Stuck in the Northern Chesapeake

Okay, I wouldn't really call it stuck. More like lingering excessively. Our last post left off with us leaving Chesapeake City to avoid the noise and hassle of the upcoming Labor Day weekend. We exited the C&D Canal and headed south on the Elk River, right into a NOT forecast south wind at 10 to 15 knots. The Chesapeake can be nasty with any wind against current situation so a plan B was in order. A few miles south of the Maryland entrance to the C&D Canal is the Bohemia River. In a south wind it's easy to just head up river a bit and pull over toward the south shore as much as draft will allow and drop the anchor. Beach House departed Chesapeake City at 10:30 AM and the hook was down in Veasey Cove on the Bohemia at 11:50 AM. The rest of the day was just for relaxing, we thought.

I remember the days when coming to the northern Chesapeake was for getting away from the crowds and finding solitude. Not any more. No sooner was the anchor set than the small boat traffic started with regular runs past us about every 40 seconds at full throttle. As wide as the river is here, it must be required that if a boat is at anchor, one must run right up to it and generate as large a wake and as closely as possible. This pretty much went on all day, but fortunately it goes away, for the most part, after sunset. Our plan to spend a day or two was quickly changed and the hunt for a place to hide over the holiday weekend would begin in earnest the next day. That was too bad since this really was a beautiful spot.

The next morning Beach House was underway early to find our next anchorage on the Sassafras River. We enjoyed cruising the river so much we decided to return for a few days. We were also experiencing some issues with our house batteries, so the marina area on the Sassafras was as good a place as any to resolve the problem. The batteries seemed to be running down much quicker than they had been in the past. This was a trend we had noticed for about the last month and seemed to be getting worse. Our new found friends, Joe and Connie, graciously offered us the use of their private mooring while their boat was hauled having work done. This would give us the opportunity to take care of the batteries and visit for a while. Anchor up at 07:30 AM and tied to the mooring at 10:20 AM. These short hops are really nice compared to our usual lonnnngggg days.

After load testing the house batteries it was determined that some of the batteries were getting weak and some were marginal. The decision was made to replace them all since the marginal batteries would always try and draw down the new batteries and shorten their life. The house bank was 5 years old, not as old as we have experienced before when they needed replacements, but of a respectable age. The process of removing the batteries from the engine compartment, getting them out on the stern deck, down into the dinghy, onto the nearby floating dock and into a car was made soooo much more difficult by the multitude of boats towing water skiers, tubers and guessed it, running right past us at full throttle. I just don't get it. There is a mooring field here and a marina right next to it. Yet this makes no difference, and they run back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, well you get it. The batteries were finally offloaded and we drove to Delaware to the nearest Sam's Club for replacements. This was the best price we could find for 6-volt golf cart batteries which make up the house bank. Once the new batteries were back on the dock, the entire process had to be reversed under the same conditions. What should have been a few hours to swap out the old for new, turned into an all day ordeal. But it was finally over and the new batteries were in and fully functional.

It turned out to be a great visit with our friends and we had the chance to meet several other members of the community, all former or current cruisers. They opened their homes to us and I can't remember the last time we experienced this kind of help and hospitality. It's always wonderful to experience the support of others in the boating community. We were invited to dinner, happy hour and offered a helping hand with whatever we needed. When in a situation like this, it becomes hard to tear ourselves away. But it's also easy to overstay your welcome and that's not something we ever want to do. As hard as it was, we said our so-longs and headed out once again. The first day we just moved up river a short distance and then out into the bay and on to the small town of Havre de Grace.

Havre de Grace is one of those towns we have visited by car many times but never by boat. Our kids and grandkids were coming for a visit so the plan was to take a marina slip for a couple of days. The Log Pond Marina has the best price for dockage and is centrally located right in town. The marina docks are tired and many of the slips are silted in to the point that they are unusable. Heavy clumps of seagrass can be seen on the water surface. The marinas along the Havre de Grace waterfront are open to the river and this is not a no-wake zone. The boat wakes even inside the marinas are pretty bad. At least until the sun goes down. Tugs with tows go upriver to a quarry and they can produce a pretty good wake at any time of the day or night. A big plus was the fact that we arrived on a Friday afternoon and this was a First Friday Celebration in town. The street were closed off to traffic, many vendors had food tents, bands were playing on almost every corner and there were many antique cars on exhibit everywhere. It was quite a celebration and we had the chance to meet with John Hershey from Argus Survice (spelled correctly) Engineering for dinner. It was a fun evening.

The next day we met for lunch with cruising friends that we had met in Marathon back in January before we left for the Bahamas. It was good to catch up on what each of us had been doing since we last saw each other. Then the kids showed up and we had great time. Havre de Grace is another of those charming historic towns and the downtown area is full of shops and restaurants. A few of the marinas provide supplies and services, but for supplies like groceries, etc. it's a long ride. There is a great promenade along the waterway and a lighthouse to visit. The Maritime Museum and Decoy Museum are also near the water. At the end of the promenade is an outdoor grill with inexpensive sandwiches and daily specials. A few blocks from our marinas was a fantastic ice cream shop with a fudge store across the street. Time passes too quickly and the need to move on finally caught up. We topped off our fuel tanks at the Havre de Grace City Yacht Basin because they had the least expensive price for fuel we have found on the Chesapeake so far. The day was approaching when we would haul the boat to do the dreaded bottom painting.

The trip from Havre de Grace to North East, Maryland took about 2 1/2 hours even though they are directly across from each other. The shallow area known as "the Flats" completely dries out at low tide and we have to go almost all the way back out of the Susquehanna River and then head north again to get to North East. The anchor hit the bottom just before the inner channel markers to the town of North East. The channel itself is reported to be too shallow for even our draft. We anchored off a home that was a replica of a lighthouse and Susan said she would like to have a house like it. Once more we had to deal with dozens and dozens of small boat racing by and throwing up large wakes. We
rocked and rolled until the sun went down. But even until 9 or 10 at night, a few were still whizzing by. The plan was to stay put a day and explore the area, including sounding the channel.

The next day we called Bay Boat Works, the marina where we planned to haul and paint the bottom, to find out what time the following day they wanted us there. It was a surprise when they suggested that since we were so close, we should come on in and they would haul us that afternoon. Getting a days head start sounded like a good idea and off we went. This marina was chosen because we had been here before, knew they were good people to deal with, could do the work ourselves, and the location was very near our good friends so we could stay with them while the boat was on the hard. They were just returning from a sailing trip to Maine and we both would have great stories to tell. It worked out perfectly and after about 5 days, Beach House had a fresh coat of bottom paint and new zincs to begin her journey south. There had already been a few mornings with temps in the 40s and that means time to look for warmer weather. Now for a slow, leisurely cruise down the western shore of the Chesapeake to Norfolk and the ICW south. 

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  1. I read your post about the boats zipping by on the Bohemia while you were at anchor. About a mile up river there is a no wake zone that is fairly well respected.

    1. Thanks for the info Kenny. I wish we would have known that when we were there. But at least we will the next time. Chuck


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