Four Days on the Bay: The final installment of our three-part series on cruising the Chesapeake Bay
Jul 11, 2016 04:51PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
The final installment of our three-part series on cruising the Chesapeake Bay reveals first-person joie de vivre of a long weekend in docksidersStory & Photography by Ann Powell
Classically gorgeous weather. Calm seas. An ice box fully-loaded. A clean boat and a float plan with friends. We were ready for a long holiday weekend cruising the Chesapeake on our boat First Light. We cast off from Annapolis Thursday evening with plans to join a few friends and their boats, and so began our glorious four days and four nights on the Bay.
Whenever we head out to cruise the Bay, the atmosphere in the cockpit usually mixes anticipation and excitement with a smidgeon of trepidation. You just never know what you’re going to get. Whatever the plan is starting out, you probably won’t stick to it. Whatever the weather is on day one, change will come. The real fun will arise from something you haven’t even dreamed up yet.
It was just the two of us on the boat this time—the “kids” had their own Millennial-style plans for the holiday weekend. On this trip, my fearless Captain (who is also my boat-loving husband) and I were meeting up with our own contemporaries and their boats.
Anchored Out on the Magothy RiverThe first leg of our four night cruise began with an anchorage near Gibson Island on the Magothy River. We made great headway out of Annapolis and under the twin spans of the Bay Bridge, a true engineering marvel from our vantage point on the water. Only a few other pleasure boats dotted the Bay on this peaceful evening.
We headed west into the wide mouth and narrow channel of the Magothy River, rounding Sandy Point Light to our port and keeping Baltimore Light well to our starboard. These two caisson lighthouses are the aging painted ladies marking the extended underwater shoals near the Magothy’s mouth.
Through the twilight in the distance ahead, we could see our friends’ sailboats making measured headway toward our agreed-upon destination. As the only powerboat in the mini-fleet that evening, we had a little more speed, so we were the first to round the west side of Gibson Island and drop anchor in a quiet cove to wait for the others. In practiced form, we set out some appetizers, rigged the barbeque grill on the stern, and began dinner prep in the galley. The weather held as a magical calm settled over the cove and the orange sun shimmered and slowly dropped below the horizon.
That same orange sun rises maddeningly early when you’re sleeping on a boat. It peeks through every hatch and portal it can find, teaming up with the sound of water lapping gently on the hull to prod you above deck. No worries—a pot of coffee was brewing as I rolled from my berth to catch views of the morning light illuminating the cove. Hey, our boat is named First Light for a reason.
My ever-ready Captain had the dinghy in the water and was all set to go exploring. With coffee mugs in hand we cruised the nearby coves, checking out the stately homes, the barns and horses, and the picturesque fleet of the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron. All was as it should be as we motored back to First Light for breakfast onboard.
Cruising Maryland’s Eastern ShorePulling up anchor, we crossed the Chesapeake Bay to our next stop on the Chester River’s Reed Creek. Motoring along, we reminisced about our former days of sailing on these cruises and the quiet that comes with wind power. But on this day there wasn’t much wind, so we were fairly happy with our thrumming powerboat.
With a little extra time on our hands, the Captain and I checked out Queenstown Creek, anchoring and taking the dinghy to the Queenstown dock to exercise our land legs. What a lovely little watermen’s village, with its quaint tree-lined streets, historic 1708 courthouse, and town dock tucked in the Creek’s headwaters.
After lunch, we moved on to drop the hook in beautiful, remote Reed Creek, where our little fleet of five boats anchored out for the night. Before long, we were all in the water swimming and cooling off. For some reason the current was so strong, we had to tie ourselves to the rafted boats so we didn’t drift away. As evening fell, we wrapped up a great day with dinner and conversation onboard, followed by a good book and another solid night’s sleep in our berths.
In the morning, the kayaks and paddle boards were put in, and we paddled with our friends into the marsh at the headwaters of Reed Creek. The winding channel snakes through tall grasses, narrowing to a few feet as we paddled on. The sunny marsh was beautiful and bedazzling, with red-winged blackbirds, herons, and dragonflies flitting through the multi-colored vegetation.
Back at First Light, we stowed our gear and headed across the Chester River to Grays Inn Creek, where we anchored, swam, explored, and relaxed under a gorgeous sunset. The morning brought another early morning “coffee” tour in the dinghy, before we headed up the Chester to lovely Langford Creek. Our fleet decided to change things up a bit by pulling into a marina for the last night of our cruise.
The Marina LifeMarina life is a different experience entirely. We enjoyed the change with some social time at the marina pool and a collective cookout onshore, improvising with pinecones to supplement our limited supply of charcoal for the grill.
Waking in the morning to the dockside sounds of boats coming and going, my Captain and I said goodbye to our friends and sneaked off to borrow the marina bikes for a long ride through the stunning Chesapeake countryside. We pedaled down long, flat country roads past tiny villages, sunlit soybean fields, aging waterfront estates, and down-on-their-luck boatyards.
All in all, a great way to spend a long holiday weekend. Biking back to our marina and First Light, we cast off for Annapolis and home, with stories to tell of our four days on the Bay.