Threading the needle

In 1789, Congress hotly debated whether the Nation’s Capital should be on the Susquehanna River at Havre de Grace, Maryland, or on the Potomac River at Washington.   After a tied vote, the Speaker of the House voted for Washington, which Maryland and Virginia then ceded to the federal government.  But for that one vote, the Harbor of Grace now would be a cesspool of political buffoonery and absurd traffic rather than the sleepy little town we reached during an unexpected weather window today.

img_3531There’s one marina at HdG—as it is known to the locals—that can handle Misty Pearl’s 5-foot draft.  We approached with the expectation of a nice broad fairway leading to an easily accessible slip.  Instead, we had to maneuver our 16-foot beam through what felt like a 14-foot entrance.  The placid appearance concealed a current that shouldn’t have been an issue but was.  The dockhands followed protocol, however, and assured us that we did an excellent job riding the thrusters all the way in.  The handbook also required them each to add “I’ve seen much worse” without laughing, so as to maximize the tip.  But hey, we tied up neatly and there are no insurance claims.

The two restaurants were good and we picked up kettle corn and local wine at the First Friday street fair, but we still hope to make it to Delaware City tomorrow.  If not, we may have docktails with Ron and Debbie Hartwell (Bucket List) and the folks flying the Looper burgee on the Carver 430 right behind us.

What did Delaware?


We unthreaded the Tidewater Marina needle at 7:30 in an effort to run the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal before the afternoon storms arrived.  The sun was out when we left and the water was calm.  The bridge at Chesapeake City told us we were on the home stretch to our third state.  Along the way we encountered only one interesting boat.

We also encountered a railroad bridge that lifts for boat traffic.   Bizarre.  We may or may not have taken a hundred or so too many photos of it.  Anyway, the C & D Canal is pretty neat.

A boat sporting the AGLCA burgee merged in front of us but skipped Delaware City.  Too bad for those folks.  Delaware City is dang cool, which is good since we’ll be here for a few days until Dana takes Shannon down to Baltimore for her flight to Los Angeles and her summer job on Catalina Island.

We hosted John and Marilyn (Blue Goose) and Bert (Tyro) for a great evening of Loop talk.  Bert is traveling alone on a boat the size of our old Supra ski boat.  Pretty impressive.

Screen Shot 2020-05-21 at 1.22.45 PM


And that’s why we stay in marinas

Nobody where we come from thinks about visiting Delaware City.  Which is a shame, because Delaware City—and Delaware City Marina—are way cool.  Coming in, Tim the dockmaster barks specific instructions that prove to be pretty critical as you enter a chute of current that requires crab angling down to the linear dock.

After docking bow first, these dudes push the bow out where it catches the current, which flips the boat the other direction.  We would’ve filmed the magic but didn’t know it was coming.

img_3565Delaware City only has a few restaurants, but makes up for it by the high percentage of Loopers filling those restaurants.   We met up with a bunch of neat folks we may buddy with from time to time.  The main street—maybe the only street—is Clinton.  Somebody is quite proud of the trademark for the sports bar.

Greg the marina mechanic was able to fix a troubling water leak that required tools and expertise that we don’t possess.  So long to the periodic buzz of the water pump caused by dropping pressure.


The worst thing about Delaware City was losing Shannon.  We had her for 305 nm before she headed to Catalina Island for her summer job.  We now are back to four.  Hopefully both girls will rejoin us in August if not before.

img_3563Tim not only directs marina traffic, but also provides invaluable weather briefings at precisely 5:01 every afternoon.  The Delaware Bay notoriously is fickle, particularly at the approach to Cape May, our next destination.  Tonight he gave everyone the green light for an early morning departure.

The big excitement tonight was when a 58-foot Hatteras went down just around the corner from where were were eating at the marina picnic tables.  Police, fire, a Coast Guard helicopter, and hopeful salvors all convened in a frenzy.
img_3566The boat had anchored out, the anchor slipped in the current, and they bashed into a rock jetty.  Fortunately the six people aboard were rescued from the water.  This rescue boat seems to have rescued only the life raft, but they still are heroes.

If all goes well, tomorrow night we’ll be in the land of Frankie Valli, mobsters, and real housewives.

Is shark hunting even legal?

A little panic hit us when we learned that every fishing boat around the southern tip of New Jersey will be starting a shark tournament tomorrow.  Slips were unavailable or at a premium, and after the Hatteras sank last night the possibility that we’d anchor out was exactly nil.   Fortunately Dana persuaded the guy at Canyon Club Marina to let us in, so off we went.

Up the Chesapeake Bay there were so many places to visit that the Looper crowd somewhat dispersed.  As the path narrows—everyone goes up the Hudson River for example—we’re seeing more boats with the AGLCA burgee.  On the way to Cape May at times we were pretty tight with Spiritus, Ocean Star, Tiki Queen, and several others.

The wind and Doug’s language worsened as we worked our way through the narrow Cape May Canal.  The dockmaster was frazzled because of all the boats coming in to what seemed to be an understaffed dock.  He watched us only for a moment before deciding to put us in a bigger slip, likely in an effort to protect his dock and the other boats.

img_3569Cape May is known for grand Victorian homes, an aquarium, beaches, and the lighthouse, among other things.  We saw none of them.  People often ask what we do all day, clearly implying that we do nothing all day.  Today went like this:  Up at 5:30.  Walk dogs and check everything (strainers, bilges, oil levels, coolant levels, electronics, etc.)  Final check of a half-dozen weather, current, and tide resources.  Get off the dock without issue.  Stressfully navigate the Delaware Bay.  img_3570Get docked with only a few issues.  Tie up, get shore power, wash off the salt water.  Complete the daily log.  Walk the dogs.  Install new drink refrigerator to replace ice maker.  Walk to the Lobster House, a Looper requisite.  Walk the dogs.  Take showers.  Deal with the four drunk dirty-minded old sailors flirting with Dana.  Plan the route to Atlantic City.  Check a half-dozen weather, current, and tide resources.   (The Coast Guard installation played reveille at sundown, bringing back good and bad memories of the Navy Yard.)  Collapse at 9:00 (Looper midnight.)  One final dog walk.  Today there was no time to explore Cape May.

In your honor, a royal flush


Just like Captain Christopher Jones, Myles Standish, and the plucky band of Pilgrims aboard Mayflower, the Belknaps from Arizona aboard Misty Pearl left the relative safety of a harbor and set forth across the mighty Atlantic Ocean, albeit in the opposite direction.  The Puritans of course had the benefit of celestial navigation skills, meticulously hand-crafted charts showing exactly where sea monsters guard the edges of the world, citrus to fight scurvy, and livestock to provide meat for a year.  We were saddled with Global Positioning System satellites, Garmin chartplotters, and iPad Navionics for added redundancy, not enough lime slices for our Coronas, and two dogs too small to feed us for a week.  So because of our limitations we turned north from Cape May and headed to Atlantic City after topping off the tanks with $1,900 worth of diesel fuel.  Hopefully that fuel will get us through the Canada stretch of our trip, which we note the Mayflower cowards didn’t even attempt.  (They likely would’ve been amazed to see their boat carried by the Big Chute marine railway.)

About two hours into the day, we passed a large pod of dolphins traveling the other way, apparently unconcerned about the risk of sneaky shark fishermen trying to pass them off as tournament trophies.  We couldn’t mobilize the camera quickly enough but trust us they were cool.  After some rough stuff at the mouth of the Cape May Inlet, we settled in to quartering seas off the starboard bow with fairly soft eight-second rollers.  Nice.  A second dolphin pod gave Dana another chance.  No photos.  It’s a steep learning curve.img_3574

Off our port side we watched the southern Jersey shore roll by.   From three miles away we thought we could see a bloated Chris Christie sunning himself on a wide empty beach, but maybe it was just a dark shadow cast by a buffoon-shaped cloud.  Soon Atlantic City appeared on the horizon like a giant cash-sucking Stonehenge.  The modern-day druids already were taking our money and we hadn’t even arrived.


A sharp turn at the out-of-place and somewhat phallic lighthouse and a short pass down Absecon Inlet later, we docked at the Golden Nugget.  Doug ducked in to lose a few poker hands, mostly so that the title of this post—which Mallory and Shannon immediately will recognize as a line from The Parent Trap—will be relevant.  Dana walked the dogs and ran (for fun, not from muggers).

We met up with Blue Goose, Tyro, Second Wave, and Blue Moon to discuss the weather and various options for traveling further north tomorrow.   Right now it’s looking iffy.  We don’t do iffy.