Friends and Family

One salient aspect of the cruising life is freedom from schedules, sort of. Our days are driven less by the calendars of others and more by tides, weather, maintenance schedules, provisioning needs, all schedules of one sort or another. Schedules provide a certain security and predictability in our lives. We anticipated spending a month on the Chesapeake and within that month were several anchor points, the Sailboat Show in Annapolis and meet ups with friends and family, a schedule of sorts. 

On the Wednesday prior to Columbus/Indigenous People’s Day Susan and I considered our options. Our good friends Tally and Mark, who live near DC, have a very busy schedule, we planned to meet them over the holiday weekend along with my nieces, Sara and Kate who also live nearby. We started looking for a marina with vacancies and found only one, one that was first come, first serve. A plan was needed. 

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Loose Nuts

The Upper Chesapeake Bay is shallow. Sailing in ten or fifteen feet of water is not something to which Lake Ontario sailors are accustomed. Depths measured in hundreds of feet with navigation buoys few and far between is the norm. Not so on the Chesapeake, miss a channel marker and the keel is in the mud. And then there are crab pots. Small buoys mark the location of the steel traps sitting on the bottom, hook one around the keel and the boat will come to a stop. Pick up the line in a spinning prop and the motor will come to a screeching halt. Hard to see, crab pots are hard to avoid.

The shipping lanes are crab pot free and relatively narrow and deep, if you can call 40 feet deep. Barges and freighters are confined to these narrow channels sending recreational boaters and fishing boats to the shallows for safe passage. This was our route to the Magothy River from Still Pond Creek.

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In the Still of the Night

Feeling the pressure of a delivery schedule we left City Island a day earlier than planned, it was fortunate we did. Weather is always a factor in a sailing schedule and this week geopolitics entered into the departure equation. In two days, the East River would be closed during daylight hours to provide security for the UN General Assembly meeting. Running the East River at night was high on the list activities to avoid. The weather in the next few days looked favorable and then deteriorating by the end of the week. Waiting a week was not an appealing option.

On Saturday, September 18 we departed. Twice a day the East River tides run west to east, draining Long Island Sound. Currents can reach 4 to 5 knots which means a passage on a slow sailboat must be timed to coincide with the tides. In what was part planned and part luck we passed under the Throggs Neck Bridge at the peak current level, soon we were making 11 knots over the ground, 5 knots faster than our speed through the water. We flew! The river lived up to its reputation with swirling eddies, upwellings, and good-sized standing waves, the helm required constant attention. I was reminded of my whitewater kayaking days, only this time I had a 36’ boat weighing 15,000 pounds, not a 12-foot 30-pound kayak.

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They Blow Stuff Up!

After a long day on the Delaware Bay and the C&D Canal we were settling in for a quiet, peaceful evening with bald eagles circling overhead and an early sundowner in hand. Like distant thunder, a series of low booms rumbled across the bay under clear skies. Rain was in the next day’s forecast; the evening’s forecast for clear skies and light breezes was perfect for a couple of tired bodies. Relaxing in the cockpit we watched as a nesting pair of bald eagles soared above us. We ignored the booming sounds focusing on the cry of the eagles.

The Bald Eagle, a stately symbol of our country, a raptor with eyesight so keen it can spot fish below the surface from high above would certainly have a cry befitting such a predator. A cry that would instill fear, a cry that would match its hunting skill, a deep commanding cry. That would not be the case. Listen. Perhaps Ben Franklin’s choice for the national bird, a wild turkey would have been a more apropos choice, a bird that clucks and struts.

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City Island

Thus far in our adventure we have been in delivery mode more than in cruising mode. What’s the difference? On a delivery making miles is paramount, the goal is to get somewhere else, in cruising mode, we slow down, have shorter days and longer stays. We stop to smell the beach roses. The journey to Block Island was a delivery with a long layover. When we left we were back in delivery mode.

Leaving Old Saybrook we headed towards City Island in the Bronx to stage ourselves for a passage through NY harbor and down the coast to Cape May and on to the Chesapeake. On an uncharacteristic day the winds cooperated, and we sailed to Milford CT for a maintenance stop. It was time to re-provision, refuel, fill water tanks, and do laundry. A hot shower and flush toilets were appreciated.

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