THE GALIANDER JOURNEY
The Chesapeake Bay
© 1997-1998 by John and Eleanor Coulthard
Permission to copy for non-commercial purposes is granted provided the source is acknowledged
Our trip from Vancouver to Baltimore was straightforward. We took the Amtrak bus to Seattle. The border crossing was uneventful. Our friends Dave and Gwen picked us up at the Amtrak station in Seattle and we had a lovely visit and meal out with them before being dropped off at the airport. The plane trip was fine. I perhaps squeezed in 3-4 hours sleep.
Thanks to Amateur radio we had no trouble locating Kathy and Brian on board Tundra. They were staying at Anchorage Marina in Baltimore. Anchorage Marina was a relatively new facility. A Safeway store is across the road and a nice selection of pubs is only a couple of blocks further.
Friday we got the news that Galiander had arrived at Backyard Boats located in a little place called Shady Side. That was quicker then we expected. We picked up our cruising permit in Baltimore then saw the really excellent Baltimore Aquarium. Saturday we headed off on Tundra. We arrived at Shady Side about 4pm and there Galiander was, pretty as a picture, still sitting in the staging area where the travel lift had put her in the water. And quite clean - they didn't even wash her.
What followed were three really long days of work. Sunday we cleaned waxed and partially assembled the mast. Monday the rigger Brian arrived. The mast was prepared, put in the boat and tuned (tensioned). Tuesday (today) we rigged the sails, inflated the dingy, erected the bimini, ... I'm exhausted.
The weather has been quite simply wonderful. High's are going to mid 70's and 80's and the lows are in the 50's. When we first arrived the temperature and feel of the air reminded me of Hawaii. It is all supposed to change tomorrow however. A cold front is moving through.
E-mail using the cellular phone is proving to be much more of a problem then I expected. The cellphone works but attempts to send email failed in Baltimore due to an inability to hold a connection long enough to send or receive a message. Here at Shady Side the cellular signal is much weaker. but the noise conditions may be better. If not I may be able to borrow a landline up at the Marina Office.
Well the cellphone worked fine back in Shady Side. A weak cellular signal but low noise seemed to make the difference. For the technically oriented I got a 9600 baud connection by using the Bell Atlantic *DATA service.
I forgot to mention something else that inhibits the use of e-mail. Namely spending three days with the boat in various levels of disarray so one is just plain lucky to be able to find the computer J . Brian and Kathy Marsh were invaluable during the refit of our boat. Without them we would have spent more time in Shady Side.
Not that Shady Side wasn't a nice spot. But we wanted to move on and on Oct. 15th, after spending a morning reconnecting the instruments on the masthead we headed off about noon for a place called St. Michaels on the other side of the bay. It was a terrible 5 hour crossing. Goodbye nice weather and calm breezes. Hello to 20 knot winds, rain, poor visibility and temperatures in the 50's. But look at the good news. Only one wave crested into the cockpit and I only got soaked once on the foredeck while securing the dingy, which darn near blew off. Now we are anchored next to Tundra in the St. Michaels harbour.
The rotten weather continues. We have been here three days now in overcast, rainy, cool, 10-20 knot winds. I think Brian said, "It's blowin and roly poly in St. Michaels". Some nights have been quite uncomfortable and we have considered moving to a more protected anchorage but then we wouldn't be so close to this interesting little town. And the outlook is for more of this weather for several days yet. We hope to head south towards the Solomons on Monday or Tuesday after this blows over. That will be one fairly long day (10 hours maybe) getting closer to Norfolk - the beginning of the Intracoastal Waterway.
We are passing time being entertained in other boats, entertaining others in our boat and visiting people Brian and Kathy know who own Alberg 37's. One of these owners took us out to a lovely lunch at his Yacht Club.
Our dingy is in the water. We are going to name her "Little Gal". The kayak will be named "Tiny Gal". We are still trying to get Galiander organized. The forepeak is our "garage" - that is a term we picked up from Brian and Kathy. The garage is a mess! We ate our first soft shelled Blue Crab, and a hard shelled one also. We did laundry. There is a nice Maritime Museum here.
We are well, but gee - we came all this way hoping to get away from Vancouver weather.
Using the cellphone for email from St. Michaels was very frustrating despite a fine signal strength. Suspecting it may be due to swinging at anchor I tried it on a table in the local Maritime Museum. After about 6 phone calls I got most messages downloaded - what makes it work or not work is beyond me. It seems to be witchcraft. People on another boat report that the Museum right beside us here in the Solomon Island will let us plug into a real phone line. If that is true this will go out Oct. 22 (Wed) for sure.
The low pressure area and front finally moved eastward from the Chesapeake Bay area. Eleanor and I, Brian and Kathy spent Sunday (Oct. 19) shopping. The rain was relentless. But by evening the clearing had started and on Monday at 7am we were on our way south, or at least southward. It was a long 9 hour day, but fast. We had clear skies and a strong south west wind to push us down to the Solomons (Sort of half way between Baltimore and Norfolk). We probably averaged over 6 knots. We gave the main and roller furling jib a real good workout. We dodged crab pots and kept up with all the other boats that, like us, were waiting for a break in the weather to move south. At 4pm we cruised into a real boating mecca, Solomon Island. Boats everywhere! More boats then I have ever seen in my life in one place! We are anchored in a lovely harbour surrounded by Marinas! It is busy, but in a recreational, not commercial, way.
Tuesday has been beautiful. Sunny and warm. Took the opportunity to take care of a few more boat chores. We had purchased lines for the second reef point in the mainsail and took the opportunity to install them. Nice lazy day finished by supper at a little restaurant overlooking the harbour. We are meeting other boaters all the time. We are also starting to listen in on the local boater's nets on the HAM Radio.
Tomorrow we plan to tour the local Maritime Museum (and send this email). Our next move will probably be to an anchorage in the Potomac River.
The museum in Solomons Island was wonderful. They let me use their office fax phone line for our email. Took me maybe two minutes maximum.
Chesapeake Bay is home to the Blue Crab, a very popular tasty treat. It is similar to our West Coast dungeness crab but a bit smaller. We had a "softshell" one in St. Michaels. When crabs are captured just before they shed their shells (they are called "peelers") they are held until they shed. The resulting crab, without a new shell formed yet, is considered quite a delicacy. You chomp it down, typically in a sandwich, whole!
One of the interesting hazards in the Chesapeake Bay are crabpots. These can be encountered almost anywhere in the Bay except the main shipping channels. You have to keep an eye out for "fields" of crabpots all the time. When the swells are 1-2 feet they may not be very easy to see until you are right on top of them! These Blue Crabs must be very prolific breeders. You would not believe the number of crabpots.
Thursday we had a good, but cold, sail from Solomons to a place near St. Mary's City, on the St. Marys River. This is just off the Potomac River (the one leading up to Washington). It is darn cold. We wear full wet gear to keep warm, not dry. There are three boats in our "fleet". Us, Tundra (Kathy and Brian Marsh - Eleanor's sister and husband) and a boat called Windswept IV (Murray and Heather), also from Ontario. We had planned to anchor in the St. Marys River but on the way in Windswept IV was hailed by an American Boat coming out. The owner had spent two years in New Brunswick and was so pleased with the Canadian Hospitality he received that he wanted to reciprocate by inviting us to stay at his private dock on the St. Marys River. Four Canadian boats ended up taking up his offer! A boat from St. John's, Newfoundland joined us. All four boats have HAM radio by the way. The owner dropped by a little later and we had a good visit. What luxury! Power, water and no need to clean all the mud from our anchor chain in the morning.
Overnight the cold North wind that we rode down on changed to a warmer south wind. Friday we slept in then had a short trip powering dead into the wind across the Potomac River to the Yeocomico River on the other side from St. Marys. Our destination - the private dock of an Alberg 37 owner (you may remember that Brian and Kathy own an Alberg 37) who publishes a newsletter for Alberg 37 owners. I thought that the St. Marys River was lovely and pastoral but this river was even more lovely. Going away from the mainstream routes does have it's risks. This river is very poorly charted. Tundra ran aground and had to be hauled off by Windswept. The grounding was not serious and the day ends in a warm rain, on a dock, plugged into an electrical service in a very secure little anchorage. We spent two nights at this lovely dock. On Saturday night we had a very special treat when we were driven to a "oyster roast" at the White Point Yacht Club. They roast the oysters on a big portable firebox. The oysters are covered with wet burlap which steams vigorously and is hosed down whenever it starts to get dry. So they are roasted from below and steamed from above. When done the oysters are shoveled (literally) onto a big table. It is a real feeding frenzy - this guy beside me ate about 8 before I even managed to pry one open! Lots of fun.
Sunday was a miserable cold wet day. We powered to weather out of the Potomac River with a partially set jib. Finally, after a short beam reach we anchored in Mill Bay. It is a lovely idyllic anchorage. Well protected. Perfect depth (10 feet) and not crowded.
Monday we sailed to a place called Fishing Bay. Not a long day and a reasonably nice sail. Unfortunately the end of the day was marred when we bent our bowsprit coming in to a fuel dock. Then to compound that the wind came up and lashed at us all night. 20-30 knot gusts hit us all night long. I had a miserable sleep. Maybe 3-4 hours total.
But up at the crack of dawn! Before the crack of dawn! By 7am the anchor was up and we were off for Norfolk. The weather was clear but very cold. We wore every scrap of cold weather gear we could locate. The wind was 20 knots plus, but it was going in our direction and we sailed with a double reefed main most of the way to Norfolk. A little good advice from Kathy Marsh that we used was for the person at the helm to use oven mitts as gloves. I slept below while Eleanor steered in order to try to not get too exhausted.
It was an exhilarating trip. We hand steered the whole way. Even if we wanted to use the Autohelm (and it is not clear it could have handled the heavy following seas) it had packed it in the previous day. The following seas were heavy demanding constant attention by the person at the helm. Our little boat Galiander performed very well. This trip is testing the Galiander boat systems. Other problems are creeping in. The roller furling jib line needs replacing and relocating so it does not chafe entering the drum.
Finally, a half-hour before sunset, (that is a 10 hour day guys!) we anchored behind a Naval Hospital at Mile 0 of the ICW (Intra Coastal Waterway). We had a toast over Amateur Radio with Windswept and Tundra, had an early supper then fell into bed exhausted.
We are driven by two desires: To just rest for a few days, and to head south to the warmth. The Marina right next to our anchorage has laundry, showers and an "Internet" connection. Well actually it is a phone line we can plug into for this purpose - this is the first place specifically set up to handle this sort of thing. But I don't think we are staying long. In fact we will probably head south tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 30th - I still know what date it is - thank goodness for digital watches).
Revised: November 14, 1998