Cruising through VA offered enjoyable familiar sights and remembered runs to catch bridges with strange (and inconvenient) opening times. Passing through the first of hundreds of locks on this trip (at Great Bridge) took us on to the industrial outskirts of Norfolk… and after a night at Ocean Marine, very nice (new to us) marina in Portsmouth, we headed out the Elizabeth River, past the naval shipyards, and into Chesapeake Bay. We have had great weather since leaving Tanya’s, and it continued as we headed northward on the big Bay through our traditional stop at Deltaville and then on to Spring Cove Marina up the Patuxent River in Solomons, MD. We stopped for two nights to rest and do laundry and arrived just in time for the marina’s annual open house, a festivity filled with people, good food, and friendly company. We also got Sojourner’s USCG inspection completed so we are officially safe to continue on our journey!
In contrast to earlier trips (July 2009, October 2009, July 2010, October 2010), we encountered no sailing regattas nor any crabber convoys along our Chesapeake cruise. However, we did meet a new (to us) kind of boater in the waters of Maryland who left a lasting impression. Evidently, our entry into the Maryland Chesapeake coincided with the first BIG Rock Fish tournament of the season- and the Bay swarmed with contestants! Dealing with hundreds of small fishing boats is a reality of Chesapeake cruising, at least on the weekends, so the boats and their numbers weren’t totally unexpected. It was striking, however, that to a boat, all the fishing vessels were decked out with between 5-25 poles, all adorned with BRIGHT chartreuse flies. But what really caught our attention and kept it for two solid days of cruising, were the “wings” all boats dragged some 100-200 yards behind them. The brightly colored ones popped in the water so we had a chance of seeing them, but many were dingy white or moldy green and thus, virtually invisible. We came to assume every boat was “draggin,’ ” and then the challenge was to calculate where the wings were hiding in the water and how best to avoid them without having to alter course and/or speed completely. Despite our diligent and best efforts, we were not totally successful. Two boats along the way yelled at us!! For what, we aren’t sure, given they both had meandered directly across our bow without even looking up, much less changing their course or speed to avoid a mishap- Perhaps when they finally came to, seeing us close and looming startled them… and that, of course, was our fault!!
Carolyn has this nifty new iPhone app that provides all kinds of fascinating information about the commercial ships with whom we share the waterway. It is the equivalent of an AIS ( automatic [vessel] identification system), without the cost and all that wiring! AIS is the rage among some sectors of the cruising community, and many boats like ours now have one. We figure giving the name, size, weight, etc. of Sojourner to every passing freighter just clogs their screen and database, but it is very useful for us to know something about these big boats. So we now know that freighters like the one in the picture, typical of those we pass on the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, are about 900 ft. long and 150 ft. wide; they weigh some 155,000 tons, have drafts around 48 ft.; and they cruise at 10-12 knots. In contrast, Sojourner is 40 ft. long and 15 ft. wide; she weighs less than 20 tons, has a draft of less than 5 ft. and cruises between 7-8 knots. Being alerted to the presence, name, relative size and perhaps even destination of commercial vessels will be very useful information the inland waterways, especially on the curving rivers where we have encountered big barges and tows unexpectedly as we cruise around corners!
From the Solomons, we crossed over the Chesapeake to try out Rock Hall, a well-known recreational and fishing port on Maryland’s eastern shore. A delightful little spot, we had a good stay and Carolyn had great crab cakes!! Susan decided to try the Rock Fish given that its existence was new to us, AND it is now seared in our memories. A nice, firm, mild white fish but perhaps not worth all the stir trying to catch it created on the Bay.
Other than our day on the Mississippi just after the early summer floods of 2008, we experienced our best cruising day ever in terms of water and current on the trip from Rock Hall MD through the Elk River at the head of Chesapeake Bay to the C&D Canal, which, obviously, connects the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. We seemed to have the current all day, so we cruised at 10+ knots burning between 4-5 gals/hr. instead of our usual optimum which is 7-8 knots @ 4 gals/hr. That extra speed helped get us to Delaware City, DE at the far end of the C&D Canal at high tide, and we cruised right into the town’s narrow lil’ canal and down to the marina’s 4 long face docks without incident., despite the hefty current on our stern and a 15 kt. wind on our bow. Once arrived, the dock crew turned Sojourner around and here we sit, 3 days later waiting for a weather window to run the length of Delaware Bay (north to south) and across to Cape May, NJ where we will begin three days of cruising out in the Atlantic Ocean along the Jersey shore to New York City!