The Launch
Paddle Across the Bay 2007
William G. McArthur, August 25, 2007

    The last time I had paddled across the Bay was in 2003. Since August 2007 was the 10th anniversary of my first Bay crossing, I thought it would be a good idea to do it again this year. I talked to Joe Link, who was enthusiastic as always. We talked about contacting Bruce Jenkins who had been with us for 4 previous crossings, including our "double-cross" in 2003. We scheduled the event for Saturday, August 18; my grandson Garrett was to be christened on August 19 which necessitated deviating from our normal Sunday crossing day, with its lighter shipping traffic. We had to cancel the trip due to very high winds on the Bay. Joe suggested trying the crossing from NJ to DE, opposite to our usual course, so we rescheduled for the following Saturday, since Joe wanted to run in the Lions 10K on Sunday. I worked up a simple plan for our course, which involved heading 240 degrees magnetic toward a point 2 miles north of the icebreakers at the Harbor of Refuge. I had also included a plan for a paddle back to NJ if my crazy comrades somehow talked me into the return trip. The weather forecast for crossing day boded well, but a very foggy morning on Friday had us worried. The visibility was about 2 miles when I launched from our beach at 6:30 AM and headed south to Joe's beach at Pinewood Road. When I reached the launch site, I was shocked to see Joe's stylish, color coordinated outfit. A few of Joe's neighbors and Joe's wife Maria ("Mission Control") were there to see us off. I felt that I was well-equipped for the trip and was going to be accompanied by 2 seriously strong paddlers, but I was a bit worried about the fog. At 7:00 AM, we were off, heading on a course of 240 degrees magnetic toward the icebreakers. The wind was calmer than forecast, so the Bay was fairly flat. The visibility varied from 2 to 3 miles. Joe and Bruce talked about their dozens of marathons and other extreme adventures while I dreamed of sitting on my deck on a rocking chair sipping a nonalcoholic pina colada. Every so often I slumped over a little which activated the air horn at my waist and snapped me back to attention. We stayed north of the ferry route, but one of the ferries heading for DE had us worried as it passed close by. (After the event, Bruce sent out a link to a Photo Show containing his remarkable photos of the trip. I have included several of his images here.) When we were about 4 miles from the icebreakers, we heard a deep fog signal from a ship to our north. A bit later, we saw a tug and barge to the south which passed about a half mile behind us. We kept hearing the ship's horn, so I tried to hail the ship on channel 16 of my radio. I got a response from the Pilot Tower on Cape Henlopen which told me to switch to channel 74. I switched channel and hailed the Pilot Tower. I explained our situation and approximate position. The tower operator told me that the ship that we heard was at the Brown Shoal light and was followed by another ship. He also said that the pilot boat would soon be heading out in our direction. He promised to notify all of them about our situation. That was good news, but we still worried about the first ship coming our way. When we were about 2 miles from the icebreakers, the big ship emerged from the fog and appeared to be passing about 3/4 of a mile behind us. During this time in our trip, we reached a maximum speed of 6 miles per hour. When we reached the icebreakers, a ferry passed close by, entering the harbor. I reported to the Pilot Tower that we were safely in the harbor, away from the shipping lanes. We felt some relief, but still had 4 miles to go to the Lewes Town Beach. I had to blow my horn at two boats filled with rednecks coming from Roosevelt Inlet. They both buzzed us, maybe in reaction to Joe's colorful outfit. We landed at the town beach after 18.1 miles and a bit over 4.5 hours. After making phone calls to loved ones, we drank liquids, ate power bars, sucked goo (Bruce and I), and dragged our kayaks up to the parking lot. A very hard part of the journey remained, pulling our wheeled kayaks about a mile to the ferry terminal. We just had time to make the 12:45 PM ferry, thanks to Joe's diplomacy with various ferry employees, exemplified by, "Here's how it's going to be." After we jockied our kayaks into available space, we rushed to the outside Lido Bar where we drank some beer (nonalcoholic for a couple of us) and told some lies. Joe had parked his truck at the ferry terminal and provided rides for kayaks and kayakers. It was definitely a good adventure for my 10th crossing, Joe's 9th, and Bruce's 5th.

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