Newburyport to Annapolis

Or should our title be Second Start? We tried heading to far flung islands before, almost exactly three years before, only to return prematurely after visiting a few. Making use of pandemically-induced waiting time, we sold our beloved Wauquiez Pretorien 35, and upgraded to our present Fayaway, a slightly more voluminous Pacific Seacraft 40. Beautiful Fayaway “I” was a fun project, and now the heavier and faster Fayaway II has been similarly entertaining during her refit. Now with major projects completed, and after saying goodbye to family, friends and coworkers, we’ve set our course south once again!

Sunrise from our mooring at the American Yacht Club in Newburyport.

Or should our title be Waiting For Weather? We (try to) forget quickly that fickle weather dictates every move. Or is weather essentially more volatile with climate change? Or are we becoming more squeamish? Less tolerant? Our new Fayaway doesn’t seem to mind rougher conditions as much, or at least she creaks less and keeps her consternation silent. She doesn’t complain, even if we do grumble a bit.

Atlantic Highlands, NJ.

“Leg one” of our trek offered boisterous downwind waves, following the passing of two named hurricanes – first Fiona, and then Ian. Angry Fiona walloped Bermuda and the Canadian Maritimes. We rode her backside with decent northerlies pushing us across Massachusetts Bay. Well-south of Montauk, Ian persuaded us to turn west to duck-in behind Sandy Hook, New Jersey. We saw on the news what Ian did to Florida, on his way to belting us with a less intense backside toward the New England coast. We got off easy.

After most of the nastiness past we waited until early afternoon and slipped our rental mooring at Atlantic Highlands as remaining 25 knot northeast winds tapered and seven foot waves diminished. Confused waves on our quarter stern are the sworn enemy to our whimpy autopilot, evidenced by his whining and groaning with every mild correction. Fortunately, overnight chop and whitecaps dropped down to three foot swells, and wind became light and variable on our approach to the…

Delaware River

Our sail south from north Jersey was uneventful. Even large fishing boats with their ominous lights were scarce overnight, not as usual, annoying us with their zigzagging and unpredictable movements. Seas continued to calm down, and almost diminished as we approached the Delaware River mouth at low slack tide, timed just right to ride the next flood northward. Wind was light from astern, but we didn’t curse, because it wasn’t a cold slap on our faces.

As we approached our stop-off point on the Delaware, we carefully meandered into an unlit creek, where a nervous Kelly dropped the hook well after darkness, only with a bright moon overhead to offer guidance. Not to worry, we’ve been here before, knowing there’s good holding, and our Spade anchor set firmly and predictably, holding fast in 2+ knot reversing current.

Left: Sailor Kelly weighs anchor in the morning, alone with the Salem Nuclear Power plant looming on the horizon. The C&D canal entrance is just across the way, and we lightly motored towards the markers, timing the approach. Many cruising boats converged to catch the ebbing tide, waking early from their respective nearby anchorages.

Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, aka C&D canal, is one of only two non-locked tidal canals in the United States capable of handling large commercial ships. (Can you guess the other?) Today it traverses more than 40% of all shipping freight in and out of Baltimore harbor.

Anchored in Weems Creek

Before he tossed our lines, we generously tipped the friendly and excitable dockhand, for his cheerful assistance with refueling at Chesapeake City. We took on 40 gallons of diesel. Calculating out the engine consumption, we burned approximately 5/8 gallon per hour of motoring (pushing Fayaway about 450 nautical miles, combined with sailing).

Kelly, pleased with the growing ebbing current down the Elk River.

Once upon the canal’s western transition into the Elk River, or northernmost point of our Chesapeake Bay transit, we set sail once again to catch a light northwest breeze and ebbing current, and arrived a few hours later to anchor near the mouth of the Sassafrass River. We had been up this river before, staying further east three years ago at a small Maryland town called Georgetown.

Glorious sailing on a beam-reach down the Chesapeake! An odd but welcome combination: tide and wind in our favor!

Excited to get going in the morning, an ebbing tide and brisker northwest wind whisked us quickly another 40 nautical miles south. We dropped the main just before approaching the Bay Bridge. So many boats! Suddenly we emerged in a chaotic trifecta of sailing- a holiday weekend, perfect sailing conditions, a large boat show and… Annapolis! (I suppose that’s actually a sailing “quad”-fecta!). Families, friends and and racers in sailboats of every known design darted, drifted and cruised around us.

Pointing upwind in preparation to approach the Severn River, we furled the genoa with another couple miles to go. Was it too soon? Is it considered lame to use the motor when there’s wind? Seemingly taunted by countless sailors, many also on a similar windward heading, I felt annoying pangs of inadequacy. I countered by rationalizing with the fact we had just sailed a glorious 40 miles that morning, we were beat from a day’s wind and sunshine, and required nothing additional to prove my sailing chops. Let them be jealous, as we are just the way we want to be!

Sunrise in October over Weems Creek, Annapolis, MD.

Met a nice couple from Vancouver.

Up the Severn a few miles, past US Naval Academy, we again dropped our trusty hook in 12 feet at quaint Weems Creek, amongst several transient vessels. Innisfree, a beautiful dark blue Gozzard 37, pulled up next door. We had noticed them earlier keeping pace with Fayaway on the morning’s run down to Annapolis. Her skipper, Mike, hailed us via VHF, pleased to notice we are also planning the traverse to Antigua with the Salty Dawgs group. We spent the next two evenings enjoying sundowners together, discussing each other’s vessels and sharing travel stories. Mike and Glenda, initially from Vancouver, shipped Innisfree to Lake Huron last spring, and made their way through Lake Erie, the St Lawrence, and eventually down around eastern Nova Scotia just before Hurricane Fiona. Wow, what an adventure!

You know you’re in Maryland when the cheese doodles have Old Bay seasoning!

Thanks for reading! In the next couple weeks we’ll bounce our way further down the Chesapeake to Hampton, Virginia, where we’ll make final preparations before setting off across the Atlantic again.

2 thoughts on “Newburyport to Annapolis

  1. nhcarmichael

    Great summary! Look forward to hearing about your next adventure. That Vancouver couple did it right cruising from Lake Erie down the St. Lawrence Seaway. Definition of a bucket list trip!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s