2019 Chesapeake Bay Cruise

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ASA104 Intermediate Coastal Cruising Course


July 13-17, 2019




Julie & Mike Cecil, Sam Stone, Wayne Wilkerson


Frank Mummert

The four crew members in the ASa104 cruise which started on July 13 with Captain Frank Mummert were unusual.  They had started together in a week earlier for ASA101 and then continued on until ASA103, so they had been able to work together and knew each others strengths before we even left the dock.  Sam, Wayne, Julie and Mike had already welded together into a working team, one of the most important aspects of a transient crew and one usually difficult to achieve.  When I came aboard that first day, I wondered how the crew would accept me, since I was the newcomer, an unusual event. 

I needed not have worried.  The crew was accepting and eager to learn.  We spent the first half of Saturday doing navigational briefings and provisioning preparation.  With all the food stored and lunch out of the way, we headed out for Lankford Creek and the crew showed me what they had learned in their previous classes.  Well trained, they were quickly able to transition from the lower levels to a "30 knots of wind, offshore, at night" mentality and were soon snapping through tacking and gybing around two points and sailing upwind and down with ease.  Their knowledge of the Rules was excellent and we were able to safely perform everything I asked of them.  We returned to Langford Bay Marina for the evening, where Julie and Mike made a tasty dinner.  They finished out the evening by pulling out charts and other navigational texts and looking over our route for the four days of the class. 

Sunday morning found us with winds out of the West, so Sam, our Skipper of the Day, had us set our sails and we headed for Annapolis.  We sailed close-hauled down the Chester River, avoiding all the traffic that a pleasant weekend day would bring.  As we came around the south end of Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge and started up for Love Point and the Chesapeake Bay, the wind died and we were forced to bring in the headsail and motor-sail on, hoping that, when we cleared the point, the wind would return.  Sadly, this was to be the pattern for the next few days - a hint of air in the morning, dying as the day progressed.  The crew took it stoically, but we spent far too much time with the engine grinding in our ears. 

Seas were lumpy and confused as we crossed the Chesapeake Bay, with the wind bouncing around the compass and the traffic kicking up all manner of wakes.  We saw everything from personal water craft to fully loaded cargo carriers as we passed the Sandy Point Shoal Light and headed under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  Once clear of the Bridge, the wind came up, but it was right on our bow, of course.  Before long, we were in the Naval Anchorage and dropping our sail.  The traffic into the Annapolis Harbor made the navigation a challenge and everyone was attuned to the array of traffic around us.  We even had a close aboard approach from a pirate ship full of screaming children before we made it in and tied up to Mooring Ball 35.  After settling up with the Harbormaster, we called for a water taxi ride and headed in, looking for showers and ice cream. 

Back on the boat, Sam whipped up a hearty dinner and we settled in for an evening of boat watching and more study.  The breeze off the land tried its best to cool us, but the boat was simply too warm for comfortable sleeping, so, at one point, four of the five of us were on deck, catching fitful rest.  Thankfully, the harbor traffic had died down and the water was calm.  When dawn came, the crew was already up and about. 

Underway from Annapolis for the Eastern Bay and the Miles River, we had a promise of wind from the North.  The Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse data buoy was reporting 9 knots of wind, gusting to 10.  As we came down the channel from the Severn River, Mike, our Skipper of the Day, had to deal with a simulated "loss of cooling water" emergency in the engine.  A diesel mechanic by trade, Mike jumped into action and we were soon back on our way.  I learned to be more careful in which crew member I gave which emergency!   

As we rounded the 1AH light and headed south, the promise of wind proved illusory.  Since the tide was going out, we were already headed south at a good clip and the dropping wind from behind quickly became just a breeze on the boat.  With the engine running, we found that forward progress made the boat apparent wind almost nothing, a situation we would encounter frequently.  We motor-sailed across the Bay from Thomas Point to Bloody Point and saw only a few Monday morning fishing boats, the traffic appeared to be gone. 

That situation changed appreciably as we rounded Bloody Point and headed for the Miles River.  The traffic both into and out of the Saint Michaels area was large and consistent.  We even saw a huge charter yacht, the sort seen on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" that we had left in Annapolis pass us on her way up the Eastern Bay.  The wakes from all the passing boats called for nimble boat handling by the crew to keep us from rolling around and we used all of Mike's navigational skills to find our course, time after time.  To make it worse, there was a fire in the electrical panel (simulated, of course) that required taking the boat out of gear and keeping a sharp lookout as half the crew fought the fire and half kept the boat under control. 

We finally made it to the entrance to Saint Michaels harbor and once again dropped our little used sail.  The wind had died to nothing at this point and we motored in, looking forward to air conditioning on the boat and showers and dinner off.  After a little free time to explore the shops and attractions of Saint Mikes, we reconvened on the boat, clean and happy, and had dinner in one of the marina's restaurants. 

The next morning had us sleeping in.  The sun was well up before we had had breakfast, done some additional sail training and were ready to head out under Wayne, our Skipper for the Day.  Were we just being lazy?  Not at all!  Wayne's calculations had shown that our best time for passing through the Kent Island Narrows Bridge and returning to the Chester River was at 1400, so we needed to leave Saint Michaels by 1000, just in case "something went wrong." 

Sure enough, as we left the harbor behind and headed out into the Eastern Bay, the steering locked up tight and Tina, on the helm, was unable to steer.  Luckily, the problem was quickly identified as a (simulated) length of line in the steering quadrant.  Another drill successfully handled by the crew!  We were on our way to Prospect Bay, along with the wind.  Since the wind was out of the south and traveling with us at a little bit less than our boat speed, we motored along with no breeze at all in the cockpit.  Time was spent reviewing the knowledge levels of the course, while keeping an eye on the clock.  After another drill - a broken hose in the potable water system, pumping fresh water into the boat - we stood down and drifted for a bit as we set ourselves up for the 1400 passage through the Bridge. 

Once back in the Chester River, we passed Red Buoy #6, completing our circumnavigation of Kent Island, and headed up river for Lankford Creek again.  The wind continued to be low and variable, making sailing impossible and keeping the cockpit windless.  We returned to Davis Creek and put down two anchors in a Bahamian moor, but just for training purposes.  We ended the night back in Langford Bay Marina and happily plugged into shore power.  The air conditioning dropped the temperature on the boat and allowed for a good night's sleep for all. 

We were up and about with the sun on Wednesday, headed back out to "complete our cruise."  We still had Crew Overboard training to complete.  Since Julie was the watch captain of the day, she was able to bring the wind.  We had 10 to 15 knots of wind for this most important part of our educational process.  Each of the students took the role of being in charge of the recovery and Oscar, our ill-fated clumsy crewmember, was rescued over and over again.  After everyone had a chance to recover Oscar, we put a preventer on the main sail and headed down wind, gybing from broad reach to broad reach to get back to Langford Bay Marina.  After dropping onto the pump-out and fuel docks, we returned to our slip, happy to be permanently home and much better able to handle what the sea throws at us.

Captain Frank Mummert
Rock Hall, Maryland,
July 17, 2019 


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