Paul Fenn

Chase’n Grace from Annapolis to Block Island – Part 1

Chase n' Grace

I have to admit it and say I’ve never been very good at planning ahead. But lately, I’ve been worse than ever about coming up with a plan and sticking to it. So was the case when trying to lay out a plan for this year’s summer vacation. Here I was just a few days away from starting a 2 week vacation, and my wife and I were still batting around various ideas of where to go and what to do. Thankfully, an impromptu dinner-date with my friend and good Jeanneau dealer, Glenn Winter of Riverside Yachts, provided me with the solution of what to do and where to go. His idea surfaced somewhere close to the bottom of a good bottle of Pinot Noir when he suddenly said, “Why don’t you and Kim sail Chase’n Grace to New England for me? You could sail it up, cruise around for a while and when you’re done, Lynn and I will come up and get it.” Now this sounded like my kind of vacation! It’s a little bit of a slug to get up to New England from Annapolis but if the weather was good it could be a nice trip. And once there, cruising around to such places as Block Island, Cuttyhunk, Newport and Martha’s Vineyard would be nothing short of fantastic! And so as the last drops of vino were being drained from the bottle, I suddenly found myself with, believe it or not, a plan. My wife Kim and I would sail Chase’n Grace, a 2013 Jeanneau 53, to New England and after cruising around for a bit, we would leave the boat in Mystic, CT for Glenn to retrieve when he was ready.

The only real issue that came to mind was finding someone to join us for the actual trip north. My three kids, Will, Mollie and Graham were all away at summer camp in Vermont and while I was sure that my wife and I could handle the boat on our own, having a couple of extra people on board would help when it came to making the offshore passage from Cape May to Block Island. Luckily, my friend and fellow sailor, Matt Reed and his wife Jen responded favorably to the idea (despite the short notice) and before we knew it we were underway up the Chesapeake Bay along with Matt and Jen’s  two kids, 10-year-old Natalie and 9-year-old Mitch. It was unfortunate that Will, Mollie and Graham were missing out on this grand adventure but sometimes that’s just the way the anchor sets.

The Jeanneau 53 is part of Jeanneau's yacht series. It's big, strong and fast. The perfect boat to take offshore to New England with.
The Jeanneau 53 is part of Jeanneau’s yacht series. It’s big, strong and fast. The perfect boat to take offshore to New England.

Before I go to much further, I should say a few things about the boat itself. The Jeanneau 53 is a true yacht in every degree. It’s big, it’s heavy, it sails great; especially in heavy air, and is extremely elegant above and below decks. The sail plan consists of a furling mainsail, 130% genoa, and a cruising spinnaker. All the winches are electric, making it a piece of cake to trim in and out. In terms of creature comforts, Chase’n Grace carries plenty of water so a hot shower, even at sea is not a problem. She’s fitted with a generator too so there’s always plenty of juice to charge batteries, run the hot water heater and even run the air conditioner if need be. In short, she’s one comfortable cruising machine.

There are basically two approaches when heading north to New England from the Chesapeake Bay. The first is to put the pedal to the metal and just keep going day and night until you get to where you want to go. The second approach is to take your time and stop for the night before making the jump from Cape May offshore to Montauk Point at the tip of Long Island. Since we were in no real rush, we opted for the more leisurely approach.

We didn’t have a whole lot of wind so it was pretty much an all day motor trip up the Bay to the Elk River and the beginning of the C&D canal. The tide was with us however and it was a nice sunny day so despite there being no real wind in which to sail with, it was a delightful first day. The sun was just dropping over the horizon at about the same time we were dropping anchor in Chesapeake City located at the beginning of the C&D Canal.

Chesapeake City just off the C&D is a popular place to stay when moving north and south.
Chesapeake City just off the C&D is a popular place to stay when moving north and south.

Chesapeake City is a popular stop-over for cruisers transiting north and south through the canal. It’s also a popular party destination for small powerboats on weekends. The result is that there’s plenty of good places to eat and fun things to do here. Because we had just provisioned the boat with fresh food and plenty of good wine to drink (for the adults), and we wanted to get an early start in the morning, we elected to eat on board and enjoy each other’s company and Chesapeake City swinging on the hook.That and we were entirely to lazy to launch the dinghy, mount the outboard, and go to shore. It was a good decision!

The next morning Matt and I reluctantly arose early. With sleep still in our eyes, we cranked up the engine, hauled the anchor and continued our journey east though the canal. Getting underway early is always helped by good weather and several cups of good coffee. Thankfully we had both and with a little help from a few warm blueberry muffins, we were feeling good and underway in good style!

The Reed family (Jen, Natalie, Matt and Mitch) underway through the C&D Canal
The Reed family (Jen, Natalie, Matt and Mitch) underway through the C&D Canal aboard the Jeanneau 53, Chase’n Grace.

Once out of the C&D, we made a sharp right turn onto the Delaware Bay and headed south towards the mouth and Cape May. Cruising down the Delaware isn’t exactly like cruising through the Caribbean or New England but still, when the sun is high in the sky, the air warm as toast and you’re aboard a 50 foot yacht… things could be worse. But then again, it’s just about 60 nautical miles from the C&D to Cape May which makes for a long day when you’re making just 6 or 7 knots (like 9-10 hours long!).  So like a long car ride down I95, we played cards, had long philosophical discussions, listened to good music like “Knee Deep” by The  Zac Brown Band, and enjoyed each other’s company. We even sailed though a pod of gray Bottle-Neck Dolphins. Who would have thunk!

Before we knew it, along about three o’clock, we found ourselves rounding the corner of Cape May and heading into the channel. We had called ahead and made reservations to stay on the dock at South Jersey Marina. South Jersey Marina turned out to be a great place to tie up for the night. Here we picked up fresh water and fuel and while we elected to eat dinner aboard rather than venturing out for dinner, we couldn’t resist heading into town for a little ice cream before turning in.

Tomorrow, providing the weather forecast holds true, we will make the jump offshore to Block Island, about a 35 hour trip. It will be great I am sure.

The story continues, read more!

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