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Passage Debrief: Annapolis, MD to Norfolk, VA

Updated: Mar 28

November 1st, 2022 - November 2nd, 2002


Crew: Captain Forrest

The first leg was sailing, or motoring rather, down the length of the Chesapeake Bay from Annapolis, Maryland down to Little Creek, VA. While a good way for students to gain sailing experience, I was the only person onboard for this winter sailing trip, I planned to split up the 125 nm passage into two roughly 60 mile days. The forecast was clear with about 5-10 knots from the WNW, so I tentatively planned to stop somewhere on the West side of the bay and had a few possible anchorages in mind. Leaving on November 1st, I only had about 10 and a half hours of daylight, so I planned on only being underway for 10 hours a day so I could get into an anchorage while it was still light. This meant with a conservative 6 knot average I could cover 60 nautical miles a day.

I took off at first light on the first to incredibly thick fog, drifting anywhere from 1 mile to only a quarter mile of visibility at a time. Serenity unfortunately did not have an MMSI assigned at the time, so that precluded the use of a vessel Automatic Identification System (AIS) transceiver. Without radar either, I was very careful to maintain a slow speed, constantly scan the horizon for running lights and monitor channel 16 on the VHF for Securite calls from other vessels. I also deliberately stayed outside any commercial channels.

The fog started to clear after about three hours. The only other traffic I saw were a couple crabbing boats near shore and some larger cargo vessels anchored far out into the middle of the bay. The worst part of the fog wasn’t the fog at all but rather the intermittent patches of crab pot buoys I had to thread my way through. These were typically just outside the channel so it all could have been avoided by staying in the channel if it was safe to do so.

The rest of the day was beautiful except for the fact that there was absolutely no wind at all. My consolation prize was that because Serenity only had 9 engine hours on it, it was still in the “Break-in” period where I had to run it a couple hundred of RPMs above cruising speed and then run it at wide open throttle for 5 minutes at 30 minute intervals. Between the higher RPM’s, a favorable tide and flat water meant I was able to average about 8 knots and cover 91 nautical miles the first day. The only real mistake I made was playing my music through the boat speakers a bit too loud, so I didn’t hear the United States Navy hailing me on the VHF down below. We didn’t have a handset on deck and the handheld VHF didn’t pick up the transmission. But luckily the nice Navy folks on the bright orange safety RIB cruised up alongside and explained that the Air Force was going to be conducting aerial targeting drills on one side of the bay. After a quick chat, I happily moved over to the East side of the channel and continued on. No harm done and I got to watch the F-22s soar overhead for most of the afternoon.

Having made good time I motored into Mill Creek, a potential anchorage I had seen on the chart earlier. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful anchorages I have ever been in, complete with bald eagles sitting on the day marker on the way in! After snaking through a windy and narrow channel, Mill Creek culminates in a beautiful lake which was dead calm all night.

The next day, I again left at first light. I turned right out of the river, being careful not to run into “fish stakes”, rows of stakes that only protrude a foot or two above the water.

Again, by running at an elevated RPM I was able to make it to Little Creek Marina by 3pm later that day, where my new crew Jim had just flown in and was able to catch my lines.

Passage Summary

Total Time: Two Days

Hours Underway: 17.5 Hours

Total Distance: 125 Nautical Miles

Average Speed: 7.5 Knots

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