Note: We are not currently in the Chesapeake – thankfully, given the time of year. I’m just WAY behind on blog posts.
We have a love/hate relationship with the Chesapeake. I’ve posted about how the sailing in New England is far superior to the Chesapeake. But still, there’s something magical about the Chesapeake Bay. Every time we initially arrive, we think about settling here some day when we swallow the anchor. Usually by the time it’s in our rear view mirror, we’re cursing its existence after having either wind on the nose, no wind, or 4-5 foot square waves with a 4-5 second period. But not this time. This time we had our best trip – hands down – along the length of the Chesapeake Bay.
We took advantage of several days of VERY favorable westerly wind of about 20 knots or so. Skirting along the shore to keep the fetch down, we had a splendid (albeit chilly) sail from Annapolis to Solomons.
From there it was another fantastic sail to Mill Creek in Reedville where we hung out for a few days. The forecast was for light wind, but on the nose, so we figured we’d wait until it was light wind behind us – just in case the light wind ended up being stronger than forecast.
We mixed it up by going from Reedville to Bryant Bay in Mobjack Bay instead of our usual stop in Deltaville. I’ve never been crazy about the anchorage in Jackson Creek in Deltaville. The holding has always been suspect to me, and it’s usually pretty tight with a lot of boats. So we had a longer day to Mobjack which gave us a shorter following day to Norfolk, a new stop for us.
Our friends Vanessa and Kurt spent a weekend last summer in Norfolk and spoke highly of it, so we decided to get a slip and check it out. We ended up liking it quite a bit. We were able to see my Aunt Rebecca who was kind enough to drive down from Charlottesville, and we also did some touring around and eating out.
Norfolk had an active downtown area, and we walked the Cannonball trail through the Freemason District which is Norfolk’s oldest neighborhood, a national historic district with beautiful 18th century to early 20th century homes.
Honestly, we barely scratched the surface of Norfolk and will definitely be stopping there again. The Battleship Wisconsin, the Chrysler Museum, more neighborhoods – there’s still a ton left to see. But, we can’t see it all in one visit. For now, it was time to continue heading south.
We ended up waiting a week in Port Washington. The remnants of Ian combined with another system leaving us hiding in the boat for several days. The wind blew over 25 knots and the rain poured, but we were on an excellent mooring with good protection so we spent the days reading, surfing the Internet, baking brownies, etc. Before and after the weather we were able to restock our groceries and the booze cabinet, grab some pizza from Carlo’s Pizza (our favorite), do laundry, and Jeff even was able to go metal detecting for an afternoon.
It was clear from the various Facebook groups that the weather had caused a log jam of cruisers in western Long Island, all waiting to continue south. Normally our next stop would be Atlantic Highlands, but it sounded like EVERYONE was going there. It’s a good spot, but the anchorage isn’t huge and if we couldn’t get in behind the break wall we were going to be exposed with a wind shift the following night. So we decided to switch things up a bit and reserve a mooring ball at the Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club in Brooklyn.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip down the East River:
Our two-night stay at Sheepshead Bay was excellent. It was a true working man’s yacht club with very friendly members, and it was a no-brainer to decide that from now on it will be our stop to stage for the New Jersey coast. It always takes a good 45 minutes to get from Atlantic Highlands into the ocean, and rounding the point at Sandy Hook is always a sloppy pain in the tail when there’s any wind. From Sheepshead Bay we were out in the ocean within minutes – a much nicer experience.
Before we left Sheepshead Bay we wandered down to Brighton Beach/Little Odessa, and picked up some tasty treats at the large Eastern European grocery store there. We wanted to explore some more, but Jeff’s foot wasn’t 100% yet, so we decided to save it for next time. Despite countless visits to New York City, it was an area we had never been to, and we enjoyed it a lot.
After two nights at Sheepshead Bay it was time to make the trip to Cape May. We had a great forecast with 10-16 knots predicted from the west and northwest, and a full moon rising before the sunset and falling after the sunrise. We couldn’t have asked for anything better.
We actually sailed for 2/3 of the trip, which was the most we’ve ever been able to do. The west wind gave us virtually no fetch until it picked up and clocked a bit shortly past Atlantic City. At that point the Jersey Coast demanded her pound of flesh and things were VERY sloppy with a steady 20 knots of wind. The fact that it was only 41 degrees out didn’t help, but we powered through – not like there was any choice!
We’ve noticed that every time we go along the Jersey Coast, the sea state gets lousy in the same area. It’s around where the coastline bends farther away from the rhumb line, just past Atlantic City. So we decided that for future trips we’re going to continue to hug the coast south of Atlantic City, even though it will add some mileage. The motion comfort will more than make up for the added distance.
The flotilla that began on the East River continued, and we sailed with at least 25 other boats that day and night – most heading to Cape May. Cape May isn’t the largest anchorage but we squeezed in, and after a four hour nap we felt very refreshed.
An additional ten hours of sleep that night had us bouncing up with the sunrise to move up the Delaware Bay. With two days of virtually no wind, we couldn’t have asked for better conditions to move up that unholy body of water. While we certainly prefer sailing over motoring, if we’re motoring because there’s no wind on the Delaware Bay, that’s definitely a win in our book!
After anchoring at Cohansey Creek the first night (we still stay FAR away from that damn Reedy Island), we landed at Bohemia Bay and put Pegu Club in a slip so we could enjoy a few nights of living on land while we visited with our good friends Kurt and Vanessa, and Jay and Tanya from S/V Minx.
After saying our goodbyes, it was another wind-free motor down to Annapolis where we anchored in Weems Creek and enjoyed the last day of the boat show.
Originally we thought we’d be well south by the time the boat show came around, but the weather delays worked to our benefit. We picked up a few goodies, unexpectedly and delightfully ran into our cruising friend Larry who we last saw in Eleuthera (and will see in the Exumas this winter), and then it was time to continue down the Chesapeake Bay.
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. Continue reading “The Chesapeake Giveth, and the Chesapeake Taketh Away.”→
We had debated spending the summer in Vero Beach, FL, then Beaufort, SC, rejecting both because of the hurricane risk. Not wanting to travel as far north as southern New England this year, we settled on the Chesapeake with the rationale that it rarely gets hit by a hurricane. Well, by the time Isaias arrived in Maryland he wasn’t a hurricane anymore, but he was a strong tropical storm. And wouldn’t you know it? Cambridge, MD was right in his crosshairs.
Our friends on S/V Minx are cruising in New England and several days before Isaias’ arrival they had kindly offered us their slip located in a true hurricane hole in the upper Chesapeake. We debated taking it but the slip was 75 nautical miles away and we foolishly thought, “What are the odds?” Ultimately it turned out the odds were very good, but by the time we figured that out it was a bit too late to make the trip. With that option off of the table and the marina wide open to the Choptank River, we decided to take our chances in a local anchorage.
After leaving Rock Hall we went to the Magothy River and anchored behind Gibson Island in Eagle Cove. This was a lovely anchorage where we planned to spent a few days.
As we sailed down the Magothy we heard announcements over the VHF about an open water swim fundraiser that would be held the next day, but we thought it was going to be in a different area. Imagine our surprise when we were were awakened bright and early the next morning by the voice of a very upbeat race announcer over a loudspeaker.
Poking my head out into the companionway, I saw that we had unintentionally anchored in the middle of “Swim Across America”, a fundraiser for cancer research whose participants swim either one or three miles in the Magothy River. We ended up with front row seats!
After a few days bobbing in the peaceful anchorage, the winds were good for a sail and we were itching to move on. A small craft advisory was winding down so we sailed down the river and poked our nose out into the Bay. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we had jumped the gun. It was an easy decision to make a 180 and sail back into the river, dropping anchor for a few hours to let the winds and waves settle down a bit more before trying again.
The original plan was to go to St. Michaels, but as we sailed past Annapolis it was clear that the wind angle meant we were going to need to motor for a few hours if we wanted to make it before sundown. What followed was a half hour of indecision while we debated anchoring in this creek, then that creek. Finally we decided that we’d had enough of isolated anchorages for a while, and we turned around and headed to Annapolis. Continue reading “Annapolis – settling in.”→
While waiting for Dorian to settle on a track we had several days to decide where the next stop would be. We had approximately three weeks before we needed to be in Annapolis, so we thought we would head south down the Eastern Shore for awhile before crossing over to the Western Shore and working our way back north. Looking through our Waterway Guide, we quickly decided on a visit to the Mount Harmon Plantation, followed by Rock Hall.
Dorian passed giving us nothing but some clouds and moderate winds, so the next day we pointed our bow towards the Sassafras River. It was a gorgeous day as we tacked our way out of the Bohemia River and several miles down the Chesapeake before the wind died. Firing up Big Red, we motored up the Sassafras before dropping the anchor in a nice spot near Mount Harmon. Continue reading “Mount Harmon Plantation on the Sassafras River and Rock Hall.”→
It was another fun ride down the East River from Port Washington.High winds the day before had stirred up the water but it wasn’t noticeable until after we went under the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge.Then it was VERY sloppy for a few hours with the wind on our nose and against the current until we were inside the tip of Sandy Hook.45 minutes later we were anchored in our regular spot behind the Atlantic Highlands break wall (I think three visits makes it a regular spot, don’t you?).
Now I will readily admit that I was NOT looking forward to going down the Jersey coast.Even though we had a windless, uneventful trip from Cape May to Atlantic Highlands a few months ago, this was going to be the same direction as our trip from hell last fall, and it was absolutely messing with my mind.My nerves were NOT helped when I saw the waves near the hook as we went inside towards Atlantic Highlands.