Nov. 25, 2017 – North to go South

Noth to go south.jpgSaturday morning at Utsch’s Marina and there’s lots of early morning activity as this is prime fishing season for lots of the boats in this marina and most of Cape May. We’re docked right in front of the Bait and Tackle shop and they have coffee brewed at 7 am. Today we’re going up the Delaware River to Greenwich, NJ where we have a reservation at Greenwich Boat Works and Marina on the Cohansey River. It’s 38 nautical miles so it should be a leisurely day. I let Tracy sleep in for a change and I wander the marina saying hello to people. Fred in the Bait and Tackle shop is cleaning a bluefish and offers us a filet. It’s now in our refrigerator. After Tracy gets up and has some coffee, we start working to depart. The marina dockhands will hand us our lines, so we don’t have to prepare them for solo departure, and then they’ll meet us at the fuel dock. Tracy prepares the helm while I retrieve the dock lines and she takes us over to the fuel dock. After running for 224 nautical miles we should be taking on 200 plus gallons. This is not very economical, but remember, we used approximately 115 gallons to run 83 nautical miles from Staten Island to Atlantic City. Therefore we used 85 gallons to run the other 140 miles to date.

Once we’re fueled (we take 204.7 gallons) we say goodbye and thank you to Utsch’s Marina and head out the Cape May Canal towards the Delaware River. This leg of the trip marks the end of one chartkit and guidebook and the start of the second chartkit and guidebook as we put away the Cape May to Nantucket set and open up the Chesapeake to Florida set of charts and guidebook. This is another milestone for our journey south. In the middle of summer, the boat traffic on the Cape May Canal can be very heavy, but here, on Saturday November 25th we only see four other boats and no ferries.

Coming out of the canal, our plot is to run a diagonal course to meet the channel between the Bank Light and Miah Maull Shoal Light.   Bank lightAs we are navigating this diagonal course, we can see a caravan of eight cargo ships about a half-mile apart and already in the channel, so I monitor the approach to the channel carefully as I confirm that we will eventually merge into the channel at least 2 miles ahead of the lead ship, north of Bank Light. So we maintain course and speed for the next hour. As we’re within 30 minutes of the intersection with the channel, I notice that all eight ships are steering a course west of the channel and are passing Bank Light to their starboard side and the Bank Light should be on the port side when in the channel. So I’m not sure where they were going, but any risk of collision is now gone and we can merge into the channel with no other traffic.

This is the loneliest segment of the river as here, once in the channel, and regardless of the visibility, you cannot see any land in any direction. This is some river! Also in this segment, to stay in the channel there are times when the ship’s compass shows us travelling due north! I thought we were heading south.  Oh well, the truth is that in order to maximize safe seas and avoid any more open ocean travel, we must go UP the Delaware River, thru the C & D Canal, then back DOWN the Chesapeake River, a little north to go south maneuver. The good news is that we were fortunate enough to plan this northerly run during an incoming tide, so once in the channel, we were getting a 2 knot push up the river.

Greenwich boat works.jpgWhen we are an hour away from the Cohansey River entrance, Tracy starts to reach out to Greenwich Boat Works for info on the river approach and depths in the river. On charts it appears to be navigable, but there are no buoys for this snaking river and I’m concerned about depths even though we timed this for slack high tide. There’s no answer at the marina (Marvin is out in the yard working), so as I have Kailani on approach to the Cohansey River inlet, and we’re still not sure of navigation strategy, I back down and stay in the Delaware River while Tracy calls TowBoatUS. We’ve found out that they are a great resource for us on water and navigation issues. She calls the national number, tells them immediately, that we do not need a service call and asks for the local contact for information. They always connect her to the local operator and he/she has always been willing to give us advice on water depths, hazards, etc. This valuable asset is worth way more than the cost of membership. The end result from this conversation is that the Cohansey River, in spite of no marker buoys, etc. is very safe for travel and since it’s slack high tide, we should have no issues travelling upriver to the marina. TowBoatUS says, “just stay in the middle of the river and you’ll have minimum 30’ and sometimes 60 ‘ of water”! So now, I confidently turn Kailani and head for the mouth of the Cohansey River and just as we are passing the last buoy to enter the river, Marvin calls Tracy back and reiterates the same information as TowBoatUS, so we now have complete confidence in our strategy. Greewich marina approach.jpgThe ess curves of the Cohansey are extremely picturesque and all the land surrounding the river is lowland reed grass so visibility in all directions is excellent. In fact, from two mile and fifteen turns away, we can spot our destination. The Cohansey is flat calm and with our confirmed confidence, I put Kailani back up to 1200 rpms and we gracefully navigate the curves maintaining a somewhat equidistant relationship to each shore and make our way up to Greenwich Boat Works and Marina. Marvin meets us on the dock and helps us secure the lines and power. Today is a spectacular weather day with very comfortable temperatures and I realize that I’m not even wearing my sweatshirt and I’m still comfortable. It’s nearly 3 pm and the temperature is hovering around 60 degrees!

Since we left Great Kills Yacht Club on Thanksgiving morning, we’ve travelled for three straight days, put on 158 nautical miles and we’re ready for more. Our next stop will be Bohemia Bay Yacht Club and our next Harbor Host, Forest Schucker. So the afternoon is spent with me getting the description of the marina facilities from Marvin while Tracy has to put 2 fishing poles in the water. This is still salt water here so there are striped bass all around the docks. Marvin had previously told Tracy three days ago that he had pump-out services, but today it’s down and we will not be able to get pumped out. We’ll have to wait until we get to Bohemia Bay.

As we settle into evening darkness, we start researching tomorrow’s plan and weather. IMG_20171115_134311What we find is that there are small craft warnings for the upper Delaware River thru Sunday morning and there are also small craft warnings for the upper Chesapeake River thru Sunday afternoon, so it’s decided that we’ll have to stay two days here in Greenwich and Sunday will be a day for chores and catching up on paperwork. I send off an email to Forest to let him know and we go to sleep thinking of all the stuff we can catch up on tomorrow while tied up. I think Tracy will definitely catch on of those striped bass!

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