Moseyin’ Back to Homeport

As we’d arranged, Mosey On’s crew took a day on the 16th to thoroughly explore the bazaar that is the US Powerboat Show in Annapolis. We were not really there to look at boats, rather the stuff that suggests ‘solutions’ to boaters’ issues or desires…we talked to life raft vendors (we think a life raft might be prudent before we venture much further off shore)…a piece of expensive gear you really hope you never get to use! I visited with the company that manufactured our outboard motor (for the dinghy) to see what I needed to do to ‘winterize’ the motor properly….only to find out that the motor will do that itself at the press of a button…(I should have read that part of the manual…). Fender covers in a wide selection of colors, fitted sheets for odd-shaped mattresses, electronic geegaws, new and improved marine toilets – all the flotsam and jetsam that filled the display tents jammed into the heart of old Annapolis. At the end of the day we sought-out a quiet dinner, then beat a retreat back to Mosey On and a good night’s sleep before Friday’s first light departure for our run south to North Carolina. We made the trip in five travel days with a one day layover up the York River across from Yorktown to allow some foul weather to pass by.

The end of the power and sailboat shows generally mark the end of the Chesapeake boating season and the beginning of the ‘great Fall migration’ when anyone with the boat (and the time) to do so, heads south to warmer waters. Some go offshore around Cape Hatteras and others head down the more protected waters of the ICW (Intra-Coastal Waterway). However it’s done, some planning is required and attention to the weather (wind and waves) is key. I should note that the option to go offshore has some real attraction (as opposed to the ICW) due to the deeper and more open waters, fewer ‘obstructions’ to navigate, and no low bridges to open.  Alas, weather conditions offshore relegated Mosey On  to the inside passage this time.

One of the important things we have learned from this year’s cruise has been the value of what is popularly called “crowd-sourcing”: defined in Wikipedia as “the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional {sources}.” There is, of course, an App for that. With an internet connection (and what self-respecting boater doesn’t have that?) you can read what your fellow cruisers have to say about a secluded anchorage or a convenient marina. There are comments on uncharted obstructions and developing shoal waters in dredged channels. You can read of the experiences (good and bad) other boaters have had in yards where they’ve gone for service. You read these like restaurant reviews…realizing that some folk will always have an issue. Yet you ignore these markers at your peril.

As a less structured example, we came out of the Great Wicomico River into the lower Chesapeake with a strong wind running against the tide. The day’s cruise was shaping-up to be an unpleasant slog into confused seas. But as we poked the bow out of the Wicomico and looked ahead, we saw a string of cruising sailboats heading south across our path and well short of the marked channel. Looking at the chart, we determined that they were taking a path across shallower water and closer to shore to be sheltered from the blow. As their draft was the same as Mosey On’s, we fell in behind and cruised along in their wake. It was not a straight course, but we followed the coastline keeping to a safe depth and enjoyed substantially reduced seas from those out in the channel. We would have been more circumspect in taking Mosey On into these waters on our own, but we were traveling in van with clearly well-handled boats and skilled
crew.

Over these many months, we found the cruising community to be consistent ‘subscribers’ in adding to that ‘database’ of shared knowledge and experience: underway, on-line and on the dock. It made a trip like ours much more manageable and interesting. We joined-in along the way and reviewed marinas, raved about some anchorages, and sadly ‘dissed’ a few. We’re back in our home port now and plan to ‘sit a spell’ and let the weather settle. We’re not sure of our next destination or when, exactly, we plan to head out. But Mosey On will be ready and another great adventure assured!   Life is a journey indeed…Have a great trip!

Coming up the drive..

Coming up the drive..

Chillin’ On The Chesapeake

For the last week, Mosey On and crew have been enjoying the mid-Chesapeake as Fall has definitely arrived: cooler temperatures, trees coming into Fall color and uncrowded anchorages. The locals with real work, school schedules, Fall yard cleanup and football games are pulling their boats from the water and putting them up for winter storage. Such are the seasonal rhythms of recreational boating here…but for the occasional fast-moving cold front, this is the very best time (IMHO) to be cruising these waters. Most of the waterside dining establishments are closing down for the season…and while we have thoroughly enjoyed their ambience, hot cocoa (anytime) and a bowl of Colleen’s chili on a crisp evening aboard is about as good as it gets.

We have responsibilities that call us back to North Carolina later this month, but our plan is to stay here through the opening day of the Annapolis Power Boat Show on the 16th…..a giant bazaar of boats and gear to see, touch and perhaps buy….because we may need it!  Then again, we will be much constrained by the simple fact that Mosey On has no room for anything that does not ‘earn its keep’…and we’ve committed to ‘down-sizing’ in everything but waterline!

Since we’ve come down the Potomac, we’ve prowled both shores of the Chesapeake while working northward toward Annapolis. There are so many beautiful creeks with secluded anchorages and adequate depth for Mosey On. But even more enjoyable have been our series of guests who have been able to take a day or more to ‘cruise’ with us. They’ve had the opportunity to see the Chesapeake from an entirely different perspective. We’ve enjoyed the catch-up with family and friends and the good conversation that ensues. It has always been a pleasure to share our home with honored guests and we’ve been fortunate to bring Mosey On within a reasonable distance of many of you. We hope to be able to share these experiences for several years to come.

In The Shallows

We took a couple of days this week to cruise up the Potomac River.  Our upriver destination was Alexandria, Va. (under the approach to Reagan Airport – been THERE a few times) and within sight of the Capitol Building.  There, we were to have lunch with a group of my high school classmates.  We were a very small class and have tried to keep in touch over the years.  We were happily surprised to have an alum join us for the first time in 50 years!  But I digress…

I submit these observations on a river we all recognize but few, I think, have ever traveled.  The mouth of the river (where it empties into Chesapeake Bay) is broad, deep and inviting. Maryland’s first capital was located on the deep and well-protected St. Mary’s River, the first of many tributaries that feed this watershed.  It’s a beautiful river with old-growth trees right down to a (relatively) deep shore.  Six miles upriver we found St. Mary’s College and anchored in a deep bend of the river there.  St. Mary’s has a notable sailing program and we spent time watching their teams practice nearby.  On the opposite (Virginia) shore of the Potomac  is the Yeocomico River, reputed to be just as scenic with many deep and secure anchorages.  But we had an appointment in Alexandria and  will have to save that exploration for our next trip.

For the first forty miles or so up the River to Colonial Beach (summer excursion boat stop for vacationers escaping downriver from Washington) the Potomac remains broad and deep.  The shores are sparsely populated.  But from Colonial Beach upriver, the river changes significantly.  The channel narrows down to a few hundred yards in places, but flanked by broad expanses of shallow water.  Here the river has left outcroppings of rock that further confine the navigable channel.  But “shallow” is a relative term.  Millions of fishermen and shallow draft (say 2 feet) pleasure boaters see a wide-open river with multitudes of creeks in which to explore or anchor securely overnight.  Deeper draft vessels like Mosey On and most commercial or naval vessels must stick to the channel.  Alexandria was once a thriving seaport, but as ships got larger and with deeper draft, they went elsewhere…In fact, James Madison’s military advisers were counting on that in the War of 1812.  They correctly presumed that the British Fleet would not chance the shallows of the upper Potomac….so the British deployed up the Patuxet and to Baltimore.  There is a way, however, that we can slip Mosey On into and out of the shallower tributaries and anchorages.  Some have deeper water – ‘holes’ inside the shoals at their mouths.  If the water level in these ‘holes’ is sufficient to float our boat at Low Tide, and at High tide we have sufficient water beneath us to clear the shoals, then we should be able to duck into a secluded anchorage otherwise unavailable to us.  The whalers of Nantucket actually developed a raft to lift their ships up across the bar and into the lagoon anchorage on the island.  Mosey On rode a High Tide into a place called Mattawoman Creek.  We were successful by mere inches under our keel!  And were rewarded with a secure nights sleep in a beautiful anchorage.  Then we waited for the next high tide for our opportunity to leave.  Sailors have been doing this since man invented boats…but it gives meaning to the phrase “time and tide wait for no one!”

The other notable thing about this river is just how much of a military presence lines its shores.  There are the facilities at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren, the Quantico Marine Base and the Army’s Ft. Belvoir.  But for the many times I’ve flown over or driven down its shores and across its bridges, I had no idea of the extent of other facilities: antenna farms, test ranges, auxiliary airfields, etc.  From the water, at seven knots, you notice these things.  There are signs and postings on the nautical charts warning that if the sirens are whaling and the lights are flashing…you may not proceed.  Fair enough.  What’s surprising is its proximity to populated areas.  The US Navy apparently has no issue with shallow water…