Author Topic: DelMarVa circumnavigation  (Read 558 times)

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Offline Crazer

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DelMarVa circumnavigation
« on: August 23, 2020, 02:46:05 PM »
Well I tried this once already, but lost most of the draft when I accidentally restarted my computer, so let's try again! With some encouragement from Norman here is my much delayed summary of our circumnavigation of the DelMarVa peninsula in June this year.

The trip was originally scheduled for the beginning of June, but with the advent of COVID-19 I was kept away from the boat for most of March, April and May. When the yard finally reopened, so did my workplace, and so we found ourselves with just a few weeks to complete months of work. We managed to delay the voyage until the end of June but we barely had enough time and a lot of late nights went into getting her ready. In addition to the many nearly complete projects that ground to a halt in March, I also determined that the boat needed a new prop shaft and cutless bearing. All that work completed, I finally cast off on a Saturday night for the first leg of the trip, a solo hop to Annapolis from the boat's homeport near Baltimore. All the stress of preparing the boat vanished as the motor growled away reliably beneath my feet and the tillerpilot steered the boat under a crystal clear night sky. I didn't encounter any traffic, unusual for the Patapsco at night. It felt like an auspicious start.

I met up with my sailing buddy in Annapolis late that evening. We ended up spending most of the day Sunday provisioning (which somehow always takes longer than expected) so we didn't get off the dock until around six. We set a course for a favorite anchorage near Cambridge, off the little Choptank River. What wind we had was on the nose, setting a precedent for the rest of the trip. None the less we had a pleasant time motoring down the bay and a relaxed evening on the hook.

We took our time getting underway the next morning, raising anchor around 10 am, setting our sights on a late arrival in Virginian waters. Again we had light wind so we motored on south until the mid afternoon when the weather began to deteriorate and we got caught by a thunderstorm just north of Solomons Island. With more storms predicted, possibly with up to 60 knot gusts, we elected to divert to Solomons for the night, anchoring up Back Creek. This was probably my favorite evening of the trip, making a dinner of beans and rice while it drizzled outside. I really enjoy these quiet evenings, puttering around, tidying up the boat and planning for the next day.

We got an early start, refueling at Solomons Yachting Center as soon as they opened. We had an ambitious plan to go overnight out of the bay to catch a front and ride a southwesterly up the coast. The day started out innocuously enough, motoring yet again, under a bright sun with a light breeze on the nose. The motor had developed a small diesel leak from the injector pump, not concerning on its own, but I took to occasionally checking the bilge to make sure it wasn't putting diesel into the bilge water. What seemed like mere seconds after one such check I glanced down into cabin and discovered several inches of water over the cabin sole. Instinctively I throttled the engine back to idle, put my buddy on pumping duty with the manual bilge pump, and started checking all the through hulls. Finding nothing amiss, I determined that the cause was most likely water siphoning in from the automatic bilge pump hose. We were carrying an additional ten gallons of diesel in jerry cans in the cockpit lockers and the extra weight, combined with the boat's tendency to squat while motoring forced the water into the boat. We moved the jerry cans up to the deck and secured them to the lifelines. The problem did not repeat itself but there are some serious changes in the works for the bilge pump system including an anti-siphon loop and a shut off valve for the supposedly above the waterline through hull.

Carrying on south, the weather again began to deteriorate. By late evening we had 20 knots on the nose and the swells were beginning to build. We undertook an exhausting effort to refuel from the jerry cans so we could store them in the locker again. The whole operation took well over an hour, involved chasing down a cap that got blown off one of the cans, and left us thoroughly demoralized. Facing many more hours of motoring before we could raise sail we decided to abandon our overnight passage and head for the closest protected anchorage, near Matthews, Virginia, still some three hours away. So we began what would be a punishing approach to Mobjack Bay, bashing into steep four or five foot swells in strong winds and bad visibility. Already exhausted, I began to feel frustration creeping in. In all honesty, I seriously considered heading for home the next day. The disorganization and frustration surrounding our refueling debacle made me feel like we weren't ready, even if the boat was. By the time we made it to our anchorage, which was blessedly still and serene, I was about ready to give up then and there. But my senses prevailed and I decided we'd at least try for the Atlantic tomorrow, just to say we did it if nothing else.

The next day dawned clear and lovely, with a southwesterly wind left over from the front we battled the night before. We got in our first sail of the trip, running out of Mobjack Bay on a broad reach, heading for the Atlantic Ocean. As our fortunes improved so did our confidence and we decided, first tentatively, and then firmly, that we were ready to try our hand at a coastal passage. The wind dropped off as we exited the bay and by the time we turned north up the coast we were motorsailing. The evening was beautiful and cool. We saw some skates passing across our bow, which was very cool. We motorsailed up the coast through the night, following the three mile line offshore, with a fleet of fishing boats keeping us company and leapfrogging us along the way. By the morning the wind had died completely so we brought in the sails. Being on the ocean feels very different from the bay. The swells are long and rolling, giving a very pleasant motion, and the water is deep blue. It was intoxicating and I can't wait to be back on the Atlantic for our Bermuda trip next May. The trip up the coast was the most relaxing part of the voyage by far. We did have to briefly duck back south to avoid a small but powerful storm as we approached Lewes. As we approached the Delaware Bay we began to feel the effects of a strong outgoing tide, slowing us to four knots. We made the Lewes town dock by dinner time, got food from a local Mexican place, Agave, and strolled around town until dark.

We left later than planned the next day, and had a little excitement docking for fuel with the tide rushing in. Because of that we ended up with the tide against us most of the way up the Delaware Bay. Otherwise it was an easy trip, a relief given the bay's reputation. We even got some more motorsailing in which helped with our progress. We stopped at a desolate anchorage right at the mouth of the C&D canal. The approach into the anchorage was pretty exciting. We got passed by a tanker right as we were about to make our approach, so we had to go further up river than planned which ended up being a good thing because the current swept us quickly south as we made our way across the river to the entrance. There was a lot of faith involved, with the bow of the boat pointed squarely at a rock jetty until we were within a few boat lengths of the narrow channel. I took pains to set the anchor well, planning for a change in the current during the night. I'm pleased to say we had no issues anchoring on this trip, probably mostly on account of the all-chain rode the boat came with.

The next morning we began the last leg of the trip, motoring into the C&D canal against the tide. This ultimately worked dramatically in our favor but it made the trip through pretty slow. I did feel pretty silly passing a number of other sailboats heading the "right" way through with the tide. Once we were through the canal however, we got one final thunderstorm and associated 25+ knot headwinds that made the bay pretty rough. We actually took solid water over the bow for the first time on this boat. But we made six knots the whole way back to Baltimore, carried by the tide. We had a final incident, nearly being run over by a large Sea Ray not five miles from home. I can't imagine he didn't see us, it wasn't even fully dark yet, which made his close pass reckless as well as stupid. None the less, we made the last few miles into Baltimore without further incident (or even seeing another boat) and docked a little after 9:30, a week after I left.

All in all, it was a pretty good trip. The lack of sailing was a bit of a disappointment but the reality is, as someone with a wife and house and a full time job, motoring is a fact of life for me and I don't mind all that much. Having the autopilot takes a lot of the pressure off and having even the limited shade provided by the dodger makes a big difference. Speaking of the dodger, I don't know how I lived without one. Even in the steep swells and headwinds we experienced on both ends of the bay, we were very dry and comfortable in the cockpit. It really improved our quality of life. I used an iPad for navigation running iNavX, supplemented with Navionics on my phone. I think I'll add a little mount for the phone to the dodger frame so I can keep an eye on things while standing in the companionway, which I did a lot. We had AIS for the first time, which was great, especially because I got the Wifi model which let me have AIS data on both my phone and the tablet. I did discover a fair number of leaks which need to be chased down and fixed but that's a boat for you. There were some crew dynamics at play that will need to be worked out before the next trip. I think that was the one thing I wasn't expecting and it caught me off guard. The boat did very well and other than the leaks I was very pleased with our preparedness and the modifications I've made to the boat. I do think I learned a lot and I feel like we'll be ready for our trip to Bermuda next year.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2020, 02:48:03 PM by Crazer »
-Avery

Cape Dory 28 SV "Fayaway"
        Annapolis, MD

Offline Norman

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Re: DelMarVa circumnavigation
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2020, 09:42:41 PM »
Thanks so much for writing and posting your voyage. :)  There have been very few such adventures this year, so even a short one is very welcome.  Your pictures make me jealous, for the beautiful boat, and the weather around it.

My goal is always sailing without the aid of a motor.  I have not come close to that goal since my Lightning, which had no motor. ;D

I have greatly enjoyed adventures which were almost entirely motoring.  The conditions that surround you determine the best choice, and willingness to make the most of what happens is the secret to enjoying life, not just sailing.

Thank you for bringing me along on a trip that I have aged out of making myself.  :(  All of it was a pleasure.  Attitude is a major part of success, and your temporary decision to terminate the trip is a sign of proper evaluation of the prospects of both success, and likely pleasure.  If both are in doubt, go home.  If the conditions improve, push on.

The wind you experienced would have been adverse either way around, and the choice of enroute harbors in the Delaware Bay are poor at best.

The shakedown did find flaws to be corrected, without any serious discomfort, so you have much more confidence for the off shore voyage to Bermuda next year.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2020, 09:44:38 PM by Norman »

Offline misfits

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Re: DelMarVa circumnavigation
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2020, 07:03:47 AM »
What a great story, thanks for sharing it!
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I'm having a very good day!

Offline CapnK

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Re: DelMarVa circumnavigation
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2020, 05:35:49 PM »
Seems to have been a good first long shakedown, like you said giving you info and confidence before heading out onto the deeps. :) She is a pretty vessel! Those hatches in the overhead I'm jealous of, I bet they make for great ventilation - when it's not raining. :D

2 Q's, looking at your pics: What kind of anchor windlass is that? And it looks like you are using a Delta?
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Offline Crazer

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Re: DelMarVa circumnavigation
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2020, 10:41:54 PM »
Thanks for the response guys-glad you enjoyed the tale. And thanks for the compliments on the boat. In my biased opinion she's lovely and only getting more so as I do up the canvas and catch up with brightwork.

Norman, attitude is everything-the wrong one will ruin the trip for you and likely everyone else too. I was happy with how I handled our decision making along the way. I think that was as important a lesson as anything else.

CapnK, one of the things I love about the boat are those big hatches. They are stout too-solid aluminum. They need some TLC, the lenses leak, but so it goes. One of my canvas projects for the winter is a sunshade that will also let us have the hatches open in the rain. The windlass is a Lofrans Royal manual windlass which is fabulous. Very simple and gives a lot of mechanical advantage. That is a Delta, it hasn't let me down yet but we also have all chain rode which I'm afraid encourages complacency. Our setup needs some work, there's no swivel on the rode right now. I also carry two Fortresses, an FX-11 and an FX-16 which are great all around anchors. The Delta came with the boat, and I think I might replace it with a Rocna eventually. It feels a little on the small side for the kind of cruising I plan to do and I've read a lot of good stuff about the Manson/Rocna style of anchor.
-Avery

Cape Dory 28 SV "Fayaway"
        Annapolis, MD