At the beginning of summer, Dave and I decided to take a quick, overnight trip to Cape May, New Jersey. When we first started planning, I was imagining a smooth, relaxing sail down the Delaware Bay; a secluded, quiet spot to anchor in the harbor; an easy dinghy ride into town followed by a killer seafood dinner and a nice stroll past boutiques and lovely Victorian homes. Sounds picturesque, right? Of course it does! The idea of a “sailing trip” seems luxurious and carefree, but in reality it’s usually very different.
Sailing requires a lot of work and planning that can be disrupted in an instant. Weather, illness and mechanical issues were just a few things that complicated our plans on the way down to Cape May. This trip served as a reminder to Dave and I of how necessary flexibility and adaptability are to ensure a less stressful voyage no matter where we travel to.
Our trip started early(for me)-around 7:00am. Dave was up and ready to go as usual and I was my normal, slow moving self. The wind was calm and the sun was shining. It was going to be a beautiful day. We pushed off the docks and slowly motored our way out of the snaking Maurice River and made it into the Delaware Bay about 30 minutes later.
The bay was fairly calm, so we decided to motor sail. If the wind direction was right, we could make a bee line for the tip of Jersey and be headed straight into Cape May in about 4 hours. The wind however, was not right, so our “ideal” travel time of 4 hours ended up being about 7 because we had to tack back and forth.
Reality check #1 – Travel time is typically longer than you expect.
Fast forward 6 hours. We were only about an hour away from the entrance of the Cape May Canal and I was starting to feel nauseous. The wind had picked up to about 12-15 knots, and we were at an unfavorable point of sail, beating into the wind, barely making any progress. Being sick and making progress towards your destination sucks, but when you’re sick and you’re hardly moving anywhere? THE WORST-bleh. To boot, Darby came up from the cabin crying, wobbled into the cockpit and hurled all over the deck. Fabulous.
I was certain poor Darby wasn’t sea sick, but that he had eaten the lone stink bug I saw creeping around the cabin that morning. I thought his illness was just terrible timing in that it coincided with my own. All the times I’ve gotten sea sick on the boat, he hadn’t, so I was sure he couldn’t be suffering from it too. Denial? Perhaps. Stink bug? Who knows, but whatever it was, two out of three crew were sick and it was all down to Dave to get us out the bay and into calm water.
*Reality check #2 – Sea sickness creeps in and then the cat throws up.
*note – since this episode I’ve invested in some Sea Bands. Hopefully they’ll do the trick in the future *fingers crossed*
When we finally made it to the canal, the water was calm and my nausea had disappeared as quickly as it came. We were pretty much the only sailboat in the canal BOTH times we passed through it (coming and going). Power boaters were zooming past us, throwing RIDICULOUS wakes, pitching Alli Oop back and forth. We rocked so hard at one point, the cooler filled with beer and ice, sitting on the opposite side of the cockpit, was hurled over to me on the other side where I narrowly escaped a broken toe.
*Reality check #3- Some power boaters are a**holes (not all, but some). I know this may offend some people and I’m sorry (but not really).
*Reality check #4- All un-tethered objects will come flying, crashing down or be catapulted towards your body.
At the end of the canal was the harbor where we’d find a quiet and secluded spot for the evening (or so we thought). We could barely find a place to drop the anchor. We looped around three times before we could figure out where to settle. The water was so shallow in between the boating channel and the shore that we had to anchor practically right next to the boating lane. So much for secluded and quiet.
The water was so choppy from the wakes of the passing boats that we were afraid to even try to dinghy to shore. The water was only 66 degrees and we were afraid of tipping and going in the water. So, we stayed on board. We didn’t bring our fishing poles so we couldn’t even catch our seafood dinner 🙁
Reality check #5– Your surrounding environment can and WILL change your plans…duh, you’re on a boat.
Despite the rocky evening, we had a good time. We ended up cooking some burgers on the grill and had a nice little feast. Dave even decided to jump into the water and swim a few laps around the boat in the freezing water to officially kick off summer. (You can see that for yourself on the next episode of Finding Island Time).
As it got darker out we realized the boat wasn’t lining up wind with the others at anchor. We thought we were losing ground and got worried the anchor hadn’t set. We ended up waking in the middle of the night out of nervousness and discovered that nothing had changed. Our anchor was obviously set. We hadn’t moved, but Dave realized it was because there was a current where we were located. It was particularly strong and was pulling the boat one way, while the other boats farther down the harbor, were out of its path and free to line up wind.
Reality check #6- Be aware of the current and make sure your anchor is set!
When we woke up in the morning, it was VERY foggy. I felt like I was in that movie, “The Mist”. Boats would move past and then quickly disappear. We thought the fog would burn off, but it ended up lingering all morning. We had planned on leaving ASAP because we had a family BBQ to get to that evening. Considering it took us 7 hours to get to Cape May, we assumed it would take about the same amount of time to get back. If we had to wait for the fog to clear, our schedule would be hijacked again; but if we couldn’t see what was around us, it wasn’t safe to go sailing.
While we were waiting for the fog to clear, Dave proactively checked the engine. This is his usual routine before we ever leave and thank goodness it is! He found a tear in the raw water pump belt!! He saved us from imminent doom. Seriously.
If we had motored off and the belt broke, we would have been without engine power. If we would have been without engine power we’d have to sail. But guess what?? We can’t sail through a canal and we can’t sail up the snaking Maurice River. If we would have been in the canal with all of those super considerate power boaters waking us left and right, we would have crash landed-for sure; splat-all over the rocks. If we lost power out in the bay, we would’ve had to get towed.
Reality check #7– ALWAYS make sure you have your ducks in a row before you leave and always, always check the engine!
Thankfully we had a spare fan belt on board (thanks to the awesome previous owner) and we could make the repair. It wasn’t a quick fix, however. It took us a while to get the old belt off because the nuts and bolts were a bit seized/rusted. Overall, it took Dave about an hour to put on the new belt. Not too bad, but of course, it affected our schedule. *Insert reality check #1 here.
So there you have it – our weekend sailing trip. Not as perfect as it may initially seem, huh? It may not always be easy, but it sure is always worth the effort! Just in case you were wondering, we did make it to the BBQ, but were a little later than we’d hoped. Another adventure in the books with many more on the way 🙂