Down to Solomons Island via a Submarine encounter 38:19.87N 76:27.54W

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Sat 24 Oct 2009 17:43

We are back in Solomons Island some 20 miles further down the Chesapeake, but now on the western shore. It's our fourth visit here but then Solomons is exactly half way up the Chesapeake, conveniently placed for some provisioning. The wifi is good most of the time but most importantly it's very protected from bad weather which is what we have now for the next few days.

We had a good run down the Choptank River from La Trappe Creek where we were kept awake a good part of the night with honking geese. In fact this morning some 100 geese paddled nonchalantly past Ajaya all in a line. We left at 0800 as most of the geese did too.  We motored out of the creek - they flew!
  La Trappe Creek a beautiful anchorage in rural surroundings                                         An autumnal sunrise at La Trappe Creek - bad weather on the way                                  
Once into the Bay we headed down the eastern shore on the edge of the shipping lane. The VHF transmissions on 16 indicated the approach of a coastguard cutter escorting a submarine up the Chesapeake - presumably heading to Annapolis. With an enforceable 500 yard exclusion zone demanded around the sub the white hulled cutter was weaving from one side to the other ahead of its charge - powering forward to apprehend any small boats in its way, which were being ordered to stop immediately or make a course change with the threat of severe action if they did not. We listened intently, not wishing to interfere in any way with the US Navy or its escorts. Then, emerging from the murk, was the submarine, or its conning tower which was all that was visible. With a 600 ft long barge and tug some 2 miles abeam of us heading south we opted to make a course change to take us inshore into shallow water. We turned 40 degrees to port and headed for land. A few minutes later the cutter was approaching us at speed. Then we got the VHF call advising us of the exclusion zone. I explained in best British English that we had in fact made a 40 degree change of course which seemed to satisfy their immediate thirst for avoiding action. But we took yet another 20 degrees off the course for good measure. The sub was moving quite quickly through the water and as it passed some smaller armed escorts with flashing blue lights were buzzing round to ensure no attack was made on the submarine's rear flank. We were now heading straight to shore at 6 knots. The coastguard seemed satisfied with our avoidance action as the procession moved on up the bay. Whether we were eventually the required 500 yards we wouldn't like to call for an adjudicator - but it was close. For the next hour we could hear the sounds of pleasure craft being ordered out of the way with the relevant dire consequences reiterated if not, quite plainly putting the wind up some poor boaters out for the day!
 We did end up rather closer than we intended !
After our helping of drama for the day we arrived in Solomons to find many cruisers already anchored. Once again it took a good hour or so to find a spot especially as the wind was predicted to box the compass over the next few days. Just as the Canadians we'd seen in Annapolis arrived to stake claims for space we plonked the anchor down and dug it in double quick before more boats arrived. It's getting busy in these parts!