Monday, May 4, 2015

Gill nets and Mulligans ...

The Fishing Bay anchorage.
The plan was to leave Fishing Bay and make two or three easy day-sails to finish the trek North. Sunday dawned sunny and calm. We moved over to the fuel dock to pump out the used water tank, fill up the fresh water tanks, and dump some trash. The Fishing Bay Marina turned out to be a gem of a place, good anchorage, friendly people (India runs the office, couldn't have been more helpful, and is a Charmer) … we plan on stopping there for a few more days before heading to places south. Anyway...

No wind to be had
Leaving the dock was as easy as stepping aboard, taking in the lines, and letting the gentle breeze drift Kintala free and clear. The GRIB files promised a day of little or no wind, but we rolled the head sails in and out a couple of times anyway, looking to quiet the Beast. After an hour or so we found enough air to fill the sails, and for two wonderful hours we moved along like a sailboat should. Sadly though, the GRIBs turned out to be more right than wrong. Just after 1100, drifting to a stop with sails flapping uselessly, the Beast rumbled awake and we made like power cruisers once again.

A sea of glass

And still no wind...
We had departed without having settled on an anchorage for the night.  We needed a balance of wind or no, plus functional Deck Monkey or no, divided by the need to get where we were going. There was another variable in the equation as well.  The Chesapeake is a pretty big body of water. When one is wandering down the middle of it, the only place even remotely safe from crab-pots, one can easily be ten miles or more from a suitable place to drop a hook. Ten plus miles in, ten plus miles back out; at sailboat speeds such a detour can easily add five or six hours to a two day total. Once we got to adding up the numbers it appeared that anchoring for the night would mean going nearly 30 miles further than if we just sailed on to Rock Creek and the Oak Harbor Marina. But that would mean a last minute change of plans to making an overnight run up one of the busiest Bays on the East Coast. We haven't had much luck with last minute additions of overnight runs, and started this season with a distinct ambivalence to the idea of any overnight work. Then again …

… straight to Rock Creek was a total of just 24 hour and we were already ten hours in. It was the best kind of full moon night, with moon rise just as the sun set. It was clear as a bell  We have done four overnight runs in the last month or so, and this one would be in the Bay with very little chance of weather. No wind, meaning motoring and hand steering, but there wasn't any wind in the forecast for the next several days. Motor at night, motor in the daytime, it's still motoring. So we elected to motor on...

... and had the easiest, smoothest, overnight run we have ever had. We even managed a couple of hours of sailing come late evening and into the sunset; 1815 to 2030 to be exact. This allowed the Wind Vane to do the driving while Deb cooked up and served dinner. Sweet timing indeed.

Sunset on the Chesapeake

The only downside to the whole adventure was local fishing habits. For once the crab-potters seemed to have figured out where the shipping channel was located. The same cannot be said for those stringing out gill nets, particularly those working between the channel markers of Red 68 and Red 80. Those daft buggers are apparently dense or lazy, laying out their prop-traps with one end at the a channel marker - my guess is so the duffs can find it again without having to learn how to use a GPS - with the other end strung out into the channel many hundreds of feet! Yikes.

Big boats tend to run in the middle of the channel leaving the nests unmolested, though my guess is such boats would chew through such gear without notice. North bound forty-two foot sailboats, on the other hand, tend to run close to Reds to give the big boats room. Kintala would certainly notice if she ran over one, likely drifting to a stop with prop and rudder hopelessly fouled.

Cruise ship leaving Baltimore heading for the islands. Wait...why are we going the opposite direction????

Fortunately, most of the dodging was completed before the sun went completely down, though one passed close down our port side in the moon light. By shear luck the net stretched out away from our hull, the other marker even deeper out in the channel. Yikes!  I certainly hope that one got shredded into tiny little bits by one of the big boats that later closed in on us from the stern.

One of the ships we dodged

Note to self: look behind often when running this channel at night. The big cargo ships heading for Baltimore are scary fast and surprisingly quiet; and run all night long. Looking back over one's port shoulder to see four stories worth of bow slicing through the water just 0.1 nm away WILL make the heart pound. After that scare I kept a much better watch and, using the information on our I.A.S., called each boat by name when they were two miles astern, making sure they had us in sight, and letting them know we would be moving close to the Reds to give them plenty of room for a pass on our port side. Nearly every one of them thanked us for checking in.  It was all very professional and kind of fun.  Echos of landing a Cessna 150 at Pittsburgh International Airport at rush hour on a Monday morning. (Those of you who don't get the connection, don't worry. Those that do... yeah, that was me.)

Rock Creek anchorage early in the morning

Just after dawn we pulled into Rock Creek and now sit on the hook just a mile or so from Oak Harbor. Later today we will head in and transition from cruising to getting ready to cruise. It is almost like a mulligan; sell the house, visit family along the way, fix up the boat, say good-by to the kids and grand kids, try not to get trapped too far north come Autumn. We did this once already. Let's all hope the second try works out a little easier than did the first.


Mike Boyd said...

So, how many times did they tell you "maintain best possible speed" in the 150? :-)

Good luck with your tasks this summer! Hope to get get a chance to meet up with you guys when you return.


Don Parsons said...

Give me a call when you make it back to STL.

Sky and I are headed to Europe for two weeks in June (13th-29th), but other than that, I'll be around.