Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Leaving Annapolis: a little motoring, a little sailing, a little terror

Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Chesapeake Bay Bridge

The squeal of the engine overheat alarm went from subtle to shrill quickly. We exchanged a worried glance and wordlessly switched positions. While I settled in at the helm, studied the current and our best options for a safe landing Lance cracked open the engine compartment. A quick glance overboard showed the exhaust water was spitting out at a half-pressure dribble. We had just departed Back Creek channel from Bert Jabin's Yacht Yard after a restful and magical month of sight-seeing, puttering around on little boat projects, and a path-wearing parade of Amazon packages. The engine had seen some lovin' and we were both surprised at its unhappy noises. Lance pulled apart the raw water strainer, hoping to find the offending blockage but all we found was a little sludge. Not enough to cause the alarm, we rinsed it clean anyways. More troubleshooting required. We were in the middle of the busy channel with a slow current pushing us towards shallow water. I deployed the anchor so we could buy time to gather our thoughts.

Lance double-checked the ball valve, all good there. Something was definitely in the pipe or the hose blocking the raw water from coming in to the engine.

On Wednesday Nights the Outdoor Dine & Music on West Street is in full swing. It started off as a way to keep restaurants running during Covid but is on track to be a permanent good-weather standard.

I volunteered to be the one to go overboard and remove the offending blockage. I started thinking through everything I would need and where to find it - snorkel, mask, fins, all readily accessible. Oh - and I'd need something to poke with. Something like a long metal coat hanger. Wait... there's that one that came with the boat - it seemed like an important thing left behind by the previous owner and so we'd been moving it around the boat instead of discarding it. Lance remembered it the same time I did and brought it up with a grin. He removed the strainer cup and shoved it into the pipe and felt a pop and a freerun out of the boat. Plastic bag, wood, schmutz, octopus, snails, whatever it was that was blocking our precious raw water, it was then released back into the Severn River. He put the strainer back together and I restarted the engine which cooled right down, the anchor came up, we were on our way. Total delay 10 minutes. Best of all I didn't have to take an impromptu swim in the dark brown waters of the bay.

Chloe keeping an eye out for marauding ducks in Annapolis

Bert Jabin is the premiere boat yard in a city well known for boating. While we were there to take advantage of the marina itself and not necessarily for any professional work, we did pepper with questions all the pros we could keep up with as they speed-walked around the property from job to job. All month we'd heard woeful tales from other boaters as they worked through their own boat issues. For a minute we worried we'd be turning back to become one of them, landing on the working side of the yard instead of the fun side this time. But with cool heads and a moment for a breath we solved it ourselves. This time. Whew.

We had a destination in mind: Chesapeake City, 50 something miles away. It was hot and windless and so when we got bored with the sound of the motor and the heat we anchored in peaceful and lonely Still Pond. Well, our end of it was peaceful and lonely anyways. The shallow end had jetskis, powerboats and the constant thrum of generators. But other than the occasional wakes as they flew by they left us alone. The breeze eventually made an appearance as the sun went down and made for a restful night.

Chloe's run-crazy beach, an easy dinghy ride away

The thing about swinging on a lonely anchor is this... the world slows down and takes on an aspect of timelessness. It's easy to become completely absorbed in thoughts, a book, a phone call with a friend and it becomes all-encompassing. In hindsight I suppose many of my favorite hobbies are like this: motorcycling, scuba diving, road bicycling. Moments of terror interspersed among vast amounts of singular focus. No chance for the outside world to butt in. Some free space for the head and heart to recover from the daily onslaught and regain focus.

Lance was reading a book and humming to himself. Chloe was relaxing on the deck, the breeze in her fur. I perused the weather apps. The storm I'd been following online was adjusting course and the new projections showed it missing us and also our friends in North Carolina. Chesapeake City - we're coming for you.


  1. So glad things worked out quickly for the three of you. If you get down to Cape Charles, give a nod for us. If you want to experience that Pyscho/Bates Motel vibe, check into the Cape Motel-but only if you can arrive late on a dark, rainy night, making sure to call "Norman" over from the big-house to check you in. Nevermind the taxidermy in the office, I am sure it is merely coincidental. If you don't have your own knife handy, the TV remote does fine for the obligatory shower scene reenactment...Safe travels!

  2. Oh my! We'll prepare accordingly.

  3. You make a great team. What a story!
    I wish I was on deck reading a book with you! Xxoo

  4. We have gone over that bridge a few times but never under it. Stay safe and clear skies.