Nick and I were so excited last month to finally bring our sailboat down to its marina home. After making the nearly three hour drive from D.C. to New Jersey more than a dozen times in the past 6 months, we were happy to hear that the dealer’s list of boat projects were finally done and we got the green light to bring Houd Vast home.
That being said, I was a little sentimental when we pulled out of the marina that last morning, the place where our sailboat dreams became a reality.
We were very lucky in that our dealer offered delivery to our home port as part of our purchase, so we made the three-day trip down to the Chesapeake Bay with a captain, Gary, which was especially helpful since it was our first overnight trip and we were navigating narrow, busy commercial shipping channels and bridges.
Coordinating travel for the trip was the most challenging aspect since we are a one-car family – the trip involved trains, taxis, boats and a good friend, who picked us up after we dropped off our car at our home marina the weekend before we left. That allowed us to take a train and taxi to Philadelphia to get to the boat.
We set off on Day 1 bright and early at 6 a.m. since our boat has a 5-foot draft and we can only get in and out of the dealer’s marina during high tide. Since speed was critical (we wanted to clear the Delaware River by low tide), we motored the entire day and the three of us took one-hour turns at the helm.
Our captain, Gary, has been sailing for decades and was very familiar with our boat, so we spent the hours on the water asking him question after question. He was incredibly knowledgeable and happy to share advice and tips with us. I can’t say enough great things about Gary; I was initially concerned about spending three days in tight quarters with a stranger, but at the end of the trip we hugged, and I was sad to see him go back home!
Our total height is 55 feet, and they don’t open bridges if you have even a few inches of clearance, so passing underneath our first bridge made me hold my breath.
By early afternoon, we were battling a strong 2 knot current in the river (which isn’t helpful when your sailboat only goes 6 knots at full speed), but we finally made it out of the Delaware River and into the C&D Canal, a very narrow 15 mile long shipping channel. We motored through most of the channel before calling it a day (a long 12 hours after we started) and pulled in for the night to the Chesapeake Inn & Marina in Chesapeake Beach, Md.
We narrowly made it through the channel without running into any large cargo ships; we were in our marina for less than 30 minutes when a massive container ship came through the channel.
The following morning, we pulled out of the marina at 6:30 a.m. and started Day 2 toward Annapolis, Md. (one of my favorite places to visit). The Delaware River and C&D Canal are both very narrow, and I was so happy to finally make our way into the wide open Chesapeake Bay (nothing but water for miles!).
We motored for the next few hours until the massive Bay Bridge came into sight in the far distance. Finally, about two hours later we made our way underneath the bridge. Since we had good winds we were able to put up the sails and sail the rest of the way into Annapolis. While I spend a lot of time at the helm at sea (while Nick trims the sails), Nick does all of our close-quarters maneuvering, but since I took the last turn at the wheel, Gary expertly guided me into the Annapolis Harbor and our first stop at a fuel dock (my knees were shaking so badly, I have no clue how I stayed standing). I was so happy to turn the boat back over to Nick for docking in the city marina.
Since it was early in the season and midweek, we were able to secure a slip in Annapolis’s infamous Ego Alley, which is at the center of the city’s downtown waterfront. Ego Alley got its name because there is often a steady parade of expensive yachts coming into and out of the harbor before the hundreds of bystanders and nearby restaurant-goers.
The docking area is very touristy and busy, and we’ll likely never make our way into a slip there again, but it was so much fun for one night.
On our third and final day, we woke to very light winds, so we motored the final two hour leg of our trip down to our marina with a little stop along the way to practice using our anchor windless (yay for not having to physically let-out and heave-up 100 feet of chain).
It was great to have Gary there with us at our home marina to set up all six of our permanent lines in our slip (when we leave the marina the lines stay there) and ensure our boat is securely held in place while we are away.
It was such a fun three days, and Nick and I were able to learn so much more about our boat, which is a great thing since we are officially on our own now! Since the trip, we’ve really enjoyed having the boat so close to home – we can even head out for the day with very little advance planning.