Saturday, June 28, 2014 (St. Michaels, MD, to Cape May, NJ): Once again weather outfoxes our desire to lay low for the Sabbath. St. Michaels would have made an ideal stop. The prediction of high winds ahead of Hurricane Arthur, which is a strengthening tropical storm at the moment, causes us to follow the good weather.
We leave St. Michaels before 07:00. The stillness is deafening. We are blessed with excellent surface conditions for the entire 135 nM. In no time we are going under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge that bears US 50 to and from the Maryland shores.
We zip through the C&D Canal with only one slow zone to respect in the area of Chesapeake City. Delaware Bay is flat as a board with a fair tide running close to five knots. We can back down the throttle. The only excitement is a lumbering party boat that decides to cross our path through our red zone. He yells at us claiming that he is a commercial fisherman having right of way! I never knew that commercial fishermen hung out a smorgasbord of bait connected to beer bottles. We hope we cut a few lines.
Following a fast ferry from the Delaware side into the Cape May New Jersey Canal has its ups and downs. They move a frightful amount of water and use their engines to slow down. We have no choice but to stay in their baffles until they turn into the dock area, which is only a few hundred yards inside the breakwaters. We go slow through the short canal. There are shallow spots that locals have blamed on Hurricane Sandy in September 2012!
We have chosen Utsch's Marina on the south side of the canal at the eastern end. Previously, we have stayed at the Canyon Club Marina on the opposite bank from Utsch's. We have arrived with only an hour and a half of tide left. The entrance to Canyon Club is heavily shoaled and narrow due to Sandy, they say. We should have taken our cue and gone on to Atlantic City because it is only 14:00. AC is hardly 35 nM from Cape May Inlet. Alas, we turned into Utsch's thinking that we would spend the remaining day wandering Cape May. Getting into Utsch's was a challenge-more Sandy damage. The channel shows two feet under our keel. We are obliged to make a three-point turn to get through the bulkhead into the docks. We bow into a slip. A 42-foot sailboat follows us into the next slip and immediately grounds half in half out, too far from the dock to get off with two dogs needing a piddle break!
As we are floating, we tie up bow in and hook up. After giving Sequel a well deserved bath we tried to help our neighbors off but they are too far from the dock. We go walking in the town but didn't make it to the square. There is a fresh fish restaurant across from Utsch's. We decide on a take-away supper of broiled flounder with our own trimmings and early to bed but not before helping our neighbors into the dock as the tide has come up enough to float them free. We are rewarded with a fabulous sunset.
It is said that 21:00 is the sailors' midnight. We crash but around 03:00 I awaken to "bump ... bump ... bump," the unmistakeable sound of the keel bumping bottom. It feels like soft bottom. The boat settles for about an hour then bump-bumps, again. We have been lying on the bottom. At 05:00 we get up and make coffee but I'm already boiling. The slip is too shallow for us-more evidence of unrepaired Sandy stuff. I look at our sonar; it is registering hash. At 06:00 I have 1.5 feet beneath us. At 07:30 we have enough water under us to beat feet out of Utsch's without slurping a ton of mud into the raw water intakes. The grounding episode would have dire consequences later.
We later learned that Utsch's has had disputes with the State of New Jersey about fixing the hurricane damage. I felt a little badly about chewing them up several days later on Active Captain. They called us later, apologized, and refunded our night's stay. Evidently they have applied for permission to dredge but were denied. At this writing I do not know if they have resolved the issues Sandy created.