Enjoying a lovely layover in a charming and historic town.
Days 10 – 11, October 24 – 26
With the longest segment of the Jersey Shore (Atlantic Highlands to Atlantic City) behind us, we just had the short 38-mile segment from Atlantic City to Cape May ahead of us. Complete this, and we would be done with the most exposed part of our trip south. We had been watching the weather closely, and we though we had this one in the bag.
The forecast was for 20 – 25 with gusts to 30 out of the northwest, and generally flat seas. Although breezy, we liked it. Wind behind us and no significant waves to toss us around. And because of the short run, we could sleep in and get a leisurely start. This was nice, after our pre-sunrise departures of the last couple of days.
We cast off from Farley State Marina in Atlantic City at 1030 hrs, said goodbye to the Golden Nugget Casino, and headed out the inlet. The high-rise casinos along the beach made a big statement. The ferris wheel on the boardwalk was still on the weekday offseason. The stiff breeze gave us a nice kick in the transom as we headed out between the jetties. The outgoing tide was with us and the wind, and the water was flat, unlike the confused and choppy state the day before. Yet another beautiful clear fall day.
Once again, our plan was to stay in close along the shore as much as possible. Things looked good. There was just enough bump that we decided to run fast, like the day before, to keep the boat stable. Speed also helped because we wanted to get into the Cape May inlet on the outgoing tide, which would keep it more calm. The miles ticked away quickly and by shortly after noon we could see Cape May in the distance. A few miles out the chop began to get confused, but we were through it quickly and passed between the breakwaters easily. That was it for the Jersey Shore: done. We had been dealt a lucky draw.
We found our way in the channel with very shallow water close aboard on both sides. An early taste of the ICW to come. We continued over to Utches Marina, where we expected to fuel up and take a slip for the night. The approach to the entrance was not clear and very shallow, especially since we were near dead-low. We poked our nose into shallow water, but backed off without issue and with the help of a kind soul on the VHF, tucked in oh-so-close to the bulkhead and felt our way into the small and aging facility.
The folks at Utches were very kind and helpful. We were a little concerned about the slip setup, and after fueling ended up deciding to shift over to the nearby South Jersey Marina for our stay. The only disappointment was that when we backed into our large and substantial slip at South Jersey, we discovered a fuel pump right there! No need for a separate fuel dock stop.
Bruce got to work on the never-ending de-salting of the boat. I grabbed the leashes and set off with the pups. They had been short on nice walks in the last few days. It was time to make up for it. We headed into Cape May, about a mile to the south. It was a lovely walk through the old neighborhoods with mature trees, narrow sidewalks and small scale, simple homes. We found our way to the center of the shopping district , the Washington Street Mall. We enjoyed the streetscapes of victorian “gingerbread” cottages and the historic feel of the architecture and infrastructure. Like Atlantic Highlands, the off-season weekday was very quiet, peaceful and pleasant. A lovely day for an extended walk.
We really enjoyed our visit to Cape May. It has a deep history that it wears on its sleeve. The entire city is a National Historic Landmark — the only city in the country to have that designation. It is known as America’s oldest seaside resort, having become a popular destination with Philadelphians in the mid-18th century. By the 19th century it was considered America’s finest seaside resort. Devastated by a five-day-long fire in 1878, the town was largely rebuilt with uniformly Victorian homes, and is now the second largest collection of such homes in the U.S., behind San Francisco.
The second day of our visit Bruce and I left the pups aboard and took another lengthy tour through town. We visited Congress Hall, and were given a quick tour of the historic restored property by a very pleasant staff member. It is an impressive building, and worth the trip. We wandered up and down the residential neighborhoods, enjoying the lovingly restored and maintained Victorian homes and other architecture. We also stumbled across a perfect find for our trip: warm fuzzy bathrobes, which we hadn’t brought with us but found we very much needed!
We didn’t have a lot of boat needs, but the jam-packed grocery store was convenient on the way home, as was a liquor store for some wine and beer. Bruce even got a very nice haircut right around the corner from the marina. Ship shape!
As for dining, the guys at the marina steered us rather forcefully to the Lobster House Restaurant. I was skeptical. I’ll spare the details and just advise you: NO. Awful. (The only tidbit from that saga that I’ll underscore is that waitresses in sailor suits are never a good sign.) We ended up wandering down a back alley, lured by a large neon sign that said “BAR”. After our short-lived nightmare at the Lobster House, it seemed the perfect solution.
Mayers Tavern. It was great! Not just a cozy little bar, but excellent food and nice bartenders. A perfect Beard spot.
We had stayed an extra day in Cape May largely to explore the town. However, the weather was another reason, as our lay day (Thursday) had featured a brisk 15 – 25 knot northwest wind against an all-day flood tide, not a good recipe for a run up Delaware Bay. The next day, Friday, was not only a good forecast for running up the bay, but we also wanted to get inland to escape from the worst of a nasty nor’easter that was brewing and would be pounding the central Atlantic coastline on Friday night and Saturday.
Our goal was Chesapeake City on the C&D canal. We wanted to get there early to make sure we had a secure spot. They do not take reservations at the city dock. That meant another early start on Friday morning, which we were getting good at. The dogs and I went for our standard walk at O-dark-thirty, and were back to the boat by 0600. Back at the boat, Bruce had finished up pre-flight check. I put the oatmeal on, we fired up the power plant, and cast off under a rather spectacular first-light sky.
We picked our way slowly out the channel, avoiding the very skinny water along the edges, and found our way to the Cape May Canal. It was a pleasant ride along the canal, just under four miles to the Delaware Bay, where the Lewes-Cape May ferries were fired up and ready to work for the day.