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jimgo 10-13-2011 11:22 PM

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

Bermudahigh 10-14-2011 04:48 AM

slips/Ocean City and Somers Point
Congrats on your purchase.
There are a few more options in addition to harbor cove and all seasons. If you'll be living aboard, look at seaview harbor. if you're looking for a boat slip, i. e. just a place to keep a boat, non liveaboard, then there's the Noreaster condo/marina at 7th and pleasure, the city of ocean city now has a public marina at 2nd and bay, and there are many private slips available behind someones home. Some of my neighbors may have slips available for next season.

The family will enjoy OC. That should be important in your formula. Once you gain local knowledge, shooting the inlet to Avalon could be a destination adventure while heading to Cape May for some overnighting.

Sailing the bays of OC there are several places to drop the hook for lunch, sunsets or an overnight.

Shout if i can help.
Best regards
joe/ocean city nj

deniseO30 10-14-2011 08:52 AM

Seems your set on traveling. The Delaware River is close. Trenton is as far north the shipping channel gets and there are close to 30 Yacht clubs All the way to the Chesapeake. There are sailboat racing clubs regattas and races picnics, at many places on the river and there are always things for boaters to do. Philly is expensive and very churned up water because of big ships and industrial sites.

There are Marina's at Trenton, Tullytown, Burlington nj, Croydon, Riverside, Phila, and many more south of Philly. Essington is a real haven because it's behind Tinicum island. The River of course will take you to Delaware Bay, C & D canal, and over to the Chessy.

jimgo 10-14-2011 10:10 AM

Thanks Denise and Joe! We're not entirely set on traveling, but my in-laws decided not to rent their place out any more, so we hope/expect to be there more often next season. If we're going to go to the beach on the weekends, it would be nice to have the boat close by. But, of course, having it at the beach means no mid-week sails.

Denise, I've read a lot of your posts about sailing the river (especially your conversations with Ullah and RhythmDoctor), and they are what have kept the Delaware as an option for us. I'm not sure which would be better, keeping the boat to the north or south of the city. The north seems more scenic and peaceful (if there is such a thing so close to the city), while the south seems to offer wider stretches of water. How are the winds there throughout the season? Is it like I've heard about the Chessepeake where the spring and fall are great, but the summer stays mostly calm?

In reading some more last night, I realized that Tuckerton is a bad idea if we wanted to stay in the Barnegat Bay area. However, Barnegat City (on the mainland, to the west of Barnegat light) might work. It's about as far south as you can go and still have access to most of the "deeper" water that Barnegat Bay offers.

Joe, how long have you been in Ocean City? Do you like sailing there? Do you mostly sail the bay or the ocean? The guys at the marina in Barnegat Bay are trying to convince us to stay up there, because of the huge size of the bay compared to Ocean City, which would mean more "space" to cut our teeth. But, if we keep her at the shore, Barnegat Bay is the least convenient of the places for us, and I'm afraid that will translate into even less use. We considered renting a slip from someone somewhere between OC and Stone Harbor, but with a family, we have to be mindful of access to a potty. It's true, we COULD use the portapotty that's onboard, but I'm not too keen on the idea of cleaning it! I'd rather have a bathroom that we can all use before heading out, and keep the portapotty for emergencies while we're away from the slip. I'll have to look into the marinas you mentioned. The one on Pleasure could be interesting. My brother-in-law is part owner in a house a few blocks south of there, and it would make meeting up with him and his kids pretty convenient.

I'm still really curious about the western end of the Delaware Bay. That seems almost an ideal location with lots of (deep enough) water to play in, but I worry about the conditions. I wish there was a webcam to check in on that stretch of the bay periodically!

Ulladh 10-14-2011 10:46 AM

Lower Delaware Bay between Cape May and the point west of the Maurice River and Egg Island Flats is a great place to sail. Water depth at low tide can be 9ft but most of this section is more than 12ft. I had some wonderful long sails, in steady wind under the same sail trim for 3 or 4 hours

Easy access from Bayway Marine at any tide level, with usually consistent wind direction.

Bayway has a small fleet of sail boats but is mostly commercial crabbers and power boats. Crabs were $25/3 dozen.

Good water depth on creek side slips 10ft + (Bidwell Creek) with a low water level of about 3ft in the marina basin.

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I was the only overnighter this past summer, and the bathrooms were not well maintained, but will be based there for at least one month this coming summer.

Two mile walk to a convenience store, four mile walk to a bus stop, and about 6 mile walk to Cape May Court House.

RichH 10-14-2011 11:38 AM

Why not Nockamixon State Park? ... about 20 minutes from Lansdale? 10X the size of Lake Galena. .... and besides If I correctly remember, Lake Galena has a 'size limit' of 16-18ft. max.

Delaware River is a PITA because of the current flow and it 'narrowness' plus lack of 'services', Ditto lack of 'services' on Delaware Bay until you get near Cape May.

Other alternative is the Northern Chesapeake Bay .... about 1-3/4 hrs. from Lansdale. Ches. is THE PRIME sailing venue for the MidAtlantic area.

Dfok 10-14-2011 11:53 AM

the top of the Chesapeake!
The North East River (North East, MD) is right at the top of the Chesapeake - with traffic about an hour and ten minutes from King of Prussia and often quicker.
Once on the bay there is good sailing, plenty of places to anchor out for the night, weekend or longer. The top of the bay more fresh than salt water which I suspect is easier on the gear and more pleasant for the kids to jump off and swim - no stinging nettles up this far.
Mooring is very reasonable, services and restaurants are usually close by.
What I enjoy most is having multiple destinations surrounding the area - I can daysail to beaches near Turkey Point, tie up for lunch near Charlestown, overnight on the Sassafras, Worton Creek, Still Pond, or sail to Rock Hall or Annapolis.

Ulladh 10-14-2011 12:10 PM

I will admit that the Chesapeake has many great destinations within an easy daysail.

The Delaware River and Bay is a more challenging sailing location; strong tidal current, shallows and commercial vessels above Reedy Point, steep chop and square waves Reedy Point to Cape May and few destinations for an easy daysail.

But some good locations for long daysails; Delaware City, Chesapeake City, Cohansey River, Maurice River, Cape May, Lewes, or round Ship John Light.

Essington to Delaware City on a 20ft boat with the tide is about 4hrs, and another 2hrs or 3 hrs to Chesapeake City. Delaware City to the Cohansey is about 5 or 6 hrs, then another 6 to 8 hours to Cape May or a long 10 or 12 hr day to Lewes.

We also have the option of a long day trip into the Upper Chesapeake Bay with a stop in the canal at Chesapeake City.

Delaware River and Bay sailing just requires advanced planning.

Dfok 10-14-2011 12:19 PM

Fortunate we are to have some options!

Tim R. 10-14-2011 01:05 PM

I wish I could help you Jim. I spent many years windsurfing on Nockamixon and at PV lake. I grew up in Ambler.

A few weeks ago you could have slipped your boat in my brother's house.

I also did a lot of windsurfing at Harvey Cedars and I remember it being a large bay that was about 1' deep.

I would go for upper chessy. Lots of possibilities there. Good cruising destinations that may get your wife more involved.

Aside from that...move to Maine like I did!

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