Deltaville & Mathews via Potomac R
Our next port of call was supposed to be Mathews, Virginia in time for another Ocean Cruising Club dinner on the 23rd. The swing bridge that allows access to the waters near the club (called Milford Haven!) is closed for repairs but we had instead been offered the use of a member’s dock nearby. Being in a very shallow creek we were advised to enter at the top of a rising tide, so we needed to anchor overnight nearby and chose nearby Deltaville. A quick look at the charts showed this trip required an overnight stop and, with a forecast of just two days of winds in the right direction, we headed for the only safe anchorage which was Smith Creek, just up the Potomac River. So day one saw us away early to cross the Chesapeake, expecting moderate NW winds and flat seas. It is true that we saw this for a while, but we also had strong headwinds with heavy choppy seas forcing us to motor for nearly half the day using high engine revs. This culminated in a nail biting entrance into the shallow waters of Smith Creek. Once in, it was fine, and a nice quiet anchorage to boot.
I imagined the second day would make up for the discomfort of the first – expecting more sheltered seas and a moderate wind behind us. What we got however was the roughest conditions we’ve had so far on this boat. The winds peaked in the low 40’s (that’s gusting force 9), were rarely below F6 and the seas were big (3 metres or so) and very confused. It was worst where the Potomac and Chesapeake met, which seemed to occupy a large portion of the day. The locals call this area “the washing machine” and we can see why. We’ve got a nice little video to remind ourselves of quite how rolly it was. Naturally we were not properly prepared for more motion than we had crossing the Atlantic, so everything below either went flying or clinked all day. Having said all that, apart from one brief incident where I didn’t control the ropes very well as we turned through the wind (gybed), we were in control (or rather Goldcrest was) and felt very safe. We’ve had only slightly worse winds (up to 46kts) in Red Panda and it is very noticeable how much more comfortable and safe the motion of Goldcrest is. It should be though, given the difference in size and weight between the boats! However it was cold all day, cold enough for oilies and warm underwear.
Our chosen anchorage off Deltaville was OK but quite exposed to the winds which have now swung the other way. The night was cold (6C, enough to need the heating on) and the next day’s wind, although warmer, was too off-putting for us to venture ashore. We used the day to catch up with some of the family and have a good talk about our next voyages. We’ve now got an idea of what we might do between leaving here and leaving the boat in December, more ideas for the section between Cuba and leaving the western Atlantic, plus a better understanding of our eastbound Atlantic crossing options. After flirting with the idea of making landfall in the UK next June, last night’s temperatures have convinced us yet again that we are headed for the Med next summer!
We’ve been treated to more exciting bird-life here. Apart from being back in Osprey territory (which we’ve hardly been out of since arriving in the US), we’ve also seen many pelicans and big black birds of prey which we think might be turkey vultures. The pelicans, which we had thought were only seen much further south, were very impressive in Sunday’s high winds, performing synchronised acrobatics barely feet above the rough Chesapeake waters. Today we hear a new cry in the woods nearby, which we are told regularly host bald eagles.
The next day was warm & calm and we spend the morning going ashore to do some shopping in Deltaville (which turns out to be a small set of shops, cafés, etc strung out over a mile or two of main road) and the afternoon doing some boat work. My chosen task was to clean the bottom of the boat. We were in relatively clear water for the first time since re-launching in August and as the build-up of soft muck was beginning to affect the boat speed, it was time to snorkel down & get scrubbing, over-exerting myself & feeling a bit sick as a result. Anyhow, job done for another couple of months.
We were hailed mid-afternoon Tuesday by Chris & Bill, the owners of the dock near Mathews. Although we had planned to motor in at high tide, they thought there would be enough depth, even though it was only an hour or two after low water. And indeed there was, right up to the turn into their dock, where we went firmly aground. No matter, we tied ourselves on and with the forecast strong winds now blowing us about, the keel has now dug its own hole in the mud. We shall certainly not be leaving here until high tide! Our hosts have got a wonderful waterfront property covering 30, mostly wooded, acres and, as we have found with so many Americans, their hospitality is truly amazing. We are cosily tucked away from the 30-40kt winds and shall stay for a few days until the next lull in what appears to be an endless stream of fronts, each bringing a few days of strong cold winds out of central Canada.
Moored in Queen’s Creek; the wooded approach to the dock: