Friday, July 4, 2014

Month-long Sailing Trip: Solomons

Blogpost written by Bob

Our month-long sailing trip on the Chesapeake Bay is supposed to be a shakedown cruise for our cruising in retirement which begins in just two years.  We will be making notes of problems and things we have to improve before our retirement.  We hope to anchor out more nights than we spend in marinas.

An osprey family nests on Red #6 in the West River.

The first half of the month of July, we are heading south from our marina in Galesville to visit Solomons and Chrisfield (and then take the passenger ferry to visit both Smith Island and Tangier Island).  After Chrisfield, we plan to explore the Choptank River, visiting Oxford (one of our favorite towns along the Bay) and possibly Cambridge.  St. Michaels will occupy us for a few days before heading back to our marina in Galesville for a two-day break.    

The last half of July will be spent in the northern part of the bay.  Our northern trip will include stops in the Magothy River, Rock Hall (and/or Swan Creek), possibly Baltimore, Fairlee Creek, Worton Creek, Still Pond, and the Sassafrass River.  That's our plan.

Tuesday, July 1

We left our slip shortly after 9 AM.  It takes about 45 minutes to motor out the West River to the Bay.  

When we reached the bay, we motored south against the 5 to 10 knot
southerly wind--it was cool and comfortable.

Shortly before lunch, the wind started to build to 10 to 15 knots and then further to 15 to 20 knots.  Against these strong head winds, our boat speed (over ground as measured by the GPS) slowed to between 3 and 4 knots and it was a rough ride. (This situation resulted in establishing Rule #1: Don't ever motor into 15 to 20 knot headwinds.)

Because it would take so long to get into a protected anchorage in the Little Choptank (and with a forecasted deterioration in the weather over the next couple days), we decided to go straight to Solomons.  If we were cruising and had no schedule, we would not be motoring against such strong winds.  However, we made reservations for a slip at Zahniser's for July 3 and 4 and wanted to be there for the Fourth of July fireworks. (Rule #2: Don't travel on a schedule.)

Maggie made her offering to the sea gods (she got seasick) and recovered before entering Solomons. (Rule #3: Don't go below in rough seas for any reason.)

We pulled in to Mill Creek in Solomons at about 8 PM--it was a long 11-hour day of motoring!  This trip would normally have taken about 7 to 8 hours.  Mill Creek (the creek immediately to the right when entering Solomons provided a great refuge from the weather and it was deep and well marked.  Though populated with homes and a few small private marinas along its banks, this creek is very beautiful.   

Wednesday, July 2

We stayed anchored in Mill Creek today--to relax and get into the groove of cruising.  We had a very elegant breakfast of quiche and fruit to start the day.  We swam in the creek, rowed a little, took an outdoor shower, read a lot, and worked on routes to and from Crisfield in the GPS--nothing too strenuous.

We experimented with making a nice elegant lunch from inexpensive food materials--as practice
for our retirement I guess.  We grilled (low fat) spam, cut it into triangles and served it with
apple wedges--I would call this experiment successful!

A colony of blue herons nested in the treat tops about 75 yards away
from our anchorage in Mill Creek.  The awning on the bow is called a forepeak 

tent--its purpose is to provide shade from the sun and to allow us to keep the 
hatches open during a rain storm--it is only used at anchor.

Thunderstorms rolled through the Solomons late in the afternoon and evening.
It rained very hard at a few different times.

We're keeping tabs on Tropical Storm Arthur as it is expected to come up the East Coast on Friday--it is expected to remain well offshore above the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Based on the marine weather forecast today, it looks like Saturday is the best day to sail to Crisfield but we will keep checking the weather forecast and plan accordingly.

Thursday, July 3

Solomons is a quiet fishing village located where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County, Maryland.  It is a popular weekend destination for people living in the Baltimore-Washington metro area and a popular destination for boaters on the Chesapeake. (In the 2000 census Solomons had a population of only 1500 people.)

As you enter Solomons by water, there is a completely bulkheaded island that is 
forested--it is located in the middle of the harbor.  This island is called 
Molly Leg Island but Maggie likes to call it "What Island?"

It's a short trip from our anchorage in Mill Creek to Zahnizer's Marina on Back Creek.  We were able to check in early--about 10:30 AM.  Like a hotel, normal check in time for our slip is 12:30 PM.  Rates are like a hotel too--our holiday rate for Friday (Independence Day) is $2.25 per foot of boat length--for our 38 foot boat, this means $85.50 per night!  This is among the highest slip rates on the Chesapeake Bay, but comparable to slip rates in Annapolis, St. Michaels, and Oxford.  (In Crisfield we will be paying $0.50 per foot or $19 per night with pretty much the same amenities.)

We went right to the pool after checking in at the office, even had lunch at the pool bar!  We spent most of the day at the pool relaxing.  After a nice Pasta dinner on board, we played Words with Friends in the cockpit for a while and then went to bed.

At 3:00 AM I was awakened by lots of wind blowing in the companionway and  the feeling that something just wasn't right.  The cats had pulled in the blue seat that was blocking their exit and they were outside.  Jack was sitting in the cockpit but Lizzie was no where to be found.  We thoroughly searched the inside of the boat, then the outside.  We searched the docks and the bulkhead around the marina--still no Lizzie.  As I searched the bulkhead the second time, I called her name over and over.  She answered back and then Maggie spotted her with the flashlight--she was in the water on a ledge a few inches below the waterline of the bulkhead, about 75 to 100 yards away from the boat.  Maggie got onto the ledge in the water, grabbed her, and handed her up to me on land.  Looking like a drowned rat, she was shaking and had very little energy remaining.  We have no idea how long she had been stranded there or how she ended up in the water but it was such a relief to find her and get her back on the boat!  (Rule #4: Always secure the cats at night with the companionway door!

Friday, July 4

The wind was blowing 15 to 20 knots out of the north and we just hunkered down in the slip.  Our top priority was giving Lizzie a bath.

We can't have a cat smelling like the bay!  I gather from her expression
that she didn't like her bath very much.

This is our last full day (and night) at Zahnizer's.  Just after lunch, we walked into town to explore.  (The cats have been secured with the companionway door, even though it's broad daylight and they are sleeping.)

The Solomon's Island Pavillion overlooks the Patuxent River.

Rock fishing (striped bass) is big in Solomons.  This image is some rods and lures under the
roof of a charter boat.  It seems that while or yellow lures are predominant.

We had dinner at the Striped Rock on our last evening in Solomons--it was fantastic!  However, it caused us to adopt Rule #5: Shared appetizer or dessert--not both!  

S/V Rainy Days in a slip in Zahnizer's Marina--our last night in Solomons.

Our next blogpost will be from Crisfield--we plan to be staying in Somers Cove Marina for 3 nights (but we did not make reservations, remembering Rule #2).  Including tonight, we have stayed in marinas 2 nights and anchored out 2 nights.  

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  1. Robert, if you find that 3 days in Crisfield is a bit too long I would recommend going to Onancock, VA. It's an easy day sail south from Crisfield. It is a lovely little community with a town dock with restaurants a short walk away. The holding is good and the anchorage area is a short dinghy ride from the dock.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! We will add Onancock to our itinerary right after Crisfield and eliminate a planned stay in St Michaels since we can go there almost any weekend. You will see Onancock in this blog after Crisfield. Again, thanks for the suggestion! We are having some electrical issues--I think it might be the starter switch--will try to get this fixed while in Crisfield.