39 18.39 N 074 18.76 W
As much as we expected Cape May to be a madhouse on Memorial Day weekend, it exceeded our expectations. Going through the canal on the way in it was like driving in heavy traffic on the Long Island expressway. Worse. Unlike the expressway, the boats coming the other way threw up big wake waves. Tarwathie pitched and heaved. It was all I could do to control here. It was much harder on the occupants of the small boats all around us. I heard a constant stream of screams and giggles as bikini clad women in these small boats were tossed around and splashed with water.
At one point Libby panicked. We were about to pass under a 55 foot bridge near low tide when the actual clearance was 57 feet. We need 47 feet. Still we pitched and rolled so much that Libby glanced up, then in a very scared voice she said, "Dick! We're not going to make it under the bridge. Reverse!" It was too late to stop us anyhow and a second later we passed under the bridge OK. Poor Libby though. The scare was real. The best remedy for sailboats traveling under low bridges is don't look. Depth perception doesn't work looking straight up and you scare yourself needlessly.
We ran aground 4 times in less than an hour! That's by far a new record for us. First, in the canal. I moved over to the side trying to put some space between us and the other boats. That was a mistake. Bang we were aground. We were able to back out. Then, we pulled into a side creek to buy diesel fuel. I was worried about depth because the tide was low and still dropping lower. We ran aground again trying to back out of the fuel dock. Then, trying to exit that side creek we hit bottom and had to plow our way out scraping the bottom. 20 minutes after that, we grounded again when trying to anchor.
After all that, we just sat in the cockpit and watched the constant traffic of small boats returning at the end of the day. There were so many of them. The stream of boats didn't end until an hour after dark. We even spotted three boats with red running lights mounted on their starboard side! That is a boating error I never expected to see in a lifetime, yet here were three locals who did it.
Around sunset though, it became very peaceful in the harbor. We were anchored in front of the Coast Guard station. We could clearly hear the military band playing patriotic songs for their memorial day celebration. Mercifully, we couldn't hear the commandant's Memorial Day address. Who needs to hear such speeches anyhow, they're all the same. At sunset we watched the four Coast Guard cutters at their berths beside us. All four had a man at the stern witn and honor guard at full attention to strike the colors at the moment of sunset. The well executed military discipline was impressive. However, the playing of Taps over the base loudspeaker was preempted by the band inside the auditorium that played the Star Spangled Banner at that exact moment.
Today our plan was to leave around noon to pick up an afternoon wind. Instead at 0700 the harbor was calm, peaceful and there was almost zero traffic. We took advantage of that calm to leave early. We were able to sail out the Cape May Inlet seeing only one other boat. (I wrote before how that infamous inlet is where the country's least polite sport fishermen zoom by at full speed.)
Our reward is a lovely day out here at sea. The wind is gentle, yet enough to make us go 5 knots. The waves are very small. There is almost no commercial traffic, and the holiday revelers don't seem to be out fishing. Perhaps on this last day of the long weekend, they're home nursing hangovers.