Two familiar and perfectly wonderful anchorages in a row, and neither was part of the plan. We find ourselves in the second of them, swinging at anchor in Solomons, Maryland. Our eight-day odyssey of anchorages, docks, friends new and not-so-new, frightening stormy skies, and not-quite-angry-but-at-least-slightly-miffed seas over the last four days has brought us here, but I get ahead of myself.
Allow me to back up four days. As you might recall from our last blog, we were docked in Deltaville, Virginia at a very nice yacht club that had given us three days on their very comfy T-head dock in exchange for a performance after a cookout on July 3rd. Stacey and I ate well and were very glad of their hospitality, and not wanting to overstay our welcome, we attempted to leave the very placid harbor on the afternoon of Tuesday, July 5th. We knew the wind had come up, and we could see waves breaking over the shallow bits of the creek entrance, but we were sure we'd be able to get out and around Stingray Point before the winds and waves got the better of us. All the wind and wave apps were saying that it was 1 to 2 footers coming from the south, and surely we've been through worse. Furthermore, once we make the final turn north, the seas would be behind us—you know, following seas. That's supposed to be a good thing.
On top of that, we were unwisely "timing the tides," which means we were waiting for the flood to carry us north and save us fuel. If you run north up the bay on the ebb, you burn more fuel and it takes longer to get anywhere. If we left at 3pm, we'd have the flood carrying us north and saving fuel. How foolish we were! You can't time the Chesapeake. You take the flat calm when you can get it, which is in the morning.
We had dinner cranking in the Crock-Pot, and we expertly wedged it in so rough seas would not cause it to seek a low point in the cabin while underway, disconnected the shore power and water, cast off lines, and headed into the wild blue. We cleared the channel and it got a little rougher, and a little rougher. We were seeing waves of about 1 to 2 feet, as the forecast stated—until we saw something more like 5 feet, and it broke over the bow and brought Stinkpot to a standstill whilst she bounced on the next three consecutive waves. A rogue. These things happen. Press on. Two minutes later it happened again. Stacey was below making sure nothing was becoming airborne in the salon—like our dinner. I assured her via our ship-board communications system that if it happened again, we'd turn tail and…no sooner had the words left my mouth…it happened again. I turned the boat around, the sea became a following sea as it beckoned us back to the same dock we'd just left not 15 minutes before. We tied up, connected the shore power and water, and, when it was ready, ate our dinner that never spilled a drop. It wasn't long after dinner a storm cloud moved by to the north and "convinced us" to go ashore, just in case it did something dastardly on its way by (it didn't).
That's when we remembered something about Chesapeake Bay. The early boat gets the calm. The winds always kick up the afternoon seas. Message received and hopefully remembered for next time.
The next morning, we woke early. Wait, that should be all-caps: EARLY! We started the engines, brought in the shore connections, cast off the lines, and we were gone. Our destination, as earlier stated, was to be Tangier Island. We had been doing some research and it had come to our attention that there was a marina with comparatively inexpensive fuel not far from there, and we intended to spend a night at the island and then run up for the cheap fuel. We got out, made the turns to the north past the point, and the wind was coming off the western shore—on the beam—at about 14 MPH. After the previous day's events in a similar wind, and realizing that a good breeze needs fetch (read: distance) to turn little waves into big waves, we decided to just run straight up the western shore and stay on our friends' dock in Reedville. Walt and Mary have a gorgeous spot there and had extended an invitation, so we quickly emailed them and told them we were coming. Tangier could wait a day.
We arrived in Reedville in late morning, and with the mercury creeping toward 90°, we immediately set to work plugging into shore power and getting the air conditioning working! We enjoyed the day looking out the window at the beautiful scenery around us and chilling INSIDE the boat.
While enjoying the cool, we came to the realization that a couple marinas near us would be dropping their fuel price 30 cents overnight. That meant crossing the bay to get our fuel no longer needed to happen. Our reason to venture over to Tangier Island was now solely "because we want to." That kind of reasoning made it easy to push off the visit until later this summer when we'll be looking for places to visit and running south on the bay. We decided that our next day on the bay would see us in Solomons. The forecast was for sun, light breezes, and nice temperatures on the water. So, decisions made, we had a lovely visit with Walt and Mary on their porch, took a nice walk around town, and retired for the night.
The next morning, we shoved off and ran about 4 miles south to Ingram Bay Marina where we fueled (180 gallons at $5.39/gallon) and pumped out our black water tank. We then began running north toward Solomons, which required crossing the massive, 10-mile mouth of the Potomac River. It was beautiful and sunny, just as predicted, but for some reason I referred to my weather app to see a small craft advisory was in effect for the very water we were cruising on. It made NO SENSE. It was beautiful out there, and there had been nothing in the forecast last time I looked, but there is was, all scary-looking, in big red letters with exclamation points and everything. It was obviously Chesapeake Bay being fickle and changeable, and there was nothing we could do about it. We were committed.
Another ten minutes went by and the sky started to get dark around us. We still had about 5 miles of river mouth to cross, and we were running against the ebb current, which was running about a full knot against us, so we were only making about 6 knots SOG (speed over ground). The north wind came up and waves started to break under our bow, depositing salt spray all over the foredeck.
I started considering our "bail out" options. Where could we go? We could take the building sea on the beam run behind Point Lookout and anchor in Lake Conoy by the state park which would add about 8 miles of off-course distance to our trip to Solomons, or we could continue running another 4 miles north and duck into St. Jerome Creek where we've anchored before. It's skinny water, but if we just stay inside the marked channel, it's just enough for Stinkpot. We opted for the latter and got off the bay. We'd continue our way to Solomons Friday morning. After we cleared Point Lookout and got north of the Potomac River mouth, the sea started to lay down a bit, and we ran the rest of the way into St. Jerome Creek without incident.
It took two tries to get the hook set in 4 feet of water, but after putting the hook down further up into the cove off the channel, we felt confident we'd have a peaceful evening, which we did—winds be damned.
Friday morning, we rose with the dawn, weighed anchor and continued our northard push to Solomons, riding the flood the whole way. We arrived in the harbor by 10:30am and had the anchor down in our favorite spot before our morning coffee buzz had even worn off.
We did go ashore in the dinghy, reclaimed the keys to our car, and ran a couple of errands (including a much needed haircut for yours truly), and picked up our Amazon packages (including our new Breeze Booster), returning later to the boat for supper and a very pleasant, if hot and sticky night on the hook. The Saturday forecast was for all-day rain/showers, which we ultimately chose to weather aboard (and during which I finished writing this post). Tomorrow we shall move to our allotted slip at Safe Harbor Zahnisers, where we shall be for the next month.
UPDATE: As scheduled, we moved into our new boat slip around noon Sunday. They originally had us on "G" dock, but I balked after pulling within sight of it, and said I didn't think Stinkpot would fit between the pilings. They called up to the office and confirmed that I was right and moved us to the much nicer "F" dock. We are in the catbird seat now and have already had an evening visit with our friends, Cristin and Aaron on Sunday night, and Monday we ran up to Harpers Ferry, West Virigina in our car to visit with good friends, Cherie and Chris of Technomadia, and walk around the national park—which is gorgeous and worth the trip!