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~ A Cut Above ~

Course Advanced Coastal Cruising; DELMARVA Circumnavigation
Date July 9-16, 2012
Students: Pam Galasso, Scott Hanson, John Jacobson, Theo Wolfensberger 
Captain: Steve Runals

Arrival Day, Sun 8 July
All students arrive by late afternoon except for Pam who is attending a memorial service for her Mom. After introductions, stowing gear and initial boat orientation, we head out for dinner at Watermen Crab House to discuss cruise requirements, get to know each other and begin the planning process.  After dinner we return to the boat to continue our initial planning which results in a general cruise and associated menu plan. 

Day 1: Mon
Pam arrives with the last of the overnight rains, which also brings much cooler temperatures.  After stowing her gear, we review and finalize the cruise planning and our meal plan.  Following a review of the ASA course requirements, Pam, Jake and the Captain head off to the market for provisions while Theo and Scott check out boat systems and find USCG required safety equipment.  Scott has been aboard for two other cruises so is a big help in completing the equipment inventory.  After stowing our provisions, we begin our boat and systems orientation outside.  We check out all rigging, rig the storm tri-sail, rig and hoist the spinnaker, review sheet/line handling and winch operation.  Following lunch, we review the Offshore Training Cruises Prep Guide, discuss safety issues, coastal navigation procedures and begin the detailed planning required for our trip north.  Dinner provides a welcome break and an opportunity to continue to get to know each other.  Following dinner, it’s back to finalizing our cruise planning and an early bed time after a long but satisfying day. 

Day 2: Tues
Current calculations in the Bay and C&D Canal, a major factor in our navigation planning, call for a departure at 0700.  After an early breakfast, we are nearly ready except for a review of undocking maneuvers. Jake takes us out of the slip and into the Bay where we find the forecast light wind. We rotate crew positions and practice taking two-bearing and running fixes to confirm location under the watchful eye of Theo, our navigator for the day, as we motor sail up the Bay.  Along the way we execute MOB under power, which gives all hands an opportunity to get familiar with maneuvering this large vessel.  We get some relief from the heat under increasingly cloudy skies, which fortunately only threaten rain.  Our timing of the flood current gives us a big lift and we pass Chesapeake City doing 7.2 knots over ground.  We are docked at Summit North Marina in the middle of the C&D Canal by 1530 where we secure the boat, take showers and start preparations for our trip south and return to the Chesapeake Bay.  A cool evening allows us to enjoy an excellent dinner outside at the Aqua Sol Restaurant where we discuss the day’s events and opportunities ahead.  Following dinner, we carefully study the current table for the Delaware River and Bay and decide to make an early departure to maximize the lift the ebb current will provide down the Bay.  A departure of 0430 calls for an early bedtime after the long day. 

Day 3: Wed
Another early day. Per current calculations, we are prepared to cast off at 0430.  Just as we are ready to secure our lines, we hear the noise and soon see the lights of a train that is crossing the Summit North RR Bridge – the only bridge that we can’t sail under when it's in the down position as when a train is crossing.  After a short time, we call the bridge tender on VHF 13 to confirm that the bridge is now open.  Careful piloting in the windless darkness allows us to safely work our way back into the Canal.  Scott makes a great egg omelet breakfast as we motor along into a beautiful sunrise.  Shortly before exiting the Canal, a large car carrier enters the Canal from the Delaware River; we pass ever so close together.  We exit the Canal at Reedy Point with the last of the flood current. While this timing means fighting an opposing flood current for an hour, it means that we will be riding a favorable ebb current for about six hours down the Bay, expecting to arrive at the mouth of the Delaware Bay shortly before slack tide.  Once in the Delaware River we again find light wind and the forecast flood tide that initially slows our progress, but once it begins to ebb, we “fly” down the Bay at over 7+ knots.  Underway, we discuss a range of ASA106 topics, review watch standing procedures, navigation rules including lights on vessels at night, and the captain’s standing orders as we keep track of our progress and monitor the ship traffic moving around us.  By late afternoon we near the mouth of the Bay and have enough wind to sail for several hours on a close hauled course in 10-12 knot winds. We also find we are fighting a flood current.  The combination of current opposing the wind makes for a bumpy ride, which has a decidedly adverse impact on three of the crew.  Scott and the Captain make dinner, which while excellent, does not sit too well with the remainder of the crew who bravely “sailor on” while making preparations for their evening watches.  After dark the wind again drops and we motor south in lumpy seas.   

Day 4: Thurs
Watches pass without much action.  We are passed by a few vessels, and on several occasions contact them by VHF to clarify passing intentions.  As the sun comes up so does a fair 10-14 knot NE wind.  We are able to sail for hours with our sails in a wing-on-wing configuration – such a nice ride that allows all but one of the crew to recover from their motion sickness. By late afternoon the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay emerges from the haze.  We consult our tidal current tables to find we will be able to take advantage of a strong flood current. We adjust our course to maximize this extra lift and pass underneath the twin bridges at the North Channel doing 7+ knots over ground.  As we pass under the first of the two bridges, a large menhaden fishing ship passes us going the other way – another close encounter of, in this case, “the fishy kind”.  We enter the Bay and are immediately greeted by several pods of playful dolphins.  We adjust our course to take us along the inside passage to Cape Charles with its new town harbor docks and the promise of showers. Scott expertly brings us into the slip under very challenging conditions.  After securing and washing down the boat, we take welcomed showers and walk into town for dinner at the Pub.  It’s a beautiful, cool evening made even more enjoyable after our successful overnight offshore passage.   Cape Charles is always an interesting stop.  Across from us is a boat from Sydney on its second circumnavigation spending a few weeks here to ready for the next leg of their trip.  

Day 5-6: Fri/Sat
Today we sleep in, some have breakfast at the Coffee House Restaurant, all stretch our legs doing a little sightseeing, finish cleaning the boat and prepare for the next leg toward home.  The forecast is for more light wind and hot temperatures so we decide to make a night passage up the Bay to St Michaels where we can again take advantage of shore power and A/C.  After a review of ASA course materials, we are ready to depart by 1130. Jake takes us out of the slip and into the Bay where we find so little wind we can’t even fly the spinnaker.  We spend our time during the slow motor sail north tracking our progress by taking fixes and matching current table predictions with actual current flow.  We encounter limited boat traffic until dark and pass Smith Pt and the Potomac River.  Traffic increases thru the night as we head north.  A steady stream of fishing boats, recreational power boats, large commercial vessels, tugs and barges and a very surprising number of sailboats make each watch a study in light identification.  We later learn the surprising numbers of sailboats – we count over 30 – are all part of the Severn to Patuxent River overnight race; 150 boats broken into 13 classes.  Light rain comes with daylight as we head up Eastern Bay enroute to St Michaels.  Half way up the Bay, our light rain turns into a major T-storm with high winds, heavy rain and zero visibility.  We are able to quickly get the mainsail reefed but find the roller furling headsail jammed.  We tack, then heave-to to finally get the sail under control just as the winds drop and rain clears.  With the excitement over, we round Tilghman Pt and head down to St Michaels where we are able to get the last available slip at the St Michaels Marina.  Pam brings us into our slip and by noon we have lines secured, A/C operating and the boat cleaned up.  Rain and very hot weather provide a backdrop for taking showers, exploring the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, catching up on sleep and studying.  Dinner ashore and an early bedtime close out this very full day.  

Day 7: Sun
Another early departure.  Our original plan was to spend the night on a mooring in Annapolis but the forecast lack of wind and high temperatures dictate a change of plans.  Theo gets us out of our slip and underway to Annapolis. On the way out of the harbor we have the opportunity to check the accuracy of the depth gauge.  We motor sail up the Bay to Tilghman Pt, round Red 4 and sail down Eastern Bay toward Bloody Point; far less exciting than the day before.  Once in the Bay, we hoist and sail under CELESTIAL’s huge spinnaker until the wind dies away.  We motor sail into Eastport’s very busy Back Creek to refuel, pump out and drop off Pam.  Theo and Scott do a great job of avoiding other boats and getting us onto and then off the fuel dock.  We continue north under motor power until clear of the harbor and crab pot floats when we are able to sail north on a broad reach. Once under the Bay Bridge, we are again able to fly the spinnaker until a darkening sky and warnings of sever T-storms cause us to drop sails and motor on to Osprey Pt Marina where by 1700 we can take advantage of shore power, wash down the boat, take welcomed showers and head off to Bay Wolf for a well-earned dinner. 

Day 8: Mon 
Our final day starts with a focused effort to finish boat cleanup.  Once complete, Jake, Theo and Scott take and easily pass the ASA106 test.  By noon all is complete and we say our farewells.  It’s been a great trip despite the heat and light wind.  All agree they learned more than expected and set their appetites for more – maybe even a trip to the Caribbean with CELESTIAL in the winter.  Hearty farewells bring this cruise to a close for a crew of accomplished mariners.  Great job by all! 

Captain Steve Runals
On board CELESTIAL, July 21, 2012
Osprey Point Marina, Rock Hall, MD

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