Thursday, July 28, 2016

Baycation Part 3

We left Herrington Harbour South early Thursday morning. The slips in Ego Alley in Annapolis are first come-first served so you want to time your arrival carefully. There are 20 slips plus the bulkhead available. Of those 20 slips, our boat can fit in only 4 because of her length. We can also fit along the bulkhead if that is open. Check-out is 11am and we planned to arrive between 10:30 and 11 to snag any slips that were opening up.

When we arrived, 3 of the 4 potential slips large enough for us were open. We snagged one and waited on the other 3 boats in our party to arrive. The dockhands were very busy over the next hour as slips filled quickly. Two of the boats in our party arrived within 30 minutes of us and got a slip without issue. The fourth boat was coming from another location and got a late start. By the time they arrived around 1pm, all of the slips available for their size boat were filled. They were lucky, however, because a spot along the bulkhead had opened up.

We found space for all four boats in Ego Alley for the night! Now remember, this is a Thursday that I'm talking about. Not a weekend, when boat traffic is at a premium. This was a weekday when many people have to work. So definitely keep that in mind if you want this view from the bow of your boat:
The great thing about being in Ego Alley is you can walk to all of downtown Annapolis. Shops. Restaurants. Ice cream. There are marinas nearby where you can make a reservation for a slip but there is just something about the "Alley" and the boat and people watching that goes along with it. Plus you can check on your boat while eating lunch at Pussers.
On Friday morning it was time to leave for the last stop on our Baycation -- Dobbins Island in the Magothy River. We had not visited Dobbins Island since Bumper Bash many years ago. It was great to visit when there were only a handful of boats anchored in the area.

We dropped anchor and jumped right in the water. Everyone loved the spot because it's a pretty area and the water is clearer than it is further north in the Bay.

There appears to be a theme to my posts recently: Storms! And our little raft-up of four boats got stuck in one while anchored in the Magothy. The area around Dobbins Island is rather silty. We had two bow anchors out but they broke loose as the winds picked up. I promise you that we do know how to anchor properly. We've had much more luck than not with our anchors holding as they should. The past few weeks have been more trying than most.

We reset anchor before the worst of the storm hit. You know you're in quite a rain storm when the radar looks like this:
Like most storms, after the rain and wind, we had a nice quiet evening and left for home in the morning.

Saturday to Saturday: 1 Baycation, 4 locations, 2 anchorages, 2 marinas, 4 restaurants, 7 boats, and countless Chesapeake Bay memories.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Storms and Contacting the Coast Guard

The Upper Chesapeake Bay was hit by a powerful storm this past weekend and we were rafted up with two other boats during the worst of it. We were anchored in Bodkin Creek in about 8 feet of water. We had two bow anchors (from the two biggest boats) and one stern anchor (from our boat in the middle) set. In normal conditions, this would have been overkill. During this particular storm, it was not enough.

Today, I heard that the Weather Station was reporting that boats should seek safe harbor immediately. With three anchors down and an hour or more ride home, we were in the best possible situation considering our options.
It was a beautiful, HOT but still beautiful, clear day without storms in the forecast. But then the skies went ominous.
We started hearing reports of hail and strong winds in Middle River. Knowing that we had friends anchored there, we quickly contacted them to check on their status. They had two boats rafted together in Sue Creek and had to split apart because of the storm. I also received a text from them stating "Life vests are required for this storm, Julie."

We got life jackets ready and waited to see if the storm would come our way. And it did. Full force.

We were stuck in the middle of a storm similar to the derecho that hit us in Sue Creek a few years back. Only this time we had other boats attached to us.  Thanks to amazing teamwork, we survived unscathed. Other boats weren't so lucky - I'll get to that in a bit.

The bow anchors started to drag and it wasn't long before our stern anchor line was out of position. In the attempt to rectify the situation, we had to let the anchor and line loose into the water. Knowing that our bow anchors were also no longer effective, we started up engines and very carefully managed to get both bow anchors up. I say carefully because we had to be aware of which boat was in gear at all times. We couldn't have multiple boats putting strain on the lines keeping us together and causing a bigger issue. We also didn't want to cut any boats loose until anchors were up to prevent boats swinging into each other.

Once all anchors were up, we undid lines from Wet Wille and they pulled up the creek away from us. The Black Pearl stayed with us while we rode out the storm for an hour or so while keeping a sharp eye on shore and potential other boats in the basin.

All the while, we were listening to Channel 16 and the frantic calls of other boats seeking assistance from the Coast Guard. This storm really took everyone by surprise. A boat ran aground at Hart Miller Island and many boats could not get to safe harbor. One in particular was desperate for help. You could hear the panic in the person's voice and, unfortunately, they weren't completely sure where they were and could not give coordinates to the Coast Guard. "We're sitting ducks. Please help." I commend the Coast Guard for their patience and calm as they tried to help this boat. They explained where on a GPS unit to look for coordinates yet the boat could not find this information. When nothing seemed to work, the Coast Guard recommended that the boat use a cell phone to call 911. They said that 911 dispatch could use the phone signal to get coordinates and that they should ask 911 to then call the Coast Guard with the information. I don't know the end of this boat's story but I was happy to hear the smart problem solving skills of the Coast Guard.

We later heard that people (on land) an hour west hadn't even seen rain. Like I said, this storm caught everyone off guard.

Once the storm passed we were able to reset anchor and enjoy the rest of the evening - including a double full rainbow.

The next morning, Doug and Matt went out in search of the lost stern anchor with a fishing pole. The anchor line was mostly rope so all they needed to do was snag a small part of it. With a little luck, and a general knowledge of where it would be, there were successful within 30 minutes.

For those of you following the Baycation posts, they will resume shortly.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Baycation Part 2

This whole Baycation idea started when we realized that there were some pretty cool places that some of our boating friends had not yet visited. They are places that are a little further away so we like to plan a longer stay to make the trip worthwhile. So, three boats left Swan Creek early Tuesday morning to head to Herrington Harbour South (HHS) for two nights. Looking back through the blog I realized that Doug and I have not visited HHS since 2010 so we were definitely looking forward to the trip. We docked our first boat there for a couple years so we knew everyone was in for a treat.

HHS is a well protected marina as you can tell from the entryway.

We lucked out with 3 back-to-back spots along B pier. We couldn't have been any closer to the pool and Mango's on the Bay.
View from our boat to the pool. The umbrellas that you see are in the pool area.
The marina features a large pool, a private beach area, a restaurant and bar, and an eco-friendly atmosphere. It was hot, hot, hot while we were there. We spent a lot of time at the pool. The pool was busy even midweek because locals purchase memberships. However, there was adult swim time every hour for those that want a little quiet pool time.

Swim lessons are available at the pool. Our friends took advantage of the opportunity to get a single lesson for their four-year-old. He's great in the water but it was fun to watch him gain a few new skills.

Outside area of Mango's. It is attached to the pool.
We visited Mango's for dinner the first night. Quick tip: Bottles of wine are half-price on Tuesday nights. It's on the pricey side but the meals were fantastic. And when you have six adults and one child, you can order three different desserts and everyone can share and be happy.

The second night we grilled out. You aren't allowed to grill on the docks, but there are numerous charcoal grills and picnic tables available. The convenience/wine store across the street has charcoal. Plus, you can't beat a kitchen with this view.
That's our little propane grill beside the charcoal grill. We all wanted to cook something different.
We remember when the store across the street was a tiny deli. I didn't get a chance to check it out but Doug said it has really grown. They serve hot and cold food and have a large beer, wine, and spirits selection.

While HHS has a lot to offer, there isn't a town to visit while you are there. I did go for a run Wednesday morning to North Beach. It is two miles away along a road with little to no shoulder for pedestrians. But if you're willing to be careful it is a cute town with a short boardwalk.

This looks like to perfect place to watch a sunrise.
Cute name but also a little scary.
Lastly, being that HHS is an eco-friendly marina, there is always lots of wildlife.

I didn't catch any photos of the numerous orioles I spotted. And Doug saw a pod of 30 dolphins when he went out fishing early one morning.

Our next stop, Annapolis, will be posted soon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Baycation Part 1

How often do you get to travel and take your home with you? Just think -- you get to sleep in your own bed the whole time, you don't have to pack because you already have everything you need, and you get to explore. Full time cruisers can do this whenever they want. Those of us with full time jobs that require us to go to an office get to do it in short spurts. This year, we left our home dock on Saturday, July 2 and returned eight days later.

The Chesapeake Bay is perfect for this type of trip because there are many destinations relatively close together. This was our trip:
  • Saturday - Tuesday: Anchor in Swan Creek behind Rock Hall
  • Tuesday - Thursday: Get a slip at Herrington Harbour South Marina (in between Deale and North Beach on the map)
  • Thursday - Friday: Luck out with a slip in Ego Alley in Annapolis
  • Friday - Saturday: Anchor behind Dobbins Island in the Magothy River (just north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on the west side of the Bay)
The other great thing about the Bay is that lots of boating friends can come and go from the trip as it fits their schedule. It's like having house guests that bring their own house (and bed and sheets and towels and food). We had a core group of four boats in Swan Creek with another three that visited for part of the time.
The raft up taken from the bow of Wet Wille.
After watching fireworks in Baltimore and Middle River for the past few years, we wanted to try something different. We chose Swan Creek because we like the anchorage area and Rock Hall had fireworks scheduled for Sunday, July 3. We then chose to stay in Swan Creek for an extra couple days so we wouldn't have to deal with a Bay busy with boat traffic and price hikes at marinas for the holiday. We also got to enjoy a relatively empty anchorage basin for a couple of days.

Rock Hall put on an impressive fireworks show but the funniest statement about the display came from the 4-year-old in the group: "Mommy, why aren't the fireworks up in the sky?" This lucky little guy has always seen fireworks up close and personal, as in, lay down on the bow of your boat and watch them explode above you close and personal. We were close to the front of the Creek but still at the point where the fireworks were on the horizon and not directly above us.

The four ladies took the dinghy into town on Monday via the dinghy dock at Haven Harbor Marina. Town is about a half-mile away along a well-traveled road but the shoulder is sufficient for walking single or double-file. We did a little shopping but I have unfortunately seen a steady decline in the number of open businesses in Rock Hall. I wish there was more to do in town but we were really there for a relaxing raft up.

We did visit Waterman's Crab House for lunch. You simply must go to Waterman's if you visit Rock Hall. Just in case you need proof, they do serve more than just crabs:
The blackened tuna was cooked perfectly!
After four quiet days it was time for a trip down the bay to Herrington Harbour South. Watch for that post in a couple days.