2018 Chesapeake Bay Cruise

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ASA104 Intermediate Coastal Cruising Course


July 29-Aug 2, 2018




Jackie Spong, Luis Urbina, Kara Wilder


Andy Barton

DAY 1:  
Our three students, Jackie, Kara and Luis gather with Captain Andy to discuss cruise planning, the weather forecast and provisioning needs.  While Luis heads out for provisions, Jackie and Kara help prepare the dinghy for our journey.  Each has a turn at maneuvering the dinghy under power, then we prepare to tow it along for our trip and stow the dinghy gear in the lazarette and its engine on the sternrail.  Luis arrives with provisions and the crew helps stow everything before having lunch.  We then reviewed various boat systems, including fuel, engine, water and electrical components. 

Winds are SE at 5 knots and weather is mostly sunny, with a small chance of storms overnight.  We plot a course for Queenstown Creek to anchor and set us up for the next day's voyage either to St. Michaels or across the bay to Baltimore or Annapolis.  We departed Langford Creek around 1400.  The crew's teamwork was very good as we navigated the very narrow channel into Queenstown creek using the range formed by a tall tree and the water tank.  We saw no less than 6 feet on the way in, and dropped anchor around 1730.  Only one other boat was anchored behind the sand spit, and they departed about an hour after we arrived, so we had this beautiful anchorage to ourselves for the night.  Luis prepared an excellent chicken stir fry for dinner, and we plotted a course to the Kent Narrows entrance and Love Point for the next day before enjoying a beautiful sunset and turning in. 

DAY 2:  
Our house battery was running low overnight, so we needed to turn off all unnecessary items, leaving only our anchor light on from 0400 to sunrise.  Upon waking, we ran the engine to recharge the batteries a bit.  Winds are SE 5 knots, gusting to 10 knots with a 60% chance of afternoon storms.  We check radar and see a series of storms working their way up the eastern shore of the bay, so decide to head to Annapolis on the western side to skirt the weather.  We get an early start and are underway by 0730. Jackie is our skipper, Kara our navigator and Luis our bosun today. Luis is keeping an eye on the reverse range as we head out the tight Queenstown Creek channel. We choose to motorsail today to make good time. 

As we approached Love Point, we began to see numerous logs and other floating debris.  The USCG has been broadcasting Securite messages that the Conowingo Dam floodgates had opened a few days ago and that mariners should watch for floating debris that was making its way down the bay.  We were surprised by the vast amount of debris.  Luis stood as lookout and was constantly relaying directions back to the helm as we weaved our way between the sticks, large logs and other flotsam.  At one point, we passed between two floating "islands" of debris that were 50+ yards wide and 10+ yards across. 

In spite of the obstacles in the water, Kara navigates us under the Bay Bridge and into Annapolis harbor.  Our timing is perfect to pass through the Spa Creek bascule bridge and pick up a mooring ball.  It is hot and steamy, so we opt to move to a slip at City Dock where we can have shore power and air conditioning.  On the way, Kara notices that our engine is sounding different and that our raw water flow is reduced.  However, the temperature alarms are not yet sounding.  We choose to continue back through the bridge, and we expeditiously find a slip at city dock around 1330.  The debris in market slip in Annapolis is astounding.  City work crews are pulling it out and hauling it away by the truckfull.  After a brief rest, we review navigation techniques: DR plots, two and three LOP fixes, time, speed and distance calculations, ETE and ETA and determining course to steer.  

Now it's time to investigate the raw water flow problem.  The strainer had some debris, but was not fully clogged.  The impeller was checked and looked fine.  During the process, a local TV news crew was reporting on the debris from the dam and interviewed the students - they and Acadame had a few seconds of fame!  We then started disconnecting hoses from the strainer to the impeller and the seacock to the strainer.  When blowing through the hose from the strainer back toward the seacock, we met resistance.  The hose was clear, but an elbow fitting in the line was clogged with sticks and seagrass, greatly reducing the water flow.  We improvised with a bent coat hanger to clear the elbow, which improved flow a bit.  We also tightened the raw water pump belt.  Voila - problem solved!  Time for a shower and a cold beverage before a dinner out on the town. 

DAY 3: 
Looks like a nice day to cross the bay with East winds at 10 - 15 knots and an increasing chance of late afternoon or evening storms.  Kara is our skipper today, with help from Luis as navigator and Jackie as bosun.  After clearing Annapolis harbor Yellow "A", we set full sail and are making 4 - 5 knots on a beam reach to Bloody Point Bar.  We dodge several anchored cargo ships and spot some dolphins on our way! We get a nice wind shift and continue to sail a bit up the Eastern Bay before motorsailing to clear Rich Neck, then back to sailing.  This is a good opportunity to get some two-LOP fixes as the channel markers are several miles apart.  Winds are building as we work our way toward the Miles River with its tricky bends.  We drop sail and navigate the last of our trip under power.  Kara hails the dockmaster for a slip assignment and docking instructions and gets a cryptic response to head for the building with the red roof (There are at least five buildings with red roofs).  She tries a second time to get clear docking instructions, but to no avail.  We proceed slowly before spotting the dockmaster sitting in a golf cart near our assigned slip.  Our approach is a bit fast so we need to abort the first attempt and come around a second time to warp stern-first into the slip.  Crabs for dinner, then a nice ice cream treat before retiring for the evening. 

DAY 4: 
South winds 15 - 20 knots, gusting to 25 knots.  Small craft advisory in effect. Partly cloudy unsettled weather.  The radar looks good with storms tracking to our east and our west, but not along our route for the day.  Luis is our skipper today, with help from Jackie as navigator and Kara as bosun.  Before getting underway, we pump out the holding tank.  We depart about 15 minutes later than planned at 0745, hoping to make the 1000 bridge opening in Kent Narrows to coincide with slack current near high tide.  After piloting through the twists leaving St. Michaels, we set our jib to run downwind to Kent Narrows.  We are making good progress and again spot a few dolphins!  When we are a few miles from Kent Narrows, we calculate that we would need to be making nearly 7 knots to make the 1000 opening.  We resign ourselves to making the 1030 opening and take our time with lowering sail and planning the approach.  Jackie takes the helm to pilot us through the narrows, as she wanted to overcome a bad experience transiting this bridge on a previous journey.  We hail the bridge tender and are advised that the next opening is in 12 minutes.  As we circle and wait, we notice that the ebb current is already flowing slowly against us.  We need to hail the bridge again as it was a few minutes late opening.  The currents accelerate through the small bridge opening, but we proceed confidently and make it through and out the other side of the channel, seeing no less than 7 feet on our way into the Chester River. 

Jackie plots our course back up the Chester River and into the Corsica River where we plan to anchor for the night.  We set a double reefed main and 2/3 jib in challenging conditions.  Everyone gets some helm time as the wind and waves keep building on our way up the Chester.  Time for a surprise MOB drill!  Back underway and all is going well until we cannot locate a buoy along the planned route and are uncertain of our position.  After a bit of confusion, we heave to and get a two-LOP fix and determine the course to steer is 080 to the next navigation mark.  It turns out that the buoy we were trying to find appears on the chart, but is missing.  We sail all the way through the narrow entrance to the Corsica River and drop sails once inside.  After rounding an "S" bend, we anchor using a forked moor in a cozy little cove.  After a brief review of anchoring techniques using two anchors, the crew decides to haul up our anchors and return to Langford Creek where the luxuries of shore power, air conditioning and showers can be found.  After arriving at 1830, captain Andy makes a delicious pasta dinner and we review a bit for the ASA104 written test. 

DAY 5: 
It turns out to be a beautiful day for sailing with SSW winds 8 - 10 knots and clear weather in the morning.  After a breakfast of blueberry pancakes, we head out to do some sail handling drills and a lesson on fine tuning sail trim by changing draft and twist.  The wind continues to build to 10 - 15 with gusts to 20, so we put a single reef in the main while hove-to, then returned up Langford Creek alternating between wing-on-wing and broad reach.  We take on fuel, pump out and have a lunch break before taking the written test.  After the test, an intense storm is approaching as we rush to clean up the boat and stow everything.  Perfect timing ... our cruise is successfully completed! 

Respectfully Submitted,
Capt. Andy Barton

May 15, 2018


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