Wye River

The majority of our sails will be one-nighters. We will leave Rock Hall on Saturday morning to sail to an anchorage or marina and return on Sunday. When we have the opportunity to add a few days to the weekend, we can comfortably test just how far we can sail in one day. We did just that on the Blue Marsh Sailing Association (BMSA) Spring Cruise in June. Joining us was our Fearless Passenger (AKA my mother).

The club itinerary was to spend Friday night at anchor in the Wye River and Saturday night at St. Michaels Harbour Marina. Our plan was to leave Gratitude Thursday morning and stay overnight in Tilghman Creek in Eastern Bay and catch up with the other boats on Friday. From Tilghman Creek Drum Point would have been only a two or three hour sail. Sunday we would return to Tilghman Creek and then finish the trip to Rock Hall on Monday. We chickened out on traveling through Kent Narrows so the extra days on the front and back end of the weekend were needed to sail around the outside of the island. I read too many stories of getting through the Kent Narrows shoaling “in the right conditions”: When the wind isn’t blowing hard enough to push your boat across the channel, at high tide, when boats aren’t traveling towards you, etc. Local knowledge is a beautiful planning tool. As it turned out, the route around the outside of the island was no picnic either but at least there was no chance to run aground.

Our Thursday departure fell through after we loaded our supplies, ran through my (mental) checklist and when we were ready to depart, discovered that the engine would not turn over. The marina mechanic couldn’t look at it until Friday morning. Our new procedure is to start the engine as soon as we get to the boat just to make sure there are no problems and so that we have that much more time to get our mechanic to look at it. The joys of a 30-year old engine.

Not leaving on Thursday was probably good because of the small craft advisory that was issued. Obbligato, a BMSA boat from Havre de Grace, reported wicked conditions on the sail through the Narrows on Thursday.

We left our marina around 10:30 on Friday with a south wind and 2- to 3-foot seas. We tacked our way down Bay almost to Bloody Point light when it started to rain and a severe thunderstorm alert was broadcast. After donning life jackets, lowering the sails and stowing my mother below, we motored into Eastern Bay. By then it was after lunch but John wanted to try to meet up with club members anchored at Drum Point in the Wye River so we continued past Tilghman Point and the planned Claiborne Inlet anchorage in Tilghman Creek.

About an hour before sunset we approached the mouth of the Wye. We were lucky to only have been touched with the southern end of the last storm. Another, more severe, storm was heading our way from Alexandria, VA. Hail, damaging wind, cloud-to-ground lightning and rain were predicted. As we headed towards the Wye, we saw darkening clouds off our starboard side and heard rumbles of thunder. Lightning streaked out of the slate-gray clouds. It was not raining at our location but the storm was close enough that I decided that we would anchor in Shaw Bay rather than risk navigating the Wye after dark and with a fast-moving storm at our heels. By the time we passed by green daymark “3” the sun had set and it was getting dark.

Shaw Bay is the first anchorage in the Wye East river and is rather large. Only three other sailboats were at anchor when we arrived. We dropped the hook, released mom from the cabin and prepared dinner. The Memorial Day weekend trip was our first raft up, this was our first time at anchor on our own. Previous overnight trips were to marinas. On that night it was just us and whatever was out there in the water. I’ve watched the TV show River Monsters and there could be something out there in the water. Every splash could very well be something with teeth sharp enough to take off my foot in one gulp.

The storm came close but didn’t affect us. We discovered that if we leave early enough we could probably make 40 nautical miles comfortably in one day depending on the sailing conditions.

That night the winds were calm and a big orange moon rose over the water. Our Fearless Passenger relaxed in the cockpit and said those words all children love to hear from a parent: “Life is good.”

My report on the rest of the trip can be found at the BMSA web site.

Shaw Bay


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