The Early Bird Catches The Current

Monday October 8, 2012

Have I mentioned before how we have an alarm setting that sounds like harps and is supposed to be a soft and refreshing way to wake up?  You know when it’s not refreshing?  Is at four o’clock in the morning.  Yesterday afternoon while I was busy baking away for Thanksgiving dinner, Matt was checking charts and tides and currents.  Around five o’clock in the afternoon he looked at me and said, “Well, if we want to catch the current on the way out we’d either have to leave right now or at four in the morning”.  We knew we couldn’t leave right then with our impending dinner plans.  “You want to leave at four in the morning?” he inquired, probably sure I’d shoot him down right away and tell him that I’d rather move at a snails pace than drag my ass out of bed that early.  “Oooookay”,  I replied, knowing that as soon as we were into the bay he’d probably be back in bed and I’d be in the dark and cold by myself.  Excusing ourselves from dinner earlier than normal last night we got a lot of cracks from Andy and John, who were used to us not getting up until ten.  “I don’t believe it”, they declared, “I want you to honk your horn at us when you go by to prove you’re oot and aboot that early”.  So when the harps started plucking at four a.m. I was ready to throw the phone across the room and go back to bed, but we had to show those Canadians we meant business.  Dressing in full foul weather gear since it was in the low 50’s we upped our anchor along with the two weeks worth of mud on it and left behind all the anchor lights shining like starts in Weems Creek.

I knew I didn’t like navigating in narrow areas for a reason and today I could prove myself right.  Only 1/3rd of the buoys in Severn River were lit and while our chartplotter would show us an approximation of where the others were the little boat that represents you on the chart is never 100%  ( I think we can fix that with some tinkering) and there were a few times I was afraid I was going to run over buoys because we couldn’t physically see them until we were right on top of them.  As soon as we were out of the creek we passed within 50 feet of a green marker nailed on to wooden posts and could have caused some real damage to the boat had we gotten much closer.  After that I put Matt on lookout until the foredeck until we were into the Chesapeake and any markers were lit.  After working our way around a few large cargo ships anchored for the night we set our sails and were headed South.  Next destination is Washington D.C.

Surprised that Matt gave me the option for the first nap I quickly ran below and jumped in the bunk before he reconsidered.  I got another good three hours of sleep in before getting up a second time at 8:30 and going back on deck where the sun was hiding behind dark clouds.  Matt replaced my spot in the bunk and I stayed on watch navigating around tugs and keeping an eye out for dolphins.  Something that everyone has seen up to this point but us.  We’ve even starting taking tips from people who are traveling faster than us or live in the area of where to look out for them and still have not seen a single one yet.  That and bald eagles.  Two hours into Matt’s nap and I hadn’t seen any kind of wildlife yet, I pulled out our Waterway Guide to judge how far we had gone and how far until our planned destination that night.  Since by our estimates it was around 70 miles from the entrance of the Chesapeake from Severn River to the entrance of the Potomac River we thought we might be pushing it at 40-50 miles that day and were planning to stay at Solomons at the entrance to the Patuxent River.  Two things we didn’t consider with this plan but were working in our favor:  That by leaving with the current we were able to stay between 5-6 knots, and that by leaving at four-thirty we’d be traveling for 12-13 hours instead of 8.  When Matt came above deck again around one o’clock we were just passing Solomons and the Potomac was well within our reach for that day.

One thing with entering the Potomac though is we’ve heard currents are terrible in that area and you have to time them just right or you’re only making 1 knot of headway.  We had not been planning on this at all  and searching for current stations on our chartplotter went to see how bad it would be in that area.  Bringing up the station positioned just in the entrance I looked at the chart to see that we’d only be fighting about a half knot.  That wasn’t bad.  And since by the time we got there it would be time to tuck in for the night we wouldn’t even be going very far in there.  The time spent to get there from that point was just long enough that we were already going stir crazy.  Even though the winds were dying down, which was also knocking down our speed, it was cold and uncomfortable in the cockpit.  The waves were just large enough to keep me from being able to read or write without getting that car sick feeling and we just sat in the cockpit and willed ourselves to go faster.  We really have gotten spoiled compared to the Great Lakes I’ve noticed.  Back then if we could get enough wind in our sails to go over four knots we considered it a good day and thought ourselves to be making good time.  Now anytime our speed shows under 5.5 we groan and complain, wondering where all of our speed has gone.

By the time we were rounding Point Lookout we could see what appeared to be definite rain in the distance and waited for it to come our way.  The wind kept shifting back and forth and we’d go through periods between just a few minutes of full and perfectly trimmed sails to dead into the wind.  Part of it was due to rounding the Point, and once we could put ourselves on a straight course again we were on a strong beam reach and shooting into the river like a rocket.  That’s also exactly the time we could see the white haze across the river growing closer and closer until soon it was on us in a downpour.  Matt stayed in the companionway to keep watch and sent me below where our bus heater was running on full speed since we had thrown on the engine to motorsail once the winds began to die down.  We had a good five or ten minutes on our course until the wind shifted once again to our nose and stayed there.  Being in irons less than five miles from our new destination for the night of Smith Creek we took the sails down and motored the rest of the way in.  Making a quick stop at the marina to fill our tank and jerrycans with diesel we found out the marina had wifi that was not password protected and after a little prodding I convinced Matt to drop hook right in front.

I think he’s plotting to throw me over.

Maybe if I just stand really still he won’t see me.

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