It’s the end of summer, darn it. Hurricane Matthew is pushing its way north, Halcyon is on the hard, and we’re taking a break before beginning Winter Boat Project Mode.
Until last weekend our plan was to sail down to Annapolis yesterday and meet up with friends and possibly go to the Annapolis Sailboat Show. Thanks to Matthew that didn’t happen. We aren’t typically out of the water this early as September starts what is generally considered the second sailing season of the year after the hot days of July and August, but John is working weekends the rest of October. I can’t get the sails off of Halcyon by myself and last weekend was the only chance he had to help me prepare it for the storm that might not even reach us as I write this. Last weekend there was more uncertainty and we felt that it was better to be prepared.
We had a good season. We never get out sailing as much as we want to but the sails we did have were good. One hot weekend in July we joined Blue Marsh Sailing members for a weekend on the Corsica River. The Corsica is off of the Chester River just as it turns towards Chestertown. The Corsica is not far from Rock Hall but it was our first time. We left Rock Hall on Friday and anchored out in Queenstown Creek, at the bottom of the Chester River, with plans to start for the Corsica River the next morning.
I’ve been mildly curious about Queenstown Creek ever since I read in John Barth’s book Once Upon a Time: A Floating Opera (a memoir disguised as a novel) that he anchored in the creek overnight before beginning any sail farther down the bay. Barth was a professor at Johns Hopkins University. He and his wife lived in Baltimore during the week. Each Thursday night they went to their house on Langford Creek on the Eastern Shore where they kept a sailboat at their dock. During the summers they stayed full time on Langford Creek and sailed the bay. Although Langford Creek isn’t that far from Queenstown, anchoring close by that first night before any long sail allowed them to get away from the house as soon as possible and be on the boat while they organized their supplies and relaxed.
To get to Queenstown Creek with a boat that has more than a 3-foot draft you first have to be either incredibly lucky, experienced, or stupid. We were not experienced. Only once have I navigated in a channel in which moving too far to either side meant going aground. That was when we sailed up Bodkin Creek. That weekend we sailed up the Bodkin channel was also a weekend the GPS system was off by as much as 20 feet. There was a known issue with the satellites. I was more nervous motoring up the nearly straight line channel to Queenstown Creek.
On either side of the channel to Queenstown (pictured below) the depth dropped to two feet. Halcyon’s draft is 5’3″. You do the math. A few weeks before I had been given advice on lining up our boat with targets on land and other local knowledge that proved extremely helpful. Our track is in yellow. By the time we exited the channel and the navigable water opened up, my feet were numb from standing, tense, in the same spot at the helm. I didn’t dare move in case my weight shifted the boat just enough to put us aground. Illogical I know, but it worked.
Once in the creek, we turned to port away from the little town of Queenstown and headed upriver. Like most tributaries on the Chesapeake, it was peaceful and absolutely beautiful. The only other boat, a fairly large powerboat, was anchored at least a half mile or more away. A few hours later another power boat anchored not far from us. We had set out from Rock Hall on one of the hottest weekends of the summer. Although the temperature was in the high 90s, the winds were blowing hard enough to move Halcyon at a good clip and to make the heat more bearable. At night in the anchorage a good breeze still persisted and blew through our open V berth hatch. It was lovely.
The next morning in the cockpit as we drank our morning coffee and tea, we watched an older gentleman in a rowing shell glide our way. He started out from the town, rowed past the anchored power boat and headed towards a crab boat about 50 feet off our stern. From the greetings and snippets of conversation they obviously knew each other. Finally he rowed over to us. I called out a good morning as his shell slipped up to our hull. He welcomed us and said how happy he was to see a sailboat in the creek. He sailed a Tartan 28, if I remember correctly, that he kept at a Queenstown dock. He invited us to Queenstown and added “The town doesn’t have many amenities but there is a Royal Farms.” We chatted some more before he rowed away, gliding past the anchored powerboat without stopping.
Before we left, three Blue Marsh Sailing boats came in and rafted up long enough to have some cold beverages and conversation. Finally, all the boats shoved off and headed up the Chester River to the Corsica River, our next stop for the weekend.