2002 DELMARVA Reports
Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
This class started like all other Delmarva circumnavigation classes that I have taught. On Friday morning, May 10th, we met and went over introductions to each other and to the boat. We followed with the course objectives and the safety issues: MOB, abandon ship, rules of the road, watchkeeping procedures, radio techniques, and reefing procedures. We got underway by 1500 and planned to stop for the night in Chesapeake City on the Chesapeake-Delaware canal.
We anchored for the night at Engineer's Cove, settled down
for dinner, a discussion of weather and navigational issues and turned in
for a good nights sleep.
Behind us to the Northwest we could see a wall of black clouds with lots of electrics. This looked like what the weather service predicted for later in the day so we watched the sky to see where it was moving. It soon became apparent that we were going to get more than previously expected and sooner than predicted, and the decision was made to run for the nearest safe harbor, which was Cape May on the north side of Delaware Bay entrance. The choppy bay waters were already taking a toll as we heard emergency calls on the radio from two power boats who had lost their engines heading the same way we were. The rain started again as we entered the channel, and by the time we were docked it was coming down hard with a wind that was already knocking down trees.
As we were eating dinner ashore that evening, lightning struck a pole just outside the restaurant putting most of Cape May into darkness. By Sunday morning, May 12th the winds abated, and the weather service predicted that a second front would follow in the evening but it was expected to be less violent than the previous one and it was moving north. We decided to go as we appeared to have a window and should be well south by the time the front came through that evening.
At 1600 on May 12th we were well offshore and heading south when we heard a Coast Guard warning of a violent storm with tornadoes and winds to 80 miles an hour coming off the DELMARVA coast. This was not predicted earlier and we only had time to reef sails before we were hit with 50 knot winds. We hove-to and for the next several hours were pushed due east by the storm. Finally the winds dropped to 30 to 35 knots and we began to make way again heading southeast on starboard tack. We tacked to port in an attempt to make some westing toward land but 20 degrees was the best course we could make which was not as good as the 170 degrees we were making on starboard tack, so we tacked back to starboard and continued south.
A later analysis of weather maps showed that the first Low had stalled over Pennsylvania then joined with a second Low and intensified into a significant storm by May 13th which put gale-force winds in our area. It remained essentially stationary and intensified by May 14th which continued to produce gale-force winds from the West in our area. For two days and two nights the wind blew from the west 25 to 35 with gusts to 45. With the sails reefed we could not make any westing and we moved steadily south and offshore.
We finally had a break in the wind on the afternoon of the third day and found ourselves well south of the Chesapeake and about 60 miles offshore. With the motor helping and as much sail as we could carry, we pushed on to Cape Henry, arriving at Little Creek about midnight where we tied up as the wind once again began to howl from the west. The rest of the cruise was anticlimactic. We motor sailed day and night up the Chesapeake to arrive back in Rock Hall on our eighth day. We were exhausted but knew that we had held our own against a strong Atlantic storm.
Captain Bill McClure