This is a little “out of area” and comes from a time I lived near the canal but it just might temp you to take a trip down to the C&D Canal, linking the Delaware Bay with the Chesapeake Bay
I find that three of the great things about living in this area are, looking at scenery, meeting new people and watching boats. One of my all-time favorite places to combine all three activities is the public dock in Chesapeake City. My wife, Pat and I, will often drop by the dock after work just to see what’s happening.
The Chesapeake City Dock, located on the C & D Canal, is a crossroads of sorts. Every spring and fall the annual migration of boats occurs. Starting around the end of August and beginning of September, the first southbound boats start showing up. These folks can come from areas like Nova Scotia, Maine, and the Great Lakes.
They stop at the dock after making the run down the New Jersey coast and up Delaware Bay. They are headed south, some to winter in Florida, and others in the Bahamas. A smaller percentage is headed for further ports of call, Bermuda, then the Caribbean and, perhaps, the start of a circumnavigation.
In the spring, the flow reverses; boaters who have spent the winter in warmer climes are interested in moving north, out of hurricane territory. I have a friend, Tom, who lives with his family on a motorsailer. He has lived aboard long enough to have raised two daughters to college age. Those daughters had never lived ashore until heading off to college.
Tom will head up from the Bahamas, through the C & D and then up to his summer cruising ground. It may be Maine or maybe just as far as Narragansett Bay. It’s always fun to see if we can meet him when he comes through. We’ve met many other cruisers and made friends with them during their short stays at the dock.
In addition to the stream of recreational boats, there are always the big guys to look at. Freighters, car carriers, barges, tug boats and the like are to be seen going east or west in the canal, right past my seat there on the dock.
We like to say we’re ecumenical; we talk to sailors and power boaters alike. It’s always interesting to hear where they’re from and where they’re bound. Another favorite topic, of course, is their boat. It doesn’t take much to get a boater talking about his boat.
The dock area, itself, is a great place to be. If looking at boats and talking to people becomes too hot and thirsty, there is always the Canal Creamery at hand for a cooling ice cream cone or soft drink. For serious dehydration and starvation, it is just a short walk to the Bayard House for some top-notch sustenance.
The dock is also the ideal place to watch the goings on at the Chesapeake Inn docks, just south of the city dock. You can watch the antics of the muscle boat folks as they dock to the jumping music coming from the Inn. If you’d like to dine there or just stop for a drink, it’s a short walk around the corner.
There are no grocery stores within walking distance, so we’ll often offer to take the cruisers out to pick up supplies and provisions. We’ve had folks befriend us at other docks and marinas so this is just our way of reciprocating. We’ll usually take a handful of books and magazines along and pass them out. By this stage of the journey, either north or south, fresh reading material is hard to come by.
There are more amenities at the dock, too. A small bandstand is the scene of numerous free summer concerts. Restrooms are close by and there is usually parking to be found within a short distance. It does get crowded on nice weekdays and weekends, however.
All this prose came about as a result of my recent visit to the dock. I hadn’t been there since winter, cold weather and ice arrived. I can report that the dock is in excellent, if empty, shape and the ice is almost gone. The park benches are all in good repair and waiting for people to come sit on them.
There were only two boats in the basin the day I visited, a powerboat tied up just west of the Inn and a lonely sailboat in the middle of the basin. We have heard several stories about this boat. One of which is that it sank and the current owner bought it for a buck and restored it. Other stories say it has also since sunk and been raised. Either way. It looks lonely yet pretty, sitting out there waiting for the ice to leave and spring to get here.
This year, I’ll be taking my new handheld VHF radio out to listen to the conversations out on the water. (WARNING: it is illegal to use your VHF from shore, so just listen!)
Pat and I are both anxious for the weather to warm up and for friends, met and un-met, to start their journeys through our area once again. Stop by some evening and join us. Oh yes, that third park bench from the canal end of the dock is MINE!