On June 3, 2015 I wrote a serious article about the problems of Little Egg Inlet. (Find that article here: http://nj.usharbors.com/image-gallery/little-egg-inlet-too-cool-its-own-…) It was shallow after Superstorm Sandy, and boats were unable to get through. Two years later, the problem has only gotten worse. If fact, the waters are so treacherous that the Coast Guard has removed the buoys.
Which leaves boaters where? The scenario of dredging, not dredging, and doing minor fixes time and again just keeps us stymied. Which government agency will help? Reliable environmentalists and journalists write the latest as they hear it; then clarify things by saying their information could all change in hours.
Take the well respected Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club, which used to draw 150 sport fishing boats for their annual tournament. The number of vessels participating has gone from approximately 150 down to 23 last year.
New Jersey’s Tall Ship, the A. J. Meerwald, used to sail in Little Egg Inlet and dock in Beach Haven at the south end of eighteen mile Long Beach Island. Thousands would view the old oyster schooner, go out for a sail, or even have their wedding aboard the ship. For the last three years, the A. J. Meerwald has come to Long Beach Island via Barnegat Inlet, and docked in Barnegat Light. Many residents and visitors have welcomed and sailed the old schooner out into the Atlantic for special sails. There is nothing like sailing in the inlet at night with a light shining from the lighthouse.
The A. J. Meerwald is New Jersey’s official tall ship. This restored oyster schooner calls Bivalve on the Maurice River and Delaware Bay home port. She was built just before the Great Depression, when oysters were on every menu in Philadelphia, New York, and in between. It was said that there were more millionaires along Delaware Bay thanks to oysters than most anywhere in the country. However, by the 1930s ship building and oystering were both in great decline.
Today the 115’ A. J. Meerwald is the pride of the Bayshore Discovery Project: there are educational programs, a museum, camps, and even the Cracker Café. In 1995, the schooner was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Each summer the schooner, under the capable leadership of Meghan Wren and her husband Captain Jesse Briggs, sails the length of New Jersey.
The ship is due to arrive in Barnegat Light July 22nd and leave August 1st. There will be day camps, public sails, and charter sails. For specific information, call 856-785-2060 or http://www.bayshorecenter.org.
The details for dredging or not dredging Little Egg Inlet are like watching a ping pong match – back and forth, herding cats, or even following politics. In short, no one knows what will happen. The latest is that some dredging – whether a temporary fix or a complete dredging of the narrow inlet – might begin in late summer. But don’t believe me: follow the news. The updates on Little Egg Inlet seem to change almost daily.
Photo caption: The water has swirled and eroded around Little Egg Inlet since the Revolution. Tucker’s Island, a barrier island next to the inlet,, once had a lighthouse, life saving station, school, and small community. The lighthouse fell into the sea in October 1927, and the rest of the island was gone by 1946. Photos courtesy of NJ Maritime Museum, Beach Haven, NJ.