Sunday, June 6, 2021

Naval bombardment

We are under way northbound in Chesapeake Bay, abreast of the Patapsco River and Baltimore as I begin typing. The city is enveloped in a shroud of smog, and I can barely make out the Francis Scott Key Bridge just a dozen miles away. It's hot enough to be uncomfortable ashore, and we are running the air conditioning in the pilothouse.

Thursday we had a very calm and quiet night, glad to have tucked as far into the creek as we did. On our way out we passed a sailboat that had dropped the hook in the first spot we contemplated, and he was rolling with the swell even in the calm of the morning. On our way out of the creek we passed an incoming conga line of giant oyster boats, each about 140' long and 35' wide, headed for their harbor and processing plant off the Great Wicomico.

The unfortunate timing of the tide cycle right now meant we had the current against us all day for the run to the Patuxent River and Solomons, Maryland. As we passed Smith Point to begin the long crossing of the mouth of the Potomac, we left Virginia behind for the season. It would have been lovely to make the left turn and go up to DC for a week or so at this time of year, but that's a minimum two-week detour, and we'd be cutting it close for a commitment in Southold, New York in early July. Perhaps we will get another chance in the fall.

Smith Point Light That's the privy at lower left.

We were aiming more or less for Solomons, a familiar stop with an easy anchorage and a few eateries along the water. But as we approached the Patuxent, we made the decision to stop short instead. With winds out of the south for the afternoon and overnight, we turned the corner, ran under the glide path off the end of the Naval Air Station runway, around Hog Point, and dropped the hook in the middle of a quiet bay just off the air station grounds (map).

Stopping in the river saved the five or six miles, round trip, into Solomons and back, a stop that was not particularly calling us just because we've made it so many times. It also meant we were not hunting around for a spot in what can be a very crowded anchorage, especially on a Friday afternoon. And most importantly, the radio had been squawking all afternoon about an approaching storm system, which would not only ace us out of dinner ashore, but would also make for more drama than necessary in the very tight anchorage.

Even with the adverse current, we had the hook down by 2:30, and enjoyed having the calm and peaceful anchorage to ourselves for a while. A constant parade of Navy aircraft of every description had come into the field as we passed under the glide path -- I think we may have some tire tracks on the soft top -- with the extremely loud fighter jets giving us pause to stay so close. But the landings stopped soon after we had the hook set.

Sunset over the Patuxent...

It was not long before the reason for the sudden scramble of landings made itself clear. The storm hit with a vengeance, with the front bringing 40 mph winds that swung us through 90 of arc so quickly that it tripped our anchor out and re-set it. Across the river we could see several boats making a run for the harbor, but too late to escape the worst of it. We were comfortable and safe, and very glad not to be manning the anchor watch in a tight anchorage.

The boat got a nice rinse, and by dinner time the sun was back out and all was calm again. In the meantime, several boats had entered the harbor, called around to multiple marinas, probably circled all the anchorages, and then come right back out again, and we ended up with two neighbors overnight. Even though the weather had cleared for dinner, we had a more restful stop in the river.

We awoke Saturday to a perfect morning. Which sounds wonderful, but on a summer weekend, it makes for amateur hour out on the water. We were headed to Annapolis, one of the busiest recreational harbors on the east coast. And just to add a bit more excitement, the Coast Guard was making announcements about two sailing races in Annapolis -- a local regatta on the Severn till 5pm, and the start of the Annapolis to Newport race that would be running down the bay to the sea.

I was expecting to have to dodge the big race boats headed for Newport, but as it turned out we did not cross paths, and instead I had to adjust course to miss a pair of freighters in the ship channel. Later in the day we were overtaken by yet another ship, the Dublin Express, that threw a four-foot wake all the way across the bay; we watched a couple of small boats slam over it dangerously, and I had to steer to put it on the quarter when it reached us.

... and over the US Naval Academy, Annapolis.

Winds picked up throughout the day, and since they were out of the south, there was quite a bit of wave action on the bay by the time we made the turn for Annapolis. Fortunately, it was mostly behind us. By all rights it should have calmed down once we turned into the lee, but there are so many powerboat wakes in the harbor on the weekend, reverberating off the shores on both sides, that the harbor was almost worse that the bay.

We made good enough time that we arrived before the 5pm end of the races, and rather than dodge and weave the sailboats all the way in, we dropped a lunch hook in the outer reaches of the South Anchorage, next to a large Nordhavn named Ah Ha. We had earlier heard him on the radio having to move, as apparently he had originally anchored in the race course.

By 5 it was all over but the shouting, and we weighed anchor smartly to move to a calmer spot. We tucked in as far as we could to the NW corner of the South Anchorage (map), which is really the best we can do here. It's 30' deep here, so we need a 350' diameter circle of clear space to anchor; on previous visits this anchorage was always too busy for that. Today, however, we had the whole corner to ourselves. This corner of the anchorage is in the no-wake zone, but it's not much help, as it is open to the part where the wakes are awful.

The dingy dock. Although in this photo I count at least four large boats that are not dinghies, taking up more than their fair share.

We splashed the tender and headed ashore for dinner, cruising down "Ego Alley" to the town dinghy dock. We had to squeeze in at the very busy dock, owing in large part to a few large powerboats pretending to be dinghies. The "dinghy and tender only" rule seems to be poorly enforced by the harbormaster, which is odd, because they charge a day use fee to tie this size boat up at the city docks.

We were pleased to find part of Market Space Street closed off completely, and numerous parking spaces along Main and Market Space blocked off to create outdoor dining, encompassing the sidewalks. We found a shady outside table at the touristy 1771 Grill and Taproom, where I was surprised to find one of my favorites, a Cigar City Maduro Brown from Tampa, on draft.

We were very happy to be outside, considering that, like almost everyone we saw in town, the restaurant staff was unmasked. That was true at every restaurant we passed, and we saw very few people on the street or inside business wearing masks. It seems folks are mostly overlooking the "for those who have been fully vaccinated" part of the CDC mask guidance. Only two out of every five people in Maryland are vaccinated.

Our brunch view, up Main Street.

The more popular joints, such as Pusser's overlooking the water, were packed at pre-pandemic levels, and I could hear the music from Pusser's on the boat until past midnight. The harbor had calmed down considerably when we got back from dinner, and even further as the numerous day boats left, but it never got dead calm.

Given that we expected the harbor to be just as miserable today as it had been when we arrived yesterday, we made the decision to just move along. There are other, calmer anchorages on the Severn river, but none is close enough to town to be worthwhile. Before we weighed, we went ashore for a nice brunch on the sidewalk at O'Brien's. Just getting from the tender to the boat was a challenge by the time we returned, and we hoisted it on deck and made a hasty exit.

That meant, once again, pushing against the tide, after more sailboat Pachinko on the way out of the harbor. We ran at 1400 rpm until the turn of the tide caught up with us. As I wrap up typing, we've got it behind us and we are nearly to the entrance of the C&D canal. We passed up our usual anchorage in Worton Creek because we wanted to have more-or-less free air conditioning until later in the afternoon, and to take advantage of the tide.

Update: We are anchored at the entrance to the Bohemia River (map). So far, no rhapsody. The river itself quickly becomes too shallow for us. We arrived just at dinner time, and I had to set this aside. Tomorrow we'll have an early stop in Chesapeake City.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy reading you blog and seeing where you are going. I think it is fascinating all the information you always include about how the ocean and rivers and anchoring places are. and then of course you are quilter and all the lovely creations you make on your boat.
    Take care and Be Safe Most in Iowa have quit wearing masks too but Not I, and I don't care what others think about it. LOL MelodyA.


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