2015 Chesapeake Bay Cruise

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ASA104 Intermediate Coastal Cruising Course


August 9-13, 2015




Alex Fleming, Tim Sites, Stephen Tierney


H. Jochen Hoffmann

Sunday, August 9, 2015
My student crew - some hailing from as far away as the Texas coast or mile-high Colorado – has serious, long-range plans for their intended lives on the water. They are eager participants in our startup activities: meal planning/provisioning, dinghy and outboard operation in the harbor, line and winch handling, boat systems check, and navigation planning. Once lines are dropped, and with a needed practice spot available, we begin with the most challenging of all anchoring exercises – the Mediterranean Mooring. No surprise, that one requires practice in good communication and execution. After that much hard work, navigating to our first anchorage, Queenstown Creek, is downright relaxing. So is our dinner of chicken salad washed down with a cold drink.

Day Two
The crew is taking turns looking up times of high/low water in the NOAA Tide Tables, 2015. Then, we navigate out of the narrow Queenstown Creek Channel to gain sea room to be able to focus on underway safety, including man overboard evolutions (MOB) that include utilizing such critical elements as the electronic MOB button on our Chart Plotter and deployment of the Life Sling device. Unusual for this time of year, we encounter thick haze and fog mixed with sheets of rain and wind gusts. My crew concludes that navigation lights are called for.  In this restricted visibility, time-speed-distance calculations help us to locate the buoys in Alexander’s navigation plan. Fortunately, his plan also includes a measured latitude/longitude waypoint at 39º03.75' North; 076º16.52' West as a safe turning mark into the Bay that keeps us well off Love Point Shoal at the mouth of the Chester River. To achieve the safe turn, he monitors the GPS read-out screen and asks for course adjustments to get us onto the proper longitude. He then requests a course change toward Annapolis once we have reached our waypoint latitude. A spirited, albeit wet, leg toward the Severn River follows.  Once there and the main sail is doused, we are virtually pulled downwind to the Annapolis mooring field by our billowing Genoa. We learn to tie up properly, catch a water taxi into Ego Alley for showers ashore, and enjoy Virgin Island drinks and dinner at Pusser’s Virgin-Island-themed Restaurant.

Day Three
It’s a busy training day.  First come engineering and troubleshooting topics. Those are followed by VHF communication, chart interpretation, and DR plotting conventions, including conversions from compass heading to True or geographic north and vice versa. After dropping our mooring and pumping out at the Annapolis City Marina, my crew learns to find the entrance mark to Back Creek by depth sounder alone, namely finding and staying on a charted depth contour, until the mark is but a boat length away. We practice setting and retrieving two anchors off the bow before we set all sail and follow Steve’s navigation plan to the West River. Just short of Pirate’s Cove Marina, the crew arranges overnight docking and Steve completes our slip docking without a hitch. Showers in the marina are most welcome, then a rest period followed by a tasty seafood dinner ashore.

Day Four
It’s our best sailing day yet: Wind WNW 15 knots on our port quarter, clear blue sky. Led by Tim, students have laid out a DR (Deduced Reckoning) track of 143º True (132º psc) to Eastern Bay. Using cruising-level log keeping conventions, the crew collaborates in recording hourly weather observations plus status indicators concerning the boat and its systems. We use VHF Channel 13 to hail a tug and tow on a collision course. Although we, as a sailboat, are the stand-on vessel, we recognize the challenge in towing/maneuvering a heavy load and tell the tug captain that we’ll fall off to achieve safe passage. Tim, utilizing Chart No. 12270, Chesapeake Bay, Eastern Bay to South River, is applying his new navigation skills to advantage. He chooses as his turning-mark up Eastern Bay our arrival at a 60’ depth contour off Kent Point when buoy G “1E” Fl G 4s is about ½ mile distant at a bearing of 90º relative to our port bow. Wow! From here his DR track is 062º True before we turn south again to St. Michaels. We pass a graceful, wooden Skipjack under full sail and dock at the Crab Claw Restaurant for a late lunch. Later, at anchor in secluded Tilghman Creek, my well prepared crew takes the ASA104 test (all pass) and enjoys a Kielbasa dinner prepared by Stephen.

Day Five
On our last day, we will be crossing through the Kent Narrows Bridge channel, a two-leaf Bascule Bridge, Horizontal Clearance 48 ft., Vertical Clearance 18 ft. (closed) connecting Prospect Bay and the Chester River. Stephen has asked to have that crossing experience as helmsman since he will be chartering an Island Packet very shortly. Using again Chart 12270, he has worked out a very good navigation plan that includes a latitude/longitude waypoint East of Tilghman Point at 38º51.33' North; 076º14.66' West where we’ll make our turn to 353º True to G “1P” Fl G 4s East of Parsons Island. Alex and Tim have marked the eastern edges of Tilghman Point and Parsons Island to take a range bearing fix once both eastern edges come into view. Their fix results into a good EP (Estimated Position) as they also monitor our GPS read out to signal arrival at Stephen’s waypoint and our turning mark. Once near the Bridge, the crew hails the Bridge Tender on VHF-Channel 13 to discuss the next opening and safe passage. Once through the Bridge, Tim as navigator, uses a time/speed/distance calculation to keep us clear of an extended shoal. The sail up Chester River is uneventful. We pump out, fuel up and put the good ship AcaDame safely back in her slip.

My Shipmates are ready for extended cruising. They have done well. Your captain thanks you.

Fair Winds, always.

Captain H. Jochen Hoffmann
On board S/V ACADAME
Rock Hall, Maryland




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