01 November 2010

Boats of the Chesapeake

My passage through the Chesapeake was a week of fair winds, warm weather, and peaceful anchorages. At this point in my cruise, I am focused on getting home before the snow flies. I know I've been lucky with the weather, so far, but my luck can't last forever.

So while I had fair winds, I took advantage of them to sail as many miles as possible, each and every day. And I do mean sail. With the wind behind the Blue Moon's big gaff mainsail, she makes hull speed (about 5.6 knots) with about a 10 knot wind. We were able to make 40-50 miles every day, with just one off day to let a bad line of thunderstorms pass through.

What really made the Chesapeake special for me was the emergence of wooden sailboats, and boats with character. I guess wooden sailboats don't do very well in the South, because I'd seen very few, except at the boat show in Southport, NC. I don't remember seeing any wooden boats actually sailing, south of Norfolk.

But suddenly, in the Chesapeake, they were there. I could feel the Blue Moon getting excited. She was coming into her country.

One of the first wooden boats we saw was a powerboat. But not just any powerboat!

Pirate Ship
photo jalmberg
I actually had a chance to talk to the Captain of this boat, since it cruised at 8-10 knots, and we were headed in the same direction. We were tied up at the same fuel dock one afternoon, waiting out a thunderstorm.

The boat is a converted commercial fishing boat, and has a galley in the little house on deck behind the pilot house, and pretty nice accommodations forward, under the doghouse under the mast. If I ever get a powerboat, it would be one like this one!

The next remarkable boat we saw was this enormous schooner. 200 foot long? I don't know, but I think her bowsprit was longer than the Blue Moon. An absolutely impressive boat. 

Stunning Schooner
photo jalmberg
Another boat I instantly fell in love with was this Gentleman's Motor Yacht. It looked like it was built in the heyday of Nat Herrishoff. I could almost hear the steam engine puffing along.

If I ever bought a powerboat, it would be one like this!

Gentleman's Motor Yacht
photo jalmberg
This classic New England type schooner was heading south -- probably to the islands for the charter season. She had a good sized crew of young folk on deck. Looked like they were having a blast.

Classic New England-style Schooner
photo jalmberg
I spotted this classic warship (she had a few guns showing behind gun ports on deck), outside of Annapolis. I presume she was doing day sails for the tourist trade, but an amazing ship. And a fast one. She literally sailed a circle around the Blue Moon. Doing at least twice our speed.

Update: a reader informs me that this is the Pride of Baltimore II, "the Goodwill Ambassador of the State of Maryland and the Port of Baltimore." More importantly, she is the Blue Moon's big sister! Both were designed by the great Tom Gilmer. She's a transatlantic tall ship race winner, so it's no wonder she sailed circles around us!

The Pride of Baltimore II
photo jalmberg
Speaking of fighting ships, I also spotted this Navy patrol boat near Annapolis. Not a particularly attractive boat, but I first spotted her when she was cruising up the opposite shore. The day was grey and overcast, and I almost didn't see her. She blended right in with the gray sea and sky.

I guess that's why they paint them grey!

USN Patrol Boat
photo jalmberg
But I must say, the most cheerful and loyal little boat that I saw on the whole Chesapake Bay was playing right behind the Blue Moon, the whole way.

Cabin Boy now has over 1500 miles on his flat bottom, and he has enjoyed every minute of it.

From skimming along over flat morning seas, to surfing down the monsters in Albemarle Sound, to dancing over the happy chop in the Chesapeake, Cabin Boy has never shipped more than a light spray over his bow.

If anyone ever designed the perfect tow-behind dingy, it must have been John Atkin.

My favorite classic gem
photo jalmberg
What a great boat!

>>> Next Episode: Down the Delaware


  1. Once again, an enjoyable read.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Your Pirate boat is a buy boat that bought the catch from the fishing/oystering boats and sped it to market overnight. The fighting ship is the Pride of Baltimore II, a classic Baltimore clipper and one of only two (replicas) of the type in existence. The naval vessel is one of the Naval Academy training boats. But you missed the best sailing ship conclave of all, Schooner Sultana's Downrigging weekend in Chestertown, MD: http://www.sultanaprojects.org/downrigging/index.htm.

  3. Bghio, thanks for the local knowledge! I'm going to update my post.

  4. ... since the Pride of Baltimore is the Blue Moon's big sister. Both designed by Tom Gilmer.

  5. John, you are even more astute than you realize... The naval vessel is a Yard Patrol craft (YP) used primarily to train midshipmen in seamanship and navigation. They are wooden ships built withstand the rigors of so many inexperienced conning officers and helmsmen when they learn ship handling / mooring procedures. They can also serve as mine sweepers (secondary mission) given their and low magnetic signature.
    -Current Naval Officer and former Midshipmen

  6. Wow... I would never have guessed it was made out of wood. Very interesting. And I certainly understand the need for training in ship handling. Sailing is the easy part. Handling a boat in restricted waters, docking, anchoring, etc., in all sorts of different conditions, that's the hard part.

  7. John:

    Thank you for your wonderful comments about CABIN BOY. I know John has been watching over you with great joy.

    Best wishes,

  8. Hi Pat, Can't wait to get started on Vintage!

  9. Wonderful stuff John. Thanks again.


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