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New Plan! Solomons, MD

sunny 63 °F

Tuesday morning in Colonial Beach looked pretty much like a replay of Monday morning .... a good day to stay dry and warm inside the boat, tied to the dock. But, we had seen the best that Colonial Beach had to offer and it was time to be quit with that place. It wasn't exactly raining .... the droplets were too small; it wasn't exactly foggy .... the droplets were too big. A Goldilocks water vapor day, it was just perfect for wearing Gore-Tex, invented by Al Gore who also invented the internet, invented global warming and, in his spare time as VP, re-invented our Government.

I checked visibility which, at the dock, seemed OK. When we cleared the short, shallow channel into the Potomac we could see no more than a 1/4-mi. Radar on, running lights on, fog horn on deck, we cautiously crept along. After about 1/2-hr. things cleared up well enough to make normal speed and except for a few incidents we had good visibility the whole way. The sun was supposed to make a brief appearance in the early afternoon; el sol demurred and it was cloudy, rainy, and dank the whole way. We had to open the side panels in order to see and that made the cockpit uncomfortably cool.

Carol spent the entire morning changing her clothes; it was like a game of Whack-a-Mole. We were keeping the companionway closed on the optimistic hope that the engine might warm the cabin .... a little. She would stick her head out the companionway to ask if I needed anything: "No, Carol." Whack! Her head disappeared and in a flurry of flying apparel she molted layers with green uncovering blue. Up she popped again. "Are you OK?" "Yes, Carol." Whack! Down she went to reemerge five minutes later, chameleon like, this time in red. "Do you need me topside?" "No, Carol." Whack! And so it went until she had exhausted her inexhaustible supply of warm clothing finding the perfect combination of warmth and color to match??? Well, I'm a regular guy and partially color blind so I really don't know what she matched, but she did look good.

We had planned to go directly to Oxford, MD. But Carol, who selected the places to visit along the Chesapeake Bay, decided that she wanted to go to Solomons, MD and thence to Oxford. I though that this could work out better. So, there was a flurry of activity before 0900 to make route plans, identify way points and to create them and to select an anchorage for the night. There were two possibilities. One a roadstead anchorage in the lee of Point Lookout on the river's northern side; the other an obscure cove on the southern shore that I found on Active Captain. Given the possibility of uncomfortable winds during the night we opted for the more sheltered anchorage. It added several miles to the trip to Solomons but it was probably the right choice since we moved and bounced around a lot even with the better shelter. The movement kept Carol awake and kept me up looking at our position during the night to see if the anchor was holding. I was concerned because I had shortened the chain's scope from the normal 5:1 down to 4:1 to restrict the swing radius into the surrounding shallow areas. The anchor held like it was welded to the bottom; I'm starting to feel more confident about our main anchor's holding in these waters.

After the anchor was set the crew had a lively evening: eat dinner, put on more warm clothes. Go to bed, put on more warm blankets. Really, it was much more exciting than it sounds.

We woke up Wednesday morning to a cool but not frigid boat. It was 55o in the cockpit and 62o in the cabin, tolerable but far from ideal for the cryophobic captain. The trip was only a little more than 30 nm so we were in no particular hurry to get underway. "No hurry" means the anchor was aweigh before 0730. The cove where we stayed was unusual: either good water or no water. Since the surrounding depths were so shallow there were many crab pots in the channel, that being the only deep water. Usually, this is a major PAIN! In this instance, not so much as the crab pots provided a clear demarcation of the channel. Not sure where to go? Follow the crab pots just like grains of rice.... but try not to foul the prop.

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It took about an hour to get back to the main channel of the Potomac. There was plenty of wind so when we hit the channel the sails went up and the motor went off. It was a simple sailing plan: make a long reach down the river and out into the Bay then make a single tack back toward the Patuxent River. It was working, too. We were sailing hard, probably too hard. My theory is that if we're going to sail, it is better to sail fast than to sail slow. As I'm sure I've related many times ..... with full sail at 10~15-knots our boat sails well and handles well; with full sail at 15~20 knots our boat sails well but is a challenge to handle; above 20-knots with full sail .... impossible. We were in the second mode today with a little less than all sail out and it was still a lot of work. Carol was having trouble moving about the cockpit and managing lines with a 20o heel while the boat was bouncing over and through the waves. I was working overtime trying to keep the boat on course and right with the wind; one spoke of helm-over position became two then three. I think that we both felt our ages a little bit today but we did go fast and it did feel good for the several hours that it lasted.

It lasted until we were hailed on VHF 16 by USN Target Range Ship 302. There is a clearly marked USN target area on the chart and we were on course to sail close by, but not into that area and the USN wanted to talk to the sailboat NE of Point No Point i.e. S/V Ziveli, us! Usually, being in the area, no hay problema; today, hay una grande problema and all boats were required to stay 3.5 nm from the target area. This required that we take in the sails, motor east into the wind until we hit shallow water, more crab pots, and sundry markers on the other side of the Bay, about a 2-hr. digression. But, what's a little sacrifice on the altar of national security.

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So, a little after 1500 we moored at Solomons, MD, a fairly easy area to navigate and we had a fairly easy approach to the dock. This area seems a little like Oriental, NC in that it is probably a close call whether the town has more people or more boats.

We've been monitoring the weather forecasts for several places, home, Chicago, wherever we are and the next few stops along the way. Frequently it has been warmer at our house, 3,300-ft. above sea level than here on the waters of the Chesapeake. Our next planned stop, Oxford, MD, on the eastern side of the Bay, has consistently had the coolest forecasts. No obvious reason for that, it just is. Whenever Carol talks to folks at the next stop, or two, all comment on how cool this Spring has been. When the sun is out, the days have generally been comfortable; no sun .... not so good.

Carol and I walked about on Thursday morning, a trip which included, of course, a West Marine store. They did not have what I wanted but Carol, as always, found something to buy that was mission critical. By accident we passed the Calvert County Marine Museum and saw this wonderfully reconstructed and restored lighthouse that once guarded the entrance to the Patuxent River, some two or three miles away, from the 1880's into the 1960's. It seems a good example of the genre of lighthouses that I have seen depicted in drawings and paintings. The height above the platform is about the same height above the water as the structure once stood. Light keeper would have been an attractive job for about two or three days without HD TV, the internet, etc. If these things still stood they would probably make great vacation destinations like the stilt houses in the South Pacific or the tree houses in Central America.

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Solomons, MD is a pretty little town. My first choice for "Church of the Day" (actually Church of the Trip, so far) is the Episcopal Church, enough, almost, to induce me to attend and to cure me of my heathen ways. Carol, being a good Christian woman of the Episcopal faith, needs no such inducements. Second place goes to the Methodist Church, John Wesley notwithstanding. It's easy to identify which is which: Methodists would never allow such a sinful color as red on a church front. The clock is an emotional favorite bringing to mind the Carson, Pirie Scott store on State Street in Chicago and the CD Peacock store on the same side of the same street both of which have clocks, respectively with four faces and two faces. The clock is beautiful but seems anomalous as a defining landmark for this place.

Tomorrow we are off for Oxford, MD, a short trip of 30 or so nm.

Posted by sailziveli 19:08 Archived in USA Tagged churches boats boating chesapeake Comments (0)

Colonial Beach

rain 57 °F

We stayed in WDC for one week. First, to let the earth's axis tilt a little closer to the sun, hoping for warmth. We got the tilt but not much in the way of warmth. Second to visit the city. Our visit to the city was like a smorgasbord of appetizers; we were able to absorb small bites of many things but there was not much time for anything in depth, no entrees. After seven days I could not have walked another mile nor could I have stood for another hour in any museum or exhibit. It felt good to just sit down in the hand crafted boat chair and to drive the boat, enjoying the warm sun and the panoramic tableau served up by the river.

Most major cities were founded with access to water; in the interior they are on rivers, many at the confluence of two rivers. I was reminded that WDC has this trait when we were exiting the Washington Channel. We were at the point where the Anacostia joins the Potomac, just putting along, staying in the channel, when we were hailed by a barge and tug, the barge being bigger than our house, that was coming down the Anacostia River and wanted us out of the way. We moved! It was hard to believe that I had not seen that colossal chunk of moving metal, but I didn't. The tug was pushing the barge at a pretty good rate and after an hour or so it was not in our field of vision. Other than the tug/barge combo, the 60 odd miles of river were quite empty, only one sailboat headed to WDC and several small fishing boats.

I had rather planned a later start on Friday, knowing that there was no way to make the transit from WDC to Colonial Beach in a single day. The leisurely morning plan changed when Carol decided to open the companionway flooding the cabin with cold air. Given the choice between cold and miserable in the cabin and cold and miserable underway, we pulled away from the dock before 0700. We must have caught the tide just right because we were making monsterly good time. By 1400 we had hit the anchorage area I had thought that we would reach by 1800. A quick look at the charts and we decided to go another two hours to Colonial Beach. We needed diesel fuel and propane, having exhausted one of the LPG tanks that morning. We covered at least 65 nm in less than 10 hours, something that I had thought impossible in our boat.

Sailboaters in inland waters always worry about vertical clearance. Our boat needs about 52-ft. plus a little more for the flexible VHF antenna. Just above Quantico, VA there is a power station with high tension lines that span the river. If hitting a fixed object and damaging the mast is concerning, the idea of the mast engaging power lines is truly terrifying. I can read a chart well enough. After two passages beneath the power lines, done two different ways, I am not sure that we did it right either time. The charts, chart plotter, cruising guides and Active Captain all showed information that was not visible on the water. Obviously, no problems .... enough clearance. I've made navigation mistakes but this is the only instance that I can remember of not knowing how to navigate an area.

The first 50 miles of the Potomac entails well more than 100 miles of coastline. In all of those miles there is only one town actually on the water: Colonial Beach. The town has history as does much of the land in this area: it was founded in 1650. Like many such towns, it had its day but that day is long since past. We caught this sunset the first night there, probably the only sunset picture from the boat over hardwood trees. An unusual one seeing the sun despite all the cloud cover.

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This marina is at the very tip of the isthmus and town is a pretty good hike away so we rented a golf cart for the grand tour. Colonial Beach actually does have a beach, reputed to be the largest around and a feature that was the town's attraction in days past. For all of the age of the town and its Victorian history, there are only two old houses left standing. The yellow one pictured was once owned by Alexander Graham Bell; it is now a bed & breakfast. The area got hit badly by a hurricane in the 1930's so that probably accounts for the paucity. It seems to be a somewhat reluctant tourist town now, having a Steamboat casino whose only connection to the water is a paddle wheel painted on the front facade.

Saturday was an easy day, get a few boat chores done and take the rest of the day off. The marina wasn't very crowded but during the afternoon things picked up. Some boats were down from Washington, DC; some may have come up the river from Deltaville or other places a few motoring miles from here. By evening it was generally full. There is a restaurant at this marina, not unusual, a feature of many marinas, usually a bar that also sells some food.

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This is a real restaurant with very good seafood earning Carol's seafood imprimatur. It seems that the plan is motor to Colonial Beach on Saturday, eat at the restaurant, then stay the night at the marina. Chairs appeared on the dock; dogs wandered about as beers were opened; people joined into clusters to share stories about boats and sundry. Early Sunday morning the boats started leaving with time scheduled to secure things in the home ports; by noon the last one had departed. Not a bad plan. The marina is also unusual in that it has two sets of slips with canvas "covers," protection for larger boats in the 40~60-ft. range.

I am tired of marinas; the convenience is nice showers, laundry, and, most importantly, power to run the heat pump. But, enough, already. The last couple of nights in WDC I didn't turn on the heat at night so that I could track the temperature differential inside the boat and outside. The statistically not significant answer is about 6o~7o warmer inside than outside. With overnight temps in the mid-50's this can work; temps into the 40's, not ever. The forecast is always throwing in a low ball number that makes me worry about freezing my skinny butt off. We even looked at a more powerful Honda generator, one to run the 16k BTU heat pump, but there was no possible match between physical size, weight and power output. So, marinas it will be until whenever the weather starts acting like Spring.

Monday broke ugly: cold and rainy, windy and gray, the perfect day not to be underway. So, we stayed put in Colonial Beach, where we stayed warm and we stayed dry. Tuesday, if the weather looks good, we will start a two day run down the Potomac and then across the Bay to Oxford, MD where we plan to stay through a cold weekend.... in a marina!

Posted by sailziveli 18:00 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating chesapeake Comments (0)

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