2019 Chesapeake Bay Cruise

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ASA104 Intermediate Coastal Cruising Course


July 28-Aug 1, 2019




Bo Stout, Bob Ward


Frank Mummert

This was a highly unusual ASA104 class for Maryland School, as we only had two students.  This was actually a happy occurrence for Captain Frank Mummert, since he was able to act as a member of the crew, instead of taking his usual role as evaluator, instructor and "cause of problems" (as one of his former students puts it).  The two students, Bob and Bo, had both done all of their prior training with Maryland School, so Captain Frank felt assured in their knowledge and skills.  He was not to be proven wrong during the trip. 

The first day was spent in the usual way for ASA104 classes.  There were navigation plans to be discussed, meals to plan, provisions to buy and store, gear to be inspected and, finally, practical evaluations of the students' abilities.  After a few hours on the water, Captain Frank was assured of his crew's skills and rewarded them by preparing a spaghetti dinner, as the day wound down.

On the first day of actual travel, Captain Frank took charge of the navigation and log-keeping, establishing the standard that he wished to see through the rest of the class.  Acadame left the Lankford Bay Marina early on Sunday morning, after stopping to pump out one last time.  Unfortunately, most of the wind that the crew was feeling was coming from the engine as the boat pushed through the morning haze, so the sails were not useful yet.  Despite this, Captain Frank "tacked down" the Chester River, using ded reckoning to update the chart, as if we had been sailing.  The resulting track on the chart illustrated the lesson that the planning phase of navigation and the operational results do not always conform, but the way-points were useful.  

The weather forecast for the day had indicated that what wind there was would drop during the afternoon and come back in the evening and the continuing reports from the Thomas Point Shoal data buoy bore this out, dropping to 2 knots, with gusts to 3, during the period that Acadame transited the Bay.  Still, the students were excited by the traffic and the opportunity to pass under the Bay Bridge, one that they had each driven over.  The seas were a bit more interesting on the south side of the Bridge, but our goal for the day was in sight and we found ourselves within the Severn River just after 2 pm.  
Traveling up the river and to the mooring field was challenging, because of the large number of "Opti-gnats."  Optimists are extremely small boats, used primarily to train children in the basics of sailing.  There are numerous youth sailing programs in the Annapolis area and it seemed to captain and crew that they all had all available boats out on the river.  Motoring through the midget fleet to the mooring field was an exercise in boat handling and it was a relief when the boat was tied to the mooring ball and the engine shut down.
After a trip ashore to check in with the harbor master, pick up some souvenirs and have a cold drink or two, it was back to the boat for study time, dinner, navigation prep for the next leg of our journey and some relaxing time in the cockpit.  As the sun dipped below the horizon and the lights of the harbor came on, the heat started to drop and the crew headed to bed for some well-earned rest.  
Dawn comes early on a boat, especially in the summer, and the crew was up and having breakfast before the sun was fully over the horizon again.  The mooring ball was dropped and we pointed our bow toward the Severn River, setting sails by the Naval Anchorage and using the 10 to 15 knot breeze from the south to head for the Chesapeake Bay.  Our original plan had been to travel almost due south to the South River entrance buoy, then head southeast across the bay for Bloody Point, at the south end of Kent Island, but the wind was perfect for a run from the entrance to Annapolis directly to the point, so we sailed the entire distance, with Bo, our "captain of the day" doing the navigation.  His two and three bearing fixes allowed us to adjust our course as we traveled.  This was the best sailing of the class and, unfortunately, the only sailing.  Once we turned up into Eastern Bay, the wind dropped and we found ourselves sailing downwind, with the main prevented and a whisker pole holding out the genoa.  After an hour, we found that, between the light wind and the outgoing tide, our speed over ground was only 1.5 knots.  Given that we had to still travel fifteen miles, Bo made the decision to "furl the headsail and set the D-sail".  Turning on the engine, we headed toward Tilghman Point and our turn toward the Miles River.
Just after making the turn, the engine mysteriously failed.  Normally, this would have been a case of Captain Frank initiating a drill, but as he was on the wheel at the moment, it was quickly ruled out, particularly by Captain Frank.  The crew performed a "loss of engine in the channel" evolution and Frank began troubleshooting.  It didn't take long to discover that the problem was a broken fuse to the electric lift pump and some jury rigging got the boat moving again.  Once in Saint Michaels Marina, fuses were procured and the problem fixed.  After this excitement, the crew was happy for a good dinner ashore, showers and air conditioning to cool the boat for sleeping.
After the challenges of the previous day, both planned and unplanned, the trip to the Kent Island Narrows was almost anti-climatic.  Once again, the wind had died and the heat had settled in.  On the boat, the forward motion of the engine kept a breeze blowing through the cockpit and the refrigeration provided a steady supply of cold water and Gatorade.  Bob, our day's "captain," shot his two bearing fixes and ensured that we stayed on our track.  However, the tide coming out of Saint Michaels hurried us along a little quicker than we expected, so when we turned into Prospect Bay, we found ourselves about an hour ahead of schedule, despite a deliberately late start of 9:00 AM.  We turned off the engine and drifted near the 1P marker at the mouth of the bay, with the crew keeping themselves occupied by using the tide and current books to calculate the next high or low tide at various places on the east coast of the United States.  At 11:30, we started again toward the bridge at the Narrows, deliberately keeping our speed down.  We arrived at the bridge at about ten minutes before the 1:00 opening and used the time to practice handling the boat in tight quarters, determining by observation the set and drift of the current.  We had timed our passage to be at slack tide and we agreed that we were near that, but there was still a slight tide taking us toward the bridge.
Once the bridge opened, we headed out past the marinas and dock bars on the north side of the narrows and out the recently dredged northern channel.  A mile past the mouth of the channel found us a the Chester River 6 buoy, a point we decided indicated that we had circumnavigated Kent Island and we hoisted drinks of cold Gatorade in celebration.  We started heading for our evening anchorage in the Corsica River, but as we did so, the Coast Guard started passing warnings of dangerous thunderstorms, with gusts up to 50 knots, in the Upper Chesapeake Bay area.  A hasty conference among the crew changed our plans and we headed for the relative security of Lankford Bay Marina.  The weather was forecast to arrive between "1600 and 2000" and we dropped our lines on the dock, just as the first of that time came.  We could see thick clouds to our south and, within an hour, could hear the thunder.  However, the actual rain did not come until after 8:00 and the winds did not get above 25 knots in the marina.  Still, we agreed, better to be in port, wishing we were at sea then at sea, wishing we were in port.
The next morning, we headed back out of the marina and anchored the boat for practice, just as we would have the night before for real.  Pulling the anchors back up, we concluded our instruction with some Crew Overboard drills, which both students, already well-trained in the Maryland School philosophy, were able to complete with ease.  Then, it was back to the marina to pump out, try to take on fuel and finally head for the home slip one last time.  Although the days had been hot and windless, the crew was uniformly of the opinion that the cruise had been too short and they would have been just as happy to keep going.

Captain Frank Mummert
Rock Hall, Maryland,
August 1, 2019 


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