Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sailing the Chesapeake: Mobjack Bay

July 29-30th, 2014

The winds blew 20-27 knots all night long, and by morning they calmed to 10-15 knots out of the northwest. We checked the tides and they were running about a foot below mean low water. With the shallow channel leading into Jackson Creek, we decided to wait a bit for the tides to come up before hauling anchor.

Our friend Tom's Tartan 37, Tortuga's Lie, only draws 4 1/2' with the centerboard up, so the tide was less of an issue for him. He hauled anchor at 7:30 am, we said our goodbyes, and he started to make his way back to their marina on the Yeocomico River.

Tom washing down Torgtuga's Lie's deck after hauling anchor

Saying our goodbyes to Tom and Jenny -- she's a good sailing dog
While waiting for the tides to come up, Bill worked on our raw water washdown pump, which stopped working while we were anchored in the Great Wicomico. We had about 80' of chain out, and I wasn't looking forward to rinsing all of the Chesapeake mud off the chain with a canvas bucket! The filter was slightly clogged, so he cleared that, reassembled the pump and cleared the air in the lines. The water pump worked for a while, but once we had about 3/4 of the chain hauled in, the pump overheated and stopped working, so it was back to the canvas bucket again.

We stopped at the Deltaville Marina for a free pump out, and were on our way by 11:30 am for another downwind run. We sailed with jib and jigger on a broad run at about 5 knots. The winds dropped to 1-2 knots apparent, and our speeds slowed to 2.8 -- time to fire up the motor and roll in the headsail. We motored with the mizzen downwind until we reached Mobjack Bay, just north of Hampton, Virginia.

Mobjack Bay is a large, scenic inlet, riddled with fish traps, yet known for its raw beauty. There are many rivers and creeks to that feed into the Mobjack, several with deep water.  At the beginning of our trip, we had hoped to have enough time to explore several of these areas, but the starter delay cut into our cruising time, so our stay was limited to an overnight.  With the winds blowing out of the north, we decided not to venture too far into the Bay, and ducked into an open anchorage just past the abandoned yet picturesque New Point Comfort Light instead.

Mobjack Bay Anchorage

New Point Comfort Light
Open anchorage in Mobjack Bay

One of our neighbors anchored nearby
We dropped anchor at 5:45 pm and had only two other boats anchored in the area. We noticed large sea nettles in the water while setting the anchor, so swimming was out of the question. The weather was clear and calm that evening, a nice reprieve from the days of storm preparations. We had a wonderful evening, grilling and enjoying a bottle of zinfandel under the stars.

Bill manning the grill at sunset
Mobjack also had some of the largest sea walnuts we've seen on the Bay. Also known as comb jellies, sea walnuts are bio-luminescent invertebrates. Unlike jelly fish, they have no tentacles and are harmless to the touch. Sea walnuts can be found throughout the Bay, but the size and number that we saw in Mobjack were impressive to say the least.

Sea Walnut (aka Comb Jelly) -- picture courtesy of

Bio-luminescent sea walnut
When agitated, sea walnuts glow green, which made the water around Phoenix sparkle as the sea walnuts lapped against the boat with the waves and the current. There was also a fireworks display on the horizon to the southwest of our anchorage, so everywhere we looked we were treated to a light show!

The next morning, we woke up refreshed and ready to start making our way back up the Bay. We hauled anchor at 8:30 am, and were the last of the three boats to leave the party! Low and behold, the wash down pump worked this time and did a great job rinsing off the chain and anchor! Apparently it is designed for intermittent use and is prone to over-heating. Needless to say the wash down pump was added to the list of things to improve when we got back to our dock.

Once again they were calling for north winds, so it was finally time for some upwind sailing! We set our sights on our next destination:  Urbanna, Virginia, off the Rappahonnock River.

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