As expected, the weather forecast was as confusing in the morning as it was the night before. So we weighed anchor and stuck our nose out into the Bay. As we rounded Stingray Point and crossed the Rappahannock the west winds that were forecast were out of the northeast, right on our nose. The forecast called for 10 to 15 with gusts to 20. We checked the buoy reports and the winds were all pretty much in the 8 knot range so we pressed on. Our biggest concern was crossing the Potomac since it is ten miles across and can develop some pretty big waves. The wind against the current was also going to make it a bumpy ride. We had a fall back plan to head into Reedville, Virginia if the going really got rough. As we passed the Rappahannock Spit light and set a waypoint for Smith Point, the southern end of the Potomac, the winds continued to clock on our nose but the speed remained constant. The swells however, were getting larger. By the time we reached Smith Point, it was pretty uncomfortable pounding into the swells and whitecaps were everywhere. These are the conditions we usually stay in port for.
We considered turning back into Reedville, but a check of our boat speed showed us still doing at least 8 MPH, even against the swells and winds. The crossing might not be too long so we continued on. As we figured, the swells were giving us a roller coaster ride for the hour plus it took us to get from Smith Point to the light at Point Lookout at the northern point of the Potomac. As we approached Point Lookout we came more into the lee of the land and the seas began to lay down. Winds were still around 10 knots and had finally moved into the forecast west. At no time during the day did we ever see 15 knots and certainly not 20, not that we were complaining. Once we reached Point Lookout we planted our left foot on the beach and stayed close in for the run up to Point No Point, then Cedar Point where we would make the turn into the Patuxent River and on into Solomons Island, our destination for the evening.
As we made the turn into the Patuxent and headed for Solomons there were at least 12, and perhaps more, sailboats approaching from the north and headed the same direction we were. Fortunately we had a fair head start on them since the anchorages can get crowded. Once we arrived in Solomons we decided to turn into Mill Creek for the night since we knew the Back Creek anchorage had been filled with moorings by Zanhiser’s. There are many spots back in Mill Creek to anchor with lots of room, good holding and protection from all wind directions. Once in the creek, the wind and seas were as calm as can be and it warmed up in the sun. We were also thankful that the forecast mostly cloudy had turned out to be 100% sunny all day. But in the back of our mind we knew we were racing a front due Wednesday with “forecast” winds in the 30 knot range. Our total 67 plus miles for this leg and the 57 miles to Pasadena the next day should get us in and secure by Tuesday afternoon.
The following morning the lies continued to pour out of the VHF weather broadcasts. Yes, I know, what is the alternative? It would be an occasional correct forecast or issuing the truth, “this information is our best guess”. The radio for two days broadcast east winds 5 knots for our area and when we pulled up anchor the buoy reports were mostly east at 8 knots, not too bad. As we entered the Bay and headed north from Drum Point the seas were 3 to 4 feet instead of the 1 to 2 we expected. With seas directly on our beam, these would be the most uncomfortable hours we would spend on the entire trip.
The buoy reports we were monitoring every half hour now reported east 12 to 17 and the seas were getting larger and more uncomfortable. At this point the thought was to turn back but we tried one more strategy, one we would have done earlier on if the information we were receiving was correct. We turned the boat and headed directly into the winds and waves. Believe it or not this was a much more comfortable ride and our plan was to cross the Bay and get in the lee of the eastern shore, then turning north and crossing the Bay again at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The tactic worked and as soon as we near the eastern shore the seas laid down and the ride was very comfortable. But as we reached the center of the Bay a tug with a large tow was also heading north and closing on us. We tried over and over again to get him to respond on the VHF with little results. We finally altered course, ran parallel to him until he passed us and then crossed behind his tow.
By noon the winds had dropped to zero and the Bay was as smooth as glass. We crossed under the Bay Bridge for the first time in six years and headed up the ship channel to Pasadena. The rest of the day was quite relaxing and we eventually moved from the inside steering station back to the flybridge. One large benefit from steering on a sailboat to the trawler bridge is the ability to spot all of the trap floats, be able to see the patterns and plot a course through them. A benefit we had not considered. Soon the all to familiar sight of the old Bethlehem Steel Plant came into view with its belching smoke stacks. We had hoped the plant was closed but apparently not. This will mean lots of work over the winter keeping the decks clean.
At around 5:00 PM, we arrived at the marina on Rock Creek in Pasadena. Over the years we have noticed the sadness and even a little depression set in at the end of any cruise. Even if it is for the purpose of relocation as this one was, instead of just for pleasure. There is a certain amount of relief that we won't have to up anchor and move tomorrow and will not have to worry about weather and anchors dragging, but we also miss watching the scenery pass by while under way, meeting the great people along the waterways and visiting new places. This is the time the emotions are definitely in conflict. We do have to look at this as a new chapter and see what tomorrow will bring in this familiar yet strange place we have been away from for a long long time.
We secured the boat and ourselves and for the first time in a while were tied to the dock and plugged into shore power. We met an old friend that was still living at the marina, had dinner and settled in. It was comfortable not to worry about anchors, lights and other boats for a change. The front we were racing was still heading in our direction. We did get some rain overnight but not much. Also the breeze picked up a little, then died down by early morning. But by noon time, they had pick up to over 25 MPH with gusts all over the area to 40 and 49 MPH. It really felt good to be tucked into a protected creek and secure at the dock. We did put on a couple of extra dock lines just in case. From this point on for a while we will be back to posting projects, repairs and our occasional forays out on the Bay. But we will try and keep it interesting. We hope you enjoyed coming along on our nearly 800 mile shakedown cruise. We will be doing a post shortly on how the equipment held up, what worked and what did not, as well as what we learned regarding the equipment we will need for future cruises, so stay tuned.