Trying To Get Down The Chesapeake Bay

Our first attempt to get off the dock and get underway was aborted, once again due to a lousy weather forecast courtesy of the NWS. I don't mean the forecast was for lousy weather, instead it was another forecast that did not come close to actual conditions. There were hints that we should probably postpone our departure, but since we have been tied to the dock for so long, we ignored the subtle hints. The forecast winds were to be 10 to 15 out of the northwest and indeed they were. But much more 15 then 10 and the gust were 20 and increasing as the morning progressed. Eventually the gusts reached 25. The hint we ignored was the fact that the tide on the Chesapeake would be incoming most of the day. This put a north flowing current against a wind blowing from the northwest to the southeast. Any time there is wind against tide or current, the seas are considerably larger. That was the case as we headed out of the Magothy and into the Bay. We had pretty big swells rolling right onto our beam, making for a very uncomfortable ride. Beam seas in a trawler are worst case conditions. A quick decision was made to head back to the slip and try again tomorrow. As we turned to head back, we had seas breaking over the bow and splashing up on the windshield. We were only 30 minutes out, so after we turned around, we were back in the slip in another 30 minutes. But even that was no fun at all and we always say, if it ain't fun, why do it. The wind continued all day and began to ease up late in the afternoon. Forecast for the next day was light southerlies at 5 to 10. We'll see.

The next morning we indeed had light winds as forecast. Even though all of the buoy reports said west winds, the NWS insisted the wind was out of the southeast. As we set out, we marveled at the difference a day can make. We THOUGHT smooth seas would be the order of the day. Our destination for the day would be Solomons, Maryland, some 46 miles south of the Magothy. As the day progressed, it was obvious we were making excellent time and would reach Solomons at around one in the afternoon. We decided to look at the situation as we neared our goal for the day and maybe continue a little farther on to make up for our lost day. With light winds and a small chop, we were averaging about 8 knots for our speed.

We were indeed early at the mouth of the Patuxent River, so we decided to continue on and try to make Deltaville, Virginia before dark. According to our GPS, our ETA would be about a half hour before sunset, quite doable unless something changed. And of course we are out in the Chesapeake Bay on a boat so things did change. As we crossed the intersection with the Potomac River, the swells and wind waves began to build. Even though the wind was still only about 10 knots and finally from the southeast, one would think a storm was raging. The farther south we progressed, the bigger the waves and of course since they were on the nose, we were slowing down considerably. It always amazes us how relatively benign conditions on the Bay can become so uncomfortable. The decision was made at around 7 p.m. to head into Ingram Bay and find an anchorage for the night. Our ETA had changed to after sunset and was falling later as our progress slowed. The breaking waves over the bow all the way up to the flybridge also made the decision easier. The wind was still only about 10 knots out of the southeast.

Once in Ingram Bay, the seas flattened out considerably. We usually anchor a little north in the bay in a hook on the south side. But this time we decided to try a new anchorage and turned to port and entered Mill Creek. This is a very nice and well-sheltered creek so we were glad we made the choice. As we were coming in, a small trawler was coming out and there were already a couple of sailboats anchored for the evening. We ran into the creek for about a mile and dropped the hook not too far from one of the sailboats. For the first time, out new Manson Supreme anchor did not take hold right away. Our normal practice is to drop the anchor where we want, and then to back down slowly until we reach about 800 to 900 RPMs to be sure it is set. This time we dragged quite a distance and if we can not set the anchor we know we have to haul it up and try again. That is exactly what we did and we moved a bit farther back into the creek. This time the anchor took hold right away and we settled in for the night. The creek was very lovely, but the odor from the menhaden plant across the bay was pretty bad all night.

The next morning, we were up at 6 a.m. and under way by 7 a.m.. As we left Ingram Bay, it was apparent that things had actually gotten worse since the afternoon before. The bow was virtually out of the water part of the time and then would come crashing down in the swells, making our progress extremely slow. Add to this the millions of floats on crab pots and the situation got tense very quickly. I shudder to think what would happen if our prop was wrapped by one of these lines and we became dead in the water. Not in these seas. The large swells hid the floats until we were almost on top of them. We quickly turned back into Ingram Bay to lick our wounds and rest up until the weather would give us a break.

Listening to reports on the VHF, it was apparent that things were not going to get better anytime soon. And we were only 15 miles from our destination in Deltaville, Virginia. A marina stay for the next few days seemed to be in order so we called Buzzard's Point Marina for transient space since we were familiar with the marina. They had room for us so we headed into the creek at Reedville and proceeded to tie up for a few days. The weather reports will not allow us a window to head down the Bay until Friday. Susan has some work to do in Deltaville, which is not too far away, so it is not a total loss. If we are able to leave on Friday, Norfolk will be our next destination.

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