Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oxford to St. Michaels, and south to Norfolk ...

After a second night at Mear's Yacht Haven in Oxford, Maryland, where we charged batteries and waited out rainy weather, we departed on October 8th for St. Michaels, a thirty nautical mile trip (although it's just a hop, skip and jump as the crow would fly).  We had full sails up as soon as we got outside Oxford's Town Creek and had a nice sail down the Tred Avon River to the Choptank River, where we turned west and in two tacks made it out to the Chesapeake to turn north to Eastern Bay.  It's not all sailing on the Chesapeake, particularly when you have destinations in mind, and turning up the bay put us close to the wind, so we motor-sailed until the wind fell off almost completely and then motored the rest of the way through Eastern Bay and the Miles River to St. Michaels.

We anchored comfortably between two other cruisers in Fogg Cove, just off the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.  We spent two nights at anchor here, provisioning a bit at the local store and going into the Crab Claw Restaurant for a dozen blue crabs ... we had to do it, although it took us almost two hours to pick out a dozen crabs.  Yum, yum!   Even better we went to the local farmer's market, which was really a highlight.  Even though we'd bought produce at the grocery, we couldn't help ourselves and loaded up on really fresh produce!

The really nice experience of St. Michaels, however, is the historical maritime character given by the presence of the maritime museum.  Wonderful old skiffs, skip jacks, log canoes and crabbing boats are in various stages of restoration, both on display on land and in the water.  The museum takes out visitors on one of its boats, another local fellow takes out people for sails on the Miles River in a beautifully restored skiff, and there are in fact a couple of working crab boats in the area.  In Fogg Cove, one crabber runs his lines out early in the morning and makes three or four passes on the lines before the sun is too high in the sky.  It was truly a pleasure to watch him out there the two mornings we awakened at anchor.

The next day our friend Peter Jakab drove over from D.C. for a short sail and then dinner with Bob and Dian, who drove up from Easton for another visit.  Pen planned a nice lunch, which we hoped we'd have during a calm, light-wind sail on the Miles River ... we'd watched local tourist sail boats do this the day before.  But, as luck would have it, just after getting the sails up and out on the river the winds screeched up to 30 knots, so we reefed down the main and Genoa after screaming downwind at seven knots for 20 minutes and had to tack back upwind for 35 minutes or so to get back to St. Michaels.  Peter (not a sailor at all) seemed to enjoy the whole thing and even helped out reefing the main, but it was hardly the introduction to sailing we'd planned for him.  In the end, we returned to a berth at St. Michaels Marina, had the lunch that we'd hoped to have on the river, and relaxed for the afternoon until Bob and Dian arrived for dinner at the Town Dock.

On October 11th, we got up, did a load of laundry, pumped out the head, topped off the fuel tanks, and motor-sailed up just a few miles to an anchorage on Crab Alley Creek, which put us in a good jumping off spot to turn south down toward the Solomons, Maryland.  I tried a bit of fishing here, but without success.  We'd hoped to do a lot of fishing, on the trip, but for one reason or another, it hasn't seemed to work out that way.

Our motor-sail down the Chesapeake to an anchorage on St. Leonard's Creek off the Patuxent River (where the Solomons are located), was a very long, cold trip.  The sky was overcast the entire way and the temperatures had to be in the fifties.  We were most happy to slip into the Patuxent River and make our way up to St. Leonard's Creek, along the way passing a classic old wooden skiff going up the river.

We found anchorage in Rollins Cove, one of the prettiest places we've found.  The famous Vera's White Sands Beach Club was just a mile more upstream on the creek, and although we'd vowed to visit it, we were too cold and tired to dinghy up there, so it has to be on another trip.  "On our next trip" is something we've found ourselves saying a lot.  ... At any rate, Rollins Cove provided another chance for unsuccessful fishing, and perhaps the most beautiful sunset either of us have ever seen in our lives.  It just got better and better for a full hour ... we think you'll agree it was pretty amazing.

Up early the next day, we raised the dinghy up on the davits as mist rose from the cove's water, I weighed anchor and Pen handled the helm, effectively switching our tasks for the first time, and we motored slowly and reluctantly down St. Leonard's Creek, watching the leaves changing color almost before our eyes.  It would have been wonderful to stay, but we've been watching the weather, and we knew we only had two days before a big storm would hit the region to get as far south (perhaps to Norfolk) as we could.

This day was sunny with temperatures in the 60s, cool but comfortable, and as we headed down the Patuxent, we wondered do we go to St. Mary's Creek on the Potomac, just a few hours sail?  Or should we try for Deltaville, a 45-mile push?  Or perhaps split the difference and go to Little or Great Wicomico?  When we reached the Potomac, it was barely noon, so we decided to leave St. Mary's to our next trip.  We also decided to skip past the Wicomicos, since motor-sailing we were averaging close to seven knots, and we finally settled on going into Antipoison Creek, just above the Rappahannock River.  The cruising guide explains the odd name: "...local Indians are said to have saved the life of Captain John Smith by medicating a wound he'd received from a ray.  Hence, legend has it 'antipoison' was applied to the creek as well as to Captain Smith."

Our anchorage next to Avalon, a Catalina 42 (the winged keel version is very popular along the eastern seaboard), was pleasant enough, although noise from a fish plant nearby was a bit distracting.  We had a nice conversation with the couple on Avalon, from Connecticut and making their first trip down the ICW and to the Bahamas.  During the night the winds came up, and we discovered in the morning that our neighbors had dragged a bit and had to put out a second anchor.  The anchor that dragged was a Fortress, which our neighbor commented held well in mud, but what secured them was their Delta with chain rode. 

From Antipoison Creek, I figured if we left at 0800 and the wind was north or northeast at 15 knots as predicted, we'd be able to make Norfolk.  So I made a reservation at the Waterside Marina and we set off.  Some watermen waved us away from thin water going out the channel (thankfully ... we didn't need a grounding), and enjoyed pretty nice sailing for almost three hours, when the wind started falling off (as predicted, though a bit sooner than).

A bit before the wind fell off, Avalon crept passed us (motor-sailing with the Genoa out), and we each snapped photos of the other.  In Norfolk connected and exchanged the photos, which for us is the first photo of Alizee under sail.  For the rest of the trip we also motor-sailed, managed to get into Norfolk while negotiating three monster cargo ships all coming in at the same time, and arrived at the Waterside Marina just as the rains started to come at 1730.  We leave on Friday, after heavy rain all morning Thursday, a bit of shopping, a great sushi lunch, and later dinner at Outback.  Today we begin the Dismal Swamp...

More photos


Blogger Unknown said...

Funny. I have distinct memories of the Dismal Swamp, but from the air and not the sea. In flight training from NAS Norfolk, the Dismal Swamp was a distinct radar feature, which we used to navigate our way into the warning area for flight and combat training. Never got to see it close up. Maybe that should go on my bucket list.

8:51 AM  

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