Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In 14 hundred and 92, Columbus sailed the ocean blue

It’s Columbus Day, and it’s been almost a week since last checking in.  We last reported motoring up the wide, flat, featureless Delaware Bay.  Dawn broke and evening settled in with little change in view, weather or routine.  In a bright, partially overcast sky and mild temperature, we had slight headwinds but kept the main sail up for stability (actually hoping for some favorable wind.) A favorable wind did arise and we motor sailed for a few hours in the afternoon and evening.  Twelve hours later in darkness we approached the entry to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.  Now we were on the river, instead of open waters, and the channel wound around a well lit nuclear power plant.  The navigation lighting was intense, as this is a major commercial transit point.  Bright range lights, shore-side light in the shallows and channel markers all hid the elusive entry to the canal at Dutch Neck.  We had been told that there was a lot of traffic, but there was virtually none as we tried to decipher the myriad lights.  Just then a tug coming from the north made her way into the canal, and we followed suit.   For the next couple of hours we had the waterway to ourselves.  Last night and tonight where moonless adding to the drama.  The canal on the East end is a ditch a couple of hundred feet wide.  It was quite surrealistic, gliding down this inky black channel with a dark sky overhead.  There were amber lights every two hundred feet along either bank, and they reflected in shimmering trails off to a curving vanishing point.  A slight chill in the air let a low mist waft up from the waters catching the glow from our steaming light.
                The western half of the canal is a series of natural waterways cutting into the Delmarva Peninsula.  Here we met a number of tugs and barges pushing east.  Each one hailed us on commercial channel 13 to make sure we saw them and to agree how we would pass each other on these narrow waters.  After Chesapeake City, the only urbanized section of the canal, the North End of the Chesapeake opened up to us. 
                By this time we were ready to take a break for a rest (we’d been under way since the GW bridge two mornings ago!)  Our friend Bob Shoemaker, with whom we’ve sailed the Chesapeake before, gave us some good stopping points.  We headed another hour south to find Still Pond, a shallow protected bay on the eastern shore.  About five other boats had tucked in there, and we dropped the hook for a good night’s sleep.  It was 6AM and the anchor didn’t grab the first time out.  Our new Delta anchor is well regarded, but the bottom was sandy and I discovered a glitch in the rig which I rectified in the morning.  Meanwhile the water was still and forecast to stay that way.     I let out an extra fifty feet of chain and went to bed with the “anchor drag alarm” set.

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