Last year my younger brother Tyler, a registered 50-ton master captain, sold his beloved deadrise workboat for a Henriques 35 Maine Coaster, with dreams of heading offshore. Just before Labor Day weekend, work schedules freed up for Tyler and three of his friends—Brandon Drzewiecki, Andy Grimes, and Jonathan Hartman—to plan a spur of the moment fishing getaway. The original plan was to head to Cape Charles, VA, but it being a holiday weekend, all of the marinas were booked. Plan B was Cape May, NJ.
They departed from Seneca Creek in the Upper Chesapeake Bay, just outside of Baltimore, MD, and began the 100 or so nautical mile journey, up through the C&D Canal, to Cape May. The trip took about six hours each way.
Of his first time transiting the canal, Tyler described it as being surprisingly relaxing. “It was fun, easy to navigate. There were lots of other boats but no big ships.”
Because this was a last-minute trip, there was not a lot of time for advanced planning. They had originally picked a marina on the Jersey side of the Delaware Bay after being assured that there was enough water for the Miss Bonny Kay. However, there was a full moon and a dramatic tide change on the approach to the marina, which left it much shallower than expected. The area was also dotted with crab pots, and due to the shallow tide, lines were slack in the water.
While trying to get a lay of the land, the crew noticed that one of the slack crab pot lines was caught and the pot itself became entangled in the prop. The guys spent more than two hours in the water trying to cut it loose to no avail. Added to the dilemma was that they were losing light.
With that first marina no longer an option, they searched around online and found Utsch’s Marina (capemayharbor.com) at the east end of the Cape May Canal. Down an engine, Tyler ran the Miss Bonny Kay through the Cape May Canal toward Utsch’s. “The tide rips through there really fast,” he says. “It’s difficult trying to run through on just a port engine in a twin screw boat.
“It was night when we came in, the wind was howling, but by the grace of God it blew me right into the travelift. The next day the marina staff was there at 8 a.m., had the boat pulled in about 15 minutes, cut the prop free, and had us back in the water. The whole process only took 30 or 40 minutes.”
With that crisis averted, they fueled up, bought bait from the bait shop right on the marina pier, and after receiving some local advice, they cruised out to a fishing ground approximately 40 miles offshore known as the Elephant Trunk.
Tyler says, “We left around 11 a.m. in a flat calm. The plan was to overnight at the fishing grounds, but by 3 p.m. the wind had cranked up to about 25 knots and it was rough. It took us about two and a half hours to cruise offshore, so we only had three hours to fish before deciding to play it safe and head in. We caught one short Bluefin tuna that we quickly released and saw plenty of signs of life—sea turtles, lots of flying fish. We came back in through the inlet at night. It was very easy to navigate and we spent the night on the boat.”
They had planned to go offshore again the next day, but the ocean was even rougher than the day before. “It was forecasted to be three- to four-foot waves, but it ended up being more like four- to six-foot waves. The chop was like Bay chop but bigger waves right on top of each other.”
With the offshore fishing waylaid yet again, they came back in, showered at the marina bathhouse, which they said was very nice and clean, and walked right across the street from the marina to a restaurant called The Lobster House. Meal of the trip was a delicious steamer pot full of lobster, mussels, and clam.
After dinner they bought clam from the bait shop, rigged up spinning rods, and caught and released small sharks right off the back of the boat at the marina. The next day they hit the town.
All four of the guys really enjoyed Cape May. “It’s very nice, more laidback than Ocean City,” says Tyler. “It’s more of a family destination but there’s still plenty to do for young people. You can have a good time but it doesn’t get as crazy as some other beach towns.”
Regarding their three nights at Utsch’s Marina, Tyler had only wonderful things to report. “Everyone at the marina was extremely nice and helpful. The guy at the bait shop was very knowledgeable; we were novices with fishing offshore, and they were very helpful.
“Few marinas give you the kind of service where you show up in the middle of the night and they have your boat pulled the very next morning and back in the water in 30 minutes,” he added.
It was certainly an action-packed weekend for the Miss Bonny Kay’s first trip offshore. The plan was to spend most of the time fishing, but you know what they say about the best laid plans… Despite everything, they had a fantastic time in a coastal town they might not have otherwise explored and were blown away by the hospitality they experienced at Utsch’s Marina.
The guys cruised home in light wind and calm seas; smooth sailing all the way. At the mouth of the Delaware Bay they were greeted with dolphins and huge schools of bunker as far as the eye could see. It’s safe to say this won’t be their last offshore trip.
PropTalk Tested: For the Folks Back Home
For the duration of the trip, the Miss Bonny Kay was equipped with a Garmin inReach Mini, a lightweight and compact satellite communicator. This palm-sized device maintains off-the-grid contact with loved ones back home by letting you send and receive text messages, track and share your journey, and if necessary, trigger an SOS alert to contact the GEOS 24/7 emergency response team. This gave an added peace of mind to the folks back home, who could also track their entire journey to and from Cape May. Learn more at garmin.com. Cost: $349.99 (requires a monthly subscription to communicate; flexible month-to-month plans are available.)
By Kaylie Jasinski