Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Our spot tracker revealed some questionable Captaining to the folks that followed us through the Delaware River. I'll take a moment to explain.
We entered Delaware Bay early in the morning, and unfortunately were not with the current. The Bay was flat as a pancake, because there was no wind at all, so we motored as best we could. It was slow. So slow in fact, that we were worried we would not make the canal before dark, so we started looking at the chart for an anchorage. As we got into the river, it became more apparent that we would not make the canal. After looking at the charts, and texting our friend Alan, who had Active Captain running, we settled on a spot close to the nuke plant. Hope Creek Jetty looked like a decent spot for the night.

We popped out of the channel and started slowly motoring for the anchorage. Everything looked fine, and I started the circling for a spot to anchor. I spotted something black in the water, kind of moving around a little. Looked like an otter or something. As I got closer to the thing I realized it was not anything alive, it was a marker for an Oyster bed!! In fact, the whole anchorage was littered with them, and they were all black! It was literally a mine field of old abandoned pots, or whatever they have for oysters, and we immediately turned around and tried to dodge them all, with Deb on the bow, pointing them out, and guiding me. Don't know how we got out of there without wrapping the prop, but after what seemed like an hour we were back in the channel with little light left.

The other anchorage was Reedy Island, and it was a little tough to get in there, with a submerged dike and all, and very little light, so we opted out of that idea. I called to the other sailboats behind me, and one replied that they were going to Chesapeake City, the other never answered. Deb called a marina in Delaware City, and they said they have plenty of water, and a slip for us, so we took off to go get it. There was really no hope of making it in the daylight now, and looking at where the marina was located, we would have to navigate up a long creek to get there. A quick decision was made to anchor in the charted "general" anchorage near the entrance to the canal. The Frenadians gave me a head fake, and ducked into Reedy Island without me. A call on the radio to follow would have been really really nice, but I guess they wanted the place all to themselves. "trou du cul!"

We dropped in the anchorage that the BIG ships use, and there was only one beast at anchor. There was a rather large barge with a tug at the end of the anchorage, so I went for the shallows off to the side, thinking they would never park a beast over there. Turned out I was too close to the shallows, as a tide change would swing me over three feet of water. Damn. We had to pull up and drop again, and it was dark, and there was a current. Remember, I have a manual windlass. To say it was a good workout, is an understatement. We dropped again, and she dug in just fine, with about 150' of chain on the Bruce. Finally, we can relax a bit. I stood anchor watch, and had every device enabled with an anchor drag alarm. We held.

Midnight brought the tide change, and we slowly started to move with the current. I woke Deb, who joined me in the cockpit to watch the slow dance. Should we start to drag, the motor would come on, and I would have to pull up again , and re-seat the anchor. The other barge/tug started their move along with us, only something didn't look right. They were closer! We panicked at first, but then we figured they would just swing by, and we'd both settle into a comfortable position. We watched from the cockpit as the tug and it's floodlights off the stern got closer, and closer, and, oh shit we've got to cut anchor!  

"Sailboat, sailboat, off the stern of the Jane Broussard, come in please!" "Jane Broussard, This is the the Kelly Nicole over" "Kelly Nicole we appear to be dragging anchor, and we're going to power up and try to push forward to give you more room. Want you to be aware of the situation." "Broussard, we are monitoring the situation, and are ready to move if we have to ."  " No need yet captain, we will be clear shortly, and are leaving a 3:40am, before the current shift."  

We probably got within seventy five yards of the stern of the tug, as it slowly made it's way to a safe distance. Who would have thought something so large would drag anchor? Our anchor held with the current shift, the beast was out of the way, and Deb took watch. I got an hour of sleep, took over for Deb, and when dawn finally broke, we were shrouded in... fog. Thick, dense fog. Damn.

The fog enveloped everything, and the USCG closed the canal. We waited for the sun to burn off the clouds, and finally you could see well enough, and many big ships started through. A few sailboats started in as well, so we thought we would try it. We got to the entrance to the canal, and the fog came back in, and we couldn't see shit. Some guy fishing on the side of the canal said " I'd go back if I was you!", and that was enough to get me to turn around, and re-drop anchor. We got back to the anchorage, and I dropped the damn thing again, and as the anchor was bouncing off the bottom I felt metal on metal. Shit we dropped on an obstruction! Forward, forward, I yelled to Deb, and I frantically tried to raise the damn thing, but the boat came to a sudden stop and the chain went taught. Oh crap. I didn't even tell Deb that we might have snagged some old anchor, or a sunken Frenadian sailboat. I just said a little prayer, and hoped that the anchor will come up when ready.

The fog lifted, the anchor lifted, the current was with us, and we flew through the canal and spat out into the Chesapeake looking for a place to park it. Looking back, I would have given the Delaware Bay more time to get through, and got plan B all sorted out. We were lucky that the poor planning didn't bite us in the ass. The weather and water were calm, and I think that gave us a false sense of security. Deb calls me Captain P, and the "p" is not for Paul, but for pessimism. I tend to look at how a situation could really turn out bad, and she tags me for that. I like to think this is a good trait, as I'm always thinking about what I would do if this situation ended up really bad. Kind of like, "if my engine died right now, what would I do?", then I run through the possibilities. It must be all the years of engineering, or I'm screwed up mentally.

So traveling by boat has it's challenges for sure. We got through some of them without a scrape, and some of it was luck, and some of it wise decisions. You can spend all your years preparing for this lifestyle, and think you're ready. You probably are for the most part, but until you get your own boat out there, and face some challenges, you'll never really know for sure. I'm not just talking about the boat. As a couple, you need to be a team, and work together to get through some rough spots. I think we did well in this regard, but there were some moments where the silence was deafening. We are not cruising. We are making a boat delivery. If we were cruising we would be taking our time, and having a relaxed trip. We have a schedule, and that's the worst way to travel by boat, but we'll make it work.

To the sunshine state!
Paul and Debra


  1. Great post! We're not cruising yet, but finding safe places to anchor and NOT dragging are definitely concerns of ours.

    Glad all went well! I think your logic isn't pessimistic, and it IS a good thing. Prepare for the worse, but hope for the best!

  2. Sounds like a hell of a night. We have never heard a good thing said about that body of water and the one transit we made on it was a VERY rough night.