Saturday, October 21, 2017

day three - the rushing tide, fair wind to Rock Hall

Sails up at 6:30, clear skies and a light north wind.  Making 2.8 out on the Miles River as the sun comes up.  A starboard tack towards Parsons Island as a flock of terns dips close to the water.  

I turn on the radio for an early morning football game between Baltimore and Jacksonville.  The wind is not strong but it is steady and I enjoy the comfortable morning.  Prospect Bay by 10:00 tacking to Kent Narrows.  At Hand Point under power to the Narrows hoping to make the 11:30 bridge lift.

We reach the bridge and find ourselves third in line for the lift.  With a strong ebb tide I keep the outboard a little above idle to hold steady in the rushing water.  Four or five boats, big power boats, line up behind Spartina.  The bridge begins to lift and I power up behind the big boat in front of me.  I've got plenty of power to work against the current but as the boat ahead goes through the opening I see the the wide buttresses on either side of the opening are funneling the rushing tide.  A wild current rushes around the power boat.  I'm next in line so throttle up and move forward.  Realizing how strong the current is I begin to wonder if I can make it.  For a second I consider a hard turn to port and letting the other boats go by but instead head in to the opening.  Spartina comes to a standstill in the current and a large boat comes up from behind giving me no way go but into the current.  I open the throttle as wide as it will go.  Spartina holds for a few seconds, then begins to inch forward.  Halfway through the opening I realize we should be able to make it, I focus on keeping the hull pointed straight into the current.  We make more ground and past the buttresses the current slacks and I fall off to the side in calmer water.  The big boat aft of Spartina cranks up her power and runs on by.  Nerves a little bit jangled I motor over to Harris Crab House, tie up to take a break.  A nice lunch of fried flounder and we cast off before 1:00.

Full sail on the Chester River, tacking across the choppy water.  Get a whistle and a wave from a big offshore boat passing by.  Making 4.6 in the afternoon breeze.  The wind has swung to the northwest and I realize I got a line for a single tack to Rock Hall.  Off Eastern Neck making 3.6 on a port tack, really fine sailing.  A Giants vs. Eagles football game keeps me company on the radio.  Out of the Chester River the water is much calmer and the tide is working in our favor.  

About 3:30 I pick out the green marker for the Rock Hall entrance channel.  I text friends Mary Lou and Fred, they'll meet me when I'm in.  It is nearly 5:00 as we pass the breakwater, I follow the channel markers to the east and then the north, tying up at the town wharf ahead of a Canadian boat that has just come in.  My friends arrive and we head to the Harbor Shack for a light dinner and glasses of iced tea.

The channel in the harbor at Rock Hall has always struck me as odd.  They form a path around the center of the harbor which is marked as being very shallow on the charts.  But there are a handful of old work skiffs tied to piling out in the center.  I realize the channels go around the center of the harbor which is set aside for small boats, small boats like Spartina.

After dinner I clean up Spartina and cast off, taking my place in the harbor with the old Chesapeake Bay skiffs.  How nice.  

Friday, October 20, 2017

day two - north to the Miles River

A crystal clear night, skies filled with stars.

The first deadrise comes in darkness, navigation lights and a rumbling diesel moving across Irish Creek.  The second comes with a hint of dawn, green and red lights coming straight towards Spartina.  She comes up to about 20 yards away and turns to her starboard.  No doubt that I've anchored in a favorite crabbing spot.

We sail off anchor at 6:30, the second deadrise following in behind us to set a trot line.  Howell Point at 6:45, 1.8 knots in the wind shadow of the point but a good heading towards Knapp Narrows.  The sun shows above the trees as we cross the mouth of Broad Creek at 3 knots.  I can see about a dozen deadrises working their trot lines.  We drop down to 1.8 knots, steady, cool and comfortable.  

Through Knapp Narrows just after 9:00.  While calling the bridge I notice my vhf batteries are low so I tie up at a floating pier on the narrow to put in some new batteries.  A kindred spirit passes by in a nice catboat with a dinghy in tow.

Full sail on Poplar Island Narrows before 10:00 and we begin a series of tacks north, the north wind and tide against us.  Blue skies and a few white clouds.  Light chop and I can feel the ebb current on the starboard tacks.  

Crackers, italian canned tuna and a cup of fruit for lunch.  Just after noon and we are out of the narrows, the tide seems to be slowing and the wind shifts a little to the east.  Making 3.4 knots.

A few more tacks and we are off Claiborne, the old ferry landing.  One more tack and we cut inside the markers, crossing the shoals at Tilghman Point.  Late afternoon and the wind is falling off.  The sun feels hot.  Anchor down just inside Tilghman Point at 4:30.  No wind and all.  I can hear but not see a tractor working in a nearby field.  I can also hear the high pitched cries of eagles flying as they head out over the Miles River in the evening.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

day one - down the Choptank

Sails up at 9:25 just off the ramp in Cambridge, making 3 knots but struggling through the chop.  Light overcast with a steady N wind.  Calmer and making 3.6 away from the shoreline.  A starboard tack carries us toward the old brick marker at Hambrooks Bar, the curving shoal that reaches out from the southern shore of the river.  We round the light at 10:00 making a pleasant 5 knots.

Wind falls off and down 2.2 knots off Howard Point, three deadrises rigged for clamming coming up the river.  We struggle in the light wind and rolling wakes of the deadrises.

With Castle Point ahead I hear a rumbling sound across the river.  Five buy boats, classic and finely restored Chesapeake Bay boats, head up the river towards Cambridge.  Still under 3 knots off of Oxford, I think of heading into Island Creek to see some friends and anchor for the night.  But it is still too early in the day.  Schools of menhaden ruffle the surface.  Sailing is slow and steady, comfortable with temperatures in the mid-70s.  

More wind off the Tred Avon, making 4.2 knots with a skipjack off the bow heading to Cambridge.  Must be something going on there this weekend.  At 2:00 the wind falls off, we make wide tacks on the Choptank hoping for Steve's Cove on the for side of Broad Creek or maybe even Tilghman Island for the night.  

The chop builds and the wind dies off.  We sail in closer to shore to find calm water, making a steady series of tacks along the shoreline towards Irish Creek.  Mid-afternoon and I see the first eagle of the trip.  Lucy Point in sight by 3:45, rounding the point at just after 4:00.  

Anchor down on Irish Creek inside of Howell Point close to 5:00.

Evening.  The wind picks up and then calms.  The skies begin to clear.  Deadrises are tied to a dock along shore.  A great blue heron flying across creek makes a guttural cry.  Then the sound of a flock of geese in flight, unseen beyond the tree line.  

Sunday, October 15, 2017

back on the road again

Up at 3 a.m., in Easton at first light only to find Michael and Sheila busy cleaning water and leaves out of SPARTINA.  I told them they shouldn't be doing that, but no stopping them.  Breakfast on Kantala, the Michael and I removed the old broken axle and installed the new axle along with a new set of leaf springs.  Good to have SPARTINA back home where she belongs.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

watching the race

Checking on the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race as all the boats head to the starting line I find that the race committee has been able to show boat locations overlaid on the Windytv map.  Very cool now that you can see their positions and weather real time.

And just for fun I've added yellow marks at three of my anchorages from the last trip, Queenstown Creek all the way at the bottom, Hail Creek above that and the Corsica River to the right.  Hope to start the daily log next week.

the new axle, the race

That's the new axle, very stout and solid, with new hub and leaf spring.  This should carry SPARTINA many, many miles.  I'll head up to the Eastern Shore early Sunday morning.  Installation should be fairly simple, cutting off the old bolts and reinstalling with all new hardware.  Michael and Sheila of KANTALA have offered to help, which means it will be fun.

The Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race begins this afternoon off of Annapolis.  The Virginia will be part of the fleet.  Looks like outstanding wind on the beam from 15 to 25 mph, I'm not sure I have seen such a favorable wind for the race in a while.  

Monday, October 9, 2017

a few photographs

top of the bay 325 track

why a broken trailer axle made me smile all the way home

The story of how an unfinished ocean crossing,
a museum, a few friends, a businessman, 
a father and son, and a landscaper can make a bad situation
seem to be not all that bad.

Hauled out and on my way home I was leaving St. Michaels when I took the right turn on to southbound 322 in Easton, Maryland.  I heard a noise, the kind you would hear if your ran over an aluminum can.  I thought nothing of it but a minute later looking in my rear view mirror I saw bluish smoke streaming out behind SPARTINA's trailer.  Uh oh.  

I pulled over to see the starboard side wheel tilted at an awkward angle.  I did not need to look to know that the trailer axle had broken.  And only 200 miles from home.

Before checking on towing I knew I would need a place to store the trailer and boat.  I texted Kristen at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum about 15 miles away.  She responded instantly with the location on campus to store the boat, said she was alerting her staff of the boat's arrival and promised to keep on eye on SPARTINA herself.  How kind.

Next contact was with Boat US where I have both boat insurance and roadside assistance for the trailer.  And then I waited.  It is not easy to find a tow truck in Easton on a Sunday morning.

So while I was waiting I started thinking, something I don't do all that often, and it occurred to me that cruising friends Michael and Sheila had their boat Kantala at a marina in Easton.  Yes, these are the folks I met in Portsmouth last summer and later had a wonderfully timed chance meeting near St. Michaels last year.  And yes, these are the same folks I saw off from Hampton last July as they set off across the Atlantic for England.  I won't go into detail other than to say they had some steering issues that caused them to put into Nova Scotia and while waiting for parts it became too late to complete the crossing.  So it had happened that a little over a week into my sail I was on Queenstown Creek and received a text from Kantala saying the were back on the Chesapeake Bay  - I was still thinking they were in England - and would I like to have hotcakes for breakfast?  Leaving the creek just after dawn the next morning I looked out to see Kantala rounding up to drop anchor.  During our enjoyable breakfast they mentioned they were heading for Easton and would be tying up in a yard there for most of October.  The boat yard, I came to realize while standing on the side of the road, was almost within walking distance from my trailer with a broken axle.

So I text Michael and Sheila, who were in Annapolis at the boat show, about the boat/trailer and Michael calls to say just get the boat/trailer to the yard and he take care of the arrangements there.  I texted Kristen to tell her I had found closer accommodations and also called Boat US to change the trailer destination.  Boat US told me they were having an extremely difficult time finding a tow service.  I said thanks for trying, please keep trying.  Then I waited some more.

That's when Paul and Dawn, long time friends who were at the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival, saw me on the roadside and stopped to check on me.  And I waited some more.

Steve and Scott, good friends who were also at the festival, also stopped by.  And I waited.

Then a third participant from the festival, one I did not know, pulled over.  And I waited.

Next it was a gentleman from Easton, on his way to the festival, who pulled over.  I explained the situation.  He gave me his business card - one from a large Washington-based real estate firm that listed his position as "Senior Director" - and said to call him if I needed help, he would be glad to keep an eye on SPARTINA for me.

Then it was a dad with his son, with a big four wheel drive truck, who stopped, saying he had driven by an hour earlier and was concerned that I was still there.  By this time I had gotten word that a tow truck was on the way, and I thanked them for stopping.

Finally it was a man driving a truck with a trailer loaded down with freshly cut tree branches.  Maybe a landscaper, he spoke with an accent that told me that English was not his first language.  He appeared to have been working all morning, with more work to do, but stopped on the shoulder anyway.  By this time I could point to the tow truck coming down the road.  He was still concerned.  Once the trailer was towed, how was I going to get it fixed?  I assured him I had it all worked out.  I could not thank him enough for his kindness, shook his hand and thanked him again.

Trailer and boat are now at the yard in Easton, two more measurements to confirm and Portsmouth Trailer will make a new axle for me.  So it is all working out.

Not the easy drive home that I had pictured but still if my axle is going to break why not have it happen near a boat yard where friends can watch over it.  And if I've got to wait for a couple hours for a tow, why not enjoy the kindness of many friends and strangers.  I hardly thought of the trailer on the drive home, smiling instead and thinking about how good people can be.

I got home in the evening and while pouring a glass of well-deserved red wine Pandora was playing a live version of  a classic Bob Marley song......

don't worry about a thing
every little thing gonna be alright

And it is.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

last leg

Arrived St. Michaels this morning about 10:30 on a nice southerly breeze. GPS shows a track of 325 miles. Just a great trip.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Chilly, windy, Corsica River, Hail Point

I can't reply to comments from my phone, so I'll do so in this post.
Yes, Mary Lou, it was chilly that night, but a good sleeping bag makes for a great night's sleep.
Kevin, I missed the first cold front, tied up on the Sassafras, but caught the second for a wild ride down the Bay.
Bob, I agree that the Corsica River is a wonderful place. And I appreciate the background on Hail Creek. Interesting.
Photo is from rounding up this morning in Hail Creek.

Saturday, September 30, 2017


Blustery sail down Chesapeake Bay this morning. Forecast of 20-25 with gusts to 30 may have been accurate. Tucked way back in Queenstown Creek surrounded by trees with eagles and herons.