Saturday, September 6, 2014

Coals to Newcastle

This morning found us anchored in the Delaware River, off Townsend, Delaware (map).  We had a very nice cruise yesterday through the Cape May Canal and up Delaware Bay.  Transiting the canal at low tide, however, made for some tense moments, when the depth sounder registered just over seven feet of water.  We heard a Coast Guard announcement later in the day about dredging in that area later this month; apparently we are just a couple of weeks early.

Interestingly, we caught up to a number of sailboats in the bay that had spent the night with us in the anchorage, even though they left a couple of hours ahead of us.  There is a 55' fixed bridge on the canal route, so apparently all the sailboats go around, even though we had 60' of clearance when we went through at low tide.  We later heard one sailboat say his mast was between 55' and 58'.

Thus on the bay portion of the day's cruise, we were in the thick of "the migration," where boats that have been in the northeast for the summer begin heading to warmer climes for the winter.  Even though we were all heading north in the bay, this section is actually part of the southbound inside route, which starts at Cape May, proceeds up Delaware Bay, and crossed to the Chesapeake on the C&D Canal.  We'll be rejoining that route later in our cruise.  Yesterday we saw perhaps a dozen boats all heading along that same general path.

Brandywine Shoal Light

To a landlubber, Delaware Bay looks like a wide, navigable expanse of water.  Just under the surface, though, is a labyrinth of shoals, the typical river "delta" deposits spread far and wide through the fan of the bay.  We actually had to make a southerly turn out of the canal before turning back north along the deeper section of the bay, wherein lies the marked ship channel.

Miah Maull Shoal Light

Thus has it ever been, and so Delaware Bay is dotted with centuries-old lighthouses, or what remains of them.  Many appear out of nowhere, sticking straight up from the water.  All that remains of some are the caissons that formed their bases, topped in modern times with skeleton towers or just a bare light on a short pole.

Ruined base of old Cross Ledge light, and one of the many sailboats in our "pack."

"Elbow of Cross Ledge" light, a skeleton tower on an old lighthouse caisson.

Ship John Shoal Light

We timed our departure to take advantage of a favorable tide, getting a push up the bay from the flood.  Even though we transited the Cape May Canal at low tide, the calculus of currents in the bay gave us a southerly push as we headed that way from the exit, and we had slack or maybe even a bit against us as we first started our northward push.  By mid-cruise, however, we had over a knot with us, and that got even stronger as the river narrowed.  We were still riding a good flood when we arrived at the spot I had chosen for an anchorage, and we continued another hour and a half upriver.

We finally dropped the hook not because we had run out of flood, but, rather, because it was dinner time, and we knew if we went further we'd be punchy while we were trying to get anchored.  As it was, we ended up having to dance around a sea of crab pots to find a spot to drop the hook, so we were glad to finally be settled in.

Our bucolic view of Delaware, near Townsend.

We chose a spot on the Delaware side because winds were from the south and west, and we were very comfortable.  Our view of Delaware was actually rather bucolic; so much so that I needed to use the cell amplifier to get online.  Across the river in New Jersey, however, our view was of a three-unit nuclear power station.  Fortunately, it was not unduly illuminated, and it was a fair distance from us.

The not-so-bucolic view across the river to New Jersey.

When we first arrived, I had figured we'd be there not only overnight, but also until around 2:30 today, which is when my tables said it would be low tide there.  I had figured that only an hour or two of usable flood in the morning was not worth getting under way for, and we'd instead get perhaps four hours this afternoon.

That plan changed when we saw what time Vector actually turned around with the tide change.  It turns out that slack current actually lags high or low tide there by nearly two hours.  If we had waited this morning, we'd have been there another night, because the flood did not start until nearly 5pm.

Instead, we weighed anchor right after our first coffee this morning, getting under way mid-flood.  We rode the flood all the way here, to a spot just south of the Delaware Memorial Bridge near Newcastle, Delaware (map), and dropped the hook before lunch time.  We probably could have ridden it another hour upriver, but there did not appear to be any good places to anchor along the next few miles north of the bridge.

Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island, which we passed this morning.

That made it a short day today, but the flood did not return until nearly 6pm, at which point we were in the midst of a thunderstorm with 34+ knot winds.  We still have 26 nautical miles to go to reach our reserved berth in Philadelphia tomorrow, but the timing is again favorable, and if we leave just after low slack in the morning, we should arrive just before high slack in the afternoon, and get a good push upriver the whole day.

OSG Horizon, an articulated tug/barge, passes us close aboard yesterday.

This morning we passed the entrance to the C&D, so we've left "the pack" for a few days.  We're also now in the narrower part of the river, and mostly we are passing commercial traffic, from giant freighters to smaller tugs and barges.  Our routing has us crossing the ship channel every time the river bends a different direction -- we cut the insides of all the turns much closer than the deep-draft ships can.  Rarely does this conflict with any traffic, but today I had to alter course for the OSG Horizon articulated tug/barge coming down river.  Ironically, I had to alter course for the exact same vessel overtaking us upriver yesterday, the only two times I've had to do so since entering the Delaware.

OSG Horizon passes us in the other direction this morning.

This is not a serene anchorage by any measure.  Across the river are industrial terminals, and on this side are business parks.  The pair of identical bridges, while majestic, carry the Interstate across the river and the road noise is constant.  But the depths and holding were good and it was in the right place at the right time.  Plus, I have a good 4G signal on my cell phone.

Hazy ppproach to the Delaware Memorial Bridges.  We are now anchored just this side of the abutment on the left.

As long as I had all afternoon to myself here at anchor, I knocked off a couple of projects.  Not that I really had a choice about the first one, which was repairing the anchor roller for the umpteenth time.  When we weighed anchor this morning, at max flood, the anchor jammed in the roller, and it turned out that one of the roller bolts had worked its way loose. just waiting to be munged by the powerful windlass, cramming the roller in place with the anchor shank.

I ended up spending the first hour or so of our stay here hanging over the bulwark in my climbing harness, fighting with the roller bolts.  We really need to replace this roller with something more robust.  I bought extra bolts the last time this happened, so we were able to get it all back together after a few tense moments with the Vice-grips trying to coax the wedged bolt out of the axle.

Since I was already in my work duds and covered with roller grot, I decided to make it a double and tackle the installation of the hard start kit on the fridge.  Getting the fridge out of its "built in" cabinet was a good part of the battle, and then working on the compressor in its tiny cubby hole at the very bottom of the unit would have been much easier for a ten-inch-tall person.

The guts of the fridge, with some extra parts that don't really fit in that tiny space.

I did manage, with much swearing, to get it all changed and fitted and tested and the whole mess back in the cabinet just before beer o'clock.  The details of the hard start kit and its installation will have to wait for a different post.

In the morning we will weigh anchor, which will NOT jam in the roller, and head under the bridge and upriver past Wilmington to Philly.  We've booked two nights at the dock there, which should give us some time to take in a few sights, as well as knock out three weeks worth of accumulated laundry while we have dock water and power.

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