2019 Chesapeake Bay Cruise

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ASA104 Intermediate Coastal Cruising Course


September 27-October 1, 2019




Kurt Prinslow, David Schrump


Doug Riley

Friday, September 27, 2019:
The crew – Kurt, from faraway Colorado and David from the DC area – and Captain Doug Riley (from Vermont) met in the MDS office at Langford Creek Marina at 0830.   Kurt and David were both returning MDS students.  The three discussed the goals and structure of the class (especially MDS’s approach to coastal cruising, which is to introduce and apply blue-water sailing techniques even in more sheltered environments).  Their itinerary would involve three nights at anchor around the northern Chesapeake Bay and one in a marina.  This drove the provisioning plan.  The crew went to town for provisions while the skipper contacted marinas for an overnight slip.  The crew then stowed provisions and made an exhaustive inspection of
SCHOLARSHIP, becoming familiar with daily engine checks, onboard safety equipment and sailing and motoring procedures.  Next the crew took their first lessons in navigation by chart, and in slip-departure procedures.  SCHOLARSHIP motored smoothly out of the slip with Kurt at the helm, southbound on the Chester River.  The crew used their plotted courses-to-steer and distances (timing each leg), cross-checking their locations by depth sounder and visual bearings.  They anchored for the night at the mouth of Jackson Creek, setting two anchors at the bow to create a forked moor.    Dinner onboard was pasta and chicken, followed by another navigation session and discussion of overnight battery management. 

The morning NOAA weather forecast, received on Scholarship’s VHF, predicted north winds up to 20 knots – leading to small-craft advisories, but a perfect breeze for the sturdy Island Packet.  After coffee and breakfast onboard, the crew retrieved both anchors and set a course for the west shore of Chesapeake Bay.  The 20-knot breeze made for a lively crossing.  The crew discussed heavy-air sailing techniques, learning how to employ sail trim and twist in strong winds.  They observed the apparent-wind vs. true-wind effects on points of sail.  Upon reaching Baltimore Light,
SCHOLARSHIP tacked over to a southeast course in order to line up with the northwest-southeast alignment of the Magothy River entrance channel.  After tacking back to their course, the crew smoothly sequenced into the narrow channel among other vessels with exactly same goal.  Inside the Magothy, the wind rapidly settled own.  SCHOLARSHIP dropped sail at the northern tip of Gibson Island and motored to the anchorage beyond.  The crew again used a forked moor to limit swing (a necessity in the well-populated anchorage, where two-anchor moors predominated).  Dinner was a stir-fry featuring chicken that had marinated overnight.  Evening study with the instructor included more about navigation, all ASA 104 knots and various short topics from the 104 syllabus.   These included onboard medical issues, firefighting and horn signals.  The wind direction changed radically overnight, becoming northwesterly by morning.

This day’s sail would be a fairly long one – from the Magothy on the west shore, north and west of the Bay Bridge, to St. Michaels on the Miles River, well south on the Eastern Shore.  Sailing time at 4 knots would be about 7 hours.  With the northwest wind behind her,
SCHOLARSHIP would need to sail with a gybe preventer line, which the crew reviewed and rigged for use.  The end landmark of the day’s longest leg – Bloody Point Light – sits inside shoals, so the crew plotted a waypoint west of the light.  SCHOLARSHIP passed huge freighters, both underway and anchored.  Navigation into Eastern Bay and the Miles River was challenging, with frequent major turns to follow the meandering channels.  When the depth sounder indicated that the boat was out of the channel, the crew adjusted course using 2-and 3-bearing fixes and GPS coordinates, watching the depth sounder return to predicted numbers.  At the mouth of little St. Michaels harbor, the crew hailed the marina on the VHF, obtaining direction to a prime slip in front of the Lighthouse Oyster Bar.  David brought SCHOLARSHIP smoothly into her slip, using the (still-northerly) cross wind to line her up perfectly.  The overnight stay in a marina gave the crew a chance to shower, refill water, buy fuel and ice, and enjoy a fine waterfront dinner at the Crab Claw on the grounds of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

This day’s itinerary required Scholarship to negotiate two narrow and shallow channels and a drawbridge.  Before lights out the night before, the skipper and crew thoroughly discussed tides and currents, referring to the published data for this date and location, and seeking advice from both the Cruising Guide and the skipper’s local knowledge.  With Kurt at the helm,
SCHOLARSHIP backed out of her slip in late morning (having waited for better tides and currents) and was on her way.   After a crew-overboard drill enroute, the crew hailed the drawbridge at Kent Narrows via VHF.  She was the only boat passing through at the next opening.  Watching the channel sidelines ahead and astern, and continually monitoring the depth sounder, the crew brought SCHOLARSHIP through the Kent narrows channel and back into the Chester River to a plotted waypoint.  They confirmed arrival at the waypoint using a combination of a timed run, compass bearings and GPS coordinates, and turned east.  Next came the Queenstown entrance channel – a very narrow one through a shallow river-mouth bar.  The crew followed the Cruising Guide’s suggested on-shore range and hugged the channel buoys for a successful passage into the anchorage behind Blakeford Point.  After setting the plow anchor, the crew dined onboard on pasta Alfredo with sautéed turkey and salad.  Before lights-out, the students studied for the ASA 104 exam while the skipper answered their questions.  Tides and currents looked favorable for a morning departure next day.

SCHOLARSHIP made her way out the tight Queenstown channel at nearly high tide, then sailed and motorsailed north and east toward the Corsica River on a light southerly.  The gybe preventer again came into play.  On the way, the crew practiced with the mainsail reefing gear.  The Corsica, like Queenstown, has a tiny entrance channel – it features a non-navigational buoy next to the real one, creating a potential grounding hazard for the unwary.  The crew cleared this hurdle and anchored in a peaceful bay for lunch.  The afternoon’s activities would include a pumpout, refueling and water fill (requiring two face-docking maneuvers, one with a light breeze from astern, and a standing turn off the fuel dock).  Then Kurt ably backed Scholarship into her home slip.  The crew adjusted docklines, cleaned and packed their belongings, and met for the ASA 104 exam at the MDS office.  Both students passed comfortably and, after diplomas and logbook endorsements by their instructor, headed out of Rock Hall for home.  

Skipper Doug enjoyed a fine Chesapeake cruise with these two competent and likeable sailors.

Captain Doug Riley
Rock Hall, Maryland
October 1, 2019


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