In Part one of this DelMarVa loop journey, the authors covered the first leg of their cruising journey from departing Annapolis to exploring Chesapeake City, Lewes, DE, and Ocean City, MD. Here is the next installment of their tale.
Ocean Swells and Sandbars
September 30: The fourth leg of our DelMarVa Loop took us from Ocean City to Chincoteague. We experienced 15 knots of wind on the nose with two- to three-foot seas and three- to four-foot swells in the ocean. After two hours of wicked pounding, the Admiral (Elizabeth) said enough, and we made our way to Chincoteague.
The surf on the outside of the inlet looked like Malibu Beach, so it was challenging to make out the buoys. We followed the marks past the surf and into the inlet, but this is where things got confusing. Our two Garmin GPS’s were showing us in the channel where there were obvious waves. Unfortunately, I let the head-down syndrome and belief in the instruments run us aground on a sandbar versus the tried and true heads-up and believe what you see. The motors instantly stopped. You could hardly make out the difference in the waves in the inlet and the over the sandbar, but there was a difference.
I called TowBoatUS immediately. They reported it would be about an hour before they could have someone onsite. I took our lunch hook and walked off of the stern to set it on the path we entered so the waves hitting the boat would not push us farther onto the bar. This is when unlimited TowBoatUS insurance comes in handy. Ironically, the TowBoat US skipper ran aground on the opposite side of the sandbar, and it took him 20 minutes to get free.
Once he was free, I walked the towline from his boat and clipped it to the bow D-ring on Fandango. Slowly, and not easily, the TowBoat RIB gently coaxed Fandango off the bar. I waited awhile to start the engines to give the strainers some time to flush out any sand. Both motors started easily, and we gradually powered up to take the pressure off of the tow. Everything performed beautifully.
We both gave a huge sigh of relief and thanked everyone in heaven looking down on us. We tied up at the self-service gas shed and fueled up and washed down Fandango. Note: Salt does not come off with just water pressure. After fueling, we tied up for the evening. There was a spectacular sunset and moon rise that we enjoyed with a glass of wine on the pier before settling in for a ukulele performance of Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville.” It felt good to be in this quiet, little public marina safely protected from the wind and waves we had fought most of the day.
The Longest Leg of the Trip
The fifth leg of the journey found us departing Chincoteague (Native American for “beautiful land across the water”) around 9 a.m. for our longest leg of the trip. We followed our GPS track out of the inlet with no issues and waved goodbye to that shifty sandbar. We were not 10 minutes into the ocean when a high temperature alarm sounded from the VesselView announcing an issue with Fandango’s port transmission. We idled back to neutral and turned off the motor. After floating for 30 minutes with the engine hatch up, we started the engines and kept the engine hatch up as we powered up and headed South for Cape Charles.
Now it was hammer time as we had open ocean on our port and the longest strip of sand for the next 80 miles. It was fun to watch the pelicans fly along with us at 19 mph looking for fish that our boat might scare up. We slowly were able to round the DelMarVa Peninsula, and seeing the compass point north while going under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel felt wonderful. We saw a small fishing boat near the bridge, and it was the first boat we had seen in nearly 100 miles.
We entered the Cape Charles harbor passing one of the largest sand and gravel operations on the Bay. Fandango was topped off with 147 gallons of fuel and the friendly dock master convinced us to visit Onancock on our trip up the Bay. We docked in a nice floating slip and went to lunch at Kelly’s Gingernut Pub. An easy stroll took us to the beach populated by families and kids playing and building sandcastles. We walked around one of the first, planned railroad communities in America (circa 1880) with some quaint old homes, lovely hotels, and inns. This is obviously a great weekend or summer retreat that is walkable, with plenty of restaurant and drinking establishments, including a distillery with outdoor lounging, not to mention the wonderful beach.
That night we positioned ourselves on the bow under a blanket to watch the northeast sky for the rocket launch. Turned out the mission was scrubbed at the last minute. We went to sleep after a very long day at sea, but now safely tucked into the Bay... Well, not exactly.
In Tune with the Water and Each Other
First, I wish to let my friends know that as rough as the seas were, we are not roughing it on Fandango. We have a comfortable queen bed, full galley plus two large coolers in the cockpit, a nice head with shower (when not available onshore), and an electric toothbrush. We grilled four dinners before departure and had plenty of lunch meats, snacks, fruit, and appetizers for the entire journey. We never turned on the TV (since it was not working). For entertainment, the Admiral had a Yamaha keyboard, base ukulele, and a harmonica which she played and entertained the captain for the entire trip.
What does happen on a trip like this is you become more in tune with nature. Sunrise and sunset, temperatures, wind and waves, wiping off the morning dew, and focusing on each other. As you have seen from the pictures, everything is better on the water.
As for personal interaction in 200 square feet of space for over a week, you either make it work or someone will abandon ship. The Admiral rested during much of the sea journey due to rough seas, but she steered the boat off of the dock and into some harbors when I was comparing the GPS’s and markers for accuracy. Staying in the middle of a narrow channel in a turn can be like playing Nintendo for spatial orientation, and the Admiral did not play Nintendo. That said... most every word was kind, giving, and appreciated during the trip.
Since the winds were howling at 15-20 knots from the northwest in the morning (what else is new), we killed time by walking to the beach and watching three kite surfers shred the water. Later we visited the far end of town and saw a converted gas station, now a beautiful bookstore, and visited the highly recommended Coastal Baking Co. for blueberry and orange muffins and a slice of Smith Island Cake for dinner.
Finally, around 11 a.m. we cast off and headed out, only to be greeted by four-foot seas outside the rock jetties. We took one wave over the bow for the first time during the trip. We adjusted speed to 10 knots and rode the sea bronco with spray covering the entire boat. After three hours of slow cruising in two- to three-foot seas, we turned into the beautiful Onancock River. It was a pleasant eight knot half hour cruise to the Town Wharf and a nice floating dock. Dock master Craig assisted us with lines.
We couldn’t wait to get off of the boat and walk around this lovely little town that was founded in 1680 (pop. 1600). The Native American translation for Onancock is “Foggy Place.” One of the highlights of our walk was coming upon the historic and beautiful Ker Place mansion and grounds that serve as the headquarters of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society. The front lawn has huge Sycamore trees and a gravel driveway leading to the finest example of Federal-period, Georgian-style architecture on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
After walking the two block by eight-block town, we met the owner/chef of Mallards at the Wharf Restaurant. His description of the dinner specials enticed us to leave the boat and enjoy a wonderful meal ashore. Apparently, the owners name is Johnny Moe and his father, who greeted us at the bar, is Daddy Moe. A super guy to talk with as he migrated from Deale, MD, to Onancock years ago. Daddy Moe informed us that the NASA rocket was launching at 9:15 p.m., so we rushed out and positioned ourselves in an open area and waited for liftoff. It was really an impressive memory as it slowly soared into the night sky by a full moon headed to the International Space Station. It took the roar of the rocket several minutes to travel the 20 miles from Wallops Island to us. What a great end to a very busy day on the water and land. (After note: The Charlotte Hotel & Restaurant is supposedly the best place to eat in town, but walking another four blocks that evening was going to be too much.)
From the Onancock to the Choptank
For the seventh leg of our journey, we fueled up in the morning at 8 a.m. after our oatmeal and muffins from the Coastal Baking Co. and headed out of the Onancock River with weather reports of 15 knots from the northwest... what else is new? The waves were two to three feet until we got around Smith Island.
We turned to the northeast to enter the Choptank River and headed for Cambridge, MD. We pulled into the $155 million Hyatt Regency Resort, Marina and Spa for a fill-up and were assigned a floating slip near the bath house per the Admiral’s request. Dock master Alex volunteered to drive to Walmart to get another gallon of oil for our boat. Now that is service! The property features three swimming pools and an indoor pool, an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, pool tables, and more... but no Myers Rum. So, they lose a star. We ordered a quesadilla and rum drinks to enjoy while overlooking the endless pool and the river on a beautiful sunny afternoon. We did more walking around the property before heading back to give Fandango a bath (while the Admiral played on the keyboard), before we cleaned up and ate a gourmet dinner in the cockpit. The sun set behind the dark silhouette of the hotel and the moon rose in the east. All good and a peaceful night on Fandango.
By Bo and Elizabeth Bollinger