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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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Old 01-27-2014
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Delmarva Circumnavigation

I'm considering/planning a late May or early June circumnavigation of the Delmarva on our Catalina 27 with the spouse and two little ones (will be 4 years old and 2 years old) as our big family vacation. The key is its a vacation not a sailing trip with a goal.

The rough plan is:

10-14 days, 360nm-400nm
Clockwise, starting and ending in Baltimore
Would like to stop and see the sights as much as possible Chincoteauge, Cape May, Cape Charles among others
Would like to avoid overnight passages if possible.
Would like a few "down" days seeing sights or relaxing on a beach somewhere

The 130nm Atlantic leg from Cape Henlopen around Cape Charles is the portion that worries me the most. From what I've read of other trips around Delmarva, once you leave Cape Henlopen or Indian River you are committed as there are not real bail out options in bad weather. It sounds like most inlets along that stretch are hard to get into even in good weather.

Lots of questions. What are the prevailing wind directions (worried about the lee shore...)? What is a good weather window? What are solid criteria for a good weather window (average windspeed, gusts, average wave height) for the Atlantic stretch? What are the bail out options?


My wife and I have sailed for the last 6 years and have about 1000nm in the Chesapeake since buying our Cat 27 about 2 years ago. We regularly overnight with our kids on weekends and long weekends in the summer. I'm also ASA certified up through ASA 104. Thought the Delmarva might make a nice trip.

Thoughts? Other issues? Looking for advice and feedback. If we need to prep in other ways such as a night hop or two, I'd like to that in advance.

Josh
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Old 01-27-2014
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Re: Delmarva Circumnavigation

Great trip. The first time I did that (7 times, now) it was just me and my 8 year old daughter. Fantastic.

Yes, it is a really bad idea to begin any coastal passage in weather sufficient that you might have to bail out. However, there is at least one nearly all weather entrance for a boat you size; Chincoteague. I've entered when there was a 12-foot on-shore swell running. It does not break, like Ocean City can. Do NOT be put off by the fact that the charts show the approach as variable; there is a large CG station in Chincoteague and a commercial fishing fleet (big draggers); they keep it well marked. That said, Ocean City and Wachapreague can be casual if the weather is not on-shore and your draft not too great.

Read my blog, searching Delmarva and Trip Reports. I think you will see that we've had many trips just as you describe. Never an over night, breaks a the ocean here and there (Chincoteague is great for that).



Sail Delmarva: Trip Report - 2010 Delmarva Circumnavigation
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Re: Delmarva Circumnavigation

PDQ

Thanks for the advice. I will probably have more questions after I digest all of the information. Great blog by the way! I might be interested in eventually buying a copy of the latest edition printed guide if they are available.

Josh
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Old 01-27-2014
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Re: Delmarva Circumnavigation

Josh, if he doesn't reply soon, send a PM to JamesWilson, too. He's done it twice, I think, and fairly recent. No slight meant against PDQ - he's an invaluable resource here - just getting you other points of view/additional info, too.

We bought our boat from a marina in Delataville, VA. I considered trying to sail her up the coast to NJ, but when I looked at the VA coastline, I wasn't thrilled with the options for overnights. I hadn't considered Chincoteague; it seemed a bad choice from the charts. If Chincoteague or Ocean City are a real possibility, then the trip seems much more do-able. The idea of overnighting in the ocean, when I really don't know what I'm doing, didn't sit well with me.

Please keep updating this thread! The idea of a circumnavigation, even one broken up over the course of several long weekends, seems appealing.
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Old 01-28-2014
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Re: Delmarva Circumnavigation

No slight taken. Different folks will have different experiences, often dependent on boat size, sometimes on temperament.

A large issue is draft. A low tide and without good local knowledge (the locals know where every lump is) Chincoteage is limited to 7 feet and would be more difficult at night; though lit, the markers wind and would be chancy in the dark. I wouldn't. Watchapreague is also 7 feet, but there is a difference; Watchaprueage is a straight easy chanel, but does break and would be a bad place to ground. Chincoteague does not brake and the shallow spots are far enough in to be far less dangerous.

The point is, when the draft approaches 6 feet, boaters need to watch the tide, and folks with big boats in poor weather, at night or at the wrong tide can have a bad experience. On a trip of 15 days, there is no reason to sail into danger.

It always seemed to take us 8-9 sailing days, stopping where we wanted and leaving enough time for the kids to enjoy beach life. To do it in 10 days means a few long days and rushing. I'd take a little longer, with kids. We always allow for several days in Tangier and Chincoteague.
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Re: Delmarva Circumnavigation

A subject near and dear to my heart.

I've been trying to get my finances, work schedule and home affairs to align so that I can do this.

You can definitely do this in a Catalina 27, just be diligent on your maintenance and inspect all key systems thoroughly before you depart.

I've read PDQ's articles and had extensive online conversations with James.
You don't have to make an overnight passage, but if you don't stop in Chincoteague, I don't see how you can avoid one.

My opinion (remember that I haven't done this yet), is that it's preferable to sail downwind on the Atlantic leg, so that you can relax and make better speed.

March/April/May are kind of on the "shoulder" where winds could be north or south, depending on how persistent winter and spring are. By June, winds should be predominantly southerly, so I'd be thinking about doing it counter-clockwise, so that I could ride a southerly all the way up the Atlantic coast instead of bashing upwind.

Bashing upwind inside the Chesapeake isn't as big a deal, because there are so many bail-out points. This is important for family comfort.

I'd like to hear what the experts have to say about this theory.
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Re: Delmarva Circumnavigation

Quote:
Originally Posted by engineer_sailor View Post

10-14 days, 360nm-400nm
Clockwise, starting and ending in Baltimore
Would like to stop and see the sights as much as possible Chincoteauge, Cape May, Cape Charles among others
Would like to avoid overnight passages if possible.
Would like a few "down" days seeing sights or relaxing on a beach somewhere

The 130nm Atlantic leg from Cape Henlopen around Cape Charles is the portion that worries me the most. From what I've read of other trips around Delmarva, once you leave Cape Henlopen or Indian River you are committed as there are not real bail out options in bad weather. It sounds like most inlets along that stretch are hard to get into even in good weather.

Lots of questions. What are the prevailing wind directions (worried about the lee shore...)? What is a good weather window? What are solid criteria for a good weather window (average windspeed, gusts, average wave height) for the Atlantic stretch? What are the bail out options?...

Thoughts? Other issues? Looking for advice and feedback. If we need to prep in other ways such as a night hop or two, I'd like to that in advance.

Josh
Yes, you should plan on a straight shot from the Delaware Bay to the Chesapeake Bay entrance, unless you have a multihull or shoal draft vessel. Almost all the cruising guides recommend this approach. Averaging 4 knots, it should take you about 36 hours. Yes, you will have to sail overnight. Ocean City, Maryland is a possible bail out point in good weather. You will likely see ship traffic at only three points: converging on the entrances to the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays and at Chincoteague Inlet (you will also see recreational boats close to the Ocean City and Indian River inlets). It is surprising how few vessels you will see off the Delmarva coast.

I would go counterclockwise instead of clockwise. You will have a faster passage up the Delaware Bay and through the C&D canal. I would spend some time in Cape May, N.J. for the sake of your wife and kids - great historic beach town with lots to do and see, and good restaurants and supplies. You are going a little early in the season for the predictable light Southerly summer winds. You could get anything in May. Get the Maptech paper Chartkit for Region 4: Chesapeake and Delaware Bays and the 2014 Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book. Prepare to motor 50-75% of the time. It is a fun trip and a good learning experience. Good luck! (Feel free to call me at eight zero four - seven four zero - six four six four if you have any questions.)

I have two threads on my recent Delmarva circumnavigations and coastal passages, and numerous videos on YouTube, that might help you. For example:

Last edited by jameswilson29; 01-28-2014 at 01:07 PM.
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Re: Delmarva Circumnavigation

Ocean City is a popular bail-out point, because folks know where it is in and because it is easy to find. It is probably also the most prone to bad tides and breaking in on-shore conditions. It is NOT a good choise. I've done all of these in a variety of conditions, and OC is generally the scariest and least pleasant.

It's funny how guide books become gosple. the CG has a big station in Chincoteague (including a buoy tender), a number of 12-foot draft draggers call it home, and yet the guides state with pomp and authority that the entrance is undependable. I've entered with a 12-foot swell with my 16 year old daughter driving (I was spotting markers), and it was easy--EVERY other Delmarva entrance was breaking heavily. I find the situation funny.

And yes, draft matters. But do remember that the tide is about 4-5 feet, so there is a lot of water at high tide.

I did run the inside pasage once (different boat). THAT is some shallow water, though sections are managable with very shoal draft if you watch the tide. Really, that is centerboard territory ad you will still sniff the bottom now and then. But beautiful country, nothing like it.
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Smile Here is the beautiful sailing that awaits you...

Beautiful sunrise sail off Ocean City, Md, with instrumental "Ain't No Stopping Us Now":

Solo spinnaker run in Atlantic off Cape Charles with dental musac:

Pounding into the Delaware chop:
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Re: Delmarva Circumnavigation

For some folks cruising is about sailing and long passages. For some it is about the places they visit. For some it is quiet coves.

For me, it depends to a very great extent on who is with me and what they want. Easy enough, because I like all of these.

Different styles.
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