Chesapeake Bay Cruise
As usual, Wes picked me up at Baltimore Int’l, and within an hour we were in Havre de Grace. We stopped at the grocery store for some last minute provisioning and were soon on the boat heading south on the Chesapeake Bay.
Our first anchorage was Worton Creek, a hurricane shelter with a peaceful and natural setting.
It’s always interesting to pass under the Bay Bridge. Today’s passage was serene with a view of clouds and angles.
Once we got to Annapolis we were greeted by a flotilla of small sailboats racing around buoys. We spent the night there.
The following morning, after we had our coffee and oatmeal, we headed across the bay to Cambridge. With winds from the north, we had a superb sail southward. Wes was convinced that the two of us had anchored here before. But once we got there, I was sure I hadn’t been there before. A scenic yet working waterfront with an inner harbor, where we anchored. We took a walk through the re-developed downtown area and found a decent wine/craft beer bar.
As we motored out of Cambridge, we were able to put up some canvas quickly. Solomons, across the bay, was our next stop.
We had a comfortable sail nearly all the way to Solomons. There were only two other boats at anchor and so we positioned ourselves next to them. But the anchoring didn’t come easy. We had to re-anchor three times before the hook set. It was Friday night and the party scene going strong at the local pubs accompanied by lots of loud music.
The following day we went for, what turned out to be, a day sail. The wind was from the south - just where we wanted to go. So instead of fighting the wind, we decided to make a few tacks back and forth across the bay. We came back to Solomons for another evening. The weather report tempted us with winds from the north the next day.
Sure enough, the morning brought us strong northerly winds. After weighing anchor, we immediately put up the sails after leaving Solomons and sailed the entire way to the Honga River entrance on the east side of the bay. Beautiful, warm and sunny day with 20 knot winds.
At the entrance to Honga River channel, we discovered that engine wouldn’t start - it sounded as if the starter wasn’t fully engaging. We resorted to sailing up the channel to a shallow area where we doused the sails and anchored. Wes soon discovered the problem: the bolts holding the starter had loosened causing it to spin and not engage.
As soon as Wes tightened it, we tried starting the engine again - it cranked over immediately. We finished with lunch and prepared to get underway. But just then, the dinghy broke loose and immediately began to float away downwind. The seas were strong, as was the wind.
Wes immediately dove in, swimming after the fast-moving dinghy. He managed to catch up to it a couple of hundred yards downwind, boarded it and rowed back to the boat. We discovered that the bronze bow eye fitting that is used to tow the dinghy had broken. After securing the dinghy, we started the engine, motored up the channel and anchored in the lee of an island for the night.
The wind subsided and it became a beautiful evening with a gorgeous sunset. We settled in and made a sauerkraut, potatoes and sausage dinner.
We woke up Wednesday morning with strong winds from the SE - a perfect wind to head back north. We weighed anchor and by 7:30am were underway. We almost immediately were able to put up the sails and headed north to Knapps Narrow (a narrow channel that leads to the bay). By the time we got there, the winds were blowing strongly with a bit of wave action. We anchored just north of Knapps Narrow in about twelve feet of water. It was 8:30pm - a long day but a great sail.
That nigh we had lots of rain and a brisk wind. But by morning the wind and rain had diminished. We weighed anchor and headed for the entrance to Knapps Narrow. The channel is very narrow and shallow leaving little margin for error. As we approached, Wes went on the VHF radio and requested the bridge to open, to which the bridge operator responded “You get it in here and we’ll get it up”.
We motored through under the bridge, thanked the bridge operator and briefly stopped at the Knapps Narrow Marina to get ice.
The channel on the bay side was incorrectly mapped leading us to bump into a few shallow muddy spots. But with a little persistence we found our way out into the bay.
The cruise north to Saint Michaels was uneventful, with the exception of losing the oars from the dinghy we had in tow. The bronze fitting that secured the oars to the dinghy had come loose.
As we headed into the channel towards Saint Michaels we sighted a school of dolphins. They were heading out of the channel as we were proceeding in. We anchored at St. Michaels and tried to get the two horse power Johnson outboard started. But it wasn’t in the mood. With no oars or other means to propel the dinghy, we relaxed on the boat and opened up a bottle of Muscadet and soon enjoyed another spectacular sunset.
During the night we drifted onto a shallow spot in the anchorage. By morning, when it came time to weigh anchor, we were aground in the muddy bottom and couldn’t budge off the spot. It was low tide. We’d have to wait and let nature run its course. A higher tide would surely get us off the mud.
We had to wait until 14:30 for the tide to rise enough for us to get moving. We said our good-byes to St. Michaels without ever setting foot in the town since we had no means to get ashore.
We motored back through the channel and were soon able to put up canvas. We sailed out to the main channel and considered Gailsville or Annapolis as our destination. With a south-westerly wind we opted for Annapolis since it was closer to home. We arrived at Annapolis at dusk and were fortunate to find an available mooring.
We were up reasonably early the next day and were underway by 8:30. The wind was from the south at about 15 knots. Perfect for a downhill run home. We hoisted the headsail right outside of Annapolis. After getting clear of the Bay bridge, we added more canvas by hoisting the mizzen sail. We had a great run, sailing for 10 1/2 hours right into Havre de Grace. And so ended yet another memorable Chesapeake Bay cruise.