10/08/2006, La Trappe Creek
Sunset at LaTrappe Creek
Another cool and clear morning greeted us in Annapolis as we discussed the days plans. So after poached eggs on toast, we took our bikes ashore and biked up to a grocery store to buy some supplies. As we were on our bikes, we were limited in what we could carry, so we chose carefully. The problem we have is that we are never sure when we will be able to buy groceries again, so it makes it an exercise in strategic planning. But there was room to stop at a liquor store to replenish the Gin supply which had fallen to precariously low levels. Then back to the boat (via a beautiful bike ride through Still Waters Park, and off to what must be the most beautiful anchorage we will find in the Chesapeake, La Trappe Creek, off the Choptank River.
We pulled in just as the sun was setting (after a nice sail, and a motor through Knapps Narrows) and were just settling down when the largest full moon I have ever seen began to rise. Exept for one other boat and a flock of Canada Geese, we were alone in this beautiful setting where we dined on Atlantic Salmon in a Maple Sirup and Dill dressing.
10/07/2006, Annapolis (Harness Creek)
After a wild night (but with the anchor alarm set and quiet, a good sleep), we arose to a clear and cool day. The winds were still fresh, but the rain had stopped, and the skies were clear, so we decided to go into the boat show. We walked up to the visitors center and caught a cab and were at the show just $6.00 later! There are basically two things at the show; boats and equipment suppliers. We wandered around the floats (it's an in-the-water show) and went aboard a few of the well known builders, but, not in the market, we didn't see too much on interest. Ashore, we were able to buy (at the Boat Show Discount!!) all the charts we need for the balance of the trip as far as Florida. And I was able to talk to the manufacturers of our watermaker to learn about some aspects of it tht were unclear in the manual. And we bought some more gear (always room for more gear) including a Dutchman Boom Brake to prevent gybes thet are uncontrolled. We also had a nice lunch in town, then headed back to the the boat for a nice evening in the now-quiet anchorage. We later heard that there was some merriment in the anchorages on the windward side during the windy nights.
10/06/2006, Annapolis, Md
Yesterday we sailed into Harness Creek, just south of Annapolis, where we decided to anchor for our visit to Annapolis. We chose it for a few reasons. First, the weather forecast was for winds of 30 knots (gale force) with gusts to 40 knots out of the north-east, and Harness Creek appeared to provide good protection in a nice high shore. Second, it offered good access to Annapolis without being in the middle of the action (read chaos!), and third, it was off what seemed to be a nice location on shore, a park with a nice landing for our dinghy. So we arrived, not sure if the creek would be empty or jammed with boats with the same ideas as we had. But there were only four other boats there when we arrived, so we were able to choose a nice location for our anchorage. Arriving mid-afternoon, we went ashore and walked up through the park (about 1.5 miles) to the nearest West Marine for a few supplies, then returned to the boat just as the rain began. And it didn't let up for 36 solid hours! During the night the wind picked up as predicted, and by morning it was howling. So we just stayed put for most of the day. Our plan had been to go to the Annapolis Boat Show (biggest in the world!!!), but in that wind and rain, I was reluctant to leave the boat, and it would have been a miserable time at the show. But Fraser's time had run out, so early in the afternoon I rowed him ashore and walked up through the woods to the Park Visitor Center where he caught a cab to Annapolis, from where he caught a train to Baltimore, then back to Havre De Grace, where we met him last week, to pick up his truck and head back to Ottawa.
But we just sat out the day reading and doung a few odd jobs. With the drop in temperature, wind and rain, we were grateful for the Espar heater, running constantly to keep us warm and dry. The forecast was not for better weather, but for worse, so in late afternoon we set a second anchor to ensure we wouldn't drag in the high winds. And so did the other boats in the creek. For dinner we decided on something warming, and made Spaghetti Bolognese. Very tasty, with a nice Italian red wine to go with it.
10/04/2006, Chesapeake Bay
Here's a picture of Fraser & I at Jellyfish Joel's Tropical Beach Bar on Fairlee Creek. Note the palm trees, put out by Jellyfish Joel. Apparently they die each winter and he re-plants in the spring!
October 1, 2006
After breakfast we motored about a mile upstream to see the village of Georgetown. It was quite a sight! There is really no village there at all, but about six huge marinas holding at least one thousand boats! We just motored around then left as there seemed to be no place to land a dinghy to go ashore. After motoring out the Sassafras, we hoisted sail and sailed into a crab pot tangling its rope in our rudder. We managed to clear it after some fiddling, only to go over another. This time I had to put on my dive gear and take a swim. Although the water is warmer than Maine, its not balmy! And it is so full of silt I had to work by feel as I could see nothing. But we got it cleared, and were off to Fairlee Creek, whose entrance made Turner creek look easy. The guide books both said that you must follow the marks, even though you will swear they are wrong, and head for the beach, not turning until you can just about reach ashore to shake hands with someone on the beach. So we followed the directions, and with the depth sounder alarm chirping at us, we made our way in. It was another beautiful creek, and in the off-season, only holding about six other cruisers (plus a huge marina). We dinghied ashore for a short walk, watched a power boat that was trying to leave get his prop caught in a crab pot (making us feel better), and headed back to the boat for dinner.
October 2, 2006
Today we sailed into Baltimore. If we thought we had seen a lot of boats before, we were sadly mistaken! In the highly sheltered Inner Harbor, we saw marina after marina, all huge! Because we wanted to be near the "Little Italy" section of the city, we chose Inner Harbor East marina, and called them. With directions to our berth, we headed in and tied up at berth H1. We had read that the Lexington Market was worth a visit, so we took hailed a taxi and headed out. We decided on a cab due to the distance, but as we got closer, we decided the cab was a good idea for another reason... it's located in a rough area of town! Inside it was chaos, and I'm sure we stood out as tourists in spite of our attempts otherwise. But we headed to Fairlee's booth which is reported to have the best Lump Crab Cakes on the Chesapeake. And they must be right! They were excellent, eaten on site at stand-up tables (no seating at Fairlees). We bought some sea bass for dinner the next night and wandered around the huge market for a while, then hailed a cab for the marina. Baltimore has done a tremendous job of restoring its waterfront, and we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around. In the evening we went up to Little Italy and after checking menus at a few of the many restaurants, we chose one and had a great dinner compliments of Fraser. Thanks, Fraser!
October 3, 2006
Leaving Baltimore, we headed across the bay in a nice following breeze and sailed up the Chester River and into the Corsica River, where we had another beautiful anchorage. We had our sea bass for dinner, baked in a Mediterranean sauce that we made up, accompanied by a Greek salad and a nice cold chardonnay. I have gotten the email and weatherfax programs working on the SSB, but not tried voice communication. Tonight I tried to contact my brother Bill (Bill is a ham radio operator). No luck. We'll try again tomorrow night.
October 4, 2006
We left the Corsica River early as we wanted to get to St Michael's as early as possible. Fraser is a member of the musem here, and that means we can get a marina berth at the museum where we'll stay for the night (members only!!). But to get there we had to pass through the Kent Island Narrows with a fixed bridge with 65 feet clearance, followed immediately by a bascule (draw) bridge. The 65 foot clearance is just sufficient for us as our mast is 60' and has a 3' antenna on top. As we approached, I kept checking the chart, looking up and praying. If there was an error, we would be in big trouble. And I had called the bridge and he was opening, so we had to keep going (they only open every half hour). With the current pushing us on, it was quite a busy time lining up the fixed bridge to pass n the center of the span where it's highest, then line up the bascule bridge, whose narrow opening didn' t line up with the fixed bridge. But we shot through, called the bridge operator to thank him for the opening, and were off down Eastern Bay and up the Miles River to St Michaels. In the flat calm we motored along, arriving at St Michaels in time for lunch. St Michael's is home to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Musem where we ha a berth for the night. We spent the afternoon looking around the museum and town, and went to "The Crab Claw" for dinner where we had a very messy but delicious crab dinner of both hardshell and softshell crab. Then home for the night. With a forecast for rising winds, we checked the lines and turned in.
October 4, 2006
We had an early start to the day with the wind rising as predicted, and at sunrise Fraser & I were on deck again adjusting lines. And as we were doing so, we watched a large motor-sailer anchored astern of us drag his anchor past us. We signaled him (and the rest of the moorings) with our pressure horn, and they came on deck and got underway just as they were coming down on another boat. Then we watched a few other boats re-anchor to the new wind and went down for breakfast. With the new wind, we have had a drop in temperature from the very hot day yesterday to a cooler day that caused me to pull out a sweatshirt for comfort. Off to Annapolis today for the boat show tomorrow.
10/04/2006, Chesapeake Bay
USS Constellation in Baltimore
September 28, 2006
Today was a big day. I finished the SSB radio installation! The final connection was to connect up the antenna (I will use the backstay as an antenna. I had two insulators cut in last winter), which required me being hoisted up the backstay as the lower insulator was about two feet above my reach. Then the big test... would it work?? After some fiddling, it appeared to, but the manual was so poorly written that it was very difficult to tell. But in the evening I had more time, and so far, it seems to be working. Now the next job is to learn how to use it. I have three uses planned; voice communication using the allocated marine frequencies, on-board email, and weatherfax reception. But that's tomorrow's job. Today's is to repair the starboard running light which stopped working when we were offshore of New Jersey. It turns out a wire chaffed off, so an easy fix. The weather forecast is for strong north-west winds coming up tonight as a cold front passes through, so we decided to seek more protection than we have here. We sailed down to the next river, the Sassafras, and worked our way in to Turner Creek, which has excellent protection from all sides, Luckily we were able to watch another boat head in just ahead of us, as the entrance is very narrow and has some serious turns requiring us to motor along the shore about 30 feet off. But we were safely in and anchored just as a tremendous squall came through. The lightning stayed a few miles away, but the wind and rain were unbelievable. We stood in the companionway and watched in amazment at the ferocity of it, barely able to make out the dinghy tied off the stern. But it quickly passed, the wind swung to the north-west, the temperature dropped, and we had a quiet night.
September 29, 2006
Today we're heading to Havre de Grace to meet Fraser, Jeannie's brother, who will be sailing with us for a week. The entry is via a five mile channel that winds along the edge of a military installation. Too narrow for sailing in a headwind, we motored up, and took a berth at the municipal marina. It is a nice well run marina, and everyone is very friendly. For the afternoon we took the bikes and went to explore the town. We went to the library in hopes of being able to get on-line, but no wireless, so we were unable to post this. Internet access continues to be a real headache. We then bought a few supplies and headed back to clean up the boat while waiting for Fraser. He arrived about 7 pm, and we had dinner and were off to bed.
September 30, 2006
Today we left Havre de Grace after using Fraser's truck for a grocery shopping expedition. With a following breeze, we were able to sail down the channel, and returned up the Sassafras but went further upstream to Woodland Creek where we spent the night.
10/04/2006, New Jersey & Deleware
Dawn off Cape May.
September 23, 2006
Today we dropped the mooring about 9 am and motored down the Hudson to a marina on the New Jersey shore to fill up with diesel and water. We actually emptied the starboard tank, and were surprised, as I had been monitoring it. But a quick check of engine hours confirmed it. We had unknowingly motored into the 79th Street Marina on fumes! I'll have to be more careful in future. The port tank still held about 30 gallons, good for about 40 hours, but we wouldn't want to run out and have to switch tanks and get the engine going on short notice. So we took on 100 gal. and filled the water tanks, setting off for a short day to Sandy Hook from where we would begin our trip down the New Jersey shore. We hoisted the main as we passed the Statue of Liberty, and with a good fresh following wind, motor-sailed out among the tugs, tankers, barges and freighters on the outer harbor. We were accompanied by a boat from Kingston, Ontario who was filling up with fuel also. They were headed directly down to Norfolk, Va, an offshore trip of about three days. As we approached the Verrazano Narrows Bridge we opened up the jib and shut down the engine for a nice but short sail to Sandy Hook. But after about 20 minutes, we decided the breeze was too good to pass up, so altered course to begin our trip down the New Jersey shore. With our speed we would be able to reach Manasquam Inlet by late afternoon. So as the day continued, we had a beautiful day sailing. As we approached Manasquam, we listened to the weather forecast on the VHF (it is read by a computerized voice often referred to as "Perfect Paul"). The forecast was for continued winds of 15-20 knots out of the North-West for the night, then light southerlies for the next two days. Listening to it we both realized that it would be silly to go in and miss this wind, only to motor into it all day tomorrow and possibly the next and we carried on. We had a nice broiled salmon with maple syrup and dill for dinner as the sun set. Jeannie took the first watch from 9 pm to midnight while I slept. Then I took over at midnight until four am. Most of my watch was spent watching the lights of Atlantic City come and go. Visible from 20 miles away, they are a truly incredible sight! But the wind held and we averaged 7.5 knots, an excellent speed, and when I woke up at dawn (Jeannie took over at four am), we were just ghosting into Cape May on the dying breeze. It was a good call and a very enjoyable night! Instead of our 20 mile sail to Sandy Hook we had a 120 mile sail to Cape May!
September 26, 2006
Arriving here in the early morning, Jeannie had a nap and I tidied up, got out the cruising guides for Chesapeake Bay and put away the New York/New England ones. Then we launched the dinghy and headed ashore for a walk. The true town of Cape May is a couple of miles from the harbor, so we had a good walk over and back. It had its interesting sections, but the long walk was hardly worth it. We should have taken the bikes ashore. When we returned to the boat, we saw our friends from Kingston anchored next to us. We dinghied over and they said that they changed their minds and had decided to go through Chesapeake Bay after all. And another Canadian couple in a Mirage 33 anchored behind us, and invited us over for drinks in the evening. We had a nice time, but it meant that I didn't complete the SSB project as planned. Tomorrow for sure!! Tomorrow we will head out of Cape May and head up the Delaware river to the Chesapeake and Delaware canal to cross over into the Chesapeake.
September 27, 2006
We had an early start today as we wanted to catch the tide up Delaware Bay. They run up to 2.5 knots, so if we travel at six knots, that means a difference of 4.5 knots if it opposes us to 8.5 knots if it is with us. And it was with us, so we flew up the river, motoring in calm airs. We originally planned to stay somewhere up the Delaware or on the canal (there are two marinas on the canal), but again we had a great current with us, so we just carried on and dropped the anchor in Bohemia Creek (at the head of Chesapeake Bay) for a quiet night, and dinner of steak with a nice Chianti.
09/24/2006, New York City
Statue of Liberty
Two days in New York have stretched into four. We were due to leave on Saturday, but the weather was not good, with a forecast for gale force winds on the New Jersey shore, so we stayed put. But we had a great time on NYC, and with Beth' s apartment as a shore base in the day, it was very convenient. We even used the subway a few more times, and began to think we could understand it. But it was also because it was the weekend, and it was not crowded.
It seemed strange to be storm-stayed and walk two blocks inland and find a beautiful late summer day with light breezes. But on the river, it was clear that the forecast was accurate, so we just stayed put. On Friday I called Stan and Fred for an update on things (like sailing Stan's boat from Belize City to Placencia in November, the important stuff!). It seemed odd to jump back into the business world, then out again as we set about the day of more sightseeing.
That night we had dinner with Beth and Lauri at a great and inexpensive Italian restaurant near Beth's. On Saturday we did some shopping for food and other supplies that seemed to take most of the day. On Sunday we went to Lauri's art exhibit opening, surprising her with our presence, as we expected to be gone. We took the subway down and back, and hardly got lost!
Jim with Cousin Ann & Dave Millar in Branford.
September 19, 2006
The day dawned with a light wind from the south, too light to sail in, so as we set out we were motor-sailing again. But before long, it improved to the forecast 10-15 knots, and provided us another beautiful hot day of Long Island Sound sailing. Our destination, Eatons Neck Basin, provided us with a nice close reach across the Sound, and we arrived just as the forecast rain showers began. Our anchorage is what is in the Maritimes called, a barachois, or a small harbor created by a sand bank with a small opening at one end. Eatons Neck is also a game sanctuary, where no landing is permitted, so we just motored in and anchored in this beautiful, remote site, located just 20 miles from Manhattan. In the dampness we turned on the heater, grilled veal chops, and settled in to a cozy evening.
September 20, 2006
At four am I heard the wind come up and went on deck to see the forecast shift to the north-west fill in. It was accompanied by a "cold front from Canada" as NOAA put it, and the temperature dropped rapidly from the high 80's to the 50's. We were nicely protected by a huge sand bar, so were in no trouble. But with the clearing skies, I could see the huge glow to the west that was New York City. It seemed strange to be there in total remote isolation, and less than 20 miles from downtown Manhattan. But as it was four am, I didn't dwell on it, but climbed back into a warm bunk.
In the morning we were roused by multiple bugle calls and announcements from the nearby Coast Guard base. So to a cool fresh breeze out of the north-west (our destination was north-west), we set off motor-sailing. I have never liked sailing in northerly breezes because they are shifty in both strength and direction. One minute you are wallowing with too little sail, and the next the rail is under and you are struggling for control. And with direction shifts of up to 40 degrees, it can create a frustrating time. And we sailed through this up to City Island.
City Island is part of the Bronx, but has a long yachting history. Many of the US's famous America's Cup 12 metre boats were built here, and it was home to some of the leading sailmakers of the 50's and 60's. So I had heard about it as I was growing up, and was looking forward to seeing it. But times change things, and City Island is no exception. On the plus side, we were able to buy everything we were looking for (boat parts, food & wine), but it is not what anyone would describe as upscale. So we provisioned and headed back to the boat to make a beef stew for the evening (Thanks to Ron White for his Beef with Barley recipe), accompanied by a nice Chianti we bought ashore. In the high winds and cool temperatures, we were glad to turn on the Espar heater to keep the boat toasty warm. Dessert was fresh grapes and Morbier cheese.
Tomorrow will be an exciting day as we transit the East River (including Hells Gate) down to the tip of Manhattan, and up to the 79th Street Marina. We plan to spend two nights there and visit with Beth Galvin (Jeannie's 1st cousin, once removed) who lives less than 3 minutes from the marina, to see my cousin Lauri, and to do a quick tour of NYC. And hopefully find a place to post this blog.
September 21, 2006
On the last day of summer, it felt like summer had long gone. We woke early to be sure to catch the tides right for our passage through the East River, particularly timing Hells Gate with its notorious currents. But the north winds had kept the temperatures well below normal (and our liking). So we set out just before 8 am (it seems to take us about 90 minutes to get underway) with another sail boat (a J32) down the East River. It's not really a river, it is a branch of the ocean that makes Long Island an island. But the tidal differences between Long Island Sound and New York Harbor mean that the currents can be very strong, and shift rapidly. But we timed it well, passing through Hells Gate about ten minutes before slack. Beyond Hells Gate we approached the area in the river that has Roosevelt Island in the middle. That creates two channels, East and West. At the bottom of the island, on the Manhattan shore, the United Nations building dominates the skyline. As we approached the upper end of the Island, Coast Guard and NY Harbor Police boats ushered us into the east channel, meaning we would have to pass under a lift bridge to the island. But we did so with little delay. As we reached the bottom of the island where the channels came together (where the UN building is) we eased ourselves into mid-channel, only to be shooed back over to the east side by the NY Harbor Police. Later that day, we saw lots of road blocks and police on every corner at the Waldorf Astoria. Apparently there was something big going on at the UN.
But we continued down the East River, around The Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan Island, and up the Hudson to the 79th Street Marina. It is not really much of a marina, as it is mostly moorings, which we picked up. But for $30/night in downtown New York City, it's a super bargain! So we had lunch, went ashore and did touristy things, such as going to the top of the Empire State building. Then, after walking all afternoon down town, we decided to take the subway back up to the marina. This created two problems; first, we got on the wrong subway, which wasn't too bad, as we knew it as soon as we did it, and didn't lose anything but our $4 for the fares. But when we found the right one, it was at peak rush hour, and the subways were jammed, hot and smelly. When I said to Jeannie "Never Again" a girl next to us (actually jammed between us) tried to say that it wasn't always like this. But we learned a good lesson.
After returning to the boat to recover our composure, we headed up the street, and found a nice sidewalk cafe where we had an excellent dinner. Jeannie had Sole, and I had Monkfish (new to me). Both were excellent. And we had a nice custard parfait with some fresh fruit for dessert.
Now its time to start to watch the weather on the New Jersey coast for our trip from here to Cape May where we will turn up Deleware Bay then crossing over into Chesapeake Bay via the C-D Canal. The New Jersey run will be a two day affair with an overnight stop along the way (unless we decide to do it in one overnight hop). But either way, good weather is important, as the coast has few inlets, and in offshore winds, even those few can easily become impassible. So we will be watching to time our departure from here.