Thursday, June 23, 2016

Divert to... Crabs!

June 15, 2016

The intention was to leave Swan Creek at Rock Hall and start our trip through the C & D and on to New York! But, the logistics, weather and currents all have to play in your favor. Not an easy combination.

For example:
  • We needed to move from Rock Hall to an anchorage near the west entrance to the canal. Which means going north. And the wind blew hard from the north for two days. So, we sat in Swan Creek.
  • Then, once near the canal entrance, you have to wait for the appropriate tide / current combination. You can either blast through in a couple of hours with the right current or slog along at a few knots of boat speed bucking the wrong current. At this particular point in the month, the right current is around 11:00 am and moving one hour later for each day.
  • When you finally make it through the canal, you find yourself at the top of the Delaware Bay. It is 55 nautical miles down the bay to the ocean. Again, you have wind, tides and schedules dictating your trip.
  • Which finally positions us to make the overnight offshore run up to Sandy Hook, New Jersey – but only when the wind and weather allow.
  • Which means that you are really planning out about 4 days ahead to know if you can make the overnight jump north. If it doesn’t look like good timing, it screws up the whole schedule. It appeared that we might make the trip through the canal and down the Delaware Bay only to be stuck at anchor in gale force, possibly tropical storm force, winds.

'How long do we have to wait for high water?'
We said, “Screw that.” We decided to head back south a bit to visit St. Michaels, MD. We have been there before but we always wanted to sail SeaClearly into this quaint little place. Nothing, of course, happens without some degree of difficulty. We took the dinghy into shore at Swan Creek (mostly for Tilly) one last time before we dropped the mooring ball. As we approached the dock, the water was noticeably lower than the day before. “Well sure”, they said, “those northwest winds blow all of the water out of the creek.” Great.

We went back to SeaClearly and a quick look at the instruments confirmed it. We were sitting about 4 inches off the bottom. We decided to wait and see if the rising tide actually brought any water in as the morning progressed. In the meantime, we took the dinghy out again with our handy handheld sonar depth gauge and scoped out the entire channel up to the marker at the corner of the creek. We found no water that was less than where we were sitting on the mooring. That gave us the confidence of knowing we would have at least 4 inches of water all the way out. What a great margin of safety! The tide raised us to about 6 inches and we made our escape.

Back under the Bay Bridge headed south
In another of those sailing paradoxes, we had pulled the plug on our canal trip because there might be high winds by the time we reached the mouth of the Delaware. But on this day in the Chesapeake, there was no wind – at all – and we motored the entire day to St. Michaels. We drifted into the harbor at about 7:00 pm on Monday, June 13, and dropped the anchor -  in the premier spot in the harbor with a perfect view of the town and the Maritime Museum. The sound of church bells chiming the hour welcomed us. Almost surreal.

St Michaels evening

We immediately jumped in the dinghy and went to the dock. We picked up a crabcake dinner to-go from the Crab Claw Restaurant (since it was getting late) and went back to SeaClearly and ate in the cockpit while enjoying the view.

The next day, we went into town and walked around some of the touristy stuff. But the real mission – the only mission – was steamed crabs. In the interest of spreading our business around, we went to St. Michaels Crab and Steak. There is nothing that compares to sitting outside at picnic tables covered with paper and eating crabs. The restaurant is very dog friendly. They brought Tilly a bucket of ice water before they brought our drinks. Tilly laid or sat under the table in the shade and let us eat our crabs and hush puppies. Just marvelous.
Maryland crabs!
At the dinghy dock

SeaClearly at anchor...

...with a nice view

This morning - Wednesday, I believe – we pulled up the anchor and, once more, motored the entire day because there was no wind. A bit frustrating but we did enjoy St Michaels.

Tonight we are in Harness Creek just south of Annapolis. The weather is still calling for those strong northeast winds and rain. This is an ideal, protected spot to sit them out. There is a beautiful park on the east side of the creek. It is quiet and serene - today. On weekends, it is a zoo. We have been here before and seen a different side of Harness Creek. This is the party anchorage. But, tonight, it is just SeaClearly.

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