Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Nice Respite

I started my radiation treatments last week. I will have to go five days a week for a total of 36 treatments. Ugh! As soon as I returned home from last Friday's treatment, I changed my clothes and we went to the boat. George had already loaded the food and our clothes and had the boat ready to leave the dock. We sailed to Trippe Creek on the Tred Avon River. It was such a nice respite from all things cancer. We anchored the boat, ate dinner, relaxed, heard and spotted a bald eagle and watched a pretty sunset. Ahhhhh! It was such a lovely evening.

It started to rain in the night so George closed the hatches, including the companionway hatch. Because we aren't used to having that closed we tend to hit our heads on the hatch as we go up the companionway stairs. To solve that problem George rigged up a high-tech early warning system. Notice the paper towel taped to the ceiling. It was quite effective.

We did not go swimming this time. It was not very hot so we didn't need it to cool off. Also, my radiation techs said that I shouldn't swim. Double ugh!!

We woke up the next morning to light rain and waited for it to pass before we pulled up the anchor. We had to motor the 18 nm home because the winds were so light. As we were leaving the Tred Avon River and entering the Choptank, I handed the wheel over to George. Almost immediately he said, with a tone of alarm, "Why is the boat so slow?" The speed had dropped from over 6 kn to just over 3 kn. I thought at first that it might be the current against us in the Choptank but then realized the current wouldn't be that strong. Next I thought we might have caught a crab trap or trot line. But, there didn't appear to be any around us. By this time George had put the throttle in neutral, then reverse. I noticed a lot of sea grass floating out from under the boat. George put the throttle in forward again and the boat started to shake and we still had slow speed. He put it in neutral, then reverse again and more sea grass emerged. He continued that process until we saw no more sea grass. The next time he put the engine in forward, it was fine. We must have unknowingly passed through a lot of sea grass and wrapped it around our propeller. A few minutes later, when we were out in more open water, we shut the engine off and George checked the engine's raw water strainer just to make sure it wasn't clogged. There was just a little bit of sea grass so he emptied it and we continued home. Chalk that event up to another learning experience.

It seems especially important for us to take advantage of every opportunity to day sail and anchor out over the next seven weeks. It makes life so much more enjoyable.

 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Solomons

The surgeon gave me some very good news at my post-op visit. He told me that everything looked good and I had no restrictions. That meant I could get in and out of the dinghy and go up and down the swim ladder. Yippee!

So, we packed up some provisions and clothes and took off for a week-long trip. Our first stop was in Ball's Creek near the mouth of Broad Creek. The entrance into the creek is quite tricky. It is rather narrow with several switch-backs and gets pretty shallow. In fact, on our way in we watched the depth drop to 5.6 feet. I am not sure how we didn't go aground. Our depth instrument must not be calibrated as accurately as we thought. In any case, we were grateful to get into the anchorage and drop our anchor. Next on the list, swimming! Later in the evening we kept our eyes on thunder storms in the area. We saw lightning all around us but no storms passed over us. Phew!

We were up early the next day and weighed anchor before breakfast. The winds were supposed to be light so we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to sail across the bay to Solomons. As it turned out we had great wind all day and had a really delightful sail. We arrived in Solomons by early afternoon. It was interesting to see the different topography on the western side of the bay. On the eastern shore the ground is flat. On the western shore the ground is higher so we saw bluffs and small cliffs as we approached Solomons.

Calvert Cliffs

When we were deciding to move to the Chesapeake Bay area we narrowed our choices down to Solomons and Cambridge. We initially chose Solomons because it was closer to the bay and seemed to be more of a sailing community. We actually put an offer on a condominium that overlooked Back Creek in Solomons. The night we made the offer on the condo I lay awake all night worrying that we wouldn't be able to downsize enough to fit into the condo and its six small closets. We decided to let that condo go and take another look at Cambridge. We are so glad we did. During this visit to Solomons we anchored in Back Creek within view of the condo we didn't buy. It was an extremely quiet anchorage, which was good for us while on the boat, but not very interesting to watch from the condo. The condo in Cambridge that is our home overlooks a very busy creek with boats constantly coming and going. The view is always changing and interesting to watch. (Not to mention the ample storage in the condo.)

The day we arrived in Solomons was our 39th anniversary so we decided to celebrate by taking the dinghy to a restaurant. Also, the weather was really hot and we were looking forward to spending some time in air conditioning. We had a lovely dinner at the Dry Dock Restaurant at Zahnizer's Marina.

Motoring back to the boat after dinner

We had initially planned to spend two nights at Solomons but decided to take advantage of the wind the next day and sail up the Patunxet River into St. Leonard Creek.

Approaching the Thomas Johnson Memorial Bridge in Solomons
It doesn't look like it is 140 from the water!

It was another great day of sailing and we anchored in Johns Creek within sight of Vera's Beach Club.

It was another hot day so we were looking forward to a swim. Unfortunately, George noticed sea nettles in the water as he was dropping the anchor. Sea nettles are small jellyfish that are common in the Chesapeake Bay in the summer. There were none in the water last summer, we were told is was due to the cold winter. The temperatures were cold this past winter (at least it seemed so to us) but the nettles are here already. We have been told they are not dangerous but the sting is unpleasant. I was not anxious to find out so George watched for sea nettles while I dipped into the water first and hung onto the swim ladder. I was ready to climb out at the first sight of nettles. After I swam (got wet) I climbed out and watched for sea nettles while George went into the water. He was a bit braver than I was and swam away from the ladder. Unfortunately, he encountered a sea nettle below the surface that I couldn't see and got stung on the arm. Enough swimming for one day. We dried off and took the dinghy to Vera's for a drink in the air conditioned bar.

There was a line of thunderstorms heading our way at dusk. Most seemed to be going north of us. Nevertheless, we took all loose items out of the cockpit and put them below in the cabin. While we were sitting on the swim platform after dark, George looked up and noticed a large very dark cloud that was outlined by somewhat lighter sky around it. At that time the wind was light and from the southeast. The bow of the boat was pointed southeast. Just as I noticed a cooler breeze coming from the west, the wind picked up and blew 40 mph. It was hitting the boat broadside and the boat was heeling at least 10 degrees. It started pouring rain and we went below. I decided to change into my pajamas. I know, I know, it now seems like a very silly idea, similar to when Robert Redford shaved during a storm in the movie, All Is Lost. I am really not sure what I was thinking. All the while the wind continued to blow and the boat continued to heel. George went into the cockpit to check our position and noticed a dock, a boat and some house lights in a place they hadn't been before. We had dragged! I went into the cockpit in my pajamas to start the engine. By that time it was pouring rain. George turned on the navigation system to see where we were on the chart and brought up our headlamps and our spot light. I turned the boat into the wind and George brought up the anchor. Although the chart showed we were in very shallow water I had to put the boat in reverse to raise the anchor. Once it was finally up I motored forward and we re-anchored. All this in the dark, in the pouring rain and blowing wind. We didn't have our "Marriage Savers" on and both had to shout to hear each other over the rain and wind. Although we both seemed to be relatively calm throughout the ordeal, I noticed I was experiencing heartburn and we both agreed it was a stressful situation. Within an hour another storm came through (we were watching the radar this time so knew it was coming). It wasn't as intense but we started the engine anyway to keep the boat pointed into the wind and to reduce tension on the anchor chain. I eventually put some dry clothes on and went to bed. George stayed up and slept in the salon, getting up when any storms came through to check for dragging. Neither one of us got much sleep.

The storm after in passed over us
Winds held over 40 mph for a while
The track from our navigation system. Notice how we dragged into the shallow area.
 

We had a very leisurely morning the next day. I hung all of our wet clothes on the lifelines to dry. We watched an osprey making quite a show of trying to chase an eagle out of a nearby tree. The eagle didn't seem to be impressed. We intended to stay in Johns Creek another night. Around midday George looked at the wind forecast and saw that the wind was forecast to be much lighter the next day. So, once again, we changed our plans to take advantage of the wind. We quickly ate lunch, packed up, weighed anchor and headed back down St. Leonard Creek and the Patunxet River and had another great afternoon of sailing. We had originally planned to go back to Solomons for fuel, a pump out and to top off the fresh water tank. Since we didn't need any of those things we decided to try a more secluded anchorage. As we were sailing up the Patunxet River the day before we noticed a lot of boats were heading into Cuckold Creek. The reviews said it was very busy, especially with motor boats and jet skis, during the weekend but a nice, quiet anchorage during the week. It was late Sunday afternoon so we gave it a try. When we arrived we saw a large raft-up of motor boats as well as several motor boats and jet skis zipping around. In fact, the water was so rough with their wakes it was a challenge to anchor. We stayed anyway and, by nightfall, they all left and the anchorage was indeed very peaceful. The winds were light that night and we both slept very well.

The next day we took the dinghy over to Myrtle Point Park. We had a lovely 3 mile hike through the dense woods and nice beach that are part of the park. The heavy rains seemed to reduce the local sea nettle population so we were able to swim more easily again.

Anchored in Cuckold Creek. The red things on the deck are Breeze Boosters. They help catch the breeze and funnel it into the hatch.

 

The following day we got an early start to sail across the bay back to the eastern shore. The wind was good but it was so hot and humid that the breeze wasn't at all refreshing. We were both happy to wear our "Frog Togs" on our necks to help keep us cooler. They actually feel quite cool when wet.

Trying to keep cool on the Chesapeake Bay

 

We were back into the Choptank River by early afternoon. Our plan was to anchor one more night, either in Broad Creek or the Tred Avon River. However, George listened to the National Weather Service weather report and heard that there were small craft advisories for the Choptank River in the afternoon and thunderstorm warnings for the evening. Although we were both hot and tired George thought we should press on and head straight for home. We had the boat docked by 5:30.

I was so grateful that George decided to come home a day early. Later that evening a severe thunderstorm passed through. The winds topped 60 mph and there was a great deal of lightning.

We definitely felt more secure in the condo during that storm than we would have at anchor on the boat. We debriefed after our recent dragging experience and made some decisions. We decided that in the future we should check the radar more frequently; start the engine right away in event of a storm with a lot of wind; set the anchor alarm soon after we anchor rather than waiting for bed time; install the larger anchor that we have; position the boat so all of the chain can be let out whenever storms are predicted.

It was a great week, anchor dragging notwithstanding, and we hope the memories will last a while since our sailing will be much more limited once I start my daily radiation treatments.