...I would rather not be in the section of the river between Newcastle and Delaware City in the dark. Travel in the water between Bulkhead Shoal and Delaware is navigation by depth sounder. Travel on the NJ side of Bulkhead Shoal is in the shipping channel with shallow water both sides and a series of turns.
Well that got me checking out the chart to see what hazards lurk there. I agree that going out in the dark is to be avoided almost anywhere that has so much shipping traffic. But when I looked at Bulkhead Shoal Channel a little closer I was a little less intimidated. I'm used to staying in the "white water" sections on the NOAA charts just to be safe, and the white is very narrow there. But if you're willing to venture into the 6-18 foot depths there is quite a bit of tacking space between the underwater dike and the 2-foot-deep shoal once you're up toward Hamburg cove. And if we're lucky enough to get SW or even W winds, we could go up river with hardly any tacking at all. And since most of the shipping traffic goes east of the island, it should be relatively clear sailing.
Of course all of this is only as good as the accuracy of the charts (and my little Garmin GPS). Are there uncharted hazards that you are aware of?
That little handheld GPS has been some of the best money I've spent. I look at it more than the depth sounder, because it shows me what's coming up instead of what's already under me.
And as far as the tide schedule, I'm finding that my own observations of the currents at the surface are consistently lagging the published schedules for Philly and Wanamaker Bridge by about 1.5-2 hours - enough so that I wrote my own customizable tide clock routine in Excel that I keep on my Blackberry. The depth sensors at Philly show that the tide peaks right at their predicted times, so the net
flow of water is following the schedules. But I wonder if the surface water changes direction a little later, while the water near the bottom of the river changes direction earlier. Have you seen any hydrology studies on this? I recall reading about something like this happening on the Hudson. Bottom line, Sunday's predicted high tide of 1046 near Essington could lead to favorable currents as late as 1300 or so. But of course, we could have unfavorable currents heading out if the surface currents near Delaware City lag similarly.