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  • Oct. 24-31, 1999


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    Oct. 24-31, 1999

    October 24-31, 1999

    This was an Advanced Coastal Training Cruise around the DELMARVA peninsula conducted on October 24-31, 1999 aboard AVISE LA FIN, an Island Packet 37 foot sailing yacht. Crew included Captain John Corsaut from New York, Bruce F. Bailey from North Carolina, Scott J. Molitor from Washington state, John Norris from Pennsylvania and Bob & Nancy Suloman from Maryland.

    Captain John Corsaut filed the following report:

    On October 23rd I hopped an Amtrak train from New York to BWI, Baltimore and met there with Scott Moliter. We hooked up with Ken from Kent Island Coach & Courier who took us to Rock Hall and The Maryland School of Sailing and Seamanship. We met Bruce Bailey aboard AVISE LA FIN, stowed our gear, and Bruce and I went to the Old Oars Inn to watch the Yankees World Series game. The following morning we met John Norris along with Bob & Nancy Suloman- the rest of our crew.

    After orientation, we went about getting AVISE LA FIN ready for the training cruise. We checked water, installed a preventer, checked sails and rigging, engine, electrical, propane... We went over provisioning procedures, broke up into groups and fanned out to get everything ready for departure.

    In order to avoid foul currents in the C&D Canal, we planned to depart Sunday evening , October 24 by 2200 hours. With the wind blowing 20-25 knots out of the Northwest, we left Rock Hall to begin our adventure motor-sailing north up the Tolchester Channel with a double-reefed main.

    As we worked our way up to the C&D Canal, we were accompanied by brisk winds, clear skies and a beautiful full moon. As dawn broke, we headed into Delaware Bay. It was very cold and we had to use a portable propane heater to keep warm. We also had to stay alert on watch for large ships and tugs as this is a heavily traveled commercial shipping area.

    At 1500 hours on October 25th, we set course for Cape May Canal on the north side of Delaware Bay where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. We headed for Town Dock thinking it would be easy to fuel up, pump out and stay for the night. However, a couple of large motor yachts were there with no intention of leaving & we were sent away. We then headed for Utch’s Marina where we fueled, watered and straightened up a bit after the bumpy passage and performed a little routine maintenance and servicing. We then went to the Lobster House for a marvelous dinner and returned to AVISE LA FIN for a good night’s sleep.

    On October 26th, we arose about 0800, updated our logs, and prepared our charts for the offshore run down the Atlantic along the Delmarva Peninsula. After reviewing the weather reports for the next few days, we departed Utch’s Marina at 1045. As we passed the Cape May USCG Station, we headed to weather & raised the main with a reef in place. Heading Southeast from R"2CM" Scott noticed one anchor a bit loose in its bow roller; we turned 180 degrees away from the wind to secure the anchors better from the pounding seas. Once seaward, we took a fix and resumed our course.

    The wind was 20-30 knots "just off the nose" so we motorsailed working up and down the waves. The going was quite rough with 6-10 foot seas, but the barometer continued to rise and all weather reports indicated that the wind would clock around to NW & N and diminish to 15-20 knots. So we buckled down and happily bore on for Norfolk.

    The wind continued to clock to W and NW giving us incredible sailing after rounding R"4" heading for Norfolk averaging well over 7 knots as we crossed the ship channel heading for Little creek Harbor. As we approached the entrance, we were enthusiastically hailed repeatedly requesting and offering a "photo op" - It was non other than Captain Dave Appleton of The Maryland School on another Island Packet on his way to Bermuda and Saint Thomas. Small world, what?

    After fuel and a much needed pumpout, a young man named Kevin gave us a ride for some additional provisions. Nancy cooked a great dinner with Rockfish, veggies, rice and all the trimmings. Afterwards, great conversation and great "sea stories" with one lament: we should have had a camera to record the look on Nancy’s face the first time she took the helm in 25-30 knots of wind and pounding seas, but she was great, gritting her teeth and hanging on like a trooper. The whole crew was great during this rough passage and all gained immeasurably from the experience. Finally, we hit the sack for a much needed and well deserved rest.

    Next morning at 1030, we left Taylor’s Landing; Bob was at the helm and we did some nice spring line and wheel work to undock from a tight slip and make a beautiful spin in tight quarters and headed out of Little Creek. We encountered some large naval ships in the channel and took proper maneuvering action; this presented the opportunity to discuss "stand-on and give-way" rules.

    We spent several hours working on ASA#106 Advanced Coastal Cruising study materials and the crew plotted a course to Millford Creek. However, with a favorable 1.5 knot current and averaging better than 7 knots, we arrived at Wolf Trap Light well ahead of schedule and decided to press on for an anchorage in the Great Wicomico River, which proved to be an excellent choice. Well protected and really quite beautiful! A number of other sailors felt the same way with six other boats in the same anchorage. We dropped anchor at 1900 hours very close to the spot and depth chosen from the chart.

    After delicious spaghetti with meatballs, sauce and salad, we cleaned up and enjoyed further conversation and watched the moon rise - what a beautiful sight! So still & quiet. God’s natural beauty . So much to be grateful for!! And so to bed - plan to go to Oxford in the morning.

    Raised anchor at 0800 & headed for Oxford with the wind on the starboard quarter and very light, so we motor-sailed to make time. We practiced running fixes and other navigation procedures and reviewed for the ACC exam. The fixes off the Coopers Ledge and Cove Point were very accurate and coincided with GPS fixes in each case.

    As time went on, Bruce mentioned that it was only 6 miles further to continue on our course toward Annapolis as opposed to Oxford. So, with motor-sailing plus a current of approximately 1 knot, we were able to cruise at 7+ knots & made great time!

    After passing Thomas Point Light on our final approach to Annapolis, we practiced Williamson Turn MOB’s for an hour in the dark. It was great and the crew responded very well to all maneuvers! In each case they retrieved that wayward fellow in record time. Naturally, it got better as we went along - great job!

    By the time we finished the MOB drill, everyone was totally disoriented, so we took a fix and headed for Annapolis. The background lighting was rather intense - some sporting event was going on at the Naval Academy, so it was much more than usual. Our navigation HAD to be good. We finally came into "Ego Alley" & docked at Fawcett’s for the night. A truly great day was had by all.

    We spent a beautiful day in Annapolis after moving to the Town Dock after breakfast. Bruce, John & Scott decided to take the ACC exam so they could enjoy the rest of the day taking in the sights of this lovely town. Everyone split up. Some walked over to see the boats by the Chart House. Bob & Nancy looked up their son & Captain John toured the town and ended up at the old historic Maryland Inn - Treaty of Paris restaurant - so much history. He also watch the Navy-Notre Dam game - what a game! Navy almost won!! Afterwards, we all met back at AVISE LA FIN and headed to Middleton’s for dinner. A fabulous dinner at that in a lovely historic restaurant.

    The next day, we left the Annapolis Town Dock at 0720 heading for Rock Hall. The wind was light - Annapolis is beautiful, especially from the water with an eastern rising sun on her! We motored under the Bay Bridge & at 0845 raised the sails to get as much wind as possible - 5-7 knots. After sailing around to delay the return and the end of a fabulous voyage, we headed for Spring Cove Marina - stopping at Haven Harbor for pumpout & fuel as well as docking practice.

    After a beautiful docking at Spring Cove by Bruce, we packed up, cleaned up & headed our separate ways.

    This was an exceptional voyage with many challenges and a good deal of variety, great sailing, beautiful sights, and a crew of wonderful talented people that developed into a positive, tight-knit team!!!

    And a great time was had by all....

    Captain John Corsaut

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