A calm anchorage, great beaches, places for trash and easy access to water was a no brainer. Although we felt a pressure to move on, to see other sites and develop an itinerary, we also realized that we didn’t have to do any of that. We found a place that we liked, and it was okay to stay a little longer.
As night fell across the anchorage, the sea of stars that hung about Caprica was slowly enveloped by thick cloud cover dotting our hatches with speckles of rain. By midnight, our weather window north blew the window in with thunderstorms, wind and torrential rain. Caprica tugged at her snubber and anchor chain, and I felt the stress of the lee shore just a few hundred feet from our stern. Using our high definition radar, I dialed in the surroundings locating the rocky beach and our neighbors as pulsing red blobs. Tuning the gain, I filtered out the thousands of green and blue dots that filled the radar screen with interference until we had a perfect picture of our surroundings. From the warmth of my dry cabin, I was able to stand anchor watch through the night watching the radar and making sure that other boats weren’t dragging down on us.
Alison reluctantly disappeared below with the promise of returning in the pre-dawn hours, but we both knew that sleep now meant energy for when Eleanor was awake later. I comfortably settled in for a long night as conditions freshened and the wind picked up. The nearly full moon rose in a low arc across the sky, and a fishing vessel appeared off our starboard bow. The AIS CPA proximity alarm chimed, letting me know that a boat was within an exclusion zone that I set. The boat was 3 miles out and would pass dangerously close to Caprica. We were sailing close to the wind, and only able to vector to port by 10 degrees. I scrolled through the AIS data and called the fishing vessel expecting no response.
“It’s ugly,” Alison said as she handed me the phone. It was the next morning, and we were both anxious to see if we blew the weather window or made the right call. An extensive line of storms developed to our west, and the weather models moved in line with our initial predictions. The sector we would have been in out in the Atlantic was going to get hammered by multiple squall lines, 40 knots of wind, massive amounts of lightning and torrential rain.
The currents in the Delaware Bay are swift, relentless and can be dangerous. The chart shows the Delaware to be shallow, strewn with shoals and divided by a series of heavily-trafficked shipping lanes with few places to tuck into. Within an hour of exiting the C & D Canal, according to the forecast, the Delaware’s power would have turned against Caprica, leaving us to cover approximately 60 nautical miles with a current on our bow. We’d be facing a long day and even longer night with Alison at the radar calling out positions for crab pot floats that can easily disable a vessel and inbound freighters that have little room to maneuver.
Between NOAA weather radio warning bursts and frantic calls to the Coast Guard, we listened to horror stories and tragedies unfold on the water as we held a steady course towards sheltered waters.
For days, we have watched a forecasted low-pressure system form off of the mid-Atlantic region between the successive high-pressure ridges. With the low-pressure system, we saw a prediction for 20 to 30 knots of wind driving out of the south and our opportunity to catapult from the Delaware Bay north to the Cape Cod region. Pushing our departure date back a day put our ability to be in position for the low-pressure system in jeopardy.
I kept thinking, something is going to break, and I knew that this beating was taking a toll on the crew. The sign that reinforced that thought was the 3 helicopters making large swoops over the area.
In Rockland before departure, we watched heavy fog hang across the harbor. Visibility was just under a mile with the occasional encroachment to a few hundred feet. We hauled in 160 feet of chain and our number 1 anchor, hoisted sail and cruised out of the harbor. The fog enveloped us, and we watched pensively as a large cursing catamaran a few boat lengths off of our bow then the land to starboard vanished.