Destination Delmarva

History From Afloat in the Delaware Bay

I designed my History from Afloat adventure because of my love for history and all things nautical!  I think you’ll love this as well.  Below I take the complexity out of planning a history tour from the water.  And if you’re not a water person, well I’ve even developed a plan of action for you too.

History From Afloat – Plan A for Adventure

For those of you who laugh in the face of maps and instructions, well, I will give you my suggestions/tips and then give you artistic liberty to follow your own path and make this adventure all your own;) It’s as easy as 1,2,3,4,5.

1) Rent a Kayak or remember to pack yours!
2) Launch from Cape Henlopen State Park
  • You can rent and launch (without the hassle of carrying a kayak up and over the dunes) at the Nature Center within Cape Henlopen State Park.
  • Or you can launch at “the point” on the bay side (West Side).  Many local kayak rental companies will deliver and pick your kayak up so you don’t have to haul it up and down the dunes, but be aware, if you deliver the kayak yourself, this dune is a doozy!
3) Prep Your Gear
  • If you’re bringing your own gear, it’s very important that you make sure to have a few essentials onboard:
    • USCG Approved Life Vest for everyone onboard
    • Hat/Visor/Sunglasses/Sunscreen
    • Several Bottles of Water (most kayaks can accommodate a small cooler – I personally love the bag type of cooler you can throw over your shoulder)
    • Waterproof Mobile Phone Bag/Case or a Waterproof Gear/Camera Bag.
    • Binoculars are also an awesome addition to your gear bag.  Last time I was out there we had a school of dolphins cross right in front of us.  We obviously didn’t need binoculars for that, but it’s always nice to be able to spot birds and other wildlife in the distance.
4.) Full Steam Ahead to Check out Breakwater Light
  • Just keep in mind that you are sharing the water with power boats and sailboats.  However, at very low tide, you can almost walk out to the Breakwater Light.  By no means whatsoever do I recommend going around the point to the Harbor of Refuge Light in a kayak unless you are a very seasoned sea kayaker.  In my power boat, yes, but I just wouldn’t risk getting caught out there and not being able to get back around the point.  Please keep this in mind and do not endanger your life or the lives of others.  At the end of the day, one thing remains true…Mother Nature ALWAYS wins;)
5) AND MOST IMPORTANTLY…
  • This is inter-coastal, tidal water. It is NOT a lake, not even close to it. This means you need to be aware of the timing and direction of the tides, as well as the wind.  If you kayak out on an incoming tide, the water will be pushing you from behind, but if you decide to paddle into an incoming tide, it becomes very labor intensive.  This is critical to note because #1, your health and safety should be top priority and if you’re not accustomed paddling against a strong tide or wind, you could hurt yourself.  #2, if you have rented a kayak, the rental companies expect to receive their kayaks back on-time and going against the wind and tide could dramatically postpone your arrival, possibly resulting in additional charges.

Did you know?

Cape Henlopen serves as the Eastern terminus for the American Discovery Trail, the only coast to coast hiking trail in the United States.”4 Learn more by visiting the American Discovery Trail Website.

The Delaware Breakwater Lighthouse as seen from the bow of the tall ship, the A.J. Meerwald.

Plan B for Being Guided

Don’t feel as though you have to venture out onto the high seas alone.  There are numerous groups that provide guided kayak tours.  In addition, there are other opportunities to capture that perfect photograph from another vessel, such as the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, the A.J. Meerwald or the Kalmar Nyckel.

1) Learn About Guided Tours
2) Take a Trip on a Tall Ship!
The Kalmar Nyckel

“The Kalmar Nyckel is a full‐scale re‐creation of the original 17th‐century ship, whose historic significance rivals that of the Mayflower. The present day Kalmar Nyckel serves as the Delaware region’s floating Academy and Goodwill Ambassador…

The Kalmar Nyckel is served by a crew of 300 active volunteers and led by three USCG certified officers, a Captain, First Mate/Relief Captain, and Second Mate…

From her homeport at the Foundation’s shipyard on the Christina River in Wilmington, adjoining historic Ft. Christina and the original landing site at “the Rocks,” the Kalmar Nyckel sails from April to November, making regular visits up and down the Atlantic seaboard, from Massachusetts to Virginia. She also sails regularly from her second home in Lewes, Delaware.”5

>> Calendar of Sailing Events

> Guide Book (PDF)

The A.J. Meerwald

“The A.J. Meerwald is a Delaware Bay Oyster Schooner, a distinct vessel that evolved to meet the needs of the local oyster fishery. The A.J. Meerwald, launched in 1928, was one of hundreds of schooners built along South Jersey’s Delaware Bay before the decline of the shipbuilding industry during Great Depression. The A.J. Meerwald embodies the true spirit of the schooner; adapted to efficiently fulfill the prevailing conditions and specific demands of her native waters. While there were once as many as five hundred schooners sailing ‘up the Bay’ to catch oysters, now there are only a handful of converted schooners still harvesting oysters.”6>> Calendar of Sailing Events

3) Cruise on a Big Boat!
The Cape-May Lewes Ferry

The ferry offers visitors the ability to travel back and forth across the bay both on-foot and by car (and pets are welcome!).  They provide free trolley service to local attractions and you can make a day of it!  Shopping, Dining, History, Wildlife, Wine, you name it, you can experience the best on both sides of the Bay:)Visit their Website for additional information.


 

Plan C for “Can’t Stomach Being on the Water”

And alas, for those of you who prefer the land yachts to the seafaring ones, I have a Plan C for you.  Not only is Cape Henlopen State Park and Campground only about a 15-25 minutes bicycle ride into downtown, historic Lewes, Delaware, but there are a variety of walking tours both at the park and in town.  And don’t let your sea bound friends get you down, because there’s just as much to see on-foot as there is by water.

One of my personal favourites is the Cannonball House in downtown, historic Lewes where you can see first hand, the cannonball left behind during the British Bombardment of 1813.  Over two hundred years later, it is still lodged quite comfortably in the side of the house.

 

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References

(Historic photos are courtesy of the Archives and Historic Records under Delaware State Museums,Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs)

1.) http://npgallery.nps.gov/nrhp/GetAsset?assetID=70f58b2e-51ab-4ce6-a595-60f51918ac77
2.) http://npgallery.nps.gov/nrhp/GetAsset?assetID=5dc1ad67-b5ad-486f-9440-e8d636ed62cc
3.) https://www.unc.edu/~rowlett/lighthouse/types/oldest.html
4.) Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Henlopen
5.) American Discovery Trail: Delaware. Discoverytrail.org (1991-07-30). Retrieved on 2016-10-12.