Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wandering New Waterways

After a wonderfully relaxing day of doing close to nothing, we set off the other morning from the Chickahominy River bright and early since we had a two hour steam before picking up September Song at Kingsmill. They were out in the channel raring to go when we swung around the corner of Jamestown Island and off we went, past the ghost fleet and down the James River to a very busy Hampton Roads full of tankers and naval ships. We had the naval tug Apache (which looks more like a warship than any tug I've ever seen!) on our butts the whole way through Hampton Roads which was a little unnerving - must be our guilty consciences because whenever we see boats of authority we always think they are after us for something!! But no, not this time!! We headed off into the Chesapeake Bay for the first time in 9 months - we last passed through there this past October. We had planned on anchoring in a little place called Chisman Creek before the York River but we had made pretty good time with the current behind us so, as we are want to do, we called an audible and wound up farther north anchored in the Severn River off Mobjack Bay (for those of you who have no possible idea where that is, it is on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay still in Virginia).

A little geography lesson - there are four large rivers in Virginia that feed into the Chesapeake - the James, York, Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers - we have spent a lot of time on the James and went all the way to DC on the Potomac on our travels south but have yet to spend much time on the York or Rappahannock. We plan to correct this oversight soon! But for now we headed into a very quiet and beautiful anchorage in Mobjack Bay. Doug and I have looked at anchoring there at least 3 or 4 times before, but somehow our plans always changed and we had never made it there until the other day. There's not a lot happening out in this neck of the woods so we spent a quiet afternoon on the boats thinking we'd head out the next day possibly for Tangier Island. Bright and early the next morning we got a radio call from September Song thinking they might want to hang for a day to explore - we're always easy - good by us!!

We dropped the dinks and after a rare planning session (we decided to look at a chart and figure out where we wanted to go over the next 10 days or so before we have to be back at Haven Harbor Marina in Rock Hall, MD where we bought the boat so they can fix the watermaker they installed for us that NEVER worked!!!!), we set out with the September Song crew (boat dogs included of course) and explored both branches of the Severn River - it was really very cool with lots of wildlife, duck blinds (obviously big sport down here), a few stately homes with sweeping lawns down to the river but no great beach for the dogs to play on!!
Half Note Heads Up the Severn River
Egret Suns Itself on a Broken Down Dock
Many Beautiful Houses Lined the Severn River
Egret in Flight on the Severn
Laughing Gulls Occupy the Top of Nearly Every Piling
Exploring the Severn River
Clearly we were in an airplane zone though as planes zipped by us overhead leaving contrails to light up the sky with the clouds forming funky patterns above!!

Planes Leave Contrails

On the southern branch of the river we found this cool little marina tucked away that had some really funky looking boats - a little water and an ice cream treat for the dogs and we were off again in search of a beach.

Half Note on the Way to Find a Beach
We finally found one back out at the mouth of the river and while trying to pull our tenders onto the beach, Doug almost got swallowed by that "wonderful" Chesapeake mud!!! I say wonderful because we love it when we anchor since it usually provides great holding but we also hate it when we anchor because when we pull the anchor up the chain is covered in the goop and it's also not too much fun on the "beaches" - remember we're used to the Bahamas white sand (OK I know we're not receiving much sympathy here).....but the dogs got to romp and play so they didn't care too much!! It was another scorcher of a day so we all headed back to the boats so the human crew could go swimming - the water here at least is much clearer and while it's pretty warm, it sure was refreshing.

The next morning we set out for Urbanna, VA which is up the Rappahannock River - we were treading on completely virgin territory as neither SS nor Gypsies has ventured up the Rap before. Like Mobjack Bay, last Fall Doug and I had planned on anchoring up the Rap and even had a course plotted in our GPS but as usual our plans changed and we never made it. Coming out of Mobjack Bay (which is absolutely huge by the way - several rivers branch off it which you could spend weeks exploring but we had other places in mind...) into the Chesapeake we hit some pretty nasty waves, the beginning effects of Hurricane Bill which is off the coast. Our bellweather for bad seas, Bootsie, was telling us in no uncertain terms that she was not appreciating the pitching and rolling of the boat - September Song has Cassie for this purpose. After being in the ICW for months where the water is always pretty calm, Bootsie had lost her sea legs and had to get used to a rocking boat all over again and she was decidedly not happy about it!!! She also never suffers alone or in silence!!! Luckily as we headed north out of Mobjack Bay, the waves were behind us causing the ride to smooth out a little so she finally was able with some cuddling to settle down and fall asleep for the rest of the trip. Puss on the other hand sleeps through anything!!

The trip up the Rappahannock was great - the river is wide and although we had lots of wind, the waves were smoother than out on the Bay. The River itself is very pretty - lots of rolling hills and stately homes line the river and you feel like you're out in the middle of nowhere (because you really are!!!) Richmond, Newport News and Williamsburg are on the James River, Yorktown is on the York and DC is on the Potomac - not to belittle small towns since we really like them, but there's just not much of anything in terms of towns of any size on the Rap!!!
September Song Approaches the Rappahannock Bridge
We Passed Some Sort of Research Vessel Complete with USCG Escort
So we opted to tuck into a little place called Urbanna on Urbanna Creek to ride out the weather and waves from Hurricane Bill. As we pulled into the little creek we were greeted by a house on the hill with a sign in its front yard reading "URBANNA" - sort of reminiscient of the Hollywood hills sign (kind of)!!!
House With Welcome Sign in Yard
Small Sandbar at the Entrance to Urbanna Creek
Well despite the guidebook telling us there was a great place to anchor, we didn't find that - mostly the little creek is taken up by a couple marinas and permanent boat slips ringing the turning basin before a 21 foot bridge which we can't get under. The two possible anchoring sites were littered with crab pots which are a real pain to catch on your prop or stabilizer - trust us we know!! We circled the area several times finally deciding to give anchoring a try even though it would be tight given that it would protect us pretty well form the upcoming weather. That's when things started to go downhill....surprisingly though it wasn't us this time.

After watching September Song venture into the anchoring field and drop their anchor, we opted to anchor out on the edge of the channel away from most of the pots. We got our anchor down but then saw SS still maneuvering - we just thought they didn't like their spot and were trying again which happens...that is until we saw Bob trying to pull up the anchor by hand - even we knew that wasn't good!!! The next thing we saw as Bob got the anchor part way up was them catch a crab pot - at least it was on their anchor though and not a prop. They finally got the crab pot disengaged and swung by to say their windlass (which raises and lowers the anchor chain) was jammed - UGH!! Luckily there was an open dock across the channel and they were able to pull in and tie up there. We lowered our dink and Doug headed over to help Bob and Stephanie (Bob has helped Doug often in our engine room so he was glad to be able to help!) - all I could hear across the channel was the clanking of a hammer on the chain from Bob who was curled up down in his chain locker and grunts from Doug trying to pull on the chain to get the kink out. After lots of work, the boys succeeded in getting the jammed chain out and all is right with September Song once again!! What an afternoon!!! Not surprisingly SS decided to stay at the dock for the night and we made plans to hit the local bar!!

We took the local trolley into "town" and I use that term loosely - after waiting for over half an hour for the trolley, 2 minutes later we were in town - think we'll walk next time. We asked the trolley driver to drop us at the best bar in town which she deemed to be Mojos - a little too foofy for us, so we wandered over to Olivia' s which turned out to be a real joint!! We sat on fake leather stools at the bar where we chatted with our bartender/waitress/local harassed entertainment Anita and had burgers and cold beers - the place was hopping with only two waitresses so patience was definitely the key! Guess they weren't ready for the Friday night "rush"! Wish we had pictures for you because this place was priceless but the one time I forgot my camera and Big Boat Bob was on camera duty, he failed you!! We were back on the trolley before he remembered he had his camera - that's it, he's fired - guess that's what turning 60 will do to you! Just kidding Bob!!! Guess I should have cut him a break as he had a tough day...oh well. Maybe today we'll head back into "town" and I'll be sure to bring my camera this time!!! although it's been raining ever since the boat rooster got me up this morning so we'll see if we can squeeze in a couple hours of exploring in between showers!! Tomorrow we think we might head across the Rap to another anchorage since the waves in the Bay are still supposed to be big from Bill and then on Monday we likely will head across the Bay to Tangier Island!!!

Click here to see our anchorage in Urbanna Creek

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