Monday, July 4, 2011

School's Out! Our First Summer's Cruise.

With no aspirations to really go anywhere, we were determined to go somewhere.

Day 1.
50 miles, 15 knot broad reaching breeze.
With a nice breeze from the northwest, south seemed a good course, and we roared down the bay with main and chute, ticking off miles without and feeling of effort. The odometer (reset the first spring after we  the boat) tick over 1700 miles; we've averaged 850 miles each summer, so our goal should be another 850 miles, I suppose, if only because it provides reason to take off work. But this cruise won't contribute much. We don't have high-mileage days in mind and only expect a good breeze this one day.

Some days it takes forever to sail anywhere, drifting at a few knots and getting bored silly. Reaching at 10-12 knots causes a different problem; you soon find yourself past your turning point. We dropped the chute--harder work when it's blowing 15 knots with gusts to 20 knots--and started to beat back a fraction of a mile, to Warriors Rest, a delightful wildlife preserve owned by the American Chestnut Trust. It's not a harbor, just a place with a wonderful beach, a creek inviting exploration by kayak,  fossils scattered about for collecting, and a stunning view. Accesses is restricted in order to protect an endangered species (tiger beetle--read this if you're interested) and any use should be VERY low impact.

Warriors Rest. This picture is older and the shoreline is very different now. The campground (and raspberry bushes) are at the far left edge, before the cliff starts. The creek has an ankle-deep delta that requires walking a kayak, but it's 3 feet plus inside.

We stay below the high tide mark on beaches like this, and do most of our exploring from the water. While paddling along the cliff to the south of the beach I heard a sound like crashing surf and saw a 2,000 pound chunk of the cliff land in the shallow water at the cliff's base. This is not nearly the first small landslide I have seen peal off a Bay cliff, so be careful, folks. It's best not to walk right at the base of the cliff. It had not rained for some time, nor had there been high winds and seas, so there was no clear cause.

The red raspberry bushes were loaded. We're fatter now.

From there we sailed to James Island where we were to spend the night, but the wind was too much for the anchorage and the anchorage more shallow (4.5 feet) than I remembered. We pressed on to Slaughter Creek. There were more beaches and marshes to explore; the new kayak was becoming quite addictive, with Jessica and I always watching to see if the other would take it first. More fun than the tender and better able to explore small marsh creeks, but a tough on the arms if the pull into the wind and tide is too sustained.

Day 2
15 miles, 10 knot wind.
Hardly any wind, but we were hardly going anywhere and it made for a nice close reach.

Our goal was an anchorage behind Casson Point on Hudson Creek. Three stars, for a peaceful and beautiful Bay destination. Jessica caught a correct fish with her hands. We sat in the water, up to our necks, and watched the waves march by talking about nothing important. I scrubbed the bottom--ugh. Scrubbing the bottom in water over your head is a full swimming test, 20 minutes of treading water, pushing, scrubbing, and diving.

Day 3
45 miles, 15 knots on the nose.

Saint Michaels by the back door (San Domingo Creek off Broad Creek) is a standard short cut for sailors in the Choptank that don't feel like circling up to the Miles river. Still, windward work is not my favorite thing on the PDQ. She's not close winded, tacking through about 105 degrees by GPS. Add wind-against -tide and a river entrance kicking it up some more, and progress is never what you like. We roared down the Little Choptank nice as you please, but when the mouth of  river was met the chop got steep and we were forced to sail due west for hours, making no ground towards our goal. Windward work is like that. And after earning ground to the west for hours and getting away from the river, the tide changed, we tacked, and things got better, with the rest of the trip on one tack, not overly pinched and moving well.

Family time. I hate electronics, most of the time.

The "back door" takes you up a small creek to a town dock (commercial use only, but there is a dingy bulkhead) only a few blocks from town. The anchorage is perhaps 1/4 to 1/2 mile from the dingy dock, depending on draft. The holding is not what I would like (thin silt over very hard clay) but it's protected. If you have shallow draft, you can wonder into one of the coves and gain space and privacy.

We walked the town, got a few nic-nacks and tee-shirts and ice creams. Nothing earth shattering. Summery and touristy--nice actually, after a few days of solitude.

The night was better. Some afternoon and evening paddling in our new kayak. I now understand the people I see quietly touring up and down creeks in sea kayaks; the steady rhythm is relaxing, something like jogging without the impact noise of feet slapping ground, only the whisper of the paddle slipping in and out of the water. A good workout, depending on pace. Right at sunset is perfect, shirt off, gliding past shore and cruising boats and egrets and fish.

All the stars came out, one of those million star nights, with the Milky Way and shooting stars to lull you to sleep, somehow dulling all conscious thought. The girls slept on the trampoline.

Day 4
25 miles, no wind until noon, then 10 knots.

I'm OK with a day of no wind, when we haven't far to go. After all, we had enjoyed better conditions that predicted the past few days. Boring, but OK.

We went to Shark Tooth Beach (Jessic's name for Fairhaven) before heading into harbor; it would be cooler to repack the boat, the swimming is fine, and the beach combing productive. There's a swim platform where you can go join the kids and listen to laughter. But while open water swimming is a common thing here, on the Saturday before 4th of July it is actually a dicey thing. Idiots on jet skis dart here and there and ski boats are numerous. Worse, these aren't regular boaters, these are holiday people and sometimes renters. Just down the Bay, at Colonial Beach, there was a fatal boating accident, as a 2 fast moving boats and a jet ski crossed; the first boat slowed quickly to dodge a weaving jet ski and the second boat, following too closely, flew over them. Stupid.

We practiced MOB hoisting. Fun, actually, when it's hot and you're already wet.

I should mention that Fairhaven beach is also a favorite of ours for boat work; it has a nice hard sand bottom, sloping from 2 feet to 6 feet over a distance of 300 yards, so it is always possible to find a spot that is just right. A perfect place to fiddle with the outboards (I replaced a lift line) or touch-up the scrubbing, and then go for a swim.

And that is the tale. Not much to tell. Not many pictures and those there are you can see in the 2 prior posts. The solar panels did well, stretching our over-nighting capability by a good bit. 4 people managed to stretch 35 gallons of fresh water through 3 nights of showers; the pump ran dry washing the last dish, the last afternoon of the 4th day. The beer ran out at lunch, but we had picked a watering hole for dinner with a guy singing Jimmy Buffet and the like under the palm trees (they replace some each year--they dislike snow), so the sacrifice was minimal. A few small projects have suggested themselves; I'll post them when complete.

Enjoy your summer!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, your first summer's cruise sounded like a great one!