The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal
Phil May and Andrea Twigg
Thu 25 Jul 2013 23:37
We only spent a day in Annapolis because we want to get up to Maine by 18th August. We will be going more slowly on the way back down and we can do our sightseeing then.
The next leg was up to the top end of the Chesapeake bay, through the C&D canal and then back down the Delaware river, around Cape May and up to New York.
You have to time your passage through the C&D canal because the canal and the Delaware river beyond it both have strong tidal currents. We decided to spend the night anchored in the Bohemia River, which is a large bay near the start of the canal. There was one other boat (“Catherine”) in the bay, but plenty of room so we anchored a few hundred metres away from them.
During the night there was a thunderstorm, the wind reversed, Anastasia dragged her anchor. She could have dragged for literally half a mile without any problem if she hadn’t made a beeline for Catherine and run into her. We were woken at 2am by the thud as our stern hit their bowsprit.
I dashed up and started the engines to try and get away before any damage was done. In my haste I managed to foul their anchor snubber line in our starboard propellor so then there was no separating the two boats. We inserted fenders and scratched our heads as to what to do next. Catherine’s anchor was still firmly rooted and so both boats were now hanging off Anastasia’s prop shaft. The storm had abated but I didn’t want to leave it until morning in case another squall hit us.
The first step was to dive down and see how to untangle the mess. It was dark, and the water in Chesapeake bay is an opaque green anyway, so I was having to do everything by feel. I remember thinking how pleasantly warm the water was, after struggling with the fenders in the cold rain and wind. I immediately discovered that the prop had not only grabbed Catherine’s snubber but taken up three turns of the anchor chain as well. There was no untangling this without taking the load off the anchor chain first.
Our first though was to deploy another anchor to take the strain off, but that would have taken a lot of time and effort in the dark. We tried towing the boats upwind with the tender, but controlling the tender was too difficult without any steerage way. Finally I realized that all we needed was to fit a longer snubber on the original chain and winch it in to relive the strain on the prop shaft (which is obvious now, but it is hard to think clearly in a panic).
I swam out, tied another line on Catherine’s anchor chain and we pulled it in. With the strain off the prop shaft I could unwrap the tangle. Then we released the second snubber so Anastasia drifted free, pulled up our anchor and motored a long way away from Catherine to re-anchor.
Both boats suffered remarkably little damage. Anastasia has a bent rail and a chip out of the gelcoat. Catherine has a bent anchor support. Even so, Catherine’s owners were remarkably understanding about being woken up by some random Brits crashing into their boat in the middle of the night.
Next morning we set off along the canal at slack water, and were pushed through by a 3 knot current. The current was with us through the canal and most of the way down the Delaware. We had to motor against it for the last two hours as we approached Cape May.
The six road bridges along the C&D canal
The lighthouse at Cape May