A Chesapeake Cruise

We finally untied the dock lines and left the dock for a few days of cruising instead of working on the boat. All of the must-do projects are done for now, and we need a little time off to relax and enjoy some of the fruits of our labors. One of the great things about cruising for as long as we have, is that you meet a lot of wonderful people, and we have met many. Over the years they have become friends and even if you don't see someone for years, when you next meet, it is like you saw each other yesterday. Our good friends Paul and Gail were anchored in San Pedro, Belize when we sailed over the reef early one morning and dropped anchor. We were very surprised to find two boats already anchored there, not because they were there ,but because both of the other boats were from Maryland and one lived within five miles of us. We continued on with both boats through Belize and into the Rio Dulce in Guatemala.

Paul and Gail live in North East, Maryland with a house right on the water near the entrance of the Susquehanna River. That would be our destination for Saturday, about 35 miles north of our marina. The weather forecast was for fabulous weather for the next four days, more about that later. The morning was sunny and very pleasant, a perfect day to cruise the Chesapeake Bay. We did not get under way until 10 a.m. as we had a few chores and preparations still to do. The winds were light and out of the northwest, the direction we needed to go, but all in all, a great start. We estimated the run to North East would take us four to five hours.

Being a Saturday, the Bay was very busy with all manor of craft, needing to get somewhere really fast before the last (fill in the blank) _____________ was sold, used, taken, claimed by someone else. We headed out of Rock Creek and turned north at the alternate small ship channel that runs near Pooles Island.

We always carry paper charts aboard no matter where we are cruising ,but since Susan and I were both born and raised on the Chesapeake, we don't find it necessary to have the charts sitting at the helm as we normally would. For the next few days, we would use our trusty Waterway Guide, our log book and, of course, our Standard Horizon Chartplotter at the helm of the flybridge. We also have our Toshiba laptop running at the lower helm station as a back-up and if we need to move to the lower station. We have been using an older version of the Capn First Mate navigation software for many years. It does not have all of the bells and whistles of many others, but it does everything we need it to do and, most of all, it will run the free NOAA charts that can be downloaded on-line. The laptop is connected to a handheld Garmin GPS via a USB to Serial cable and gives us the ability to use the handheld if needed. This has worked well for us now and for many year cruising on Sea Trek, our former sailboat. 

The commercial waterman were out on the water working their traps and trot lines. On the Chesapeake, this means keeping a sharp watch at all times while under way. The polypropylene lines and floats on their traps are everywhere just waiting to wind themselves around your propeller and shaft. The results can be a minor inconvenience, an unexpected dive over the stern, or a tow to the nearest haul-out facilities and an expensive repair. These floats are everywhere in the Bay except the ships channel. Although we so love the results of their hard work, it is really annoying to have to constantly dodge the floats and add many extra miles to our trips weaving back and forth to avoid them. 

The Corps of Engineers was also busy dredging the ship channel that leads north to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. These dredge operators do a fine job of keeping our Waterways open, when the funding is there to pay for the work. We did have one encounter with another Corps of Engineers boat, the Shuman. The Captain of the Shuman was kind enough to pass us close by, even though we were well out of the channel, and rolled us from side to side with a VERY large wake. Not even a hello, we are going to pass you or, sorry about that. And once they had tossed everything around on the boat, they came to a full stop a quarter of a mile ahead of us and sat there until we passed them. They were still there when we motored out of sight. I suppose the Captains are now recruited from sportfishing Captains, and the Corps has seriously lowered its standards. If you happen to see the Shuman coming, you might want to prepare yourself. We would have taken photos of their display of seamanship, but we were too busy holding on for dear life. But here is the Shuman in case you see them coming:
Whatever this job was, it must have been really important that they arrive at that very spot at precisely the exact second.

Other than a few inconsiderate operators, the trip went very well. Beach House behaved herself, and we arrived off Turkey Point at about 2:30 in the afternoon. The National Weather Service guesscast for the day was NW winds 5 to 10 knots with gusts to 20 - makes sense. We knew a front was coming through over night with rain and unknown winds since the NWS had changed their guess at least five times since we started the trip. Our original plan was to anchor off our friends house and dinghy in for our visit. But without enough information to determine just what weather was coming, we decided to take a cautionary approach and take a slip at a local marina. Our friends had made arrangements for a slip at Bay Boat Works, about seven miles from their house by water. Bay Boat Works usually does not have transient slips, but they do have a few from time to time. 

This is a working boat yard with a travel lift and haul out facilities. They have both open and covered slips, but most are long-term slip holders. They also have a mooring field, but the moorings are for sailboats only. We never did find out why. The folks at the marina were very helpful and friendly. We found the restrooms, while not fancy, very clean and maintained. There are showers for use by the slipholders and transients. We decided to stay at the marina both Saturday and Sunday night since the rains started Saturday night and were forecast to end midday Sunday. The NWS missed again, and it rained all day Sunday and into Sunday evening.

We had a great visit, and Susan was adventurous enough to walk out to the lighthouse on Turkey Point. It is really beautiful in the area. We spent some time in downtown North East, visiting the antique shops and doing a little shopping. It is a very friendly and quaint town with friendly locals. A stop at a roadside vegetable stand and some great meals at our friends made for a perfect weekend, in spite of the weather.

This is the view from their back deck and the approaching front Saturday evening. After the rains all day Sunday, we looked at what information was coming from the Neverright Weather Service. The guesscast was for another front to come through on Monday afternoon. We had planned to head south and visit other friends on the Wye River. The front coming through would be preceded by southwest winds and predicted at 20 knots by midday Monday, we would be heading south all day. On Tuesday, when we would be returning and heading north on the Bay, the winds would be out of the north and 20 knots. Now it is not that the boat can't handle this, but the question was, did we really want to pound into 20 knots for two days? And the answer is..., no. So we changed plans and headed back to our marina and back to our slip. 

Monday morning, we were under way very early to get back to the slip before the 20 knot winds kicked in. The morning started clear considering all of the rain, with just a light fog. The winds were calm, and there was an autumn chill in the air, a sure sign the season was changing. But a very pleasant change from the 100 degree temperatures we have had over the summer. The return trip was as pleasant and uneventful as the trip north, and there were a lot fewer boats on the water since it was Monday. 

We passed a few trawlers we were sure were heading for the MTOA Rendezvous in Baltimore, but no one we recognized. With the wind building on our nose and the currents against us all the way back, we added an extra hour to our time back to the marina. Once the boat was secured in the slip and everything connected and stowed, we jumped in the car and drove to our friends on the Wye River. We had a great visit and it was a whole lot less stressful than slogging into 20 knot winds and waves on the Bay for two days. The winds did materialize, so our decision turned out to be a good one. All in all, we declared the cruise a success. We did get to spend time with our friends and, more importantly, we took the boat out of the slip and spent some quality time on the water. We promised ourselves we would do this more often before the season comes to a close. We hope we will be able to keep that promise.

We did promise to report on the new Livingston Dinghy. Unfortunately we don't have much to report. Staying at the marina meant we did not use it. We can report though that it rode on the swim platform quite well, even with the big roll from the Corps of Engineers boat. We added the stand-offs and they helped keep everything in place and stabilized. More next time.

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