Showing posts with label chesapeake bay. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chesapeake bay. Show all posts

16 October 2016

Missing Mathew and Sailing the Southern Chesapeake to Virginia

After some time in Baltimore and Annapolis, we explored some serene anchorages and the lovely little town of St. Michaels.  We hunkered down in Solomons, Maryland while Hurricane Matthew passed far offshore.  Now, after a couple of long legs we're in Hampton, Virginia awaiting a weather window to jump off to Bermuda!

Bob Damiano

Annapolis - Drinking Town with a Sailing Problem[tm].  

We spent a few days in Annapolis on the public dock right downtown.  This was about a week before they would begin staging boats for the immensely popular Annapolis Sailboat Show. We had a bit of weather while we were there with some sustained wind in the 20s and gusts to 30 and absolute torrential rain at times.  We pulled bow-in to these little finger piers between pylons because otherwise, we would have had all that blasting into the cockpit.

Argon tied to a tiny fixed finger pier at the public dock in Annapolis bracing for the wind
The harbormaster had offered us a chance to move further in and tie up against the sea wall.  We had such a complicated tie-up on the pylons that we didn't want to bother undoing all that to move.  That ended up being a bad decision.  The next day, we were blown so hard off of the fixed finger pier, that we could not get off the boat for most of the day.  Tide was well above normal high tide all day.  The downtown parking lots were flooded. It was nasty.

Extra high tide and pouring rain

The two BMWs on the right were stranded in this deep water.  The tow truck got a two-for one special that night

But Annapolis is awesome.  We went on several long walks exploring and even hiked the 2 miles to the grocery store and back. There are endless restaurants and bars in Annapolis. There are thousands of sailboats in marinas all around the city. Two or three power boats too.

One of the many, many restaurants, pubs and music venues in Annapolis

After things calmed down a bit, we took a mooring ball from the harbormaster over in Back Creek. What an amazing place! Marina after marina after marina absolutely packed with sailboats.

Back Creek in Annapolis

Why the Wye?

After Annapolis, we were looking forward to a free night or two at anchor.  Linda found a great spot up in one of the nooks off the Wye River on the Eastern Shore. This is birder's heaven.  Herons and Eagles all over the place.  Quiet, peaceful and beautiful. 

That's Joe Walsh in the middle there

A few neighbors in this Anchorage

On the wing

Blue Heron

If you lived here, you'd be home by now

The only slight issue is that we had very little connectivity over there and I really needed to get some work done.

Always monitoring the 4G signal strength (or lack thereof). Here we just barely have a weak LTE (4g) signal.

For that reason alone, we decided to get back to civilization and St. Michael's, MD was not only on everyone's list of suggested destinations, it was also very close by.

That Windlass Project (take II)

A few episodes ago, I was ranting about the cheesy switches that Quick used for windlass switches. I replaced them with some more robust ones I found on Amazon. Well... one of those failed too!  While in Baltimore, we went to the West Marine and I got some really heavy duty blue sea brand switches ($30/ea).  These had a narrower shaft so once again, we had to fill the holes with epoxy and re-drill them.  While I was at it, I also over-drilled all the mounting holes for the covers and filled them with epoxy too.

New switch mounted in fresh new hard epoxy. Mounting holes ready to be drilled into new epoxy as well.

New switches mounted and wired up.  So far, so good.

Again, the switch failure mode was stuck ON.  This time the UP button stuck.  So, we are very much now in the habit of turning off the windlass breaker when not in use - especially while the anchor is down.

Anchoring at St. Michaels and watching Mathew

We did manage to keep to our goal of "free anchorage" in St. Michaels.  There is room for a handful of boats just off the north and south sides of the main channel.  This is not a very protected anchorage from east wind (and that's what we had), but it was just fine.

It was here that we started to really worry about Hurricane Mathew. At that time, the projected track was not looking good for the Chesapeake Bay. We talked to the very nice folks at Higgins Yacht Yard and they told us that they were planning on hauling all of their customers and they could probably haul us too, or put us in the Travel Lift Dock.  We decided to leave the final decision until the next morning.

The next morning, Mathew's projected track began to curve it around to the east (offshore) before it got as far north as us so we were a little less worried.  As the day went on, the track looked better and better for the Chesapeake. We told the folks at Higgins that we for sure did not want to be hauled and in fact by that time, they had decided not to haul anyone anyway.

Hurricane Mathew's projected track heading offshore and curling around south. We were relieved to see this. We are at the yellow dot upper right section of the storm.

Since we had a couple days before whatever Mathew would bring, we decided to make some southerly progress (you know, closer to the hurricane) and make it to Solomons Island (still in Maryland) off the Patuxent River.

Patuxent River - Our Hurricane Hole

Zanhiser's Yacht Center in Solomons, MD is a great facility. We anchored just outside of their mooring field and went ashore.  The dinghy dock welcomes anchoring guests but they do ask for a $3 landing fee.  We went to the office and they managed to up-sell us to a $40 mooring.  This gave us access to very nice showers, laundry, free bikes, and a courtesy shuttle for grocery shopping.  Great deal!  It also allowed us to be on a mooring when the outer winds of Mathew hit us the following night. I asked the dockmaster about the ground tackle on these moorings and he said they were 500 pound mushrooms with 3/4" chain.  Sounded good.  I didn't ask when they were last inspected. Maybe I didn't want to know.

Sleepless Night

The effects of Mathew were going to be felt over most of the weekend. Saturday Night was forecast to have the highest winds slowly tapering off through Monday Morning. We decided to do watches overnight Saturday and keep an eye on things, so we both set our alarms. This was unnecessary as neither of us could sleep a wink anyway.

Linda trying to sleep on the settee where it is less bouncy and a bit quieter compared to the V berth

Adding to the insomnia a bit, Mathew had stopped following his clear instructions and started heading more North and less East. I was beginning to wonder if leaving St Michaels was really so smart.

Mathew taunting us with a couple Northerly turns. A day earlier, Mathew was supposed to be way south of this track.(We're the green dot on that cold front)
Overnight Saturday, winds were sustained in the 20s with gusts well into the 30s. You try not to think about the integrity of the mooring, but you do anyway.  It was very noisy inside the boat with wind howling and that mooring line straining while stretched like a guitar string. I had tied an additional mooring line with a blake hitch to the main mooring line to make something of a bridle. I went up on deck a couple times overnight and we were dragging the mooring ball completely under water. We were very happy to see daylight the next day. The wind was still blowing hard, but it always feels less scary when the sun is shining!

Date night going to the restaurant Saturday Night - we were in for a long night that night.

 Short clip from the go-pro of the winds at our mooring

Lets' Go!   Nope - too soon!

On Monday, we decided to head out into the bay and make our way more south toward Virginia. We motored out into the Patuxent and the winds and waves built. We started sailing with a reefed main and jib and the closer we got to the open bay, the heavier things got. We poked out into the bay a little bit and things were just nasty.  Remnants of the impact of Matthew were still very strong and would make for an uncomfortable and adventurous sail. So - we turned around and beat our way back into the Patuxent and some relative shelter.

Our track for that day - out... and back!

We motored back up into Solomons but this time decided to try an anchorage up one of the other creeks in the area.  Here, we had a very humbling anchoring experience.

Drag Race

The mud in the creek beds around the lower Chesapeake is very, very soft.  It's like dust! It's so fine, that your anchor comes up clean - but dark colored. The chain looks almost anodized after it sits in this stuff.  Anyway, we set the hook deep in a cove that had some houses around it where the wind was very light. We started getting some food out and Linda noticed that we had dragged almost 100 yards!

Whoops! - ok we hauled the anchor, motored back up and dropped it again.  This time, we really did a good tug to set it and I put even more scope out.  Back to lunch and.... we're dragging again!  Amazing - we have never dragged before and this wind was so light in the protected cove.  We decided to head back to the anchorage by Zanhisers.  We anchored there without any problem and were able to take off early the next morning for another attempt at heading down the bay.

Lets Go (again)

The next day, we set off early and conditions were beautiful.  This was one of those sailing days that non-sailors probably imagine every day on a sailboat is like.  Great wind behind the beam, flat water and warm, clear skies.  The only downside is that I had to work some while underway.

Yeah, it's always like this
Along this leg, we were in the company of many other boats taking advantage of the good weather and heading south.  There was an AIS target up ahead called "Ancestrial Salute" that was always just 0.1kt faster or slower than us. Eventually, the wind softened up and we got a little advantage over her and overtook her (briefly). We snapped some photos of this lovely 56' ketch and next thing we knew, her skipper Stephen was hailing us.  "Hey Argon - I've got some great pictures of you".  So we emailed our photos back and forth.
Playing tag with this beautiful Ketch from Canada "Ancestrial Salute".

Argon - as viewed from Ancestrial Salute

About to tick off another State

A lot of company migrating south

Let's go all the way

South of Solomons, there are lots of places to tuck in and anchor, but not a lot near any sort of civilization. I was craving data connectivity a bit and our ships stores were craving a trip to a grocery store pretty soon.  We decided to just head all the way to Hampton, Virginia and anchor in the Back River near Langley AFB.

Linda started spreading rumors of a BBQ place near this anchorage.  I was all over the idea of finding this.  We did - and what a gem!  The Bull Island BBQ is this funky little place in a corrugated steel building run by a very enthusiastic woman who cooks everything right there. You sit at a bar surrounding the kitchen which is full of crock pots loaded with her delicious offerings.  We're sort of kind of vegetarian but we definitely were not that night.

Bull Island BBQ - 5 stars

After a very lovely quiet evening at anchor, we motored through some very heavy fog into Hampton Harbor.  We had a slip reserved at Blue Water Marina.  Ah - electricity, free wifi, a real shower, endless water, washing machines, nice docks! Life is good.  The rates here are an amazing $2.00/foot/night. We met some people from Virginia Beach who were complaining about the high rates. I told her what she would be paying in Boston and she was shocked.

Settled into Bluewater Marina. We're on "D" Dock - just like home in Boston. Hello to our D Dock friends at Constitution Marina, Boston!

The Company You Keep

One of the coolest things about this experience so far has been the number of people we have met who are doing something similar to what we are doing.  There are so many great stories to hear and share and we all benefit from them.  Everyone has different ways of solving just about everything from how to rig a sailboat to how to break from a career to actually do this.

Our growing collection of cruisers' boat cards

Exploring Hampton and waiting to go

So, here we are in Hampton, Virgina.  We're going to sit tight until we make the big off shore jump to Bermuda in a week or so.  Ken McKinley from Locus Weather will begin to look for weather windows next week.  We have our good friend and extremely skilled sailor, Lance, flying down from Boston to crew with us for the Bermuda Leg.  Linda intends to write much more about preparing for that adventure.

A short dinghy ride up the river gets us to the main town. There is a lovely short restaurant strip on Queen's Way and so far, we have not found a bad choice.

Sushi and Yaki Soba
Besides restaurants, there is also a pretty nice Air and Space museum. We played tourist for a day and went all through that.  Pretty nice!

The public town docks are also here and we will be moving to them for the remainder of our time here. The public docks have a great deal for us cruisers.  If you give them $75, you get a $0.75/foot/night rate for a year. Not only that, but every four nights gets you a fifth night free. It's a great place for people like us to wait for crew and weather - and it's in an awesome location!

Getting ready for Bermuda... We AReGONe!!

26 September 2016

Cape May, Delaware Bay, and on to the Chesapeake Bay

Cape May

After the off shore leg from Block Island to the southern tip of New Jersey, we welcomed a couple of days in one place. The anchorage in Cape May harbor is one of these that has a strong enough tidal current that you end up re-orienting every 6 hours. For half of the time, the wind is coming over your transom and you are over your own anchor chain. This increases the risk that ones anchor will drag or not re-set and can be disconcerting; but we have been practicing anchoring regularly these past two years and felt confident in the holding thus we were able to leave Argon unattended while exploring the town.

Captain Linda Perry Riera

Cape May is one of the oldest seaside resort communities in the US and the entire town has been designated a National Historic Landmark because of its many Victorian homes and buildings. (Cape May is second only to the much larger San Fransisco regarding the number of Victorian buildings in the US.) Its harbor is filled with commercial and pleasure fishing vessels of all kinds.

A couple of the many Victorian buildings that line the main streets of Cape May all leading to the vast beaches that curve around this southern peninsula of New Jersey.

I was able to go swimming very near a school of dolphins that were feeding along the beach seemingly not bothered by the proximity of people.

Delaware Bay and the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal

We departed Cape May Harbor well before dawn 19 September to time the flooding tide at the mouth of the Delaware Bay. We had planned on a 50nm sail stopping to anchor for the night at an unattractive but functional alcove before proceeding northward to Philadelphia. We decided to skip the rest stop and to skip Philadelphia (which would have been 35nm up the Delaware River potentially requiring a lot of motoring,  followed by another 35nm run back down the river). We proceeded through the Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) Canal that same day resulting in a generous run of 80nm over about 14 hours.

Miah Maull Shoal Light in Delaware Bay.

Elbow of Cross Ledge Light in Delaware Bay.

Delaware Bay is a major throughway for tankers, barges, and cargo ships.

The C&D Canal connects the northern parts of Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. The canal is 14 miles long and has 7 bridges.

The C&D Canal is lined with lush marsh lands.
We finally set the hook in the early evening hours at the mouth of the Sassafras River about 12nm southeast of the Chesapeake end of the C&D Canal. The Sassafras River has some beautiful and calm anchorages. The silence is broken occasionally by various booms from the Aberdeen Proving Ground over on the west side of the bay.  They have definitely proven that they can blow stuff up over there.

Anchored at the mouth of the Sassafras River after a very long trip from Cape May up Delaware Bay and across the C&D Canal.
Working on my paddle boarding skills in the calm, protected waters.

Northern Chesapeake Bay: America's Mud Puddle

After a few days of sailing and much examination of the charts, Bob has taken to referring to the northern part of the Chesapeake Bay as America's Mud Puddle. I hope this is not offensive to locals or those with fondness for the area. The waters are mostly shallow with vast areas off-limits to boats that draw 6-ish feet like Argon. The dredged channel cutting the center often must be used not only for the large commercial vessels that transit this waterway but also for many pleasure craft. There are a maze of rivers flowing in to (and out of) this brackish bay washing in the fine silt and clay that causes the water to be grainy and opaque. However, the water temperature was an inviting 80 degrees and the myriad of inlets and coves provide seemingly endless opportunities for anchoring and exploring.

After  a peaceful evening in the Sassafras, we decided to head to the town of Havre De Grace at the mouth of the Susquehanna River. Bob's home town of Binghamton, NY is a few (hundred) miles upstream. We stayed at Log Pond Marina which is a bit of a work in progress since it changed hands a few years ago.  Earlier this year, they spent about $700,000 dredging the marina slips and fairways. This is apparently a losing battle with all the silt brought in from the Susquehanna. They are in the process of replacing all the docks but have not gotten to the section where we stayed.  Some negative reviews on Active Captain left us wary, but compared to some of the docks we're used to at home, these were really not all that bad.

As we initially approached Havre de Grace, the instructions from the dockmaster were something like "pass the big condos to port, then the small condos, and our entrance is right after the wrecked sailboat". Well, he was right - a partially sunken ketch made a very unmistakable landmark.

This ketch broke free from a mooring in the Susquehanna and wrecked/sunk against the marina's bulkhead. Apparently, the owner only owned her for five days when this happened. If you look closely, you can see that the jib is still furled on the headstay.

Havre De Grace is a cute town with some great restaurants. We ended up staying three nights so I guess our review is pretty good. We visited the Decoy Museum and are now better informed about duck hunting and the history of decoys. Havre de Grace was also the primary town on the Eastern route of the underground railroad in Maryland as slaves could cross the Susquehanna in to free territories of Pennsylvania and on to Philadelphia and New York in the 1800's.

While we had access to some flat/grassy areas, we took the opportunity to straighten out our twisted up spinnaker.

Untwisting the spinnaker and sock.


Bob transporting the spinnaker back to Argon docked at Log Pond Marina in Havre de Grace.

Bald eagles are plentiful. This one perched each morning on a breakwater very close to where we were docked in Havre de Grace at the mouth of the Susquehanna River. (My photos do not compare to the expert bird photography by my friend Marty!)

We continued to explore several beautiful anchorages in the mud puddle.

A rare heavy rain shower gives Argon a much needed rinse while at anchor.

Shaving under sail.

Most evenings we examine the charts and cruising guides to decided where to go next.

Thinking and writing anchored at Morton Creek.

Another spectacular sunset across the Chesapeake Bay as experienced from anchor at Morton Creek.

Early mornings are my favorite time of the day. This is my office these days.

This veil of morning fog over part of the horse farm that lines one side of the anchorage in Eagle Cove.
Sunrise while anchored at Eagle Cove - an inlet off the Magothy River just a short hop south of Baltimore.
Not bad for a mud puddle.
Next it was time to be city folk again for a few days. We docked at Henderson's Marina in the trendy Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore and spent time exploring not only a bit of Baltimore, but also taking a train in to Washington DC.

The streets of Fells Point are lined with an enormous number of restaurants and bars. Fells Point is along the water just east of the more popular Inner Harbor.
Fells Point reminds us of Charlestown, MA (our most recent Boston home).  There are lots of yoga pants, baby carriages and designer dogs.

These friendly ladies invited us to join their "Women that Wine" gathering at the end of the docks. Bob was the only non-woman of the night.

More socializing in DC with Kelly, Christine, Lori and Todd.

Bob got to meet Andy Zaltzman after his show in DC. Andy is a British  comedian / satirist who regularly performs in London (SoHo). Bob is a devoted listener to Andy's podcasts including The Bugle and was excited to see that Andy was doing a US tour with a performance near us.
Now time to make our way a bit more southward as we continue to explore Chesapeake Bay. We have been blessed with fantastic weather all summer but seem to be in for a spell of unfavorable conditions for a few days so we may just sit tight in a calm anchorage for a bit.  Next major attraction for us is Annapolis... a drinking town with a sailing problem.

Until next time...  we ARe GONe!