Friday, July 18, 2014

Flag state

We are anchored behind the 196-year-old Delaware Breakwater, north of Lewes, Deleware, on Cape Henlopen (map).  It is Vector's first visit to Delaware, her "home" state.  We had a pleasant 22-hour passage from Kiptopeke, although the swell-induced motion was a little abrupt while I had the watch, so Louise had a rocky night.  We have the rest of the day to recover, though, and maybe longer if the forecast for tomorrow deteriorates.

Shortly after I last posted here, one of the numerous crabbers whose pots surrounded us at the concrete ships had trouble hauling in a pot, and we chatted briefly -- our anchor chain must have run over his pot line.  He decided just to haul that pot on his next pass, but it made us a bit nervous that we might have to go down and untangle the two before we could finish weighing anchor.

Fortunately, when we started that process shortly before 1:30 the chain came aboard straight away with no tangles, and all the pots around us were clear.  We slalomed through the pots and motored past the breakwater right at 1:30, which proved to be just a tad early, as I had current against me for the next half hour even on a falling tide.  We cleared past the Bay Bridge-Tunnel at the 75' "high span" at the northeast end.  The big boys use either of the two deepwater tunnel sections, but that would have been quite a detour for us.  I remember wondering as we passed over those spans in Odyssey if we would one day pass under them.

The high span of the older, northbound bridge (we've already passed the newer, southbound span, which lacks the truss).

Seas were actually rougher on the bay north of the bridge than they were in the ocean, with just an unrippled swell as we passed the end of Fishermans Island.  I had plotted a course several miles along the "north channel" well past Nautilus Shoal before turning north -- we'd heard that the shoal can cause a three foot incoming swell to turn into six foot breakers, making the deeper water north of the shoal unusable.  However, by the time we passed the shallower portions of the shoal, we noted no breakers and not even any roughness and we decided to turn early, shaving over three miles off the route.

We chose a path south of the shallowest section where the chart indicates a cut through the shoals that carries over 20' most of the way, with just a short bar of 18-19'.  When the depth sounder started reading in the teens, though, in an area charted as 34', we thought we might have to turn back.  Reasoning that the steep part of the northern bank was simply building southward, we turned until we found depths in the mid-20s and picked our way though.  Fortunately, the chart was off only in that small section, and depths were as charted the rest of the way.

Solid blue is our plotted course.  Dashed line is our actual track.  Note the dip just south of the southernmost 9' contour, where our depthsounder read 15' in charted 34'. (Click to enlarge.)

That saved us over two gallons of diesel on the shortcut alone.  But because it also put us a half hour ahead of schedule, I was also able to slow down a bit for the next few hours, probably another gallon or so.  The last time this happened, we ended up having to backtrack and take a longer way around -- you can't win them all.

The original route had us outside the three mile limit before the final northward turn, but with the successful shortcut, I had to deliberately set the next waypoint a little to the east to get outside the limit briefly earlier in the trip.  The vast majority of the passage was, in fact, outside the limit, but we wanted to run the watermaker continuously for most of the ocean portion of the trip, so we opted to macerate our waste early on, making the watermaker a set-it-and-forget-it proposition.  This later item ran for 16 hours, putting some 150 gallons or so of fresh water into our tank.

While macerating the waste overboard could easily be a push-button operation, we prefer to leave the manual tank valve closed at all times except when macerating.  This means one of us has to open up the bilge hatch over the tank to operate the valve, which lets us also visually see the tank level (the tank is translucent) and know that the macerator is operating properly.  Also, we can tell for certain that the macerator is done, rather than relying on merely a change in sound when other things, such as the engine and stabilizers, are also making noise -- running the macerator after the tank is already empty will destroy the impeller.  Lastly, this helps us comply with the legal mandate that sending waste overboard requires a valve to be opened manually elsewhere than the helm.

When I opened the hatch, I was floored by how low the tank level actually was.  I knew the new toilet would use less water than the one it replaced -- part of the reason we made the swap in the first place.  But I had figured it to be maybe half, and it appears to be more like one-quarter.  This is great news, because it means we will be able to go that much longer between pump-outs when that is our only option.

We tie the boarding gates closed whenever a passage has us standing separate watches.

On our way out of the bay we crossed paths, albeit at a great distance, with the nuclear aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, on its way back to its home port of Norfolk.  We shared the ocean run with a handful of fishing vessels and a tug pushing a barge to New York.  We encountered not a single recreational vessel outside until we reached Ocean City, Maryland, where Louise reported a number of sportfish ran out the inlet at first light.  We are definitely outside of the migration -- the northbound loopers are already long gone.

We had an early dinner, on account of the sleep schedules, and enjoyed a nice sunset before splitting the watches.  The only real difference, while underway, from our usual evening routine is omitting the customary glass of beer or wine with dinner.  With only two watchstanders, it's hard to do otherwise.

Sunset on the water.

My watch was uneventful, and became easier after moonrise.  In the pitch darkness beforehand, though, I did pass one buoy that was supposed to have a flashing light, but did not.  It showed up just fine on radar, and I could see it in my spotlight, so the light was, as they say, "extinguished."  It did not show as such in my Local Notices to Mariners, but I am a couple of weeks out of date.  It was the outer marker for one of the numerous shoals and banks we passed, some of which dictated how far offshore we had to travel.  Louise had to keep an eye on the aforementioned sportfishers, but otherwise had little to report.

Ferry coming in to the Lewes terminal.

This anchorage is within sight of the southern terminus of the Cape May-Lewes ferry, which bridges the mouth of Delaware Bay between New Jersey and Delaware.  The two ferries operating today are, unimaginatively, the New Jersey and the Delaware.  Very long-time readers may remember us making that crossing in Odyssey early in our adventure, on, I believe, the Cape Henlopen.  Interestingly, the original ferry fleet here comprised the ferries retired, when the bridge-tunnel opened, from the Cape Charles to Little Creek fleet, whose terminal provided our comfortable concrete-ship breakwater at the last stop.

Delaware East End Light and the very old breakwater from our aft deck.  The beach in the background is the landward side of Cape Henlopen, part of the eponymous state park.

At this writing we are the only boat taking advantage of this historic protective breakwater.  We have a great view of the Delaware East End Light just a few hundred  yards from us, and beyond the breakwater we can see the more recent but still historic breakwater of the National Harbor of Refuge.  We passed between this breakwater, with its lighthouse, and the tip of Cape Henlopen, on our way in.  The deep channel comes incredibly close to the sand beach at the cape -- we were only a few hundred feet off the beach as we rounded the turn.

Harbor of Refuge Light and breakwater, as we came north past Cape Henlopen.  They are closer than they look -- phone cameras are very wide-angle.

As I had guessed, we have very poor coverage on our cell phones here, but I am getting the WiFi signal from the ferry terminal.  The forecast looks favorable for the hop to Absecon Inlet (Atlantic City) tomorrow if we have recovered sufficiently from sleep deprivation by the morning.  After that we may have to wait on sea conditions for a day or two before continuing to Manasquan.

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