Chesapeake Bay

Melvyn Brown
Wed 27 Oct 2010 21:59

38: 57.70N 76: 28.93W


Another early start setting out from our shallow (but free!) berth in the marina eight miles into the Delaware & Chesapeake Canal.


In the mid-17th century Augustine Herman, a Dutch envoy and mapmaker, observed that two great bodies of water, the Delaware River and Chesapeake Bay, were separated only by a narrow strip of land.  Herman proposed that a waterway be built to connect the two. The canal would reduce, by nearly 300 miles (500 km), the water routes between Philalephia and Baltimore.  More than a century passed, however, before any action was taken. The issue of constructing the waterway was raised again in 1788 by regional business leaders.  In 1802 the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company was incorporated.  More surveys followed, and in 1804 construction of the canal began but the project was halted two years later for lack of funds.  The canal company was reorganized in 1822, and new surveys determined that more than $2 million in capital was needed to resume construction.  Eventually the Commonweath of Pennsylvania purchased $100,000 in stock, the State of Maryland  $50,000 and Delaware $25,000. The federal government's investment was $450,000, with the remainder subscribed by the public.


Canal construction resumed in April 1824, and in several years some 2,600 men were digging and hauling dirt from the ditch.  Laborers toiled with pick and shovel at the immense construction task, working for an average daily wage of 75 cents. The swampy marshlands along the canal's planned route proved a great impediment to progress as workers continuously battled slides along the soft slopes of the "ditch" being cut. It was 1829 before the C&D Canal Company could, at last, announce the waterway "open for business."  The near $2.5 million construction cost made it one of the most expensive canal projects of its time.


…and for the first hour it was as if all that effort and cost was exclusively for our benefit as we didn’t see another vessel, and only one other in the second hour. 


The canal is tree lined and the autumn colours were stunning, unfortunately the weather was very overcast and there were heavy rain storms.  You have to motor in the Canal and although Chesapeake Bay offered the possibility of incresing our speed by putting up some sail, the wind was in the wrong direction (again) and it was a slow, slow journey to Eastport where the boat was scheduled to be taken out of the water the following day.

The Bay is a huge body of water and has some very expensive real estate along its shore.  Some of the houses were on an incline with a private jetty or boathouse at the water’s edge and it occurred to me you would need a golf buggy to get down to the boat.  We had become rather used to mile upon mile of these magnificent houses when, on the opposite shore, we came upon a gap in the wooded shoreline and…well….we weren’t sure what exactly.  We got the binocculars out and could only conclude it was a holiday home development of about 100 properties – but it certainly stood out, and for all the wrong reasons.  It was really ugly, but I suppose no worse than coming over the crest of a hill on Dorset’s beautiful coastline only to find a caravan park laid out in seried rows below.  Perhaps you can see what we mean from the photograph below.




There wasn’t a lot of traffic on the Bay – but those vessels we did meet were BIG!




It was a long day’s sail and we arrived in Eastport after dark.  Finding the Boat Yard’s floating dock amongst hundreds of yachts (worth millions of dollars) was pretty stressful, made worse by the fact Melv had run out of fags!!