This will sound like sacrilege to some, but I’ve decided that New England is far superior for sailing compared to the Chesapeake. And that’s saying something given that we have only sailed in southern New England. We haven’t even gotten to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Buzzards Bay, or Maine which is renowned for incredible cruising grounds.
But the Chesapeake? Meh. Yes, there are plenty of anchorages. But they are generally up rivers so it can be a pretty fair distance off of the Bay. You don’t have to go five or ten miles up a river to get to great anchorages in New England.
You can’t swim in the summer in the Chesapeake because of the plethora of jellyfish unless you head up to the far northern part of the Bay where the water is more fresh than salt, and the visibility in the water is lousy. The water in southern New England is too chilly for swimming until late June/early July but the clarity is significantly better, and while there can be jellyfish, there are about a tenth as many as we saw this summer.As for the sailing itself? It’s far superior in southern New England – no question. There’s actually wind in July and August and it’s MUCH less choppy. The Chesapeake is so shallow that when a gnat farts you get 3 foot chop with 2 second intervals. No thanks. Maybe some people like that, but it’s not for me.
Bottom line, I’m convinced that the people who say the Chesapeake has the best sailing grounds on the East Coast have never actually spent more than a vacation’s worth of time sailing in New England. Because if they had, they wouldn’t make that claim.
So it should be obvious by now that I was underwhelmed by our trip from Cambridge, MD to Norfolk, VA. It was typical of our sailing experiences here. The first day the wind was on the nose and choppy, so we bashed our way to Solomons where we pulled into our regular anchorage which is about 45 minutes off of the Bay.
Our trip to Mill Creek near Reedville was a rare delight, in that we motored part of the way and then the wind shifted and we were actually able to – gasp – sail! for the last hour. We even did some “fancy sailing” (as Jeff calls it) when we sailed up the creek to our anchorage (again, another 45 minutes off of the Bay).
Reedville to Deltaville gave us some decent sailing for the last half of the trip, and then we sailed most of the way from Deltaville to our anchorage in Mobjack Bay (an hour off of the Chesapeake). By now I was starting to think that maybe the Chesapeake was o.k. after all. And then came the trip to Norfolk.
NOAA called for 5-10 winds from the south, with one foot waves, so we knew it would be a motorfest. What we ended up with was a steady 20-25 knots just off of the nose with 4-5 foot seas at a 4-5 second interval. The only thing they had right was the wind direction. The weathermen frequently get it wrong in Long Island Sound and Fishers Island Sound too, but that wind strength does not create that level of chop.
Halfway through the slopfest I checked the forecast and NOAA was still calling for 5-10 knots with one foot waves. This despite the fact that it was clearly Small Craft Advisory conditions. How about looking out a window, guys? As we bashed along, water occasionally spraying over the dodger, I started fantasizing about how we could just put Pegu Club up for sale once we arrived in Vero for the winter.
Turning around unfortunately wasn’t an option because we needed to get to Cobbs Marine in Norfolk. We were scheduled to haul out there to paint the bottom and leave Pegu Club while we traveled to Connecticut for medical appointments. They say a sailor’s worst enemy is a schedule, and that is an accurate truism. Typically our worst travel days have been when a schedule has demanded that we get somewhere.
Luckily after bashing into the wind and waves for four hours, the conditions slowly improved so that by the last two hours we were actually getting the forecasted 5-10 knots with one foot waves. But the psychological damage was done. I decided that the Chesapeake is incredibly overrated and Jeff’s not that fond of it either. From now on, as long as we are in the U.S., we will definitely bring the boat to New England for the summer. Lesson learned.