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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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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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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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
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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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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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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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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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:
 

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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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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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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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Josh, if he doesn't reply soon, send a PM to JamesWilson, too. He's done it twice, I think, and fairly recent.
Thanks, Jim, and just for the record (if anyone is interested):

I have 3 Delmarva circumnavigations, 2 recent solo counterclockwise in my Pearson 28 in 2012 and 2013, and a 1993 clockwise in my then Pearson 26. I also sailed from the Potomac to Cape May and back solo via Cape Charles on the Pearson 28 in 2012, so I have been up or down the Delmarva coast a total of 5 times now, 4 solo and recent.

As a youngster, I sailed from Annapolis to Cape May and back on the inside route twice with the family, once in a Venture 24(my parents and three kids!) and once in an O'Day 27.

It is a great trip. I recommend it to all sailors.
 

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Definitely go counter clockwise. Never done a Delmarva but have done DE Bay more than I care to. IF you time it right you can ride the flood UP the DE Bay, and through the C/D canal and then catch the ebb down the Chesapeake! Did that on the delivery of my boat 2 years ago. IIRC we made 90+ miles under power in under 14 hours w/o pushing things.
 

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No circumnav experienc heree, but I'm getting to know the Delaware pretty well. Currents can be swift, and it will be a LONG day if you try to go against them. You'll zigzag backwards if you try to tack against both wind+current.

As a rule, going upriver on the Delaware, if you have the current with you in the river, you will have the current with you in the canal entrance and can continue westbound into the canal without waiting. Going the other direction, if you have the current with you eastbound in the canal, you often have to wait a several hours by Reedy Island for the current to turn favorable. And you may not make it to Lewes before it turns against you. As a general rule, you have 7 hours of favorable current going upriver, but only 5 hours favorable going downriver. If you think about how waves propagate up a channel, you'll be able to visualize this. Check the current tables for yourself to verify, but every time I look at them, these required delays seem to crop up.

The Delaware River currents, plus the tendency to have southerlies in the summer, is probably why most people do it counterclockwise.

One other observation - even since I was a child, whenever I was at the shore, be it in NJ, DE, MD, or VA, the breakers always seemed to push me gradually toward the north. I'd play in the water for an hour, and look up and see that I was 1/4 mile north from where I started. I don't know if this is the Gulf steam effect or something else, but it sure seemed like the prevailing ocean current was always to the north. Does this match up with what others have seen?
 

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Rick, I think that varies by day. When we were at the NJ shore this past summer, we found ourselves heading South some days. I think it has as much to do with the wind direction as anything. The prevailing southerlies would tend to push you north, but if you're there on a day when it's blowing from the north, I think you'll wind up being pushed south.
 

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As a rule, going upriver on the Delaware, if you have the current with you in the river, you will have the current with you in the canal entrance and can continue westbound into the canal without waiting. Going the other direction, if you have the current with you eastbound in the canal, you often have to wait a several hours by Reedy Island for the current to turn favorable. And you may not make it to Lewes before it turns against you. As a general rule, you have 7 hours of favorable current going upriver, but only 5 hours favorable going downriver.
I'm confused about what you are describing.

With just a little bit of timing I've had a decent boost from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the Delaware Bay Capes and from the Capes to the bridge. Are you talking about the river or the bay?

Coming in from offshore I often anchor behind the breakwater at Cape Henlopen for a nap and wait for slack before flood to head up the Delaware Bay. NW winds make heading up the Delaware a little more time sensitive. Maybe its an STW thing? You definitely have to keep boat speed up to keep the boost.
 

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I'm confused about what you are describing.

With just a little bit of timing I've had a decent boost from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the Delaware Bay Capes and from the Capes to the bridge. Are you talking about the river or the bay?... Maybe its an STW thing? You definitely have to keep boat speed up to keep the boost.
I am referring to the river, where it narrows north of they bay and the currents accelerate. The tide is basically a "wave" that propagates up the river. If you are going upriver, you're going in the same direction as that wave and you'll see favorable currents for a longer time (~7 hours). If you're going down river, you're going in the opposite direction from the wave, so you'll see the favorable current for a shorter time (~5 hours).

Greater hull speed always helps because you can minimize the effect of current by getting further before the current shifts to an unfavorable direction.
 

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My home port is Rehoboth Bay and Indian River Bay and inlet. Just a note that the old 35' high bridge at Indian River Inlet was taken down last year. It now has a new 45' high bridge. I don't know your air draft. The Indian River Marina is very new and has transient slips, floating docks, restaurant, showers etc.. No problem with water depth as it is just inside the inlet. Take the inlet on slack current or with flood current. I've never had any problem during those conditions. Also slack current lags behind the change of tide tables by about an hour. So if the tide table says change of tide is 9:00 at the bridge or Coast Guard Station, then plan on slack current at around 10:00. Outgoing current sets up some standing waves at the mouth that can give you a pucker factor if you haven't done them before, and never do out going current with an onshore wind.
I am also a big fan of Lewes, DE which is accessed through the Roosevelt Inlet (no bridge). That inlet is very nice in almost all conditions. Lewes also has a city dock and transient slips that are brand new. Lewes is a very friendly family oriented small town with nice shops and restaurants and with a nice beach.
I fish a lot in the Delaware Bay and I would go up the bay with the tide and wind. If you ever do get caught in a tide against wind chop in the Delaware Bay, get out of the main channel and go along the west coast a few miles out. The current isn't nearly as bad. Look at your chart for depths. There are a few landing points on the west coast of the Delaware Bay. One north of Lewes is Cedar Creek/Mispillion River. The next further north is Bowers Beach. They are dredging that river now, but that river has a lot of current. Just some bailout points if you ever need them. By the end of May the prevailing wind is starting to come from the south or southeast. Also, along the Maryland and Delaware beaches to about 15 miles out, incoming tide goes north up the coast and out going tide goes south down the coast. Its about 1/2 to a 1 knot depending on Moon phase, so its worth planning to have in your favor. Have a great trip. Its a trip I really would like to do one day, but with a Helms 25, I would really have to have the time to plan around weather windows.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks for the great details on currents am tides. I need to sit down and lay out a precise plan. All the tide entry exit planning gives me something else to think about.

Josh
 

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Thanks for the great details on currents am tides. I need to sit down and lay out a precise plan. All the tide entry exit planning gives me something else to think about.

Josh
If you want a second opinion on your calculations, post your itinerary with dates and approximate times and I would be glad to work out the tides and currents with you in the thread using Eldridge's and other references...
 
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