Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Summer is too Damn Hot on the Bay: Our Second 2011 Cruise

This cruise fit nicely between the many commitments of friends and family members... right into on the tail of one of the hottest weeks on record. At least each day was cooler than the last, and soon 90F seem down right comfortable. Really, July on the Bay is for day sailing and nights at home in the AC. When we run AC on the boat, we are bound to marinas and trapped in too small a space. I can hack 90F and enjoy myself; when it tops 100F and the wind dies and the humidity spikes, even breathing is work. At least the jellyfish are late and few this year and have not yet interfered with swimming. A life saver, for me.

Crew: Family and a long-time friend of my daughter's, Hanna.

Day 1, Deale to Solomons Island, 35 miles. Bloody hot.

Not enough wind to sail, not early. We motored to Calvert Cliffs; my daughters friend had never been there and it would give me a good swim break. A long swim break.

For those of you not familiar with the area, Calvert Cliffs State Park is well know for rich fossil deposits, and to a lesser extent for hiking trails and nature watching. A 3 mile hike leads to a beach (38 24.27N) where people swim and collect from the picked-over fossils on the beach. However, there are 2 other beaches very nearby, and still within the park, that are boat access only. We've never seen a foot print on them, other than racoons.

38 24.46N. Nice beach, better pickings, and a small pond just behind the beach that makes a nice kayak excursion. It looks bug infested, but it's not.

38 24.56N. Smaller beach, but also nice.

Clearly they're close together so there is no reason not to visit all three. Do beware of walking on the beaches; signs prohibit walking under the cliffs (but many do) and I have witnessed several small avalanches on Chesapeake cliffs; landslides are not uncommon and are not always preceded by a triggering event, such as heavy rain. They can just as easily slide when drying out, weeks after a rain. A prudent person stays away from the cliff base and is very attentive when approaching the base.

The wind arrived and we had a nice sail to the harbor. Unfortunately there's little wind in the harbor and a few biting flies required the use of screens. Hot. I kayaked a bit. The girls dingyed into town to get a smoothy, but the only joint they found shooed them out--not 21.

Day 2. Solomons Island to Tangier. 45 miles

The best sailing of the trip. A steady 10-15 knot breeze made for steady 8-12 knot spinnaker broad reach. Jessica posted her personal best during a turn at the helm, 11.7 knots sustained. We gave Hanna a turn at the helm as the wind let up a bit, teaching her how to anticipate the force of quartering waves and how to keep the wind on the big sail just so. "Big grin" sailing and an arrival time ahead of expectation. Some town exploration and dinner early--you have to be in your seat by 7, since they close-up at 8! A few tales of winter "drudging" aboard skipjacks by Milton Parks, who turned 80 last week.

We wound a line into one prop as we neared the dock, a bit of fish net junk. It didn't interfere with docking and I didn't mind jumping in with a knife. Just cool enough to bring the body temperature back into the green.

Day 3. Tangier.

The girls rented a golf cart. A total waste, when the island is only 3 miles long and you have bikes... but fun. A drivers license is required, and the driver must be 18 or accompanied by an adult.

Scaping crabs from an engineless skiff; fishing at it's most basic. The water is only a few feet deep for miles. They simply pole about and sneak up on them. In the proper season, it's quite effective.

We fished in the late afternoon and evening, but the catching was limited. However, with the temperatures down and the breeze up, the dock sitting was fine. Later, we resorted to "scaping" crabs; the local term for hand netting crabs from the dock pilings and nearby shallows with a long handled net. We managed about 20 in a half hour. Combined with the fish and some sides, we were stuffed to lethargy. The girls went fishing again that night, enjoying a perfect night and hoping not to catch anything, I think. Girl talk.

Note. It's best not to visit Tangier on Sunday; some things are closed. I knew better but forgot. No general store, no ice, but ice cream and restaurants. More family visiting family from the mainland.

Day 4. Tangier to Crisfield, 18 miles.

A light breeze and easy sailing.

 Janes Island is convenient, by kayak or tender, from from the Somers Cove Marina. My intention had been to anchor-out somewhere, but the coves were all quite shallow, violent storms were predicted, and given that all the jelly fish in the bay had been blown into Crisfield, the pool offered the only swimming.

Who says a 3.5 Merc can't scoot?
Hints: keep it VERY light, the carb very clean,
and your weight forward (tiller extension).

The town doesn't offer a lot. Most of the eateries and bars are closed Monday-Wednesday (it was Monday). Oyster and crab packing are all but dead and the economy is struggling. New condos have popped up, but sales have been limited. The Somers Cove Marina is ~ 65% full, but the condo marinas remain empty.

Captain Jacks Crab House, newly converted from an old crab packing house, has just opened. It's right next to the marina and next to the museum, and you can do so much worse than to have a crab cake sandwich on the deck, overlooking the harbor. The menu is limited, they do crab cakes right in Crisfield. Perfection.

I slipped on the damn sloped area on the side deck, nearly breaking my collarbone; the gates were open for and aft, so when my hand went tot he cable, the cable went to the deck and stanchion tip stopped the full weight of the fall on the front of my shoulder. Ouch. Somehow I missed everything injury-prone by a fraction of an inch. A few days later it was only a memory. 3M non-skid is going on that slope before the next sail!

A violent hail storm struck the marina this night, just as we were preparing for sleep. No drama in the marina or on board, but a small cruise ship broke it's moorings to the dock and crashed around. Big news in Crisfield. The root cause was a combination of undersize lines and pilings that simply were not up to the strain. The dock at Crisfield has no large bundled pilings or bollards anchored on dry land; only the same pilings that I would tie up to, and several were simply pulled over, as though our PDQ had been tied to stakes with parachute cord.

Day 5. Crisfield.

I'm not sure we'd have stayed a second night, but 15-20 knots headwinds are a good reason not to head up the Bay. Not dangerous, but 6 hour ass-kicking to get to Solomons Island, to be sure. Staying would make the next day longer, but still manageable.

Staying was good. Nothing to do, really. Every vacation needs some of that. We walked into town and viewed the carnage where the cruise ship broke loose. We found a party at the marina. Swapped some stories.

Day 6. Crisfield to Deale, 72 miles.

Strong headwinds were predicted for the next day and we needed to get back. Rain and thunderstorms were predicted off-and-on all day this day, but with no strong sustained winds. We got up early and went for it.

Motoring. Endless motoring. No useable wind, not with distance to cover. An occasional cold puff, just enough to make you think about squalls hiding in the haze, but nothing substantial. No sustained wind above 3-5 knots and often none at all, only glassy calm.

No drama. Some moderate rain finally caught us a mile from Deale, nothing to speak of, and it stopped while we unloaded.

And so another cruise is in the bag. Lessons learned?
  • Only daysail in July.
  • The wooden cockpit floor is great in the summer; much cooler and more comfortable on bare feet.
  • Keep the side gates closed when they don't need to be open.
  • Keeping hydrated takes real effort.
  • Be careful with T-docks. Ours had way too much fetch to windward, the storm hit from the beam, and a fender popped out. Thank goodness for solid rub rails.
  • Beware the sloped deck.
  • A kayak on the side deck works fine. easily loaded, easily secured, not much in the way. Never snagged a line.


  1. I remember blistering hot days on the Chesapeake - it can be damn uncomfortable. And then there is the embarrassment of being passed by swimming crabs, when the wind dies.

    s/v Eolian

  2. We feel the heat! Here around New Orleans, LA we have a heat index of 110-115! This is definitely the time for day sailing or staying at a marina with the new window unit a/c we purchased for these hot nights! Glad you didn't break a bone, and it sounds like great quality time with your daughter. That's priceless!