2011 Chesapeake Bay Cruise

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ASA 104 Intermediate Coastal Cruising 


June 18-22, 2011




Scott Hanson, Thomas Pfeifer, Greg Swift


Steve Runals

Jun 16, Thurday: Arrivals:
Crew arrived by early evening.  Scott by train from Baltimore, Tom after dropping off a car in Rock Hall for the return trip home and a trip down the DELMARVA peninsula, Greg’s wife drops him off and prepares to head up to Rock Hall to take the 101 course.  Captain has been working with the Captain and Mate from CELESTIAL’s last class, an ocean training cruise from Bermuda to Norfolk, to finalize boat for upcoming class and all is ready.  We spend some time getting to know each other and develop an initial cruise and associated meal plan. Tom and Scott have taken the 104 course but on the school’s IP32 and want to get “big boat” experience. Tom and Greg have taken the school’s docking course and are looking forward to refining their skills.

Day 1 – Jun 17, Friday: Review of Ships Systems, Rules of Road, Boat Handling, Cape Charles:
We start the day with breakfast on board and finalize our meal plan.  Tom and the Captain head to Farm Fresh for provisions while Scott and Greg examine the boat and find all the required safety equipment.  After stowing provisions, we review ASA course and Federal boating safety requirements, Rules of the Road and buoy systems.  The crew then spends time giving the boat a thorough inspection – inside and out, getting acquainted with ship’s systems and operations, and proper safety procedures. Before departing, we review procedures for maneuvering under power and use of the bow thruster.  Scott, our navigator for today, describes our course to Cape Charles and potential hazards along the way.  

Tom takes us out of the slip, past increased security at the entrance to the Little Creek Amphibious Base and out into the Chesapeake Bay. We find light wind but are able to sail close hauled across the Thimble Shoals shipping lanes; lots of traffic including a Navy sub heading out to sea.   Along the way we change out head sails and Scott tracks our progress, taking several two bearing fixes to confirm our position.  Late afternoon finds us off the entrance to Cape Charles Harbor.  We use the ranges to help keep us in the channel, contact the marina for docking instructions and keep a look out for barge traffic headed to or from the large concrete plant located on the south side of the harbor. Tom brings us easily along side the new floating docks at the Town Harbor Marina where we secure the boat, thankful that we have a working A/C on this very hot afternoon.  The crew enjoys a well earned dinner at Kelly’s Pub, followed by a little exploration of this old town that had once been the hub of a busy ferry to and from Norfolk with both passenger and rail traffic from 1933 thru the early 1950’s.  Lots of potential for development here but things are moving slowly – the new docks are a great step forward. After returning to the boat, Greg lays out our course for the next day – north to an anchorage off the Great Wicomico River.


Day 2 – Jun 18, Saturday: North, always North:
Depart Cape Charles after a review of daily preoperation check procedures and engine systems.  Scott, Captain for the day, takes us smoothly off the dock and out into the fairway.  Initial winds from the SW allowed us to sail on a reach at 6+ knots but soon fall away to a light breeze from the NW as we sail past several large ocean going ships anchored off Cape Charles.  By early afternoon the winds have backed to SW, allowing us to fly the spinnaker. CELESTIAL picks up speed under this huge spread of canvas as we continue north.  

All take a turn on the helm to get a feel for sailing with this big, beautiful sail. Each small gust of wind requires attention on the helm to keep the boat from rounding up.  The wind finally dies away as we near the entrance to the Great Wicomico.  NOAA radio warns of the possible severe thunder storms in the area and the surrounding sky confirms this forecast.  We secure our sails and head into a secure anchorage in Mill Creek, finding half a dozen boats already at anchor.  After a quick swim, the Captain cooks a chicken stir fry dinner in our new pressure cooker as the forecast thunder storms bring just a light but steady rain to the anchorage.  Following dinner we have a quiet night. Tom lays out our course for tomorrow – 45 nm north to Solomon’s Island off the Patuxent River.


Day 3 – Jun 19, Sunday: North …. always North:
Rain off and on during the night brings a morning fog as we begin our day with Tom cooking omelets to order.  After initially working, the fresh water pump stops – no fresh water. After initial attempts to fix it, we make final departure preparations without this important capability.  We raise and secure the anchor after pre ops and weather checks and head out into building northerly winds.  Once clear of the narrow channel into Mill Creek, the Captain finds and fixes the electrical problem with the fresh water pump – a blown fuse and a bad electrical connection.  Having the tools, spare parts and ability to perform basic maintenance tasks while underway is essential to successful cruising – “boat calls” are rare if at all. 

We enter the Bay under an overcast sky with high winds and waves on the nose.  We motor sail with reefed main in the company of several other boats, all pounding to the windward.    Finally, as we near the entrance to the Patuxent River the wind moderates and veers to the east, allowing us to finish the day with a nice sail up to the entrance to Solomons Island in the company of many other boats out for a sail on Father’s Day.  After some exploration, we find our slip in the aging but fully functioning Colvert Marina and secure the boat under clearing skies.  Before dinner we do a little exploring of this unique area that served as the site of much of the amphibious landing training during World War II.  Dinner ashore at the 4 Winds Café and then a quiet night in the slip ….. until the evening bugs drive us below.


Day 4 – Jun 20, Monday: North ……always North but What a Ride:
We awake to rain and high winds.  The updated forecast calls for east winds 10-15 with gusts 25-30.  After pre ops checks, we depart the slip and head out into the Patuxent River where we find the forecast accurate – high winds and waves.  After rounding Drum Pt we close reach under reefed main and full head and stay sails at speeds between 6 and 8.4 knots.  We take the opportunity to practice heaving-to, another essential cruising skill.  It’s always amazing to feel the difference in boat motion with backed head sail and eased main.  As we continue north the wind eases and sky clears.  Scott tracks our position along the way, confirming location using two-bearing and running fixes. 

As we reach the entrance to Eastern Bay the wind drops to the point that we must motor sail up around Tilghman Pt and down Miles River.  On our second attempt, we successfully anchor off St Michaels, secure the boat, take the dingy into town to explore the Chesapeake Maritime Museum – a national treasure, and pick up a few provisions in town.  Later under a clear blue sky, Tom prepares a great spaghetti dinner and we enjoy a beautiful evening, amazed at the change in weather from the rain and wind of the morning.  A quiet night at anchor with calms winds, cooler temp and clear skies …. after dark the bugs return.

Day 5 – Jun 21, Tuesday: North …. Again but Annapolis Awaits
We awake from an otherwise quiet night to find the cockpit area covered with gnats - thousands of them.  The Captain wades into them with a swing towel – a futile effort.  Liberal use of Raid insect spray finally turns the tide and all are able to reoccupy the cockpit.  After weather and pre ops checks, we motor sail north in light winds which finally build once we reach Tilghman Pt.  Along the way we practice MOB under power – all rotating positions to get a feel for recovery operations on a boat this size.  We then have a fine beat down the Eastern Bay rounding Bloody Pt and entering the Bay.  Winds now drop but we are able to broad reach toward Annapolis.  

As we approach the Thomas Point Light, we hear ACADAME, one of the school’s IP32 boats, calling on the radio.  We contact them and learn they are headed to St Michaels.  After wishing them well, we continue north and in a building wind execute several MOB under sail recoveries.   After we finally secure the tipsy MOB, we head into the inner harbor. Annapolis in the summer is a beehive of activity with boats large and small sailing about the harbor – from Naval Academy training ships to Lasers and Optimist used as part of summer youth training programs – it’s all here.  Scott weaves us thru this constantly moving mass of steel, fiberglass and sail to easily pick a mooring in the inner harbor.  After securing the boat, Greg takes the ASA 104 test – passing with flying colors – while Tom and Scott go shore for a walk about.   We meet for dinner at Pussers, eating outside along “Ego Ally” where we review the trip and enjoy the sights and sounds of the still very active inner harbor.    Back aboard, we enjoy the evening watching the passing array of boats and playing a high stakes game of PIG.  A quiet night under an overcast sky, occasionally lighting by flashes of lightening.  

Day 6 – Jun 22, Wednesday: Rock Hall or Bust …. Return and Secure
Up for an early departure.  The cockpit is clear of our pesky gnats and we are treated to the sights and sounds of Navy crew teams out for an early morning practice. The plan for today is to refuel and pump out the boat at the American Yacht Basin here in Annapolis before heading up to Rock Hall; forecast - light winds, hot temperatures and possible afternoon
thunder storms (sounds more like August).  After breakfast, pre ops checks and a course overview, we slip our mooring and head over to the fuel dock.  After all the activity in the harbor yesterday, it seems strangely quiet. Greg and crew bring us smoothly along side the fuel dock where we secure the boat, refuel and pump out without incident, all tasks that are part of successful cruising.  

Back underway, Tom guides us out of the harbor, avoiding a returning fleet of Navy training vessels, thru a maze of crab pots and finally into the main channel.  Hot, haze and light wind characterize our final trip north. After crossing the Bay, Tom and Scott guide us carefully up the Swan Creek channel to the Osprey Pt Marina where Greg expertly brings us into our slip.  After securing and cleaning up the boat, we have a final review of the day’s events and our 180 nm trip.  All agreed the course was great.  The range of weather conditions, variety of stopovers and boat capabilities far exceeded expectations.  It did have one potentially negative implication – it wetted the crew’s appetite for more.  Well done to a great crew!

Captain Steve Runals
aboard IP-44 Celestial
Osprey Point Marina
Jun 23, 2011


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