Ben and I began the transit toward Annapolis this past weekend. I picked him up and we braved Friday evening I95S traffic toward Fredericksburg and then picked up 17S toward Deltaville. The plan was to camp by the boat at the marina and leave at dawn. Unfortunately the sleeping bag was super comfortable and it was way to easy to justify an extra hour of sleep.* After tossing everything aboard and locking up the Jetta we tossed the docklines and headed out.
Conditions were perfect in the morning. As soon as we rounded Stingray Point at the mouth of the Rappahannock River we had the wind and waves at our back and were rolling along at a steady 6 knots. This ran us steadily along from 7am until noon. Then then wind started to shift and fade and to keep up our progress it was decided to motorsail.
It took us 3 hours just to cross the mouth of the Potomac River. The tide had shifted from helping us to holding us back. The wind had shifted (unexpectedly) toward the north. It was at this point we realized there was no way we were going to make it to Solomons Island, MD, the original planned first days stop. So using the Chesapeake Bay crusing guide I brought along we found our only option to be St. Jerome Creek, MD, just north of the Potomac River.
Upon entering St. Jerome Creek we were greeted with a solid 2 knot+ current flowing out of the Creek. The sun had fallen enough that we needed flashlights to light the way. Then the motor died in the narrowest part of the entrance. We scrambled to throw a small anchor, and thankfully it worked perfectly. Now stopped we switched gas tanks, which required unscrewing the fuel like from one tank into putting it on another. With the motor running again it is now completely dark. We have no real chart, and only vague directions from a marina we hoped to refuel at. We successfully rounded the first mark by the aquaculture farm(?!?!?!?) and headed deeper in the creek. We rounded the third mark as planned then we fouled the propeller. Frantically trying to free it the boat veered out of the channel and we ran aground.
Once aground we decided there was little we could do but just wait it out, have few beers, play some cards, try to stay warm and then get some sleep .
We were awoke in the morning with the boat being violently tossed from its once peaceful resting place in the muddy bottom of St. Jerome Creek. A sport fishing charter boat had thought it prudent to pass us throwing as large a wake as possible. The resulting wave, lifted HighLife out of the mud where she had settled vertically and deposited her on her side at what felt like at least a 40degree angle. Alarmed and with Ben startled I jumped on deck to notice that we were just fine, besides the steep heel. What else could we do but climb back in our bunks and wait for high tide.
Unfortunately that sport fishing charter boat was just the first of a number of boats which came roaring by. It was obvious we weren’t ganna get any more sleep and we might as well get up and get work on ourselves out of the mess.
We started by pulling our anchors (set to make sure we didnt move to much during the night) and throwing them toward the channel attaching their lines to winches and pulling like hell. You can imagine how much progress this made, and by that I mean very little. Then we tried rocking back and forth (its a full keel sailboat and would destroy a fin or blade keel boat) to make a path for the keel to move, which actually made a huge difference. Once we had some room around the keel for water to flow we pulled the bow so it faced the incoming tide. After 5 hours of working her free (we probably could have just sat for 4) she came loose of the mud. We were done with St. Jerome Creek forever.
Now that we were finally back on our way, we had to make a bee-line for the Patuxet River and Solomons Island. We had a wonderful sail considering our morning even though it took us an hour longer and 2 long tacks more to make it into the river. As we navigated into Solomons with Maglight’s to spot the marks we saw the first and most by far the most inviting and glorious sight a tiki bar with easily accessible dock. We tide her up and went in for a drink. HighLife stayed right there on that gas dock for the week (may thanks to the dockmaster who was very understanding and gracious) before my Dad joined me to sail her the last leg up to Annapolis from Solomons.
The last leg was a wild ride. We had 15-20 knot winds off our beam the whole way up. Unfortunately the wind shifted in the wrong (opposite of anticipated) direction as we were entering the Severn River. With winds of 2ok off the nose, the outboard running out of fuel and the rigging coming loose we could not make the turn up the river. Battered, wet, bleeding and shivering, Dad made the call to get get assistance. We called BoatTowUS and after what seemed like way to long, we were under tow up the Severn into Back Creek.
She has been safety in her slip since. Thank you to all that made it possible.