Cruising Journal

Most of my sails are uneventful and fun.  However Murphy's law strikes from time to time and makes life interesting.  Here are some of my more interesting times.

Smith Island Cruise

Halloween 1996


I left the dock about 1100.  Winds were calm and seas flat.  I motored south on the Chesapeake, with periodic stops to try to catch the wind.  I reached the Patuxent at dusk and slowly proceeded into Solomon's Island.  I tied up temporarily to look for a transient slip.  I found someone who was in charge of the area and he let me tie up there at no charge for the night.


I needed gas so I asked to fill up at the pump.  I offered to pay but the guy said "Since my boss isn't around you don't have to pay but you'll need to get out of here soon."  I proceeded into fog so thick I could not see past the bow of the boat.  I sounded my airhorn to try to echo locate, and I felt my way out of the harbor based on what I remembered seeing the night before.  I then proceeded south across the Patuxent.  I went around in circles a few times, and encountered another fool on a powerboat.  I thought OK how do I find where I'm at?  I then developed a plan: I would proceed on course 180 with the notion that I would eventually reach the south side of the Patuxent.  I checked the angle of the riverbank from north, and matched it up with the chart to figure out where I was.  I then proceeded east along the bank and just far enough off to see it.  Soon I broke out of the fog and I could see everything.  I then proceeded southeast into the bay under moderate winds.
In the afternoon I came across a large ship.  At first it appeared to be at anchor.  The chart showed two shipwrecks, one in a prohibited area.  As I got closer, I first noticed that it was pretty dilapidated.  I continued to approach it.  I then noticed that it was full of holes. As I passed it I noticed a sign saying that it was a target ship and to keep clear.  I continued my sail right past and was glad to get away.   I decided I had to be more careful with my bearings.
As I got further south I started looking for Smith Island.  I took more bearings and figured out I was 3 miles west of it - with very little wind.  I turned on the motor and proceeded 090 until I approached the entrance to the harbor.Smith Island Harbor
After tying up and paying the docking fee, I took an hour to walk and see Smith Island for myself.  It is quite different from the normal rural Maryland countryside.  I made a phone call to my dad.
As I turned in I heard a gale warning on the radio.


Early morning: I could hear the wind howling in the distance.  I was protected in the harbor though.
I woke up, ate breakfast and relaxed.  About 1000 in the rain, I left the dock and proceeded back home.  I left the harbor and headed north.  Later, the rain stopped, and fog developed.  I was able to see a circle of clear water around my boat, but beyond that nothing but white mist.  I saw crab pots around and I figured as long as I saw those, I was out of the shipping channel.  In the afternoon, the fog cleared.  The skies turned beautiful.  The wind started picking up and I was soon across the bay and approaching the Patuxent river.  I began considering where I would stay that night.  I crossed the mouth at about 6kts which was as fast as the Catalina 25 had ever been.  I had to start looking where I would anchor.
Oil Loading Terminal near Calvert CliftsI decided to anchor in the lee of some clifts just to the north of the Patuxent.  No sooner was the anchor down and I was fixing chow than I noticed the boat would turn, and each turn would wrap some rode around the keel.  I figured soon most of my scope would be around my keel and I would start to drag anchor.  I had to do something fast.  I pulled up the anchor and started the motor.  I pulled out my second anchor and set it behind me, paying out the rode as I went.  With about 100 ft of rode out I dropped the bow anchor.  The plan was to have both anchors set and the boat be directly between them.  After some trials and cussing I got both anchors set as planned but there was more rode out than the direct line distance between the anchors so I hung downwind or down current from both anchors at the same time with about the same amount of rode on each.  I watched this arrangement for a time while I ate dinner.  It looked ok so I turned in.


We'll the anchors are still secure as I set them.  I pulled them up and set sail northward.  It was raining for a while then it cleared up a bit.  Then some really nasty looking clouds started moving in fast.  I dropped the sails, donned my foullies, and secureed the hatch.  It then started raining and blowing.  I sat for 30 minutes being tossed about and pelted with rain that sounded like gun shots near my head.  Then it was through and it cleared up.  I raised sail and tried to proceed as planned but the wind wasn't favorable.   I tacked a couple of times and eventually reached Herring bay.  I turned on the motor.  As it got dark I turned on the running lights and noticed they were getting dim.  As I got closer to Deale they got dimmer.  Talk about good timing using up the batteries.  I tied up and secured the boat for next time.

Chesapeake Rescue

Labor day weekend 1997
Sunday, I sailed across the Chesapeake mostly to try out my newly built dinghy.  I wanted to anchor near Poplar Island, get in the dinghy and explore.  This was a sort of ad-lib cruise.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to come back that day or spend the night.  I approached Poplar Island to get a good look and see if I wanted to walk ashore.  I saw houses on the island and decided that would be too much like walking through someone's back yard.  While looking I watched the depth sounder and managed to sail between Poplar and Jefferson Island without once touching bottom.  Dang!  I then dropped anchor east of Jefferson Island and got in my dinghy.  There was a bit of current so I first tested whether I could row the dinghy against the current.  Good.  I then untied and rowed over near where the old barges were set up as a breakwater and had a look.  I saw a lot of rusted barges enclosing an area of water.  A lot of birds were roosting.   Then I rowed back to the boat.  I was tired.  I had dinner and turned in for an afternoon nap that turned into an all night sleep.
About 0100 Monday I was lying awake and I heard someone shout "Help Me!"  I was like what the hell!  I'm out in the middle of nowhere.  I quickly got up and grabbed a flashlight to have a look.  Behind me was what appeared to be someone in the water.  I was a bit scared.  He then asked me if he could tie up for the night.  I saw he was on a boat.  I gave him some water which he drank like a horse.  I wasn't comfortable with letting him on my boat because I didn't know who he was but he said he would stay on his - which was a 14' wooden day sailer with no cabin.  It was quite warm so I didn't have to worry too much about him getting cold.
The next day I woke up about 0630 and made preparations for getting underway.  I let him aboard and fed him breakfast.  He told me his story.  He was sailing and planned to drop anchor and spend the night on his boat.  About dusk he capsized.  He then spent an hour righting and bailing out his boat.  In the process his entire sailing rig floated away along with most else he had aboard.  He was left with a bailer, a paddle and the anchor.  He dropped anchor but it began slipping and he started drifting toward the shipping channel - a very dangerous place to be.  When he got to me he had been paddling for 4 hours.  I took him and his boat in tow back to Claiborn on the Eastern Bay where he came out of.  About 0830 I dropped him off and started back.
As the wind was light and I had to be back at Deale for a 1200 pickup of my friends for a sail, I proceeded under sail and motor.  I was making good time.  Then about 1100 and 2 miles out of Deale the motor faltered and quit.  Guess what.  The gas tank was empty.  And the wind was nonexistent.  First I tried hailing someone on the VHF to send a message to my friends that I would be late.  No response.  There were a lot of boats coming out.  If I didn't have people waiting for me I would have just sat until the wind came up.   I started trying to wave one down.  I got lucky as some people out for fishing came by in a sort of inflatable powerboat.  I grabbed the gas can and we headed back to Deale.  We first went where my friends were waiting about 1215.  My holding up the gas can in the air told the whole story.  I said I would be back in about an hour.  These people then took me to a gas dock and I fueled up, and then back to the boat.  I was amazed how small the boat appeared on horizon.  I don't remember who these people were or the name of their boat but I owe them much thanks for their help.

Sailing Without an Engine I

February 1998

As the winter of 1998 was mild and I had just purchased Andrea Lynn I was eager to try her out as much as possible.  So it was on a Saturday in early February.  I sailed across the bay in a good 20 to 25 kt blow - making really good time across.  My destination was Shaw Bay.  This is a familar place that I return to frequently for raft ups and to relax.  I got to Shaw Bay while it was daylight.  The temps during the day were in the 50's.  With my gear on I was comfortable.  I dropped the anchor and everything seemed normal.
My first taste of adventure came when I put some self starting charcoal in the stove and lit it.  I had just purchased it that day. The coal started burning with a vengence.  The chimney got cherry red, and smoke started leaking out of it into the cabin.  I opened all the lights, the skylight, and the hatch to let the smoke out.  I also closed down every air intake on the stove to slow down the burning coal.  That did the trick.  I then fixed dinner.  I decided to make sure I stayed up until the stove was done.  Then I turned in.  I had the stereo on low volume.
Sunday morning started out ok.  I did my normal breakfast, read, etc.  Needless to say I was the only boat in Shaw Bay.  You might think I was crazy but I think you missed out on a good sailing weekend.  About 1000 it was time to head back.  I turned the key to start the engine and I got a feeble sound from the starter.  It didn't have enough juice to crank the engine.  I switched to my number 2 battery.  Same result.  I then tried both batteries.  Same result.  I thought, ok, how do I get out of this one!  I tried to crank the engine by hand with the hand crank provided for it.  I wasn't able to do it.  I decided to sail out of here.
I pulled up the anchor by hand.  Dang was that difficult.  I hadn't yet learned how to make the boat work for me to bounce up and down and break the anchor off the bottom.  I got it up, and panting, I raised the sails.  Fortunately there was a light breeze - just enough to move the boat.  I tacked and gybed until I was out of Shaw Bay and on my way back.  The whole way I drifted/sailed back to Deale and arrived about 1930.
The plan was to sail up the Rockhold Creek channel under jib.  I botched the approach - not realizing that the boat tended to slide sideways before getting up speed.  I ran aground just inside the breakwater.  I waited 45 minutes for a crabbing boat to come by.  They gave me a tow back to Skipper's pier.  I should have pulled out the batteries and just charged one of them overnight, then motored back to the dock the next day and be a bit late for work.  Instead, I tried to sail from Skipper's pier back to the dock.  I ended up on the other side of Rockhold Creek at the slips of Shipwright Harbor.  I walked the boat around from dock to dock toward where my slip is.  At one point I HAD to push off of a houseboat that someone was living aboard.  I very gingerly placed the boathook on the end of the houseboat where it made a THUD.  I was sure I woke someone up.  Fortunately there wasn't a stir.  Two hours later I had managed to get the boat around and back into my slip.  I was extremely tired.  I stowed everything and left there for home around midnight.

Sailing Without an Engine II

May 1999
This time I purposely went out without an engine.  The engine had siezed up and was in the shop being overhauled.  I wanted to prove that I could manage a cruise without one.  This is part of my preparation for going cruising.  I prepared myself by building a 21' wooden pole to propel the boat by pushing off the bottom.  I used that to depart the dock about 1000.  By 1100 I was close to the breakwater.  A number of people offered tows but I politely turned them down.  A prerequisite for this cruise was that I be able to pole my way completely out to the bay.  If I coudn't do that then I did not think it wise to continue.
I hoisted sails.  The weather was great except for no wind.  Later some wind came up.  I slowly sailed toward Shaw Bay.  I reached there about 2130.  I got a hail on the VHF "Will on Bottomtime - this is the Quest".  I responded and explained that I had a new boat "Andrea Lynn" and that I was without an engine.  I got as far as I could then I dropped anchor and requested a tow to the raft up.  This was good practise of seamanship and towing.  About 2230 we finished getting the boats in order.  I was the lead anchor boat.
I got ready for the 1000 departure.  I then tacked out of Shaw Bay.  Coming down the Wye I made the mistake of being too close to the lee side of the river.  I ran aground on Bruff's island point.  I tried to use my pole to push off but powerboat wakes would push it back.  I snapped the pole in half.  I then had to get a tow to get pulled off.  The guy offered to pull me out to the #3 marker at the mouth of the Wye.  Then the tow line came undone.  He told me I had to sail it.  I did.  By this point it was about 1400 and I could barely feel the wind.  I sailed down the Miles a bit, then tacked to get away from land.  On that tack I ended up drifting back to the #3 because of the incoming tidal current.  I tried again with the same result.  Frustrated, I dropped the anchor and rested for a couple of hours.  About 1830 I raised the anchor.  The wind had started to pick up a slight bit.  I then sailed toward St. Michaels.  Then the wind really picked up.  I reversed course and started heading toward Deale.  On this wind I sailed on into the night.  I made it past the shipping channel and on across the Chesapeake.  Then the wind fizzled away.  I slept in short dozes up on deck.
Morning came and I was near the shore but drifting toward the West River.  About 0900 I dropped anchor to go rest.  About 0905 I realized I needed to put up the dayshape.  I went up and noticed a lot of new cat's paws.  I decided to raise sail.  I broke out the GPS to keep close track of my movements.  At first I continued to drift north toward West River.  As the wind picked up I gradually got the boat on course and I started sailing south.  I soon was going a good 3 to 4 kts - toward Deale.  About 1300 I made it to the #1 channel marker.
Remembering my past episode I got a good running start under jib to enter the channel.  I made it all the way to skipper's pier.  Then the wind started to clock to an unfavorable direction.  Dangit!  I tried using the now 12' long pole - which wasn't long enough.  I again found myself near Shipwright slips, walking the boat along.  At one point I had it made then someone started remarking about how pretty a boat that was.  I started chatting and not paying attention.  I found the bowsprit poking the wrong way between pilings.  I didn't hit anything but I had to back up and turn the boat around.  I finally asked for a tow back to my slip.  I was so tired I had to go below and sleep for about 2 hours before I could put the sail covers on.

Updated July 2, 2001