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Sailing Short Stories

Annapolis North

Richard Summer was waiting for me in Annapolis to join him for the next leg of his trip around the eastern part of the United States. He and his Com-Pac 23D had already sailed from North Carolina to Annapolis. I needed to find a parking space in Annapolis for my car while I was onboard. My previous experience with parking spaces in Annapolis was not good. Parking during the Annapolis Boat Show was always difficult. This was early May and public parking was plentiful without the boat show in progress. I think vendors in the dock area needed parking spaces for their customers. After parking the car, I walked to the marina slip where Richard was supposed to be. He was on his boat getting it ready for our departure. .

Richard was a person that greeted people with a big smile and lots of conversation. I enjoyed sailing with Richard because he had a great personality and also for all of his interesting stories. Richard worked on the Manhattan Project during WWII and met Einstein while he was on the job. He was a metallurgist by trade and helped make one of those big bombs. He was also involved in aircraft engine technology before the war. Back in those days they were trying to set speed records with piston driven aircraft.

We spent my first night on the boat at the dock. I had the forward cabin for me and my gear. The ďVĒ berth had more than enough room for good sleeping. We had breakfast the next morning and made one last run to the marina restroom. We were going to depart Annapolis by going down the Severn River to the Bay and then turn north. We would pass the Naval Academy with their fleet of sailboats on our port side. Richard had parked his dink alongside the mother ship to get it out the way at marina. As we departed the slip, we came to a sudden stop. Richard noticed the dink was between the boat and a piling. The dink had grown thinner with all that pressure on both sides. We both scanned the area to see if anyone was watching. Most sailors do that when they do something dumb. After getting more organized, we motored out into the river and headed east. At the mouth of the river, you look left and you can see the big Bay Bridge. The channel under the bridge is in the middle of the bridge and takes some time to get there from the Severn. Traffic is always a concern in the Chesapeake and good visibility is important. Once under the bridge and on our way north, we could see Marylandís Eastern Shore on the starboard side and the entrance to Baltimore's harbor on the port side. The Bay gets a lot smaller in width going north. Another landmark was the U. S. Army Proving Grounds above Baltimore. Our next important navigational destination was the entrance to the C&D Canal on the starboard side.

We arrived at the southern entrance to the C&D just after noon. The entrance is well marked and a little north of the Proving Grounds on the other side of the Bay. Richard and I discussed how we should approach traffic in the C&D. I was for staying on the right side of the channel and Richard liked going down the middle. It was Richardís boat so we stayed in the middle. We noticed our forward speed slowed in the Canal and you could tell the current was going in the wrong direction for us. We had planned on stopping at a marina half way up the Canal for the night and we didnít know if we would get there before dark. The current and our speed got better as we inched forward. We keep checking to see if the dink we were pulling was still there. We had the marina in sight by late afternoon and reached the marina with no problems. Across the Canal from the marina was a body of water used as an anchorage. Our preference was a cooked meal and a shower. Com-Pac 23Ds do not have showers.

The next morning the current was so strong that the boat was pinned to the dock. We had planned on leaving after breakfast, but the strong current changed our minds. The marina uses young people to help boater tie up and depart the marina. I was concerned that if someone fell off the dock, they would be lost in the strong current. I guess it helps being young because no one did. The current was manageable at mid morning and we departed for Delaware City at the headwaters of the C&D. Richardís plan of staying in the middle changed when we ran into a 4 story tall ocean going ship. We were going around a bend in the Canal and there it was coming at us. Richard decided to exit right and we missed the big ship. From that point on, we stayed on the right side of the channel. The areas on both sides of the Canal are farmland and nice country homes.

Delaware City is where the C&D and the Delaware River meet. The City is a small town with a few docks built next to the main street. The docks are protected from the C&D and the Delaware River by a small island. We picked a dock and tied up for the night. We arrived on Mother Days and the only restaurant in the town was booked solid. We promised that we would eat fast and be gone before the crowd arrived. That worked for us and the restaurant. The food was excellent.

The next morning was a pretty day with a northwest wind. We had figured the current direction for going down the river to the Delaware Bay, but didnít know how strong it was going to be. It was pretty strong. When you pop out of the C&D, you see an island in mid river with lots of old rusted machinery. Maybe the machinery was from the Civil War or before. We turned right into the River and proceeded down current and down wind with our genoa flying. We passed a large ship going upriver with half of its prop out of the water. It wasnít going very fast and we were flying. The Delaware Bay gets big going east towards the ocean. The only objects that we could identify on both sides of the River were power stations. We started counting power stations on the map. The knot meter was reading 6 knots and we were making time. We realized that this body of water wouldnít be a good place to be in a storm. This part of the Delaware Bay didnít have a port, harbor or island to hide in or behind. Our destination was Cape May on the northern shore. The map showed several towers where the land ended and Richard and I guessed about which tower was next to the Cape May inlet. From a distance, it is always a guess. As we drew closer, the inlet was where the map said it was supposed to be and I think I guessed right. We wouldnít have made Cape May that day if the wind or the current had been in the wrong direction. Before we entered the inlet, I asked Richard if he could see England. When you get to the mouth of the Bay, the next stop going east is England. When you look east, you only see the Atlantic Ocean. Just inside the Cape May inlet and up a river a few miles we found several excellent marinas. Cape May is a sport fishing area with that type of boat in its marinas. Most of the sailboats at the marinas were transit boats like us.

This was still May and I had been in shorts in North Carolina for several weeks. I found out from the locals that you wear shorts in Cape May starting in June. I only had one pair of Blue Jeans and it was cool outside. I tried to keep my one pair of Blue Jeans as clean as possible and I used them a lot. That night at the marina, Richard heard the bilge pump work every 15-minutes. Being this far from home is not a good place to have a leak. I evaluated the problem the next day and our shaft log was leaking. The shaft log is the pipe that has the wet cutlass bearing at the prop end and the stuffing box on the other. The pipe was leaking where it was attached to the hull. The best place to make a repair was at my yard in North Carolina and this boat had a trailer. A truck with Richard's trailer was dispatched the following day from North Carolina with a rendezvous arranged at Lewes, Delaware. Lewes is on the south side of the Delaware Bay across from Cape May. A map of Lewes showed several inlets from the Bay with protected channels on the inside. We didnít know the depth of the inlets, but we had a shallow draft boat and decided to keep or fingers crossed. We left Cape May in the morning and headed southeast with the bilge pump working every 15-minutes. It was hard to hear the bilge pump over the noise of the engine, but we could see water coming out the transom on the same 15-minute cycle. The Lewes Ferry was making a crossing at the same time we departed and we decided to follow that boat. We were doing fine and then the Ferry made a small turn to port. We didnít see any reason for the turn so we continued on the same course. Then we saw why the Ferry had made the turn. The Delaware Bay has a rock pile in the middle of its mouth. That rock pile is called Sanctuary and itís a circle of rocks with an entrance. Big boats find protection inside Sanctuary when they canít make it up the Delaware because of storms or current. Big current with a light load means you donít have enough prop in the water to go up river. Anyway, we turned to avoid Sanctuary and continued on towards one of the inlets. After going through an inlet, we entered a channel and proceeded towards downtown Lewes. A boat ramp was located next to a highway bridge where we could flag down our rescue truck and trailer. Everything worked well and we were on our way home that afternoon.

The repair consisted of replacing the 3M5200 sealant between the log and boat with West System Epoxy. Epoxy connects and seals stainless steel to fiberglass. Epoxy can solve all kinds of problems and this was one of them. Richard continued his journey and completed his round robin (eastern United States) that year.