The Nautical Adventures of Captain Kitty and Her Crew
. . . or what I did on my summer vacation


by Les Rothman, Autumn Saga, NT37-054

Part IV


An uneventful drive had us back in Pasadena, Maryland, on Monday, August 1st, where we boarded Autumn Saga, bought provisions and returned our rental car. Two days later, we said good bye to our hosts and continued northbound on the Bay, with plans to see them again on our return. Following their suggestions, these were their local waters, we made for Fairlee Creek on the eastern shore and secured in a slip by 1220. We were encouraged to come here mainly because it was thought that we could board a small bus for transportation to Chestertown perhaps a 45 minute road trip but a two day boat trip. Only one person, of the many we asked, knew anything about the bus, which apparently ran only on weekends and only with a guarantee of 15 passengers. As no taxi was available, this was an expensive and unnecessary, if pretty, stop but it did have wireless internet for me and a swimming pool for Louise.

Up before sunrise, to a loudly purring but subdued in her friskiness cat, the temperature at 0600 was 75*F, the barometer falling and the wind calm. As we were moving into the height of the hurricane season, my usual attentiveness to the weather had a manifold increase. I blocked the windows facing east to defeat the sun’s anticipated intrusiveness and readied the coffee pot. Louise joined at 0700 and the mourning rituals were given their due. We departed Fairlee Creek at 0955 and headed north on the Bay. Entering the Sassafras River, we made for Georgetown where we tied up at the Georgetown Yacht Basin at 1245. We checked in, had many questions answered, reserved a car for the morrow, made purchases at the very well stocked marina store and returned to Saga, where we had a light lunch and pursued our own interests. Toward evening, we cleaned up and dressed for dinner. We reached our selected restaurant via the complementary marina launch. The restaurant was crowded and we spent some time at the bar waiting for a table. There, we had a chance visit with a local farmer and his wife who concentrated on growing “organic” vegetables. He had turned to this career, back on his family farm, after he was unable to get into the space program at Cape Canaveral, following completion of an engineering degree at the Florida Institute of Technology. We enjoyed a good dinner and, as it was past time for a launch ride, we walked back to the marina and sleep aboard Saga. The next morning, with another very hot day anticipated, we picked up our reserved car at the marina store and drove to, and walked around site seeing, Chestertown, Fairlee, Galena and Chesapeake City, where we had lunch, completing everything we desired in four and one half hours, that which would have taken three days by boat. We returned to Saga circa 1500. The outside temperature was 96* F; inside it was 82. Consistently, now, the daily high temperatures exceeded that which we routinely experience during a north central Florida summer. I telephoned our friends to inform them that we would be at their dock tomorrow afternoon. The rest of the day and evening we relaxed aboard and eventually fell asleep to the sound of falling rain.

Having now ventured as far north as we had planned, we retraced our route back to Rock Creek and tied up behind our friend’s home, at 1547. However, much to my surprise, this was not the end of the cruising day. Our hosts decided that we would leave that evening, aboard their 42 Nordic Tug, when they arrived home from work. Furthermore, they, cat lovers too, insisted that we bring along Ms Kitty. They have three old cats living with them at home, none of whom have ever gone boating. They have a new vessel, not much used, fully customized and routinely appearing “factory fresh.” I advised them of Ms Kitty’s claws and her presumptuous manner, but they had already met her aboard our vessel and insisted she was to become part of the crew. We thus packed quickly, personal items for a few days and stowed our sea bags and Ms Kitty aboard Tug-A-Long and got underway at 1650. I will say, without reservation, that after being the Captain for about 1000 Nm, it was relaxing to have another, at least as skilled and experienced as I, shouldering the full responsibility for the vessel. I suspect, too, that he must have felt somewhat relaxed knowing that all of us were familiar with and capable of handling his boat, should the need arise. We anchored out that night, in an anchorage favored by many. The next day, we cruised to St. Michael’s where we tied up for a few days to see the sites in this famous boating town. Here, too, we again crossed paths with other cruisers we had gotten to know over the past few years. We then went on to Annapolis where we tied up for a few days, dogging rain drops as we again did the sites and visited special places known to our hosts. We then returned to our host’s home port on Rock Creek where we again boarded Autumn Saga.

Now, when Ms Kitty first went aboard Tug-A-Long she showed no signs of distress. She immediately began to explore this new venue and quickly adapted to now having four servants to wait on her. On the first morning, upon awakening in the anchorage, she decided she would explore the outside of the boat. With her leash secured to her harness, she led Louise, exiting from the aft salon door. Strutting her stuff, she went forward on the starboard side deck, crossed the bow, and turned aft along the port side deck and into the cockpit, where she entered as she had exited. Then, she went up to the pilot house and tested out all of the available places to recline. She ultimately chose the Captain’s helm seat which became her favorite. And that is when she began to be called Captain Kitty.

At 0500, by repeatedly opening and closing Louise’s state room locker door, Captain Kitty was telling me to get started preparing Autumn Saga for our cruise south. I changed fuel filters and filled the house water tank. Laundry was washed and food purchased. We spoke by telephone with my sister in law in Yorktown. Tentative plans were laid for her and a friend to meet us at Reedville, which is almost due east of Tangier Island, so that we all could cruise over for a day of site seeing. Additionally, we discussed the possibility of having aboard another sibling with spouse from Connecticut. We also spoke with our initial cruising companions, to plan a rendezvous. We then cleaned up and had dinner aboard. Sleep came easily.

On Friday, August 12th, the NOAA weather radio report for the upper Bay was good for this time of year. Wind was to be light from the S and seas predicted to be one to two feet. Temperatures were to stay above normal. We said goodbye to our hosts and went to the Maryland Yacht Club fuel dock across the water from whence we departed at 1134, to begin our south bound journey. On any trip I take, once homeward bound, I become focused on completing such in an expeditious manner. Site seeing, a major portion of the outward bound experience, was now incidental to the overall task at hand. In spite of my initial plans to cruise south along the eastern shore, we were now south bound on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay. The initial one to two foot seas were increasing to three to four feet, continuously washing the pilot house windows and coming in the open doors. Nordic Tugs are wet boats. I closed up the boat, turned on the generator and A/C and our comfort level rose significantly.

We were happy to arrive at Calvert Marina at Solomon’s Island, at 1830 and tied astern of the other Nordic Tug. They had been here a month trying to get there refrigerator fixed. Finally, they had a new one installed. We visited and related our experiences since departing from them. They were leaving in the morning to head north. We would not see them again on this trip. We had dinner aboard and an early to bed evening. Upon awakening, we decided to make this day a lay day, which I fancied would be for R&R. It turned out to be all work, including five of the hours spent outside in 104 degrees. Not as exhausted as one might expect, I cleaned up, ate dinner aboard, watched T.V. and returned some telephone calls. The next day’s weather was predicted to mirror this one, so we took another lay day and this time did the R&R routine. We borrowed the marina car, rather than launching the dink, and went around to the more developed side and walked among the shops and restaurants. Much gentrified since my last visit, ten years ago and very much oriented toward tourists, it was both more civilized and less interesting to me. While walking, we saw an unfamiliar Nordic Tug come into the harbor. We tried to follow it on foot to see where it was mooring, but were unsuccessful. Returning to Saga in mid afternoon, Louise went swimming and I checked the engine room for tomorrow’s departure. I also created a route on my Northstar navigator from here to Yorktown with stops at Reedville and Deltaville.

Note: Throughout this extended cruise, all of our plans were conservative, which permitted extra time, should the need arise, for lay days due to storms, breakdowns or extended site seeing. Thus, we were never pressed to be anywhere in particular at any predicted time. Because, so far, we experienced no weather or vessel related delays, we were usually about three days ahead of our ETAs, which suited us just fine, both physically and mentally.

I arose at 0620 to a steady barometer, calm wind, a pre sunrise solid gray overcast and a temperature already at 78*F. Louise soon joined and while we consumed breakfast, Captain Kitty pursued a fly all around the salon, leaving a trail of fabric threads in her wake.

With personal and vessel grooming completed, we left Solomon’s Island at 1003, headed out to the Bay and turned south. Even though NOAA continued to broadcast expected seas would be one to two feet on this section of the Bay, we found them to be three to four, on the bow. At 1235, a now rising barometer was congruent with the disappearance of the haze that had limited visibility and the temperature had reached 90 *F, about eight degrees cooler than had registered at this time, the previous five days. Nevertheless, we were cruising with the A/C running and enjoying it very much. We were just E. of the Great Wicomico River light at 1417, when we headed west into Ingram Bay. We had anchored here on our way north and were not impressed with the brief appearance that we had had of Reedville. However, this time, on the basis of a cruising guide’s positive report, we headed past the abandoned fish processing plants to the Reedville Marina and Restaurant, on Cockrell Creek and tied up. It was closed with no sign of life. Their telephone was on an answering machine which said that they were closed Monday. I left my name, location and telephone number. We decided to stay put pending further information. We went for a walk, found an ice cream shop and during our purchase asked the proprietor’s opinion. In this very small town, everyone seems to know everyone else and we were advised that it was probably o.k. to stay where we were, for the night. Back at Saga, we took showers and had dinner aboard. I spoke with the Yorktown family and found that work had forced a change of plans. They would not meet us in Reedville. Two other boats came to the dock looking for fuel and dinner. They were locals and yet surprised to find all closed. One stayed the night, as did we.

I slept through what my awake wife said was a rather severe thunder storm. Completing the morning routine a bit quicker than usual, had us underway at 0930, tentative destination the Rappahannock River. We had stopped here at Deltaville on the northern leg. This time, I continued up river to Urbana and secured a slip at Doziers Port Urbana Marine Center at 1307. Facilities were more than adequate for this cruiser. Urbana is an historic town and our walk about revealed homes and churches constructed in the previous century along with numerous restaurants and mercantile establishments. While sites of interest are within an easy walk of the marina, there is no sense of this being a tourist destination. Toward late afternoon, we were again aboard, as a long gathering storm unleashed lightening and very heavy rain. The power went off at the marina and I started the generator for a time while we had supper. The power was restored as the storm passed to the north. We watched T.V. before retiring at 2200.

In the pilot house at 0701, NOAA promised and ill wind for the coming day. The barometer was falling and the temperature now was 75*F. Even in this protected harbor, the water surface and flags were ruffled and the sky was filled with varying shades of gray scudding clouds. Backing winds on the Bay were predicted to be N around 10 knots and seas “one foot.” Thunderstorm potential was high. With our morning tasks completed, we left Urbana at 0921 and headed down the Rappahannock. When we reached the mouth, conditions got “predictably” worse than NOAA had predicted. Waves were three to four feet and building on the port bow and wind gusts were blowing spray so that I had to keep the wind shield wipers on to be able to see. I could not run a straight course but had to turn into the seas and slow way down to avoid slamming or fall off to starboard and take them on the port beam. I chose the former. When we finally cleared the shallows and reached our starting weigh point, we turned south and had a following sea. I adjusted our speed through the water to match, as closely as possible, the velocity of the now two to three foot waves. The rocking motion was now much more comfortable and the auto pilot was able to handle the steering. My wife and I were very thankful that we had no guests aboard this date. While we had planned emergency abort anchorages in Mobjack Bay, we made weigh point Wolf Trap at 1245 and headed up the York River. Now shielded from the north wind, the water surface had a one foot chop and we reached Wormley Creek Marina at 1420, on August 17th. We tied up at the transient wharf to await directions to a tie up where we could remain for about two weeks. I phoned my sister in law who came for us at 1800 and we all went for dinner, followed by a Dairy Queen dessert and a return to Autumn Saga to sleep. I arose the next morning to do a few vessel checks. My wife’s sister and husband were due to arrive that evening, from Connecticut and the next few days are to be devoted to family visiting and R&R, at the Yorktown sister’s home, just a seven minute drive from the marina. That made it very convenient for us to sleep aboard while visiting from morning until night. It also facilitated keeping Captain Kitty on board thus avoiding conflict with the Yorktown resident felines. On Saturday, August 20th, the day dawned perfectly for cruising up the river with the family. The pre sunrise sky was clear, the barometer was steady and the temperature was 75*F. While all three guests have had minimal experience on both small and large craft, none are boaters and I wanted this to be a totally non stressful experience. The plan was to cruise up stream on the York River to West Point, where the York splits into two smaller rivers, and return before dark. They arrived at 1050. I introduced some of the ship board rules, gave them each a PFD to fit and place where they could readily find it and we cruised out on the height of the tide. We saw what there was to see on both river banks and reached West Point at 1315. Finding no convenient place to land, we came about and had lunch while underway, arriving back at the Wormley Creek entrance channel at 1640. It was now dead low water. A 28 foot sailboat under power was outbound in the shallow narrow channel. He gave no indication of slowing down or altering course as he headed directly for us. Rather than sinking him and risking scratching my gel coat, I stopped. He passed my port, at an estimated six knots, less than ten feet off. During those few minutes, I drifted aground, so softly that I did not notice until I tried to proceed. The marina was closed. At least no one answered my radio call. The tide was on the flood, it was a beautiful day and the passengers were not disturbed in the least, as they were now relaxing with drinks on the aft deck. While I could have easily awaited the rising tide, a woman, with three small children who had been water skiing in a boat not much larger than my dink, hailed me and asked if she could help. At first I thought such was not safe for her, with the children aboard, but she was local and said she had done this for others numerous times. She got her ski tow line aboard to us, which I secured around the anchor bollard. Then I directed her to pull in the direction of deeper water. After I shifted the weight of my three passengers to mid ship, without too much difficulty, we were freed. Her children cheered and I gave them a salute toot from my tug whistle. We proceeded into the marina and tied up. In to-to, a truly enjoyable day was had by all. We parted to clean up and then met to eat a wonderful Italian dinner at a family run restaurant. We spent the next day, Sunday, visiting together and then on Monday morning, August 22nd, I picked up my previously reserved rental car and Louise, Captain Kitty and I drove home to Florida, leaving Autumn Saga to be hauled out for inspection, cleaning and some routine work. Reports of hurricanes were already numerous and I was glad to have her on the hard while we were 750 miles away.


Copyright © 2008 SENTOA • Last Update October 2, 2008 • Questions? Contact the SENTOA Officers.