Cape May's Day

Precious slips open up at a National Historic Landmark town.

THE FIRST RESORT: Lured by great fishing, early settlers made Cape May America's first seaside resort. Old Victorian homes and beautiful beaches remain. What's new? The Canyon Club's new slips and condos.

THE FIRST RESORT: Lured by great fishing, early settlers made Cape May America's first seaside resort. Old Victorian homes and beautiful beaches remain. What's new? The Canyon Club's new slips and condos.Canyon Club Resort Marina

You may be excused if you thought Cape May was named after this sweetest of spring months. There's no better time to be in this old Victorian town on the south Jersey shore than now, when the apple blossoms are raining down, the spring migration is in full swing and the gamefish are feeding. The Nature Conservancy has named Cape May one of the top 10 birding spots in North America, thanks to the million migrating shorebirds that nosh on horseshoe crab eggs on the beach, not to mention the 100,000 warblers and 21,800 hawks that have been counted here-in one day. What no one has bothered to count (yet) is the number of yachts that stop here on their way back up the Intracoastal Waterway.

Unlike the birds or the yachtsmen who stop in, Capt. Cornelius Jacobson Mey merely sailed past this point and gave it his name without ever touching land. In the latter 1600s, whalers settled in here and by the mid-1800s it was a hopping Victorian town that became America's first seaside resort. Thanks to the more than 600 Victorian buildings that remain-many now hotels, B&Bs, and antiques shops-Cape May earned National Historic Landmark status in 1976.

Today, the problem for migrants to Cape May is finding a place to tie up or tuck in. The Jersey coast has gotten so busy that one town, Sea Isle City, is considering offering valet parking this summer-for the beach. If you plan to stay in Cape May just a few nights, no problem, provided you have reservations at one of the half-dozen marinas or hundreds of pastel gingerbread B&Bs. But with waterfront property tied up long ago, it's not so easy to put down roots, or a mooring.

That's changing, albeit gradually. The Canyon Club Marina-currently home to 250 slips, many with in-slip diesel fueling, and 110 condominiums-is expanding. By 2007, 38 new units ($500,000 to $700,000 for a two- to three-bedroom) will be built around an infinity-edge swimming pool. The marina plans to put in a new service facility and a new 80-ton travel lift, and will start selling slips in the next year (cost was undetermined at press time). At present, the transient dockage rate is $2.75 a foot. If your yacht's larger than 125 feet, head over to the sister South Jersey Marina that can take yachts up to 150 feet.

Slips still fill up fast here as the event season gets underway. Spring kicks off with the Spring Striper Tournament on May 5 to 7, and moves on to shark, tuna and billfish tourneys before hosting what's billed as the richest marlin and tuna tournament in the world, the Midatlantic $500,000. (Win that and you can buy a condo.) Between these, are the "showdowns" like the Ocean/Viking annual mixer and the Alblemarle/Cabo Scramble, pitting proud boat owner versus proud boat owner. Then it's time for the fall migration south again.

With all this coming and going of yachts, it's enough to make you wonder if valet yacht parking won't be the next big thing.