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On Board Cordelia
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Plumbing Problems… AKA: Head Case
06/04/2014, Chalk Point

As with any trip on a boat, something has to break. It just wouldn't be complete without it. If you're lucky, it's something small. In the grand scheme, we were pretty lucky.

When I tested the pressure water at the dock Thursday night, I noticed the pump wasn't cutting off. Easy fix. There's a leak in the system. A few yoga poses in the starboard lazarette and ready to roll. Meredith put sheets on the v-berth, got out the earplugs and joked that we should have a blog title, "What Sailing is Really Like" where we just post pictures of us wearing headlamps, covered in grease, contorted in small spaces or crawling all over each other getting into bed while wearing ear plugs and sleep masks. You know, just to counter the Kennedy-esque mental image of sailing everyone has. But I digress...

Even after the leak was fixed. The pump wasn't keeping constant pressure. I continued searching for smaller leaks but couldn't find any. The problem became very clear mid-shower on Saturday, after I was covered in soap I might add, when the pump completely died. Add that to the project list.

The second issue had to deal with the head. Meredith noticed that when she flushed the head the cabin and cockpit had a less than pleasant aroma. I tried to convince myself that carry around a couple gallons of "gray water" was bound to not be pleasant, but she wasn't satisfied with that answer and turned to Google. They had a long list of possible causes and I decided to look at the tank to see what was up. As I pulled back the settee bottom a nice wave of stench hit me. Apparently the marina forgot to tighten the holding tank lid after they winterized it and each flush caused some delightful stuff to seep out. I found a new washer, tightened the lid, bleached the top of the tank and called it a night. Once back at the dock we tackled the issue head on, so to speak. I pumped the bilge into a bucket for disposal. Cleaned it with bleach and dried it out.

Hopefully that fixed the more noticeable of our two plumbing issues that popped up over the weekend. On to the water pump next, which means more working in small - but less smelly - spaces...

Boat Projects
Mo’ Dinghy, Mo’ Problems
Nick / 75, winds between 0-20 knots
06/04/2014, St. Michaels & The Wye River

Graceful dinghy entrances and exits aren't Meredith's strong suits, so this was really all just a matter of time. So, coming back to the boat late Friday night - after a couple sundowners, followed by a drink at dinner and a quick-ish stop at a bar - was really just pushing our luck. So, as the dinghy pulled up to the swim ladder, Meredith grabbed on about the time we started drifting around the boat. You can use your imagination as to what happened next as her feet stayed in the dinghy and her hands stayed on the ladder.

Moral of the story: A couple drinks improves some things, like your ability to play golf or bowl, it does not improve your ability to board a boat.

Overall, though, we had a great weekend on board Cordelia. Blue skies and perfect temps made up for the light, then too heavy, then non-existent wind. This was our first on-the-hook overnight trip of the season, as well as our first time to really explore St. Michaels. On our trip last year we brought Bailey, got there on the later side of Saturday and left Sunday morning - all limiting our time exploring.

Cordelia was packed and just about ready to set sail first thing Friday morning. We pulled out of the dock around 11:30 a.m. - later than I wanted, but if we made good time still early enough to avoid anchoring out in the Miles River, hopefully. Once we were out in the Bay the wind picked up to about 9 or 10 knots and gave us enough of a boost to kill the engine and sail all the way to the Eastern Bay on the same tack. Throw in a couple tacks up to round Bloody Point light and we fired up the engine again to pull into the Miles River. The prime anchorages were pretty empty and we easily got a spot between the Bay Museum and the Inn at Perry Cabin.

We cracked open a bottle of wine and waiting to make sure we weren't dragging before setting out for dinner. I was on a quest to find a fried softshell crab sandwich, which I did and which was very good, even though it meant eating at a "more touristy" place on the water. On Saturday we did some window shopping and explored the Maritime Museum. It is a really great museum, if you haven't been. Very hands-on and they take full advantage of their prime waterfront real-estate.

For a change of pace, we decided to anchor out on the Wye Saturday night. The wind really picked up and the choppy, green-brown water of the Miles reminded me of the Mississippi Sound. We motor-sailed into the wind and tucked into the first bay on the Wye, where we spent the night grilling and listening to some '90s R&B blaring from two powerboats anchored up nearby before motoring home Sunday morning a dead calm.

Sailing On Board Cordelia
06/04/2014 | Dave
We love Dividing and Granary Creek on the Wye.

Sounds like you were anchored in Shaw Bay.
06/04/2014 | Nick
Yeah, we were in Shaw Bay.

Thought about heading a little further up river for some protection from the wind and a little privacy, but we wanted to stick close to Eastern Bay for a shorter trip home.
Memorable Memorial Day
Nick / 85, 10-17 knots
05/28/2014, Chesapeake Bay

One of - if not our best - sails was last Memorial Day weekend with Meredith's parents and some friends. The wind was stiff, from the West and we had an amazing broad reach up the Bay and back. Cordelia almost hit 8 knots that day, something we've only bested once since.

This Memorial Day didn't set any speed records, but it was still great sailing.

Meredith was out of town on Saturday so I snuck in a sail with our friends - and the people who sealed the deal on us buying a boat - Chuck and Norma. We sailed from the Magothy down to Spa Creek, where they were going to get a mooring. The sailing in the river was nice and relaxing - with just enough gusts to keep things fun. About halfway to the Bay Norma realized she forgot her overnight bag. I left my car in Annapolis and offered to drive them back to their car at the marina after we secured a mooring ball - the drive was faster than the sail and we were also worried that if we arrived too late, all the moorings would be gone.

Once we were out in the Bay, the wind was dead on our stern. We glided along, talked about everything from another BVI vacation to when getting an adult beverage would be acceptable. We decided anything after 12:01 p.m. would be fair game.

We made it to the Bay Bridge before finally decided to crank up the engine - they had dinner reservations and our progress was nothing if not deliberate. Motoring into America's Sailing Capitol on a sailboat isn't the ideal way to make an entrance, but when we passed J-24s with flogging sails and cruisers bobbing in the river, we took solace in the fact that we would have a mooring ball and they wouldn't. Or maybe not...

By the time we turned to port to enter Spa Creek, the field was full. We used the 15 minutes before the bridge opened to get all the lines ready to race the half dozen other boats waiting to grab a spot farther up the creek.

The bells rang. The lights flashed. The bridge started to slowly open. Boats on both sides of the bridge started jockeying for position. Air horns blew and people gave a few salutes from the bow as boats narrowly missed colliding under the bridge. We were the third boat through and quickly spotted one of the last two balls in the second field. We were able to grab it on our first try.

We sat in the cockpit and watched the free entertainment of paddle boarders, kayakers and other boaters enjoying the weekend. It would have been easy to completely lose track of time if we didn't have the drawbridge reminding us every 30 minutes. After a while, we called the water taxi and went to find Norma's clothes.

We were sailing with one of the girls in Meredith's golf group and her boyfriend on Memorial Day. He had sailed before - and learned how at a summer camp down in the BVIs while he was in high school. Not a bad way - or place - to learn. I was also excited about sailing with someone who had at least a vague idea how to sail. To take full advantage of the opportunity, I picked up the spinnaker on the way out to the marina.

The winds looked kind of slight, and were nonexistent at the dock. The closer we got to the Bay the more the wind picked up. It was blowing 10 knots by the time we got in the Bay. Perfect sailing conditions for entertaining and hanging out with friends. We made it over to the Eastern Shore and tacked back. Just off Thomas Point there was a lull in the winds. We took advantage of it by hoisting the spinnaker for a while.

On our way in we spotted Bay Tripper coming back from a week plus cruise around the Bay with their sailing club and Muse - really moving under just their main. We tacked back and forth entering the West River, where the winds had picked up to about 17 knots on our nose, and celebrated a great sail with some leftover champagne from mimosas.

Memorial Day is a pretty special weekend for a lot of reasons - our troops, the start of summer, the sudden abundance of American flags - but it also might be the best sailing weekend of the year.

Sailing On Board Cordelia
Day Sails and Dinghy Rides
Nick / Upper 60s, Partly Cloudy, Mosty Light Winds
05/19/2014, West and Rhode Rivers

It was that time of day when the sky, trees and water all blend into a darkening palette of navies and black when we finished weaving through the mooring field to look at the boats, which ranged from varying stages of disrepair to too-nice-to-be-near-a-piling. We cut behind Hartge's marina and slowly followed the river back to some marsh grasses before turning around to head back into the near darkness. It wasn't too late and the river was perfectly calm - more like a flat lake than a river leading into the Bay -and by the time we got back to the marina, it was just as quiet.

All the gear and food for Saturday's sail was already stowed, so I threw the sheets on the v-berth. Meredith read some on her Kindle and I glanced through Shellenberger's Cruising the Chesapeake: A Gunkholers Guide to get a better feel for the area of the river we had just explored. Even though the charts claimed it to be just two feet deep, there were a few sailboats back there.

As with any night on the boat, morning came a little on the early side for a weekend which allowed us to knock out a few errands and chores before Dan and Tara met us. Breakfast at Countryside Deli, a quick trip to West Marine for some self-inflating lifejackets, a shower and we were ready for the day. We used the extra time to give Cordelia a thorough scrubbing down below and make sandwiches for lunch.

The last time we sailed with Dan and Tara we were in the BVIs, so the Bay - as great as it is - just isn't really the same as a vacation in the post card setting of the BVIs. We still had a nice sail, though, out to the Bay in light winds and calm seas before heading back to the dock for a couple drinks. Meredith and I had to head back to DC for a baby shower and a friend's birthday party. It was harder than ever leaving on such a nice day when a couple other boats were making plans to head out for a week-long cruise, but we knew we would be back on Sunday.

We got to the boat just before Dan and Ame pulled backed into their slip. Meredith was right in the middle of a nap - she said she ate too many cookies at the baby shower, I think it might have had something to do with the champagne at the birthday party - and I went to help them with their lines. They noticed a leak in their rudder post shortly after leaving that morning. They had a mini-bon-voyage party the previous night at the dock and it sounded like Meredith wasn't the only one who "had too many cookies."

Donna was taking Oscar off the mooring ball about the time we pulled out of the slip. We had our main up by the time we caught up with her. Our anemometer is about 90 degrees off for some reason and has been since the end of last season. The calibration seems kind of lengthy, but straightforward enough so I wanted to give it a try. Of course that involved driving around in circles and doing all kinds of weird maneuvers. Not sure the West River Sailing Club Flying Scot fleet appreciated the added obstacle right outside their race area. After four or five complete circles with no luck, we gave up and sailing into the Rhode River for the first time this season. The Easterly winds continued to weaken as we sailed closer to Camp Letts until they completely died out. We bobbed around, got rocked by the powerboat wakes - which weren't as bad as the South River, but still far from the bucolic setting the Rhode is known for - and just drifted a while. I furled the main and fired up the engine to head home.

The wind picked up a little and we were able to get in a few more minutes of sailing. When we got back to the slip Dan and Ame had already left, so, overall a good day for everyone.

Sailing On Board Cordelia
Why We Own A Boat
Nick / 76, 8-10 knots, NE
05/12/2014, Chalk Point Marine

This weekend was a great reminder of why we own a boat. It's not just sailing or being out on the water, which are both great perks, it's also getting away from D.C. and forgetting about everything else going on in the world. Some people do that in the garden or with yard work. For me, it happens on the boat. Instead, of pulling weeds, I have boat projects. I find them immensely frustrating, rewarding and even therapeutic.

I went out to Cordelia pretty late on Friday with Bailey, my dog, while Meredith stayed in D.C. to hang out with a friend. Friday night didn't consist of much more than sitting in the cockpit with a cocktail while listening to some music. Very low-key. But before I could get around to any of that, I had my first project: Pulling the beginnings of a bird nest out of the boom and sweep up the mess, again. A pair of finches or wrens or some other small species of bird has taken quite a liking to Cordelia. They have already attempted to nest in the main sail and this was about the third time they've made a go at it in the boom. Despite my best efforts to stuff the opening with rags or paper towels, those birds are pretty determined to play house.

Saturday morning came pretty early with a wakeup call from the birds, cheerfully making yet another nest. It's amazing they are so set on calling Cordelia home when there are at least a half dozen boats at the dock that go weeks - or months - at a time without seeing a soul.

After a nice walk with Bailey and a 5 mile run, I put up the dodger for the first time and started polishing the deck to remove the stains and water marks. I knocked out the cockpit before the rain rolled through and decided to head home. Bailey, being a terrier, hates to get wet. I hate wet dog smell.

Meredith made waffles Sunday morning and we headed back to the boat. She read her Kindle under the dodger - which got her seal of approval despite being adamantly anti-dodger in the past, funny what a couple good sprays over the bow will do - while I finished polishing the deck. We took a break to have a drink with Dan and Ame and toured Mad 'Em Cait. Meredith now has our next boat picked out, I believe.

Now that the polishing was complete and Cordelia was looking as good as new, the only thing left was to go for a sail to show her off. The winds were nearly perfect and we had the sails up as soon as we left the marina. We cruised out to the Bay and rounded the marker for the West River entrance. The constant 8-10 knot breeze was light enough that I could easily single-hand but strong enough that we were making decent speed. I sat on the cockpit coaming, listening to the water gurgle under the stern, and marveled at how a half crank on the winch could magically straighten the middle tell-tales. Just an eight of a crank more to bring the bottom ones in line. And our speed clicks up another couple tenths of a knot. Pretty amazing the difference a seemingly insignificant tweak can make.

We passed a Tartan 40-something while we were heading out. And, I think Meredith found our next, next boat...

On the way back to the marina we saw some sustained gusts in the 12-14 range and our SOG peaked over 7 knots for a little while. We sailed all the way to Galesville before dousing the sails and motoring into our slip, where we toasted a great weekend on a great boat.


PS - While we both still like to look at other boats, I haven't found one thing I'd change about Cordelia and haven't had a single regret about purchasing her. Our "next boat" is likely a long time off because right now we are perfectly satisfied - I doubt that will change any time soon. Someone questioned on a sailing message board why you would waste a half day of sailing to polish / wax a boat, well, that's pretty easy. Because I like walking up to the prettiest - I'm biased, I know - boat on the Bay and knowing I'm doing my part to keep her that way...

Sailing On Board Cordelia
Serenity Now…
Nick / 62
05/07/2014, Chalk Point Marine

I was counting down the hours until I could sneak out unnoticed and head to the boat because after a long week... er... half week at work, the kind where 2:00 on Tuesday feels like it should be 5:00 Friday, is there anything better than having a drink on the water?

It had been one of those weeks.

Meredith and I crossed the Anacostia bridge at 6:03 p.m. and didn't look back. There's something amazing about being 45 minutes from D.C. yet feeling worlds away. I'm instantly relaxed as soon as I round the bend on Chalk Point and the West River comes into view.

I wanted to fire up the outboard, but that was more of an excuse than a reason to go out to the slip. The only real item on the agenda was relaxing. Bob, Sandy, Dan, Hank and Susan beat us to the punch. They were camped out in Sea Eagle's cockpit, drink in hand - and, they had mostly been there all week. After a couple hours, a sunset and a nice gin and tonic, we headed back to D.C. feeling much better knowing there were just two days before we would be back.

06/07/2014 | Darlene
I'll be reading and catching up with your blog over the next couple days.

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On Board Cordelia
Who: Nick & Meredith Simpson
Port: Chalk Point, West River, MD
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"There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." -- The Wind in the Willows

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