St Mary’s to Solomons
After consulting with a few of our OCC members on the best way to get from St Mary’s to New York, we decided to go north up the Chesapeake to pass through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. There’s probably not much difference in time between going this way or going back via Norfolk. But we thought the scenery would be new to us – and the tidal boost through the canal very useful.
So, with that decision made, we worked out the distances, identified potential anchorages, and set off as soon as the sun came up. And with no real time constraints, we were free to determine our own pace, and when and where to stop.
Our first stop was Solomons, recommended by Donna and Joel. This is a very active sailing area not unlike a large Hamble in the UK. But unlike the Hamble, this has free anchorages. And even though it was a busy Saturday, we found a space to anchor just off Solomons Island.
We needed to buy some bread, milk and cereal, so we launched the dinghy and headed up-river to the Holiday Inn dock, near where there are rumoured to be supermarkets. The marina managing the dock operates an honesty system: the fee for parking a dinghy is $2, and if there is no-one in the office, you put the cash in an envelope and stuff it under the door. So, with no-one around that’s what we did.
Heading out of the Holiday Inn car park, about 400 metres on the left, Maria spotted a 7/11 sign and the thought of walking another 20 minutes to the supermarket suddenly lost its appeal. We opened the door of the 7/11 to be greeted with “F*ck f*ck! Why can’t they leave these f*cking things alone! F*ck!” Someone was having a bad day – and that someone was one of the store assistants. Waitrose this isn’t. We chose not to spend too much time in that shop, but given that we only bought some bread, cereal and a packet of crisps that Maria sneaked in at the last minute, it was not cheap.
The store didn’t sell soya milk, so we tried the gas station across the road. They didn’t have any soya milk either, but they had lots of beer, so we bought that instead.
Being so close to Solomons Island, we weren’t short on entertainment. Music was playing from the restaurant behind us, and someone was giving powerboat lessons to the side of us. Recreational boaters started coming in for the night, and sitting in the cockpit onboard Lady Jane was a great place to see it all.
Solomons to Worton Creek
Early the next morning we pulled up the anchor and, with the sun rising to our left, and a gentle breeze to the south, we set off towards Worton Creek.
The anchorage at Worton Creek was flat calm and peaceful. Only one other boat shared the water on the south side of the river, and he left overnight
The current from here to the Chesapeake and Delaware canal suited the crew just fine. Because the northerly flow didn’t start until 0800, we had a relatively late start, getting up at 0700.
Worton Creek and the C&D Canal
It’s a canal, but not as you know it. It’s nothing like the Stratford upon Avon that’s for sure. Current here is a crucial factor in deciding when to go, as it can give a beneficial boost or make things miserable. At times we were making over 9 knots of speed without trying hard.
The canal is shared with all traffic large and small, so it’s important to keep a lookout behind as well as ahead. But keeping to the side of channel mitigates that risk – except for the problem of the Conrail Bridge.
The Conrail bridge is usually left in the up position, presenting a clearance height of around 130ft. It is rarely lowered and only then when a train is due. Unfortunately, we arrived at just such a time, so had to drift with the tide for 20 minutes while the bridge came back up again. And that feels painfully slow. The bridge also seems painfully low. Even though our mast is slightly over 60ft, there appear to be inches to spare rather than 70ft. I had the engine in reverse going under it, just in case the bridge people had made a mistake. They hadn’t, and we safely passed underneath, a little sweatier and a bit wiser, and headed towards our next anchorage in Delaware.
The pilot guides deliver grave warnings about crossing the bar to Reedy Island; insisting that vessels pass between the channel markers else be dashed on the rocks and doomed to a watery end. It’s probably not that bad, but we did follow the markers, and there are rocks on either side – the remnants of an old jetty we believe.
There isn’t much in the way of scenery, but anchoring here is easy. There’s plenty of space, good holding throughout, and it’s an ideal place to wait for a change in the tide to get to the Atlantic. And at 0500 the next morning, we were off.
Lord and Ladies of the Flies
As well as being plagued by a lack of wind (again) we also picked up a plague of flies. The Chesapeake is an active haven for a wide variety of insects, so we thought a few stowaways had sneaked onboard. But not only did our fly problem persist, it also got worse. And these were horse flies – nasty ones at that. Half a can of Raid later, Maria looked at the transom and found hundreds of flies camped out like a dark army. That army was no match for BOP spray though. One generous blast of that stuff and the retreat was in full flight.
With that crisis over, bar the hoovering up of fly carcasses, we could focus on our motoring and occasional sailing. The wind was all over the place, and we had the sails in and out several times over the day and night. Only when around 40 miles from Manhattan could we switch off the engine and sail in a gentle north-easterly breeze. The wind carried us all of 20 miles before shifting in an unfavourable direction, so we motored the rest of the way into New York.
Just a footnote here on balloons. I know it may seem a strange topic to mention, and I don’t want to end this post on a downer, but we want to call this out: Throughout the Chesapeake, and on the way to New York, we kept seeing the deflated remains of balloons on the surface of the water. Far too many to suggest these are being released accidentally. This isn’t good.
There’s no such thing as biodegradable latex balloons. Mylar balloons take years to break down. And they are all over the place. We understand that several US states have banned mass balloon releases, so maybe what we are seeing is the legacy of years gone by. In any case, hopefully, other states and countries will wise up. In the meantime, the One Green Planet website suggests some interesting alternatives… Balloon Releases Are Killing Animals