The Atlantic! (And Delaware Bay)

One of the lovely things about the Great Loop is that you are mostly in inland waters…lakes, rivers, canals, bays…and don’t have to go out onto the open ocean unless you want to. The exception is the section past New Jersey. There is no way to get past NJ without going into the Atlantic.

A glance at the map shows that there maybe could have been a way, by either punching a canal through from the Delaware River to the Hudson up past Trenton, or connecting the waterways behind the barrier islands, but those routes don’t exist. So out into the ocean it is.

Two days in the Atlantic

It is about 140 miles from Sandy Hook (just a short way past the Statue of Liberty) to Cape May, where you turn inland. That’s 14 hours at our speed, so we planned to take two days.

For a week or more beforehand, we had been paying attention to the weather, wind, and waves reports to see which day would be best. We had a day picked out, a Thursday, which looked good and the day after also.

The original forecasts had bigger waves right up to Thursday, but in actuality, the weather turned good a day or two beforehand. We had stayed a couple extra days on the Hudson, so we were not in a position to take advantage of the earlier weather window. We saw people on Facebook report great travelling on Wednesday, and we were hoping that Thursday would still be good.

It was!

We took on fuel and anchored at Atlantic Highlands, NJ, near Sandy Hook. This was the same day we went past the New York City and the Statue of Liberty, so it was a long day. We woke up in the dark and left our anchorage before sunrise. We had our red and green navigation lights on, so others could see us and know which direction we were headed.

It was a little surreal, rounding that point and coming out into the Atlantic as the sun rose. The weather held and we had a comfortable but long – 10 hours – into Atlantic City.

Sun coming up over the Atlantic shows calm seas

The weather called for 3 foot swells with 3 feet max, with the swells coming every nine seconds or so, the period. They say that you want the period to be at least twice what the swell foot height is, so 3 feet at nine seconds is a pretty comfortable ride. Just a gentle up and down as you motor along. It was as predicted.

Gentle, rolling swells with no wind driven waves

Atlantic City is known for its casinos and high living, but we didn’t see any of that as we anchored out in an anchorage listed on our navigation software. There were specific instructions for getting through shallow spots and we made it in just fine. We had pictured a remote anchorage, but there were condominiums all around. I had to wonder if Kardashians and friends lived there!

Condos with docks surrounding the anchorage
Lance bringing up the anchor in Atlantic City

The next day was not quite as nice starting out. The forecast was for 3 foot swells with 4 foot max. The wind was blowing more on Friday which contributed to waves in addition to the swells which came from further out in the ocean.

As we went further out into deeper water, the waves settled down and it wasn’t a bad four hour trip into Cape May.

We saw some whale tails and spouts, dolphins, and a sting ray. No pictures, unfortunately.

Thar’ she blows!

In Cape May, we stayed at Utsch’s marina. A local couple who had just brought their boat down from New England were docked next to us. They gave us a ride to the grocery store and a little tour of Cape May. We had no idea what a cute place it is. A resort city. Lots of historic homes and a government building that served as the White House during a time the Washington White House had a fire. All the big box stores are in a town up the road. None are in Cape May. There is a great beach there as well.

Sunrise at Utsch’s Marina

A Lyft driver who has lived in Cape May his entire life explained that people in Southern New Jersey are oriented toward Philadelphia, while those in North Jersey are New York fans.

Utsch’s marina has a chapel on D dock that is home to a small congregation, Bottomline Church. We attended there on Sunday.

Small congregation in the chapel. The pastor works in the ship store.

Once in Cape May, the weather was scheduled to be bad for a few days, so we took the opportunity to rent a car and go move our car from southern Pennsylvania down to New Bern, North Carolina where we will be spending the winter.

Gettysburg battlefield is only an hour or so from where the car had been, so after picking up the car, we were able to go through the museum there. It was late in the day so we did not have time to drive around the battlefield, but seeing the museum was very sobering. So many deaths.

Abe Lincoln statue. This is where he gave the Gettysburg Address.
On the road trip we passed many fields of cotton ready to be harvested. Peanut harvest was also in full swing. We’re in the south, y’all!

It was great to get another look at the marina where we’ll be spending this winter. We have a slip assignment so we have a picture in our minds how everything will be configured…which side we’ll be getting off the boat to go ashore, etc.

Slip F19. Stern in, port tie. The short finger pier means we’ll be exiting and entering the boat through the rear cockpit.

On our way back to Cape May, we routed through Norfolk area and stopped to see some friends we met early this fall in Canada. We boated together for several weeks and they call Norfolk home. They pulled ahead of us near the end of the Erie Canal and had already made it to their home port. It was great to see them.

Gary and Carol. Despite spending many hours with them over the miles, this is the only picture we have.

From Norfolk, we went over/under the bridge/tunnel that connects the Norfolk area to the Delmarva (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia) peninsula. We drove up that peninsula and took a ferry from Lewes, Delaware, over to Cape May, New Jersey. Judging by the crowd on the ferry, these are Philly fans, too.

On the ferry with the Philly’s in the play-offs.

From Cape May, we needed another good weather day to travel the 60 miles up Delaware Bay. When the wind is against the current in the bay, it can be downright nasty. Fortunately, there was a good window after returning from our car trip, so we were up early the next day to head up the bay. We had great weather for our six and a half hour trip. We pulled into Delaware City where we spent another few nights waiting for weather to pass.

Ship John shoal lighthouse about halfway up the bay. Note the calm, calm water.
This power plant is able to be seen from miles around.
Some big ship traffic on Delaware Bay. In this picture there are three ships coming towards us and one, that we had already passed, headed away.
Delaware City used to be the terminus of the C&D (Chesapeake & Delaware) canal. This was a lock back in the day.
Downtown Delaware City. There are historic buildings, but it is not a tourist town. Although I think they might like to be.
Delaware City marina. A long dock in the old canal.
Lance changed the oil in Delaware City. You lift up the floorboards to access the engine.

During one of those weather days, we rented a car for one day and went toward Philadelphia, a little over an hour away. We had hoped to take the boat there, but the marina did not have room for us. We attended church with an Evangelical Presbyterian Church pastor friend who moved to the area from California recently. After church and lunch with them, Lance and I took the commuter train to Philadelphia, where we saw the Liberty Bell and took a tour of Independence Hall. Good stuff. Neither of us had been to Philadelphia before.

Liberty Bell
Independence Hall
Room where the Declaration of Independence was signed. George Washington sat in that chair up front.
Fun times with friends, new and old.