Back in the Chesapeake

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Wed 1 Sep 2010 15:14
In position 38:59.87N, 76:30.26W
We are on a US Navy buoy in Weems Creek Annapolis having previously anchored in Veasey Cove on the Bohemia River just down from the C&D Canal and last night in Swan Creek in Rock Hall. We have yet to tread on solid ground since last Friday.
After the storm at Point Judith we moved down the coast to Stonington to wash some clothes and buy a few provisions for the trip south to the Chesapeake. We always seem to choose locations where the nearest supermarket is a mile away. This one was 5 miles away and whilst the Admiral was standing watch over the washing machines the owner of the marina kindly lent Phil his GMC Denali which was roughly the size of a Centurion Tank only slightly more intimidating. Although the marina didn't have a courtesy car scheme American hospitality was of a high order at this marina (as were their fuel prices).  After taking 5 minutes to find the radio controls in fear of eardrum damage off went Phil on a 10 mile round trip actually finding the supermarket on vague 'man to man' verbal directions and achieving a successful mission with all requirements met with, of course, a few little 'extras' off the shelf that were not on the list,  i.e sweets and muffins.
Pretty Stonington harbour                                                                                                            
Our voyage from Massachusetts took two and a half days non-stop although much of it was under engine with the sails playing a bit part as a large high pressure system was moving off the coast. This guaranteed settled weather for a few days and not very much wind. What there was by way of moving air was straight in our faces so rather than mess around we used the engines to achieve the desired result to get south. The 'desired result' was to make it to Cape May at the entrance to the Delaware Bay ready for a battle with the elements up the bay but the weather gods were with us for once and not only did we arrive off the entrance to Delaware Bay just as the tide was about to flood up the Bay but we carried the flood all the way up for 50 miles and then through the C&D Canal and into the Chesapeake. Remarkable luck given we had worked the tidal flow in the first place to get us out of Block Island Sound 150 miles away without worrying too much about the arrival timings until we were underway.
Like all voyages there were the usual highs and lows. The highs being (and this is a dubious high given it's proximity) a large whale (Fin or Minke, we're not quite sure) surfacing yards away from the boat scaring the Admiral out of her wits before she ran below to get a camera. With the camera still in its case we both watched as it re-surfaced just behind us, accompanied by a school of dolphins, showing its long back with small aft dorsal fin before it disappeared from view not to be seen again.
Back to playful dolphins - the ones in Maine weren't very friendly
Our old friends the dolphins came back to play at the bows and also, given we were trailing fishing lures for most of the voyage with no luck, we had a large shoal of fish keeping pace with the boat at the bows just like dolphins. So, and here's the daft bit, there is us trailing two fishing lures behind us for miles whilst enough dinner to keep us going for weeks was casually swimming just ahead of us. Even crazier was the sight of Phil taking the fishing rod forward with some mackerel feathers and a spinner and tossing the line as far ahead of the boat as possible amongst the fish. It didn't work. Not one fish deviated from its position in the shoal. They eventually moved on somewhere else where they weren't in any danger of getting accidentally hooked by a mackerel feather or knocked over the head with a lead weight. Can't say we blame them really.
Whilst underway we could tune in to the NOAA weather broadcasts issuing warnings about Hurricane Danielle which was located a few hundred miles offshore and of no danger to us or any other boaters in our area. The warnings were for the surf zone conditions on the coastal beaches as we were already experiencing the long lazy swells emanating from the storm and with Hurricane Earl hot on Danielle's heels the surf would be quite impressive and dangerous to swimmers for quite a few days.
We had to cross the busy New York shipping lanes in the early hours so the Admiral's night watch from 10pm til 2am made for good ship avoidance practice as Phil handed over the helm with the plotter screen showing a procession of cargo shipping and cruise ships heading towards New York. Our plight was that of a tortoise trying to cross the M1 as ship after ship could be seen as triangular AIS targets on our plotter screen. At one stage, woken by the engine revs fluctuating between idle and full speed, Skip got out of bed to answer the call of nature. Glimpsing through the heads port light he caught sight of a 1000ft long tanker passing just ahead of us just as our engine revs increased to maximum again and we scuttled between the sheer bulk of that leviathan and the 'Carnival Something' - could have been 'Glory', no doubt laden with fun-loving passengers anticipating their visit to the Big Apple. The cruise ship ambling along at a sedate pace had just been overtaken by the tanker in the shipping lanes. Skipper went back to bed, hid under the covers, whimpering! The alarm went off at 0140 and on emerging into the bright moonlight could clearly see not one ship anywhere for miles around - her 'Ladyship' had dealt with them all!
Back to the highs and lows! Spending 8 hours watching the Ocean City skyline pass by at an agonisingly slow speed with the multicoloured advertising slogans adorning the side of one of the skyscrapers did nothing to make us want to visit the place. It was there when Phil went off watch at 10pm and was still passing by when he went below for his next off watch nap 8 hours later. Ocean City seemed never ending.
The only other low was the C&D Canal. Why do we always time our transit of these places at weekends! It was hell gone mad with hundreds of power boats of all shapes and sizes and of course wretched jet skis, although on this occasion they weren't the problem. It was the huge twin V8 engined 'cigarette' boats which were racing each other at speeds in excess of 40 knots in the busy cut, throwing smaller craft all over the place including us with the wake they were putting up. It did wonders for Phil's already aching head!  We then took a direct hit with water jetting up from the galley sink all over the headlinings and floor. We usually have the seacock turned off in such conditions but weariness brought about complacency for once.
Today we were reminded of what we had missed in the Chesapeake all summer long - biting flies. We killed 100s - but then those 100's bit us before being swatted. From the moment we departed the overnight anchorage until arriving at Swan Creek (have yet to see any yet) we were under attack. They've all gone now, leaving the way clear for the mosquito squadrons to fly in for the evening attack. Apparently they are attracted by carbon dioxide exhalation so if we just stop breathing our troubles will be over!
With Hurricane Danielle a distant memory we now have Hurricane Earl lining up for a run at the USA east coast. Danielle kept a respectable few hundred miles off the coast but Earl is forecast to come closer and rattle the bottom of the Chesapeake as it closes on Cape Hatteras before heading off north to bother New England and Nova Scotia. We are checking the daily updates and imagine an exodus of boats from the lower Chesapeake heading north in the coming days. We are on a US Navy Buoy in Weems Creek but they want it back if a hurricane warning is issued so we'll have to find somewhere else to hide. (Quick update - they've just called by, 10 of them in a launch - and want their mooring back tomorrow by 10 am - Gulp) They said it would be a bad season for tropical storms - looks like they were right.
When the US Navy cadets aren't out in these......                                                                       .....they are sailing these!
Seems like we are dodging Earl later this week.