I wake to the breeze coming through the vented boom tent. No rain last night and my last memory was listening to an Orioles game out of Baltimore. I'm glad to have come up with the idea of folding back the corners of the tent. It only took six years for the lightbulb to go on.
We sail off anchor with a south southwest wind nudging us out of the creek, board up to go over the shallows. We round up to lower the board and then tighten the downhaul on the main, something I forget to do now and then. It does make a difference.
A deadrise named Wet Willy works a trotline as we cross the Little Choptank at 4+ knots. Waves coming off the bay slap Spartina's port as we pass Ragged Island to our starboard, Hills Point just ahead. The shoals off the point, clearly seen by the field of both yellow and green crab pot floats, extend a couple of hundred yards out into the bay. We skirt the shallows then jibe to cross Trippe Bay towards Cook Point. Not yet 9 a.m., it is hot and humid.
Approaching Cook Point we are sailing downwind and the breeze falls off, the leather on the gaff jaws groaning against the mast as Spartina rocks in the swell. A cut through the shallows teases me and I think about raising the cb and rudder to take the shortcut, but sail the extra hundred yards to avoid getting caught in thin water. Once around the point the wind fills in on the beam and we are sailing four to five knots on the Choptank River. We round up briefly to set up the solar charger on the foredeck and get the camera batteries charging, then turn east bound for Cambridge.
We cross a couple of wide bays, easy sailing with just a knee to tend the tiller. Castle Point we come in close to land and see a farm that looks like it is out of the 1960's, a simple small house, barn and a couple of outbuildings in front of a corn field. A couple of chairs, empty on this hot day, sit up on the bluff overlooking the river. Around the corner of the point is a long pier with a boat house, and countless oyster floats tied in batches alongside the pier. Crops of corn and oysters, very nice!
Before noon and still a couple miles shy of Cambridge, the wind fails. We motor with sails flapping to the entrance channel, drop the sails and head in past the marina. The channel leads into a winding Cambridge Creek lined by boat yards, new condos and the J. M. Clayton crab house with its beautiful Chesapeake Bay mural. Next to the crab house is Snapper's where I tie up for lunch.
A hot, hot day and I could sit inside in the air-conditioning, but find myself content with the shade of the porch overlooking the creek. I order a crab cake sandwich, the waiter nods in the direction of the crab house next door telling me the crab meat is as fresh as it gets.
So I'm enjoying lunch and a woman in a Mercedes stops, gets out of her car and takes some photographs of Spartina. She looks like a local so I walk over and ask her if there was a convenience store nearby where I could buy some water. She says no, but she's happy to give me a ride. I thank her, but say I don't want to trouble her. She says hang on a minute, I've got something for you. She runs to her car, comes back with two bottles of sparkling water from Italy. I tell her she doesn't need to do that, she says "Hey, we're fellow sailors," hops in her car and drives off. How nice.
Back out on the Choptank just after 2:00 the wind is back with a vengeance, hot and blowing hard across the river. The skipjack Nathan of Dorchester is out for an afternoon sail with guests aboard, just beautiful with all that canvas flying.
It's an easy sail at five knots down the river to LaTrappe Creek, following the entrance channel until I see local boats taking the shortcut outside of the markers. We come in alongside a trawler and I slip to starboard to let them pass. We fall in behind them on the calm creek, turning to port at a sandy little spit with smaller boats pulled in shallow and people relaxing on the beach. Lots of waves from everybody as we make a couple tacks across the little cove. I head north further back into the cove where I find an anchorage all to myself.
The water feels cool and wonderful as I slip over the side of Spartina for a swim. I float on my back, swim under the hull, hang beneath the bow sprit and just relax. Three days into the trip and I could not have asked for better weather.
Back aboard Spartina I clean up the boat, repack some gear and spread out a few things to dry on the deck. College football on the radio I lean back in the cockpit and read Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire, a great book about a follow-up to the Lewis and Clack expedition. Dinner is a light combination of smoked oysters, cup of fruit and crackers with cheese.
Late afternoon I motor back out into the creek, away from the thick trees, to where I hope to find a little more wind. It is cooler out there, but checking weather radio I hear warnings of severe thunderstorms. I motor back into the small cove. Just as I am getting the boom tent up I hear rain, a wall of rain, coming through the trees. It is a vicious downpour that pounds on the boom tent. With the cool air meeting humid it feels like it is raining inside the tent. I crawl into the bivy and it is wet in there too, soaked with condensation.
The tent glows from lightning, the hull shakes with the thunder. Spartina swirls at anchor and cool winds rush in and suddenly all the condensation is gone - the boat, the inside of the tent and the bivy are dry. Quiet for awhile, then more thunder and lightning and everything is damp again from the humidity. I think it is raining inside my gore-tex bivy. I fall asleep and waken sometime later to find that the storm has moved on, and Spartina has dried out. The air has a chill to it. I slip into the sleeping back and fall asleep.