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Old 10-13-2011
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Philadelphia Area Sailing for a Novice on a 25' SK

Hi! I'm a novice sailor - I've taken lessons on a J19 in the BVI's, and on a 14' American at Peace Valley Lake in PA. I've single-handed both boats several times. This season was tough for sailing for me, because Peace Valley closes so early during the week, and the lake gets a little crowded on the weekends. So, I somehow managed to convince my wife that "we" "need" our own boat, and we just purchased a 1984 Catalina 25 swing keel for a very modest amount of money. We moved her from her previous home (a slip behind someone's house) to her current location, Dillons Creek Marina in Toms River last Friday, and I got a chance to single-hand her on Sunday. With schedules being what they are, we've asked the marina to pull her this past Monday, and I'll be going down on Sunday to start getting her set for winter.

Since the winter storage issue is resolved, we're now trying to figure out where to keep her next year. My family comprises me, my wife, and our two sons (ages 5 1/2 and 3). Our boys are reasonably good in the car, and can handle 2 hour trips without much of a problem. We live in the Lansdale, PA area, not far from where the Blue Route (476) intersects the PA Turnpike. We can make the trip to Toms River in about an hour and a half out of season (not sure how long it takes in season, we usually head farther south). My in-laws have a condo in Avalon, and we'd really prefer to keep the boat closer to there, or closer to home, since my wife says she gets "seasick on a waterbed" and currently has no intention of overnighting on the boat. The Toms River/Barnegat Bay area isn't out of the question, since it's "only" about an hour and a quarter from Avalon, but we'd really like to find some place closer to Avalon. I've toyed with the idea of Tuckerton, but I'm not that familiar with that area.

That leaves a few other options:
1) the Delaware River either north or south of Philly (both of which are about 45 minutes away from home);
2) the Delaware Bay near Cape May Courthouse (specifically, Bayway Marina, which is about 20 minutes from my in-laws); and
3) the Ocean City/Somers Point/Marmora area.

The Delaware River is appealing because of its proximity to home. I might be able to sneak out and sail in the afternoons/evenings if it's a particularly good day, and that's very appealing. The slip rates in that region are also pretty good. I understand the sailing to be a bit challenging at times, but part of me says maybe it would be a good way to build my skills.

The Delaware Bay is appealing because it is close to Avalon, and we have easy access to showers, beds, food, parking, beaches, and family. However, I've read lots of negative reviews of the Bay. Of course, they were all by people who were headed along the ICW, out among the big ships and not really interested in spending any time on the Western shores of the Bay. I'm very concerned about keeping the boat here, though, because I want our first season to be enjoyable, and I have a strong suspicion that if my family is in for a "bronco ride" every time we take the boat out, then we won't be taking the boat out very often.

The Ocean City area is appealing because it is still fairly close to Avalon (30'ish minutes), and we'd have easy access to the Ocean City beaches and boardwalk for our boys if the weather turns out to not be all that conducive for sailing. The down side is the bay there. Great Egg Harbor is a decent size, but not huge, and at low tide it can get fairly shallow. The inlet there isn't TOO bad (we used to keep our power boat at All Seasons Marina in Marmora when I was a kid), so if I was feeling particularly brave on a day with calm seas, I could actually venture out to the Atlantic.

For those inclined to suggest that I've overlooked the Chesseapeake, you are right (sort of). When I was looking at boats, I was down in North East and absolutely loved it. It was beautiful! The water there isn't that deep, though (it's similar to Great Egg Harbor), and once we got there, it would be easier to turn around and go home than to go over to my in-laws at the shore. So, we've taken it off the list.

With that as background (yes, sorry, I tend to provide a lot of information), I have a few questions:

1) What's the Delaware Bay like near Cape May Courthouse? Will I be sorry if I choose to keep the boat there next season?
2) How's the sailing in/around Ocean City? Are there any specific marinas I should contact, other than Harbour Cove (which is expensive) and All Seasons (which is, at least, a little more reasonable)? Many in that area say they won't take sailboats.
3) If you keep your boat at either All Seasons or Harbour Cove marinas (or go to them with any regularity), what do you think of them? I know All Seasons is under new management who seems to be trying to bring it back to some approximation of its former self.
4) What's it like to sail on the Delaware? Does anyone have "preferred" marinas/yacht clubs? I'm already planning to visit Winter's, and I want to visit Corinthian and Delaware River Yacht Clubs.
5) In case we wind up staying on Barnegat Bay, are there any other recommended marinas and/or routes? Dillons Creek is beautiful, but my GPS wants to take me up the NJ Turnpike between exits 6 and 7A, and that stretch always bogs down. I'm not looking forward to that drive in the summer! So, if I can find something that would let me take some less-traveled, local roads, that would be good!
6) Have I missed anything?

Any feedback is appreciated; I hope I haven't put you to sleep!

- Jim
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