2 Great Days, 1 Long Night

When we left Annapolis a few days ago, things were going splendidly. And, in the grand scheme of things, they still are! All is well with us and with Spartan. But over the last 24 hours, there were a few less than comfortable moments…well hours…plus one full night. And, I think, if you had a look at the bottom paint right now, you’d find that my hard work has been erased in a few spots.

But let’s do this chronologically. Our sail from Annapolis to St. Michaels was excellent. Winds were 12-15kts. Unfortunately, they were against us. But, the sail was only 25 miles or so, so we were in no hurry. We did a bit of motorsailing while in the wide bay to pinch our way around a shoal and charge the batteries, but other than that, we sailed the whole way. As we got closer and the river narrowed, our tacks got shorter and shorter. I believe the shortest was about 5 minutes.

The shortest tacks are tough to see in this track record from our new favourite charting tool: Aqua Maps.

On arrival in St. Michaels, we decided to anchor in the southern bay. Though it was a bit more open to the wider bay, it was most protected from the southern winds. We slept soundly, anchored in about 12 feet of water.

The next day was incredibly hot and we spent it at the Maritime Museum here. The museum has a working boat yard, a collection of in-water boats and about 5 other buildings that were blessedly air conditioned. Man, it was sooo hot yesterday!

I stole this picture from a website.

Anyhoo, after getting too restless to take in any more information about Chesapeake boats, oystering, crabbing, etc, we headed back to the boat. On arrival, we discovered that our solar charge controller had stopped at some point in the day, so our power was low and we had work to do. After a long troubleshooting session, I determined that there was a short in the wiring. This may have been caused by all of the previous tugging and connecting/disconnecting I’d done over the past weeks while diagnosing other solar issues. By the time I had the problem connector removed and rewired, we were out of daylight. Until morning, we’d just have to wonder whether the panels were now working as they should.

While doing the solar work in temperatures of about 37C, it was easy to think of the increasing winds as a godsend. They were from the East now – our most exposed direction. The boat turned into the wind. The full moon rose, and the low, low tide left us only a foot of water. (Yes, each day has one high, low tide and one low, low tide. Same with low, high tides and high, high tides.) Anyhoo, by about 10pm, we needed to change something. We could re-anchor in deeper water, but this would expose us to more of the wind. So, instead, we calculated that we could afford to lose a bit of “scope”*. In other words, we shortened our chain a bit, thus keeping the boat a bit further from shore.

Aqua Map’s anchor alarm makes it possible to watch your distance from the anchor. Without it, it’s very easy for your imagination to run wild. As your boat and other boats turn about, it’s very easy to lose perspective about how far you’ve moved – particularly when strong winds and inexperience are making you nervous!

This worked for a while, but, by 1:00am, the winds and seas were higher still. That made our anchor chain more taut, pushing us closer to the shore. So, we fired up the engine, took up our anchor and reset it, a bit further from shore. When the anchor chain stretched its way back to taut, we were in 12 feet of water. Mission accomplished – provided the higher winds and seas didn’t cause us to drag.

I stayed up for several hours keeping a close eye on our position, listening for increases in winds, feeling for changes in the sea state. If we started to drag, I wanted to be ready to pull up and then… well, I wasn’t exactly sure what we’d do next, but we’d want to stay off shore no matter what. The winds did pick up some more, but the anchor held wonderfully.

When the sun came up today, it was clear that it was going to be blustery and gray all day. The solar panels were working again, but without sun, they were not doing much. We decided to get a dock in town. That way, we could get out of the bluster, stop worrying about the anchor, charge the batteries and get some sleep. As it turns out, even the docks here are exposed to the eastern seas and winds.

I’m not sure I feel a lot more comfortable in this blustery marina. But, I am sure that I’ve gained some confidence in our ground tackle (that’s sailor talk for anchor and chain) and that we’ll be anchoring more and more as our confidence grows.


* “Scope” is sailor talk for the ratio of chain deployed vs water depth). 7:1 is normal for overnight anchoring and 10:1 is advised for high seas/winds. We aimed for 7:1 but overshot it a bit, so we thought we might be able to take in some chain and that would keep us out of the shallow waters. And it worked – for a while. We gained an extra foot of depth.

6 comments

  1. Great work, Thom and Kathleen! I think your challenges and resilience are keeping your year’s sabbatical interesting and your confidence growing in your abilities! Are you joining your flotilla soon? You must be looking forward to the “community” sailing part of your trip. Stay safe!

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  2. Great work Thom and Kathleen! Your abilities and resilience are impressive on this trip! Sail on and stay safe! Are you joining the flotilla for the community part of the sail soon?

    Liked by 1 person

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