Wed 30 May 2012
Mooring ball in Spa Creek, Annapolis, MD
[photo: narrow bascule bridge at Spa Creek]
We did, indeed, get hit by the storms close to 2200 last night. The boat rocked a bit in the wind gusts, but there was no wave action due to or protected anchorage. I am glad that when we anchored, we did not get too close to shore because the depths rise rapidly. We dropped anchor in 13 feet of water and when we drifted back with the S wind, we were in 18 feet. After the storm, we had swung 180 degrees and were now in just 7 feet of water. Here's a quiz for you. Did our anchor scope change?
There was quite a bit of rain, both during and after the storm, in brief spells. I quickly closed the forward hatch, but locked it in the slightly open position by mistake, so we still had some water come in to dampen the mattress a wee bit. Fortunately, the storm brought slightly cooler temperatures. It wasn't hot outside, but a humid boat with two people and a cat gets stuffy quickly when the hatches are closed.
It was a dreary overcast day when we weighed anchor and headed for Annapolis. We had many major course changes as we negotiated the "maze" back to the bay itself, but we could still use the sail for about a quarter of the trip. As we headed NNW up the bay (right into the wind, by the way), I spied several large ships close to our course. When we got close enough, the AIS showed that they were not moving (probably at anchor), but steaming abeam them only a half mile away, they were still intimidating.
With a telephone call to the city marina, which manages the mooring field, we determined that there is a weekly rate for the balls just W of the Spa Creek Bridge, so that is where we are. The bridge is a bascule (draw) bridge with a horizontal clearance of maybe 30 feet, which is not much. There are perhaps 20 mooring balls here and we are the only boat. Supposedly, it is much quieter here and still close to the action, so we are happy.
Following our arrival many logistical events occurred as well as some finalization of plans. We got a call (two days late) from the mechanic at Worton Creek and after a nice discussion, we will be going there after here for 2-3 days to have them help with the more critical parts of the camshaft replacement. So, here is the schedule: Thu - in Annapolis with Bill and Linda; Fri - rent a car and travel to NJ to visit Duane's family; Sun - drive to PA to visit Diane's family; Tue - continue on to visit a few friends; Thu - travel back to Annapolis to reprovision the boat; Fri - return the rental car.
We got our logistical chores behind us and cleaned up to visit with Bill and Linda. The dinghy dock we used is 100 yards from the boat, and they picked us up to drive to their absolutely lovely country-style home a few miles away. Linda prepared a delicious and healthy meal and the pre-, during, and post-supper chat was great. We started fading shortly after 2000, and they drove us back to the dinghy.
Clyde got some nice topside time while we enjoyed a nightcap. There were many sailboats and others just coming in from their time on the water, and we are glad to be here "in the shadows" W of the bridge and the major action.
Tue 29 May 2012
Anchored up the Wye East River, MD
[photo: 12 men lived on this 28-foot cabinless boat for months centuries ago!]
This was one of those rare days when we knew we had a very short run to our next intended stop, so we planned to do some things before leaving. First, Duane changed the oil in the engine, and then we cleaned up to take the bicycles ashore for some exercise and scenery.
Not every waterfront community is set up well to service boaters visiting by dinghy, but St. Michel's surely is. The floating dinghy dock is just inside the entrance to the harbor next to the Crab Claw restaurant. That whole area is adjacent to the 18 acre Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum grounds, which is very picturesque.
We biked around and it being early on Tuesday after a very busy opening holiday, the place was very quiet. We were able to bike on the narrow sidewalks of Talbot St., which had been packed with pedestrians the day before. There aren't all that many side streets that one would consider charming, so our excursion didn't take very long.
We then proceeded to the museum where I was pleased to learn that my Coast Guard Auxiliary ID card qualified us both for free admission, saving us $26. Diane and I both felt that the museum was extremely well done. There are over a dozen major exhibits, some individual boats or structures, and some large buildings with many interesting items inside.
Many people who consume clams, oysters, and crabs probably don't truly have an appreciation for the watermen who toiled longer than the sun each day to harvest them, or the many hard working people involved in the steaming, picking, shucking or canning. This museum pays tribute to them and the tools of their trade in a very hands-on, authentic way. There are wooden workboat restorations underway continually and many volunteers ready to explain the exhibits. It was well worth the several hours to tour it all.
We detoured back to the main drag to purchase something to cook for dinner and found that unless we wanted yet more shrimp, everything had been sold out over the busy weekend. We settled for hamburger patties and some homemade crab soup and potato salad.
Back at Diva Di, we did a little cleaning, hoisted the dinghy, hauled the anchor manually (actually pretty tough against the slight current and strong wind), and got underway. We could have purely sailed for much of the 80 minutes it took to get to our anchorage up the Wye East River in Shaw Bay, but then we would have no hot water for showers tonight, so with some regret we let the engine run at low speed the entire way. With the headsail alone, and the engine at fast idle, we were making 6.5 knots with the 15-20 knot breeze from astern. Unlike yesterday when we arrived and saw hundreds of boats on the Miles River, this time we saw only three.
There is another boat about 300 yards away in this huge anchorage, but the scenery is nice and it feels good to just relax. Diane had set herself a goal of doing a pretty thorough job of cleaning before she relaxed however, and my job was to stay out of her way. Our dinner was simple, but tasty: a beef patty with sautéed onions, potato salad, green salad, and some crab soup. Overall, we were very happy.
There is a line of thunderstorms stretching many hundreds of miles from north to south headed our way, so I will be alert for the impact on or anchoring status. Tomorrow, we head for Annapolis where we will visit with Bill and Linda, and then leave the boat for a week or more and rent a car to visit family.
Mon 28 May 2012
Anchored off St. Michel's, MD
[photo: gaff-rigged cat boat taking charter guests out for a sail]
We rested well, and were awakened right after dawn by the low rumble of a crabbing boat working his lines. We have never seen this method before, but it appears like there is a long line between two buoys, and every 8 feet on the line is some sort of bait. The boat very slowly runs down the line with a simple curved hook to pick up the line and a crabber with a net, scoops up any crabs eating the bait. One very nice thing for boaters about that method is the lack of a floating buoy for each crab trap. Those floating buoys and the lines attached to them are the bane of boaters since they can get wrapped around the propeller, which is a bad thing, to be sure.
Getting the anchor up manually was not a big problem, although it takes longer. The part that is a strain for the back is the same regardless of how the rode comes up; the last 5 feet is done manually. There is no doubt that yesterday and today brought significantly reduced back pain. It appears highly likely that the problem is limited to just the muscles and not a disc issue. If it is not even better by Annapolis in a few days, I will try to see someone to be sure.
It is a beautiful day, with a nice breeze from the S. The very frustrating thing about today, from a sailing perspective, is that the courses we had to take from Oxford to St. Michel's had us either too close into the wind, or with the wind almost directly astern of us. For the wind speed we had, neither case will let the wind be effective for us. I estimate that we only had the sail drawing effectively one-third of the time. The other factor was the tidal current. Had we left at 0300, or waited until 1400, we could have had the current beneficial much more than it was. Our departure at 0735 had the current against us almost the entire way.
Nevertheless, it was about 6.5 hours underway, and much of it was pleasant except in the Miles River while approaching St. Michel's. There were so many large power boats leaving and arriving that it was like a washing machine with their wakes intersecting and amplifying, especially in the shallower sections.
We are anchored just off the channel into the short harbor and we have very few boats around us; most who were here for the long weekend are now gone.
The dinghy dock is adjacent to the Crab Claw restaurant and Maritime Museum. It is a short walk to see the very attractive little town, and there is a full-size grocery store along that walk, plus numerous cute shops and eateries. Once back at the waterfront near the museum, we went into the Crab Claw for dinner, choosing to eat inside with the air conditioning.
We would not say the restaurant is great, but most of what we had was very good. The prices reflect a tourist town, but the view was superb and we enjoyed the visit. It is an incredibly gorgeous late afternoon on the boat and it will be a pleasant sleep, I am sure.
Tomorrow morning, I will change the oil in the main engine and then we will dinghy to the museum, which looks to be fantastic. then it is off for a very short run (maybe under sail the whole way) up the Wye River for some pastoral scenery.
Sun 27 May 2012
Anchored Flatty Cove, Oxford, MD
[photo: one of many cute little homes]
We slept in until 0630 and then went up to the Comfort Inn for our complimentary breakfast. Casting off all the lines was Diane's job, which she did with aplomb. It was a beautiful morning with a light breeze from the SSW and we even had a fair current up the bay for much of the passage.
There were several sailboats (turns out they were all Catalinas a little larger than ours) heading in the same direction, and they were astern of us by a half mile or so. Everyone was motoring as the wind was right on our stern and not strong enough to help. The race (I mean, uh, the three of us sailing in the same general direction) got interesting when I noted they were sailing the marked channel. After they passed us by motor only, I deviated to a course that would cut off some distance and give us the wind at a better angle. After a short while, they were a half mile abreast of us and no longer leaving us in their wake.
After several hours, when in the Choptank River, the fair current turned foul (against us), but we were positioned to go up the much shallower water to the E, which meant the current was less and so we started pulling away from them. When we finally turned more to the N to follow the Tred Avon River to Oxford and they were apparently heading more E for Cambridge, the "race" was over.
In the Choptank River, we counted over 40 sailboats at one time. Many were purely sailing just for the enjoyment, but there were a number of cruisers heading for a specific destination. We made the observation that the vast majority of boats with dinghies (on davits or towed behind) had substantial cockpit coverings. Almost all the boats without dinghies had no covering. You can certainly see the sails better, but long-term cruisers can't afford to be in the sun (or inclement weather) too long.
We passed by Oxford and continued another 10 minutes to Flatty Cove where there is clear area for anchoring and much less boat traffic (and annoying wakes). Following a brief rest, we lowered the dinghy and headed into town for some exploration. It turns out there is no town center; we landed at Schooner's Restaurant, tied up the dinghy and walked to Morris Street where there are some historic homes, a park, a small museum, and a store (that seems to have a little of a wide variety of things).
It was in the high 80s with blazing sun in the clear skies; the nice breeze on the water was absent ashore and we (especially Duane) were hot. On the way back from the walk, we patronized Schooner's for a cold beer in the air conditioning, then took the dinghy back to Diva Di where we found the breeze was still delightful and keeping the boat interior comfortable.
Dinner was the leftover shrimp Fra Diavlo and the leftover chicken in lemon caper butter sauce, along with fresh asparagus from the local market. We are trying not to have anything very perishable when we arrive at Annapolis, for that is where we will (likely) rent a car and drive north to visit family over a week's time. I say "likely" because we have another recommendation for a mechanic in Worton Creek on the eastern shore, one day from Annapolis. After discussions with that person on Tuesday, we will see what the real plan is. We will still go to Annapolis to visit with Bill and Linda, of course.
Sat 26 May 2012
Docked at Beacon Marina, Solomon's Island, MD
[photo: one of many waterfront pubs on the island]
It was a great night's sleep once we went below with the hatches closed. Apparently, several 50-something guys that clean other people's boats as a side job think that they should have loud conversations between them even at 2100.
Diane commented this morning that it was a very civilized way to start the day. We took our time down below, then walked up to the Comfort Inn for our complimentary breakfast (very good coffee) and then sat reading the Wall Street Journal in the early light on a nice bench overlooking the waterfront. Of course, there was the always-appreciated use of a full-size shoreside toilet to make it complete.
Having it available, we turned on the air conditioning and were glad we did as it is shaping up to be a hot day again. Despite that, we got out the bikes and rode around the relatively small area. It turned out that Solomon's Island gets a middling grade on bike friendliness. There are some places with a wide shoulder along the main road and some decent sidewalks, but sometimes there is nothing but a narrow road and no shoulder, so you are trusting that the cars will see you and swerve around you. If you stick to just the safer bike-riding areas, it is still a worthwhile ride for the scenery and exercise.
One cool place we visited was the Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center. There is a path through the woods with some large and substantial pieces of sculpture, but what was unique for us were the many dozens of "je ne sais quoi" scattered in between the major pieces. We really don't know if there is a term for them; they ranged from wacky bird houses, to dinosaur figures, to painted tree stumps, to castles, and lots more. It was a very unique experience and we are glad we happened upon it.
On the way back from our northern excursion, we passed the West Marine store where (traditionally) they serve complimentary hot dogs, chips, and sodas for a few hours midday during Memorial Day weekend. We stopped for a free lunch and had a really good quality hot dog that was grilled just to our liking. Complimentary breakfast, free lunch; do I know how to show a girl a good time or what?
Down in the southern end of the island, the tourists were thronging the sidewalks and boardwalk. We were looking for some fresh fish, but the seafood markets said all their catch was going to the restaurants for the big Memorial Day influx. The one thing they did have was some incredible looking jumbo shrimp for a fair price, so we got some of that. That place also served cold beer, and when we checked Diane's watch, coincidentally, it was beer-thirty.
Back at the boat, the air conditioning felt great after the hot ride in the blazing sun. It is only supposed to reach the low 80s in temperature today, the humidity is low, and there is a breeze, but that sun is hot! I know what it can get like here in July and August and I don't think it is any more comfortable than south Florida.
As Diane was making Gin n' Tonics to take to the pool, she said the tonic tasted funny. I agreed, and then realized that when I used the SodaStream to carbonate the water yesterday, I forgot to add the syrup. Oh, well. That was easily fixable.
Being at the pool, relaxing and reading, was very enjoyable. Not everyone wants to do the same thing, of course, so there was a family of 20-somethings chatting away, and then their parents arrived. We had a nice conversation about cruising and some of the young men's military service. That was all good until the sub-teens arrived with the jumping and splashing and yelling. Hey, I was a kid once, so it was just time for me to go back to Diva Di to chill with Clyde.
It was almost supper time, so the preparations for the shrimp fra diavlo (with the last of the broccoli) began. When I just started cooking, I heard some loud clomping on the deck and wondered why Diane was making so much noise coming back. I was surprised that she didn't come below and when she actually arrived 30 minutes later, I found out the twin-engine small sport fisherman boat next to us had left the slip (I heard that part) and then lost an engine, so he almost collided with several boats along the fairway (ours included). The clomping was someone trying to fend him off, but we have so much gear in the stern, plus the large inflatable dinghy hanging off the davits, that there was no way he could do that even if he tried.
As I was in the middle of making the sauce, the propane tank ran empty, so there was a 10 minute intermission while I changed to the spare. Before quite finishing dinner, the boat returned, but this time he seemed to have complete control. Diane and I both popped up to help him get safely into the slip.
We had a lot of exercise today and a lot of sun so it will, again, be an early night.
Fri 25 May 2012
Docked at Beacon Marina, Solomon's Island, MD
[photo: freighter passing us shortly after the fog lifted]
We enjoyed a very restful night and got up well after dawn. The tide was low and the current was with us for a very short while, but then we had to endure a foul current (albeit low) most of the way to Solomon's Island. A few hours into the day's passage, we noticed lowered visibility to the west and eventually motor-sailed into fog. At first, the visibility was about 1 mile (based upon sightings of navigation aids), but it got down to about 200 yards at one point.
Of course, we had our navigation lights and steaming light on, plus I had as much of the sail out as possible to make us more visible to others. The AIS feature of the VHF radio alerted us to several large and not-so-large commercial vessels. Only one, a small crabbing boat, required evasive action when she loomed out of the fog with no lights showing. It was not particularly tense or scary, but those were two hours where concentration was required and there was no time to glance at a novel or become distracted.
When the visibility started to improve dramatically, we were able to see numerous pleasure craft plying the waters near the western shore of the bay. Mosquitos and biting flies don't seem to have a problem with limited visibility, however, as they attacked. The cockpit I scrubbed last evening is again littered with the gooey remains of insects of all kinds.
It seemed like a much longer run than it was (just over 7 hours), but we finally arrived at Solomon's Island and filled up with Diesel fuel and found our slip at the Beacon Marina. For those cruisers following in our wake, the Beacon Marina was chosen because it seemed the least likely to be full on Memorial Day weekend. There are pros (free laundry, free electric hook-up, free continental breakfast at the co-located Comfort Inn, and a decent pool) and cons (small bath house and tiny finger piers), but for $1.50 per foot, it is not bad.
Our weather on this cruise has generally been pretty good. We have had few days that were too cold or too hot; today it was pretty hot in the dying breeze inside a protected marina under the blazing sun. We elected to hook up the power cord for air conditioning just before we left for the shower and pool and we are glad we did (and Clyde the cat in his fur coat probably is, too).
Dinner was chicken medallions in a lemon/white wine/butter/caper sauce with pasta and (yes, again) fresh broccoli. It will be an early night to bed, so this will be posted now.