In the morning the small drawbridge opened. I motored through into the beautiful canal to Rehoboth Bay. There was another drawbridge further down the canal for a road leading into Rehoboth. The bridge tender was delighted to see me. Not many sailboats come through the canal. - Washington Tuttle
I get up just after daylight for an early morning walk through Lewes. The weather is calm and clear, no sign of the rain and wind that had been forecast. I walk back to the town dock to see a large catamaran coming down the canal. I slide Spartina up the dock a ways to make room for them, then help them tie up. I ask about the bad weather, they tell me it had slid north of us during the night.
Soon Bruce is up and we are stowing the boom tent as Marty, the dock manager, comes by to say hello. "You guys didn't sleep on that boat did you?" he asks and we smile and start to say "yes we did" until we see a frown and quickly say "no we didn't", hoping not to have violated too many local ordinances. Marty asks about the trip and we tell him our plans, tell him we've got a bridge opening scheduled for 10 a.m. "What about the other bridge?" he asks. Caught off guard, I sheepishly admit I had missed the other bridge in my planning. "You need 24 hours noticed to get through that one" Marty says.
"How tall is that bridge? I ask. "Oh, you can probably get through" Marty says while looking up the masts, "or maybe not, I don't know." "How far away is the next bridge?". "Not too sure about that, not many people go up that way" Marty says.
(Marty is a really neat guy. He is old school Navy and has been around ships and the water for eons. He is also a font of knowledge on almost any subject we bring up, except for bridge heights and currents and such. Steve and Marty talk about research ships and people they both knew. I just sat and listened. Finally Steve tells Marty we need to shove off and get some fuel. I think we could have chatted with Marty for hours. Bruce)
I call the bridge number, which is the Delaware Department of Transportation, to confirm our 10 a.m. lift. A woman confirms the lift, then says the bridge tender wants to know if we need a lift at the Rehoboth Bridge too. "Well, that depends on the bridge clearance" I say, "how high is it?" She doesn't know. "Can you ask the bridge tender?" She calls back to tell me nobody knows how high the Rehoboth Bridge is, but regardless a tender wants to be there when we pass through.
As I ponder the fact that nobody but nobody - including the bridge tender - knows the height of the next bridge, the woman asks me what time we'll be passing through there. I'm at a loss at this point as I'm not sure how far away the bridge is, plus we've been told that the canal is very shallow and muddy and the current can run several knots. I tell the woman I really don't know when we'll be there. "How about 3 p.m." she says, "can you make it then?" Yes, I think we can.
We motor north on the canal, away from the Lewes Bridge, to top off the fuel can at a marina. We ask at the marina about the mystery bridge and get the same response. Not sure how far away it is, not sure how high it is. Might get through there with that mast, might not.
(I was surprised that nobody we asked in Lewes or the bridge folks for that matter knew much about the bridges or the canal. I suppose it just isn't used very much, but in a waterfront town you'd think somebody would have some answers. We can't be the only sail boat to go through?? I always like pulling up to the fuel docks. An attendant will come over and Steve says, "we need some fuel." The attendant then looks Spartina over, looks at Steve and then back to Spartina. The expression is always the same, Really? Steve says, "Just topping off." He never smirks or smiles, just a serious deadpan. Me, I always have a big grin on my face. I think it's really funny. The attendant lifts the hose as if we have some hidden fuel tank to fill. Steve holds up our fuel can, "Maybe a gallon." Steve always volunteers to fill the can and sometimes they let him. We fork over a few bucks and shove off. I feel important having filled up at the fuel dock. Bruce)
We motor over to the town dock to await our bridge lift. Marty the dockmaster rides up on bike and tells us we overpaid our dock fee, hands me a $20 bill. Thanks very much, I say, this looks like lunch. We cast off and the bridge begins the lift.
(There is a light ship anchored in Lewes. Marty knows all about it. He helped rebuild and restore it. It is now a museum and one of only a couple of old light ships ( check it out) that are still afloat and able to get underway. It was in great shape and Marty said he would give us a personal tour when the museum opened at 10 am. Bummer, we had a 10 am bridge lift so we had to decline. Marty did let us use the restroom and the facilities at the public docks were great. Nice public accommodations in Lewes. Bruce)
We pass under the bridge and quickly go from downtown Lewes to pure nature. It is one of the most beautiful canals we have seen. Pine trees to the west, a huge expanse of marshland to the east. Herons, cormorants and ducks. Wildflowers and marsh grasses.
(This is one of the prettiest canals we have been on. A peaceful and relaxing ride. Kind of a Disney like experience. Bruce)
We pass down the canal at idle power, happy to find that the warnings of shallow water and fast currents were far from accurate. The current is gentle, the water deep. After two days on the Delaware Bay it was a change of pace that we both welcome. We take turns at the tiller, take turns with the camera as we enjoy a peaceful fall day.
Forty-five minutes down the canal we start to see homes along the shore line. The canal curves and we see the mystery bridge to Rehoboth, the clearance marked right there on the side plain as day at 16 feet. Spartina's mainmast is 18 feet tall. It is not yet 11 a.m., we've got over four hours to wait for our lift. I look around for someplace to tie up to while we wait. Looking at an old broken down dock I hear Bruce is saying "Do you hear bells ringing?" It is the bridge, and the bridge is opening. The bridge tender, probably the same one who let us through at Lewes, is letting us through the Rehoboth Bridge. They waved the 24 hour rule, and saved us hours by ignoring the 3 p.m. lift. "Thanks very much" I say over the radio as Bruce and I both wave to the tender.
Thirty minutes later we motor out of the canal jetties into Rehoboth Bay with a nice SW wind blowing. Full sail up we turn east to Dewey Beach. Sailing just off the resort (read "spring break party") town we see people walking into a waterfront restaurant. We tie up on a long, empty pier and have a great lunch of excellent burgers and fries, eating just a table or two away from Elvis (at at least one of his impersonators).
(The wind is really blowing as we tie up at the Rusty Rudder in Dewey Beach. We walk down the pier and right into the restaurant. It's not too busy and we seem to be the first people to be served. I sit with my back to the interior so I can look out at Spartina and the bay. I can also observe people setting up the patio for what looks like some kind of music event later in the evening. We order up a couple of burgers and salads. A few fries, too. As we munch Steve says, "Elvis is in the building." I thought I misunderstood him."What?" "We are having lunch with Elvis." I know he's pulling my leg. "He's sitting right behind you, honest." I turn and sneak a peak. Sure enough, a heavy set Elvis is eating and joking with a couple of folks at the table behind us. "Damn, it is Elvis." I get up and give a long look at Elvis as I head to the restroom. Holy cow, next to me at the urinal is Elvis, only this is a thinner Elvis. And I wasn't even drinking or anything. Turns out there was an Elvis festival and there were 22 Elvis guys running around. Kind of spooky, great hamburger though. Bruce)
Back on the water with a stiff breeze we sail south towards Indian River Inlet. I pick out a possible anchorage and try to sail directly to it past some shoals. Soon the centerboard clanging on oyster reefs. We bump over one shoal, then another. The tide is on the way out and the shallows are getting shallower. Seeing that we are not getting anywhere, Bruce, sits up forward with the binoculars and gps, points out some markers to the west. I'm hot and tired and frustrated by the shoals. We fall off and head that way, bumping over two more shoals along the way with both the cb and rudder raised. We make it to the channel where we drop the sails and start the outboard. The water is shallow and the current is running. A red buoy sits up on top of an exposed sand bar.
(Steve and I agree this area reminds us of the book Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers. Bruce)
The channel leads us around a marshy island to the Indian River and our first quick look at the inlet. We motor back north then east and work our way through the sandbars to the area I had originally picked out for our anchorage. It is a flood tide and the shoals are disappearing under the surge. We drop anchor, then raise it again and move to another spot. We decide this is a good spot, out of the way of the local boat traffic and plenty of room to swing at anchor with the changing tides.
At dusk we listen to the weather forecast and watch the lights glow at the bridge over Indian River Inlet, the bridge we hope to pass under the next day. Bruce finds a baseball game on the radio, I drift off to sleep.
(As we take in the evening we can hear Elvis belting out a song way back at the Rusty Rudder. Sound really carries over the water. Just before Steve drifts completely off to sleep we decide to put the tent up. It's not supposed to rain, but then you never know. We get the tent up and get back into our bivy sacks. I have the radio on and Steve is drifting off to sleep again. Couldn't have been more than ten minutes when it starts raining and howling outside. This wasn't a little shower passing through. It was one of the biggest storms Steve and I have been in. At times during the night Spartina is really rolling. But we are dry and comfortable. Steve sleeps and I doze as I listen to the ballgame and the wind and the rain. It was quite a night. I know Steve is dreaming about our passage through the inlet tomorrow. I am blissfully ignorant of the troubles we might face so I sleep well. Bruce)
distance traveled 17.3 nm
moving average 3.0 knots
moving time 5 hours 51 minutes