Manasquan, NJ to Cape May, NJ

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A bit spooked by our washing machine ride a few days earlier, we decided to take corrective action as the wind began to come up and waves started building.  Up ahead we could see the Barnegat Light.  We’d talked about going into Barnegat Bay many times but never really had a reason.  Now with building waves we decided to see if the Barnegat Bay entrance lived up to its reputation for snaring boats on shifting shoals marked by buoys that always being relocated by the Coast Guard are not shown on charts.  Entering on a bright sunny day in non-storm conditions made it easy to follow the well-marked twisting channel.  It didn’t take long to reach the ICW and start south in sheltered water.

Barganet Light

Google Earth view of Barganet Bay and some of the shoals

Looking east toward the Atlantic the ICW shore is mostly barren of vegetation squeezed out by high density beach homes stacked shoulder to shoulder interrupted occasionally by concrete streets neatly trimmed with power poles sprouting cross beams holding spider webs of wires overhead.  In contrast the view to the west looked off over marshland bisected on occasion by feeder roads heading to the beach.  Every now and then where the roads cross the ICW housing from the east side oozes back across the bridges and begins filling in the marsh on the west side.  As the tide went down we lost interest in the shore and concentrated on the depth sounder dodging signs of shallow water in the channel.

Manasquan to Ventnor City

Atlantic City overwhelmed the ICW.  For a while we ran in a narrow canal tracing its way behind a sewage treatment plant, power plant, and wind turbines. City utilities gave way to an ongoing struggle between low end housing being squeezed out by high end houses.  Reaching Ventnor City at the southern edge of Atlantic City the marsh began to reappear.  That’s where we found our anchorage for the evening sandwiched between civilization to the east and marsh to the west.

Google Earth showing anchorage

View looking north from anchorage

There was no wind.  Not a boat passed.  Odyssey didn’t drift on her anchor.  A glance at the depth sounder brought assurance we were not aground in the stillness and steadiness of the boat. The morning brought fog—the tempting kind leaving just enough visibility to suggest we could see the next mark.  We countered by calling ahead to Utch’s Marina in Cape May and getting a reservation for two nights.  Now we were covered for a late arrival.  More importantly we’d be tucked in for the next two days as high NW winds are predicted to blow down Delaware Bay against an incoming tide.  Around 10 AM the fog disappeared and we were on our way.

The Ocean City bascule bridge tender said the ICW just beyond the bridge would be blocked all day by the crane and barges building a new high-rise bridge.  We could either go back to the inlet and go offshore, or divert three miles inland to another bascule bridge.  We talked a bit further and learned that a few boats had managed to work their way under the bridge approach and squeeze between the new bridge supports and barges.  As he reluctantly gave up this information he stressed we were traveling at our own risk.

Alternate route around construction

Ruth shifted her hands from the wheel to steer using just the throttles.  I went forward to call clearances.  We cleared the bridge with six inches to spare vertically  as we snaked Odyssey through bridge supports and around barges.  Construction workers running short very powerfully powered barges with huge props judging from the underwater currents made the passage a bit more challenging.

Low tide on the NJ ICW is not fun.  Two or three times we felt a slight slowing and rise as we touched at a low spot and we only draw three feet.  Taking a chance we’d throttle up a bit and turn the wheel toward what we hoped was deeper water.  It worked but was quite tiring.

One of the many Cape May painted ladies

Late in the afternoon we arrived at Cape May, took on fuel and settled in to enjoy the city.  Our folding bikes got a work out as we poked around Cape May while waiting for the wind to shift.

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