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Old 23-07-2009, 20:59   #1
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All-Night Sail Across Chesapeake on July 10th

We all take some calculated risks now and then.
This was just a nice night sail I did with some old high school friends who are 50 years old. I was to join 3 old high school sailing buddies on a friends Endeavor 32' for a sail on the Chessy last Friday (7/10). The only problem was that the diesel engine was not working but with a crew of 4 experienced sailors we were determined to do it the old fashioned way - with canvas, wind, charts and GPS (not that old fashioned).
After provisioning the boat we finally began wrestling the boat out of it's slip in Mayo, MD around 9 PM in a southerly breeze which was not a helpful direction for getting out. A line was used to help pull the bow into the wind and we set sail in the narrow creek of the Rhode River trying to tack out towards the bay. We found the bottom and quickly got off again.
The full moon this July was on the 7th so since this was the 10th the moon rose around 9:30 PM as we reached the open waters of the Bay. We were ostensibly headed for St. Michaels so we sailed east across some bouncy waves at 3 - 4 feet under a rising waning moon. The temperature was perfect and the wind was quite willing to push us along but it began to get late and my other 3 companions began to sneak away from the cockpit, one at a time, to grab some shut eye.
I was using my GPS to get our coordinates and plot them on the chart we had. This was the only way we could accurately find our position since it was fairly dark in spite of the nearly full moon.
By the time it started getting light towards the east we were dropping the hook near the mouth of the Wye River on the eastern shore. I snoozed in the cockpit until nearly noon before we got back under way again.
The wx forecast was sounding a bit ominous and they did get some hail and bad storms around Philly but all we got was some 20 - 25 knot southerly winds as we pounded back over the Bay with bigger waves then the night before. We thought we would anchor in the Rhode River for the night just in case things got nasty, we would be close to our slip.
I have to admit that I was a bit exhausted from staying up for nearly 21 hours so I let the other guys wrestle with the wheel as we pounded over the waves. The hail, rain and thunderstorms predicted by the wx failed to materialize and we spent a pleasant night on the hook.
The next afternoon we were able to sail perfectly back into our slip in light airs.
We debugged the engine after getting back from our excursion and the internal water pump was shot at the bearings on its drive shaft and will have to be replaced.

Lessons learned or re-affirmed:
- a sailboat uses wind to get around more efficiently then by using it's engine.
- sailing at night under the nearly full moon is an amazing experience if everyone on board is up for the challenge and we were.
- sailing and doing an overnight with 4 old elementary and high school friends on whose Sunfish I learned to sail on was a blast.
- finding the 'bottom' on the Chesapeake is easy. It is also pretty easy to get off if you are willing to jump overboard (4' keel) and help push the boat or throw out a kedging anchor and heel the boat over. The engine could also have helped but we did not have one.
- it was quite amazing that once we got out of our creek and into the Chessy that we were able to navigate in the relative dark of the waning full moon using only GPS and charts as well as whatever visual cues we could pick up without running aground once. I had been here before so I knew that it can be quite shallow.
- once bad weather approaching a small craft advisory came over the VHF wx on Saturday we headed back to our home port. It is always cheaper to be towed a short distance or run aground near your slip.
- spending the next night on the hook anchored in the Rhode River was quite serene.


Things I should have done differently:
- get more sleep on Friday night but I was enjoying the moonlight sail too much. If things got really bad I would have been a bit wiped out by staying up all night leaving my friends to handle everything.
- PFD's and harnesses on deck at night would have been nice but it was not my boat and we were all comfortable with the risks we were taking.
- bought stock in Amazon dot calm last December as it has doubled since then.

My most recent special sail. Gotta love the Chessy; shallow as she is.
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Old 24-07-2009, 03:31   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalebD View Post
... it was quite amazing that once we got out of our creek and into the Chessy that we were able to navigate in the relative dark of the waning full moon using only GPS and charts as well as whatever visual cues we could pick up without running aground once. I had been here before so I knew that it can be quite shallow...
You might be interested in learning about the latest & greatest Navigational System - it’s called “Dead Reckoning”, and it's not that expensive.
http://www.irbs.com/bowditch/pdf/chapt07.pdf

Sounds like you had a great time!
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Old 24-07-2009, 04:35   #3
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Thanks for sharing, CalebD. My wife and I used to love to sail our ODay 222 at night when we lived on the Bay in Virginia, but usually just a 2-3 hour sail. Seeing the full moon rise was always a bonus.
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