The Chesapeake And Beyond

Saturday morning after breakfast we cast off, went for a pump out and then headed down the Hampton River, raised our sails and started sailing North up the Chesapeake. We were aiming for a spot just north of Mobjack Bay and initially the current was with us and we had a great wind. We sailed at speeds of 6 knots or more for a few hours and then the wind died. The tide also changed and soon we had a 2 knot current going against us with zero wind so we had to fire up the iron Genny. Then we went to war with our fly swatters. We had hordes of black flies invading, trying to bite us and Melanie and I swatted as best we could. It was a blood bath. We killed scores of flies. They still kept coming and biting and to top it off, it was a miserably hot afternoon.

About 7pm we dropped anchor in the Piankatank River mouth. After a quick dinner of delicious salad that Melanie had cut from the boaters garden at the Hampton Marina we turned in for the night. During the night it stormed and rained and we awoke to a nice clean boat with all the cushions soaked. We got an early start and were on the road by 7:30. The wind was 15 to 20 and with the course we were on it was a direct run. We could only sail wing on wing. Then of course as always the wind faded and we were forced to run the motor and motor sail with three to four foot waves shaking what little wind we had out of the sails. Rocking backwards and forwards rail to rail made going down below almost impossible.

Then the flies showed up and once again Melanie and I went on a killing spree. The waves were coming from 45 degrees off the starboard stern, and the wind was 45 degrees off the port stern. This gave us a very uncomfortable direction we were forced to sail in and contributed to the rolling. Every once in a while a 4-footer would come by; we were convinced they were bow waves from tankers but couldn’t be sure. It rocked the boat from rail to rail. Very, very uncomfortable sailing. It seemed like the wind was either on the nose or directly from behind, but never favorable. We will need to purchase a whisker pole to make life downwind a little easier on the stomach.

We made good time while motor sailing and arrived in Crisfield, Maryland around 5 p.m. Around 3 p.m. the Coast Guard started talking about severe weather on the Chesapeake in our area, so we were anxious to find a safe harbor to anchor for the night. Crisfield was sheltered on all sides and offered very good protection. For a small fee we were able to take showers and enjoy their facilities and we dined at their small restaurant. We were able to make it back to the boat with a tub of chocolate ice cream just before the rain hit. It’s the first ice cream we’d had in ages.

We enjoyed it while it thundered and lightning flashed around us. It absolutely poured with rain. We went to bed to the sound of rain on the roof and lightning penetrating the curtains of the boat. Next morning we headed in for some ice and coffee and then motored out of the harbor, raised the sails and made our way to the Kedges strait. There are a group of Islands running up through the middle of the Chesapeake and these straits are away to cross through from East to west. Our goal was Solomon’s Island, approximately 35 miles away. We motor sailed, making between 5 and 6 knots because once again the wind was too light and the current too strong.

The wind died during the day but we had a favorable current to help us and we were able to make fairly good time towards our destination. Just before turning into the Patuxent River, our engine started to act up again! The RPMs would go up and down, up and down and if I didn’t take it out of gear it would stall. We figured we had bad gas. We somehow managed to limp in to the anchorage and once we arrived there we went ashore and had some hors d’oeuvres, appetizers and a glass of wine before heading back to bed. Next morning we approached a few of the locals about polishing our fuel and it looked like it was going to be a pretty expensive endeavor. We changed both the primary and the secondary fuel filters and then one of the locals came over and took a look at our engine and suggested that we might have an air leak in the fuel line. We tried to fix the fuel line by cutting it a little shorter and then reattaching it and would you believe it that fixed the problem!

So, for a little bit of irritation we were underway again after fueling up which took forever. We treated ourselves to a Klondike bar before leaving and then headed out from Solomon’s towards the entrance of the Choptank River, 15 miles north. All morning long we saw F18s and military helicopters doing exercises, as the other side of the Patuxent River was a naval air station. It was fun to watch the planes taking off and landing, especially since it wasn’t nearly as loud or busy as Oceana.

We motored out of the Patuxent River into the Chesapeake, and it was calm. No waves, just cats paws. It almost looked like Alum Creek, our sailing lake back home. So so flat. It was so calm that the sails never helped at all. We motored until around 7pm and then decided to find a place to anchor. We found a spot in Trippe Bay which was somewhat exposed to the west and the north but sheltered from East through South Southwest. We motored in until we were in about 10 feet of water and dropped anchor.

We made a sundowner drink and watched the sunset. It was reminiscent of the beautiful sunsets that we see on Lake Erie. I guess more haze and clouds in the sky makes for prettier shows. We woke up early the next morning, hauled the anchor and set sail. We decided to sail as far as we could or until we needed to run the motor because of no wind. The wind held steady and our speed gradually increased from 2 to 4 knots. We Sailed up past Poplar Island and then turned into Easter Bay towards St Michaels. There were no waves, the water was completely flat and there was about an 8 to 10 knot breeze blowing. Perfect sailing conditions for us, and there were apparently a lot of other people that agreed because there were a lot of sailors out enjoying the wind.

We made it into St. Michael’s around 4 in the afternoon, dropped anchor and then took the dinghy in to shore. We went to the museum and spoke to some of the workers there and got some good information about various things to do in town. We found some decent ice cream! Then we took a walk around town and went to Ava’s Pizzeria for dinner. We enjoyed a wonderful outdoor dinner, they were dog friendly and actually had a dog food menu. For the first time ever Windsor ate dinner with us. We headed back to the boat and in the morning after breakfast went and explored the Maritime Museum. It was a fabulous reflection of the history and culture of the Waterman of the Chesapeake.

We left around 1:30pm and motor sailed over to Annapolis. The wind was light to nothing and we ended up running the iron Genny all afternoon. As per normal we spent most of the journey swatting flies that were trying to bite us. Every day since we left Hampton we have been wrestling with flies. Hordes of them going after us, biting us, making life miserable, especially when there is no wind to cool you down and a burning hot sun reflecting off the surface of the water and making everything miserably hot and uncomfortable.

We finally arrived in Annapolis around 6:30 p.m., picked up a mooring ball in the harbor and went into shore to pay for it. We walked around a little in the the immediate downtown area and found an ice cream shop with good ice cream! Then we took a shower and headed back to the boat for the night. We just made it back when the rain started and it poured for a good few hours; everything got nice and clean.

Next day we explored the town, walking the streets and then met up with Melanie’s high school friend Louis and her husband George for a late lunch and appetizers. Then we headed back and had a happy hour with Heike and Herwig on their boat before returning with them to shore where they took us to a small jazz club that they had visited on their previous stop here. We wiled away a few hours listening to some very good, eclectic jazz over a bottle of wine. After that we were ready to return to the boat but were both very, very hungry so we ended up stopping at a deli diner for breakfast at midnight! It was actually quite good.

Next day after doing laundry we visited the Naval Academy and walked around the campus. It was quite a neat place; I was very impressed with their marina, LOTS of boats of all sizes. It started raining while we were walking around so we ended up heading back to the boat to escape the weather.

The next day did not start out so well. It started raining at around 4 a.m. and poured all day long. It finally let up around 5 and after listening to a few sermons and watching some movies we had decided that we needed to get off the boat. We donned our raincoats and headed for shore and splashed around in puddles of water, finally finding a small coffee shop where we enjoyed a good cup before finding a small bar to enjoy a glass of wine with a few appetizers before heading back.

The rain eventually let up around 10 p.m. . The temperature when we woke up that morning was in the low 70s and by the time we went to bed it was 58. We were freezing! Monday morning it was time to depart, so after we pumped out, refueled and re-iced, we said our goodbyes and headed out into the bay. All the Naval Academy sailboats, the 46-foot keel boats were out in the bay drilling and doing exercises, learning about sailing. It was very cool to watch them as they went about their drills.

We made really good time headed north but as we did the wind slowly died. We started off cloudy and cold but the sun did peek out and warm things up a little. The bay got narrower and we entered the Elk River and motored up to Chesapeake City. It is about 2 miles into the canal and there we anchored along with our friends aboard World Dancer II and about seven or eight other boats in a small, well protected cove. We went across and visited with them for a short while before heading to bed.

Bright and early the next morning after breakfast we raised our anchor and headed off into the canal. It was just before the current changed direction, we were hoping that a favorable current would give us a quick trip. We decided to sail straight to Atlantic City. It was a glorious sunny day and there was a promise of a favorable wind and a fast transit. We left and headed down the canal on a slowly increasing current until we were doing almost eight knots by the time we exited the canal. We headed down the Delaware Bay and continued to make good time as the current was with us and the tide was going out. The wind held between 15 and 25 knots during the whole day and we moved along very quickly; by 6pm we were rounding Cape May. We went through a narrow channel close to shore which increased the current and we squirted out into the Atlantic Ocean doing 9 to 10.5 knots!

Shortly after rounding Cape May and heading north we encountered our first major squall. We dropped all sails except for the stay sail and just in time! The wind and rain hit us like it was a brick wall – visibility was reduced to less than a hundred yards as the rain pounded us. It felt like someone was throwing stones at us. Lightning, wind howling and gusts up to 45 knots pummeled us for about a half hour and then as quickly as it arrived it was gone. The wind dropped down to 10 to 12 knots and we raised the sails and continued on our way. With the threat of another storm coming we decided it would be prudent to increase our speed by motoring as our speed under sail had dropped to under 4 knots with the passage of the storm.

With the motor running our speed was between 5 and 6, and we made good progress but not quite enough to outrun the next storm. We made it to the North part of the storm which was a lot weaker. We took the main down and before the storm hit we rolled up the Yankee. Winds were only 25 to 30 knots so it was quite manageable but after two bouts of pouring rain we were both quite cold. The rain cleared off about an hour before we pulled into port and we managed to safely negotiate the entrance into our anchorage. We dropped anchor and went to sleep, exhausted.

We didn’t get up until almost 10 a.m. the next morning. After breakfast we took Windsor to the beach and let him run and play in the sand off leash. He had a great time; we walked the beach and met and spoke to a few people and then headed back to the boat, then went in to shore with Heike and Herwig and walked around looking for a small grocery store. It turned out that we ended up in “the hood” with no real grocery in sight, so we slowly made our way back to a restaurant near the docks where we had dinner, a few drinks and some appetizers before heading back to the boat and enjoying a show and going to bed. We motored in to shore the next day and got a good cup of coffee from the Golden Nugget and then proceeded to do our laundry. It was very chilly but nice and sunny.

After finishing a laundry we headed back to the boat and said goodbye to our friends who were leaving on their boat for New York. Then we motored over to the fuel dock, filled up, topped off the water tanks and anchored just outside the Golden Nugget. We went in for showers and then went for a nice dinner at one of the restaurants in the casino and after supper enjoyed some dancing to one of the bands playing in the casino before heading back to the boat for the night. Tomorrow we leave for Block Island.


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