by Mark – sent to Ashby Taylor to update him on our progress
It seems like a long time ago since we navigated up the Occohannock Creek to visit you and Sandra. I have never been to a private residence that has had as much intention or love as yours. What a great way to start our trip! Not just the idyllic setting or the food or the good company, but for the sail over and coming up that creek. Having to time the tide and follow the winding, unintuitive channel feels like an appropriate beginning to our adventure to Block Island, RI. Like that creek, we were rarely able to take the straightest or shortest route. We had to find the sweet spots between tide, keel, wind and current.
Our next stop after Belle Haven, VA was the east side of Kent Island to visit some friends who lived close by, but their kids’ swim meet that ran longer than expected and we anchored alone in Warehouse Creek. We were disappointed to not see them, but the afternoon and evening was spent swimming and kayaking in the water with the girls. We would have stayed in all night if not for the slow moving thunderstorm rolling toward us. The anchor was set to hold fast and the anchorage was well protected, so as the wind picked up, we moved to the cockpit to watch the rapidly moving wall of rain etch lines in the water. It’s reassuring to be in a hard blow and feel well protected in your boat; Beyzano seemed unimpressed and unperturbed by it all.
The next morning, the sun was up, the rain had gone, but the wind stayed. We had a bit of a trek south around Kent Island before turning north again to continue the journey. The closer we got to the Bay, the stronger the winds and the bigger the waves. Before we passed the last marker for that channel, the genoa was almost completely furled, we had 3 reefs in the main, and Beyzano’s bow was bashing into the waves. Shortly after the turn north, the wind began gusting to 35 kts and there were several coast guard reports of boats in distress. I left the engine going so we could pinch the wind because we were sailing 30 degrees off. 20 minutes later, our engine died. I fell off the wind which put us on a tract directly at the lee shore. I yelled down to Erin, prepared to tack and she popped up with a seasick Abby in her arms. We tacked and then she went below to switch the fuel tanks hoping it was just an air bubble in the line, but that was wishful thinking. The engine would only crank. When she came back up, she let me know we had another kid seasick down below. She couldn’t handle the kids and the helm at the same time, so there was no way for me to go below and check on the engine. This fact was strangely reassuring because I knew it was going to be the fuel filter and I didn’t have a spare. Even if I did, I had no desire to change it in the current sea state. Annapolis was close by so we decided to sail there, planning to toss out the anchor and get things squared away. The problem was that the wind was coming right down the Severn River and tacking from southwest to northeast to try and go northwest made for slow progress and was not enjoyable for anyone. With the boat heeling over and waves intermittently breaking into the cockpit, I told Erin to make the call to Tow Boat US. It felt like being defeated for a sailboat to be towed in just because of a failed engine, but after hooking up the lines to the bow and being towed into the harbor, it also felt like the right choice. We know Annapolis and had plenty of help there if we needed it. After we got into the harbor, the tow boat Captain and I talked about the conditions we were just in, the several Coast guard calls for a non-responsive boat and overturned center console power boat, as well as my trouble getting his bridle hooked up to Beyzano. “Didn’t matter how you did it,” he said “With the conditions out there you just needed to get it on however was possible”.
Once docked at a boat yard in Annapolis, I checked the fuel filter and it was completely clogged. All the bouncing around must have caused all the crud in my port tank to get stirred up. It was Friday afternoon and all the mechanics had left for the day so I it was up to me. I got a ride to West Marine, bought a filter and a spare, and headed back to the boat. I installed the new filter and had to flush the fuel line as well and when I turned the key, I was rewarded with the racket of a functioning diesel engine.
The next morning, we were off again. What a contrast the mouth of the Severn was. The day before, we were the only boat out there. The day we left, boats of all kinds were on the water like fire flies on a summer night – power boats zipping around and sailboats racing around markers. Usually, I would love seeing the activity, but that day I was happy to sail under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge into a bit more solitude. We got to the C&D canal at dusk to hit the current just right to make over 9 kts. The lights and music from the riverfront restaurants were picturesque being back lite by the full sky sunset and framed by high train trestles. All was quiet in the canal; we saw only 3 barges and they seemed happy to chat on the radio as we passed.
It was dark by the time we came to the Delaware River. As we motored down the river, the barges that were anchored and the barges that were moving along with the different industrial buildings along the banks were lit up creating a very surreal view in the darkness. We were aware and a bit nervous of the strong currents of that river and I had to contain my anxiety about the anchorage we were trying to get to. It could only be accessed by a narrow cut through a dike that had shoaling on both sides with only one lit marker. Thank goodness for GPS, not just for being able to find it, but also helping us navigate the current which is notoriously rough on cruisers. We pointed the boat into the wind to drop the anchor, but it was the current that dictated where and how the boat was going to turn. The stress I felt over the situation was not needed. Setting the anchor was no problem and after a moment to decompress, we looked at the current and tide tables for the morning. Another 5 am departure.
Lewes, Delaware was our next stop and the location where Erin completed her masters in Marine Biology. We had dinner with her advisor and his wife, John and Jean Boyer, who is now retired. What a great night. Lewes is another small town that has transformed itself with restaurants, coffee shops, ice cream parlors, and river front scenes ready for photographer or landscape painter. John is also a sailor and has a Tartan 37. He made us feel like parents of the year with his praise of this adventure and the benefits for the kids.
The next day we would head out into the Atlantic, up the Jersey coast to the East River, and into the Long Island Sound. To keep this from turning into a novel, I will have to stop here and will fill you in on the rest of our adventure later. Hope you guys are faring well in the Virginia heat.
Mark, Erin, Abby, & Mollie