2019 Chesapeake Bay Cruise

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ASA104 Intermediate Coastal Cruising Course


October 26-30, 2019




Paul Fetterman, John Gara, Bruce Leibstone


Frank Mummert

One of the best times to do a Bareboat Chartering class (ASA 104) is in the fall.  The weather is cooler, the crowds are smaller and winds get more interesting.  Our last 104 of this year was a perfect class for instruction.  We had almost every sort of weather in which to sail. 

Our crew, Paul, John and Bruce, gathered on Saturday morning for preparations and review.  John had been a Maryland School student before the turn of the century and was back to continue his education.  Paul had been involved with other schools and was looking for a rigorous course.  Bruce was stepping up his game from smaller boats, on his way to his own boat.  We spent Saturday working through the logistics of the class, boat familiarization, sail handling, and navigation planning.  Knowing that the wind on Sunday was forecast to be heavy, we put both the first and second reefs into the mainsail, reasoning that we could take a reef out more easily than putting one in. 

This turned out to be excellent preparation.  Our original plan had been to leave Lankford Bay Marina at 0800 on Sunday, but a review of the anticipated winds that morning indicated that the strongest winds would pass through at noon.  We delayed our departure by 90 minutes and were able to get away from the dock in strong but manageable winds.  However, by the time we had gotten into the Chester River, the winds had grown to mid 20 knots, with gusts at 30.  To make things more challenging, the rain was keeping visibility down to between one half and three quarters of a mile.  We spent a good portion out of sight of land on one or both sides of the river.   

Of course, this made the lessons in charting and ded reckoning come alive, for our three sailors.  Knowing where they were by the compass gave them a level of comfort and when the first red nun emerged from the gloom on our bow, John, our skipper of the day, was very pleased with his results.  When the second one appeared not only where it should have but exactly on schedule, he was ecstatic. 

Unfortunately, with the visibility as low as it was, with the wind dead on the bow, I made the decision that we would motor, since it made the navigation plan the students had created easier to follow.  When we passed green buoy 9 and the clouds started to lift, we were happily able to set our reefed main and a jib and actually commenced sailing.  This was right about noon, just as the forecast had predicted.  However, the prediction continued to be accurate and two hours later, we were motor-sailing across the Chesapeake Bay, with the wind now down to less than five knots and dead on our nose - again. As we shook the reef out of the main and motor-sailed under the bridge toward the Severn River, the wind continue to remain low and fluky, starting to return only once the sail had been furled and we were on the mooring ball in Annapolis. 

The wind returned - and turned - overnight and once we left the Severn in the morning and entered the Bay again, the wind was on our transom at about 10 to 15 knots.  We turned up into the wind, set our main out with a preventer and dropped into a downwind run, wing and wing, for Bloody Point Bar.  Alternating between a run and a broad reach, we passed down the bay, avoiding an anchored cargo ship and two moving ones, as well as several tugs hauling traffic around us. 

By noon, we were in the East Bay heading toward Saint Michael's.  Just as on the previous day, lunch time brought a diminishing wind and we turned further and further up wind, we finally found it necessary to bring in the head sail and proceed on main and diesel again.  Bruce, our skipper for the day, ably handled the engine casualty that I threw at him and it didn't delay us for very long.  By 1600, we were tied up in the marina at Saint Michael's, anticipating hot showers and cool drinks. 

Unhappily for Paul, our last Skipper of the Day, the wind did not make a return over night.  When we left the marina the next morning, we could not say that the wind was on the nose, because it did not put in an appearance at all.  We motored all the way to the Kent Island Narrows, although we had removed the mainsail cover, just in case.  We motored through the lift bridge on our way through the Narrows, right at 1230, just as Paul had calculated and we were on our way up the Chester River again, having completely circumnavigated Kent Island. 

In the afternoon, as we motored from waypoint to waypoint, Paul continued to be confused as to why his navigation plan seemed to be off by five or ten degrees.  After an hour or so, the crew realized that the portable air horn can, that had somehow gotten placed right by the compass, was causing a significant amount of deviation error (gee, who COULD have put that there?!!?).  Once the deviation was found and removed, Paul's calculations quickly found us back on course.  The crew was glad they had found the problem, but all agreed to keep a much closer eye on their instructor! 

We anchored that evening in the Corsica River, snugged down with two anchors in a Bahamian Moor.  As the sun went down, we enjoyed a dinner of pasta and red sauce,  while watching the clouds roll in and block our view of the sky.  Soon, the only lights came from the houses around us and the loom of the lights of Baltimore. 

As the sun came up on Wednesday, we started the engine and pulled our anchors to head back out into the Chester River.  The light fog on the water gave an eerie cast to the sight that greeted us as we emerged around Town Point.  The Kalmar Nyckel, the official tall ship of Delaware, was sitting at anchor, just south of Lankford Creek.  As we circled here, the crew waved to us and pulled up her anchor.  She was heading up river to Chestertown when we left her.  After a round of Crew Overboard exercises, we returned to Langford Bay Marina to finish up the course.

Captain Frank Mummert
On board S/V AcadAme
Rock Hall, Maryland
October 30, 2019


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