2018 Chesapeake Bay Cruise

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ASA104 Intermediate Coastal Cruising Course


 October 21-25, 2018




Charles Matthews, Francesco Sollini, Jason Vallandigham


Andy Barton

Day 1: 
We started with a weather briefing and a look at the 5-day forecast to help plan our cruise.  Today's weather was a bit ugly: Gale warning and temperatures in the mid 40's to mid 50's.  Clear and cool weather was expected for the next several days to follow with winds moving from the S to the NW.  There was an extremely low tide event today due to the gale force winds blowing water out of the bay, and several boats at the marina were aground in their slips.  We discussed the need to have an anchor watch if we were to head out and anchor overnight.  In lieu of the weather, we opted to stay put today, do our provisions and planning and review navigation and piloting techniques. This crew was very good at provisioning efficiently.  While Charlie went shopping, Francesco, Jason and I reviewed dingy and outboard motor safety and operation.  Charlie was briefed when he returned.  After stowing provisions, we had a nice lunch, made a general plan for where we might go, and looked at navigation, tides and currents.  A dinner of rice, beef and sausage was prepared and Jason plotted a course for the Magothy River before we all turned in for the night. 

Day 2: 
Winds had settled down over night and the gale warning now expired.  S winds at 5-10 knots and clear cool weather.  Charlie is skipper today, Jason navigator and Francesco is bosun.  We are underway bright and early heading out Langford Creek and the Chester River under power due to light winds.  Soon the winds filled in and we set the main to motorsail upwind. Once we passed Kent Narrows, the jib was set and engine turned off as we sailed a broad reach out the mouth of the Chester River into the Chesapeake Bay.  After rounding Love Point, the winds continued to fill in and were now SSW at 10-15 knots, so we sheeted-in and sailed close hauled across the bay, pointing out the range lights for the shipping channel along the way.  We were fortunate to have a gradual lift and made the mouth of the Magothy River on one tack!  

On our way across, we reviewed various anchoring techniques in anticipation of anchoring for the night.  The winds continue to build and were gusting over 20 knots as we navigated our way through the hourglass-shaped channel into the Magothy River.  Once inside in protected waters, were lowered sails and worked our way in behind Gibson Island to anchor for the night in a well-protected cove at around 1530.  We spent some time discussing a few more topics on the syllabus including emergencies underway. Francesco shared the track recorded using his tablet navigation app and it showed we hit 8 knots in the gusts!  Francesco prepared a nice hot pasta dinner, though he lamented that he didn't have all the makings of an authentic Italian sauce and needed to use jarred sauce instead.  He was kind enough to share a few of his sauce secrets with the rest of the crew.  Two other boats joined us in the anchorage.  Sunset and the rise of the nearly full moon were spectacular!  Charlie worked on our navigation plan for tomorrow, and we all reviewed it before bed. 

Day 3: 
It was a bit chilly hanging on the hook last night, so Capt. Andy got the coffee going right away. The forecast is for clear weather and SW winds 10-15 knots - perfect sailing weather!  Once outside the Magothy, we set full sail and made a course for the Annapolis Bay Bridge.  Winds are more SSE versus the SW forecast.  Once we pass under the Bay Bridge, we can bear away to a close reach and head for Annapolis.  On our way, we pass the tall ship schooner Lynx heading north.  We are making good time, so before entering Annapolis, we practice advanced sail trim, including adding twist and draft by adjusting the traveler, mainsheet, halyard tension, outhaul and jib car position.  It's also a perfect day for MOB drills under sail --- surprise!  Once we are done with drills, Charlie works out a two-LOP fix and plots our course into Annapolis Harbor.  We stop first for pump out, then pick up a mooring ball.  Given that we are due for another chilly night, we drop the mooring and cross through the Spa Creek draw bridge for practice before heading to the town dock for a slip and shore power (heat!) tonight.  Dinner at a local sailing hangout.  Francesco's track shows we hit 7.6 knots today (assisted by the current). 

Day 4: 
Small craft advisory, NW winds 15-20 knots, gusting to 25 knots.  Clear.  After a pancake breakfast onboard, we head out of Annapolis Harbor following the course that Francesco laid out last night.  Once past the Y "A" marker, we set a single reefed main and partially furled jib and head NE on a beam reach toward the Bay Bridge.  Waves are 1-2 feet, but expected to increase once we are clear of Hackett Point.  Winds and waves continue to build on our way to the bridge, so skipper Jason asks for the second reef in the main and to furl the jib a bit more.  We are fighting the current today as well, so it is a tough slog.  Once we pass under the Bay Bridge, the winds were blowing steady at 20 and gusting to 30 knots, and we were headed and sailing a close reach to close-hauled to work our way clear of the Love Point shoals.  Waves are now 3-5 feet and spray is flying as we work our way to windward, dipping the rail from time to time! Crew work is strong, with Francesco keeping a good watch and navigating, Charlie working the traveler and the mainsheet to handle the gusts, and Jason as skipper at the helm.  

We spot a USCG helicopter rescue take place closer to Kent Island (We later learned that these were drills and not an actual emergency).  Given the conditions, we decide to change plans and head back to Langford Creek instead of heading to Rock Hall Harbor.  Once clear of Love Point, we rig the preventer and turn downwind, surfing a bit down the waves on our way into the Chester River.  We spot another tall ship heading into the Chester behind us under just one sail.  This is downrigging weekend in Chestertown and several tall ships are joining in the festivities.  After passing by Kent Narrows, we head up and then need to short tack our way up the Chester River.  Thankfully, we are in the lee of Eastern Neck so the waves are manageable, but the wind is still strong.  As we are short tacking, the tall ship Kalmar Nyckel (now under power) overtakes us ... what an amazing sight!  Once past R"14" we sail close to the wind all the way back to the entrance to Davis Creek.  It has been a long but exciting day, and the crew heads out for a much-deserved dinner in town. 

Day 5: 
We start by reviewing a few topics and have time for some general Q&A before testing.  The students took their tests, and we had a short lunch before getting out to enjoy the last opportunity to sail during the trip.  Conditions are much different than yesterday.  W winds at 3-5 knots, so we ghosted our way out of Langford Creek and then back home again, enjoying the peaceful afternoon on the water.  Time to pump out and clean the boat up after our journey.  A hearty congratulations to all! 

Post-Cruise Note: 
On my way back home, I stopped in Chestertown to see the ships at downrigging weekend and talked with the crew of the Kalmar Nyckel.  When I told them that we saw them overtaking us as we were tacking up the Chester the day before, one of them said "I remember that! I was on bow watch and saw you guys.  You looked like you were having a lot of fun out there."

Captain Andrew Barton
Rock Hall, Maryland,
October 25, 2018 


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