As we pulled out of our slip in Cape May at 8:30 a.m., we felt completely physically and mentally exhausted. We drove our boat through the peaceful Cape May Canal at an easy 10 knots, and then we hit the open Bay, just on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The wind was pounding at around 15 knots, and the waves were 3-4 in my estimation. Nothing too scary, but also not exactly comfortable. Even up on the flybridge, we got splashed quite a bit, and so Ann decided to take cover inside and left me alone up top. I could have driven form inside, but this was my last day on the boat for a while, and I just love being up there, so I remained cold and wet and happy.
As we moved further North, the wind died down, and the waves came down to 1-2 feet, which was hardly noticeable. We reached the tranquil C&D Canal in 2 hours, and Ann rejoined me on the bridge. After we arrived at the no wake zone in the canal, we made lunch as we putt putted at an easy 6 knots. Then, we opened her up, caught a nice current, and did 25-26 knots into the Chesapeake.
We were so eager to get home, that I skipped the shipping channel (longer route, but no pots), and decided to cut across the Bay and deal with the crab pots. Dodging them from the flybridge is pretty easy, and we shaved 15 minutes off our trip.
|The last leg, from Cape May to Baltimore - finally!|
|Home sweet home - our permanent slip at Harbor East Marina|
I thought it might be interesting to reflect on our trip and some lessons learned about cruising. These are in no particular order. I will revisit these before our next big trip.
- Always have a backup plan, and a backup for that backup plan. In boating, it is impossible to predict the challenges that will come up. One day your anchor will get stuck. Another day, the generator will stop working, or one of the engines won't start. The most common delays will be due to weather. It is a good idea to study the marinas along the routes you will take and to know where you will seek shelter if weather hits. It's a lot easier to deal with an emergency situation if you already have a backup plan than to try to figure out what to do in the heat of the moment. As our trip progressed, we got better and better at writing down our backup plans, and even calling ahead to ask marinas if they could take our boat, and if they were willing to hold a spot for us in case we needed it. Many marinas were surprisingly cooperative and understanding as well as accommodating.
- Keep at least 2 days worth of food and water on the boat at all times. You cannot possibly predict when you will be stranded somewhere. If you have to take cover from weather, you may very well end up at anchor somewhere, and you do not want to run out of food or water. We were good on food, but we had a close call with water. Keep those tanks full and bring bottled water. A super idea Ann had was the 2 gallon cooler that we filled with fresh water from the hose each time we pulled into a new marina. Also, we got sick of eating out all the time, so we were glad we had purchased some cookware specifically for the boat and always had food that we could make. Don't let yourself run out of food. Whenever you are near a store with provisions, restock everything. Be proactive.
- If you can pump out the waste, do so. Don't delay just because you think you will be fine. It is not the most pleasant task, but you get used to it. This follows the same logic as food and water. If you get stuck somewhere, you do not want your waste tanks to be full. At a couple of points on our trip, we started rationing our flushes, and that's probably enough detail for my readers.
- Plan activities ahead of time. Traveling can be exhausting, and the last thing you will feel like doing after you arrive in a new port and get settled in, fuel up, pump out, fill water and wash the boat down, will be to then figure out what there is to do here. Ann was great about researching all of the interesting activities ahead of time. She even booked us some tours and had reservations in restaurants. This definitely enhanced the amount of fun we had and gave us something to look forward to on some of the longer and harder travel days. Of course, we were prepared to ditch our plans if the weather had other ideas, but it's great to have a default.
- Bring stuff to do on the boat. There is a lot of down time. Most days we only traveled 3-4 hours on the water. After cleaning the boat and other details, that left over 16 waking hours. Some places were very busy because we had water sports such as the dinghy or the paddle boards, and on shore activities. But, other times, especially when we were stranded, we had to keep ourselves busy. Even though it's a really big boat, it can feel cramped when 4 people are confined to the boat all day. We had Benny's video games, Netflix in most marinas, books, and my work from Hopkins and Harbor Labs, so we were able to keep busy. Make sure to bring laptops, iPads, etc. It's tempting to say that this is a nature vacation, and that you should enjoy the outdoors, but trust me, you will have plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors, and sometimes you will need to keep yourself from going crazy.
- Stay calm in crisis. That is easier said than done, but it's important to try to remember that. We had several situations on this trip that were quite serious. Whether it was deciding to leave NYC early because of weather (good decision), or to leave Boston in questionable weather (bad decision), we had lots of important decisions to make. Ann and I are a great team, and we were able to make these decisions together amicably and take the consequences together. It's important that all parties in a big decision that involves safety and whether the goals of the trip are met have ownership of the decision. No important decisions should be unilateral. Utilize whatever skills each one brings to the table. At one point, we were in the midst of a storm, in an unknown cove, having just broken off our mooring, and we had to figure out whether to dock at the private yacht club and how to deal with the remainder of the storm. I think the best thing that we did that night was remain calm. Ann and I were in crisis mode, but we did not yell or freak out or lose our composure. We considered our options deliberately, and then mutually agreed on what to do. Then we executed to the best of our ability. If you can stay calm, you can accomplish much more than if you let the situation get the best of you.
- Don't forget that the whole point is to have a good time. A boat trip is much more taxing than I realized. We are physically bruised all over. My back gave out early in the trip, and now I have an issue with my leg and can barely sit down. It is exhausting and physically draining. The good news is that being so active feels good at the end of the day. I found it important to remind myself that I was living the dream, and even if one or two days were not fun or enjoyable, the opportunity take a trip like this makes me the luckiest guy in the world. I pushed myself to take the dinghy out even when I did not feel like unstrapping it and performing the 10 or so steps required to get it up and running, not to mention putting it away which is even more work. Don't shy away from the work on a trip like this. Getting the paddleboard down from the flybridge and then putting it back up seems like a huge chore and a pain, but I resolved to always use it whenever we wanted to, and the memories will be of paddleboarding on peaceful rivers and beautiful open waters and not of putting the board away and tying it up afterwards.
Anyway, many of my friends and family sent me fantastic feedback about the blog. It was a huge part of the trip for me and occupied most of my evenings. I'm sure it will be a living memory of the trip for years to come, and for those of you who actually read what I wrote, thanks for taking the time, and I hope you found it interesting.