Eastern Chesapeake Bay

Hello fellow adventurers and virtual crew members!  Great news, we have a new virtual crew member on board, Scott from California.  Welcome aboard Scott!

Captain John Smith returning to provide my last update on the travels of our crew.  Strange things have continued to happen since the last log entry. Some amusing, some not so funny.

Oldest continuous ferry in US. Connects the Islands between St Michaels and Oxford.
Oldest continuous ferry in US. Connects the Islands between St Michaels and Oxford.

The crew left St Michaels and made a run over to Oxford where they continued to have electrical issues with the boat.  From Oxford they went south and anchored near Asquith Island in Paul Cove where the crew spent a restless night.  Then they fell off the face of the earth when they found themselves back in time at Tangiers Island.  The crew then headed further south to Cape Charles where they anchored in Kings Creek before heading back to Norfolk.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

When the crew left St Michaels the weather report was for winds to be out of the North/Northwest at 7 – 12 mph.  The plan was to cruise south for 39 miles over to the little town of Oxford.  The weather should have been no problem, except the weather man got it wrong.  The winds built all morning long and by early afternoon the winds were howling out of the North at 17 -20 mph with gust over 25.  This had all boaters seeking shelter as the waves were really building.

This house sits on the point coming into Oxford
This house sits on the point coming into Oxford

As the crew was rounding the bend to head into the marina around 1400, they heard a distress call over the radio.  A man was hailing the Coast Guard for help and gave his position at the mouth of the river heading into Oxford.  The man claimed he was stuck (hard to believe because the water was about 17 feet deep at his reported location) but that he was in no danger.  The Coast Guard told him there was nothing they could do for him since there was no emergency.  He then reported that his sails were damaged and that he had lost his electronics (GPS, depth gauge, and charts).  Coast Guard recommended that he call Sea Tow or Boat US to get towed into a marina.  You could hear the desperation and confusion in the man’s voice as he continued to ask for help from the Coast Guard.  However, in defense of the Coast Guard, there was no emergency so there was nothing for them to do.

Reluctantly the crew turned Still Waters II around and headed back out into the nasty weather to see if he could help the sailboat.  Sure enough the wind had torn his jib and main sails because he did not get then down in time.  The wind also damaged the electronics which are mounted on the mast.  The sails probably whipped into the electronics when they started tearing apart.


The man asked for directions to Virginia, “just point me in the right direction” he said.  Besides no working electronics, he also had no paper charts. He did claim to have a working compass.  The skipper pointed due West (270 degrees) and told him it was about 20 miles to the western shore of the Bay.  The little sailboat headed out to motor across the Bay in the strong winds.  That was probably a miserable trip.  The crew was glad they were headed back into a safe marina.

On Sunday, the crew decided to take a day of rest.  The mate visited a small Methodist Church that will be celebrating their 150th anniversary in November.  The skipper stayed behind to see if he could fix the electrical problems that have been hounding them lately.


He did get the inverter working again.  The smarts book says that the invertor will auto restart once battery voltage is back to normal.  However, it has yet to auto restart.   The manual start button works once you find it and the invertor is now back functioning as designed.  The skipper then did troubleshooting on the starboard engine alternator and voltage regulator.  He found a wire disconnected, reconnected the wire and tested the alternator.  Better than before, but still not 100%.  Have to add that to the list of things to fix before next year.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The float plan for the day was to cruise 46 miles south and anchor out near Asquith Island.  The weather report was for winds out of the North at 4 mph.  All went well on the cruise and the electrical issues look to be solved.  The crew dropped anchor just south of Asquith Island in Paul Cove.  The Island and cove gave protection from the North, East, and West.  However, the South was open to the river and Bay.  With low winds forecasted out of the North this should have been no problem so the crew turned in about 1900 for a peaceful night of sleep.  Wrong!

Anchor location for the night of unrest
Anchor location for the night of unrest

The crew was jarred awake with the bouncing, rocking, and rolling of the boat.  The waves were also slapping the starboard side of the boat and making much loud noise.  The mate was the first one up and went walking around to make sure everything was riding OK.  She came back to the master state room and announced that the boat was doing fine with the exception of the rocking and rolling.  The skipper asked her what time it was and she answered that it was ONLY 9:22 pm.  The skipper got up and checked the anchor line to ensure it was holding.  After checking the anchor, he looked at the weather report.  Great! Winds out of the south at 17 mph.  Yes, this was a long night and nobody got much sleep.

The calm before the storm in Paul Cove
The calm before the storm in Paul Cove

The mate showed great courage the next morning when she walked out on the bow of the boat and managed to get the anchor in with the high winds and rocking of the boat.  Later in the day she claimed it was because of the grace of God and that she had to put on her big girl panties.  She also said she did not want to have to do that again in those circumstances.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

With the anchor back in and the mate safely back on the fly bridge, the skipper pointed the bow south into the winds and headed for calmer waters.  The waves were the largest that the crew has experienced to date.  They looked to be consistently greater than 7 feet.  For one short run they needed to go east and took some pretty hard waves directly into the beam of the boat.  She really rocked and rolled during the turn.  After a few minutes they managed to get land between them and the South wind.  The waves started to get smaller and more manageable.

As the morning went on, the wind began to shift out of the Southwest and dropped down to under 10 mph.  With the Islands providing a break from the wind, the cruise turned out better and better as the day wore on.  The crew will not soon forget the sleepless night in Paul Cove though.

Entrance to Tangier Island
Entrance to Tangier Island

The crew had weighed anchor at 0747, so they were in the Parks Marina on Tangiers Island by 1230.  The Waterway Guide states that the dock master does not normally monitor the radio or answer the phone, so just find a slip and pull in.  After meeting the man, the skipper does not believe he knows what a radio or a phone might be.

The skipper tried hailing the dock master on the radio and calling on the phone to no avail.  The crew picked slip number 10 to back into when they heard someone yelling.  There was a little man standing on the face dock in front of the marina office.  He was directing the crew to pull along side the face dock.  The crew motored over and got secured along the pier.  The crew was glad to have that day of cruising behind them.

A few hours later, a large 44 foot cat sailboat showed up.  They had to wait an hour for the dock master to show back up.  He then directed them to squeeze into an area on the face dock between shore and another sailboat.  The captain was having trouble getting the big cat in the tight spot so our skipper went over to lend a helping hand.  Before it was all over and the cat was docked, there were 7 men all helping get the boat safely to the dock.

Dock Master and Captain making nice after getting docked
Dock Master and Captain making nice after getting docked

The dock master was trying to tell the captain how to run his boat, and the captain was not always listening.  The frustration level was rising when finally the old dock master yelled at the captain, “Young man, I was docking boats before you were born, shut up and do what I tell you to do.”  After that the captain started listening and the boat finally got docked.  Entertaining, entertaining indeed.

Tangiers is a step back in time.  I, Captain John Smith, named the little Island back in 1608.  The British used the Island during the War of 1812.  The British Navy used the Island as their headquarters and launching grounds while they were attacking the young American country.  The town is now supported by the fishing industry and the small amount of tourist that boat in.



The dialect is extremely hard to understand.  A mix of British accent with some backwoods country charm.  At the grocery store, the clerk asked the skipper about 3-4 times if he would like a biiiig.  The skipper was trying to figure out what a ‘big’ was and why he might want one, when it finally dawned on him she was asking if he wanted a bag for his cookies.


The crew walked the entire Island down in a few hours and counted only 7 cars/trucks.  Most of the islanders were riding around in golf carts or on small scooters.  All in all a very charming place that has not been influenced by the outside world, not one bit.  If you would like to be a full time fisherman, this is the place to live.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The wind decided to play nice and was only 5 – 10 mph out of the South.  The crew had an uneventful 50 mile cruise down to Cape Charles where they found an anchorage in Kings Creek.  The depths were shallow, mostly 5 feet, but the skipper found some 7-8 foot water to anchor in for the night.  Getting out in the morning though turned out to be a different story.

Anchor location in Kings Creek
Anchor location in Kings Creek

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The crew weighed anchor about 0830 and low tide for Kings Creek.  The 7 foot of water they were in yesterday was now only about 5 feet.  When they entered yesterday, they came over a few spots that were only 5 feet deep.  The skipper would need to crawl out of here very carefully.

View from Kings Creek
View from Kings Creek

There was a marina within 100 yards of where they were anchored so the skipper decided to go straight to the marina and then run along the marina back to the first channel marker.  This plan worked well until the depth finder started acting up and then the radar lost its position.  The electronics automatically started re-booting leaving the skipper blind to the depth of water.  He placed both engines in neutral as the boat continued to drift forward.  While looking away, trying to restart the chart plotter, and start up the back-up depth finder the boat drifted between land and the navigational aid.  Not good.  The skipper was on the wrong side of the marker and sure enough he found some soft mud.

After several tries of bumping the engines in reverse and not moving, the skipper tried only the starboard engine in reverse.  This caused the back of the boat to swing over in some deeper water and they were able to back into 7 foot depths.  The chart plotter came back to life and all was good again.  Just another lesson in being vigilant, all the time.

Leaving Kings Creek
Leaving Kings Creek

With the boat back in the channel, the skipper proceeded to the route to Norfolk.  On the way back across the Bay I got my log entries back up to date.  The crew will drop me back off at the James River and then pick Eric back up as they motor past Newport.  It has been fun sharing my story with you up and down the Chesapeake Bay.  Captain John Smith signing off.

Hello all!  Eric here, gladly resuming my chores narrating the voyage of Still Waters II.

The skipper had several logistic challenges today.  Not to mention almost getting stuck in the mud.  He had to drop Captain John off after crossing the Bay, needed to pick me back up, and then needed to make a 1500 bridge opening at mile 3 of the Atlantic ICW.

The skipper decided to go a bit faster across the Bay to ensure that he had plenty of time to make the bridge.  With maintenance on the bridge, the authorities are only opening the bridge at 0900, 1200, and 1500.  Miss the 1500 bridge opening, you wait till the next morning to pass through.  There were 70 boats reported stacked up at the bridge Thursday morning.  The skipper does not want that happening to him.

The skipper arrived at the bridge at 1330 and was prepared to wait the 1.5 hours for the bridge to open.  He set the video up to capture the opening and then sat back to wait on the bridge.  There were several other boats also waiting to pass through.

The mate noticed that it looked like everyone had stopped work, and by 1340 there were no workers to be seen.  Then, with no warning, the bridge started rising.  The crew likes to say they walk in FOG (Favor of God) and once again they see the FOG lift in their favor.  A 1.5 hour wait turns into a 15 minute wait.  What a deal!


Click on above pic to watch Still Waters II pass under the Rail Road Bridge while it opens.

The crew then continued down river to the Top Rack Marina where the good deals just keep happening.  The crew was in need of fuel and the marina has the cheapest prices they have seen since this adventure started.  The first time diesel has been under $2.  The marina price $1.93.

Then when the skipper went to check in and pay for the slip, the dock master asked what time the crew would like their dinner reservation.  With a confused look on his face, the skipper asked why would he want a dinner reservation, he was there to pay for the slip.  The dock master explained that if you spend $75 at the restaurant that the slip, water, and electricity are free.

With the cost of dockage > $75, this was a no brainer decision…………………the skipper said they would take their dinner reservation at 1700.  The crew decided to use the dinner as a time to celebrate completing the Chesapeake and Delaware Bay loop.  In summary:

The crew left Norfolk September 8, passed the Thimble Shoal Light at 1147, and returned by the light, October 22 at 1115.  During this time they have visited 11 marinas (for 30 days) and anchored out in 13 locations (for 15 days).

Still Waters II wake at Thimble Shoal Light
Still Waters II wake at Thimble Shoal Light

But all good things have to come to an end, and so it is with the summer shake-down cruise.  The crew has learned much about boating and navigating the waterways and are confident that they can complete the Great Loop during the 2016 boating season.

However, for now it is time to get south to warmer weather.  The crew has a plan to cruise south over the next 18 days or so, and arrive in Jacksonville, Florida mid November.

3 Comments on “Eastern Chesapeake Bay

  1. Pingback: Heading South for the Winter | To Talk of Many Things

  2. For a guy who didn’t ever change the oil on his 200,000+ mile van you have come a long way and doing really well with your electronics and other maintenance issues.

    Good for y’all!

    Prayers continue for you and the mate and your travels on the Still Waters II.


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