Tuesday, October 31, 2017

day ten - fine dining, Russia house

Crystal clear, very chilly night.  Nothing is better than a cold night in a warm sleeping bag.

Wind whistles through the tops of the trees yet Queenstown Creek is as smooth as glass.  Hints of the rising sun come though the woods to the east.  

Sail off anchor before seven, receiving a text from Kantala that they'll be anchored in about 30 minutes out on the Chester River.  It is an outgoing tide, I raise the centerboard and rudder as we drift down the creek at 1 knot.  Three large sailboats are anchored on Queenstown Creek across from Salters Cove.  From the looks on their faces as they drink coffee on a cold morning they do not expect to see a small sailboat appear at the bend in the river.  We exchange greetings and sailing plans for the day as Spartina drifts by.  

We slide out of Queenstown Creek at 7:50, the entrance even narrower at low tide.  Wind falls but as I reach back to start the outboard the breeze comes back strong and steady.  Looking out I see Kantala rounding up to drop anchor.  

It's a wonderful morning with Michael and Sheila.  They had had problems with two of their steering systems on the ocean crossing and decided to go into Nova Scotia for repairs.  Once there it took a week to locate the metal shaft they needed, only to find that for some reason it could not be shipped out of the US.  So they gave up on England for the year, had the metal rod shipped to Maine, repaired the self-steering vane there and then began a leisurely sail along the coastal waters of New England.  And here they are just off Chesapeake Bay not too many miles from where we met a year ago.  

Hotcakes with syrup brought from Maine, fresh fruit salad and hot tea (the hot tea much welcomed on a cold morning), it is an enjoyable, unexpected morning and ends too soon.  They had many miles to make before dark.  We say goodbye, I cast off and raise sails only to hear Sheila shouting that I've left my foul weather gear behind (weather had warmed considerably during breakfast and I did not miss them when I climbed on Spartina).  I sail by Kantala's port side and they toss the jacket and pants on board.  

Tacking across the Chester River at 11:30 I lose sight of Kantala motoring to the north end of Kent Island.  Wind is good and it is a pretty day.  I tack to the western shore of the river where I hear the drag on the trolling line start to click.  It's a good sized striper and I work it in close to Spartina.  Seeing its size, maybe two and a half feet long, I lean back with the rod only to watch the line break, the fish escape.

A couple more tacks and we get a wind shift, and that plus the incoming tide let's us sail a steady course up the Chester River.  

The drag goes off again and this time I work the fishing in slowly, bringing in a 21" striper, perfect for dinner.  I had planned to go to a restaurant just off the Corsica River but now fresh seafood is on my menu.  

Early afternoon is great sailing, 4.4 with a steady breeze and 5.6 with the gusts.  Enter the Corsica River at 1:40, the large red mansion on the shore part of a Russian compound that had been forced to close last year because of election meddling.  There were spies among us on the river. 

A fleet of Comet class sailboats rounds the marks on the regatta, and afternoon regatta at the local sailing club.  One Comet with a light blue hull capsizes and is quickly righted.  I'm sailing on the edge of the course and as the blue boat sails by I see a man at the tiller and a woman, his wife or girlfriend, busy bailing out the boat bucket by bucket.  

I clean the striper while cooking a pouch of boiling bag rice, then sautée the the filets in olive oil with a little bit of Cajun Sunshine mixed in.  A great and tasty dinner.  I'll visit the Centreville restaurant on the next trip (as long as I don't catch another nice striper on the way there).  Sports on the radio all afternoon and evening, the Baltimore Orioles wrapping up a painful season and the Baltimore Ravens losing terribly to the Steelers. 

There are a couple other boats anchored nearby so I set up the boom tent for privacy.  It is quiet and peaceful and calm, and I reflect on what an interesting day it has been.  A quiet and cold creek to start the day, breakfast with friends on Kantala, fine sailing, some good fishing, a spy house and an excellent dinner.  What more could I have asked for?

Monday, October 30, 2017

day nine - I can't resist

Calm.  Raindrops on my face in the darkness.  I flip down the lid on the bivy and go back to sleep.  Sleep.  More rain, heavier and with strong gusts.  The cold front arrives.

A blustery morning.  A double reef tucked in the main and the sail wrapped tight to the boom and gaff.  I tie the jib down to the bow sprit using a "shoelace" knot with a long line that runs back to the cockpit.  I can just walk forward and tug the line to free the sail.  The mizzen sits in the lazy jacks ready to raise.  

Anchor up and motoring through the mooring field at 7:35.  I think about staying on the creek, waiting out the front, but keep going.

The entrance channel faces to the northwest, a strong northwest wind blows right into the channel.  Waves in batches of three roll off the Bay.  I increase the throttle to push out through the waves.  After a set comes through I raise the mizzen which helps me keep Spartina pointed directly into the wind.  Full throttle and the bow reaches up with each wave and drops back down with a splash.  I think about turning back.  I look to port and there is a man in the cockpit of a 36' sailboat and he is watching me, probably wondering what I am doing in this weather.  Spartina seems to inch forward while I watch the point to the southwest.  Thirty minutes under power at nearly full throttle and I begin to worry about the fuel.  I look to the point and see we are clear, cut the power, raise the outboard, walk forward to tug the line freeing the jib, raise the jib and....we are sailing.   

Fairlee Creek is just to the south, my bail out point if I find it is too rough but under mizzen and jib the wind is perfect.  Making 5.4 knots and I know it will be a good run south.  The spray flies as waves come up on the starboard quarter to slap the hull.  

Spartina heels steadily in the wind, 6.6 knots and then 7.1 sliding down the face of the waves.  Past Tolchester at 8:50, cut across the the shipping channel where it comes close to the beach with a tug and a tow about a mile to the south.  The Eastern Shore flies by.  Swan Point at 9:20, 5.6 knots in calmer water.  An old Chesapeake Bay buy boat power past us headed north with a rough ride in her future.  

Low white clouds move in and the air quickly chills.  It is a quick ride alongside Eastern Neck, the wind seemingly on our beam and I wonder if I can make the turn at Cedar Point to sail up the Chester River in the lee of the land.  Cedar Point at 11:30, I'm sailing too close to shore and dodge out to get around a fish weir.  We round the point to calmer water, 4.2.  Passing Hail Point I look up the Chester and see nothing but white caps the length and breadth of the river.  Not going up the river after all.  I pull the tiller to port, finding the waypoint for Queenstown Creek on the GPS.  

We sail almost directly downwind into the shallow entrance to the creek, big waves rolling up under Spartina's stern.  Inside the creek we round up to drop anchor and catch a breath.  I use the map on my phone to locate the town dock and also find a pizza place just a few blocks away.  

I order the small Philly cheese steak and fries.  When I see the size of the sandwich I think he must have brought me the large but no, he assures me it is the smaller version.  I won't need dinner tonight.  It's an enjoyable meal, I take my time in the little pizza joint in a nice little town.  Walking back to Spartina I check my phone to see an unexpected text message.  

It's Michael and Sheila, my cruising friends aboard the ketch Kantala.  Last I had seen them it was summer as they set off across the Atlantic to England.  Last I had heard of them they put into Nova Scotia to repair the steering vane.  Great to hear from them but why were they back on the Bay?  

Surrounded by woods and water at the north end of Queenstown Creek I text them with my location, still not being completely sure of their's.  They respond.......

Sunday, October 29, 2017

day eight - south to Worton Creek

Calm overnight, we push off from the dock at Sail Associates just after 7:00.  Terns dive into the glassy water between the piers.  Under power down the river, not a breath of wind.  Geese fly out of the mist hanging over narrow creeks feeding into the Sassafras.  A cormorant surfaces with a eel struggling in its beak, the eel slipping away.  Wind at 8:00 passing red marker No. 8, all sails up and making 1.5 down the winding river.

More wind arrives and soon making 4.5 passing Money Creek and rounding the spit of land that juts out into the river.  On the wide part of the river the wind is cooler and stronger, 5.1 knots. I layer on an extra shirt over the two shirts I'm already wearing.  

Passing Howell Point out onto the Bay the wind drops.  Motor sailing and then under power alone.  I round up to cast to feeding birds but the school of fish that had attracted the birds scatters.  No wind and the day quickly becomes hot.  

A light south wind at Worton Point at noon, sails up with two eagles flying from the trees above the red cliffs on shore.  

A steady sail into the Worton Creek entrance, the deadrise "At Last" that I had crossed paths with a couple days earlier runs in beside me with the day's catch.  The entrance is narrower than I expected.  Inside the creek I turn south past a marina.  Two women working on a sailboat look up and wave.  I ask them if there is a store nearby where I could get some fresh fruit.  They tell me the local store closed but they would glad to drive me to town.  The town, I'm guessing, is Chestertown.  I thank they for their offer, tell them I don't want to take them away from their work.  The marinas are to port, to starboard are more boats out in a mooring field.  I come about head north on Tims Creek, a few docks and homes along the eastern shore and trees on the opposite shore.  It is shallow, the centerboard touches bottom a few times.  I turn back to Worton Creek, sail past the marinas and through the moored boats,  dropping anchor up in the shallows that are marked at two feet on the chart but in reality five or six feet deep.

I listen to the forecast several times throughout the afternoon.  A "reinforcing cold front" will arrive in the early morning hours, winds forecast to be 20-25 miles out of the northwest, gusts to 30.  The NW wind will carry me south.  The challenge will be getting out of the entrance channel which faces northwest.  Dinner and then into the bivy before darkness, I want to get an early start in the morning.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

snowbirds, racing, my kind of racing

The guy on the 40-some-foot ocean cruiser, the one with the beam about at wide as my waterline is long, leaned out of the plastic and canvas enclosure to say "that's an cute little yawl."  It was such a nice day that I let it slide.  No point in arguing today with blue skies and a steady south wind.

The snowbirds are in town, some waiting for the Caribbean 1500, which leaves next week, and some heading south on their own.  I think I saw about a dozen boats in Craford Bay today, the most I have seen in a while.  

Those boats will be around a couple days.  A weather system will roll through tomorrow with potentially heavy rains and 25 mph winds.  I saw some of the boats repositioning themselves this afternoon to be a little bit more secure.

My Sailnauticus friends were out today for a Halloween race.  It struck me as a longer race than usual, one spread out over the river as compared with a more compact course for evening races.  They were having fun and through binoculars I could even see a few costumes on board.  Nice!  I heard rumors of beer and roast oysters on shore and that I might even be welcome there, but the fine breeze kept me on the water. 

As for me, I did my kind of racing.  Racing to relax and have as much fun as possible.  Pretty easy on a day like this.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

day seven - the goldilocks marina

Spartina shakes, the mizzen rattling as the cold front arrives in the early morning hours.  Warm in the bivy with cool air on my exposed face, I sleep in.  Sails up just before 8:00.  Crisp N wind and making 5.3 up the Sassafras.  Expensive homes on the southern shore, boat docks and sailboats.  Rounding a point the shore gives way to farmland with an old farmhouse and creeks that would make a perfect anchorages.  Along the north shore are cliffs with tall trees and a few homes tucked back in the shadows of tall trees.  

It is a wonderful sailing, riding out the gusts and waiting out the lulls.  Looking port and starboard I am amazed by the number of creeks that will be worth exploring someday.  I counted half a dozen before I quit.  Isolated and tree-lined, they would all be great spots for an afternoon, evening or night.  But now I'm heading into a marina for a hot shower, good meal and a chance to resupply my drinking water.

Before 9:00 the marinas are in sight.  I sail to the marina on the north shore right up against the highway bridge.  I had researched it online and it looked great.  Nice floating docks, laundry, shower and restaurant just across the street.  I tie up in an open slip and starting walking to the marina office. Every few seconds I hear a booming noise, realizing it is gravel trucks crossing the bridge.  Wow.  Not the sound for a relaxing day.

I cast off and head back west to the third marina, one that appears to have a lot of open slips.  It also has a lot of warning signs.  Don't tie up here, boats will be towed, towing fees plus dockage fees!  Restaurant docking only!  Time limits on this pier, more warnings on that one.  I'm sure there is a sign somewhere saying "Welcome!" but I just can't find it.  It is out of season with plenty of space so I tie up anyway and begin the walk to the marina office.  I come to a gate with a warning sign.  It is a locking gate and if I leave it will not let me back in.  What if I go through the gate and the office is closed?  How will I get back to Spartina?  I cast off again.

In between the two marinas is a much smaller one.  Passing by I see a sign: "Transients Welcome."  Now we are talking.  I tie up at the end of the dock, these are fixed docks, and begin walking to the office.  While on my way I notice a small floating dock with a catboat on one side and an open spot on the other.  Away from the bridge noise, welcoming atmosphere, floating dock - perfect.  It is called Sail Associates and it is a small family owned marina.  I first meet the son who introduces me to his parents, Patrick and Patricia.  Soon I'm tied up at the floating dock, life is good.

First order is a good hot shower.  After that I run into Patricia and she tells me I look like a whole new man, making me wonder just how bad I looked before.  Then laundry, then sitting in a lawn chair  in the shade of the trees filling out the log.  Late morning I grab lunch at the restaurant a block away, then pick up three gallons of water at the boat store next door.  Afternoon is relaxing in a lounge chair, exploring the streets in the village and cleaning up Spartina.  Dinner, back at the same restaurant - it's off season and I am the only customer - a salad with fried oysters washed down with a glass of wine, okay, I'll take a second.  Then Steve, who spends a few days a week on his boat down the dock, offers a ride to top off my gas tank at a station a few miles away.  Just a great, relaxing day with a lot of chores accomplished.  I will be back to the Sassafras.

At dusk I stand on the pier, Spartina's boom tent and sleeping bag set up for the night.  A crop duster is giving joy rides, buzzing the river, diving and making tight turns.  I check the gps.  Halfway into the trip and we've covered 185 statute.  A beautiful evening.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

day six - four rivers

I look around to see not a soul is stirring on the larger boats moored near SPARTINA.  To the west there are two sloops and I wonder which one was the source of the friendly conversation last night.  I'll never know.
A late start, we sail off the mooring just after 7:00 with a NW wind and doing 4.0 leaving the Susquehanna.  The low overcast quickly clears.  Downwind on the channel around the flats we sail at 4.8 wing and wing past the small islands.  A sluggish tiller so I round up to clear the grass from the cb and rudder.  

Nice breeze and we reach Turkey Point with her 1833 lighthouse making 4.9 knots, slipping into the wind shadow of the cliffs and slipping back out again to find the breeze.  Past the point we are on the Elk River and the water is calm, the wind good.

A series of tacks the width of the Elk, constantly looking up river and down for barge and ship traffic.  There is none and I wonder why it is so quiet. 

 The wind builds as we make 5.5 knots off Cabin John Creek, entering the Bohemia River before noon.  The river is much wider than I had expected from the charts.  Gently rolling farm fields slope down to the water to the north and south.  The wind falls off and what is left of it is on the nose.  Maybe it the wide river, maybe it was because I wasn't sure of anchorage on the Big and Little Bohemia Creeks, or maybe it was the heat and finding myself tired of wind on the nose for five days - I push the tiller over and catch the following wind back to the Elk. 

We stay in the middle of the river on the edge of the shipping channel, moving off to the side as two barges pass by.  Slow sailing but pleasant and there is plenty of time to make the Sassafras.  

We sail by the red clay cliffs of the Sassafras at 4:00, 2.4 knots, then 4.5 as we turn east and catch the wind on the beam.  Blue skies and white clouds with heavy grey bottoms, the weather broadcast telling me the clouds are from the outer bands of Hurricane Maria.  A few drops of rain followed by the faintest of rainbows.

Approaching a small wooded peninsula the wind drops then comes back.  We come about and turn towards Money Creek, well protected from winds that are forecast to arrive overnight.

Anchor down I listen to a raft of ducks swimming near the lily pads close to shore.  The north wind should be perfect for sailing up the Sassafras tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

day five - across the bay to the Susquehanna

A light overcast all night long.  Calm and peaceful.

Sailed off anchor 6:30 with low grey clouds to the east sliding towards the bay.  Making 2.6 across the very stillest Still Pond, following the markers to the narrow exit, confused winds at the jetty but we slip through to open water with a few pumps of the tiller.  A chilly morning, we make 3.8 outside of Still Pond but then fall into the wind shadow of the cliffs with tall trees just to the north.  

ENE wind out on the bay, hints of the sun breaking through at 7:45.  An hour later the tide turns in our favor, 4.6 knots.  Sailing off the mouth of the Sassafras River I can feel the swell rolling down the river out onto the bay.  We tack right up to the cliffs, the deadrise "At Last" picking up a string of pots nearby.  I can now pick out Spesutie Island to the west, Turkey Point at the mouth of the Elk River to the north, and the Sassafras River to the east.  

Lighter wind midmorning, the water very choppy near Spesutie Island, Spartina struggles to make headway.  The bay is busy with traffic, a tug and a barge heading down the bay, three more tugs and barges heading up the bay.  I can pick out the railroad trestles in Havre de Grace before noon, the wind against the tide and water gets rougher.  Motorsailing on the last tack across the bay, crossing the shipping channel on our way towards the Susquehanna Flats.  In the lee of Turkey Point the water calms.

No wind and it is hot, sails down and motoring past a couple small islands along the channel to Havre de Grace, huge clouds of flies following Spartina.  The flats are covered with eel grass and I stopped to clear the prop a couple of times.   

I tie up at Tidewater Marina, paying for a mooring but they let me use a grass-filled slip so I can explore the nice little town.  Instead of a french pronunciation, the locals call the place "have REE de GRACE."  After a late afternoon dinner where I charge my phone, I motor out to the mooring - never having stayed at a mooring before - before evening comes.

A large catamaran ties up at a mooring next to Spartina, then a second one.  High speed Amtrak trains cross the trestles every 20 or 30 minutes.  In the darkness I read under the boom tent.  A couple of moorings away I hear a man and a woman talking.  They are playing my kind of music, old 70's music - the good stuff - a little country and some delta blues.  I hear the friendly, relaxed tone of the conversation, but not words themselves.  The woman laughs.  Another train rolls across the bridge.