Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sailing the Chesapeake: Urbanna, Virginia

July 30-31, 2014

When we awoke in Mobjack Bay, the winds were 10 knots from the north -- perfect weather for an upwind sail. We hauled anchor at 8:30 am, and were the last of the three boats to leave the party. Much to my delight, the wash down pump worked perfectly and I didn't have to pull out the canvas bucket to finish rinsing off the chain and anchor. We determined that it was designed for intermittent use and is prone to over-heating. Something to address when we got home...

We started heading up the Bay on a beam reach with the jib and jigger, and were doing about 5 knots. The winds shifted to the northeast at 10-15 knots, we tightened the sheets to head upwind, and our speeds increased to 6 knots while sailing against a 0.7 knot current. The winds died to 3 knots apparent, so we raised Phoenix's mainsail and were still moving at about 2 knots. As the winds increased to 8 knots apparent, our speeds increased in turn and we were on a close reach sailing at 5 knots. Not breakneck speeds, but certainly respectable sailing half the wind speed in the light air conditions.

Sailing up the Bay

Uncertain at first where we were going to anchor that evening, we eventually decided to head up the Rappahannock River to Urbanna, Virginia. We'd never been there before, but a friend said we'd have no problem getting into the anchorage with Phoenix's 6.5 foot draft -- he saw 10 feet on his depth finder the entire way.

By the time we entered the Rappahannock, the winds had died, we rolled in the headsail and were motor sailing with the main. We dropped the main before reaching the entrance to Urbanna, and arrived there on a falling tide. Motoring at about 5 knots, we were startled when we bumped and plowed through the sand bar between R2 and G3. Luckily, the sand was no match for Phoenix's 40,000 lb displacement, and we did our part to help dredge the channel.

Anchorage in Urbanna -- beware of the shoaling between R2 and G3
We slowly made our way into the town's anchorage, with our depth finder and forward scanning sonar showing only 7-8 feet the entire way. The anchorage was crowded with little room to anchor beyond G9, so we dropped anchor after clearing Bailey Point, just past G7 and across from the Urbanna Town Marina. T-mobile cell phone coverage was non-existent, but we were able to use the Town Marina's wifi to check email and get a little work done.

Urbanna town dock
We met John, who was aboard Epiphany -- a Brewer 42 that he had custom built. John was a wealth of local knowledge. We had previously read that Miss Ann, a 127 foot fantail yacht ran weekly cocktail cruised to Urbanna from the Tides Inn in Irvington, and that Miss Ann's twin propellers (each 4 feet in diameter) and 7.5 foot draft regularly blew out the channel, making the approach easy for most boats. Apparently Miss Ann moved to Colonial Beach in 2008, and since then the entrance shoaled, as we had just learned first hand.

s/v Epiphany -- a Brewer 42
John also had a Spindrift nesting dinghy, just like ours, so we compared notes on the improvements we'd each made when building them.

Around 7:30 that evening, we hear the captain of a boat hailing us as he came into the anchorage, and sure enough, it was Joe and his American Bulldog Buster -- adventurers we had met days before in Deltaville. Joe had a mooring here, and then quickly acquired an Oday 28' for $1 to add to his bounty.

Joe's new boat

The next morning we rowed into town at 7:30 to explore the town. Urbanna is a charming, historic town that is easily walkable. There are beautiful historic homes, antique shops and unique stores selling one-of-a-kind art, clothing, and unique gifts. We had breakfast at the Cross Street Cafe, which has free wifi, and great coffee. There is an Pharmacy downtown with an awesome, old school diner and malt shop inside. We had po' boy sandwiches for lunch at the Chesapeake Bay Oyster company, browsed through many of the local shops and reprovisioned at the local IGA.

Bustling downtown traffic in Urbanna
My Sweet William

Historic homes in Urbanna

Checking out another fine eating establishment!

High tide was at 3:36 pm that afternoon, and we knew we'd need every bit of the flood tide to help us head out. We hauled anchor at 3:00, and slowly made our way towards the Rappahannock. Even with the high flood tide we still bumped bottom, though this time with a lot less oomph!

We had a lot of fun in our day trip here and Urbanna was a great town to visit once, but unless your boat draws less than 5.5 feet, we'd recommend you visit by car.

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