Boarded in the East River

Thursday presented the perfect opportunity to get out of Port Washington and down to Delaware Bay. So, at 0800 on 18th October, we slipped the lines from our mooring ball and headed off in light winds towards Manhattan. Everything was going well. Hell Gate didn’t present the vortex of boiling water we expected, even although we motor-sailed past it at around nine knots. And although the weather was cold, it was bright and sunny, and we could see for miles. 

Then, as we got close to the United Nations building, we were boarded.

Despite the excellent visibility, we didn’t see that coming. The first we knew about it was a call on the radio asking where we are from and where we are going,  our registration number, and whether or not we had a cruising licence. After that, the Coastguard vessel came alongside and asked if we didn’t mind them boarding. “Not at all”, said I. 

But the boarding consisted of carefully bringing their boat alongside as we continued to motor down the East River so that Maria could hand over our documents. They steered away and, after a few minutes, came back alongside, handed back our licence, wished us a pleasant day. And that was that. Exciting stuff though. Those guys are armed to the teeth, or at least to the hip.

East River – United Nations and Wonky Buildings

Leaving New York

On the way into New York in June, we anchored behind the Statue of Liberty. And it was a fabulous place to stay: both visually stunning and calm.  But, with good weather scheduled to last no more than a day and a half, we decided to press on without stopping, and motor sailed out of the Hudson with the Lady on our right.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

Fort Wadsworth

Fort Wadsworth

A Canadian yacht caught up with us, then shortly afterwards the Coastguard caught up with him. The mistake he made was not telling them of his arrival in New York state. For that, he received an on-radio grilling to rival any detective programme for over 10 minutes before being allowed on his way.

As we came out of the Hudson and turned right towards Delaware Bay, the wind was in a perfect direction – just aft of the beam. We made an average of 7 knots in flat seas all the way down to the entrance to Delaware Bay the next morning. As we arrived at the bay, the Coastguard hailed us on Channel 16.  And in the briefest of conversations which went something like this: “When was the last time you were boarded, Captain?”, “Yesterday morning” They wished us well and went hunting for another yacht, which they found a couple of minutes later. I guess they are on a mission.

With the wind dying as we made the turn into Delaware Bay, we switched on the engine and motor-sailed up the river to our destination anchorage at Reedy Island, spotting a lone turtle along the way. 

Bruce Willis Was Here

Reedy Island isn’t the most picturesque of anchorages, but it is one of the most convenient for the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. The depth is consistent across most of the anchorage, and the area offers some protection from swells in the bay. 

The downside is that it is opposite Hope Creek, and Salem, nuclear power stations. Between them, by drawing cooling water from the Delaware, they increase the water temperature in the bay by two degrees Celsius in winter. I don’t think this has any effect on the turtle population. But it might be wise to check with Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo, or Raphael if you see them. 

Mutant Ninja Turtles aside,  Salem power station does have a slightly tenuous claim to fame.  According to Wikipedia, a younger and hairier Bruce Willis used to work here as a security guard before starting his acting career.

Bruce Willis was here

Bruce Willis was here

Chesapeake and Delaware Canal

The tidal flow through the Chesapeake and Delaware canal turned favourable at a reasonable 0800 the next morning. So, we upped-anchor in time to ride the tide as far along the canal and down the Chesapeake as possible. Although we didn’t quite get the boost we expected, probably because the wind was clattering about our faces, we made good progress and got as far as Worton Creek – familiar anchoring territory for us. And provider of great sunsets.

Sunset at Worton Creek

Sunset at Worton Creek

How Far Does An Anchor Drag In 37 Knots Of Wind? 

With the forecast predicting the wind to strengthen from the north, we wanted to minimise the unknown – hence the choice of Worton Creek. Unlike the last time, however,  just a solitary yacht shared the anchorage with us. We moved closer into the creek, let out plenty of anchor chain and reversed Lady Jane to dig in the anchor ready for the blow. And later that day the wind did blow – we regularly saw 22 knots of wind on the indicator.

But then. And even the weather forecasting gurus didn’t see this coming. A line squall arrived.

At 2215, the wind changed from slightly breezy to worryingly strong. We checked the chart plotter to make sure we held in the same place and switched on the instruments to see the wind speed. It showed 37 knots consistently. And while we watched the chart plotter, we started to drag. This wasn’t a slow and gentle glide down the bay. We were off at a shade below 2 knots towards the end of the creek. Not good. We started the engine so that we could ease the pressure on the anchor if we needed to. But by the time we had done that, the anchor held again. We had dragged over 150 metres in less than 3 minutes.

30 metres of chain in 3 metres of water should have been enough. But not for the swells and the wind rushing into the anchorage that night. 

Guns, boarding and 37 knots of wind

Anchor Dragging

What a drag

Anchor Wrangling

Now that we had stopped moving, we decided to let out more anchor chain. Maria went forward tethered to the boat, wearing her lifejacket, to release the anchor snubber. But the snubber was stuck. The pin stopping the chain hook from falling off had bent, so she couldn’t get it undone. We switched roles, and I went forward with a pair of mole grips to twist the pin off. That worked. We got it the snubber free, let out another 15 metres of chain, replaced the snubber and then kept a close eye on our holding for the next couple of hours.

Eventually, the wind went back to a relatively calm 22 knots.

Here’s what the weather forecasters reported:

Weather Forecast

BULLETIN – IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED Special Marine Warning National Weather Service Baltimore MD/Washington DC 1035 PM EDT SAT OCT 20 2018 The National Weather Service in Sterling Virginia has issued a * Special Marine Warning for…   Chesapeake Bay from Drum Point MD to Smith Point VA…   Chesapeake Bay from North Beach to Drum Point MD…   Chesapeake Bay from Pooles Island to Sandy Point MD…   Chesapeake Bay from Sandy Point to North Beach MD…   Chester River to Queenstown MD…   Choptank River to Cambridge MD and the Little Choptank River…   Eastern Bay…   Patuxent River to Broomes Island MD…   Tangier Sound and the inland waters surrounding Bloodsworth Island… * Until midnight EDT. * At 1034 PM EDT, showers were located along a line extending from 6 nm east of Northeast River to 25 nm west of Aquia Creek, moving east at 40 knots. HAZARD…Wind gusts 34 knots or greater. SOURCE…Radar indicated. IMPACT…Boaters in small craft could be thrown overboard by suddenly higher winds and waves capsizing their vessel.

No sh*t Sherlock.

The next day we saw a boat that didn’t survive that night. Sadly washed up on the sand on another side of the bay.

Return to Calm

24 hours later the wind had calmed enough for us to move on to Annapolis. Mind you; the anchor took some lifting. We think it had buried not only itself but part of the chain into the seabed. It was caked in mud from tip to end.

Guns, boarding and 37 knots of wind

It’s Down There Somewhere

After getting the anchor back on the bow roller, after three hours of sailing and six hours of motoring, we arrived in Annapolis and picked up a mooring ball just outside the United States Naval Academy. 

Our mission here was to take in the sights of Annapolis and head to Washington for a whirlwind tour of the famous sites of the capital.