Sassafras Gale to Galesville

Secluded spots. Strong blows.

From Chesapeake City we travelled the last few miles of the C&D canal and then south into the Chesapeake Bay and the Sassafras River on Maryland’s eastern shore. We found a nice anchorage in a river bend protected from the strong northeast and northwest winds, set out almost 250 feet of chain, and hunkered down for a big blow. The Coast Guard was repeating gale warnings on the VHF every 20 minutes or so and advising small boats to take shelter. When it blew, it blew hard for about 36 hours with wind exceeding 42 kts. Andante rode it out well while I read a book, reorganized some lockers and drank a lot of coffee.

Editorial note: While I can write and sort photos anywhere, the software I’m using for this blog (WordPress) requires an internet connection to actually construct and publish the posts. The Sassafras River is remote with limited cell service and it wasn’t possible to upload photos and such. There will be days like that. Thanks for your patience.

We anchored as close to shore behind these hills as we could to get some protection from the wind. The water was pretty shallow outside the main river channel so we couldn’t get as close as I’d hoped.
Adjacent to our anchorage was a fish weir. This is a contraption made of sticks and nets formed into a maze that traps fish. It was marked with flashing yellow lights at night. This was a bit disconcerting as with this much wind I was on high alert for any evidence we were dragging our anchor. And its hard to judge distances at night from a flashing light.
Andante’s anchoring setup. We carry almost 300′ of 3/8″ BBB chain. Once the proper scope of chain is deployed for the water depth (3:1 for lunch, 5:1 for a nice sheltered anchorage, 10:1 or more for a storm like this) I attach a nylon snubber line with a rolling hitch and let out another 20-30 feet. The snubber acts as a shock absorber which makes a choppy anchorage more comfortable and reduces shock loading on the anchor. The almost-ancient Maxwell-Nilsson windlass is used to retrieve the anchor chain. Deployment is by manual free-fall. The folding handles on top of the windlass control a friction brake (like the drag on a fishing reel) to allow a slow and controlled deployment.
After the storm passed the wind really died and we enjoyed a nice quiet sunset. Quiet except for the crazy honking of hundreds of Canada Geese heading south. The boat in the photo is “The Nors” a catamaran we conversed with by radio during our trip through the shoals off of Cape May. They told me their plan was to follow us (and our 6.5′ draft) through the shoals knowing that then they’d be just fine. Glad to be of service.
There is no reason for this picture to be here. Just a cool angle I guess. I have been wondering if I need to tweak the starboard lowers just a little. Can’t tell if that’s really a slight bend at the lower spreaders or an optical illusion.

From the Sassafras we continued south Thursday towards the Bay Bridges and Annapolis. Yet another big storm was anticipated for Friday. We made good time and passed under the bridges shortly after noon.

The two spans connecting Maryland’s western and eastern shores just north of Annapolis. The only other bridge across the bay is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel 130 miles to the south in Norfolk/Hampton Roads where the Chesapeake opens to the Atlantic.

Although I had been looking forward to spending an evening in Annapolis I was NOT looking forward to being forced to sail in strong winds and driving rain the next day. We’re expecting some family to visit us at a marina about two hours south on Saturday. Getting stuck in Annapolis was not really an option. So we pressed on for another few hours to the little town of Galesville on the West River – where my parents had kept our family’s boats for many years when I lived in the area.

Thomas Point Light near the mouth of the South River is probably the most photographed object in the Chesapeake Bay. We passed close enough to get a few nice pictures of our own.
We fueled and watered before heading to our mooring. Hoping to head out again early Sunday when fuel docks will be closed.

We had just secured ourselves on our mooring when the wind started to pick up. Thursday night it was windy and a little rainy. Its now Friday evening as I’m writing this and its still blowing 25-35 kts and raining extremely hard. And last I checked the docks at the marina were all underwater — glad I opted for a mooring. Since there was nothing to be done outside I spent today changing the engine oil, oil filter and transmission fluid. Its easiest to do these sorts of jobs at a location (like this marina) that accepts waste oil. And has a laundry facility for afterwards. I guess that’s a job for tomorrow morning.

While the winds were not gale force this time, we got some good hard rain in Galesville on the West River

Radar suggests the rain will taper off soon and the forecast is for pleasant conditions tomorrow for family visits. While the laundry is sloshing I’ll give the boat a quick clean to make it presentable for guests. At least I don’t need to worry about rinsing the salt off the deck…

2 thoughts on “Sassafras Gale to Galesville”

  1. Have fun with your family tomorrow, Dave. Great photos! Hope you have some good weather as you travel south.

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  2. The Nors! Was that the catamaran we saw with the boards and toys at Hartge’s? Wearing their marriage savers. That still makes me giggle. Such a great visit we had. It makes me even more excited to actually sail on that girl of yours. Safe travels!

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