Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Getting Caught Up

Out of Hampton Roads and on to Deltaville

Thursday was our get-away day and the weather looked good for our first experience on big open water. The forecast was for winds of five to ten knots with seas of less than two feet. We pulled out of Waterside Marina and got on our course and headed out. The biggest point of interest leaving the harbor was passing the navy base. There were numerous cruisers, supply ships, an aircraft carrier and four docked submarines.

Out in the bay the conditions were fine. It was cloudy but the winds were calm with southerly winds and the waves were at one to two feet. Very doable and the boat plowed its way north. My initial set course was a bit too far out in the bay itself adding miles and time to the cruise so I cheated towards the shore some. After a while the sun came out and with about a third of the fifty miles to go the winds actually died down some and it was a pretty smooth ride.

We approached Deltaville, Virginia about 2:00 and slipped our way up the narrow and somewhat shallow inlet up to our docking destination for the night, the Deltaville Yacht Center. Lew and Onna, the owners of the marina are extremely nice and the facilities are very good, but it is a bit cramped. We tied up at one of the T-head docks. It will be a bit tricky getting out of here.

It is now Friday, May 25 and we are going on to a popular anchorage called Horseshoe Bend on the St. Marys River. St. Marys River is actually a tributary on the north side of the Potomac River near the bay. Depending on weather we could stay there one or two nights as from there we have three more legs of travel to get to a marina in Alexandria VA to take in the sights of Washington DC. 

Up to St. Mary’s. MD

We got out of the Deltaville Yacht Center without a hitch. It was calm so getting untied and out went well. The weather was kinda AOK. The forecast was for the typical calmish, partly sunny conditions…winds from the southeast five to ten knots and waves of a foot or two…and of course the ever present “slight chance of showers and thunderstorms late in the afternoon.” Deltaville is very near the bay so we were on our way cruising north in a short time. Our destination was an anchorage on the St. Mary’s River near St. Mary’s, Maryland.

The cruise up from Virginia was without incident except that the sky looked rather foreboding pretty much the entire morning. Big clouds were sweeping in from the south but they seemed to stall out at Smith Point, a lighthouse at the south peninsula marking the entrance of the Potomac River. Once we made the turn west everything seemed to change. It got sunny, the winds were low or nonexistent and the waves disappeared. We would have to cruise about 15 miles up the Potomac to get to St. Mary’s and the afternoon’s conditions made the cruise delightful.

St. Mary’s is a boater favorite because there is a very unique fun-like opportunity there. In St. Mary’s there is a college called, you guessed it, St. Mary’s College which is located on one of the small tributaries of the river. Boaters have access to a daytime only sea wall and anchorage that we can go over to the school cafeteria for lunch. Pretty nice. We weren’t going to stop this time but we will give it a shot when we come back down from Alexandria, VA. Our anchorage was going to be a boater favorite called Horseshoe Bend just a mile or so up the river. That is where we were going to go but once we got there, though it was nice, it was a bit too deep for us. Really it’s too deep for Lisa because though we have a power windlass to pull the anchor chain and anchor up, Lisa is the windlass down and much more than 10 to 12 feet of depth is hard. So we checked out the charts and went a bit further up the river to a very nice anchorage at a lovely little spot near Martin Point. We dropped the hook in 12 feet of water and we were settled for the night.

The AGLCA Rendezvous Group Picture. Can you find us?

Our next three cruise days are to go to a marina at Colonial Bend for one night, Aquia Creek Marina for two nights (Margi and Rick, we’re coming to see YOU!), and finally ending up in Alexandria, VA for a week to see the capital.

Par-tay at Colonial Beach

The weather for our cruise to Colonial Beach was beautiful. The skies were blue with cumulus clouds in every direction. We pulled out of the St. Mary’s River and headed up the Potomac River with our next destination being the Colonial Beach Yacht Center in Colonial Beach, VA.

I know that in writing a blog like this I am supposed to write about interesting occurrences witnessed along the way. Alas there is nothing of note to write about our cruise on this day. It was by all standards very routine. The weather was nice. The water was nice. So the cruise was nice. It was so routine in fact that for a large chunk of the time Lisa was at the helm and I curled up on the futon in the salon and took a nap.

The scenery had changed a bit. On the south side, the Virginia side of the Potomac, the shoreline became a little more vertical. About five miles downbound of our final destination there were tall bare cliffs along the shore, some with majestic homes on top keeping watch over the water. And the shores were getting closer together. The Potomac is a very wide river narrowing the further north you go. At the mouth the distance from shore to shore is 6 miles wide. (Or more like 8 miles wide depending where you interpret the mouth to be.) By the time we reached Colonial Beach that distance was down to three.

We pulled into Colonial Beach Yacht Center and were surprised what a bustling marina this is. First, it’s a big marina with at least a hundred slips, maybe more. And it was packed. We did have a reservation and made our way to a T-head dock that was made to order for Why Knot which made getting in and out a snap.

And this place was rockin’. There was a rendezvous party of boaters that all came down from the Washington DC area and they had a whole section of the docks to themselves. They had those tent like covers put over their docks to give them shade, music playing and even a buffet set up with chafing dishes. One guy was even wearing a tuxedo. We’re not exactly sure but we think there was a wedding reception tied in with this group as there was a flower trellis set up over a ramp from one area of the dock to another. They were loud and having a good time.

There is a shuttle trolley that runs around the entire Colonial Bay peninsula that we hopped onto at its stop at the marina, as we needed to take a few provisions. The driver was a very nice elderly gentleman who doubled as a tour guide, describing any fact about this town that he deemed important, even pointing out that the town had its own bank and 7-11 store. Fortunately one of these important landmarks was a Dollar General store, a favorite destination of ours for quick mini-provisioning needs.

One of the oddities that I find interesting is where the border between Virginia and Maryland is on the Potomac River. It is at the shoreline of the south, that is the Virginia side of the river. If you stand on the edge of the shore on the south side you are standing in Virginia. Take one step into the water and you are in Maryland. (Not like what would seem the norm such as the border between Missouri and Illinois that runs right down the center of the Mississippi River, pretty much equal distance between the two.) This weird arrangement makes for an odd tourist attraction in Colonial Beach. Gambling is not legal in Virginia but is legal in Maryland. There is a casino boat in Colonial Beach…Virginia…sort of. Our tour guide said that they had keno and off-track-betting. The parking lot is in Virginia but the boat itself is tied up a bit out in the river in Maryland. So locals and tourists alike can vacation in Virginia but lose their money in Maryland.

One of the fun things about our boat is that it attracts attention. Nelson trawlers (and their direct ancestor Thompson trawlers) are unique looking boats with a raked bow and long graceful lines. It is very common to catch people stopping and looking at our boat. This happened in Colonial Beach marina as a couple that were attending the aforementioned party stood outside our boat and were conversing together and admiring Why Knot. I poked my head out of the main portside door and chatted them up. They told me that they had one of those high end speed boats but they were wanting something different to do some long range cruising. I told them about our exploits and they had lots of questions. We invited them on board and gave them the standard tour and told them about why we like our boat so much, how live-able it is, how it cruised and things like that. Two of their friends joined us a few minutes later. As they were getting ready to head back to their party I gave each of them a boat card. So if you, our visitors, our reading this post remember what I told you at the first, this is the best boat in the marina! ...and it always is.

All in all Colonial Beach was a fun and interesting stop along our way to our next destination – Aquia Bay Marina. This will be an interesting stop as the marina is up Aquia Creek that has a reputation of being very shallow if you stray outside the channel too much. So it will be an interesting day indeed.

Aquia Creek, Aquia Bay Marina and Rick and Margi

It was the Memorial Day weekend and the next leg up starting in Colonial Beach was on Sunday May 27. The weather was spectacular. It was a very hot, bright, sunny day with just enough of a breeze to keep the humidity down. The cruise was a delight with very low waves to the point that there were stretches that were completely calm. Starting out from Colonial Beach did get a bit hairy because of the onslaught of big power cruisers that were also heading north with their big wakes and waves. I had to take evasive action several times to turn the boat into the waves rather than having the waves either hitting us from behind or broadside. So for about a mile Why Knot looked more like a sailboat tacking into a heading wind rather than a cruiser on a straight line course. But you gotta do what you gotta do. So on up the Potomac River we pushed.

Cruising like this can change a person. One of the ways it has changed me is that I am less concerned about the events of the world. One of the sayings that I have about all of this is that water makes a great insulator from the world and due to the intermittent wireless connections available on my T-Mobile phone I have not had the ability to plug into the news and information websites that were always my daily compulsion. Right now sitting here at Aquia Bay Marina early on the 29th of May I could not tell you anything about what is happening outside of this boat. We’re near Washington but I could not tell you what’s happening in politics and I have gotten to the point that I don’t really care. I have always tried to stay on top of the news back in St. Louis on (St. Louis Post Dispatch) but as far as I know it could have all been swept away by a tornado. The only thing that I really need internet connection for is to get weather reports, update this blog (This has been tough recently.) and to stay in contact with my sons Bryan and Kevin.

Anyway I digress.

Aquia Creek inlet is charted to be pretty shallow with depths of only four or five feet. That’s doable by Why Knot with only a 3.5 foot draft but its cutting it pretty close. While still out about a half of mile I got on the radio and hailed any boat that was coming out of the entrance. A boater did respond and I asked him what depths he was getting. He told me that we were hitting it right at high tide and should have six to eight feet to work with. And this was the case. As we inched our way up to the marina I never sounded anything less than three feet, and this was using the sounder on the fly bridge which always seems to show a foot less than there actually is. So getting to our t-head dock at the Aquia Bay Marina was no problem.

This is an odd marina. In some ways it is a very good marina. Its facilities such as bathrooms, showers and lounge are first rate…very clean, modern and well maintained. But in other ways it is kind of decrepit, such as the fixed wooden docks which are certainly serviceable but a little behind the times and the competition. The price at $1.50 per foot per night is not out of whack but seems a tad pricey when compared to other marinas. George, the dock and marina manager is incredibly helpful and nice and is certainly working hard to get people to like this marina. I think he does everything here and he works hard. I would grade this marina a strong three stars out of five. I think that it is fair to point out that boater’s marina opinions are extremely subjective. For me this marina is a 3-star, while another boater that is used to uber-posh marinas would say this is a 1-star, or someone that is used to more pedestrian facilities would give this a 5-star rating. I guess for me, not having logged much time at any one marina as a life style choice, I tend to look at things more moderately. Does a marina provide a valuable service (docking for a night or two) with safety and convenience? If the answer is ‘yes’ I think that it has done its job and that’s good enough for me.

We were particularly happy about being here because we got to see our friends Rick and Margi Decatur who live right here on the creek. As we entered the creek the radio crackled with Rick’s Virginia drawl welcoming us into the inlet and telling us to look to our right to their house right on the water. We saw their beautiful Endeavor 44 foot power cat trawler, Journey, docked at their dock house. We docked at the marina with plans of them taking a short dinghy ride over to our boat a short time later. It was great to see them again and we visited for a while on Why Knot. Margi made plans with us to come pick us up Monday morning to take us to a grocery store for provisions, then to their house for Memorial Day along with fellow loopers Rusty and Jan Carlyle of Sea Bay who were docked at the other side of the marina.

This was a great Memorial Day break. Rick and Margi’s house is beautiful and from the veranda we could see all of the boats passing us in both directions. Aquia Creek is a heavily used inlet by boats of all shapes and sizes but mostly on the smaller, shallower draft level. I even got to get out on one of their jet skis which was a blast but I had to cut that short due to a low oil light that kept flashing on the dashboard.

It was a wonderful day. The weather was picture perfect and we had a great time. And, as it always seems to be the case, the company…the people, was the best part of all. Rusty and Jan were delightful. And Rick and Margi are awesome! They are the closest new friends we’ve made out here on the loop and being with them on Memorial Day 2012 was the perfect experience.


 Next stop – Washington D.C.