2016 Chesapeake Bay Cruise

Course Descriptions
School Yachts
Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
ASA Certification
Registration Info
Our Location
Our People
Contact Us


ASA104 Intermediate Coastal Cruising Course


June 18- 24, 2016  


 S/V Navigator   IP40


Greg Behunin, Ney Flores, Charlie Rodriguez


Steve Runals

Jun 17, Fri: Arrivals: 
Captain Tom Tursi and his long delayed ocean crew returned from Bermuda early Friday morning aboard S/V
Navigator.  The passage, marked by contrary winds, found the crew tired but Navigator in good overall condition from its 1500 nm round trip.  After the crew cleared customs and departed, Tom and I replace both toilets with new ones and finish cleaning the boat.  

Charlie arrived as we were in the final stages of cleaning but once we complete our work and Tom departed for a well-earned shower and rest, Charlie helps inventory onboard supplies.  Ney is scheduled to arrive later this evening so Charlie and I develop a draft cruising plan with an initial menu before going to dinner and doing some provisioning.   Ney lets us know that his arrival by train is delayed but should be able to arrive by 2200.  Greg emails to tell us he has missed one of his flights and will not be able to arrive until early afternoon on Sat.  Flexibility is a key aspect of cruise planning and execution so we develop a modified plan for our departure and check with Greg to see if he has any food requests before we drop off to a well-earned rest.     

Day 1 – Jun 18, Sat: Review of Ships Systems, Rules of Road, Boat Handling, Cape Charles: 
We start the day with breakfast and review our cruising and proposed meal plan with Ney.  Ney and Charlie return to the boat to finish stowing their equipment and I make a quick trip to the store to finalize provisioning.  After stowing provisions, we review Federal boating safety requirements, “Rules of the Road”, buoy systems and coastal navigation procedures and techniques.  Ney and Charlie give the boat a thorough inspection – inside and out, getting acquainted with ship’s systems and operations, and proper safety procedures. Ney, our navigator for the day, gets introduced to the art of coastal navigation and lays out our course to Cape Charles. 

After lunch, we complete our departure preparations.  Once Greg arrives, we review safety procedures, discuss our undocking plan, and get a weather update.  The crew has wanted to sail in some high winds; their wish is granted, the forecast calls for NE winds 15-20 with gusts to 25 knots.  I take us out of the slip; once clear of the marina, Charlie takes the wheel getting us past the security at the entrance to the Little Creek Amphibious Base and into the Chesapeake Bay where we find the forecast has indeed lived up to expectations. The wind and waves provide an interesting challenge to getting the main sail up and confirm for the crew that this trip will give them an opportunity to grow in skill and experience. Ney tracks our progress as we head north across the Thimble Shoals shipping channel updating our position as we sail close hauled toward Cape Charles.  We rotate the job of helmsman among the crew, giving each a taste of big boat sailing in these wind and sea conditions.  All are impressed with the way S/V Navigator handles both.    

Late afternoon finds us off the entrance to Cape Charles Harbor and its two ranges or transits.  This is a new experience for the crew; they see the value of ranges as we navigate the narrow channel. Once secure at the dock, the crew enjoys a well-earned dinner ashore; we stretch our legs and give Greg a more detailed orientation of the boat and her systems.  Greg gets his wish to improve his navigation skills by laying out our course to an anchorage in Mobjack Bay’s East River for tomorrow.  After this long day we turn in for a well-earned rest.  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.  Now it’s more “laid back” but a growing center for recreational and commercial boating. 

1.jpg (46687 bytes)

Click to enlarge

2.jpg (59068 bytes)


Day 2 – Sun: Up and Away …. Across the Bay: 
Depart Cape Charles after a review of daily preop check procedures and refueling.   Ney, Captain for the day, takes us smoothly out the channel and into the Bay where we practice MOB under power.  After securing our “tipsy dummy”, we attempt to sail in the dying wind, such a change from yesterday, but end up motor sailing across the Bay.  Along the way the crew has a chance to practice taking two- bearing fixes and plotting positions.  By late afternoon we are approaching the entrance to East River and review the requirements for a safe anchorage and anchoring procedures. It has turned into a nice day with a chance for a beautiful sunset as we anchor just outside the channel.  

Dinner onboard provides an opportunity to learn more about the skills necessary for living aboard. Ney braves the sea nettles and small jellyfish for a short, refreshing swim while Charlie plots our course for the next day - up the Bay to an anchorage in Mill Creek off the Great Wicomico River. He has some questions about the narrow entrance to the anchorage but accepts the challenge to get us there without running aground.  We share our anchorage with a late arriving catamaran that gives us an interesting display of how not to anchor. We have a quiet night under an almost full moon before turning in to get ready for tomorrow’s challenges.  

3.jpg (20830 bytes)

Day 3 –  Mon: North …. always North: 
Today begins our sail north.  Depart our anchorage after a beautiful sunrise.  Yesterday was the crew’s initiation into one of the “joys” of sailing in the Chesapeake – crab pot floats.  As we exit East River and enter Mobjack Bay, we find that despite our best wishes they are still there.  We work our way into the Chesapeake Bay and turn north past the New Point Comfort Light in SE winds 8-15 knots.  It’s great sailing.  Charlie, our navigator, refines the skills he learned during the ASA105 coastal navigation course that he took over the winter as he tracks our progress past a succession of lights. He has spent time determining the tide and current factors that will impact us as the day progresses.  

We initially are able to take advantage of the flood current till we pass the Rappahannock River, then we face an increasingly unfavorable ebb as we proceed north.  By early afternoon the wind has dropped, and with thunderstorms in the forecast, we finish our day’s trip motor sailing.  As we enter the Great Wicomico River, Charlie carefully guides us through the narrow entrance to Mill Creek bordered by crab pots, fish traps and shallows. He has already determined that we will enter the Creek at low tide so a careful watch by all is essential. We anchor in a beautiful, quite spot and enjoy the rest of the afternoon swimming and discussing the day’s events. Dinner onboard and a quiet night without the forecast rain make for a nice rest for all.  

4.jpg (59040 bytes)

Day 4 – Tues: North, …always North:
Today’s destination is Spring Cove Marina at Solomon’s Island off the Patuxent River.  This will require crossing the Potomac River, which in counter winds and current can be quite exciting.  Ney has worked out the state of the current using the NOAA Tidal Current tables and an estimate of the time we will approach the southern side of the river.  If we keep to our planned departure time, we should have a flood current pushed by the forecast SW 10-15 knots of winds – a great combination. We depart on time despite have to coax the anchor off the bottom and head out under an increasingly overcast sky.  

As we are getting set to raise our mainsail, I see a boat approaching from the rear.  My slip neighbor at Ft Monroe who has been out on the water for the past 10 days sails by.  We wave hardy greeting as he heads south toward home and we head north to the Potomac.  Once clear of the now much reduced 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 steady winds allow us to practice sailing wing-on-wing and rigging a whisker pole to maximize the 10 -15 knot SW wind. 

While crossing this artery once so important for our trade and our early history, we consult the cruising guide to help recount some of the information about this important river as we cross its wide mouth.   Lighthouses at Point Lookout and Point No Point provide the opportunity to take two bearing fixes and work on taking a running fix as we track our way north in a dying wind. It also gives us the opportunity to gain much appreciated hands-on experience in using the AIS (Automated Identification System) to monitor a constantly passing array of power and commercial shipping. A look at the sky and an update from the NOAA weather radio indicate that we are in for possible sever showers and thundershowers with hail and damaging high winds so we make best speed under power into the Patuxent River.  Charlie gets us safely into Back Creek by Solomon’s Island and I take the boat into our slip at the marina.  We tie up just as the wind and rain hit.  Fortunately it is short lived so after well-earned showers, we take the courtesy shuttle to the Lighthouse for an excellent dinner.  It’s a nice break from the boat, providing an excellent opportunity to review the events of the day and discuss future cruising plans.  After dinner we use the shuttle to do a little more provisioning and return to the boat to plan tomorrow’s trip north.   

5.jpg (86927 bytes) 6.jpg (73285 bytes) 7.jpg (41334 bytes)

Day 5 – Wed: North, …always North:  
Today our destination is an anchorage in the Rhode River just south of Annapolis.  The forecast calls for NW winds 15-20 with gusts to 25 knots. Greg has laid out a course that takes us clear of the crap pots and fish traps at the mouth of the Patuxent River and the gas offload station by Cove Pt.  Once into the Bay, we have a great close reach for some 27 nm under gusty winds that require us to put in a second reef in our main, reef the genoa and “play” the traveler to keep us balanced and moving well in these gusty conditions.  All take their turn on the helm and sail trim, gaining a good understanding of the importance of matching sail size and trim to the changing wind conditions.  It’s a great ride that all will remember as we see the knot meter showing speeds just short of 9 knots. We take the time to exercise heaving to in these conditions and discuss its use in a variety of situations.  

We enter the West River in dying winds and another forecast for showers and severe thunderstorms.  Greg has a challenge keeping us on course as we weave our way through a broad field of crab pot floats.  Once clear of the pots, we enter the Rhode River and head to an anchorage that Greg has picked out that should be secure in our current NW winds as well as those forecast to back to the S overnight. A few boats join us in this quiet anchorage were discuss the day’s events and enjoy wine and cheese before making dinner followed by a quiet night at anchor.   

8.jpg (51476 bytes) 9.jpg (79046 bytes) 10.jpg (38956 bytes)

Day 6 – Thurs:  Rain, the Test ….. a little exploring  
The plan for today is to sail up to Annapolis and pick up a mooring, take the ASA 104 test and head into town for a shower and a little exploring.  We wake to a steady rain that does not appear to be ending anytime soon.  We modify our plan, deciding to take the test at anchor and then head up to Annapolis.  The change in plans works well.  By the time all have taken and passed the test, the sky has begun to clear.  We complete our preop check and prepare to depart when the fresh water pump fails.  It provides a great opportunity to underscore the need for cruisers to be self-sufficient in many areas with spare parts and the tools to fix a variety of problems. In short order the old pump is out and a replacement installed. 

Raising the anchor again calls for a little encouragement – it was well set – but we are soon on our way through the crab pots and into the Bay.  The winds are light and variable.  We are able to do a little sailing but end up motoring our way around the Thomas Pt Light. The day has cleared nicely and lots of boats are about as we head into the Annapolis mooring field.  Always great to see the range of activity in this busy port – from young kids zipping around to J-World racing classes to paddle boarders and tour boats all competing for the same space. Greg guides us safely through this constantly shifting mass of sail and power to our mooring and Ney and Charlie have us secured to a mooring on the first try.  

Following showers ashore, the crew heads off to visit the Naval Academy, the state capital and water front area before we meet for dinner at Pussers.  It’s always a great show watching the constantly changing activity in the harbor from an outside table there.  While we have missed the Wednesday night races, there is plenty to see.    After returning to the boat, Ney plots our course for tomorrow.  It will require an early departure and after consulting the NOAA tidal current tables, he determines we should have the current with us the entire trip home – a first. Our target is to be at the Love Pt Light by 0800 tomorrow.    

11.jpg (24917 bytes) 12.jpg (33223 bytes)
13.jpg (46356 bytes) 14.jpg (27848 bytes)

Day 7 – Fri: Clean Up and Prepare for Departure and New Adventures 
We are up, preop checks complete and moving as the sun clears the horizon. The forecast calls for light NE winds. Charlie gets us out of the harbor and into the main channel.  As we near the Bay Bridge, we monitor the path of an approaching tug and barge on AIS but will clear without incident. Once past the bridge, the wind picks up and we attempt to sail but even with a flood current, make little progress so we continue motor sailing toward the Love Pt Light and entrance to the Chester River.  Our target time to reach the Light is 0800, which we make with a little time to spare and follow Ney’s course past the Kent Island entrance channel, around the Eastern Neck Island National Wildlife Refuge and back to the familiar waters south of Lankford Creek.  

The wind picks up so we attempt some MOB drills but the wind again turns light. We pass close by the school’s two IP 32’s headed south – all three of the school’s boats out in the same vicinity – a great sight.  As we pass, the crew of Acadame gives Navigator and her crew a welcoming salute.  Navigator  is returning to her home port for the first time since early May with 1500 blue water nm under her keel and our 160 nm covered during the trip up the Bay.  We complete our final tasks of pumping out the holding tank and refueling before returning Navigator to her slip. As we approach the slip, we are hit by a heavy rain shower but secure the boat with only a little delay.  The crew recommends we delay the final cleanup till after lunch and the rain stops so we head into town for a quick lunch before returning to the boat, clean up and final goodbyes. All agree it has been a great trip with lots of new skills learned and all expectations met or exceeded.  Most importantly, it wetted the crew’s appetites for more.  Well done to a great crew!         

15.jpg (35951 bytes)

Captain Steve Runals 
aboard IP-40 S/V Navigator 
Lankford Bay Marina  
Jun 25, 2016



© Copyright The Maryland School of Sailing & Seamanship, Inc., All rights reserved.
Web site design by F. Hayden Designs, Inc.