Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sailing the Chesapeake: Little Choptank River

July 24-25, 2014

With the starter rebuilt and reinstalled we were ready to head back out on the waters, making our way south down the Bay. The original plan was to rendezvous with our friends Tom and Barbara in Virginia, and with our slight delay we were a bit behind schedule and had a fair amount of ground to cover.

We left our dock at 9 am and had a downwind run with 10-15 knots blowing out of the north, gusting to 20. We sailed on a broad reach with jib and jigger, and had unseasonably cold weather for late July/early August. Temperatures on the Bay were only in the high 60s -- definitely polar fleece weather!

Who would of thought we'd need our polar fleece in the summer?!?

Okay, no polar fleece, but long sleeves are bad enough!
We sailed down the Chesapeake, passed the Bay Bridge and the Choptank River. They were calling for severe thunderstorms in the southern part of the Bay, so we decided to head into the Little Choptank River.

This was our first time in the Little Choptank, and we were surprised to find several unmarked areas where shoaling had occurred. The charts and Open CPN showed areas that were supposed to be 30-40 feet deep in the marked channel; we found 15-20. Other areas had that were supposed to have 15+ feet had 8-10 foot depths at high tide. There was shoaling around nearly every mark, so it's wise to give each mark a wide berth when entering the river if you have a deep draft boat. We were happy to have our Interphase forward scanning sonar as we headed up the river.

Since we knew there would be storms, we were hoping to find a protected area to anchor. However, we didn't want to venture too far up the river since we would be leaving in the morning. Most of the shoreline area we saw was either beachy sand spit or low lying trees -- nothing that would offer much protection in a squall. We ended up anchoring between Ragged Point and Casson Point. They were dredging the area near G7, so we wanted to make sure we were far enough away from the work boats.

Little Choptank River Anchorage
We dropped anchor at 7 pm, just as it began to lightly rain. Dark storm clouds could be seen moving southeast at a decent speed. We quickly set up our squall-proof wind scoop and aft cabin storm dodger, and we were ready for the storms.

We watched as the storms moved to the south of us, and could hear the thunder in the distance. Thankfully for us, the severe storms stayed far south of our anchorage. The people in Cape Charles Virginia were not so lucky, and a tornado touched down there, killing 3 people and injuring many others. Once the storms passed, out came the rainbows and a magnificent sunset at our anchorage.

Rainbow over the dredge boat in Little Choptank River

A gorgeous sunset on the Little Choptank
A sailor's delight while making dinner
True to the river's name, there was a decent amount of chop all night long. After a fitful night's sleep we were none too happy to wake up to the sounds of commercial crabbers at 5:30 in the morning. One boat -- Wet Willey -- decided to start his trot line about 10-20' off our beam! I wanted to give him a heck of a lot more than a wet willey for waking us up so early!

M/V Wet Willey  running his crab line off the beam
We had little incentive to stay put much longer, so we prepared to take off while sipping our morning coffee. We hauled anchor shortly before 7:30 am, and it was time to continue making our way down the Bay.

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