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Moving fast down the Delaware River

4:30AM. I woke up in the same clothes I’d worn the day before, minus my waterproof shell layer. With temps like these, I’d be wearing this ensemble of fleece-lined running tights, hoodie, fisherman’s sweater, wool socks, hat, and mittens for the rest of the trip. We were going to be one ripe boat by the end!

As Gerry prepared the engine and deck for a speedy departure, Brian and I went forward to the bow to take in the anchor. The previous evening, as we were letting out all of the chain, we remembered that we’d never actually practiced using the windlass (mechanism that brings the anchor up from the bottom), as we’d intended to do earlier in the day. In sailing, as in life, it’s a good rule of thumb to avoid using a piece of potentially dangerous, vital equipment for the first time when you’re in a river with a strong current, standing on a slick deck, in pitch dark. This here is some classic foreshadowing.

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Ideal windlass (photo taken from our boat’s Yacht World listing)

We paid for that mistake with a pretty stressful anchor-wrangling just before our 5AM departure. As we fed the rode (rope/chain that attach the anchor to the boat) around the top spool of the windlass, we discovered that the rope part didn’t want to catch, so we pulled in in by hand. Once we got to the chain part, we discovered that moving it over to the gypsy (cog-like part of the windlass where the chain catches to be pulled in) and getting it to catch involved two people pulling and getting fingers and hands precariously close to the dangerous, chain-grinding apparatus. Fearing for our fingers, Brian and I worked together to haul the damn thing up by hand, slipping and sliding all over the deck in the process (did I mention that it was still raining?) When we finally got the anchor back on the rollers, we waited one beat too long before securing the anchor and watched it slip back over the edge, taking all of the rode we’d just hauled up with it. Giant facepalm.

In this perilous situation, I found one more reason to be happy we had Gerry aboard. Without him, only one of us would have been able to deal with the mess with the anchor on the bow, while the other steered to prevent the boat from being carried by the current into the rocks. Gerry kept the boat safe as we pulled with all our might to haul the anchor and chain up from the water, this time securing the anchor the second it hit the roller, because there was no way in hell we’d be going through all of that for a third time that morning.

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Captain Gerry and Brian

Finally underway, the rain stopped and we were treated to a very pretty sunrise. With the current moving in our favor, we unfurled the genoa (front sail) and made great time motorsailing down the Delaware River in light wind going 7-8 knots. Happy to have sunny weather at last, we took turns at the helm, filling our non-steering time with reading and stretching out for sunny naps in the cockpit.

After a brief pause during which we determined there was absolutely no way we could fit under the bridge of the Cape May canal at high tide, we rounded the notoriously hairy turn at Cape May point. All of a sudden, I looked to my left and saw a school of dolphins right next to the boat, swimming and jumping and racing alongside us! It was the first time I’d ever sailed with dolphins, and I was so excited; I started shrieking and waving my arms from my spot on the bow (Gerry thought I was yelping because I was in trouble). I was so overwhelmed, I forgot to take photos.

The dolphins must have wanted to play with us because they sensed we were having a ball. With all three sails fully unfurled on a broad reach, steady wind from the south, and not a cloud in the sky, we settled in for an unexpectedly incredible day of sailing. For a long stretch we were going 10-11 knots (we were told that our boat generally does 8 on a good day) and having a ball. We decided to push on by our original destination of Stone Harbor and make it all the way to Atlantic City, where we arrived about a half hour before the sun began to set.

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Rum runner toast in Atlantic City

Not your typical marina scene

Tucked into a marina run by the Golden Nugget Casino, we were surrounded by tall hotels and flashing lights. Gerry insisted that we belly up to the casino bar for rum runners, and we happily complied with the captain’s orders, once we’d had a chance to clean up in the excellent marina shower facilities. With strong drinks and a little dinner in our bellies, we fell asleep to the sounds of crooning lounge singers and fireworks, surrounded by the fully-lit Atlantic City skyline.

Next up: Day 3: Atlantic City to New York City