Sailing Vacation - Part 1

July 17, 2013

Washington, DC

Before we went sailing, we spent a day and a night in Washington, DC. Just a couple of monuments and a museum, and it wouldn't be anything to write about if it weren't for the downpour that caught us as we left the White House, walking up toward our hotel.

Rainstorm picture -- the last with my old camera.

The rain came hard and fast. It was cool, which felt nice after the hot, sweaty walk. But then, we were drenched pretty quickly. A stranger stopped her car, handed out a broken umbrella, and said, "Here! Take it." We thanked her and gave the umbrella to Vanya. Mrs. theskinnyonbenny had the diaper bag over her head. I had Kolya over me, and he had on a large hat. The two of us were pretty wet.

By the time we reached our hotel, it was pretty much done raining. We were drenched, but not grouchy. It was only later -- when I went to check the day's pictures -- that I noticed that my camera had gotten ruined by the water.

The next day was sunny, and we all walked out to the Air and Space museum. It was fun, but it would have been better if I had something a little better than my water camera.

On to the Sailing Trip...

Chesapeake Bay Chart

6/30Left Annapolis (house). Sailed to Harrington Bay (1)
7/1Harrington Bay (1) back to Annapolis (2)
7/2Annapolis (2) to St. Michaels (3)
7/3Moved the boat, but still in St Michaels
7/4St. Michaels (3) to Oxford (4)
7/5Oxford (4) to La Trappe Creek (5)
7/6La Trappe Creek (5) to Rhode River (6), and then back to home base

Day 1: Annapolis to Herrington Bay

The day before we went sailing, we drove to Annapolis. We had a night in a hotel, which gave us a chance to go into town for touristy beers and crab cakes. It put us in the mood to get out on the water.

We picked up our boat the morning of June 30th. I let the guy walk me through the boat and chart briefings. Nothing too unusual there. I started loading our gear while Mrs. theskinnyonbenny went for prvosions. It started to sprinkle.

V watching the cooks handle live crabs in Annapolis.

Our guy at the marina must have had a rule that he had to see us out of the slip. It's probably good that he did, because the way it was in there, you had to back the boat out, make a 90 degree turn, and then back down and around a navigation marker in order to go straight. Screw it up, and you smash a large vessel on the opposite dock or go aground on a shallow spot just beside the channel.

So he was probably right to stick around and see us off, but it was obvious that he needed to get out of there too. So out we went in a light rain.

Once I got out into the Chesapeake Bay inlet. it looked like a good move. The dark clouds were over land. Out in front of me was -- well, not clear sky, but not that bad a sky either.

The first view of the bay was amazing for a sailor who's used to seeing open, empty lake out in front of me. There were dozens of boats. Some were heading in, some heading out. 99% of them were large (40 ft and longer) sail boats, but there were random motor boats too, and at what appeared to be the other side of the bay, a huge container ship which could have run us down like stepping on a bug, without her captain ever noticing.

As I motored out, I was watching the rain reach the shore. It picked up a little. The wind was from behind me, so the drops started hitting my back. I called down into the cabin for my rain jacket.

After five or ten minutes of that, the storm hit properly. I could see nothing but gray. The boat rode comfortably over waves, but it was really rocking up and down. Even though the motor was as low as it would go, and no sails were up, the wind pushed us at 7.5 kts. That's really moving. Now that it was a deluge, my rain jacket popped out of the hatch. The rest of the family huddled in the cabin, getting wet themselves from windows in the cabin roof that were overdue for being reset.

Even though I had just been in the middle of several boats, I suddenly couldn't see any of them at all. I couldn't see land. I couldn't see the Bay Bridge. It had all just been right there, but now, it was nothing but gray. I hoped that the other boats were moving parallel to me and at roughly the same speed. I really hoped that there was no way that we could reach that container ship out there.

When the rain cleared, the other boats were still close by, and we were still making our way out of the inlet. I peeked down, and the rest of the family was huddled scared and wet in the setee. I definitely had a lot more fun than they did.

After that, we set the sails and went South. We had talked about just passing through to the Rhode River, but once we got past the lighthouse, we still wanted to sail a little more. We forged on to Harrington Bay, taking a slip for the night at Harrington Harbor South.

Day 2: Harrington Bay to Annapolis

Did I just do a weird reverse copy and paste error on the destinations from the previous day entry? Not at all. On this day, we sailed back to Annapolis.

Harrington Harbor South has its fans, and it's really not bad. They have a pool, wifi, a band, and a restaurant. But it's fairly well lacking in charm.

Thomas Point Lighthouse

We hung out all morning because, as you might have guessed by now, it was raining. Showers were canceled because we had left the toiletry bag in the Annapolis hotel the previous morning. So around mid-day, we set sail again -- this time in rain that was truly clearing away.

Our return sail was uneventful. We decided to go right into the downtown Annapolis harbor. It's a little more exciting of a destination than our original marina, and mooring balls can be picked up for a fraction of the cost of a marina.

(Mooring balls float on top of the water but are anchored to the ground. You just pick up the ball and tie up, and you're right there in the middle of town, bobbing comfortably in the breeze.)

For the first time in the trip, we took the dinghy out. We gave ourselves a tour of the city's waterfront, passing way up the Spa River. It's funny what Chesapeake people call rivers. They're really just inlets. Bays off of the main bay. Maybe there isn't a good word for them, but they certainly aren't rivers.

Once we tied up at the town dinghy dock (you're town gets extra cool points if it has a dinghy dock), we went for cocktails and ice cream, with the delineation being based entirely on age of the crew member. I ditched the family to take the town shuttle back up to our hotel, where I retrieved our bag and forgot to tip the maid who brought it down. I caught the next shuttle back downtown, and we headed to the showers at the harbormaster's office.

Annapolis evening, as seen from the harbor.

Our last stop was the liquor store at the bottom of the main drag, where the owner was happy to haul a box of booze and ice out to our dinghy for us. We were back aboard for a very nice sunset, with drinks and snacks in hand.

A couple of other random tidbits from these days:

  • Here and there, you'll be sailing in what should be good water, only to see it clogged up with thousands of close-together sticks, all in a line like a fence. They must be related to fishing, and they aren't on the charts. It's very annoying.
  • When coming back into Annapolis, we were passed by a half dozen largeish boats coming from the Naval Academy. They weren't huge naval vessels, but they would have made good sized luxury yachts. They were gray and utilitarian looking. Toy battleships, we figured. You midshipmen are cute, piloting your toy battleships around the harbor!
  • I've got more days to write about, but the full photo gallery from the trip is up here.