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
Smith Island Cruise
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.
FridayI 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.
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
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.
SaturdayEarly 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.
I 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.
SundayWe'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.
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.
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
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
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
SaturdayThis 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.
SundayI 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.
MondayMorning 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
Updated July 2, 2001