Friday, January 21, 2011

the first day

Talking with Bruce about the trip got me thinking about the first day's sail.  I had meant to put day-to-day sailing plans off until late February or early March, but we talked a bit and next thing I know I've got the Chesapeake Bay chartbook out and google earth is open on the computer.
We'll start out Onancock, lower right on the sat photo above, and head down winding, tree lined Onancock Creek, entering Chesapeake Bay as we pass by Parkers Marsh Wildlife Refuge (which in itself would be a nice place to visit on a weekender trip).

It is about a four mile run down to the Bay and then we turn NNW to enter Tangier Sound.  There are two potential stopping points the first evening.  Watts Island, above and below, or Tangier Island.  We tend to keep that first day's sail a short one, 12 to 15 miles, as we'll already have started the day before dawn at my house, made a drive up the coast, rigged and loaded the boat.  Driving, rigging, packing and then a few hours sailing is, for me, a full day.
Both Watts Island, 11 miles from Onancock, and Tangier Island, 15 miles from Onancock, fit the bill.  I shot the photo approaching Watts Island in 2007 on my first ever cruise aboard Spartina.  It is a narrow, sandy island with some trees and a few millions bird.  The island runs north to south and does not offer a lot of protection.  By "protection" I mean a nice little cove that would block the wind from at least three or four directions, say north, south and west.  That way I don't have to worry about wind shifts in the middle of the night.  Watts Island would be fine if the wind is out of the west or WSW, or if there is little or no wind at all.  

The narrow little island once was large enough to support a plantation, but has since eroded away (like many of the islands on Chesapeake Bay).  In fact at one time there was a Little Watts Island off the southern end of Watts Island with a lighthouse that marked the entrance to Tangier Sound.  The lighthouse and Little Watts Island are long gone.

Below is a sat photo of Tangier Island. (Here is a post I did about Taniger Island a while ago.)  This island offers a couple of good places to anchor.  For years I've wanted to anchor inside the sandy hook (marked "XX" on the chart down below) at the southern end.  Good protection there from the southwest, west and north.  I've been on the island a few times for work and once took the long walk down that narrow stretch of beach to see the area marked as Cod Harbor on the charts and it was just beautiful.  Bright white sand and clear water.  To me that would be the ideal spot to drop the hook that first night.

If the wind is out of the north, northeast or east there is another good spot to anchor that I used on that first cruise on Tangier Sound.  (Here are some more photos from that trip at Duckworks.)  That is inside of the small island called Port Isobel.  I've put an X where I anchored on that trip.  You can see from the chart that it is a sand flat that for a lot of boats would not be considered navigable.  But for a shallow draft like a Pathfinder it was perfect.  I raised the cb and anchored in about two feet of water.

There is Spartina anchored on the sand flats, waiting for a front to coming rolling through that night.  I did need the boom tent that night as the front brought both high wind and rains.  But I was very comfortable, dry and warm inside my sleeping bag anchored out in protected water.

If you look close at the photo you can see the water tower and church spire in the village.  I didn't get into the village on that trip.   I don't know if we'll make it in there on this trip either.  Smith Island and Tylerton are on the schedule for the second day of the trip and I certainly want to get to Tylerton in time for a nice lunch at the Drum Point Market.

That sounds like the start of a plan.  Tangier Island for the first night, lunch the next day on Smith Island.  Maybe Deal Island the next night.  I need to look at the charts and figure that out.



Ginger Travis said...

I sail with you (vicariously). I passed you towing Spartina home last September, just north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, you headed south, I headed north to Delaware to build a skin-on-frame boat. Spartina was beautiful on the trailer. "I KNOW that boat!" I said. And I did.

Anonymous said...

An idea for a future post subject would be some detail on you fine looking boom tent and how it is attached, etc.

Steve said...


Wow, I'm honored that you recognized Spartina! Thank you for telling me about that. Now you've got to send me a photo of the skin-on-frame boat. I can't wait to see it.