October 15, 2007
This installment finds Sogno and her crew currently docked on Maryland’s western shore, near the mouth of the Patuxent River in Solomons Island, MD. The weather is more seasonal now, but earlier this week, after over 3 weeks of great weather, we finally experienced a few days of “unsettled” weather while on the Eastern Shore. Nothing serious, but it gave us a chance to hang on the hook for 2 extra days and catch up a on a few things, including a more timely update on our activities and some more photos.
In the last installment, we had just about worn ourselves ragged running around with the Sailboat Show crowd in Annapolis and were scheduled to depart on Sunday. Sounds simple right? Read on my friends!
Backing to port, and other ways to leave your slip (Sun, Oct 7)
We got up early Sunday, to take care of the usual cruiser priorities: showers, internet, laundry, water, garbage, etc. Sue was in charge of laundry, and I tried to deal with the rest. I finally got a decent enough Wi-Fi signal from the Annapolis municipal system to pay some bills, check our bank finances, and learn that Notre Dame had finally won a football game (UCLA), after losing their first 5 games (ouch!)
Finally around noon, we were ready to untie the spider web of docking lines I had designed to keep Sogno in the slip and avoid toppling the telephone wiring enclosure located directly in front of Sogno’s bowsprit (and dueling anchors). I confidently talked about how easy backing out in the light wind off our stern, as we were finally down to just the spring line that kept Sogno from charging forward toward that telephone thingy.
I asked Sue to start backing out slowly and was keeping us off the various pilings and the sailboat on our port side, when we stopped backing. Sue politely pointed out that the spring was still tied. Oops! I looked around to make sure no one else had seen this faux pas, and managed to take off the spring, like it had been there all along to help with the turn out of the slip.
This was the crucial thing – we had to back the stern to the right (starboard), so we would be pointed out of the marina and toward the Back Creek channel. As many of you know, sailboats don’t back up very well, and when they do they tend to back to the left (port). Sogno didn’t change a thing, and with the assistance of the wind, we were consistently backing to starboard. Not too worry. “Full speed astern” said I, “We’ll just back out all the way” using the rudder to steer. “Stop!” said Sue, as I continued to back to starboard until we almost hit another neighboring boat. I obeyed, but continued to whine that I really could do it, if I was given half a chance. A cooler head (i.e., Sue’s) prevailed and I eventually gave a grand demonstration of backing to port, until I had turned Sogno 270 degrees between two rows of slips. She was now pointed out toward the channel and I could resume my cool air of authority. We were cruising again.
We had a great sail up the Bay but the winds died (don’t they always) as we approached the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. We had a good current and managed to drift through the bridges with sails flapping, before I gave up and fired up the diesel. (Yes, we went “north” for a while since time is not an issue and there are SO many rivers, creeks, and coves to explore.)
We arrived in the Magothy River and anchored behind Dobbins Island, a popular anchorage that eventually thinned down in the evening to a 3 or 4 sailboats and a trawler. Sue prepared a great dinner. “Chicken Parthenon” was named after the restaurant where our chicken leftovers had originated the night before. We were happy to escape the crowds and I was happy to not have to deal with those confounded slips!
Fuel Docks and Burning Sailboats don’t Mix (Mon, Oct 8)
We celebrated Columbus Day, by taking a short trip over to the Eastern Shore and Rock Hall, MD, home of the Sailing Emporium marina. We had noticed a slight oil leak under the diesel engine during the NJ leg, and knew this marina had plenty of experience with our type of boat (Gozzard) and engine (Westerbeke). We wanted a knowledgeable opinion and had gotten some good help during our last Chesapeake cruise in 2002.
We arrived around 11:30 and were told to tie up at one end of the fuel dock. Yippee! No stinking slip -- just a nice outside dock, where you could use their lines to quickly tie up. Eddie the mechanic determined our problem was a small leak in the oil pan seal, but certainly not worth pulling the entire engine to fix it. We could just monitor if for now, and it would likely not get any worse. When we asked if we could stay the night (and oh by the way this dock is very nice), we were told no problem. My next “Slip Maneuvering 101” makeup exam had been postponed.
Sue went off to gather some provisions in town. (Bayside Foods will pick you up and bring you back.) I was planning to microwave the last of the “Chicken Parthenon” for lunch and then “replace” some varnish on the starboard cap rail, that I managed to leave behind on slip piling in Cape May. As I was finishing lunch, I heard loud engine noises. I had been told a large boat was scheduled to share the dock for the night, so I came up to see if I needed to move Sogno down the dock. What I saw was a local waterman and a work boat, but what he and I were both looking at was big cloud of black smoke coming out of the sailboat directly across the dock from me in the last slip on the pier. “Circe” was on fire, right across from us next to the fuel pumps on the dock!
The waterman started shouting “fire” and gunned his boat to the shore. I ran down the dock, but he beat me to the office. I then ran back with a bunch of yard workers. I pulled the power cord on “Circe”, one worker with a fire extinguisher couldn’t see where to aim it, so he and his mate grabbed the regular hoses at the slips and started dousing the fire. Took a few minutes to get the smoke to subside, and find out that the fire was in the vicinity of a charred120VAC fan, burned rug, and very hot base of the aluminum mast. Whatever the cause, we were all very lucky that the waterman had come along when he did. Because of the way the wind had been blowing, I hadn’t smelled a thing. Also lucky was Circe’s live-aboard cat, who came out of the smoke tongue dangling, but alive. The cat’s name? Smokey – a prophetic name that was very prophetic for a feline with one less of his nine lives!
Sue was coming back from town as the Rock Hall Volunteer fire department passed by on the way to the marina. She got a bit of a scare when she saw they were all out the fuel dock. Sogno? Brian? Microwave? Nope – just a close call with a hot little sailboat named Circe.
The rest of our stay was much more relaxing – showers, cocktails onboard another boat with two couples, and dinner at a local restaurant (Baywolf had a half-price entrée special going). We were even given the keys to a car to help us get into town. Life was good!
Our first (but not last) Chesapeake Grounding (Tues, Oct 9)
We spent much of the morning with some minor engine maintenance, laundry (one washer and one dryer) and talking with some friends who own a Gozzard 37, the same type of boat as Sogno. John and Cindy gave us some recommendations for some nearby anchorages plus caught us up on what’s been happening with the Gozzard family. John drove me to the hardware store and West Marine to pick up some boat “stuff” and we were ready to go at noon. With no wind we were able to depart from our dock, stop at the pump out dock, and depart again without incident.
Our boat handling confidence restored, we almost immediately executed a perfect “soft grounding” just as we left the Rock Hall Harbor. Brian said port to the helmsperson, when he should have said starboard, and we ended up a bit too far to the right of the channel. The charts said we should be still afloat, but our keel told us otherwise. The BAD thing about the Chesapeake is that it can be very shallow and the shoals move around faster than NOAA can chart them. The GOOD thing is that it IS mud, from which you can almost always back out, unless you’re going to fast. We were back in the channel in less than two minutes, and we had re-learned a few lessons, and given a local waterman another story to tell about how those crazy sail boats from up North just couldn’t manage to stay in a simple channel.
We were hoping for some sailing too, but the winds were in the wrong direction, so we motored south, passed through Kent Narrows Draw Bridge with its 2.5 knot current, to the famously beautiful Wye River, where we took the eastern branch to Dividing Creek. This snug little creek had a surprising amount of room, and we were the last arrivals to join four other sail boats, including “White Skye” with a hailing port of Glenvil, Nebraska!
It was very beautiful, very still, very calm, very snug and very hot! That all changed during the night, when we were treated to our first thunderstorm. Lots of rain to wash off the salt, but thankfully, hardly any wind at all. Snugness can have its pluses.
Coming Attractions: Why we were so happy with our anchorage near St. Michaels, that we stayed an unexpected two days more; why one grounding in the Chesapeake is not enough for real cruisers, and why the crow can fly a lot faster to Solomons Island than family visitors from Woodbridge, VA.
We are really happy to hear your comments so keep them coming!
Fall is in the air. We are both well. Life is good.
Brian and Sue Schanning
Buds at Sea