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Avoiding fishing boats and crabpots: Solomons to Baltimore MD

Solomons to Baltimore MD
Chesapeake Bay

Barring any mishaps, or significant changes to weather (like GALE force northerly winds) – we should be able to make it back to Cat Maudy’s home port of Baltimore today. We motored north up the Chesapeake bay to mostly calm seas – and a light northerly breeze. It must have been an excellent day for fishing – because anyone who owned a fishing pole and had access to a boat – was either anchored or trolling. I thought about making use of our new fishing pole – but somehow we had managed to misplace the only lure that we owned (a Wahoo Wacker) – so there would be no fishing on Cat Maudy today. Probably not any Wahoo ocean fish in this section of the bay anyway! We motored just outside of the shipping channel, in deeper waters — to avoid any altercations with crab pots in more shallow waters. There would be no diving for crabpots on this final leg of our cruise.

This section of the Chesapeake Bay is familiar territory to us – and we took note of the recognizable sights: Little Choptank River…Choptank River…Poplar Island…Rhode River…Eastern Bay… South River…Severn River…Annapolis…and the Bay Bridge. We were not making the best time, but it didn’t really matter. We knew we would be back to Baltimore eventually. As we approached the Bay Bridge — our speed dramatically slowed. A strong ebb tide kept us at about 4.5 knots for the next few miles. Near the mouth of the Magothy River – a delightful breeze showed up from the East-Northeast. We hoisted the main and unfurled the jib to see if we could gain any speed for motor sailing. Not bad. Within a few more minutes the breeze had freshened up sufficiently — allowing us to turn OFF the motors and cruise at about 6.5 knots! Woo hoo — we’re sailing now!
Sailing. Not motor-sailing….just sailing. Finally, it was quiet, without the incessant noise from the diesel engines. Sailing. It was a fitting end to our cruise originating from Charleston SC nearly 4 weeks ago. We sailed up the Patapsco River — into the Port of Baltimore – enjoying a beautiful sunset along the way.

Charleston SC to Baltimore MD Trip Stats:

  • 650 miles (250 miles offshore, 200 miles on ICW, 200 miles on Chesapeake Bay)
  • 9 travel days
  • 25 calendar days
  • 0 days 90% or more of time pure sailing (i.e. no motor)
  • 2 days 50% of time pure sailing
  • 4 days 30% or less of time pure sailing
  • 150 gallons diesel consumed (ouch $$)
  • 0 days the steering worked properly
  • 5 days operating the boat with one rudder
  • 2 days operating the boat with the wrong rudder (i.e. the one that didn’t work!)
  • 1 day of kitty motion sickness (Soxy & Earl felt a bit queasy on the first day offshore)
  • Repairs made: topping lift, stack pack loop, reef line
  • Repairs TO DO list: steering, dinghy motor, autohelm

What I learned on this trip:

1. Offshore GRIB charts are probably the most reliable weather predictions for offshore sailing. Either download GRIB files (Atlantic 5day) or use http://passageweather.com . Offshore forecasts from the National Weather Service are also handy http://www.nws.noaa.gov/. Weather forecasts for port cities might be interesting to review, but rarely reliable. Check radar forecasts to monitor the path of stormy conditions.

2. Leave behind any time schedule you might have. If you think the trip might take 2 weeks — double the time to be realistic.

3. Get comfortable with the concept “Waiting on Weather”. You may have to wait longer that you would like, and often times – the ideal weather just never appears. Make the best judgments you can and be prepared for anything goes.

4. Stockpile staple & favorite foods where possible (rice, soups, pasta) – as you may find yourself at anchor more than you think, and not every harbor town has a grocery store nearby. Use green bags to preserve produce. (http://greenbagsdirect.com) Have easy to prepare foods on hand – as often you are too tired at the end of the day to do any gourmet cooking.

5. Know the systems on your boat — hydraulic, electronics, engines — so that if an emergency arises you can troubleshoot quickly. I have a lot to learn in this department — but that will change!

6. Have wetsuits (that fit) for both the Captain & First Mate handy on the boat — in case you need to dive under the boat in cold waters the fix a problem

7. Safety: I can’t tell you how much more comfortable I felt offshore — knowing that I was tethered to the boat at all times.

8. Have a bailout plan in case the sea state changes sufficiently – preventing you from maintaining your original course. The sea state (waves & swells) can change SURPRISING quickly with increasing winds or storms.

9. If something can break at the most inappropriate time — it will. It’s up to you to deal with it, fix it or come up with an alternate plan to keep going. Cool heads prevail. No one else can help you until you are at a port with lots of marine specialists and money.

10. Use a combination of GPS & backup GPS systems, plus reliable computer navigation software. We use “The Captain” software — and it was incredibly on target for guiding us into unknown ports, as well as through shallow waters in the ICW.

11. Be humble. Talk with other cruisers along the way – and learn from their experiences (and share yours too!). You never know when a cruising tip might just save your butt!

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