Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Just Call Me Goldilocks

So, last week we didn't have enough wind to circumnavigate the DelMarVa peninsula. This week we have had too much. Too little, too much, but not just right.

Right now in Cambridge it is blowing in the mid-twenties and gusting into the thirties. This is what it looks like on Assateague Island, on the Atlantic side of the peninsula.

Here is the forecast.
Some more experienced sailors may be willing to set out I n these conditions but the reason we want to do this is to gain experience and confidence. I am already feeling very nervous about sailing in the dark and we don't think it would be a good idea to start our trip knowing it is going to be really windy. So, we won't be doing our circumnavigation this month. If we don't fit it in next month it will have to wait until next year.



Saturday, September 26, 2015

What a Life!

When George and I set up our post-cancer sailing "schedule" we set aside two full weeks for our DelMarVa peninsula circumnavigation. The trip would take about a week but we scheduled two weeks so that we could work around unfavorable weather. Well, last week was the first week we had set aside and it looked as if there wasn't going to be enough wind to do any sailing at all, let alone around the DelMarVa peninsula. Then, on Tuesday as we were driving over the Choptank River after buying groceries, we saw that the wind had picked up. Even if the wind wasn't expected to last, we could at least get some sailing in. We drove home, quickly put the groceries away, packed up clothes and food for four days and set sail for the Tred Avon River.

We started off with wind just over ten knots and we were traveling at 6-7 knots. Then the wind started to drop and so did our speed. We calculated how long we could wait before turning the motor on and still get anchored before sunset. We arrived at our anchorage, Flatty Cove, just as the sun was setting. There was one boat anchored in the spot that would have been our first choice. We selected another spot, dropped the anchor, didn't hold. Darn! George hauled it up and we tried again in a slightly different location. It still didn't hold. Grrrrrr. Now it was getting quite dark and we had a decision to make, try again on the other side of Flattty Cove or head to a larger anchorage, Trippe Creek, a mile and a half away. We decided on Trippe Creek. I put the engine in high gear and hammered down. There were already eight other boats anchored in Trippe Creek, but it is a large anchorage with plenty of room. Since it was almost dark by the time we got there and I don't have good depth perception at night, George drove to the spot where we wanted to anchor. I then took over at the wheel while he dropped the anchor. This time it held, phew!

Although there wasn't much wind, the weather was just gorgeous. Sunny, cool and low humidity. It was a very comfortable night. The next day was a very relaxing one. In the late afternoon we had our first raft-up with friends, Jim and Martha, who live nearby on the Tred Avon. They stayed for a few hours and we had a lot of fun. The sunset that evening was just stunning.

Jim and Martha heading for home on Quiet Times
Gorgeous Sunset at Trippe Creek

The next afternoon we decided to move back to Flatty Cove so that we would be close enough to dinghy into Oxford. We found a spot with good holding and then dinghied over to the hard-to-find free town dinghy dock. We walked over to the Scottish Highland Creamery for some delicious ice cream and then strolled around town. Oxford is a very charming little town, but extremely small. There weren't many people out and about. It seems like many of the residents are weekenders. It made us happy, once again, that we chose Cambridge as our home.

Scottish Highland Creamery
Scottish Highland Creamery

We returned to the boat and decided to try out our new Nettle Net Boat Pool. It was really easy to set up and worked like a charm. We were able to swim without being stung by sea nettles. One rather odd thing happens as the boat swings. The net kind of drags behind the boat and becomes one long, narrow lane rather than a circular pool. It doesn't bother me, though, because it still serves the purpose of keeping the nettles away. Since we expected to swim again the next day we hauled the Nettle Net up onto the swim platform and left it there after we finished swimming.

Nettle Net Before Deployment
Nettles outside the pool!

The next day we again dinghied to Oxford, ate ice cream, walked and went for a swim. What a life!

What a life!


George and I feel very fortunate that we enjoy a similar pace and similar activities when we are on the boat. We love being at anchor but enjoy getting off the boat if we are on it for more than a couple of days.

On our last day we waited for the wind to come up in the early afternoon before we began to sail home.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Harness Creek

About a month ago George and I sat down with our calendars to plan the sailing trips that we would take after my radiation ended. There were a few reasons for doing this; we wanted to make sure we blocked out the time to make some trips that each lasted a week or so, and I thought it might help me feel less depressed about losing so much of our sailing season to cancer treatment.

We took our first trip the day after treatment ended and had a wonderful time. We prepared to take the next one that was scheduled on the calendar but, once again, we weren't at all sure where we were headed. The winds were forecast to be light the entire week but we decided to not let that stop us. We spent our first night at Dun Cove. Since it was hot and humid we were sweaty after we anchored. We didn't attempt to swim, though, because there were a lot of sea nettles in the water. Atlantic sea nettles are a type of small jellyfish that live in the brackish water of the Chesapeake Bay. The sting is unpleasant (so I hear), but not deadly. Nevertheless, the threat of a sting is enough to keep us from going in the water.

Sea Nettles in Dun Cove


We took off early the next morning and decided to head north in the bay toward Annapolis. The wind was more favorable for sailing south, but since we had just been to the Little Choptank River and didn't have time to sail farther south than that, we went north. We tacked our way up and across the bay. All day we were plagued with biting, black flies, even when we were in the middle of the bay. It was difficult to focus on driving the boat when our legs and ankles were getting bitten. We took turns swatting at them and killed dozens of them by the end of the day. We swatted so many of them that we broke the fly swatter in a few places and had to repair it with duct tape. We used the autopilot quite a bit as we were sailing but, every 90 minutes or so, the navigation system would sound a loud alarm and the autopilot would quit. There would be no wind data available and the navigation screen had an error message that read, "No autopilot computer." We were able to get it going again by turning the power off to the navigation system and then turning it back on again. It happened three times during the course of the day. Hmmmm. We are definitely going to have to look into what that problem is all about.

Since it was Friday on a holiday weekend we believed our chances of getting a mooring ball in Annapolis Harbor were slim. We decided to try Harness creek on the South River. It is on the south side of Annapolis and abuts the Quiet Waters county park. There was plenty of room to anchor when we arrived late afternoon. We were delighted to find that there were no sea nettles in the water so we could swim to cool off!


The next day the anchorage began to fill up with motor boats. Many of them rafted together to party. The loudest party was anchored within a boat length of Breeze On. At one point I heard those partiers hooting and hollering. I looked up to see a very well-endowed young woman dancing with her bikini top off!

There didn't seem to be any sense of anchoring decorum. The boats just kept coming, dropping light-weight anchors attached to short ropes. If they dragged, they would just casually pick of the anchor and drop it in their new location. We didn't worry too much because the people were staying with their boats so at least they would know if they were about to hit another boat. Also, we assumed (rightly) that they would all clear out at the end of the day.

Breeze On is the only sailboat in the anchorage.


In spite of the chaos, we really enjoyed being anchored in Harness Creek. The lack of sea nettles and the ability to swim a few times a day was a huge plus. Also, we used the dinghy to go to Quiet Waters Park every day. It is a lovely park with miles of paved walking trails.

George walking in Quiet Waters Park
Quiet Waters Park


There is a West Marine, restaurants and other shops just outside the park. On our second day we walked over to the West Marine, to a hardware store to buy a new electronic fly swatter, and then had an early dinner at a nice restaurant we had been to before when visiting Annapolis. The new fly swatter turned out to be good insurance. We didn't have any bugs at all after we bought it - so it is still unproven technology (we also bought a traditional swatter just in case!).


When we first set out on this trip I had hoped that we could make it as far as the Chester River or the Sassafras River. However, the wind predictions for the days we would be returning were predicted to be very light. We knew we didn't want to be motoring the whole way home so we scrapped that idea. In the end, we decided to stay in Harness Creek for four days. In spite of the party atmosphere during the day, we really liked it there. We moved farther up the creek to a more family-oriented anchorage for the last two days, so that helped. We loved being able to swim in the water and walk in the park. We also enjoyed watching the people go by in the kayaks and stand up paddle boards that were available for rent in the park. We would definitely go back, but hope that the next time we go it will be during the week and not on a holiday weekend.


As it turned out, we had pretty good wind for our return trip across the bay. It was from the south so we had to tack the entire way, but we made good time. In fact, we chose to make the entire 55-mile trip home in one day rather than anchor out one more night. It was another hot day and we knew we wouldn't be able to swim at the end of the day due to the nettles on the Eastern Shore. The next item on our shopping list will be a nettle net. It will enable us to swim while keeping the nettles away from us.



Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Free at Last

I finished the last of my 36 radiation treatments on August 26. The next day we took off for 5 days on Breeze On. We didn't have a particular destination in mind, it depended on the direction and strength of the wind. The freedom to spend more than one night on the boat without rushing home for my radiation treatments mattered more to us than where we were going. As we were leaving Cambridge we sailed by this little vessel. It is on the market for a mere seven million dollars!

The wind was predicted to be very light on the day we left but, in fact, we had 8-9 knots of a lovely cool breeze. It was so cool that George positioned himself to be in the sun just to stay warm.

We sailed 28.5 nautical miles and dropped our anchor in San Domingo creek, the "back door" to St. Michaels.

St. Michaels is a busy, popular tourist town on the Eastern shore of Maryland. From San Domingo creek we can take our dinghy and tie up to a bulkhead next to a dock used by the watermen.

From there we can walk about 1/2 mile into town and avoid the summertime craziness of the Miles River and town harbor. After a peaceful night and morning in the anchorage we took the dinghy to the dock and walked into town.

We spent a few hours walking around and looking in the shops before celebrating the end of radiation with dinner at 208 Talbot, a very nice restaurant in St. Michaels. We returned to the boat for another night in San Domingo Creek and watched the moon rise as the sun set. The reflection in the water was just beautiful.

The next day we had a decision to make; sail north to Annapolis or south to the Little Choptank. The wind was more favorable for sailing north but we didn't want to fight the weekend crowd in Annapolis so we opted to sail south to the Little Choptank. We were sailing upwind and had to tack almost the entire distance but it was still a lovely day of sailing. We knew we were going to be using our inflatable dinghy again so we opted to travel with it on the deck rather than deflate it and put it in our storage "garage". It was quite a challenge for me to see over it, though. I had to stand on a stool to see where I was going.

We dropped our anchor in Madison Bay and found that we were the only boat anchored in this large bay. We made arrangements for our friends, Dawn and Ray, to meet us at the boat ramp and they would drove us to the Island Grill restaurant on Taylor's Island. We don't normally eat out when we are traveling on Breeze On but I still felt like celebrating the end of my radiation treatments! We had a great meal with great friends and dinghied back to Breeze On in the dark.

The wind the next day was again surprisingly good for the sail back to the Choptank River. For a time it seemed as if we were all alone on the Chesapeake Bay.

We took advantage of the good wind by sailing all the way to the anchorage closest to our home, LaTrappe Creek. Even though it is the closest it is also one of the nicest.

Our five day freedom cruise was a thoroughly enjoyable celebration. One final note, (TMI alert), we used our new composting head and really like it.