Part I …
Labor Day always seems miss-named. After all, it’s an occasion to take a break and spend some time doing things we enjoy – away from the routines of work. Such was the promise of my yacht club’s ‘No Labor Day’ cruise. This weekend is a traditional time for many sailing clubs to take 3-day or longer cruises. Both of my clubs, Singles on Sailboats and Chesapeake Catalina Yacht Club planned such cruises. I chose to take the longer of the two and headed off with CCYC and 8 to 14 other boats depending on the day.
The float plan began at an anchorage in the Rhode River near Camp Letts – a spot I visited just two weeks ago. From there we sail to San Domingo Creek (back door to St Michaels), then Baby Owl Cove and Knapp’s Narrows Marina on Monday the 3rd. Other CCYC boats are cruising the northern part of the Bay, and I plan to connect with them mid-cruise and head home Sunday the 8th.
Friday noon – arrived at Rhode River anchorage after a great sail down. Made record time under sail to Thomas Point. Had 6-10kts of wind just astern on starboard side, and a favorable tide flowing. The tide added up to 1kt of speed over the ground giving a steady 5.5 – 6.5kts all the way. Turning into the Rhode put tide and wind on the nose, so motored up the river and set an anchor to wait for the other CCYC boats.
Always admire this duck blind as you turn up the creek.
By late afternoon 5 other boats had arrived for good company.
Once again the weather forecasters missed the mark. They got the wind direction (north) right, but the predicted 5-6kts turned out to be 10-15kts. A pleasant surprise and a fast sail down Bay and up the Choptank River! It was close to a beam reach all the way. That and an outgoing tide made for 5 to 7kts boat speed – pretty good for this boat dragging a dingy J Played tag with a tug and tow crossing the main channel, but not a close call.
The anchorage at San Domingo is nicely sheltered and was not crowded despite the holiday weekend. Our now 9 boats rafted in small pods, enjoyed a swim and gathered together on one of the rafts for an excellent meal prepared by one of the couples.
Learned a lesson about verifying destination before setting out. With overcast and storm threatening it was especially dark. Having left anchor light on and a small stern light, I thought finding Valinor in the dark would be no problem – wrong. After circling a bit and approaching the wrong boat, I headed back to the raft to get a flood light and re-start. With a bit of re-orienting – a wind shift had changed all the boat positions – got back on board. Radar was showing an approaching storm, and it arrived about 11pm with prolific lightening and intermittent heavy rain. Fortunately the worst went south of us and there were no strong winds to challenge anchors. By 1am all was quiet and time to go back to sleep.
Waking up on the Bay does not require an alarm clock. Every morning begins with ‘goose music’. About 6:30 you can count on multiple, large flocks of geese honking their way to feeding grounds – a friendly, if noisy way to start the day J
Two nights in San Domingo Creek was a pleasant stay. It was group consensus to pass on Knapp’s Narrows’s marina. Weather was threatening and we were down to only three boats, so headed out early about 8:30. It was a fast broad reach down the Choptank River then downwind coming up the Bay until first the wind died, and then the squall blew through.
What looks calm in this picture quickly became turbulent – sorry no pix, too busy!
Winds steady at 18-20 gusting to 25kts made for an exciting ride. As the waves built to three feet from behind, it was clear a full main sail was too much. At first lull in the wind I made a quick 180 turn into the wind and dropped the sail. Clearly the better option would have been to fly the headsail which can be easily furled – next time.
Made it back to home slip without major incidents, though I did have to wind through an ongoing race making every attempt to not interfere with any of the racers. A pretty sight to see all the colorful spinnakers flying.
Now to decide if/where to sail for the rest of the week…………see Part II later