SV Island Time's Northern Chesapeake Bay Journey
Joyce and I have taken our first long journey on our Island Packet 31, SV ISLAND TIME, between Sunday September 7th and Saturday October 3rd. Although this might be a short trip by many standards, for us it was a next level of experience. During the seven day and six nights cruising, we spent three nights at anchor, two at mooring and one in a marina. Of note, during this COVID pandemic, we found that cruising on our sailboat offered a nice getaway as cruising by boat provides the ultimate social distancing, and when on shore we found that use of masking was practiced by everyone we encountered, additionally, on land we had scenic outdoor restaurant seating available on the occasions we chose to eat out. Generally, we found the combination of anchorage-mooring-and marina stay well suited for us and would like to repeat the same week-long sailing formula in the future. We've been asked to share the story of our trip, and we hope it will provide inspiration for others.
The idea to take a week long sailing trip was formed over a year ego, at the conclusion of the 2019 Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) annual gathering (GAM) which took place at the Maryland Yacht Club over a long weekend in late September. At the end of the GAM last year, Joyce and I decided to take a week off and come to the next GAM this year by boat.
Then the COVID pandemic of 2020 happened. We had reserved one week of vacation time from our jobs, and our GAM was cancelled and we had to make adjustments.
"Let's go cruising" said Captain Joyce, and suggested a trip to the Northern Chesapeake, an area we'd never journeyed to before, and the planning got started. I must admit, I spent more time planning, reading, plotting courses then the actual time it took to sail. As they say, it not the destination, but the journey. Part of our journey was the planning.
Part of our planning was talking to other sailors, especially as we had not sailed on the Northern Chesapeake and we had not undertaken an extended cruise before. BYC has a number of knowledgeable and experienced sailors for whom to draw from for advice. Frank Cingel made suggestions about the itinerary, including the recommendation that we avoid the Delaware Canal due to strong currents; (Joyce was similarly advised when reviewing trip itinerary with colleague and blue water sailor Beth Waddell-Vandegeijn); Richard Payne told us about a wonderful anchorage spot on the Eastern shore, Bruce Kerr provided 'how to' input with many aspects of our boat and Jim Cathcart offered technology support, particularly , we made use of his suggestion that we pay attention to shipping traffic by using MarineTraffic.com. On our part, we made use of Navianics.com for online course plotting, reading up in "Chesapeake Cruising Guide" and made use of Excel spread sheets to record the findings. Big Thanks to our longtime friends Chris and Jane Thorne, who had given us the Chesapeake Bay Cruising Guide as a Christmas present a few years back. We also appreciate our daughters, Denise Gun, and Sarah Gun, who provided pet sitting for our beloved family dog, Logan. (Also, at the end of this story, we also give a big 'shout-out' to Jim Wilson, who 'saved the day' by offering assistance with our sail takedown).
For our sailboat cruising trip, we decided to loosely follow the 'suggested course' of 'Northern Chesapeake Bay 7 day cruise' from the Cruising Guide. I made several versions of tentative itineraries and had Joyce look them over. My goal was to keep the travel under 30 nm/6 hours/day at our comfortable cruising speed of 5 kts. If we were to go faster under sail, so be it.
A week before our departure, Joyce and I made several trips to the stores and the boat to stock up our living quarters for the next 7 days. Fuel was topped off, plus 5 gallons extra in can, water topped off, so were the batteries. On day "0", we brought everything to ISLAND TIME and got ourselves ready.
Sunday, Day 1 - BYC to Rock Hall
Monday, Day 2 - Rock Hall to Still Pond Creek
Tuesday, Day 3 - Still Pond to Georgetown on the Sassafras River
Wednesday, Day 4 - Georgetown to "wherever safe" (aka Turner Creek)
We found Turner Creek to be another very lovely and quiet hide away place, although the wind was raging and we could see the tree tops moving, we had a nice sunny afternoon and pleasant evening at protected Turner Creek. I made a nice meal for dinner in our galley.
Thursday, Day 5 - Turner Creek to Havre de Grace
Our daughters came by car to join us for dinner in town and we had a "mini family reunion" at the Tidewater Grille, with waterfront outdoor seating within view of a picturesque setting, including a train bridge over the Susquehanna River.
Again, another big 'thumbs up' for on land showers, trash and recycling dumpsters; they certainly increased our comfort level.
Friday, Day 6 - Havre de Grace to Sue Creek/Middle River
Finally we had strong, steady winds in favorable directions, after several long tacks across the Bay, we sailed on a starboard tack all the way down the Bay, 10-15 kt and we reached top speed of 6.7 kt under sail. As we passed Pooles Island and decided to roll in our head sail, we realized that the roller furling line was jammed under the drum and would not move. The next hour or so was spent trying to free the line while motor sailing at 3.5 kts due to the wind breaker, aka our head sail. Finally near sun set, the line came free and we made it to Middle River and into Sue Creek; we dropped anchor just behind the Baltimore Yacht Club, with the last rays of sun light.
We cooked a hot meal of vegetable stew and fell asleep soon after, as it had been a great day of sailing followed by exhausting hour of fighting with the sails. Our on board propane heater kept us cozy during the cold night down to 48 degrees.
Saturday, Day 7 - Sue Creek to BYC
Day 7+ - Small Mishap at BYC
We had a wonderful experience on our first week long cruise and wanted to share it with our boating friends. We are already making plans for our next cruise and wanted to say to all, if we can do it, so can you.
See you on the water.
SV ISLAND TIME