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Old 12-08-2012, 14:28   #1
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Chesapeake Trip Planning - Need Advice ...

Hi all, it has been a while since I last posted here, as I have been very busy. In June, I bought a '99 Alerion Express 28 up in St. Leonard, MD. After having the bottom antifouled, chainplates rebedded, and several other jobs performed on her, I am finally ready to go pick her up this coming week. I will be sailing/motoring her down the ICW with a good sailing buddy. We are both very excited, despite the prospect of "cruising" on a 28' daysailer. My crew and I both have plenty of experience on various sailboats, both east and west coasts, and I have sailed extensively in the Bahamas. I also have extensive ICW experience between Charleston and South Florida. Neither of us, however, has any experience in the Chesapeake. I am thus looking for advice.
As I mentioned, the boat is located in St. Leonard, MD, which is about an hour's drive south of Annapolis, on the western side of the bay.


We plan on getting there Wednesday night (8/15). Thursday morning we will get the boat launched and stow all of our gear/provisions. We plan on leaving at daybreak Thursday morning (8/16, weather permitting), and getting as far south as possible on day one. We will not be sailing overnight on this trip, as the boat is not equipped for this (no autopilot), not to mention the fact that it is a 5700lb daysailer. We will need to slip in a marina or anchor in a protected area each night of the trip. My tentative plans for day one are to make it down to Point Lookout, VA, and get a slip at Point Lookout Marina, which is in Smith Creek. From studying charts, Point Lookout appears to be about 30-35nm below St. Leonard. With prevailing Southerlies and a small boat, this would make for a pretty long slog on day one. Does anyone have a suggestion of a backup anchorage/marina on that route in case we can't get down to Point Lookout?
Once departing Point Lookout, our next stopping point needs to be about the same distance down (30-40nm). Upon first glance, Windmill Point Marina at Rappahannock Spit, near Westland VA seems to be within reach. If winds and seas are favorable, perhaps we can reach Deltaville, which has several marinas as options.

From Windmill Point, Hampton VA is about 40 miles down. Again, there are numerous options for marinas. Once through Norfolk and into the ICW, I am not nearly as concerned about stopping points, as there will be plenty of opportunities for finding slips or anchorages.

I know that many of you have done this trip south before. I am looking for information and suggestions with regard to how we should proceed, and what we should expect. Am I unreasonable to expect to be able to make 30 miles of progress in a 10-12 hour day of sailing/motoring? Any advice is greatly appreciated!

Gratuitious pics of the new boat:





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Old 13-08-2012, 06:19   #2
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Re: Chesapeake trip planning, need advice...

Not many options on that first day, except St. Jerome's creek, which is a little tricky to get in. Watch for the sea state before crossing the mouth of the Potomac...wind against current can cause dangerous seas even for boats much larger than yours. The next leg, there are plenty of great anchorages in the creeks on the western Bay shore approaching the Rappahannock if you can't make it to Deltaville or Windmill Point. Have a nice, and safe, voyage!
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Old 13-08-2012, 06:51   #3
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Re: Chesapeake trip planning, need advice...

I would think you should be able to make at least 60 miles in 10 to 12 hour days. The long term forecast is for winds 6mph from the north on Thursday and 10mph from the south on Friday. One out of two ain't bad.
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Old 13-08-2012, 07:16   #4
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Re: Chesapeake trip planning, need advice...

Here are my suggestions for the trip. It looks like you are leaving from Flag harbour and considering that you are just launching the boat the day you plan to leave, I would take a less agressive trip that first day and plan on anchoring in Solomons rather than making it all the way to Point Lookout. The next day you can truely get an early start and even with that small of boat be able to sail or motor around 5 knots and either go to Point Lookout marina as you had planned or my preference would be to make it across the Potomac(that's where some of the worse conditions can happen so watch that weather) and anchor somewhere off the Great Wicomoco River. There are plenty of anchorages from that point south. I've sailed from Solomons all the way to Deltaville in daylight without much problems, but I averaged over 6 knots so you might be able to do the same with good wind. That Windmill Point Light is hard to see in daylight. From Deltaville it should be an easy sail on into the Hampton Roads area although the commercial and military traffic can be a nightmare. Have a good trip!
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Old 13-08-2012, 07:16   #5
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Re: Chesapeake trip planning, need advice...

You will have 50 mile days, and you will have 10 mile days (where you learn you are better off staying put). I've anchored between the marina and the YC several times in Smith Creek, and its well protected. If you have stronger winds on the nose, Solomons might be a first day goal. My experience with the Chesapeake is that you should bring several jerry jugs of extra fuel and plan on motoring a lot.
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Old 13-08-2012, 07:19   #6
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Re: Chesapeake trip planning, need advice...

Congratulations on your new boat. I'm sure you'll enjoy her.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lowcountry View Post
We plan on getting there Wednesday night (8/15). Thursday morning we will get the boat launched and stow all of our gear/provisions. We plan on leaving at daybreak Thursday morning (8/16, weather permitting), and getting as far south as possible on day one.
I think you're being quite optimistic. Even assuming you get your transportation sorted out Wednesday night (one-way car rental? Last I checked Enterprise was the only car rental in St Leonard) how do you leave at daybreak when the boat is being launched that day?

I suggest you aim for Solomons or Crisfield on day one. Either will give you a chance to buy anything that you discover you forgot or didn't work out.

From there you should be able to make 50 mile days as long as you get started promptly in the morning - get breakfast and coffee prepped before you go to bed; get the anchor up and get underway and then one person sails while the other gets breakfast up.

From Solomons two easy days will get you to Hampton. I like Hampton Public Piers. Given your plans I'd probably anchor at Hospital Point unless you arrive early enough to make some more miles down the ICW.

I like the Kettlewell Guide for the ICW. If you have a smartphone or some other way of accessing the Internet underway you will be well served by checking ActiveCaptain regularly. I use Charts & Tides on an iPhone. It's great to have the latest updates on shoaling and to punch a button and call a marina or harbormaster without having to page through a guide.

I'm sure you've thought this through already - but fuel can be a real pain. It's pretty hard to take a less than one hour hit realistically stopping for fuel, water, and pump-out. A couple of jugs of fuel and some extra water can keep you moving and buy some miles.

Have a great trip.
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Old 13-08-2012, 08:42   #7
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Re: Chesapeake trip planning, need advice...

Guys, thanks for the responses so far. I misspoke in my first post, in that I plan on launching the boat Thursday morning (8/16) and then departing south on Friday (8/17) at daybreak. This will allow us to shake the boat down on Thursday and familiarize ourselves with how she sails and practice reefing her (IP35 has a roller furling boom, AE28 is a traditional slab-reefing arrangement). Like I said, if all goes well on Thursday, we will depart at daybreak on Friday, giving us several extra hours to make headway south.
A couple of answers to some of the responses: yes, we are leaving from Flag Harbor boat yard. The boat has only a 6 gallon diesel tank, so I am planning on bringing two six-gallon diesel jerry cans. The 1GM10 engine in the boat burns approximately 1/3 gallon per hour at about 2800-3000rpm, so 18 gallons of diesel should be enough to get me from one fuel stop to the next. As for the Potomac, that is indeed a big concern. I have a lot of experience dodging commercial shipping, as my home port of Charleston is one of the busiest container ports in the country. That said, I still always err on the side of caution with regard to the big boys. The prospect of rough seas at that part of the bay is of tremendous concern to me, and we will certainly not take any risks in such a small sailboat. I would much rather lay up short and wait for a proper weather window before beating my boat and my crew up trying to make an extra ten miles in one day. As for the smart phone idea, I do indeed have one, and I use it regularly to consult Active Captain, whom I know personally. Jeffery is a great guy, and has an invaluable website for cruisers.
Any other suggestions or advice is always appreciated. Thanks again to everyone.
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Old 13-08-2012, 19:44   #8
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Re: Chesapeake Trip Planning - Need Advice ...

Just another vote saying you should sail the first day down to Solomons. A good easy day. And if you decide you need anything you can find it around Solomons, whatever it is.
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Old 13-08-2012, 20:24   #9
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Re: Chesapeake Trip Planning - Need Advice ...

Windfinder.com and sailflow.com are usually pretty accurate around the lower chesapeake. I use these sites along with Active Captain to determine wind and destinations. As you know some areas of the Ches Bay can be pretty rough and unforgiving, in particular the entrance to the Elizabeth River crossing over the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. Very strong currents and opposing winds can cause almost surf like conditions there, that in conjuction with large ships moving at 3 times the speed you are can be a bit hair raising. I only mention this because of my own experience. Have a safe trip and watch your weather!
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Old 14-08-2012, 07:26   #10
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Re: Chesapeake trip planning, need advice...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lowcountry View Post
This will allow us to shake the boat down on Thursday and familiarize ourselves with how she sails and practice reefing her
Good enough. I suggest you shake-down heading to Solomons after launching on Thursday. If something breaks or otherwise lets you down you'll have access to services and supplies that simply aren't available in Flag Harbor without significant effort. In Solomons you can walk to West Marine from a number of marinas in Back Creek. There are lots of services in the (probably unlikely) event of a major rigging or engine problem.

From Solomons if the wind is on your side (ha!) and a really early start on Friday you might make Hospital Point in Norfolk, and certainly Mobjack Bay. The biggest factor will be how the two of you hold up to hand-steering on a long day.
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Old 15-08-2012, 18:44   #11
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Re: Chesapeake Trip Planning - Need Advice ...

Along with the multitudes, I suggest stopping at Solomons. You may be a bit frazzled from the first day's efforts and a marina and/or restaurant visit may be in order. Keeps the crew happy.

Differing from some of the previous comments, the concerns over the Potomac entrance are overstated. Bad conditions are quite rare unless the overall weather picture is such that you should keep a small boat in port.

I would suggest St. Inigoes Creek (north side of the Potomac River) - in the middle of the creek if weather is fair, or up further into one of the small pools to port if conditions appear iffy. Look at the charts to see what I am referring to. Quiet and good holding.

On the south side of the Potomac, the Coan River is nice, as is the Yocomico a bit further up the Potomac.

Moving further south you should have no trouble finding plentiful anchorages or marinas.

Also, there are no refuges on the western shore between the Patuxent and the Potomac River. You could duck over to the eastern shore but the Bay is starting to get wide at the point and that will be a lot of miles off your path.

A couple of other suggestions:

Have a good set of binoculars handy. Many of the marks are far apart, and can be difficult to see, especially if in any haze.

Watch out for BIG boats coming up behind you.

If hot and humid (likely), and thunderstorm are possible, get tucked in and settled no later than 2pm.

There are fish traps, some marked and/or visible, some not so much. Stay vigilant.

Have a great trip.
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Old 15-08-2012, 19:10   #12
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Re: Chesapeake Trip Planning - Need Advice ...

Quote:
Also, there are no refuges on the western shore between the Patuxent and the Potomac River.
This is critical. You don't leave Solomons if you don't have the weather. The mouth of the Potomac can make it's own weather and it usually is worse than Solomons. Catching a NW on a fetch against the tide will stack up the already steep chop and make you a very nasty day. I would shoot for Reedville, VA (Great Wicomico) as the next stop since everything else is extra mileage. You don't want to try Portsmouth in the dark. I've done it once and wouldn't do it on purpose again. Hospital Point sets you up better for the bridges to go south. Not much anchoring south of Portsmouth so being in Portsmouth makes more options. You can stop in Great Bridge or the visitors center in the Dismal Swamp. After Great Bridge is Coinjock and not much for anchoring in the Curituck.
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Old 17-09-2012, 10:56   #13
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Re: Chesapeake Trip Planning - Need Advice ...

Thanks again to all for the suggestions and advice. Safely back in Charleston now with the new boat. The entire trip took 17 days, 13 of which were spent on the water moving the boat. We had a few days with bad weather causing us to lay up in marinas.
First day out, made it from Flag Harbor down to Pt. Lookout. The mouth of the Potomac was indeed rough. As you guys know, it isn't so much the size of the seas there, but the period of the waves. Those things were really close together, and we took a fair amount of water over the house and into the cockpit at times. Second day, we got down to Deltaville, again with nasty waves at the end of the day. Third day we finally got down to Portsmouth and into the ICW. After that, the trip was just your average 10-12 hour days in the ditch, with the exception of Albemarle and Pamlico sounds, both of which were rough, but thankfully had winds out of the north which kept us from bashing.
Overall, we covered almost exactly 650nm over ground on the trip, with a moving average of 5.8kts, which I think is exceptional for a 28' boat with 22' waterline. The boat sails like a dream, and appears to be very swift. The first day out, we were brushing 8.4kts over ground, going to windward in 15-18kts of wind. What a great time!





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Old 17-09-2012, 12:21   #14
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Re: Chesapeake Trip Planning - Need Advice ...

Congratulations. A little rough water just helps to assure you that the boat (and you) can take it!

Sounds like a great trip.

Pretty boat!
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Old 17-09-2012, 12:26   #15
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Re: Chesapeake Trip Planning - Need Advice ...

Glad you had such a fine voyage. That is a very pretty boat, and it has a rep for being well built as I am sure you know after putting her through her paces!

Did you ever tie off the tiller and balance her by using the sheets? Poor man's self steering!
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