Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring Break 2013

Long planned, long anticipated by my now-a-senior daughter, it was to be a glorious thing in dazzling spring weather. Nature disagreed, dishing out one of the coldest springs on record. We got 3 inches of heavy snow (March 25) the day before we left.

However, with a forecast for 3 days of sun and determined teenagers, we cast off. We have a heater.

Day 0ne. Deale to Slaughter Creek.

A pleasant down-wind run in a 10 knot breeze with he spinnaker up; cool (we had to shovel snow) but nice. Slaughter creek is well protected from the predicted west and northwest wind, particularly up near the bridge, and the holding ground is positive.

The main attraction of Slaughter Creek, to my tastes, is the access to the Taylor Island Wildlife Refuge. Certainly in the top 3 places in the Chesapeake to explore by kayak or dingy and my personal favorite. The marsh extends for miles and miles, and the guts and ponds sprinkled through the marsh make it possible to get quite lost. Simply wonderful.

The kids--my daughter and 2 friends--took off in the dingy while I warmed in the cabin for a few minutes, and then I followed in the kayak. Jessica's parting words had simply been "we'll be back for dinner," and by the time I hit the water they had disappeared into the marsh without a trace. I paddled for about an hour, following trackless paths wherever they led, enjoying the flow of the tide and the few fish that were darting about. Northern water foul have not yet left for the summer. Eventually I found my self wondering how far my girl might have gone; though she operates the dingy well, no outboard is completely reliable and you can't walk home from too deep in the marsh. They did have extra gas and paddles and paddles, though inflatables are pigs to paddle. I stopped and listened in the absolute silence. A salt marsh soaks up noise, like new fallen snow. I couldn't hear the engine, but I could hear intermittent voices, just bits of teenage boy carried on the wind, seemingly from miles away. And then they came around the corner. We had probably been separated by no more than 100 yards for the last hour, but with the tall grass I had no idea of it at all, no sense of near company. It always amazes me how a salt marsh envelopes a kayaker, severing all outside sensory input, leaving only what is immediate.

It was blowing a sustained 15 knots... but not deep in the marsh.

The evening consisted of a hot dinner, a movie, and kids stargazing under a pile of blankets on the trampoline.

Day Two. Slaughter Creek to St. Micheales via San Domingo Creek.

A more vigorous sail, for certain. A sustained 15 knots growing to 20 knots, some on the nose and later on the beam. Typical nasty Chesapeake chop, with the wind opposed to tide. As we entered the Chotank river the waves dropped, and as we entered Broad Creek we again had the close company of many small boats hand-tonging and dragging for oysters. While sailors we are accustomed to right of way, boat engaged in fishing change that norm. However, the draggers are generally working small mounds of oyster, driving in crazy circles and not crossing channels.

The town itself hold little for teenage boys, but the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum was a hit and we enjoyed some soup in a harbor restaurant. We got double appetizers, since it was claimed by our server that the cook confused oysters with clams. Odd.

No matter what the guides say, San Domingo Creek has terrible holding (or at least extremely variable)  in any kind of breeze. We've been there many times; once we sat out a squall and the anchor dug deep, other times, it just dragged and dragged, in spite of feeling well set. Thus, you've been warned. This time we returned after some hours ashore to find our boat had moved about 30 feet (20 knots sustained); this with a 35 pound Manson Supreme, good scope and power set. It was simply dragging through the mud at about 10 feet per hour. We tried another spot. Worse. We packed up an moved to Baby Owl Cove and were greeted by flat water and a firm bottom, perfect for a good nights sleep, to say nothing of the pleasure of being out of the cold wind. After all, there was bound to be more stargazing on the tramp, under a pile of blankets.

Day Three. Baby Owl Cove to Deale.

Wind. Starting at 15 knots building to 25 knots with gusts to 30 knots, and of course, right on the nose. This is when you feel good about having spent enough on the boat and worked enough on maintenance. Glad that you bought a boat that was built for a pounding and not just appearance at the dock. Some smaller catamarans that I won't name will creak and groan and the pounding under the bridge deck can make them terrible up wind in a blow. They place winches where they can't be reached, not with the 2-handed body core effort required to grind a genoa flat in a fresh breeze.

She battled through without complaint, though a few of the crew felt the motion. We forgot to tell them that hiding below is not the best plan. Jessica and I are--so far--immune to mal de mare, and so easily forget what others may expereince.And when we give advice, the victim is often disbelieving of simple cures to their life-threatening condition.

It has been calculated by the PDQ factory that capsize will occur at about 35 knots on the beam with everything in tight. I believe this is true. We sailed with a full genoa and 2 reefs in the main and certainly she got a little light in a few > 30-knot puffs, but still well within control.Like any multihull, she she point highest when pressed hard, tacking though 90 degrees at 8-9 knots.

And that is the story. Nothing broken, no one lost or injured, no one mad or made miserable. Perhaps a slight overdose of fresh air.

Dig the deck shoes, from  left to right: Borrowed from his dad, boots, and none.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry the weather wasn't as warm as you'd hoped, but boy what a great memory created with your daughter!