Chesapeake Cruising Continues as Summer Melts into Autumn

Aug 30th:
Our time in Annapolis continued to be amazing. Kathleen’s friend and roommate, who we hadn’t seen for 27 years, drove down from her home in Arlington to meet us for a visit and catch up time. It was so fantastic to see her and it felt like it had been days, not decades, since we had talked and laughed together. This boating life has afforded us the opportunity to see friends that we haven’t been able to visit for a long time, as well as the fun of making new friends everywhere.

Kathleen and Victoria enjoying catching up after too many years

We cruised around Spa Creek, admiring the houses, and even took a walk through a local neighborhood (there are dinghy docks at the end of every street). We stopped to visit with Clark and Michelle Haley, owners of Roam a Nordhavn 55 that was on a mooring ball in Spa Creek. It’s amazing how friendly boating people are, especially fellow Nordhavn owners.

Relaxing in garden behind the Brown Mustache Coffee shop in Annapolis
On a grocery store run, crossing College Creek, Annapolis
Spa Creek, Annapolis
Visiting Clark and Michelle on Nordhavn 55 Roam
Granuaile on mooring ball in Spa Creek, Annapolis
Lifting the dinghy onto the boat deck. Getting ready to leave Annapolis

On September 2nd, we untied from the mooring ball, sad to leave this beautiful town, but excited to continue our adventures. We left about 10:15 in the morning (kind of a late start, but we didn’t have far to go), and headed north. One of the major highlights of this cruise was going under the Bay Bridge, a huge structure, that is actually two bridges. As Neil carefully navigated our girl under the girders, Kathleen went a little crazy taking pictures.

Heading north up the Chesapeake, Bay Bridge ahead
Cruising under the Bay Bridge

We actually arrived at the entrance to the Magothy River early. We wanted to run the watermaker a little longer to refill the tanks so we circled around just outside the entrance, admiring the Baltimore lighthouse and environs. We then cruised into the Magothy River, passing by Gibson Island to anchor just off of Dobbins Island.

Baltimore Harbor Light near the entrance to the Magothy River. For nearly 100 yrs it has guided northbound vessels to the Port of Baltimore.
Gibsons Island at the entrance to the Magothy River

Gibson Island is a jaw-droppingly beautiful place – entirely private, as in no one can go on the island unless you are a resident or an invited guest. As we were neither, we contented ourselves with touring around in the dinghy. We anchored here until the morning of September 8. There were a few (very few) jellyfish sightings, but the water was wonderful, and we had a lot of fun diving/jumping off the swim platform, paddleboarding, scrubbing the waterline clean, and taking several dinghy excursions to explore the area.

Touring Magothy River near Dobbins Island
Kathleen out for a morning paddleboard cruise around Dobbins Island in the Magothy River
Neil scrubbing the waterline
Sunrise while anchored at Dobbins Island on Magothy River. Geese on their daily morning swim across the river.
Sunset at Dobbins Island

The area’s beauty and nearby beach, are also its drawback – it is very popular, especially for the last official weekend of Summer. When we initially arrived, we were the only boat anchored in this sheltered spot. Throughout the next several days, however, the party crowds came in to enjoy the sun, water and just celebrate. It was fun to watch families, college kids, people of all ages playing with abandon and frivolity. However, by Monday afternoon, we were both ready for some quieter environs. Which was perfect, as we had planned to leave the next day all along.

Labor Day weekend hangout at Dobbins Island. Counted over 40 boats during the day, only a handful of us stayed overnight
A refreshing swim in the Magothy

Tuesday morning we raised anchor and cruised further up the Magothy to a marina to take on fresh water and pump out the holding tank. Due to a pump-out equipment snafu, this took a bit longer than expected, but before too long, we were headed back out onto the Chesapeake on a beautiful calm early September morning with very little traffic.

Pit stop at Magothy Marina for a holding tank pump out

As we traveled north, homes became more spread out and the beauty of the northern Chesapeake unveiled itself. The myriad of trees jostling for position along both banks along with an array of birds was incredible. After about 40 nautical miles, we turned into an anchorage, Turner Creek Bend, on the Sassafras River, hitting fresh water for the first time since we moved onto our boat. It was sunny, calm and 80 degrees, with the water invitingly just less than that temperature, so of course we went for a swim. In case anyone wonders, humans definitely float easier in salt water than in fresh… but we had fun swimming around the boat with not a jellyfish in sight…

Anchored in Turner Creek on the Sassafras River
Stunning sunset on the Sassafras River

The next morning we awoke to cloudy skies and cooler temperatures, but we lowered the dinghy and cruised around, visiting the Fredericktown/Georgetown area about five miles north. Our biggest surprise was the bald eagles – it was fantastic to see so many of them – calling out from the trees as well as when they were crisscrossing the skies together. We think we may have been lucky enough to have been in their migration flyway, which just made this experience even better.

While taking the dinghy around the various marinas, we noticed MUCH less human activity than we had seen just a few days ago on the Magothy. It seems that Labor Day TRULY is the end of Summer here. It started raining, so we headed back to our boat for a quiet evening after we dried off.

Heron walking the docks at marina on the Sassafras River

Thursday was another day of exploring. We came across the Mt. Harmon plantation/museum which is a sprawling estate that has been rejuvenated and turned into a living museum. Unfortunately, with Covid restrictions, it was closed, but it was fun to cruise around its property from the water.

Mt. Harmon plantation/museum on Back Creek, off the Sassafras River

There were a lot of watermen working the river, both with hanging net fishing as well as crab pots. As annoying as crab pots are to us, we can’t help but admire the dedication and incredible hard work that goes into this life. Professional crabbing involves extreme temperature tolerance, ability to work in any seas, and apparently a back and shoulders of steel. They definitely earn their money.

On Friday Sept 12th, we moved up to Skipjack Marina. After navigating a tetris-like entrance to our assigned slip and attempting a stern-in docking, we very quickly determined that the space was too narrow for our boat. (Guess how we figured THAT out…). No damage done to boat, pylons or dock, but suffice it to say we got another assignment on the marina’s outside facing dock. Neil maneuvered back out of the maze and we tied up ten minutes later in the only rain of the day – good times.

Granuaile at Skipjack Marina on the Sassafras River, Fredericktown MD

Once the rain stopped, it was lovely weather, and we made dinner reservations at Kitty Knight House. This house has an interesting history tied to the war of 1812 and British arson-happy invaders. After hailing a water taxi via vhf radio to ferry us across the harbor to Georgetown, we relaxed outside, social distancing, watching the sun set while we enjoyed excellent seafood. After a short walk, and again, getting hit with unexpected rain, we took the water taxi back to our dock.

Water Taxi ride over to Georgetown for dinner
Enjoying dinner at Kitty Knight with a beautiful view of Sassafras River
Georgetown harbor. Waiting for water taxi to return to Granuaile.

Sept 13th:
The next morning we motored over to a nearby marina’s fuel dock and took on 950+ gallons of diesel. At $1.89/gallon, it was a relative bargain compared to our previous fuel purchases in Florida earlier this year. Thank you Clark (N55 Roam) for alerting us to the favorable fuel pricing on the Sassafras River.
We had last filled the tanks in late January. Granuaile holds 1320 gallons, so we weren’t in danger of running out, but we definitely noticed a change in how we sat in the water after adding almost 3.5 tons of fuel. The stern thruster was well submerged!
Neil’s hands got a serious workout, as it took nearly two hours to load that much into all four tanks while standing on the swim platform. Not the most convenient placement of the fuel fills!
We also pumped out the holding tank and added water, so once we completed our tasks, we were set to hit the river once again.

Ready to depart Skipjack Marina. Beautiful weather for cruising

We cruised out of the Sassafras River into the Chesapeake Bay and south to an anchorage at Worton Creek just a couple of hours away. The plan was to stay here just for a night then next morning head onwards to the Chester River.

Sunset while at anchor in Worton Creek

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