What a beautiful day we woke up to. Calm, sunny, and getting warmer.
Norm, the manager of RYCHB made a great surprise brunch of eggs and bacon on a bun. What a wonderful surprise! The temperature went up with the sun burning down on us while we ate and chatted on their terrace. (www.rowaytonyachtclub.com)
We noticed that the resident swan at their the Rowayton Yacht Club was limping so the Animal Control was called. Poor thing. The kids called him Prince – after the Seven Swans story.
Around 2pm, our friends from Pegasus picked us up for a day of fun. We went to Ambler Farm and had fun tossing apples at targets, seeing the animals, watching pumpkin tosses, hay maze, etc. It reminded us a bit of the Pumpkin Farm in Niagara (although not comparable with pumpkin decorations).
Later, we went to Austin and Kathleen’s home where we met Bailey the dog, Cameron’s fish, and Muffin the chinchilla. The kids played downstairs until it got dark when they played manhunt. Kathleen and Austin, having already done a circumnavigation for 3 years, understand the life of a travelling sailor and they blessed us with their generosity in allowing us to do 2 loads of laundry at their home!
They also offered us some gifts from their backyard garden. We had a lovely dinner of chicken quesadillas. A fun time was had by all! Thank you Kate and Austin for your warm hospitality!
As of today, we have now been living on the boat for 3 months! Another beautiful day awaited us….sun glimmering, and John, the assistant manager from RYC came by to offer us the use of the kitchen at the club. We headed over quickly, took our showers, and had yummy egg sandwiches. Our friend, Ted O’Neil, dropped by to say good-bye (and to deliver a solar panel we had ordered). Then by 10am, we were off back west – target for this evening: Throg’s Neck. Thank you so very much RYC – Norm and John, for your wonderful and warm hospitality. This welcoming approach means so much to people like us who are far from home!
It took us about 5 hours to get to Throg’s Neck, NY (City Island near the Bronx) where we anchored for the evening awaiting the morning when the tide would be on our side to take us through Hell’s Gate in the morning.
Slight change in plans – today is the day we started our trek south. Unfortunately, due to the fact that heavy southeast winds were coming up the coast for a 10 day period, it forced us to skip our 2 day adventure in the Big Apple of NYC. The kids were very disappointed as they really had their hearts on going to the Lego Store at the Rockefeller Centre to spend their hard earned bracelet $$$ on some extra pieces of Lego. Luckily they understood that travelling 150 miles against strong head winds was not a good choice and that they did not relish the idea of being stuck in NY until the frost came! So, today was our first overnight leg of our trip to travel ~150 nautical miles to Cape May, NJ. By 9am, after a big breakfast,
at a speed of 7+knots, we dodged airplanes in the East River, danced through strong currents and standing waves in Hell’s Gate, passed all the tall NYC buildings and bridges, zipped past Governor’s Island, the Statue of Liberty, and all the crazy ferries and low-flying helicopters, and fought the many tugboats and cargo ships criss-crossing in the bay.
Whew! Finally, peace & quiet out by Coney Island, then Staten Island, then Sandy Hook. It went quickly with southeast winds allowing us to maintain 5 to 6 knots of speed.
While the ocean was very roly (5-8 foot swells), we got into the groove, and the next thing we knew, the sun was setting behind NJ. We stayed ~ 3 miles off shore, not in the shipping lanes. By 10pm, it was my turn to begin the night shift/watch while Captain Christian took a long nap. Luckily Serena agreed to stay up and keep me company. We had a busy time checking the GPS charts, buoys, checking AIS software to determine speed/direction of visible boats, and chatting. We came across a Fishing Haven which looked like a cemetery for crocodile-shaped structures just outside the 3mile fishing fields. We saw many tug boats and even were perplexed by the flashing lights of Atlantic City! By 4am, it was time for Christian to take over. I gave him a good over-view of all the oncoming/going traffic, the buoys according to lights and the charts. Even one buoy light that did not show up on the charts. Then we set the sails for the new west winds.
We continued cautiously through the rest of the night. Jeremy helped Captain Christian during his shift by waking up before dawn and helping him navigate by using the GPS and apps along the shoreline. By 9am, we were close to Cape May. We decided to take shelter from the approaching heavier winds in 2 Mile Landing Marina for the next few nights before heading up to the C&D canal. A lovely little marina with a great seafood restaurant. For October, they are offering free docking (+ utilities) if you eat in their restaurant! We took a walk to the beach through a wildlife refuge. In the rollers at the beach, we saw 2 large turtles and 3 fins from dolphins frolicking in the waves.
Back at the boat, Captain Christian awarded our 2 littlest crew members sailing medals for doing such a great job helping with the overnight crossing and navigating. We were very proud of the courageous roles they took during their 2 hour shifts!
We had a crab/shrimp dinner very early and packed it in just after sunset tonight. No surprises that we were tired!
Jeremy started the day by catching a baby Snapper Blue at the dock! It is so beautiful here…we are right near marshlands and we see Egrets and Blue Herons all day long.
Then around 10am, we took a cab to Wildwood Boardwalk & fun park with the kids. Surprisingly it was clearly stuck in the 1970’s…the motels, the rides, the decorations, the buildings. Nothing seems to have changed since Christian last visited over 20 years ago. There seemed to have been no development along the coast. The beach was still as long and beautiful as Christian remembered. As usual, we met many people on the beach. One of them, Paul, had a lively little dog called Ginger with which the children played catch. We spoke with him for 15 minutes on the beach and next thing you know, he is offering us a ride back to our boat. After we walked on the boardwalk for 30 minutes, Paul picked us up on Pacific Ave. He then kindly offered us the chance to swim in his pool/to take a shower at one of his apartments. The kids had fun in the pool, Paul and his wife offered us refreshments. Their daughter was a few years older than Serena and was interested in our travel stories. Such a welcoming, generous family. We found out that they used to own a sailboat many years ago and loved sailing in the Chesapeake.
We invited Paul to our boat when he dropped us off. He was excited to be back on a boat again. We even put up our special lights that Sergio gave us a few weeks ago…it added a festive touch!
After he left, we went to the 2 Mile Landing Restaurant (50 feet across from the Crab Shack) for dinner….some more great seafood!
Another day of amazing weather in the 80’s. It must be Indian Summer here. We will not complain! Easy day of cleaning the boat inside and out, lessons for the kids, and finally going to the beach for an hour in the afternoon. The kids had fun playing 2 mind-challenging games that Paul’s daughter gave them yesterday. Seafood snacks at the Crab House and early to bed.
Another beautiful day in the 80’s. Today, Jill (Paul’s wife) offered to take us grocery shopping. So at 11am, we all piled into her car, dropped the kids and Papa off at the Boardwalk and I went to ShopRite for a few hours of grocery shopping. What a generous offer…I had quite a bit to buy, considering we would be gone on the Chesapeake for several days without access to provisioning. Meanwhile, the kids had a great time with Papa Bear….Wildwood is off-season, but they were open today for the Columbus day weekend. Because the children have been so good, Papa Bear allowed them a ride on the “wild side” – Musik Express. We invited both Jill and Paul to our boat for dinner this evening. We had a lovely evening listening to their stories and sharing some of ours.
Oh boy….yet another beautiful day…how blessed can we be? Not only is it a lovely day, it is 85F and humid…just the temperatures that make me very happy! It is 18:56 as I write and the temperature is 77F, feels like 97F!!!! The proof for those who do not believe me:
Despite the oncoming rain tomorrow, I don’t think we will be too sad with this week’s weather! Here is a sample:
Like I said, with the oncoming rains and wind, we decided to go to downtown Cape May to see the Victorian architecture. What a walk! Don’t tell the kids, but I think we walked approximately 7 km including a quick ride in an electric car taxi (that the kids LOVED).
As an architecture-lover/appreciator, the architecture in Cape May cannot go without due mention in my blog. I have to say that the these gingerbread constructions, dating circa 1880, are not only in pristine condition, but their paint jobs are spectacularly coordinated. Christian and I figured there is a central designer in this town that helps to choose their paint colours because they go together so well (ie. forest green, eggplant, and dark beige)….Brenda – you would love it! But not only do their exterior colours amaze the average pedestrian, their autumn/Hallowe’en decorations are ALSO fully colour-coordinated! I am not sure who spends the time matching Hallowe’en decorations with Mums and corn-stalks, but this town really takes it as an important task! We really enjoyed the day and now back at the marina, we are going to treat ourselves to Happy Hour and then a 3 lb lobster dinner!!!! MMMMmmmmmm! Jeremy LOVED it. Serena stuck to Caesar Salad. Thank you Judi and Mike!
Today, was a stay-at-home day to get the boat ready to leave tomorrow through the Chesapeake. We prepped the zodiac, washed the lifejackets, kids did some schoolwork, (Jeremy practiced his writing to improve it), and Mama marked some homework. Even got Papa Bear’s hair cut! The kids later had a PD day and played with some new toys (thanks Sergio and Ruby!).
Winds from Hurricane Nate made it to NJ and were very strong and gusty all day.
Left at 6:40am, slightly after low tide, just as the daylight started to illuminate enough to navigate safely. It was surprisingly calm after yesterday’s heavy winds. We went back
out the Cape May channel and went around the Point of Cape May (rather than taking a short-cut through the Cape May canal which we felt was too shallow for our boat). We had to go out an extra mile to avoid the dangerous shoals, but we were lucky to catch the current which helped us gain speed – 9 knots! Just as we rounded the point, 2 black dolphins came out to say goodbye. Not as many boats in the shipping lanes as expected. We kept our distance from this commercial lane nevertheless. Just before lunch time, we came across several more dolphins, this time grey in colour. They jumped just 20 feet from our boat, but they were not in the mood to play with us (perhaps due to the motor), so we left them jumping behind in our wake. The nuclear power plant is an eye-sore, but a good marker just before turning left into the C&D canal. The canal had several high bridges, we followed a tug boat so we felt safe knowing we would fit under all overhead obstructions.
At 3pm, we stopped ½ way in the canal at Chesapeake City to get fuel. Unfortunately, when docking, the current caught our boat and we scraped a big motor boat’s swim platform. I had jumped out to fend off, but my weak 115 lbs were not strong enough to avoid the scratches. By 4:30, we were at the end of the C&D canal. Serena took the wheel to drive us into the top of the Chesapeake which was full of red sand beaches and bluffs. Very pretty. We anchored near the mouth of Bohemia River where it was very silent and calm.
The kids were very happy with their accomplishments and adventure today!
It was interesting to imagine the days of the Tockwogh Indians and how they lived 200 years ago. The place smelled of boreal forest and was very picturesque. Sounds of Canada geese, crickets, and splashing fish kept us company all evening. The temperature at 21:00 was still above 27C – very humid.
A very peaceful night.
October 11 & 12
Once the current was in our favour, we pulled up the anchor and headed further south to Sassafras River. It was even more picturesque with orange-red sand coloured bluffs, pine trees, and small bays. We took a place that we hoped would shelter us from the east for the next few days of heavy winds.
Homework was getting to be a challenge. The children were more drawn to reading than wanting to complete exercises. They became engrossed in writing Hallowe’en stories that they hope will be published on our blog. Serena has started trying to increase her French vocabulary and is using a thesaurus of colourful words to enhance her story.
Jeremy is writing his story in English. His sentence structure is getting more complex and he is making great efforts to improve his handwriting. Heavy winds with on and off rain today. Temperatures were slightly cooler, but still very comfortable – not yet seasonal….I know the cold will be coming soon!
October 13 – 14
We sailed the 50 nautical miles from Sassafras River to Annapolis. We stayed at Annapolis Landing Marina for the night. Unbelievable how many crab pots dot the bay. And they sneak up on you so quickly. In some places, we felt that we were tip-toeing through land mines! There was one every 30 feet and all different colours (meaning owned by different fishermen). I am surprised that there is no requirement to have a light on these crab pots…not sure how sailors navigate the bay at night. As we sailed under the Chesapeake Bay bridge, we saw so many sailboats and tanker ships anchored. Very quickly we were able to navigate our way into Annapolis Landing Marina where Ralph met us to help us in docking our boat. Quite a challenge to get your boat nestled among the 20 foot pilings unscathed without bow-thrusters! Our stay at Annapolis Landing Marina was short but very pleasant. Unfortunately, we missed the sailing boat show (one of the biggest boat shows in the US) by 1 week because we were stuck in Cape May due to the timing of the currents. This week was the motor boat show, but it is of less interest to us. Instead, we borrowed their courtesy van to go to the grocery store and West Marine. We will definitely be back on the way home.
We left just after lunch on Saturday to make our way to St. Michael’s on Kent Island. Passed many regattas, steamers, fishermen…the Bay was busy!
Ralph, from ALM, recommended this as a quaint place to go with lots of interesting places to see, including a Maritime Museum. 4.5 hours (and 100+ crab pots) later, we arrived and anchored in a large tranquil bay. There was a wedding taking place on land with lovely music and firepits. We found out the next day that it was a wedding for one of the Dupont family. Many boats were anchored in the bay probably as guests.
We dinghied into the small village of St. Michaels, MD to explore. One thing we found surprising in this harbour was how low the docks and streets and properties were relative to the water levels. Even if we were at high tide, it did not look like there was much more than 6 inches before the water went over onto land…they said that swells from hurricanes rarely reach them here (although we found out later that Hurricane Irene in 2003 really flooded the land). After speaking with a nearby fisherman, we were informed that “crabbing” is as easy as sneezing here in St. Michaels. He gave us tips on how to catch the blue crabs (tie a few raw chicken necks to a string, drop it to the bottom of shallow water and presto, you get a bite…we think he was dramatizing the ease with which we could catch these blue creatures, but we would try it later). We fell in love with a little Inn at the entrance, toured it and then crossed the small channel to investigate, what looked like, the main street. We met a lovely family and a dog named Covu at a crab restaurant who entertained the kids. They told us about some nice spots to visit as we tour the Chesapeake. They gave us some tips on Rockfishing too. The town is very small (basically one main street), similar to Niagara on the Lake with its specialty shops, but only a few km in length. We spent time at a local brewery to sample a flight of 7 home brews, tried the ice cream parlor, and just drank in the beautiful 27C temperatures and quaint scenery of the town.
The kids also had a blast when Mark and Covu gave them a quick tour around town in a tiny rented electric car. Mark highly recommended the Maritime Museum, which we checked out as we walked back to the waterfront.
Interesting history readings recounted how St. Michaels was a town “that fooled the British during the Revolutionary War” in the 1700’s. Knowing that the Brits would invade at night, the town decided to hang their lanterns up in trees/masts/flagpoles anything high to give the impression that their town was on a bluff/hill. Their ruse worked…the Brits shot 2 cannons high into the trees and hit nothing, and the town responded by shooting several canons at their ships from ground level confusing the Brits into believing that St. Michaels had tunnels for their artillery. They quickly gave up the fight and left St. Michaels alone! We were intrigued to return and learn more!
After 4 hours in town, we dinghied back to the boat for dinner. The boat needed to be prepared for the winds and anticipated “rocking” during the night.
At 4am, we were wakened by strong winds and big waves rocking our boat. The wind had picked up and was gusting at nearly 35 knots and the 4 foot waves in the bay had whitecaps. Despite the fact that a few hours later it calmed down, we determined to move in the morning. Pulling up the anchor was not an easy chore with the 20+ knot winds that continued, however, we managed to get unhooked and went to explore where we could re-anchor. There remained one place for a small boat to anchor closer in St. Michaels, but we were just happy to be in a more sheltered site and also closer to the museum! Under overcast skies, we spent the whole day at the museum. The kids LOVED the lighthouse with interactive learning (where they experienced the life of a lighthouse keeper with its challenges), they played on Thor (an oystering boat that had real motor sounds and kitchen sounds and working steering, etc). There was so much learning and history about the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the abolition of slavery to be discovered, we became members of the Maritime Museum Association (where we can get into other Maritime museums along the coast). Temperatures were dropping this evening so we cooked in the boat and snuggled up warmly.
Chilly morning…14C…but sunny and no wind, so not so bad. Back at the museum, we befriended the dockmaster, Carl, who told us many interesting facts about St. Michaels (becoming one of the new Hamptons, increasing housing prices, the ACME town grocery store closing down last week). He also told us about and gave us a tour of America’s oldest active racing yacht, the 1888 Elf. Restored to historically accurate condition and re-launched in 2008, Elf is a Lawley-built 30-foot class cutter. Elf pioneered offshore yacht cruising in 1893 by being the first small craft to race round-trip from Marblehead, Mass. to Halifax, N.S.
Later in the afternoon, Papa Bear had a desire to try his hand at “crabbing”, so he and Serena went for a 3.6 mile walk to the nearest grocery store to buy chicken necks and supplies. When we got back to the boat, we tied up the chicken necks to the string and tossed it overboard in 12 feet of water. Within 3 minutes, there was a strong tug indicating something at the end of the line. Papa started to pull it up – he saw a blue crab climbing up. Unfortunately, he pulled a bit too fast and the crab dropped. He tried again…within 2 more minutes, there was another tug. This time success! The crab was quite large and was quickly dropped into the net. He struggled and was put into a pail, from which he fought to get out. The next thing we knew, our boat was surrounded by hundreds of white jellyfish (sea-nettles).
They were everywhere – even interfering with our “crabbing” as their tentacles would get caught on the line. Regardless of the globule distractions, we had another crab caught in 5 minutes. Our third crab proved to be the most challenging as he climbed out of the pail and started crawling around the cockpit floor. Everyone was on the benches to save their toes from the little pincher. Papa Bear saved the day by harnessing the beast in the net and getting him back into the pail. The cooking of these creatures was just as eventful where, sadly, they fought hard NOT to get into the hot water. Their pincers clamped onto anything nearby that could keep them from the lid closing on them…the shrowd, the pot lid, the flagpole, etc. At last we had 3 steamed blue crabs and their meat was very tender and sweet! What a wonderful, yet exasperating appetizer! Next time, we will wear our waterproof armour before attempting this entertaining sport!
We spent the morning cleaning up and homework. After lunch, we went to the museum to learn interesting details about oystering and crabbing. We even learned about catching eels. We saw the oyster rakes, floats, and crab cages. Also very interesting photos showing how easily a blue crab molts (losing its skin). Funny to see how easily a crab can slip out of its shell, whereas we find it so difficult getting the tasty meat out of its tight-fitting armour! For the first 24 hours after a crab slips out of its shell it is considered a soft shell – and very delectable! The displays at the museum were found to be interesting and well designed with many interactive areas for kids. (See Serena try to catch a blue crab!)
Reports, math, and dictée were on the agenda this morning for the kids. When they got that done, we wanted to reward them with a fun walk on the main street and even pick up a small treat for their dedicated work efforts.
We ended having a lovely “happy hour” with a couple from Vermont who we met at the museum on their boat. They bought the kids a smart toy, they played while the adults chatted. A nice end to a peaceful day! Thank you Tom and Katrina!