Shake Down Cruise 17 – 21 September

So our last cruise before departure, we wanted shake down and we got it!  Departed Annapolis Saturday morning, possibly en route to Point Lookout Marina just outside of St. Marys River, which is up the Potomac a bit,  and from there to Virgina then home.  Not so fast, matey.  We didn’t depart until about 8 am, so were outside of the Solomons around 2 pm, did some distance plotting and figured about 30 more miles by water (about 4 by land) to get to Pt Lookout with dark arrival into unfamiliar creek. Instead we ducked into a creek across from Solomons Saturday night. We had dinner out with friends. After a long motor with South winds in our face at 15 knots, day one was marked as so far so good. .  Day two, motor to Smith Creek outside of Point Lookout, anchor in a creek, was nice.  Furthest South we have been on our boat, and first time in Potomac.  The bay is SUPER wide here, btw!  Water really salty and a pretty clear green.  Lots of pelicans dive bombing the fish.  Monday dawns.  Weather is forecast to be thunderstormy, so we decide to hunker in where we are, very sheltered.  Very isolated.  Two boats went by all day.  Was our first all rainy day on the hook.  Kept busy with using the oven  – 1.5 hours to bake potatoes and chicken took about 300 units of one of our two CNG gas tanks with 2500 units each, so that was a big learning curve, better cook that stuff on the propane grill, or be near a source of CNG, of which we know of two, one in Annapolis and one in Florida or we’ll only have coffee for about 2 weeks on the cruise.  Did some fishing, caught nothing as ususal,  practiced knot tying, reading, Kevin fixed various things, I went rowing in the dinghy for exercise and got caught in a monsoon.  Pretty stir crazy by Tuesday morning, weather just predicted to be rainy and windy, not thunderstormy and we wanted to get back to Annapolis by Thursday, so off we go back to the Solomons.  Well.  Motor sailing around Point No Point and Point Lookout lighthouses, wind of course 20 knots from the N, again in our faces, but significant fetch once we got out into the bay.  How does the wind know where we are going and blow right in our faces all the time, we ask ourselves?  Really big waves.  Many annoying boats riding all this south, having wonderful smug sails with half a sail up and going smooth.  So given the shoaling, we decide we need to go further off shore, and while in middle of bay engine coughs and dies.  Not a crisis given 20 knots of wind, and we could have just turned around, but MacGyver announces he is going to change the engine filters, and I should watch out for ships and sail the boat in the wrong direction (i.e., south to keep it smooth) with the 20 knot winds.  No problem.  Then it starts pelting rain.  Get the white “Bacons North”  foul weather pants out (Bacons is a store in Annapolis that sells second hand sails and sailing equipment.  Bacons North is used to describe all the second hand equipment we beg, borrowed, and acquired from Ed and Nancy). Discover my jacket is not weather proof and get the matching Bacon North jacket out.  Must have been Dads because there is a wrapper from a Hershey bar with almonds in pocket.  Then Kevin says, try the engine, and miracle of God, it starts (apparently all the bouncing stirred up stuff in the gas tank and clogged the filters.)  Don’t want to actually use the engine though, saving it for getting into Solomon’s Harbor, so have a 3 hour tack tack tack sail in driving rain into Solomons.  Fingers and feet entirely pruned.  Was warm rain, so boots  and gloves just not appealing.  Need to figure out waterproof not thermal kind of gloves.  Get into Solomons, and just when sailing is too much of a pain in the ass, get our fold up bikes out in the dinghy, biking around, dry, go to West Marine and get more filters and Roy Rogers for a roast beef sandwich, and all is magical again.  Love those bikes, mom and dad!! Back to boat on “front porch”, a/k/a bow, Kevin playing guitar, drinking rum, another couple comes by in a dinghy, seem nice, invite them aboard for a drink, they are from mid-west, going south, and are reasonably new to sailing. We swap stories and plans for our respective adventures. Gave them our Radiance business card.  Feel  like professional sailors.   Wednesday dawns, I somehow have a raging cold with my sinuses feeling like someone put concrete up my nose and fits of coughing.  The forecast is for 5 to 10 knot winds from the North, of course, and we decide to head home to work on the ever expanding list of stuff to get ready and because I don’t feel great.  Leave Solomons Harbor, down Patuxent, la di da.  Into bay, wind obligingly more from East, not a lot of fetch, cue music, this is why we sail.  Then, the Gods decide we haven’t been shaken down enough.  Wind whipping down Little Choptank, now from mostly North, huge waves, and we’ve learned our lesson about motor sailing in big chop. So we tack and tack and tack.  I have never been across the bay so many times in one day in my life.  Poplar Island goes forever.  It seemed like we made about 10 feet of way North with each tack and landed right by the same cliffs we left from.  I hate those cliffs.  Worked out the shifts that I would take the North tack, and beat up as far as possible, and Kevin the East, and he did all the sail switching.  Did I mention the constant armada of ships, tugs and barges coming up and down the bay in the fog as we crossed the bay a million times?  With our trusty AIS, Kevin could tell us how long it would be before we collided unless we came about right away, ruining any headway on the tack.  Plus, he could give us fun facts about the name, tonnage and length of the boats, which I might have gotten a little testy about while waiting to hear how long it would be before we collided with the ship we knew the name, tonnage and length of.

 Anyway, mother nature decided we were shaken up enough around 5 pm when we were outside of Herrington Harbor. At this point I could see the Bay Bridge so I was going home if we had to put the dinghy in the water and tow ourselves with the dinghy engine.  Kevin changed the big filter.  We gingerly put the engine on and it sounded good for about 5 minutes and died.  So did the wind. Sadness.  Kevin went to change the other two filters again and realized he forgot to turn the gas valve on after changing the first filter.  Engine starts.  Happiness.  Motor back to a beautiful sunset, we love sailing again, in our little slip right around dark, order a big pizza, pick up Clyde, and I am in bed by 830.

 Back to work today and working on the list.