We continue north into the Upper Chesapeake Bay, cruising into waters that are new to us aboard See Level. Roxy falls in AGAIN, dinner with my sister, and we start meeting lots of other Loopers as we all cross into the Delaware Bay.
Click the Google Map button below to open the map in a separate window. There you can zoom in/out, and click on the icons to see pictures and more info on the various places along our route.
Rock Hall, MD
June 2-3, 2022
After our visit from Dan and Fab, it was time for some serious Looping. We left Annapolis on a hazy morning for a short and leisurely cruise across the narrow northern section of the Chesapeake Bay to Rock Hall. Once we crossed under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (we decided to interpret their foghorn as heralding our milestone) we were in new-to-us territory!
Rock Hall Landing Marina is in a lovely little harbor. It has a huge firepit and patio area, a dozen hammocks, and brand new bikes for visitors to use. We also stumbled in on the town’s big Triathlon weekend, and had a front row seat for the swimming portion around the harbor! That’s one of the cool things about cruising in the summer – all these towns have festivals and events on weekends to enjoy.
We bootered into and around town. While named for the large plantation that once stood here, Rock Hall has ben a working town of fishermen and crabbers for the last century. There are none of the grand Victorian homes that we have seen in other towns. Rather there are modest cottages and bungalows. Downtown was small with some unique buildings, such as the one that had the bow of a boat sticking out of the second floor. We had an afternoon coffee at Java Rock Cafe to go with some still-warm-from-the-oven carrot cake and a pastry from Sweet Cheeks. Rock Hall also has one of our Top 10 murals at a commercial fishing facility — a whole. wall of colorful crab boats that incorporated the windows of the building as the windows of the boats.
Havre de Grace, MD
After watching the swim portion of the half-triathlon, we left to cross back over to the other side of the Chesapeake to Havre de Grace. We kept noticing what we thought were crab pot floaties but realized they were actually bloated dead fish – pretty decent sized, too. There was a Fishing-palooza going on since it was a beautiful Saturday, but we didn’t think these were from them. Weird.
Tidewater Marina was well-located right downtown, but had a tricky narrow entrance of only 38 feet; See Level being 18’ beam, this didn’t give us much wiggle room given the winds and bit of current also working against us. To top it off, there was a beginning sailing class in small boats going on right near the entrance, making this another Boating Video Game of hazards to dodge. After making it in, we had to spin around in a narrow fairway, with me giving ‘forward, no go back now!’ and ‘spin! spin! spin! stop spinning!’ through the headphones. Dave did wonderfully, as usual, but if he was the swearing type I suspect I would have heard a few bad words between the approach and the spin.
All of this weaving and dodging has led us to develop a nomenclature for things to watch for and navigate around on the water.
- Floaties – crab pots, with their attached floating markersk
- Bloaties – long dead fish
- Blowies – small sailboats, usually with inexperienced sailors at the helm as part of a learn-to-sail class
- CG-U11s – sea gulls (get it?) This one is actually borrowed from the Navy.
Situated at the mouth of the Susquehanna River, Havre de Grace has some great history beginning with Captain John Smith’s exploration. Lafayette passed through as he traveled to meet George Washington (and why it has a French name) and then made a Nostalgia Tour back through 25 years later. George Washington even traveled the road, because a sign told us he did. It had a role in the War of 1812 and Civil War as a stop on the supply route, as well.
We managed to arrive during the Jazz & Blues Festival weekend (again, those small town summer festivals!) where they had a street market and outdoor stage set up. The town itself was really quite eclectic, where history and Victorian architecture meets Artsy-Hippie Peace Out. There was a really nice Lock Museum, a wonderfully restored final lock of the Tidewater-Susquehanna Canal and the associated house where the lock. keeper and his family lived – providing a glimpse into life on the Chesapeake in the 19th century. The museum had a very cool working diorama that demonstrates exactly how a lock works, complete with water and little boats. Always a fan of the murals, Havre de Grace had quite a few, most of which reflected something in the towns history or culture. And of course, there was our midday coffee stop – a little tricky to find a place open on a Sunday afternoon, but we persevered to fruition.
It was here in Havre de Grace that Roxy fell in – again! Dave takes her out to shore one last time right before bed. I’m sitting in the saloon and hear Dave give her the command that it’s okay to get of the boat, followed a couple seconds later by a ‘splash!’ I think to myself, ‘I hope that was a duck they startled off the dock and into the water, but it sort of sounded like a 40 lb duck.’ A few seconds later, I hear a second much larger ‘SPLASH!’ That one sounded like a 180 lb duck, and I knew something was not right. I go out and follow the sound of thrashing in the water to where I can barely make Dave out in the dark trying to hang onto Roxy while she attempts to climb on top of his head. He manages to cradle her onto his shoulder and grabs onto a piling. It’s about 3+ feet up to the dock, and no way I can pull either of them up without falling in myself. Hmmm. We finally realize it would be easier to get them up to the swim platform of the boat but it’s about 10 feet away on the other side of the dock. Roxy kept wanting to swim in the opposite direction, so Dave had to continually push her to the boat. Eventually everyone gets back into the cockpit safe and sound.
What we pieced together was that the marina had fixed docks, and when he went to take her out the tide was such that they had to step down off the boat onto a 12” high step and then onto the finger dock that ran parallel to the boat. She had jumped from the boat to the step to the dock without any problem, but had failed to realize that the dock ended there and she needed to turn right until she was past the point of no return and had gone right off the edge and down over 3′ into the water. The good news is that we now know she will pop back up when she falls into the water from that distance and starts swimming, but unfortunately she panics and swims away from the boat, which is why Dave felt he had no choice but to jump in after her or he would soon lose sight of her in the dark. She seemed none the worse for it and more traumatized by the bath she immediately got than anything else. Dave was a bit scratched up from her trying to climb on him and had lost his glasses but also was okay.
Delaware City, DE
We left Havre de Grace and picked our way through the floaties and bloaties to the Elk River, where the Chesapeake – Delaware Canal starts. This connects the northernmost tip of the Chesapeake Bay to what is officially the lower Delaware River but on a map really looks like the northernmost tip of the Delaware Bay. Delaware City is at the very end of the canal, and the marina is a looooonnngg single dock in what was the very end of the canal until they dredged out a bigger channel to accommodate bigger boats. The dockmaster, Tim, talks everyone in through the narrow channel on the radio as he waits for you on the dock, sounding like the directions we used to give long before the disembodied voice on Google Maps.
“After you pass the red buoy at the entrance to the canal, you’ll see a couple small barges. Take them on your port side.”
“You’ll see a fireboat dead ahead. Turn to port before you run into it.” Sage advice…
“Come straight on down past the gas dock and I’ll meet in front of the boat at the very end.”
As we traversed the length of the long dock, he inquired if we had bow and/or stern thrusters, and if Dave thought he could spin the boat around in the narrow channel and then back down against the current. When Dave said he could, Tim told him to go ahead and spin when he got down there and rig for a port tie, to which I growled because when I called earlier they had said a starboard tie and now I had to run around and move all the lines and fenders in about two minutes. Dave spun us and had to gun it in reverse to overcome the current and get the stern over, but then Tim and his dockhand Zach did some impressive line handling and we were soon secured.
Tim does a well-known 4pm weather and navigation briefing for all the Loopers who might be traveling the Bay for the first time, and there we met Rob and Karen from Off Leash, the only other boat there that first night. Our briefing was pretty straight forward: weather looked sucky and anyone would be nuts to try to go down the Delaware Bay with 25 knot winds on the nose and against the currents and 4-5’ waves.
After the briefing, my sister Iva and her husband Mike picked us up to take us to their house about 15 minutes away for a cookout. It was great to see them again – this was twice in less than a year! It was a beautiful evening to sit outside and great company, and I even saw my first firefly of the season (not something you see often at a marina). And Roxy got to hang out in their backyard with us and watch for squirrels and other critters in the woods edging their property, so she was content. (For some stupid reason, I forgot to take a single picture!)
The next day, we explored what we could of the quaint town, but it was a Monday and not much was open. It’s not a big town nor an affluent one, but takes pride in its history. We walked out to look at the angry bay, feeling the gusts and seeing the whitecaps building with even more to come; definitely not a day to be out on the water. We then bootered to nearby old Fort Dupont, where the scent off honeysuckle was everywhere. This had originally been one of three forts designed to defend the Bay, but ultimately better used as a German prisoner of war camp during WWII. There are still several buildings left from this time, such as the Exchange and Theatre, which are being restored. They are also developing parts of it as a residential community, including the former officer housing. It actually reminded us a lot of Fort Worden in Port Townsend, WA. While exploring one of the old Batteries, we watched as a military helicopter apparently did some. training, lowering and raising a large weighted bag. We were close enough that we got a good dose of the prop wash.
Back at the boat, we watched a parade of Loopers making. their way into the marina. Tim and Zach were awesome as they guided all the boats in one by one. The current was significant, so they had the boats come straight in and tie up with their starboard side to the dock. But because you have to go out the same way you come in and so ultimately want to be tied on your port side to get out easier, they turned them around at the dock. They expertly handled the bow line and released the stern line, letting the current take the stern away from the dock and spin the boat at the bow until the stern had come around 180 degrees. Gotta admire skill born of years of experience, and it was fun to watch.
There were a dozen boats represented at the weather briefing that night, where Tim talked about timing the run down the Delaware Bay with the tide so that you got a push from the outgoing current. It was as much a teaching session as a weather briefing – and the weather looked good for a nice day on the Bay. Afterwards we all gathered for Docktails on the marina patio, meeting the crews of Salty Peacock, Varlabania, Toucan, Shadow, Just Another Day, and Grand Plan in addition to the previous Off Leash.
Cape May, NJ
The departing Looper-tilla started at the recommended 0730. Tim was there to see us off and walked down the line of boats helping to cast off lines a few minutes apart as we filed out single file and turned south into the Delaware River/Bay channel. A big freighter that had been loading up right near the canal entrance apparently also was planning on using the outgoing tidal current to their advantage and also departing just as this long line of slower and much smaller pleasure craft were turning in the same direction. I suspect there was as many Oh Crap’s uttered by the tugs and freighter crew as there were from Loopers. But we all just moved off the main shipping channel and kept a close eye on the freighter, who fortunately only went a short distance before turning to head upriver.
We had decided to do the trip at a higher speed, and ran with Off Leash, Toucan, and Shadow for the four hours to Cape May. We had a nice 2 knot push from the current, a welcome boost to our gas mileage. Nearing the Cape May Canal, we were a bit puzzled by random crab pot floaties that we were dodging because they were rather unusual. Eventually we passed one close enough to realize they were dead horseshoe crabs! They were all over, and we later found out that it’s mating season, and they die right after they mate. Thus we classified these in the Bloaties category.
The other boats from Delaware City also pulled into South Jersey Marina a couple hours after us, and we met several other Loopers already there from a couple days before – about a dozen Loopers in all. We also discovered we weren’t the only ones dodging dead horseshoe crabs, thinking they were crabpot floaties. In fact, it was universal.
Cape May was really a lovely place and went on our Favorite Stops list. We bootered to the downtown area about a mile away, where there was a pedestrian mall with nicer tourist boutiques and restaurants. It was the largest collection of very well maintained Victorian homes we have ever seen, and we thoroughly enjoyed our walks and rides through the neighborhoods between the marina and downtown. The beaches looked lovely, but you had to pay $8 a person to go on them so we just admired from afar. That evening there was a very large gathering for docktails, and almost everyone was planning on departing the next day.
We have now cruised up the Chesapeake and down the Delaware Bays. From Cape May we have our first and one of the few legs on The Loop that takes us out into the ocean (offshore) as we head up the New Jersey Coast to New York Harbor. We just have to wait for a good weather window and go ‘on the outside.’ We are entering a new phase of cruising, and it’s exciting. Getting out of the familiar for us since Annapolis, and now having other things to contend with and consider adds a whole new layer to our voyage planning. It’s finally sinking in for me that we are really doing America’s Great Loop.
Let the Summer Fun begin!!!
Pops’ Stats Corner*
- Tot days covered this blog: 8
- Travel days: 4
- Miles traveled: 142.3 nm/163.7 sm
- States passed through: 3
- Tot States since started The Loop: 9
- Times Roxy has now fallen in: 3
*’Pops’ is what the family called Dave’s dad. He had an amazing mind for any kind of statistic, earning him the nickname Numbers from the Stillwater high school coaches for whom he kept team stats. This regular feature of the blog is named in his honor.