Thursday, October 31, 2019

day seven - broadsides

I'm up early at the Mariner Hotel, the wind howling outside.  Gusts 30+ miles an hour.  The forecast is for the wind to drop to the mid-20s in a couple of hours.  I carry loads of gear down to SPARTINA, the waterproof duffel with freshly washed clothes, the electronics pelican box with charged batteries, charts and notebook.

A breakfast bar with a bottle of soda at the hotel, then a walk along the waterfront where I find an old, decaying deadrise that looked to me like a painting.

At 9:30, with hotel key turned into the office, I push off from the dock and motor over to the boat ramp.  Just about every public boat ramp in Maryland has a porta-potti nearby, a convenient place to empty SPARTINA'S portable head.  Cast off again at 9:45, round up about 20 yards from the dock, raise the jib to sail out of the harbor.

Outside the breakwater raise the mizzen and bring up the centerboard for the downwind sail.  Very very windy, making 4.6 and rolling in the swell that wraps around Swan Point.  

Steep waves on the stern and I watch them creep up towards the boomkin, each time SPARTINA'S hull lifting as the waves slide beneath us.  Blue skies and wonderful sailing, making 3.4 to 4.6 as the waves carry us along.  

The sail down Eastern Neck goes by in no time and I'm looking for the fish trap off of Wickes Beach. I'm surprised to see it outside of us, I've sailed into the shallow water much closer to the shore than I expected.  No worries, the board is up and I see no signs of shoals.  We jibe at 11:10 and make 7.4 down the face of a wave.  

Strong gusts at Hail Point and the wind seem to be building.  A local boat runs close to shore inside of us, we've got deep enough water for sailing.  I lower the centerboard to sail across the wind.  Calmer water at 11:45 as we sail in close to the point.  I briefly consider turning up in to Hail Creek but it is too early in the day.  As we leave the protection of the top of Eastern Neck we're exposed to the steep waves running down the Chester River.  They are steep, almost vertically faced waves that hit SPARTINA broadside, the waves coming in groups of three.  They slap the side of the hull and white water bursts up alongside sending spray flying across the cockpit as SPARTINA heels to starboard.    

I think I see a low cliff that is near the entrance of Queenstown Creek.  I scan the area with the binoculars but in the waves I cannot see the entrance markers which I think are northwest of the narrow channel.  I trust my GPS - which I'm very glad to see is working - and sail due east towards the marker on the tiny chart.  Just as the red buoy pops up out of the waves into view the GPS shows 7.8 kts.  We turn slightly downwind at the first marker, passing the next - Green marker #3 - at 6 kts.  Past the sandbar and into the calm waters of Queenstown Creek at 12:15.  We jibe and sail west and south around the corner to the town dock.  

Tied to the dock at 12:30, I walk the few blocks to Queenstown Pizzaria for the usual - a small Philly cheesesteak, fries and iced tea.  I remember the first time I ordered lunch there.  The guy brought me the sandwich and I was a little surprised by the cheesesteak nearly filling the basket so I tell him I had meant to order the small sandwich.  He says "That is the small sandwich." 

Motoring down Queenstown Creek in the afternoon I share the water with a deadrise making the last few runs of the day on a trotline.  Anchor down Ditchers Cove 2:15.  I lay back in the cockpit and fall into a deep sleep under the warm sunshine.  

Waking an hour later I see a family, husband, wife and young daughter kayaking up the creek. The woman says "You've anchored here before, haven't you?"  I told her I had.  "It was a stormy day" she later reminds and I tell her she has a good memory.  They ask about SPARTINA and the trip, I ask about their farm with the beautiful old stone buildings.  They are nice people and I enjoy their company.  They paddle away, but not before inviting me to visit them at their farm next time I'm on Queenstown Creek.

A buffalo bar and a cup of fruit makes for a light dinner.  I break out the sleeping bag liner and an extra thick shirt, it is going to drop to 50 degrees overnight.  Wasn't it 90 degrees just a few days earlier?

Running total 186 NM

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

day six - surfing down the waves

Sailed off anchor at 8:20 after a rougher night than expected.  Rain, wind and chop arrived in the early morning hours.  The stiff wind was out of the east and SPARTINA was exposed to the waves running down the long fetch of the Sassafras River.  That same east wind should help us with the run down the bay.  Overcast and gusty, we make 2.1 with wind on the stern to the cut off of Pond's Bar.

Marker 5 we catch the wind and make 6 kts, then 3.3 down the narrow channel.  Shake out the reef at 9:00, slow going with wind on the stern, sailing wing and wing.  The GPS seems to be working but I keep the backup turned on just in case.  Just as I feel good about the GPS it loses contact with the satellites.  Try to jibe to Grove Point just before 10:00 but struggle to find a good angle.  Hazelnut Rx bar, steak (beef stick, a new item) and mixed tropical fruit for breakfast.  

Still can't find a good angle to Grove Point so we follow the north shore of the river.  At the river entrance, slipping out on to Chesapeake Bay, we jibe again and turn southwest to Grove Point, waves rolling down the bay lifting SPARTINA'S stern and sliding under us.  A light rain falls.  Tuna and crackers for lunch.

Off Worton Point just after noon, the mist gone and the overcast a little light, making 3.9.  Pass Fairlee Creek 1:05, 4.6 kts.  GPS shows 6.8 during the gusts off of Tolchester Beach where the shipping channel comes in almost to the beach itself.  We stay further offshore for the good wind and cross the channel twice with no traffic in sight.   Making a steady 5.8 at 1:50, the waves pushing us along nicely.

The Bay Bridge coming off Kent Island is in sight just after 2:00, Swan Point juts out to the south at 2:45.  Lighter wind, making 3.5 but it doesn't feel like we are moving at all.  We round Swan Point and as always I mistake Swan Creek for Rock Hall.  Four good tacks into the wind and we round up to drop sail just outside Rock Hall's breakwater.

Docked 4 p.m. Rock Hall Landing Marina, exact same slip I used last year, at 4 p.m., checked into the nearby Mariner's Motel a few minutes later, a couple guys down from Pennsylvania steaming up crabs in the parking lot.  They tell me they are down for about four days, running trot lines from a small skiff during prime crabbing season, steaming up each day's catch every evening.  "Gonna have a big crab party when you get home?" I ask them.  The one guy tells me he'll be too tired to party.

Dinner with friends Fred and MaryLou on the waterfront, a visit to Rock Hall wouldn't be the same without seeing them.  Do the laundry, clean up the boat, charge the batteries, fill out the log.  A good night's sleep before tomorrow's forecast high winds.

Running total 171.3 NM

Sunday, October 27, 2019

watch and gps

I've got a new watch for SPARTINA to replace the one that failed on the last trip.  Average life span for a watch on the boat is about two years.  This one, like all the others is water resistant to 100 feet.  And like the others, this one is set for daylight savings time and will stay that way for the duration.

As for the Garmin GPS 64s, I continued having problems with it for the remainder of the trip.  I used the old 62s as a backup and that seemed to work fine.  I have had a couple long "chat" sessions on the computer with Garmin.  At first they said the problems I encountered were my fault, I had not upgraded the operating system.  So I upgraded from 5.0 to 5.5 (or something like that), went out in the backyard and found I still could not lock on the satellites.  At that point they admitted that they were getting a lot of calls from 64s owners with the same problem (couldn't they have told me that at the beginning???).  The work around to is set the device to GPS only instead of GPS+GLONASS.  So what is GLONASS?  The answer from the all-knowing internet is below.  I have not field tested yet with GPS only.  Garmin says they will get back to me when their engineers solve the problem.


GLONASS, or "GLObal NAvigation Satellite System", is a space-based satellite navigation system operating as part of a radionavigation-satellite service. It provides an alternative to GPS and is the second navigational system in operation with global coverage and of comparable precision.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

day five - a double gps day

Sail off anchor 7:00 after a peaceful calm night.  In the wind shadow of the trees I slowly drift away from shore.  Looking out on the river I can see wind on the Elk River.  One sailboat tacking out on the water, the anchor light still glowing and the two people aboard bundled up and looking as they had been sailing all night.  

Mixed berry Rx bar, buffalo bar and an apple for breakfast.  Water rushing around green Marker "21" shows I will be sailing against a full running flood tide.  Lots of tacking in our future.  

Tacking downriver at 8:20, we make a long run into Piney Cove, hoping for and finding less tidal current in the cove.  Back and forth on the river, sometimes gaining ground, sometime not.  We find a particularly strong current at Hylands Point, the narrowest part of the river.  Several short tacks as I cling to the eastern side of the river hoping for less current, then a long deep tack into the Bohemia River at 10:15 where cruising sailors anchored on their journey south wave and give thumbs up to the little wooden yawl.

Out of the Bohemia at 10:45, tacking with a scratchy voice on sports radio talks about a come-from-behind win.  Off Cabin John Creek at 12:30 making 4.7.  We sail in a hot wind as the temperature climbs to a record-setting 90+ degrees.

Tacking off Turkey Point at 1:45 I notice strange readings on the GPS.  8.9 knts?  A question mark instead of a cursor?  Gaps in the red track?  I text sailing friends Barry and Curt asking if they know of anything going on with the GPS system.  I speculate to them that maybe that attack has begun.  Barry responds with a statement from the GPS folks that says the system will be down for one minute.  

And I am told, yes, that the attack on the country has already begun.  But that is an entirely different conversation....

The one-minute has come and gone, yet I still can't hold a lock on the satellites.  The connection seems to come and go.  I open the aft deck plate next to the transom and pull out there backup GPS, insert batteries and boot it up.  It takes a while to find the satellites, once found it seems to lock on.  I leave them both in operation, the older one to keep the track and the newer one with the more detailed charts.

We round the red clay cliffs at Grove Point, entering the Sassafras River at 3:30.  A pleasant conversation with a Laser sailor and he runs alongside SPARTINA to ask about the boat.  Anchor down near the mouth of Turners Creek at 5:00.  Soon I realize that waves are rolling off the main river and it could be an uncomfortable night.  I raise anchor and motor north to Money Creek.

Spaghetti and a can of peaches for dinner.  While having dinner I realize that for the third time in five days I had changed my anchorage.  A gaggle of geese nearby make more noise than is appreciated.  They eventually quiet down.

Running total 144.4 NM

Thursday, October 24, 2019

day four - keep on goin'

Sail of anchor 7:20 just as the sunlight reaches over the cliffs and paints the trees across the creek.  A lazy 1 knot downwind past the the larger sailboats in the anchorage.  Light southeast wind, this layer of clouds.

On the Bay just after 8:00, hoping to sail north and explore the Bohemia River.  Eggs (chocolate mint Rx bar), steak (buffalo bar) and banana for breakfast, 3.5 with the wind over the starboard quarter.  Soon making 4.5 but sailing downwind in the calm water it doesn't feel like it.  Off Sassafras River I look up the Bay and use the range lights to stay east of the shipping channel.  Skies clearing to the west at 9:20.  Clouds gone by 10 and the sun feels good.  

Wind on the stern and tide running in our favor, 3.6.  Wind drops, 2.3, no complaints as we are making better time up the Bay than expected/imagined.  Beneath Turkey Point Lighthouse a wave across the channel from a Bristol Channel Cruiser as we enter the Elk River.  Motorsailing at 10:30, wind back and sailing by 11:00.  

Off the Bohemia before noon and why not keep going?  We slide past Piney Cove to the east, Herring Creek to the west, leaving the Elk River as we branch off to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.  Wind directly behind us, wing and wing up the canal.  No commercial traffic in sight, easy sailing.

Just past the bridge is the basin at Chesapeake City to the south.  I think about turning in there, a public dock and a couple nice lunch spots on the water.  But I've been there before.  Instead I round up and drop the sails, motoring over to the north side of the canal tie up at Shaefer's Canal House for one of the finest crab cakes I have had in a long time.  A nice breeze on the shaded patio and I enjoy the cold iced tea.

Cast off 2:30 for a short motor to Herring Cove.  I follow the creek back off the cove and drop anchor in a few feet of water.  Straighten up the boat, read a bit and then relax for a nice afternoon nap.  

I wake well-rested but I also wake to realize I have made a mistake.  The tide has dropped significantly and SPARTINA is mired in a thick bed of eel grass.  Doing some quick math I realize it could be low tide again tomorrow morning.  It is tough to get a boat through the sinewy mass of subaquatic vegetation.  Instead of fighting it tomorrow morning I raise the anchor and slowly, very slowly, motor through the submerged jungle.  Twice stopping to pull the cotter pin and remove/clean the outboard prop, I finally slide free of the grass.  Not the way I wanted to spend the afternoon, but by sunset I was anchored off of Courthouse Point.  

A light supper and time to set up the sleeping gear.

Running total 108.8 NM

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

day three - back across the Bay

Up at 7:00, sail off anchor 7:30.  Dark clouds hanging low overhead, a nice east wind.  Out of Sillery Bay by 7:50, slip on foul weather pants and rubber boots before leaving the Magothy River.  The channel at river's entrance is very busy, mostly boats heading out for striper fishing.  I short tack my way through the crab pots north of the channel, making 5 kts back on Chesapeake Bay.  We get a splash from a stingray that we nearly run over.  

Baltimore channel range markers glowing to the northwest.  Crossing the channel, no ships in sight, at 9:15, 3.4 kts.  Can look up the Patapsco River to Baltimore at 9:30.  Skies grey, water grey, 5 kts.  Halfway across the bay at 9:40, eggs (blueberry Rx bar), steak (a salty, maybe too salty, stick of venison) and a banana for breakfast.  

Skies getting brighter, winds getting lighter at 10:30, 1.3 kts working against the tide.  Off Tolchester Beach just after noon.  Wind comes and goes, but still marking our way north along the Eastern Shore.  At times 1 kt, at times 3, sun peeks through the clouds at 1:15 and then disappears.  Tuna and crackers for lunch.

East wind at 1:50, 3.2 but it doesn't last.  Motorsail across the shipping lanes ahead of a tug with two barges.  Wind fills in, 3.7 off Worton Point.  Easy, relaxed sailing, wind on the beam and a post-mortem of yesterday's football games on am sports radio out of DC. 

Anchor in a little cove near Plum Point.  Well protected from the wind but I'm not sure the anchor will hold if the wind picks up.  I'm hungry so fix a dinner of spicy sausage and pasta along with a cup of fruit.  After dinner I pull on the anchor line a few times.  Gravelly bottom and I don't like the feel of it.  Anchor up and we motor around the point, anchoring near the cliffs at the mouth of Churn Creek.

Running total 83.58 NM

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

day two - into the wind, waves and tide

Deceptively calm and quiet in the marina.  Cast off just after 7:00, 15 minutes later out the channel and all sails up with a very solid north wind.  Tack to the south end of Poplar Island , 7:45, steak (buffalo bar), eggs (blueberry Rx bar) and a cup of mango for breakfast on the way.  Tack back towards Bay Hundred, the bit of the mainland that leads to Tilghman Island.  Tack back to Poplar Island at 8:30, back to Bay Hundred 8:45, 3.4 kts into the wind and tide.  

Wind swinging to the northeast, a series of tacks up the narrows, making 4.4 in steep chop.  The morning light is crisp on the water.  

Crossing the mouth of Eastern Bay to the south end of Kent Island, the Bloody Point Bar Light in sight 10:30, 4.2.  South of Kent Island I feel there is less tide running and I point up higher than I would expect.  We tack across the Chesapeake Bay in steep chop taking lots of spray, off West River on the western shore by 11:00.  Can of tuna and mixed fruit for lunch.  Lots of sailboats out in the breeze.  Beautiful blue skies, the wind steady and strong.  A football game on the radio.  It is a great day on the water.

Just after noon tacking way from Kent Island, 4.5, towards the light at Thomas Point Shoal, then back towards Kent Island.  A fleet of one-design boats is having a regatta and the course seems to circle around SPARTINA.  After fighting the tide much of the day I can feel the current beginning to fall off.  But as the running tide drops off, so does the wind.  

Sailing towards the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at 3:00, three freighters anchored south of the bridge, two more in the channel and a couple of navy boats too, making 3.2.  

Wait out the freighters and then motor sail under the bridge and across the channel.

With a little more wind we sail past Sandy Point Light and keep heading northwest into the Magothy River.  The sun starting to drop behind the clouds on the we approach Dobbins Island.

Anchor down 6:15, a power boat and a large sailboat anchored nearby.  A small sailboat comes into the anchorage at dusk.  

Omeals self-heating Lentils with beef for dinner, too tired to cook.  Mandarin oranges for dessert.  

57.97 NM running total