Just after 2pm on October 8th we arrived in Delaware Bay from the Cape May Canal and it was time to start thinking about our next move. Run the Delaware in one go and arrive in Chesapeake City four hours after dark or drop the hook for the evening before sunset…? The tide was flooding and we were cruising at 7.5 kts, we decided to run the whole Bay before stopping for the night.
As the sun set, we turned on our navigation lights, fired up the radar and kept a close eye on the charts to make sure what we were seeing on the water lined up with what we thought should be there! It was surprisingly ok. It was VERY dark, but ok. We’d travelled at night before, but this was different. The channel lights were all unfamiliar, brightly lit tugs pushing and pulling barges were emerging from the blackness and passing us in the channel. We were both on high alert identifying each and every light to ensure we stayed out of traffics way and in safe water.
We made it to the top of the Delaware and turned into the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. We estimated we’d be arriving at Chesapeake City around 11pm. Because it was so late, as an extra precaution, we used our precious internet data to tune into an online AIS website. (Automatic Identification System – is an automatic tracking system used on ships and by vessel traffic services (VTS) for identifying and locating vessels by electronically exchanging data with other nearby ships). Using this website we can see the position, direction, speed and destination of commercial traffic anywhere in the world. As we made our way west through the C&D we used the site to monitor any big ships transiting the canal that we needed to be aware of. It looked clear all the way to Chesapeake City!
Chesapeake City has a great anchorage – it’s also a very small anchorage and a very busy anchorage. We pulled in at 10:30pm and quickly realized there was no room at the inn. We had no choice but to leave the anchorage and find another place to spend the night. We knew ahead of time this was a possibility and were prepared to spend another hour or so on the water. We’d already scoped out other anchoring possibilities for the night, so it wasn’t a stressful decision to continue. Back into the canal we went. Within the hour we were on the cusp of the Chesapeake Bay when we spotted some unusual lights ahead that did not correspond to our charts, we checked our radar and consulted the AIS website to discover it was a very large ship over 300m long!!!!! Tim started to move us slightly out of the channel when the monster ship hailed us on the VHS to suggest the very same thing. We quickly complied. The whole experience was much less stressful knowing who they were and where they were before they hailed us – score one for adding AIS to the boat in the future!
Thirty minutes later we were safely in the Chesapeake Bay and dropped the hook just off the main shipping channel along side two other sailboats for the night. It took 16 ½ hours to travel 120 nautical miles and cross three states. Not too shabby. Annapolis was now a reality, Boat Show here we come!