Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Last Days Above the Bay Bridge

Wednesday, August 25 - Monday, August 30, 2010
Wow - it's hard to believe that we've already spent three months in the Chesapeake. We initially planned to head south soon after Labor Day, but our decision to haul the boat out in Deltaville has given us an extra month to play.

Between tourist days, visits with old friends, and unexpected boat projects, we stayed in Baltimore longer than planned. We have less than two weeks before we need to be back in Annapolis for Mom Foree's visit, and we're trying to figure out where to go next. We've heard great things about the Sassafras River, northeast of Baltimore. Dave from Hullaballoo recommended Chestertown on the Chester River, and a number of cruisers have said the Wye East River is a must-see for kayaking and pristine anchorages. Of course, we also want to visit Dave and Lisa from Hullaballoo at their home on the Magothy River. So many choices...what to do?

After estimating distances between the various options, we realized that we'd need 7 days just for traveling and 5-6 days to spend a single day in each spot. That would take all of our remaining days, leaving no room for weather or rest days...not to mention unexpected boat projects! Knowing our penchant for lazy days and our luck regarding unforeseen boat problems, we figured such a tight schedule was a really bad idea. The Wye and the Magothy were both must-do's for us, which left us with a choice between the Sassafras and Chestertown. Chestertown seems to be a quaint college town full of 18th century architecture; the Sassafras's draw is its jellyfish-free water and lovely spots to drop the hook. Figuring we'd have plenty of seclusion in the Wye, we decided to skip the Sassafras. That left us free to start a southward route, so we decided to begin our trip with the Magothy River.

We first met Lisa, Dave, and their kids aboard Sojourner at one of Rick and Linda's happy hours. We really enjoyed meeting them, and wanted to pay them a visit on our way to or from Baltimore. It didn't happen on the northbound leg (although we did get to meet Dave for lunch in B'more), so this seemed like our best chance. We got lucky - they were available for visitors, and even had a free mooring ball we could use. Like all cruisers, they also knew what was most important to fellow boaters who come ashore - a laundry machine and a trip to the grocery store! We had a fantastic time with them, and hope to see them somewhere in the Caribbean once they start cruising again.

Our next stop was Chestertown, MD. The Chester River meets the Chesapeake Bay nearly due east of the Magothy River, and the town itself is 28 miles upriver. (At least that's what the guidebook says...it felt closer to 20.) The only downside - and this is only a problem for die-hard sailors - is that the river constantly curves. Not only are you tacking all the way up; at some point, the wind WILL be on the nose. You, dear readers, know the drill...it's us, which means we had a combination of no wind and "unsailable" winds (a.k.a. +/- 30 degrees off the nose). Gotta love it! It was an uneventful motor up to Chestertown, if you don't count our near-grounding north of the Kent Narrows. (Author's note: the chart said 7-12'. It wasn't my fault!) We arrived in Chestertown by 6pm and anchored off the town marina. We were still pretty tired thanks to a great send-off with Hullaballoo the night before, and were more than ready for a quiet evening.

Remember those "unforeseen boat projects" we mentioned? Two miles out of Chestertown, we began hearing a strange noise near the stern. We realized it was water being pumped out, and wrote it off to the engine exhaust. Big mistake. By the time we anchored, we realized that the water was actually flowing from the hole used by the watermaker and bilge pump; a check down below quickly verified that it wasn't the water maker. Any boater knows that it's pretty disconcerting when your bilge pump activates! On top of that, once we turned off the engine, we could hear the angry boat sounds of our water pump running dry. Rene found water on top of our main water tank, which made no sense at first. There was also water under the salon floor and in our canned-goods storage under the salon bench. That triggered Rene to check the hot water heater, which would've been a beast to repair or replace. Luckily, the culprit was a hose that had vibrated loose and sprayed 125 gallons of water everywhere. On the positive side, it was a cheap (free) and easy repair job; on the negative side, we lost 75% of our water and had a heck of a clean-up job to do!

Sunday afternoon we decided to go into town for lunch and a tour of Chestertown. Rene lowered the dinghy...and was hit by unforeseen boat project #3 (#1 being the gallon of hull cleaner that spilled into the lazarette a week earlier). He pulled on the dinghy outboard starter cord...and pulled...and pulled...and pulled. NOTHING. When the outboard finally started, there was almost no water flow from the exhaust. We continued into town, but Rene's head was on the outboard engine. After a quick trip to the visitor center and a yummy lunch at the Fish Whistle restaurant, we went back to the boat for some dinghy outboard maintenance. Good news - it turned out to be a few tiny pebbles in the hose. It's amazing what gets sucked up when you ground the dinghy in Baltimore. :-)

Monday morning we returned to the town dinghy dock in much better spirits. The engine was working, the sun was shining, and we were ready to explore Chestertown in all her glory. We'd picked up a self-guided walking tour brochure the day before, and this took us around the main streets of the historic district. Chestertown was founded in 1706 as a port city, and still contains a number of original merchant homes from the 18th and 19th centuries. Notable sites include the Kent County Offices, which originally opened in 1901 as the Chestertown Public School; and the White Swan Tavern, built in 1733. George Washington is said to have visited the White Swan, which has since been restored to its 1795 appearance and is now a popular B&B. Also worth a visit is the schooner Sultana; this reproduction of a 1795 schooner was built entirely by local volunteers, and now offers public sails advocating "preservation through education". Chestertown also houses Washington College, the first college chartered in the U.S. after the Declaration of Independence. Founded in 1782, the college was honored to have its namesake sit on its Board of Governors for five years.

Another great thing about Chestertown is its size - it took about an hour to do the walking tour, and that covered the majority of what we wanted to see. We kept a leisurely pace for some extra photo ops, and were still back on the boat in time for lunch. We decided to get a few miles under our belts to shorten the next day's trip to St. Michaels. After a fuel top-up and some much-needed water, we headed 12 miles downriver to Grays Inn Creek. We're wary of the shallow depths through Kent Narrows (a shortcut between the Chester River and Eastern Bay), so we'll have to take the long way around Kent Island to St. Mike's. It looks to be about 40-45nm from the creek to St. Michaels and the Wye East, where we'll spend the next few days before returning to Annapolis. 'Til next time...

Pictures for this Blog post:
http://picasaweb.google.com/Rene.Foree/2010ChesapeakeVII?feat=directlink

1 comment:

deltavilleoysters said...

Sounds like quite an adventure. You guys are very brave, best of luck!

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