.

Connie and Bob less so.

A nuclear sub chose the moment of our crossing to exit the harbour forcing us to beat directly into the waves to avoid being blown to kingdom come by the Coast Guard escorts. There is a 1,000 foot exclusion zone around all military vessels at sea. We generally keep as far away as the guys with the big machine guns tell us to, in this case they wanted the entire channel. We did not object.

Cool sub though. We were a bit busy handling the boat and did not get a photo.

Coming into Norfolk we were struck by how empty the docks were. The US is floating just about every piece of hardware they have on the East coast. That tells you something about the state of world affairs.

The wind and fetch died down to manageable proportions as soon as we found the shelter of the river.

We did see a couple of neat ships and, my personal favourite, three aircraft carriers:

Leaving Hospital Point at Norfolk, the official Mile Zero of the ICW, we made our way under the Jordan Bridge, first of many bridges whose opening we must beg of not always accommodating brdigemasters.

Gilmerton Bridge, bridge no. 2, was such a bridge and four boats waited 40 minutes in 25 to 30 knot winds and 1.5 kn current while the bridge operator found the "up" button. She carried this on all day from the radio reports we heard.

Just after the Gilmerton bridge is the turnoff for the Dismal Swamp Canal.

Our first trip down the waterway we missed the entrance. It is not marked save for a small sign with VERY SMALL lettering which no ordinary mortal could possibly read.

The canal is locked at both ends to prevent the canal from draining the swamp which would be an ecological disaster. Approaching southbound you enter at Deep Creek Lock.

There we learned that weather conditions we such that the canal was full and there were no tie ups over its entire length. The voluble lockmaster, Rob, also informed us that all anchorages and moorings to Elizabeth City were filled with boats waiting out the high winds before braving the Albemarle.

We tied up just inside Deep Creek Lock, rafted to "R.J. Greenstone" a boat we first met in 2004 while heading down the ICW near Oriental, NC.

R. J. Greenstone had been tied up for two days waiting out weather.

Today's forecast is 25 kn as is tomorrow's.

Good thing we are good company.

Here Dave and Laurie Burt go over their boat card design with Lynn from the boat tied up behind them. We are tied up to Dave and Laurie's boat as we take this shot from Meredith.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Soul Food Smack Down, Electrified Cats and Cool Jazz

All it takes is one good night.

Our last night in Hampton, rain pouring down, temperatures low enough to create slush. Connie wants to go out for dinner.

Strolling down the street of bars and restaurants in Hampton that seems to substitute for our kitchen while we are in Hampton VA we passed by our usual haunts looking for something "else". Coming upon a small nondescript storefront Connie, always interested in a new experience, looked in and was waylaid by the two people shown here.

Meet Roger Winston and Lolita posing with my Budget Committee. Roger is head chef and owner of the Soul Food Cafe in Hampton. He is larger than life with an ego and talent to match. Lolita is the head waitress and Roger's skill in the kitchen is paralleled or even excelled by Lolita's on the floor.

The menu was what us northerners call "soul food" but which is, according to Mickey Hutchings (on whom more later), really just southern cooking. It was good, not in the way that Dave Thomas would admire a sliver of Tete de Veau, but deep down Thanksgiving dinner cannot eat another bite good.

Connie had catfish with yams and beans. I chose the 3 course extravaganza with salad (I substituted hot wings), bbq'd porkchops with yams and collard greens finishing with peach cobbler. Twenty bucks!!!

The greens were picked and cleaned that morning by Roger's father from his own garden. It was like Thanksgiving dinner. The catfish, the bbq, the yams, my god - the yams were out of this world, were all unbelievable.

No matter who you are, if you are near Hampton go to the Soul Food Cafe. Eat.

Bobby Flay will never come here 'cause he doesn't stand a chance.

Now, as for Mickey Hutchins, well, he is the reason we went to the Soul Food Cafe. Not that he recommended it but we met Mickey and wife, Lillian Jason the afternoon of the Soulfood experience.

On a lame excuse we spent a couple of hours in the cockpit of their Island Packet "Carpe Diem". There we learned that two weeks earlier, while sleeping in their V Berth, Mickey and Lillian experienced a direct lightning strike. This destroyed much of the mast hardware and all of their electronics, which formed the excuse of our meeting.

This interesting pair are setting out on their first trip south. A lightning strike might stop mere mortals dead in their tracks. Not Mickehy and Lillian.

An afternoon listening to Mickey is the intellectual equivalent of watching a cat stretching in a warm ray of window sun. All that sinue and speed of light reflex disguised as this stretchy warm kitten. He fooled no one. Like most sailing husbands when Lillian spoke Mickey listened. Or did he buy that TV because he thought it was a good idea?

Mickey and Lillian gave us a two hour lesson in southern food and the origins of jazz in Philly. Lillian is a music afficionado with a personal collection numbering in the hundreds if not thousands of cds. And they are all legal.

Presented with the Soul Food Cafe that very evening evening was too much for the two of us.

Man, are we lucky or what.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pelicans in the Air, Crackling Bugs in the Bilge, Movies of One Day. A Jumble from Hampton.

A full day of this on Friday:

View from the Taffrail of Meredith, Friday October 22, 2008

which we shared with fellow sailors, Tony and Linda Sellick, from BAYFIELD:

"One Day" sailed by Tony and Linda Sellick out of Bayfield
Braving the Chesapeake - Day 3 of

Connie spies the first pelican.

Today, changing oil and filters in Meredith, I was surprised to hear my bilge crackling.

Beyond all doubt we are in southern waters.

The crackling is the sound made by ugly little warm water critters which latch on to the hull and eat the slime. In all respects a good thing (warm water and less slime).

Connie is now anticipating having her toilet sparkle. This is the final and surest sign we have attained Eden. In warmer climes there are little water creatures which emit a phosphorescent glow when stressed. As your boat moves through the water you leave a lighted path behind. When you flush the toilet the water sparkles. Really cool in predawn manoeuvers.

This is all the result of hard slogging on Friday bringing Meredith from Deltaville to Hampton, VA where we joined the crew of Tessa, a boat met first in Chesapeake City, for drinks and dinner:

Connie with Gary and Laurie of Tessa. To the left is Missy and the left profile of Jim a pair of racers out of Put in Bay or Catawba Harbour in Ohio who are sharing the sail down the waterway.

We started at Marker 20 but sure enough ended the evening at Taphouse. Best microbrewery selection I have seen. We even got to try the newly restored original Pabst Blue Ribbon, which is a very good summer beer.

So.. other than calm waters, temperate climate and cheap dockage what does Hampton VA offer:

1. It is the site of the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack two armoured ships in the US Civil War. This makes it either the scene of a dramatic advance in modern warfare or the next rung down on mankind's steady descent to armageddon. Either way notable.

2. In that civil war when it became apparent to the residents of Hampton that the Yankees were about to take their city these brave folk burned their own town to the ground to prevent any advantage falling to their hated enemy. Pretty good stuff these people. You want them on your side.

3. Scene this week of the start of the annual Caribbean 1500 race from Hampton VA to Tortola,BVI.

It is also the home of the Cousteau Exhibit, a permanent memorial to that very publicity aware French aquatic guy. Here is the building:

Apparently the Fiat ATV was rammed by an amorous male Rhinoceros to the great consternation of all aboard.

Some people actually care about stuff like this. I am not one of them.

Never watched his TV show either.

This exhibit is right beside our dock.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Why You Should Go to the Taphouse in Hampton

Have you met Audrey?

She works at the Taphouse, Hampton, VA.

Richie, Ian and Matt, old friends from London, would just drive down here for a drink just to meet Audrey and they would be spending their time well.

For the sake of our son, Jake, who works at the Taphouse in London, ON we include a full length shot of the bar of his sister bar here in good old Virginia:

It will not be too difficult to figure out that we are in Hampton VA and that we have not moved since tying up at the marina, about 4:30 p.m. today except go for food and drink.

Today was just like yesterday only the waves were bigger and the wind was stronger. Too tired to write much more than this and it would only be whining anyway.

If Hell Froze Over I think We Found It

10 minutes to seven, evening of October 23. I am in bed warming the sheets while the Budget Committee, my overtaxed wife Connie, completes her evening ablutions.

Evening temperature here in Deltaville, VA, is sufficiently low that if we do not sleep together and closely we might both join Robert Scott, he of the Antarctic, in his icy tomb. No small measure of our level of exhaustion that I can barely keep my eyes open to see if she will make it to the V Berth and thus we both survive to strive another day.

An hour earlier we ran the gauntlet into Deltaville, a twisty macabre entry to a rustic little place, rife with illogical turns and the promise of "1 foot depths" if Meredith strayed even a millimetre off the narrow charted entrance. (Sorry for the shift in measurement units.)

Successfully entering the harbour we took the first right and tried to find a spot to anchor amongst a fleet of similarly challenged weary travellers who arrived before us today.

Thankfully the Budget Committee is a genius at finding holes amongst the masses. She can place Meredith in an overnight anchorage where I see nothing but a field of masts. My job is to stare down the disapproving stares of anal neighbours who figured they had strategically placed their boat in such a way as to preclude the incovenience of neighbours. On Meredith the tactic most used is a pleasant smile and a wave. Rarely returned. Like I care.

Old and good friends on Douce Folie V entered the anchorage. We take a moment to wave a weary "glad you made it". Ben, on the bow wearing his buggerlug earflap hat, lumberjack shirt and an old vest lifts his head as we pass and grumbles "Hell of a Day, that one". My ears to me complain that I do not have such a nice hat. I could have really used that today. Andre his wife, usually the energizer bunny, just stares, her eyes glaced and her face fixed. Her batteries had only sufficient energy to complete the task at hand. She had only attention for one job.

With anchor set Connie fixed dinner while I set up the enclosure. Realizing I had not put the cover on the main I turned to ask Connie if she would had it up to me. Catching a glance of her face at work in the galley I went down the companionway stairs to get it myself. She looked like I felt.

Today in concert with 40 other boats we ran down the Chesapeake today out of Solomons Island bent for Norfolk and warmer weather. Temperatures were in the 30's when we left early morning. Most sailboats have no heat.

Discounting hypothermia the 15 to 20 kn winds and 4 foot waves were trying enough although mercifully both were off the stern quarter. We were a sorry flotilla all expats who left home seeking the Caribbean and WARMTH.

Radio chatter was a window into the souls of the boaters: Virtually every boat set their destination as Mill Creek, a near at hand well protected anchorage in the Great Wicomico River. Storms are forecast for Friday/Saturday.

However each conversation offered the promise that if speed kept up then the conversants would shoot for Deltaville. We must make southing. Everyone was sick of the cold and the wind and the waves which have plagued us since Sunday.

Meredith was a bit more optimistic. We intended to go to Deltaville but set Mill Creek as our safety destination if conditions proved untenable. We sail a Cabo Rico and while we are often passed by smaller boats we find we always arrive in better condition having enjoyed a smoother less trying day than the speedsters. It suits us.

By the turn to Mill Creek conditions had smoothed and Meredith along with about 30 other boats all kept on going.

So here we find ourselves: each warming the other and each taking taking heat and comfort from the other. This bed is so comfortable and Connie is sooo warm and. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thoughts from Solomons Island

Our intentions: as we left Annapolis on Tuesday October 20 was to head to Oxford, Maryland. Many of our fellow boaters opted for St. Michaels which is a shorter sail and a much more tourist friendly destination. Oxford however constitutes the juxtaposition of two powerful forces in the sailing world: (1) it is the site of one of Hinckley Boatyard facilities and (2) Oxford is the home of Cutts and Case where Edmund Case hand builds wooden boats to custom design.

Hinkley produces some great boats in the $1 million plus range but they are plastic production line boats, sort of high priced pret a porter. Cutts' vessels are couture. Not that I am never going to own a vessel from either production facility.

Edmund Cutts would, we were assured by good friends we met for 3 hours in Chesapeake City, on a good day take you around his shop, and talk about boats and his thoughts on the changes plastic has made to boat building and boating. We hoped for a good day.

However: the weather was gorgeous, the water was flat and the radio kept promising worse and worse conditions for Wednesday and Thursday - 10 to 20 knot winds with gusts to 30 and waves to 4 feet. The Chesapeake develops those hateful little short frequency waves we get on the Great Lakes.

So: we dithered for 20 miles down the Chesapeake about whether we should just run further south while we could and try for Solomon Island. As we approached 500 metres of the turning point we agreed to run away.

Here we sit in Solomons Island, on a $30 mooring ball while the winds are hitting a steady 25 and the cold front has not begun to bite yet.

The Benner Family motto rarely lets us down: RUN AWAY.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Update after a Week in Annapolis

So, it has been a week since we last posted. Not that we have been languishing.

Here is one decent photograph of the state legislature buildings.

After the sail boat show we stayed in town for two reasons:

Our good friends Randy and Donna were coming into Annapolis for the power boat show, AND we did not have a transmission so we could not escape.

Here you see Randy checking the size of his brainpan against that of Thurgood Marshall, one of the outstanding and radical justices of the US Supreme Court. (Also black and the lawyer who won the Brown v Board of Education case which tore down the school segregation laws).

I will deal with the transmission matter in a separate blog to come later. The dust must settle a bit before that story can be told properly.

With Randy and Donna here the pace of things picked up. I spent a full day being given VIP cruises aboard luxury trawlers - a Kadey Krogen 42, Selene 55 and a Nordhavn 47 while Randy shot video for his series.

This was fun for several reasons. Because Randy climbed aboard in full Sherpa mode with his backpack and camera where I simply stepped onto the rear platform every company rep figured I was management and Randy was the drudge.

The execs (including the President of Selene) all plied me with questions as to the direction the show was taking, what shots did we want, what did I think would help present their product in the best light. Being a great executive myself I told them. Nothing was held back while boats spun in the harbour and thrusters, bow and stern, generated tidal waves of Newtonian reaction.


The enjoyment might have been enhanced also by the fact that the cheapest boat of the bunch went out the door at $1.25 million. That's US dollars.

After a morning of this Randy and I were totally exhausted and we retired to Pussers bar for some well deserved painkillers. As soon as Connie heard this she joined us.

You will notice who has been demoted to sherpa now that the budget committee is on the scene.

The evening ended in Randy and Donna's hotel with a swim, pizza and two great bottles of wine selected by wine steward Randy.

Thanks guys. We needed the swim and the hot tub and the showers. You have no idea.

Next post - getting the gears on the transmission.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Boat Show, More on Transmissions

Well, today was our first day at the Annapolis Boat Show.

Not a ho hum affair but I would not have driven all the way to Annapolis just for this. Mind you, being here it is a darn nice diversion and money sink.


1. Weems and Plath, the navigation equipment people, have their HQ and warehouse here and are having a Tent Sale. We have a lovely 7 1/2 inch barometer acquired for only $42.

2. Veuve Clicquot is only $36 a bottle.

3. Everything you could want to buy for your boat is here. Often with two vendors.

4. 1.75 liters of Mount Gay Barbados Rum is $24. Not kidding about this. $24.

5. A lot of boats to look at but we have not done so yet.

Items 2 & 4 are not boat show related, but they were highlights.

What have we bought in addition to the barometer:

1. Balmar Alternator, list $650, price $411.
2. Soda Club pop maker. This nifty device frees us from having to lug cases and cases of carbonated beverages to the boat.
3. Northstar AP380 autopilot electronics to drive our poor old Octopus hydraulic ram.
4. Three LED bulbs to replace the most commonly used fixtures on Meredith with low power lighting. These are from Sailor Solutions and they are tremendous.
5. Miscellaneous stuff from Boater's World.
6. Shoes and then some. Bob got a pair of Speedo Deck Shoes so new they will not be available for purchase by the general public until 2009. At a discount of course.
7. Single braid dock lines.

As for the transmission I fear Dave has let me down. He promised to have our little Hurth HBW150 rebuilt and ready for installation today. His shophand tells me at 5 p.m. that the tranny has not yet been opened.

I am going to have to "get medieval on his ass". He is at the boat show tomorrow where he will be surrounded. We had a nice chat at the boat show with his father today however.

That is it for now. Tomorrow is rest and relaxation. Sunday for visiting and Monday is the return to the show to view some boats. We cannot afford to eat downtown everyday during the boat show. All the restaurants have newly printed menus. Go figure.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Missing Transmissions, Brown B Bus Lines and Mary

We start today by letting you in on a little secret. For the last 200 hours Meredith has been misperforming. Starting in Oswego she missed a shift into forward gear. It was delayed for about a second. Not critical but a caution. The last time Meredith started missing shifts we lost the whole transmission in about 100 hours.

The problem did not recur until Waterford and then again in Great Kills.

We knew what was up. A quick search on the web and we found Dave at American Transmissions right here in Annapolis. Dave was well recommended by a couple of cruisers online and when I called him I was favourably impressed.

The yard Dave recommended (to do the work of removing the transmission and replacing a new or refurbed unit) estimated it would cost $900 or more for the labour plus the cost of marina rentals for however long Meredith would need to be in the marina plus a haulout if necessary plus aything else that might arise.

Well, you know how this one ends.

Anything missing from this drive train?

What would have filled that big black hole is this, seen being winched up through the lazarette by me dear wife, Constance.

Taking a break from removing transmissions, which is a really ornery job on a sailboat (and maybe anywhere else, how would I know?) we took the bus system to the local big mall.

The bus system seems really simple. Each of the routes is colour coded so you take, for example, the Yellow Bus downtown or the Brown bus to the mall or the Green bus to the street that has our preferred dinghy dock.

Well, the simplicity escaped us today. Turns out there are TWO Brown buses, A & B and two Green Buses, East and West, and the Gold B bus only runs on Sundays and evenings and...

You get the idea. Also there are no transfers. Sort of. you can transfer at a "transfer point". The transfer point is not shown on the transit map. But then the transit web site said there was a $2.50 day pass. The driver told me not to read the internet. When he asked for $1 fare I said the transit sign, printed on steel at the bus stop gave the price of $.75 he told me not to believe everything I read. Message received I paid the $1.

The bus drivers are training for NASCAR in this city too. They are speed demons. While they drive a gallery of passengers, shown here on the Green East Bus, yell suggestions to them and
insults and tell them jokes. Constantly the drivers are being interrogated by a harsh radio controller who is not at all pleasant and wants frequent position reports.

Finally I must tell you about Mary, the driver of the Red bus, I forget which route. We caught this bus out of the mall heading for a transfer point we did not then know existed. Mary was the driver. At one stop we picked up a very slow moving elderly woman. Along the route the woman stands up, moves to Mary, the driver, and asks if this is her stop. Mary of course does not have a clue. Mary queries the elderly woman about where she lives and where she is going. Finally she opens the lady's purse, looks closely at her ID, turns to the fully loaded bus and says "Does anybody mind if I take this lady home?".

No one demurred. The elderly woman was delivered to her door and we proceeded to the transfer point. At top speed I must say.

The photo, which is tragically inept, shows Mary returning to her (our) bus after she escorted her needful passenger to her door.

Impressed in the extreme.

By the way in Annapolis White people drive SUV's while talking on the cell phone. Blacks and occasional whites take the bus. The bus is a lot more fun.

We have decided to be only occasionally white cause whitey is just too square.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Another Day in the Sailing Capital of the World

Way at the back of Back Creek, in a watery little cul de sac is where you find Meredith:

Only 500 yards away you find this, the regular season docking in the Creek.

The boat show crowd has not shown up this year and the shopkeepers are growing concerned. There is even a rumour, not capable of being confirmed in my experience, that the local Marriott Hotel still has rooms. The rumour is not true but shows the depth of local concern.

The way things work here in Annapolis is kind of cool. Every street that ends at the water has a public dinghy dock built for the use of all boaters. You just dinghy into town, tie up at any convenient street and walk. The town is beautiful.

Finally a word about the people in this incredible city. I really want you to meet Sharon Carter.

Sharon is a meter maid working for Anne Arundel County. She saw Connie and me feeling our way around the back streets trying to find the street that ended in our dinghy dock. We were obviously lost.

Seeing our plight Sharon drove around the Block and came to our aid. We agreed we were as lost as she thought we might be and asked directions to St. Marys Street. With a bit of a doubtful look Sharon gave us easy directions which we proceeded to follow.

About six blocks along we came across Market Street which we recognized was the street we actually wanted. Did I mention we were lost? We turned down Market Street and in 3 minutes Sharon shows up to correct our error. She must have thought we were the dumbest Canadians in the harbour. Who knows? Maybe....

What a wonderful woman to follow two lost visitors to her City to ensure they got home alright.

Thanks a bunch Sharon. You are quite a woman.

We Are In Annapolis - all bets are off

Quick post. We made the run from Chesapeake City to Annapolis over the past 2 days arriving Annapolis October 5 about noon.

Expected a madhouse but Back Creek was surprisingly calm. Not sure why but we expect things will heat up soon. That or the economic uncertainty has really taken a toll.

Pictures will follow soonest - We must take some first.

For now here is exactly where Meredith rests:

Just look for the Green dot on the map. Double Click on the Map and it will enlarge and become clearer.

Back Creek is a bit south of Annapolis proper but we are on a bus route and only a short dinghy ride from everything. Thank goodness for the new dinghy and the Tohatsu.

We tried to anchor midstream but an unfriendly New Zealander comes out with "Too Close, Go Away" routine. We suggested he ... well never mind but anyway we now hate everything Kiwi.

The upshot of it all was that we moved slightly downstream into a watery little cul de sac where,and in a move that seems to have stunned everyone down here, we tied up stern to the creek bank.

Apparently no one has ever backed up to a shoreline down here. Go figure. North Channel technique applies everywhere.

They do however like to drive backwards. Yesterday in Worton Creek we watched a man and wife on a Beneteau back up about a mile turn 90 degrees to port, dogleg 75 degrees starboard and then do a 270 to back into his slip - all at about 5 knts boatspeed. He stood on the forward side of the binnacle facing the stern and drove the boat like that. We stood on the fuel dock and applauded. They looked at us like we were nuts. Sometimes I wonder.

Now wanting to trespass on neighbouring homeowners property we used a stern anchor in soft mud and Meredith is firmly settled and immovable. Today's winds are forecast at 25 kt gusts so we will test our anchoring ability. We will be watching the Kiwi with a certain amount of evil intent.

More when we take pix.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Chesapeake City - Back in the Twilight Zone Again

Moving from Cape May NJ to Annapolis MD requires a transit of the Delaware Bay. What an unfortunate thing to have to do. It is best done fast and when all crew are pretty much in a daze.

This described Meredith when we set off. Properly timing our departure for 2 hours after low tide at Cape May. This ensures you have a following tidal current for your entire passage. You want the Delaware over as fast as possible.

The timing of the departure was problematic as it was pitch black at 5:30 a.m. Off we set anyway trusting to lighted markers in the channel. This was when we met the crew of Whippoorwill, which vessel was anchored in the middle of the channel with minimal lighting. The crew waved and said "Hi, are you anchoring too". When we responded with "No but if we were we probably would not anchor in the middle of the channel" there was no response. Next morning I understand the boat was still mid channel.

One really important thing to note about Cape May is that the red buoys which are on your right hand side coming in from the Atlantic change sides in front of the Coast Guard station. You see, you leave Cape May via the Cape May Canal and the markers are necessarily the other way around. If you neglect this little detail you will run aground.

I tell you this from experience.

Mind you it was pitch black, no one saw us and the tide was rising (remember 2 hours after low tide) so it did not count as a grounding. The guy who warned me about this, yes he warned me before I set off, also went on the wrong side, didn't he Benoit?

At the North end of the Delaware you turn into the C & D Canal which joins the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays. This canal is the second busiest waterway in the USA.

We did not think this ship would make it under the Chesapeake Bridge. Neither did the Captain as the transit of the bridge took 35 minutes.

The only stop along the canal is at Chesapeake City, almost to the Chesapeake end of things. There is a nice little town dock and a small anchorage. Both are plagued with low water and twitchy currents and wake. With Meredith's 5 foot draft we could not leave the harbour within 2 hours either side of low tide. We got stuck every time we tried.

I cannot upload pictures from this site (Worton Creek) so I will interrupt the blog here and pick things up when we get to Annapolis. We are only 26 miles from the boat show.