Saturday, September 21, 2013

Destination: Worton Creek

Working for ourselves gives us a great deal of flexibility in our schedules, but on the flip side, it can make planning difficult. Some projects are easy to plan for, but for the most part, we're essentially on call for our clients and never really know when a project will come our way or snowball into something bigger.

After one particularly grueling week where we were both glued to our computers for 10 hour days, we decided we needed a quick getaway to unplug and unwind. We originally wanted to take a longer trip down south, but something short and relaxing seemed more our speed after the week we had! The winds were favorable for a trip north, so we decided to head to another favorite anchorage, Worton Creek.

We've been playing around with different sail configurations lately, and this day we had a comfortable beam reach sail with the main and genoa. Even though the winds were light we made good time, all the while dodging the crab pots that typically pepper the Northern part of the Chesapeake. When we reached Worton Creek, we once again had an anchorage to ourselves.

Unlike Still Pond, which is solely residential, Worton has a handful of marinas tucked in the back. There is plenty of depth in the channel, but you should stay close to the marks because it quickly becomes shallow on either side of the cut. You can get block ice at Green Pointe Landing, and Harbor House restaurant is tucked behind Worton Creek Marina if you're looking to get off the boat. If you're interested in nautical history, there's a real WWII PT boat on the hard back there as well.

Once were settled in it was time for cocktails and dinner.

Taco night!
Just before dusk another boat came into the anchorage, and wouldn't you know it he decided he needed to anchor right next to us! I mean about 15 yards away! At first we thought he was going to come over to visit, but he proceeded to go down below, turn on his generator and let it run all night long! So much for our peaceful first night! Luckily he left first thing the next morning.

After breakfast, while straightening up the cockpit, I was startled to find a tree frog in one of the cubbies. Ok, startled was an understatement -- I got totally girly and didn't want to go in the cubby to get him out! I bribed Bill to do it for me -- and he leapt at the chance to get out of dishes duty to play with a tiny tree frog :-) Once he got him out of the cubby, I had to laugh at myself and admit that our little stowaway was actually pretty cute!
Our little stowaway
No clue how this little guy got on board or how long he'd been there, but with as many flies flying around Worton, he was certainly well fed! We didn't want to put him overboard since we weren't that close to shore and didn't want him to become fish food. We were planning to swim ashore and thought he would freak out if we put him in the dry bag, so we figured he'd be fine in the cockpit until we could free him back home. He hopped back in the cubby, we wounded a few flies to give him a quick meal, and we went ashore to do some exploring. By the time we came back the flies were gone, and so was our little friend. Just as mysteriously as he had appeared, he was gone. At least he had a nice meal before heading out on his own!

The beaches at Worton are a little rocky, so you definitely need some water shoes. There's not as much sea glass as other Chesapeake beaches, but there's still plenty to see. I still haven't gotten a great photo of the bald eagles, but there were plenty soaring around and talking to one another. The hillside is eroding more than we've noticed in previous years and other beach combers have decided to turn some beach debris into "art".


Pretty shallow all the way to the mark on the left
Definitely more erosion than previous years
He was too cute not to photograph -- love their blue tails!
We saw about 6 of these gloves along the shore, but these were photo worthy!

I guess we missed the party
We stumbled upon some wild sumac bushes (not Poison sumac) that were beginning to bear fruit. Bill new the fruit was used by Native Americans to make a medicinally active summer tea. The leaves and berries are high in tannins, which gives the fruit some antimicrobial properties. We picked some berries to take back the boat. Bill steeped the fruit in boiling water to make us the tea, which tastes almost like a lemony flavored hibiscus tea. You can drink it hot or cold, but don't steep the berries too long or your tea will become bitter.

We were treated to more fabulous sunsets and eventually had to make our way home.
Bill and me at sunset

We set off in the morning with the outgoing tide. With the winds abeam we sailed jib and jigger (genoa and mizzen) until we were well into Rock Creek, comfortably sailing around 6.5 - 7 knots.

Before we knew it we were home. It was a short, but much needed trip. Neither of us were ready to get off the boat, but Phoenix isn't going to finish herself, so soon we'll have to get back to work! :-)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Destination: Still Pond

Our friends Tom and Barbara keep their boat on the Virginia side of the Potomac River, and each year we try to meet up on the Bay for a visit. This year, we decided to meet at Still Pond, one of our favorite anchorages on the Chesapeake. Still Pond has a very special place in our hearts -- it was the first anchorage Bill and I shared, was where we spent our first anniversary, was our dog Radar's favorite beach to explore, and is a nice day sail from our home on Rock Creek.

Phoenix's roller headsail is a newer luxury for us since we're both accustomed to hank on sails and changing headsails with the weather conditions, so we decided to use this trip as an opportunity to play around with the roller. We had decent downwind air for most of the run, and found that despite her size, it really doesn't take much wind to get Phoenix moving! With about 1/3 of our 140 genoa unfurled on a downwind run we were consistently moving at 6.5 knots with a neutral helm. But a summer squall was moving up the Bay so we decided to duck into Worton Creek for the night to sit out the storm.

Worton is a fairly protected creek (though open to the west) just south of Still Pond, and we dropped anchor on the south side of the opening, though there were several boats anchored on the northern side of the creek. By the time we dropped our 60 lb CQR, snubbed the anchor chain, secured the deck pipe cover, closed all of the hatches and ports, and settled in, we had about 10 minutes to spare before the winds really piped up and peaked around 30 knots. Nearly all of the rain went around us, but the wind and chop continued for about an hour. Our anchor held well and we had a little chop since we were well protected by the point to the south. The boats across the creek, however, were getting pounded and some were laid over by the wind. It surely did not look like they were having much fun!

Calming down after the storm passed
After it was all said and done we were treated to a wonderful rainbow and sunset, and it was time to relax for the evening.

Should have put the dinghy in to go get that pot of gold!
Sailors' delight
The next day we moved on to Still Pond to relax for a few days and eventually meet up with Tom and Barbara. Still Pond was once a well-kept secret on the Bay, and there were many times that Bill and I would anchor out here and be the only boat on the water. Unfortunately, a few years back it was written up as one of the best anchorages on the Chesapeake, so now you can expect large crowds of powerboaters on the weekends. Mid-week you'll still find a quiet anchorage filled with lots of soaring bald eagles, breathtaking sunsets,  and excellent swimming.

Shortly after dropping the hook, the winds piped up and once again we were sitting through 30+ knot winds, though this time, the winds were accompanied by rain. Still Pond offers great protection from the south and west, but today the winds shifted to the north-east, so we were taking the brunt of the storm on the nose. But we were very impressed with the holding power the CQR -- it definitely holds well in a muddy bottom!

Watching the rain line approaching

Near white out conditions

We decided to test out the flow through characteristics of our cockpit cushions so we left them out during the storm. They were soaked, but when we turned them on their sides,  the water poured out of the Phifertex backs as planned. They were too wet to sit on for dinner, but they were dry by morning. A nice experiment, but we decided to take them down below from now on -- at least until we make the cockpit enclosure! We also took the opportunity to test out the aft cabin hatch dodger. It worked like a champ and we were able to keep the hatch open through the whole storm!

The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we decided we wanted some exercise. So we packed our water shoes and bug spray in a dry bag, put on our swim fins and swam ashore. This was our first time walking the beach here without Radar, but we fondly reminisced about all of his favorite sniff spots while combing the beach for sea glass. On a previous trip he took us up a hill near the point that is covered in wild raspberries. We climbed back up the hill, picked a few quart bags full of raspberries, eventually swam back to the boat, and made raspberry jam with our bounty.

That afternoon we inflated our Sea Eagle inflatable kayak and explored more of the creek.

Bill paddling around in the Sea Eagle kayak
On shore, looking for sea glass
Later that day, Tom and Barbara arrived and joined us for cocktails.

Bill and Tom hanging out in the cockpit, his Tartan -- Tortuga's Lie -- in the background
We were blasted by another storm that night with rain all night long, but Phoenix proved to be extremely comfortable at anchor. We thought our Rutland 913 was going be nothing more than a trickle charge for our batteries, but it was spinning like crazy the whole trip, and we had more than enough power. It was consistently providing more than 10 amps at 30v, and we were charging the cell phones, laptop, ipod, etc. just to use up some of the extra power we were generating!

Tom and Barbara left the next day, just as the weather calmed down. There were only a few boats in the anchorage the whole trip, including Ata Marie, a Nordhavn 56 motorsailer. We swam over to chat with the captain and first mate, who were on their way up north. Like us they were planning to leave the next morning.

Ata Marie at anchor
Our new neighbors and we were treated to another breathtaking sunset. The water and air were so still we almost needed to break out the wind scoop.

The next morning we pulled up anchor, waved goodbye to our new friends and made our way home. Still Pond remains one of our favorite anchorages on the Bay. It's (mid-week) serenity and beauty never disappoint and the raspberry jam was pretty awesome too!