Return of Euro Trash Girl, Part 4- Conclusion
Charleston SC to Annapolis MD – April 19-24, 2015
It was a beautifully brisk and sunny Thursday morning this April 23rd. Our 4th day on the water has us safely heading north up the Chesapeake Bay. Conditions were still choppy with unpredictable winds gusting over 20 knots. We had a very small storm sail in the inventory so we made the decision to swap it out for the headsail. It really didn’t benefit us much, but at least we had practice changing out sails again, in less than smooth conditions I might add.
The Bay really is a beautiful body of water to sail on, much wider than one may think at 30 miles wide near Cape Charles, MD to the south and only 4 miles near Aberdeen, MD to the far north. I’m borrowing a few interesting tid bits from the web, including www.chesapeakebay.net. This is the largest estuary in the United States and stretches over 200 miles and holds 18 TRILLION gallons of water. The average depth is
only 21 feet and those who sail here know that much of its 4,480 square miles of surface area, including tidal tributories, is much much shallower than that and with ETG’s 7 foot draft- it’s important to study your updated charts. They say a guy my height could actually wade through over 700,000 acres and never get his hat wet! The following photos shows a ship that was blown off course near Tangier Island, which became its permanent address based on the rust!
Wave conditions thankfully began to calm down somewhat during the day, the constant pounding of this wild ride was really getting old. The storm sail was replaced by the jib, but the sails were short lived with winds directly on the nose. The always reliable diesel was unfortunately needed for propulsion, but first we had to siphon 20 gallons of fuel into ETG’s belly, thank goodness for calmer waters.
Our float plan had originally included a trip up the ICW to Norfolk, but the sailing conditions were too good to go inland. Our plan was modified to enter the ICW at Norfolk and backtrack 14 miles to the first set of locks on the waterway and overnight there before turning around, but those plans were also changed after experiencing the tricky weather entering the mouth of the bay in darkness, we chose to proceed north up the bay.
With the quiet hum of the motor running our afternoon was pretty uneventful. A variety of boats and tankers would cruise by as we watched the many small flat islands roll along the horizon to our east. I have
no idea how many small islands there are in this area of the bay, but they have some great names like Cheeseman Island, Fishbone Island, Goose, Bloodsworth and Swan Islands not to mention some of the better known such as Tangier, Smith and Tilghman Islands. It was nice to have things to look at as we passed over the Virginia/Maryland state line. One absolutely remarkable sight that I forgot to mention earlier was a fly over by a single fighter jet well off the coast of Hatteras. Charlie and I were sitting in the cockpit just staring at water and noticed a low flying fighter jet was heading straight for us. The pilot was obviously curious and he slowed to check us out. He made a very tight slow turn right over us. As he dipped his F15? wing towards the water to circle us we could clearly see him in the cockpit and of course I waved before he continued out to sea at very high rate of speed, very cool. Both watches would come and go during the daylight hours occupying our time with primarily logging in our position, trading off at the wheel and preparing snacks and drinks. Before we knew it the sun would set beautifully over Virginia and the entire crew was in the cockpit to enjoy, good times! One photo shows me taunting Tony, I’ve been told it’s not wise to poke the bear!
During the evening watches we paid close attention to our position in the shipping channel, always yielding
the right of way to the giant cargo ships returning from the Baltimore Harbor. We would keep a close ear to the radio for the occasional radio contact we had with passing ships. One cargo ship was in the middle of the channel and gaining on us and they asked if we saw them coming, they did not reply to our answer of “affirmative, will maintain current course”, still a distance behind we flashed them a couple of times with our flood light just to make sure that they knew we saw and heard them! Keeping an accurate fix in this channel at night is crucial, we would plot our position every 15 minutes. It was fun to go up top to watch a large buoy pass by right where we predicted it would be! Some were lit, some had bells and I particularly found the ones with deep bellowing horns to be a bit eerie passing in the darkness.
After a couple hours of sleep, perhaps a short nap is a better description, I opened my eyes to find the sun was starting to shed its light on our bunks. Tony, Martha and I assumed the 0600 watch, layering up in full foulies was in order. As I climbed up into the cockpit I was greeted by an eye watering chill in the air. The temps were quite cool but refreshing actually and the air never smelled so clean. We took turns driving, navigating and making coffee and tea.
The changes to our float plan had us in the Middle Bay portion of the Chesapeake very early this Friday morning, so we decided to divert into the Eastern Bay and head for St Michaels Maryland. Captain Tony has great local knowledge of this area, but our training wasn’t over so we would be responsible for plotting the course through the Eastern Bay and up the narrowing Miles River. Oh, did I mention that Tony didn’t want us to use the perfectly good GPS coordinates that our electronics provided at a glance! he preferred to have us use a hand bearing compass, picking three conspicuous objects and plotting our position on the chart, oh and the chart had to remain down at the nav station, so up and down and up and down we went! I have to tell you that I enjoy his teaching methods, this exercise showed me that I really need to practice this aspect
of navigation. At one point we were motoring up the river at a good clip and I miss read or forgot my angle and I popped my head up and with frustration and said “you need to stop the friggen boat!” Tony, said something like “that’s a wonderful idea!” Perhaps I shouldn’t have poked the bear?! Once I knew exactly where we were I plotted our course and Martha motored safely into lovely St Michaels Maryland.
Martha maneuvered ETG gently up to the fuel docks where we were assisted by marina staff. After five days it was nice to step, somewhat wobbly, onto land again. I have been to St Michaels before, but I’ve never arrived by boat, awesome! We topped off our fuel and water tanks and took advantage of the pump out station then headed into the Steak and Seafood House for a wonderful lunch, not to mention savor a refreshing tall glass of ICE water and an ice cold beer!
We arrived at the East Port docks at 1800 hours under bright skies and secured ETG to her home port once again. Thanks Tony and Kent for making this an enjoyable safe passage! I’ve grown fond of ETG having spent so much time on her between the ARC-Bahama and now this passage, I can’t wait to sail on her again. I sincerely appreciate the opportunities and the knowledge that JWorld Annapolis has provided me over the years, thank you especially for the blue water that now runs through my veins.