Friday, August 15, 2014

Sailing the Chesapeake: Great Wicomico River

July 25-26, 2014

We left the Little Choptank River at 7:30 am on a falling tide. Winds were blowing out of the north, 10-15 knots. True to it's name, there was a great deal of chop; even cutting the waves at a 45 degree angle, we had water spraying over the bow and hitting the windshield. The minimum free board on an Andromeda is 6' and Phoenix's bowsprit is 11' above the waterline, so you know you have your hands full when waves are splashing over the bow!

As we made the turn to head down the Bay and into deeper water, the chop subsided and it was time for another downwind run . We sailed jib and jigger again, just to test Phoenix's downwind performance with different sail configurations. We have less canvas up with this configuration, but on a broad reach, the main tends to blanket the headsail causing it to flog, unless we're sailing dead down wind, wing and wing. Once we get our whisker pole that will be a different story, but until then, we'll keep playing around with the mizzen.

We had a relatively smooth sail down the Bay with only a slight heel angle (5-10 degrees); smooth enough that I was able to make fresh pita bread for lunch on the stove top down below while under sail. After lunch, we decided we needed a bit more speed if we were going to make it down near Reedville for the evening, so we rolled in the genoa, and motor sailed with the mizzen. [We were definitely appreciating our rebuilt starter.]

Once we passed Smith Point Light off the Potomac, the winds began to shift out of the south. This is a good thing if you're planning to anchor in or around the Reedville,Virginia area. Reedville is the East Coast mecca for menhaden fishing, and by most accounts has the second largest fish processing plant in the US -- second only to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Depending on which way the wind blows, the smell of fish can be anything from a mild aroma to downright overwhelming, and many have cautioned against anchoring in the area we intended to anchor when the winds are blowing from the north.

Smith Point Lighthouse -- just south of the Maryland/Virginia state line
The narrow entrance to the Great Wicomico River is flanked with fish traps, but if you stay in the deep, well marked channel it's a relatively easy approach.

Fish traps flanking the entrance to the Great Wicomico River
We were tempted to stop in Mill Creek [trivia question: how many Mill Creeks are there in the Chesapeake?], but instead decided to tuck in behind Sandy Point for the evening.We dropped anchor at 7 pm in 20' of water. 

Anchored behind Sandy Point in the Great Wicomico River
Sandy Point proved to be a nice, quiet anchorage with only one other sailboat anchored a good distance away. There was some boat traffic as people made their way up the river, but the waters were calm and with southerly winds there was no fishy smell wafting from Reedville.

The weather was calm that evening, but they were calling for heavy southerly winds the following day. The plan was to head out the next morning to meet up with our friends Tom and Barbara in Deltaville. We were both exhausted from the past few days and the lack of sleep in the Little Choptank, and the idea of motoring into heavy wind and waves on the nose wasn't that appealing to either of us. Barbara had to go back to work soon, so if we didn't make it to Deltaville the next day, we wouldn't be able to see her. We decided to play it by ear, hopefully get a good nights sleep, and see what the next day's weather brought our way.

The next morning we slept in until 7 am -- a glorious night's sleep and not a commercial crabber in sight! Feeling well rested, we decided to make the trip to Deltaville to meet up with our friends, and started prepping to shove off once again. The winds were only blowing 5-7 knots in the anchorage, though we knew there was more wind out in the Bay.

Since we were anchored in 20' of water with a muddy bottom, we had 80' of chain out. We began hauling the anchor, giving the raw water wash down pump a workout as the windlass went to work. With about 40' of chain left in the water, the thermal overload on wash down pump cut out and we had no more than a trickle coming through the hose. Out came our trusty canvas bucket, and we used it to haul up water and clean the remaining 40' of chain and very muddy anchor before heading back out to the Bay.

By 9 am my back was stiff from this impromptu morning workout, but we were on the move again, heading south to our next destination -- Deltaville.

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