The C & D Canal

July 16th and 17th, 2021

We left Havre de Grace headed for the C&D Canal (The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.) This canal was originally built in 1829, dug by hand. A 14 mile path from the upper Chesapeake to the Delaware River. It provided a much faster path from Baltimore to Philadelphia as opposed to going all the way down the Chesapeake and then back up to Delaware Bay. It was quite narrow then and required locks as they could not dig it deep enough to “level” the water between the two bodies. Always a strange concept to me when the two bodies ultimate touch anyway. But, tides do amazing things.

The original canal with one of the locks. Just at the mouth of the Delaware River. The canal entrance is not to the south of this.

Nearly 100 years later in 1927, the Army Corp of Engineers used mechanical equipment to widen and deepen the canal to 450 feet wide and 35 feet deep. No more locks. The C&D is the busiest canal in the nation and third busiest in the world.

We were quite happy we saw only one 400 foot plus barge caring some sort of liquid chemical.

But, let me digress for a moment. Heading from Havre de Grace to the entrance of the C&D, the Coast Guard issues a warning about a performance boat Poker Run from Chesapeake City, about mid-way in the C&D, to Bud’s Bar (or something like that; who knows the name.) in the upper Chesapeake Bay between 10 and 11 am. So, these super fast boats are all going to be heading straight for us about the time we are entering the C&D. A Poker Run on fast boats to a bar? If you know what a Poker Run is, you head from one bar to the next on a motorcycle or now, new to me a boat.

Here are some Poker Run participants headed towards us. Most kept a pretty good distance, but some came rather close. There were probably 30 or so boats, plus a Coast Guard “support” boat.
A closer look at one of these boats. Some of them could and were doing 70 or 80 MPH. A nice Saturday morning activity.

No harm was done to us in the event and these boats for the most part skim the water so did not present too big of a wake issue for us.

We spent the night in Delaware City at the eastern entrance to the C&D in a tiny marina with a very narrow and shallow entrance.

The canal to Delaware City reminds me of the Canal de Midi in France we boated in a little… canal boat. This canal is not terribly wider than our boat and the entrance requires you to hug the green mark (which is the “wrong” side of the canal) to avoid the pudding (which we did experience coming in.)

The next day, we headed up the Delaware River to Philadelphia. We we were so excited to visit a big city on the boat. Yes, we’d been to Charleston and New Bern, but Philadelphia is full of high rise buildings and we would be docked downtown, close to the old city. But first, to transit the Delaware Rive northbound about 40 miles. We had read that it was just a big industrial pathway and not pretty or enjoyable. We have to disagree. Yes, there is lots of chemical industry and we experienced some leaving Del City, but all in all, an enjoyable journey.

This omen leaving Del City made us think our reading would be correct. The only smelly plant we encountered.

There was lots of open space between factories and docks and we found it rather interesting to see the current and relics of pieces of industrial America.

We still had an hour to go, but could see Philly in the distance. The Commodore Barry Bridge is in the foreground.
We were in Philly here, getting close to our dock. Lots of hey-day warehouses, some still in use, others converted to apartments, others abandoned. In the background, the SS United States. Built in the early 50’s, it holds the record for the fastest ocean liner to cross the Atlantic in either direction. She did passenger service until 1969. Now, she is in mothballs looking for a new owner. Several have considered, but I am worried about the fate of this cool looking ship.
We were surprised to see an aircraft carrier on the way into Philadelphia. This is the USS John F Kennedy. She is the only ship in her class, a variant of the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier and the last conventionally powered carrier the US Navy built. She was commissioned in 1968 and did service until 2007. She is apparently looking for someone who wants her as a donation. If we thought the SS United States would take some cash, do you want an aircraft carrier?

I’ll post about Philadelphia in my next entry. I must keep you all in suspense!

At the north end of Pea Patch Island near Delaware City. There is a big underwater wall from the island north for several miles and two canals, one on either side. This is the warning at the north end of the wall dividing the canals. Looks like someone could not decide which path to take.


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