St Mary’s Maryland
Work and weather finally lined up somewhat for an extended trip on Kestrel. It was June and I got a brief lull in the project I was managing which just happened to match a fairly good forecast. The weather was predicted to be blowy the first day, light wind the second day, very blowy the third day, no wind at all the fourth day, and rain the fifth. We chose to avoid the rain and decided on blowy, not blowy, very blowy, and no wind for a four-day trip to St Mary’s City on St Mary’s River down the Potomac from our home port of Colonial Beach.
For us, the preparation for even a trip of a few days feels monumental. The list making starts days in advance, planning the menu and prepping some of the meals to cut down on cooking, lists for things to do and things to take along so we can do them, and lists of all the other things that have to be packed. Then there is the actual packing of everything to be hauled down to the boat, the hour to get to the boat, and the moving of gear from the car halfway across the marina one cart at a time. I suppose if we left our kayak and paddle board at the boat, this would be an easier process, but we like to use them at home too. Given all this, our trips start the afternoon before with preparations and hauling everything to the boat for a departure the next morning.
That morning in question we had our coffee while prepping the boat. I knew the wind was going to build through the day, so I set up for the first reef in the main. I don’t have a very good setup up for reefing and once a reef is in, it’s impossible to shake out without a lot of manual pulling of the reefing line at the end of the boom. This is actually how it was rigged from the factory many years before I bought her, and neither the previous owners nor I have modified it to be better. It’s on my list of projects to get to some day in the future. I also rigged the jibe preventer lines as I knew there would be some downwind sailing involved.
We cast off around 9:00 am. I mean this literally as Jill stands at the bow with one dock line in her hand and I at the stern with a spring line in my hand. Once I’ve got Kestrel centered in the slip, I yell “cast off” and put the engine in reverse with a burst of throttle while keeping tension on the spring to keep the stern from walking to port. A nice little trick for a relatively stress free backing out.
It was a lovely warm morning with clear skies, and the wind at 10-13 knots with some gusts at that point, so we started with about 60% of the jib rolled out. We made it past Breton Bay in pretty good time on a single tack, moving at around 7 knots. Around Coles Point, the wind shifted a little and we had to start tacking. The wind also started to die off a bit so I unfurled the rest of the jib. That helped us point up better, but then the wind started piping up…quite a bit. I wished I hadn’t rolled out that jib. As we got close to the mouth of St. Mary’s River, the wind picked up even more and built up a pretty good chop. Enough to make it a rough going with Kestrel slamming through the waves. With the mouth of the Potomac River southeast and the wind being from a generally southeast direction, there was considerable fetch from the eastern shore all the way up into St Mary’s River for those waves to build. A fetch of close on 40 miles now that I measure it on Navionics. It’s no real wonder why we got bashed about as we did. For those who don’t think that a body of water like the Chesapeake Bay won’t kick up, have a look at SV Delos video #314 (https://youtu.be/tGWpbqyP92k). They got schwacked by a norther going down the bay and had to spend some time licking their wounds in Norfolk. Luckily for us it was only for about an hour before we could get into the more protected waters of St Mary’s River.
Once we rounded the shoal at the eastern end of St George’s Island, we headed downwind traveling at 7-8 knots. I found a spot on the river to head dead downwind so the main covered the jib to make is easy to furl. Then we found a stretch of river to do a 180 and get the main down, always a chore. By time we got to Horseshoe Bend by St. Mary’s College, things were considerably calmer. We took a circle around the anchorage and found a spot right off the church. The anchor set on the first try and we were done. Well, at least the sailing and anchoring part. We still had to pump up the paddle board and take our pup to shore for a well-deserved stroll on the tiny beach at Church Point before winding down for the evening.
We spent the next two days at anchor there in Horseshoe Bend. If you want to laze about, this is the place to do it. It is a very protected anchorage with not much to do. Oh sure there is St Mary’s City and the college, but we walked most of the campus and the block or so of the historic city in a couple hours at most. I’m absolutely not complaining at all though because that is exactly what I needed to de-stress from work. Our two days consisted of paddling, Jill on her paddle board and me in my kayak, reading, eating, strolling about grounds with our pup, and watching the occasional boat go to and fro.
With proximity to the college, there were occasionally small racing dinghies coming out and sailing around the anchorage and classes of kayakers out being instructed. A few larger cruising boats came and went while we were there. An older couple came in on a C42 of a similar vintage to Kestrel and stopped by telling us of their trip up from the Exumas and how they had been trying to get their boat north to the Great Lakes for a year but had been stymied by COVID first and then engine trouble more recently. I figured they took the intracoastal at least part of the way because of the brown ring all around their waterline. I envied them their adventure, at least the Bahamas, maybe not so much the COVID and engine trouble part of it though.
The second day at anchor was indeed a blowy one. I didn’t turn on the wind instruments, but we sailed about on the anchor and heeled in the gusts. The anchor stayed firmly in place though. Getting back and forth to shore was a little wet, but not terrible. Again, this is a well protected anchorage.
The last day of our trip was becalmed with the wind down to nothing, but it was sunny and quite beautiful. We were reluctant to end our stay and head back home, so we took our time to enjoy our last morning on the water. Jill took the pup to shore and did some paddle board yoga while I got Kestrel ready for departure. We raised anchor late morning and motored all the way back to Colonial Beach.