Four days with nowhere to be but the water. Four days to sail past the mouth of the Potomac River, into the Chesapeake Bay and back.
Preparations ashore included packing the fridge, making a second trip home for cold weather gear, filling up the diesel cans and leaving five hours late. (Doesn’t vacation start when you get off work the day before? Who needs to rush things; we’ve all been told you can’t keep to a schedule when sailing and this firmly applies to departure times.) The weather was beautiful and with good winds we hoisted the sails, started the motor and made excellent time. Our goal was real sailing in the Chesapeake Bay, the kind of sailing you don’t often get in the river with short tacks and wind frequently in the wrong direction.
The wind and waves were at our back and the sailing was excellent at 6 to 8 knots the entire time. Our first overnight anchorage after a perfect day was protected Nanjemoy Creek with a beautiful sunset, light winds and a clear bright blanket of stars.
On our second morning I did some navigational experimentation with the divider and a paper chart. Using the wrong scale I calculated that we would be past the mouth of the Potomac and across the Chesapeake Bay by the end of the day.
Short-lived reservations were made at a marina across the bay and I prepared for the thrill of sailing in open waters that afternoon. The wind was still perfect and we rode the waves down the river, watching our newly installed wind and speed gauges. In a fabulous gust we got up to 10 knots, the fastest ever for me!
Leave it to the novice sailor and who knows what your schedule will look like. Charles discovered that my calculations were completely off and Chesapeake Bay sailing was not in our cards that afternoon. Rather than push on toward the mouth of the Potomac and navigate into an unfamiliar marina in the dark, we decided to turn around and sail to Tall Timbers Marina before the sun set. One call got us a transient slip and another call cancelled our reservations across the bay.
Remember the waves, the perfect winds and the great gusts for sailing? They were still blowing however now we were sailing in the wrong direction. This was my first taste of quartering seas, wind blowing directly in my face and a bit of exciting sailing! With only a little over an hour’s sail to make it to our slip, Charles and I bundled up to enjoy navigating the whitecaps and waves. My first swells ever!
One of the most dangerous things about sailing the Potomac River may be the crab pots. Stay in the channel and hope you’ll be safe but keep an eye out for the occasionally misplaced stray pot. We discovered one out of nowhere in the waves but fortunately it only wrapped around the prop once. Charles’s quick thinking put the engine in neutral after we heard it hit and lucky for the waterman who put the pot in an unfortunate place, we didn’t need to cut the line to untangle it.
Next up, our docking adventure at Tall Timbers Marina.