The Delaware River and Strolling along the Prom, Cape May

My hopes of a spectacular sunrise as we travelled down the Delaware River were disappointed when the day dawned grey, but at least not cold. We had to get up at the crack of dawn, I had been told, to take advantage of the prevailing tide.

I don’t get out of bed in the morning until I’ve had a cup of tea and saw no reason to vary my rule on this occasion. ┬áThe Captain duly put the kettle on at 4.40 am, shortly after we had been woken by his mobile’s tedious tinklings.

It was much too early for breakfast though, or a shower, so we were soon en route, and the Captain’s decision to make an early start was vindicated when the speed gauge showed 9.9 knots, a personal best for Carina.

The grey skies didn’t lift and we turned into the canal just north of Cape May in a good North Tyneside-type sea fret, and moored at the Miss Chris marina.

Arriving at Cape May in a sea fret. Note dophin

Arriving at Cape May in a sea fret. Note dophin

Reedy Island to Cape May

Reedy Island to Cape May

The decision to leave very early was further vindicated when twenty minutes after we had arrived and sorted the boat out, there was a torrential storm with brilliant flashes of lightning and crashing thunder, and we spent the afternoon cowering inside Carina, hoping the lightning wouldn’t strike the mast.

But Sunday was clear and bright and we cycled two miles to Cape May Meadows, which border the beach to the south-west of the town. In the 19th century, South Cape May, where the Meadows are now, was the USA’s first seaside resort.

But the Atlantic storms caused erosion and flooding, and eventually the Victorian houses had to be abandoned to the sea after a particularly violent storm in the 1950s.

The land is privately owned, but managed by the Nature Conservancy, and in 2004 in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, work was started to restore the freshwater wetlands, the dunes and the beach ecosystems. By 2007 the project was complete and has been very successful, with many migratory birds passing through.

Meadow flowers

Meadow flowers

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Amongst the swans, ducks, geese and egrets, we were delighted to see some small black birds with exotic red flashes on their wings, and asked a couple of young Nature Conservancy workers what they were.

‘Oh. Those would be the Red-winged blackbirds.’

At least their Latin name, Agelaius phoenicus, has a less prosaic ring.

Cape May Lighthouse

Cape May Lighthouse

South Cape May beach

South Cape May beach

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Ranunculus bulbosus

Ranunculus bulbosus

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We had lunch at the tiny Jake’s Pizza and Restaurant Co on Sunset Boulevard. Despite the unprepossessing exterior and definitely-no-frills interior, the ham and cheese stromboli was freshly baked, and with a mixed salad and a can of pop (for the Captain, I never touch the stuff) the bill came to $17.

Next stop was the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Club on nearby Congress St, where there was a fund-raising concert being given by the Ben Mauger Vintage Jazz Band.

VFW Club, Cape May

VFW Club, Cape May

The musicians were excellent, and Ben, the leader, injected his humour and personality into the mix too.

The Ben Mauger Vintage Jazz Band

The Ben Mauger Vintage Jazz Band

The VFW was licensed of course, so I got my fizzy drink in the form of a bottle of Sam Adams.

On Monday we explored Cape May City and the main beach. To say it was rather windy would be understatement. Blowing a hooley would be a more accurate meteorological description.

At the beach we were politely intercepted by the Beach Tag Monitor, a pleasant woman in her fifties who asked to see our beach tags.

We said we had no idea what beach tags were.

She explained that they were purchased by the day or week, to allow visitors access to the beach. The money raised paid for lifeguards, litter-pickers and so on. Then she asked us how long we were planning on staying on the beach.

Ian’s beach tolerance threshold is about half an hour at the best of times, and this reduces significantly in biting winds, with grains of sand blowing into one’s face and stinging one’s legs.

Probably about fifteen minutes, we said.

She let us off.

Beach Avenue, Cape May

Beach Avenue, Cape May

Lifeguards huddling in the wind, Cape May

Lifeguards huddling in the wind, Cape May

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We cycled further along the Prom and had an ice-cream (Ian) and hot tea (me) from a little kiosk manned by a pleasant young man who told us that his grandparents lived in Grimsby, and he had cousins in Bristol too. There was also family in Barnsley, ‘But that’s Yorkshire, and they’re a bit like, strange.’

Outside the ice-cream kiosk

Outside the ice-cream kiosk

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There are lots of lovely Victorian houses in Cape May.

Ocean/Columbia St, Cape May

Ocean/Columbia St, Cape May

This particular small hotel seemed to hark back to a bygone era of gentility, not to say refinement.

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Because of the windy weather, we had three nights in the Miss Chris Marina, and never found out who Miss Chris actually was.

Carina at Miss Chris Marina

Carina at Miss Chris Marina

On the marina spectrum, Miss Chris is definitely at the man end. It has fuel, bait, fishing trips, but it has no showers and no laundry. There are whale trips too.

Whale trip leaving from next to Miss Chris Marina

Whale trip leaving from next to Miss Chris Marina

We did see a nice sunset though, and had a very good meal at the nearby Lucky Bones Restaurant. The name of the restaurant was a reference to the charms that the fishermen would take out with them to protect against misfortune when they were at sea.

Sunset at Miss Chris Marina

Sunset at Miss Chris Marina

Our journey up the New Jersey coast to Sandy Hook, which is the last stretch before we get to New York, takes us through a maze of barrier islands, sounds and inlets and the Captain was getting quite exercised about the navigational challenges, ie the possibility, and likelihood, of running aground on one of the many shoaling areas.

Cape May to Margate City

Cape May to Margate City

Crossing Richardson Sound

Crossing Richardson Sound

Shoaling near Stone Harbour

Shoaling near Stone Harbour

Townsend's Inlet

Townsend’s Inlet

Sea Isle City

Sea Isle City

But we had a smooth journey to Sea View Harbour Marina near Margate City.

Margate City

Margate City

The wind made docking tricky, but there were pretty flowerbeds, good shower rooms, a swimming pool, and I finally got the laundry done.

Bound for the Jersey Shore

After a fortnight of hot and humid weather, it was almost a relief, after the violent thunderstorms of Monday night, to wake up to cool grey skies, and leave Baltimore in the rain, clad in two fleeces and a pair of leggings under my trousers.

Leaving Baltimore Northwest Harbor

Leaving Baltimore Northwest Harbor

We headed north up the Bay from Baltimore into the Sassafras River and spent two nights at anchor in a quiet creek there, a tranquil contrast to the excitement of Baltimore.

Baltimore to the Delaware River

Baltimore to the Delaware River

We moored about 300 yards from the jetty of the Mount Harmon Plantation. The house sits on a bluff extending into the Sassafras River, and was built in the 17th Century. At first the plantation produced tobacco, until the crop depleted the soil, and wheat and corn were planted instead.

Mount Harmon House, Back Creek, Sassafras River

Mount Harmon House, Back Creek, Sassafras River

We took the dinghy over and walked up to the house in time for the 11am opening. All seemed strangely quiet, despite a sign on the porch saying ‘tours start here’. We rattled the door, and eventually a young woman appeared, and told us that the house was open only on Thursdays to Sundays. It was Wednesday. But if we were members, we could stroll through the grounds and follow the trails.

We weren’t, but we did anyway, and as we followed the Pond Trail through an uncut meadow, we were rewarded by the sight of several white-tailed deer leaping high out of the grass and bounding away towards the shelter of the woods. There were wild strawberries growing along the path, and the birdsong sounded in the quiet stillness.

Looking north from Mount Harmon over the Sassafras River

Looking north from Mount Harmon over the Sassafras River

Well and Ice House

Well and Ice House

The old working buildings have been preserved and just above the river was the wooden Prize House, where the tobacco leaves were compressed to half their volume before being transported down Chesapeake Bay and then exported to England.

The Prize House

The Prize House

We followed the Cliff Trail round back to the jetty and had our picnic lunch before going back to Carina.

The Sassafas River from the Cliff Trail, Carina in the background

The Sassafas River from the Cliff Trail, Carina in the background

After several weeks of zig-zagging across the Chesapeake Bay, vaguely feeling that this was all very lovely but we weren’t making much progress and NYC still seemed a long way away and we’ve only got six weeks left and only five if you count the week we’ll spend with the family before we go home, suddenly we’re on our way.

The Sassafras River is nearly at the most northerly tip of the Chesapeake Bay, and after one night at the Bohemia Bay Yacht Basin, we were all set to pass through the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal, spend fifteen minutes cutting through the top end of Delaware, and then we’d be in New Jersey.

Leaving Bohemia Bay Yacht Basin

Leaving Bohemia Bay Yacht Basin

The Chesapeake-Delaware Canal is a big shipping channel, with some nice bridges.

Chesapeake City Fixed Bridge

Chesapeake City Fixed Bridge

St Georges Bridge West

St Georges Bridge West

On the C-D Canal

On the C-D Canal

Two years ago, when the trip was just a twinkle in the Captain’s eye, I stood beside the Delaware River in Philadelphia, wondering how I could possibly cope with being on a small boat in such an expanse of water.

Today we entered the river from the canal, and it really isn’t so bad after all. We moored up at Reedy Island, ten miles downstream, ready for the 48-mile journey tomorrow, down the river to Cape May, NJ. We saw the first patch of blue sky for five days, and a pale sun gradually came out.

The small print came into focus too. I’ve been told I have to get up at ‘first light’ – 5am – to take advantage of the tide, at the beginning of what will be a very long day.

It will be pay-back time for real, and in style, when we finally get to Cape May.

Reedy Island, Delaware River

Reedy Island, Delaware River

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Storm clouds gathering later on

Storm clouds gathering later on

The Captain in relaxed mode

The Captain in relaxed mode