Gale Warnings, Snow, Sleet and a Beam Sea

We anchored in Cape May at night and the wind was whipping. We tried to tuck in behind the Cape May canal Jetty to get some protection but alas the boat was a rocking. 

I finally had to get out of bed, weigh the anchor and re-drop as close as I could get to the jetty. It worked. Well it worked a little. We did not sleep much. 

Next morning we left before sunrise because I just was not sleeping anyway. The gale warning winds were nipping at our heels as we worked our way North up Delaware Bay.

The blue dot is MV Simple Life and the red-purple are 30-40 MPH winds

A quick check on the weather back in Warwick, RI showed it was even colder than what we were feeling in Delaware Bay.

Warwick, RI Nov 15th Temps

The water in Delaware Bay was cold. Not something you want to fall overboard into. 

Delaware Bay Sea Temp

Traffic was hard to find. This Chiquita banana container ship passed us as we slipped out of the channel to give her space. I think only 2 other boats passed us on this gusty, snowy, foggy day. 

Container ship passing us in Delaware Bay

As we made our way up Delaware Bay the wind and waves were on our beam. The wind alone was giving us quite a list to port. A beam sea is never fun in a flybridge trawler with a 400lb dingy and two kayaks on the flydeck. eek.

Delaware Bay Early in the AM

Soon we could hear the sleet bouncing off the outside of the boat.

Then came the snow…

Why didn’t I bring a snow brush on this Bahamas trip?

The snow brought with it FOG.

Fog starting to close in around us

As the fog crept in on us it was time to turn on our Khalenberg automatic fog horn. If you are ever near MV Simple Life in the fog you’d think a giant tanker was bearing down on you. What made me laugh was… it stopped working in the freezing snow. With each blow of the horn it iced up more and more until it just stopped working.

Wind on the beam, Fog closed in around the boat Fog Horn wasn’t frozen yet.

Once the Fog horn froze up and stopped working it was time to go to my backup fog horn. Yes, my VHF’s loud hailer fog horn played but in the wind and snow I’m sure nobody was hearing it. Heck, there wasn’t another boat out on this day anyway. 

Function + 8 plays the ICOM VHF fog horn

The fog had closed in so tight to the boat that we could only see a single boat length in any direction. Thankfully, we have a 4′ open array Digital HD radar with overlay right on our chart plotter that helps us identify boats from buoys. We also rely heavily on AIS (Marine Automated Identification System) to make sure we show up on the chart plotters of other boats as well as us having all the details about the boats around us (boat name, course, speed, MMSI#, etc.

We soldiered on with the idea that once we made it into the C&D canal that the weather conditions would improve. They did!

The visibility returned and the winds and waves were held at bay by the high canal hill sides. 

Soon we were passing marinas where the boats were covered in snow. 

Snowy Catamaran

When we exited the C&D canal into the head of the Chesapeake Bay the wind was whipping up a following sea so we decided to anchor in the Bohemia River. Great plan until the depth alarms went wild when the depth dipped below 6 feet. This was not good concidering we were only minutes away from high tide. Not wanting to run aground or get stuck waiting for high-tide to return we decided to push on further to the Sassafras River.  

The sun set and we watched as the last light disappeared as we entered the Sassafras River. It’s a long trip up the river to the Granary Marina but we decided with the strong winds and rain it would be nice to sleep tied to a dock. Neither of us wanted to spend another night trying to brace ourselves in the bunk. 

The dockmaster left for the night and left us directions on how to find our assigned slip. That plan failed when we could not find our slip using our searchlight. The wind and the rain were coming down sideways and driving from the pilothouse in the dark is not a place you want to be poking down random fairways trying to find a slip. So we decided to grab any open slip and call it a night. 

Docking alone in that wind was difficult enough but when I jumped out of the pilothouse to tie up I almost slipped on the snow and wound up going swimming. 

My boat hook was buried in snow

Soon we were tied up and I was changing out of my work pajamas, kicking my snow filled crocs off my frozen feet and thawing my toes by the heater while enjoying a well-deserved IPA

After 13 hours at the helm, this IPA tastes great 😉

This leg of our trip is pictured below.

Winter Season #2, Leg 005

Delaware Bay

The morning started with me readying the dinghy to be hoisted onto the flybridge. I attached the dinghy hoisting harness and untied the dinghy and walked up to the flybridge to operate the crane. I no sooner had the crane control in my hand and I looked out to see the dinghy floating away. Apparently, I had attached the lifting harness to the dinghy and not connected the crane’s hook to the harness. Oops. I had to quickly start the engine, untie from my mooring and chase the dinghy down as it was blowing across the harbor. We caught up with it just in time and used a boat hook to grab it. Crisis averted.

As we pulled out of Annapolis harbor this father, son, dog team passed us.

Guy Son 1
Father, Son, Dog Boating at it’s best

A quick check of the weather showed the SCA (Small Craft Advisory) was going to stick around for a few days.

2 SCA.PNG
SCA

As we proceeded North up the last bit of Chesapeake Bay you see many structures like this.

3 Structures in CB
What is it? I dunno?

A quick check of the currents showed me that I better increase my speed to prevent an unfavorable current while transiting the C&D canal.

4 CD Currents.jpg
C&D Canal Current Table

Entering into the C&D canal you see many interesting sights.

When you study the charts you’ll see things that cross canals like bridges and overhead power cables. When I saw an “overhead pipeline”, I was intrigued.

I also so these lighted poles that I’m guessing make navigation easier at night. These poles will also generate radar pings in areas where the canal is shallow. Without these light poles, you could imagine a ship accidentally straying outside of the dredged channel in the areas where the shoreline extended far from the channel.

CD canal lights
C&D Canal Lights

Soon we exited the East end of the C&D Canal and we turned South down Delaware Bay.

South
It’s frustrating to spend two days heading South when you are trying to get North

As we approached our anchorage the sun began to set and I was so busy trying to navigate in the small cut on the West side of the barrier island that blocks the entrance to the Cohansey River. I was so busy at the helm, I could only manage a single picture.

Sunset
Sunset in Delaware Bay

Soon we were anchored in the Cohansey River and the waves of Delaware Bay were held at bay by the river’s banks. While the river has a strong current, the river bottom has proven to have good holding power.

Delaware Bay has some interesting facts. It is home to many horseshoe crabs and their numbers are dwindling due to horseshoe crab harvesting. Not for eating, though you can eat their eggs or roe but for their blue blood. That’s right, horseshoe crabs have brilliant blue blood due to copper that carries oxygen in their bloodstream. This is very similar to the red hemoglobin that carries oxygen in our human bloodstream. Research scientists in the medical field harvest their blue blood for it’s ability to react to the presence of bacterial endotoxins. This unique ability allows medical professionals to detect bacteria in many places.

Horseshoe-crab-blood-harvest-11
Harvesting the Blue Blood of Horseshoe Crabs

Delaware bay is also home to the Red Knot bird. The red knot has one of the longest migrations of any bird. Every year it travels more than 9,000 mi (14,000 km) from the Arctic to the southern tip of South America. The exact migration routes and wintering grounds of individual subspecies are still somewhat uncertain.

Red Knot
Red Knot – A.K.A. Calidris canutus rufa

Lastly, Delaware Bay is home to a phenomenon called “Sand Waves”. This is where the sand on the bottom of the bay forms a wavy bottom surface. The wave patterns that sets up are static and have reached an equilibrium. The sand waves cause larger water waves on the surface. It’s interesting to see on your sonar picture as you go over the top of these sand waves. We saw this very same sand wave phenomenon on our sonar at the mouth of Chesapeake bay.

Sand Waves Chart
Sand Waves Depicted on my Chart

Sand Wave SF Bridge
Sand Waves West of the San Francisco Bridge