In 2008, we tried to do an across and back (double-cross) paddle on the Delaware Bay, but the weather conditions forced us to bail out on the Delaware side and not do the second leg of the trip. Joe Link and I wondered if we'd be able to repeat the success of our only double-cross in 2003. On my part, after celebrating my 70th birthday on July 1 and moving across the Bay to Delaware, I wondered if I'd ever be able to cross the Bay again. Nonetheless, as we seem to do every year, we researched possible days for a Bay crossing and noted those that might be appropriate for a double-cross. My wife Cathy and I were renting a house in Cape May from July 31 to August 7 for a family reunion. Also, the Coombs/Douglass Memorial Bay Run that Joe and I are on the committee for was being run on August 7. In addition, we had a BBQ scheduled for the afternoon of August 7 at the home of long distance swimmer Jason Malick in celebration of his 15 mile swim around Cape Island at the southern tip of New Jersey. All of these events seemed to be coalescing around August 8 as a possible day for a double-cross. We had a pretty good email list from previous events, so it didn't take long for seven paddlers to sign on: Me (11 previous crossings), Joe Link (10 previous crossings), Jim More (1 previous crossing), Ed Seelaus, Luke Webster, Phil Zimmerman, and Jason Malick. We decided to go with the basic plan of the 2007 crossing for navigational purposes and to launch from Joe's (and Maria's) beach at Pinewood Road in Town Bank at 8:00 AM. We kept our eyes on the weather and marine forecasts as the date neared. The long-range forecast was dreadful, with a too high probability of T-storms (we require 0% chance). As our launch day got closer, the forecasts got better and better and finally, on the night before, were almost too good to be true. We decided to go for it.
Cathy and I stayed overnight on Saturday night at Joe and Maria's after we all attended Jason's BBQ in Avalon. Joe and I were up before 5:00 AM, eating breakfast, hydrating, and preparing gear for the crossing. The rest of the participants met with us on the road or on the beach as we got ready (pics: 1,2,3) to go. Bruce Jenkins, who was with Joe and I on our only previous double-cross, gave us a pleasant surprise by arriving to see us off on the journey. Hopefully, he'll be able to join us for future paddles. We asked him to pose with the rest of us for our launching photo.
We launched on schedule at 8:00 AM. The Bay was calm and the wind was light. Visibility was at least three miles with a slight haze. The current was running fast and we made great time as we proceeded across the Bay. We saw a lot of dolphins all day long. We saw a few Wilson's Storm Petrels, especially on the Cape May side of the Bay. We also saw far too much shipping. Jim took the dual roles as navigator and communicator for the trip. He talked with the ferries to inform them that we were near by and also to inquire about the presence of shipping appearing on a ferry's radar that we couldn't yet see. The current took us a bit further to the south than we wanted, so we had to do a bit of fighting to get into Breakwater Harbor at the upper end of the outer breakwater. There were some standing waves guarding the entrance, which made for some fun paddling. We landed at Lewes Town Beach exactly on schedule at 12:30 PM. Our course was 17.85 miles long.
It was hot on the beach at Lewes. We asked a young lady to take a photo on my iPhone so that people could track our progress. We didn't stir up much curiosity when we landed. I called Cathy and Joe talked with Maria to tell them that we were on schedule. We all ate, hydrated, rested a bit, and prepared to launch again at 1:30 PM. Luke wasn't feeling well. He had headaches, but still managed to do the Bay crossing, a great accomplishment. He borrowed Joe's kayak wheels and headed to the terminal to get on a ferry back to NJ. With all of the activities involved with selling our NJ house and buying a DE townhouse, I hadn't been able to do the extent of training that I normally would do for a double-cross. I was well trained for a moderately hard paddle of about 20 miles, but we had more miles to go before the afternoon was over. I wondered how I would do.
Conditions were even better when we launched to return to NJ. The visibility had increased to around 8 miles. Two difficulties were the amount of shipping that we had to avoid and the fact that the tide turned late. We made lousy time for the first part of the return trip. We finally got going about half way across and finished strong. We landed back at Pinewood Road at about 6:45 PM, 15 minutes over schedule. Maria and Cathy were patiently waiting on the beach for our arrival. Our course was 18.9 miles long. Phil diverted to his beach at Beverly Avenue just before we landed, so he doesn't appear in the photo that Cathy took for FaceBook on my iPhone. Jason very likely is the only person to paddle over and back across the Delaware Bay in an Ocean Kayaks Scrambler and a small, recreational paddle. A very amazing performance for him. For the rest of us, just an excellent performance. Everyone was strong all day.
Joe and Maria were very gracious hosts in providing outside showers for those that craved them. They also went above and beyond the call of duty by inviting us to stay overnight again and by feeding us pizza for dinner. Cathy and I and Joe and Maria talked until about 10:30 PM before we all headed to bed.
The next morning, Cathy and I rode the 8:30 AM ferry back to Lewes. The entire crossing was enveloped in a white-out fog (pics: 1,2) that would have precluded our double-cross if it had occurred a day earlier. Sometimes we get lucky.