Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cruise, Day 18

Today would prove to be a work day. Any day on the water, for me at least, is a joy and a blessing, regardless of how strenuous or uncomfortable it may be, but the weather was going to insure that I didn’t get comfortable or relax. By 0800 the engine was on, and we headed out of Deep Creek. Ten minutes later I set a working jib and single reefed main. At 0830, we were clear of R “2” and turned S-SE for Sandy Point Shoal Light, just north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Sandy Point Shoal Light was preceded by a lighthouse that was originally built on the west shore just about where the bay bridge now comes onto the land. It was started in 1854, and commissioned four years later. A fog bell was later added. By the mid-1870’s, however, the shoal had continued to build into the bay, now extending a mile off the shore. The channel was far enough away that the light was of little value, and the fog bell often too far away to hear. With commercial traffic into Baltimore increasing, especially passenger steamer traffic, a new lighthouse to guard the shoal was needed. It took eight years of dancing with Congress to get an appropriation, but construction was started in August, 1883, and finished a mere three months later. The house is of wood timber and masonry construction with enough exterior ornamental brickwork to give it a Victorian appearance. The base contains a 16-ft. wide basement in the caisson to hold water, oil, and coal. The first floor provided a kitchen, pantry, and living room with fireplace. Three bedrooms were on the second floor. In the roof was the watch room, and from there a spiral staircase into the light. Once again, once the keepers were removed when the light was automated, vandals broke out all the windows except one, and destroyed the 19th century Fresnel crystal lenses. The light was sold to private ownership on the internet in 2005.

The wind was still building, so as soon as I cleared the lighthouse, I took a second reef in the main. We sailed under the bay bridge, and it was obvious that as soon as I turned more up wind, I’d need to reduce sail further. Once I was sure I had enough clearance on the bridge, I took a reef in the jib. Now with a reefed jib and double reefed main, Thistle beat in toward Hackett Point. As soon as we reached the waypoint for the south tip of North Shoal, I dropped sail and started the engine. If I needed to run the hell out of the engine, we were about to give it just what it needed. We came up dead into the wind, which now was howling. We barely made headway initially, but as we got in closer to Whitehall Bay, the waves got smaller.

From the Whitehall Bay entrance light, we turned northwest for Mill Creek. It wasn’t until we got through the cut into Mill Creek that I began to relax. The engine was indeed showing great improvement ever since I started changing the way I used it. The bottom of the creek was charted as soft ooze, but I thought if I got under the trees, I’d be in enough of a lee to be okay. We ran to the head of the creek and anchored, picked out a couple anchor bearings, and started to prepare lunch. By the time lunch was over, it was obvious we were slowly dragging. Part of the problem of dragging in a mucky bottom is having to move and start all over. The other problem, which takes just as much time, is cleaning up the mess from the muck the anchor brings on board. Once lunch was cleared away, we motored down to Martin Cove, and ran as far north in the creek as I could and anchored close under a wooded high bluff. I didn’t think the wind would be able to touch me there, but it wasn’t long before I again saw that we were dragging in the soft bottom. Also, since I was anchored in a cove created by the bend of the river, the wind was swirling either from the abrupt bend in the creek or the wind eddies coming over the bluff, causing Thistle to swing circles around the anchor. Again, I hauled the anchor, cleaned up enough so I wouldn’t be tracking mud everywhere, and headed back down to the mouth of Martens Creek. Here I had more room, and set both anchors on plenty of scope. That set us in good stead for the night.

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