2012 Chesapeake Bay Cruise

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ASA104 Intermediate Coastal Cruising; Norfolk-Rock Hall 


June 17-22, 2012




Robin Davidov, Chris Lerbs, Jonathan Brewster


Steve Runals

Jun 16, Saturday: Arrivals:
Chris and Robin arrive early afternoon and start the inventory of onboard supplies and begin initial cruise and meal planning.  These are finalized with JB over dinner at the Surf Rider.  JB took the ASA 104 course with the Captain a few years ago, but on a smaller boat, and wants some big boat experience.  Robin and Chris are looking to move aboard a boat of their own in the near future and want to spend some time living aboard and refining sailing skills. We review the ASA course requirements and conduct an initial boat systems orientation before turning in for the night. 

Day 1 – Jun 17, Sunday: Review of Ships Systems, Rules of Road, Boat Handling, Cape Charles:
We start the day with breakfast on board and finalize our meal plan.  Robin and Chris head off to Farm Fresh for provisions while JB and the Captain bend on a main sail.  During the just completed ASA 108 course from Bermuda, the roller furling main broke making it difficult to reef the sail.  Our trip north will require us to hoist a smaller main sail each day to give us the required sail area.  While we will not have the ability to reef the sail, the smaller sail area and forecast light winds will allow effective sailing. After stowing provisions, we review Federal boating safety requirements, Rules of the Road, buoy systems and coastal navigation procedures and techniques.  The crew then spends time giving the boat a thorough inspection – inside and out, getting acquainted with ship’s systems and operations, and proper safety procedures. 

After lunch, we review procedures for maneuvering under power and use of the bow thruster. Robin, our navigator for today, describes our course to Cape Charles and potential hazards along the way.  The Captain takes us out of the slip to the fuel dock to top off fuel.  Chris then gets us off the dock, past the security at the entrance to the Little Creek Amphibious Base and out into the Chesapeake Bay. We find NE winds at 12-18 knots giving us taste of hoisting the main in windy and choppy conditions and an opportunity for a fine sail close hauled across the Thimble Shoals shipping lanes.  Along the way Robin experiences one of the real joys of sailing a boat in choppy conditions but recovers well.   

Late afternoon finds us off the entrance to Cape Charles Harbor.  As we follow the ranges to help keep us in the channel, we have a rare treat of seeing the tall ship KALMAR NYCKEL (a recreation of the 1638 Swedish ship that brought the first settlers to Delaware) under sail silhouetted against the setting sun – beautiful. Chris brings us easily into a slip on the new floating docks at the Town Harbor Marina where we secure the boat.  The crew enjoys a well-earned dinner at the new dockside restaurant, Shanty,  and watch as the KALMAR NYCKEL docks close by.  After dinner we get a close look at this beautiful education ship, talk with some of the crew and take advantage of the new shower facility before JB lays out the course for tomorrow and we turn in.  Cape Charles was once the hub of a busy ferry service to and from Norfolk with both passenger and rail traffic from 1933 thru the early 1950’s.  Lots of potential for development here but things are moving slowly – the new docks, restaurant and showers are a great step forward.        

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Day 2 – Jun 18, Monday: Up and Away …. Across the Bay:
Depart Cape Charles after a review of daily pre-ops check procedures.  Robin, Captain for the day, takes us smoothly out of the slip and into the fairway.  We bend on the main sail underway but the light wind gives us no chance to take advantage of it as we head north. JB, as navigator, tracks our slow but steady progress by taking several two bearing and a running fix. Along the way the USCG Bark EAGLE, a tall ship returning from Baltimore and headed to Boston, passes close by.  The wind stays light, and as we pass the Rappahannock River Light, we have some light rain showers. 

By late afternoon we are at the entrance to the Great Wicomico River and follow the channel to a quiet and secure anchorage in Mill Creek.  Along the way all eyes are alert for crab pot floats, fish traps and shallow water.   Anchor down and boat secure by 1700 hours, followed by refreshments and then dinner in the cockpit under clearing skies. We have the anchorage all to ourselves, a perfect night; a light, cool breeze provides a beautiful finish to the long day. Before turning in, Chris lays out our course for tomorrow – 45 miles north to Solomon’s Island off the Patuxent River.   

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Day 3 – Jun 19, Tuesday: North …. always North:
Depart Mill Creek under clear skies, and held a detailed review of the engine operation systems. A beautiful day but no wind forecast. Once clear of the Great Wicomico Light and numerous crab pot floats and fish traps, we turn north, round the Smith Point Light and have an uneventful crossing of the Potomac River.  The long, increasingly hot motor sail north gives us the opportunity to gain much appreciated hands-on experience in using AIS (Automated Identification System) and radar to monitor a constantly changing array of sail, power and commercial shipping as it moves around us. It also provides the opportunity to review a range of ASA 104 subjects in detail. Chris tracks our progress by taking two-bearing and several running fixes along the way.  Into Solomon’s and secure at Colvert Marina by 1800.  

After securing the boat, we are invited to an informal dock party by the crews from boats already at the dock. This turns into a great time to hear cruising stories by folks who have been cruising for many years, including a crew from Belgium with a beautifully restored trawler and intriguing cruising plans. During the day we have discovered the automatic bilge pump is not working so JB and Captain get their heads into the bilge and hands dirty working to correct the problem. The phrase “cruising is working on your boat in exotic places” comes to mind. Not sure Solomon’s is an exotic place but... After several attempts at a solution, we get it running with help from Robin as Chris provides encouragement from the galley as he prepares dinner. The day has been hot, the dockside AC welcome, and dinner superb.  

After dinner we take advantage of refreshing dockside showers before planning our trip north.  The forecast calls for light winds and very hot temperatures so we decide to get underway tomorrow before sun up to take advantage of the cooler air. After dark it finally cools down, turning into a very pleasant night.    

Day 4 – Jun 20, Wednesday: North, …always North:
Depart our slip by 0530 and are greeted by a beautiful sunrise as we work our way through numerous crab pot floats and fish traps. The wind builds at times to the point we attempt sailing, but each time it quickly dies away under an increasingly hot, sunny sky.  Our plans call for a stop at St Michaels but after an updated weather forecast calling for extremely hot and windless conditions, we decide to press on to Annapolis for the night.   Along the way we work tide and current calculations using NOAA references and compare them to solutions from our smart phone apps.  Not surprised, there are some differences.  

As we near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge we notice an odd shaped vessel approach the bridge.  We later learn it’s a Chinese ship bringing new, larger cranes to the port of Baltimore required as result of expanding capabilities in the Panama Canal.  As we enter the Annapolis Harbor, a light breeze finally arrives, and we are greeted by a beehive of sailing activity – lots of sailing classes underway from youth to adult, a great sight to see even on this very hot afternoon.  Chris weaves us thru this constantly moving mass of fiberglass and sail to easily pick a mooring in the inner harbor.  

After securing the boat, we take some time to catch up on sleep before heading ashore for showers and dinner at Pussers where we review the trip and enjoy the sights and sounds of a still very active inner harbor. Back aboard, we arrive in time to be surrounded by the Wednesday night racing fleet sailing thru the moorings as they head to the finish line. A great opportunity to see some fine, and not so fine, boat handling.  After the excitement ends, we settle in for a quiet evening and try to stay cool in the still very hot and humid weather.  The forecast for tomorrow again calls for very hot and windless conditions... one can always hope.            

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Day 5 – Jun 21, Thursday:  Home and Relief ….. from the Heat
The plan for today is to refuel and pump out the boat here in Annapolis before heading up to Rock Hall; forecast - light winds, hot temperatures and possible afternoon T-storms (sounds more like August). After breakfast, pre-ops checks and a course overview, we slip our mooring and head over to the fuel dock. After all the activity in the harbor yesterday, it seems strangely quiet. Robin and crew bring us smoothly alongside the fuel dock where we secure the boat, refuel and pump out without incident, all tasks that are a necessary part of successful cruising.  

Back underway, JB directs us out of the harbor, thru a maze of crab pots and into the main channel.  Hot, haze and light wind characterize our final trip north. As we near the Bay Bridge, we monitor the path of an approaching tug and barge on AIS and call to clarify his intentions on VHF channel 13.  As we near the approach channel to Rock Hall, a light breeze picks and we are able to finally turn off the motor and do a little sailing – a nice change that includes raising and using CELESTIAL’s huge spinnaker. The breeze is short lived; we secure sails and complete our cruise under power. Robin and JB guide us carefully up the Swan Creek channel to the Osprey Point Marina where Robin, with the help of ready crew, surprises herself by how easily she is able to put us into the slip. 

After securing the boat, the crew requests that because of the extreme heat, boat wash down be delayed till tomorrow AM.  The Captain relents and after securing boat and personal equipment, we spend the afternoon reviewing course material and trying to stay cool.  Dinner in the cool of the Bay Wolf restaurant provides a great venue to review the events of the past week and talk of future plans. 

Day 6 – Jun 22, Fri: Clean Up and Prepare for Departure and New Adventures
Up early and boat clean up completed before the temperatures again become almost prohibitive.  Robin and Chris take and easily pass the ASA106 test while JB helps the Captain by running an errand to a nearby marina.  All secure and ready to depart by 1100.  On the way out of the marina we have a chance to talk briefly with Tom Tursi who has come to assess maintenance requirements and supervise some initial work.  All agree it has been a great trip despite the lack of wind and hot temperatures.   It did have one potentially “negative” implication – it wetted the crew’s appetites for more.  Well done to a great crew! 

And thanks to Chris Lerbs for the additional picture and video gallery from the cruise.

Captain Steve Runals
aboard IP-44 CELESTIAL
Osprey Point Marina
Jun 24, 2012


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