Down the Bay on a Schedule

Our trip down the Chesapeake Bay turned out to be less interesting and appealing than we had hoped it would be. The first problem related to the fact that we were on a schedule. It’s never a good idea to be on a schedule as you are cruising, since this can influence decisions related to both safety and comfort. The schedule can also limit options to visit interesting places while traveling.

Our first full day south on the Bay brought us to the Magothy River just north of Annapolis. The travel went well, and the anchorage turned out to be both pleasant and well protected. It also turned out to be a good place from which to head to St. Michael’s, Maryland the next day.

This car carrier was heading up the Bay at 18 knots. We were forced to quickly change course to avoid getting in its way 

St.Michaels is a busy tourist stop. The marinas were full and the anchorage was filled with 25 or more boats. We went ashore to explore and were surprised to find only a couple of other dinghys at the town dinghy dock. I guess that some  had tied up at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum instead. Since we had visited the Calvert Maritime Museum in Solomons earlier this summer, we weren’t motivated to spend the day touring this one, even though it’s supposed to be very nice. We did get some seafood at a waterfront restaurant and toured the shops in town. These were pretty pricey, so we mostly window shopped. 

One bit of history we did see in St. Michael’s – a replica of the boat John Smith used in 1608 to explore the Chesapeake with 14 other men. Must have been a bit crowded.

We left with the sunrise the next day and headed to Solomon’s where we planned to stay put while some weather came through. The weather forecasters were on target this time, as we got lots of rain and wind the next day. So we stayed aboard and got in some good reading.

This is where our schedule really began to interfere with our plans for comfortable travel. After spending two nights, we wanted to get moving.  The days were flying by, and we wanted to get to the Hampton Roads area in two to three more days. So we left and ended up getting a little beat up by the steep waves in the Bay. They weren’t dangerous – just pretty uncomfortable. We managed to get south of the Potomac and anchored in the Great Wicomico River for the night. We expected one more day of travel but the weather wasn’t forecast to change much for several days. We thought we might wait one more day but then decided we’d better head out. Another bumpy day but we got to the Severn River… just a little late to get a slip at the marina. The next morning we moved into a slip where we expected to keep the boat for a week while we visited our daughter Jennifer and did some provisioning. Oh, and I should add that the schedule was created in part so I could make a scheduled doctor appointment. I was on time for that too.

The visit was great and we filled the boat with food and fuel for the next segment of our journey. We especially liked the provisioning at Trader Joe’s in Newport News, Sandra’s favorite grocery store. 

With the water tanks full and the laundry done, we ended our visit and left the slip. You probably assumed that meant getting to Norfolk and Hospital Point on that day, but you’d be wrong. We are no longer on a schedule, and the weather forecast included small craft advisory for the southern Bay, so we went less than a mile and dropped anchor. We were glad we did, since the winds hit the upper twenties. The Bay would have been nasty. We enjoyed our stop relaxing a bit. Sandra caught a few crabs, so we had a treat as well.

Our anchorage the day before we moved to Norfolk. The last photo in this blog provides a real contrast in settings.

Today offered better weather, so we headed out for our last day in the Chesapeake Bay and on to Norfolk. This portion of our travels has the potential for being almost as intimidating as NYC, and today was no exception. First we were passed by a Navy war ship.



Then we sailed through an area being used by the Navy for some sort of training. Fortunately I had read about it in a monthly email from Tom Neale. Several boaters were called be a security boat and told they must change course to avoid the restricted area. As we passed by the Atlantic Fleet, a patrol boat came up close to keep us from getting too close to the ships. This wasn’t a big boat, but the machine gun on the bow spoke to us.

We did get a few photos in spite of the intimidation. This last one was a submarine.

As we arrived at Hospital Point to anchor, we noted that the anchorage was full of crab pots. We managed to find a spot to drop the anchor without tangling any lines, but we wonder how it will work in a couple of weeks when the southbound crowd begins to arrive.

So, as the photo below demonstrates, we are at mile marker O of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. We’ll be on this waterway most of the remainder of our trip south to the Keys.

This may not look like much, but this navigational aid marks the official beginning of the AICW.

The view from our anchorage tonight is somewhat different from last night’s.

Till the next entry into this blog . ..

Captain Bob

Carpe Diem


Back in the Chesapeake

This past week of travel has reminded me of how different the coast of New England is from Long Island which is also different from the coast of New Jersey. Now that we have entered the Chesapeake once again, I see yet another variation in appearances. 

Yes, we arrived in the Chesapeake Bay yesterday, a milestone in our trip to the Keys. We were fortunate to stay on Mother Nature’s good side. However we delayed leaving Onset a couple of days to allow the ocean to settle some after Hermine stirred it up. 

For this portion of the trip we are on a bit of a schedule – never a good idea when cruising. But we need to be in the southern Chesapeake for a couple of appointments later in the month, so we found ourselves working out how that could happen without making bad travel decisions with respect to the weather. Our greatest challenge was to do the overnight sail down the coast of New Jersey with reasonable weather.  But we also would be out in the ocean for parts of two days as we traveled to Block Island and then on to Long Island Sound.

Tidal current provided one of the challenges. When you travel at only 6 or 7 mph, a tidal current of 1 to 2 mph can impact travel time significantly either for good or bad, depending on your direction of travel. Heading west into Long Island Sound required us to travel through the Race, a narrow portion at the east end of Long Island Sound where the tide can run at 4 mph or more. Hitting that area at the wrong time can add hours to our travel time.  The same is true of the East River down along Manhattan where the tidal current is equally strong.

So as I said, we were lucky on the whole. During the trip to Block Island, the seas were a bit rolly, but better than we thought they might be. We would have liked to stay a day or two on Block Island, but our timeline would not allow it.  We hit the Race at slack tide (the brief time with no current). Actually we had to fight the tide getting to the Race, but the building favorable current helped us make up the time afterwards.

Our first night in the Sound was spent at Truman Beach. We prefer to call it Jellyean Beach, because of its unique nature. It’s certainly not a typical sandy beach. Instead we found the entire beach to be covered with small, rounded pebbles that look very much like jellybeans when the are wet. It’s not a beach for long walks, however. Imagine walking on ball bearings.  But we really enjoyed our stop there.

Sandra collecting”jellybeans”

This was our presidential tour of the Sound. We left Truman Beach for Port Jefferson and then continued on to Port Washington. Port Washington is cruiser friendly, offering free moorings for the first two nights and a dinghy dock practically across the street from a large grocery and a short walk to a West Marine. We took advantage of both. We also enjoyed a quiet meal at a very nice Indian restaurant which also was close to the dock.

The next morning we were off as soon as the sun offered enough light, so we could get to the East River and benefit from the tidal current. We passed through Hell Gate to enter the river. It sounds bad, but at slack tide, it was a piece of cake. The current did help, and pushed us to as much as 12 mph at times. It’s always special to slide down the East River by the UN building as well as getting views of the other prominent buildings including the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and the 9/11 Memorial. We did our best to avoid all the commercial traffic in the river and in the Harbor. As I mentioned on our trip north through the City in June, we were reminded of how busy the water is around NYC. The high speed ferries were the most intimidating.

Always a spectacular view!

Then it was out to sea. For some reason the weather forecast for the ocean never seems as accurate as the land forecast. I know that you are thinking that those forecasts aren’t so good either. Well these tend to be even less accurate. So in spite of the calm forecast, we had a rolly time for the first several hours at sea. The conditions settled some during the night, however. 

Our only bit of excitement came around midnight as we passed by Atlantic City. A large fishing trauler came out of the inlet and then moved up next to our boat, crowding us off our course. It was traveling just a bit faster, so it took some time to pass us. I finally slowed a bit to allow it to pass, so I could get back on my course and let him by before he crowded me any further off course. . I guess since they were working and I was merely cruising, my travel was of little consequence. The event at least helped keep me awake for a bit. 

The remainder of the trip to Cape Henlopen and the entrance to Deleware Bay was uneventful, and the seas became quite settled. We arrived before 9AM and crashed for little sleep. We explored the beach in the afternoon and enjoyed our isolation overnight. 

The sun showed itself over the Atlantic as we headed up Deleware Bay.

The next morning we left as soon as the sun provided some necessary light. Our goal was to take advantage the tidal current in the Bay as much as possible before it turned against us. On our spring trip north we saw no commercial traffic in the Bay or in the C&D Canal.  This trip was different. A number of freighters passed by. In fact two passed each other right by us. The channel isn’t that wide. I would not want to be the pilot of one.  In the canal two tugs with attached barges passed as well. It always pays to remain alert.

So as I stated in the beginning of this update, we are back in the Chesapeake. We’ll do our best to enjoy that which the Chesapeake offers. Rather than lobster, mussels and clams, it will include blue crabs and oysters. We will no longer be concerned about large ocean waves. Although we know that Bay can be nasty at times, such weather is avoidable. So we’ll enjoy the Bay sailing before we enter the next segment of our journey: the ICW.

More Bay blogging ahead.

Captain Bob

Carpe Diem

Sandra is always busy as we travel. Baskets are a focus when she’s not at the helm.