This retired life I live can be too busy. I find myself committed to things that fence-in my cruising time, so sometimes we just have to go when a day opens up in the calendar. Like Wednesday. Although the weather forecast wasn’t perfect, it seemed good enough to let us off the pier for an over-night.
After a morning of rain, the skies cleared and we had wonderful weather for crossing the bay, leaving the pier at about 1330. Light winds meant we motored most of the distance. After several hours on the water, the Coast Guard broadcast a severe weather warning for the entire Chesapeake Bay area. I started checking our weather resources, and it appeared that a pretty strong system was moving north that afternoon. It wasn’t a threat earlier in the day, or we would have stayed put. Regardless, we were too far to turn back, so pressing on through Knapps Narrows, and up to Dun Cove, we settled into our anchorage with five other boats.
Dun Cove (off the Miles River, about 6 miles from St. Michaels, MD) has several little nooks and crannies, but we usually anchor in the area that gives us protection from the prevailing southeasterly winds. This time we noticed all the other boats were packed into a narrower creek running northwest of Dun Cove. As the wind was easterly and the open cove was unprotected from that direction, we also took an anchorage there. I say “packed,” but there was plenty of room – we weren’t very close to our neighbors.
After dragging anchor several times in the recent past, I’ve been setting two hooks. I did this again, certain that with two anchors well set, my sleep would be uninterrupted . . . though I always have a bit of anxiety about my anchorage neighbors. Setting two anchors is sort of a pain, as it’s difficult to get the second anchor where I want it, and then back down on it without fouling the other anchor rode. I have used my dinghy in the past, and rowed an anchor out to where I wanted it, then set it using a sheet winch. I guess I was lazy this time, and set both off the bow at about 120 degrees. It took about 30 minutes to do this, and my neighbors must have been wondering what took so long. But it was done, and we got things shipshape for the rain we knew was coming later that evening – all seats and cushions below, fold up the bimini, set the drop boards in place (except for the top one). For all of that prep, we ate dinner in the cockpit, and it was a beautiful, bug-free evening.
Sometime in the night I was aware of a light rain falling, and that there was a cooling, pleasant breeze, but nothing disturbing. We woke, drank lots of coffee, and the rain began. Seriously. Several hours of driving rain filled our dinghy half way, and kept us down below. We were cozy, but knew we had to brave the elements soon, ’cause we had commitments that evening, and a three-hour trip before us. At 1230 the rain seemed to slow down a bit, so I donned rain gear and let Ruth stay below.
First order of business was to bail the dinghy, but stepping into it with that much water was a sure way to go for a swim. I spent 5 minutes drawing water out of it with a canvas bucket on a line – one quart at a time. It would take me an hour to get any significant water out that way, so I bent a loop in the dinghy’s painter and attached the main halyard to it. I eased it up to vertical using the halyard winch, which dumped most of the water out, then bailed the catchment area dry between the stern thwart and the transom. With the dinghy empty of water, a couple more maneuvers allowed me to overturn the dink on the foredeck, and lash it down for the return trip.
I brought the anchors back on board with very little effort – they were securely set, but easily broken out – and didn’t worry about mud on the deck, certain that continuing rain would wash it clean.
We had moderate, though favorable winds, and our return speed was in excess of 5 knots the entire trip. As we moved further west across the bay we moved out of the wind shadow of the eastern side, and our speed increased, motor sailing under headsail alone. As fetch across the water increased, so did the chop, until we finally got the classic short Chesapeake chop as a following sea. Caught on the stern quarter, a 4-foot swell has the power to roll any boat from beam to beam on the diagonal. Not very comfortable, but it didn’t last long either. At this point, Ruth emerged from down below, finding the motion intolerable without seeing the horizon.
We were swept by rain on and off, but generally had a wonderfully fast crossing. Not weather you typically enjoy while boating, but it really wasn’t unpleasant. It’s just great to be on the water, weather (whether?) fine or foul. We tied up at home about 1630, cleaned up, and went on to the next thing.
Don’t let a little rain keep you off the water!
Rick Bailey writes the Middle Bay Sailing blog about life on the Chesapeake Bay. To read more, go to middlebaysailing.wordpress.com