Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sailing the Chesapeake: Jackson Creek, Deltaville part 1

July 26, 2014

After leaving the Great Wicomico River, we again turned south to head further into Virginia. Although the southerly winds were only 5-7 knots at our anchorage, we had a solid 17-20 knots directly on the nose and 3-4' waves out in the Bay.

We cut through the waves and had less spray than in the Little Choptank, but there was no point in hoisting any of the sails. Thanks to our Max-Prop, we were moving at 5 knots at only 1,700 RPM -- a respectable speed given the wind and wave conditions.

The winds calmed to 10-12 knots as we approached Windmill Point and started to make our turn into the Piankatank River. We decided to forgo lunch until we made it to Deltaville, and focused instead on navigating our way into Jackson Creek.

If you've never been to Jackson Creek, the approach can be a bit tricky. There is 8-9' of water in the narrow channel that bends it's way into the creek, but it is flanked by sand shoals on all sides with only 1' of water. It didn't help matters that the house on the point just past RN4 had a bright red sun umbrella on their beach directly behind the closely spaced markers, which played tricks on your eyes as you made your approach. After R10, Jackson Creek divides into two separate forks, separated by a sandy spit with 1' of water. We anchored at 2 pm in the right fork, in about 9' of water off the Deltaville Boatyard and Marina.

Jackson Creek Anchorage
Once the anchor was set and the snubber on, we hopped in the dinghy to visit Tom, Barbara, and their dog Jenny aboard Tortuga's Lie, their Tartan 37. The skies soon began turning dark and it was apparent that a storm was heading our way. We returned to Phoenix and began storm preparations: checked the anchor and snubber lines, set up the squall-proof wind scoop and aft hatch storm dodger, stowed the cockpit cushions down below, etc. They were calling for high winds, so we attached the dinghy painter to the starboard stern cleat and paid out extra line in case the dinghy went airborne (this happened in a summer squall with our old Portabote while sailing our previous boat Meandrous).

The winds picked up and the clouds above the marina began to rotate. We watched as small tips started to form under the rotating clouds, then rise back up to the rotating mass just a few hundred yards away.

Storm clouds beginning to form over the Deltaville Boatyard

Rotating clouds as the storm gained strength

Bill had just finished saying that the sh%t would hit the fan if the boat made a sudden spin, and sure enough we had a sudden gust of wind and Phoenix did a 180. As we spun, the snubber popped off and we began dragging the anchor. While Bill fired up the motor, I turned the windlass on, and luckily our 88 lb Rocna anchor quickly reset itself just before Phoenix blew into the 1' sandy shoal behind us!

Bill was about to put the motor in gear so we could move away from the shoal and reset the anchor in deeper water when he noticed that the dinghy painter was caught under the rudder, possibly in the prop. We couldn't put the motor in gear, so we paid out more anchor chain, reset the snubber, and made several attempts in vain to retrieve the painter with the boat hook while anxiously watching the depth finder and anchor line. It was clear that one of us was going to have to go in the water. Bill retrieved the boarding ladder and I hopped in to dive under the boat. After my second dive I saw that the painter was not tangled in the propeller, but was underneath and caught around the protective skeg.

The dinghy painter was wrapped around the protective skeg and caught up in both spots
I freed the line on my third dive, then climbed aboard while Bill moved the dinghy painter and secured the dinghy to a mid-ship cleat. We pulled up the anchor line, put the motor in gear, moved the boat, reset the anchor with more chain and a taut snubber line, then sat out the rest of the storm.

A recent article in Chesapeake Bay Magazine listed Jackson Creek as one of the best places in the southern Chesapeake to sit out a storm. However a Dickerson 37 that was further up the creek past Deltaville Boatyard also dragged anchor during the storm (not sure if they did a 180 as well). Their fire drill was a bit more dramatic than ours, since their anchor did not reset right away and the crew was scrambling to reset the anchor. (They left early the next day.)

Once the storms passed, the evening and anchorage were calm. We dinghied to the Boatyard and met up with Tom, Barbara and Jenny. They thought I had picked a strange time to go for a swim, but once we told them about the dinghy painter, my impromptu afternoon dip made much more sense.

We made the short walk over to the Deltaville Maritime Museum just in time to enjoy their "Groovin' in the Park" concert of the month -- a veritable who's who of Deltaville residents. After listening to Steve Bassett and Robin Thompson for a while, we wandered around the grounds and checked out the historic boats and the gardens around the museum.

Later that evening, Tom and Barbara came aboard for cocktails and dinner. We had a great time visiting with our friends, so much fun that I forgot to take any pictures! Unfortunately Barbara's vacation was coming to an end and she had to head home the next day, but at least we had the evening to catch up with them before their planned departure.

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