Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Safe arrival

I'm a bit too fried to post a proper blog entry, but I wanted to let eeryone following along on our latest voyage know that we are safely anchored in the upper Delaware Bay, just south of the Hope Creek nuclear plant (map). We chose this spot for some protection from the winds, which will be escalating all night out of the north.

Conditions in the ocean deteriorated progressively after my last blog post off Atlantic City, and we had a rough night. It was hard to gauge the wave height in the dark but I would estimate we were in seas of eight feet or so, made worse by driving into scattered thunderstorms that brought high winds and rough seas on top of the large swell.

We ended up taking mini-watches of an hour or two, alternating with sleep periods on the pilothouse or salon settees. The cat, who has clearly gotten her sea legs, more or less slept through the whole thing in her basket, never even tossing her cookies.

The boat was well secured for sea, but these were the roughest conditions we've seen thus far, and you always learn about a thing or two that needs better restraint. At one point the canister that holds the coffee sweetener leapt from its shelf to the galley floor with a mighty crash, and a few other odds and ends slid around or fell from perches.

It was still pretty dark when we made the Cape May inlet, with just enough light to see the jetties beyond their marker lights. With a small craft advisory in place and NOAA warnings for dangerous rip currents, we tried to reach the USCG station to get some local knowledge, but apparently they were not up yet, and the watchstanders at Sector Delaware Bay, which is located in Philly, were not going to roust them to answer our questions. That amused us, since we'd been rousted more than once off Station Cape May by morning bugle calls and chanting recruits.

The inlet proved to be no trouble at all; the rip did push us (north, it turns out, which was one of the questions I wanted to ask), but the opening between the jetties is so wide that it was not a problem. Halfway down the jetties we were in nearly flat calm, a very welcome relief after the previous six hours of slamming over waves.

We'd been keeping an eye on the forecast updates, and particularly the latest track models for Hurricane Joaquin, and we decided to pass through Cape May without stopping, getting instead as far up the bay as tide would permit while the going was good. We passed the anchorage and USCG station right at dawn, and found ourselves in an conga line of cruising sailboats all trying to make tracks from Cape May at once; we passed them all in the canal.

Delaware Bay turned out to be nearly flat, even though the last forecast I saw said 2'-4'. Excellent conditions for making good time, especially with the tide behind us at the very start of the flood. We had originally plotted a stop further south than this one, but making nearly eight knots upriver we came all the way here. We're all alone and thus free to spool out as much chain as we'd like, and we feel very secure on this hook even with gale force winds incoming.

After securing the boat, we staggered around like zombies and fell in and out of bed a couple of times, but things are now returning to some semblance of normal. We should be in good shape to continue upriver tomorrow and into the C&D Canal, weather permitting. Absolutely every boat in the mid-Atlantic region is scrambling to find hurricane moorings, so tomorrow's plan is still fluid, but we will be far enough inland by Joaquin's landfall that I am not particularly worried about it. Seven years of storm chasing have taught us not to ascribe more certainty to track models than the modelers do themselves.

At 314 nautical miles in some 50 hours, this was not our longest passage. That honor belongs to our three-day outside run from Palm Beach to Beaufort, NC back in June. But in many ways this one was more challenging, and we're a bit more wrung out. I'm glad it's behind us, but I am equally glad we grabbed the window when we had it -- it's now closed.


  1. Glad to hear you are safe and sound.

  2. Glad to hear you are safe and sound.

  3. Hi L&S,

    Will you sleep on Vector during a hurricane, even upriver? Sounds a bit intense..

    Dave Hornor

    1. Hi, Dave! (Hey, everybody, it's my big brother, Dave! Say hello :-)

      It depends on several factors, including the predicted intensity of the storm, where we are, and how the boat is secured. In this case, we should be able to be far upriver along a protected canal in tropical storm force wind conditions with no wave action to speak of. We have both anchoring and docking options where we are headed. The biggest danger would be other people's poorly prepared boats possibly hitting us! But we have big fenders for that eventuality.

      We've been in these conditions before, when TS Arthur hit us in Portsmouth, VA. It was intense because it was our first experience and we were tied to a rather crusty dock. But it turned out to be not bad at all, just an incremental increase in the sorts of winds we were used to and they lasted longer than usual. The crusty dock removed a bit of paint from Vector and it was a noisy night.

      There are advantages to staying aboard in that issues that crop up, such as a line breaking or a fender slipping out of place or the anchor starting to drag, can be addressed while they are minor. Of course, if things really go pear-shaped, it's a bad scene, Bix. We spend a large part of our mental energy on weather routing and try to be as informed as possible, and I am particularly conservative (read: wimpy and nervous) about forecasts.

      Getting the boat as far inland as possible is always the best bet, and we're glad that modern hurricane forecasting usually gives us all at least 3-4 days to prepare. Even a slow boat like Vector can make quite a bit of headway in that amount of time.

    2. One thing I'm sure about you two is your caution when it comes to weather, etc. Glad you're feeling safe. Remembering you in my prayers!

  4. Happy to hear of your safe passage. Seems this storm is intensifying.

  5. You guys are very impressive. Been following since the search for the Vector. You've had a lot of sea miles and experiences behind you. Between the two of you, I'm sure you will make the right decision. Loved following Vector's Travels.

  6. tomorrow - get to schaefer's canal house in chesapeake city, Maryland, on the C&D. We rode out remnants of a Hurricane there and you can't even feel any wind, its so protected. Decent food too! Much Better than being on the Delaware.


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