Monday, May 16, 2016

Solomons - at the Holiday Inn anchorage, two mistakes made

We're all alone in the anchorage next to the Holiday Inn and their dinghy dock
We had intended staying another day at Mill Creek since there was still a small craft advisory out for Monday which was better than the gale force warning for the day before but still with 3 to 4 ft waves and gusts to 20 kts. However, in the morning the wind was dead calm. Now this could have been the Chesapeake anchorage phenomenon where it may be calm in the anchorage but just wait until you travel the 3 to 5 miles out to the bay and suddenly you see the error of your ways. This morning was different. We could see the buoy reports and they were showing less than 10 kts and little wave action and yet the NOAA marine forecast for Chesapeake Bay where we were at was for a small craft advisory until 6:00 pm with gusts to 20 kts and 3 to 4 ft waves out of the northwest. We looked at grib and it showed the winds decreasing throughout the day so we decided to rule against the NOAA forecast and go with the grib prediction which matched the conditions in the bay at that time.

We left the anchorage and the winds stayed constant around 5 to 10 kts. We even crossed over the mouth of the Potomac River, a notorious source of bad wind and wave action but saw nothing over 12 kts, still okay. After moving beyond what we thought was the worst part of the trip north (the mouth of the Potomac) we congratulated ourselves on our weather smarts and continued on. The weather did not cooperate. The winds started to increase with gusts to 20 kt and the waves came directly on the bow which was exaggerated by having the tide with us, it steepened the waves and we got spray over the top of the bimini. It was not good. 

Hoolie has his eyes on that dinghy dock in the upper, right corner
I headed closer to shore to seek calmer water and it helped some but not much. We had a miserable time for the next two hours until we finally reached the turn into Solomons when the conditions improved, finally. Our lesson learned is that although the NOAA marine forecast can be overly pessimistic along the coast since it predicts weather up to 20 Nm out to sea, in the Chesapeake there is no such limitation - there's no 20 Nm out to sea here. Today was the second time we've seen the NOAA forecast for the bay to be more accurate than any of the other sources. One mistake down. 

Reaching Solomons we needed fuel and water and docked fine. I had to hunt down the attendant but once found we filled up okay. Getting off was another story. The wind was pushing us against the dock but that's usually not a problem, you just put a fender by the bow and tie a line from the boat's bow cleat to a cleat on the dock farther aft with Ann putting the boat in forward which swings the aft out away from the dock. Once out, I then would release the bow line and Ann would back out without a problem. Well, mistake number two was a bad setup on the bow. There was a piling right opposite the bow pulpit which would contact the boat (pulpit) before the fender since the pulpit leaned out over the edge of the boat. So when the boat was put in forward I released the bow line when the pulpit touched the piling - not good! Ann did not have enough swing out of the aft, she was not far enough away from the dock and there was a boat behind us interfering with her backing to top things off. When put in forward with the intention of turning away from the dock, we did not have enough leeway and hit the dock with fenders flying everywhere. We eventually made it out and are now anchored peacefully. What I should have done is move the boat forward first so the bow pulpit would not hit the piling when the aft was swung out. That would have enabled the usual 45 degree angle between the boat and the dock and Ann would have cleared the aft boat and backed out far enough so swinging back into the dock would not be a problem. Don't be in haste leaving a dock, think things through, I didn't do that today.

With two errors of judgment today (mistakes!) we still survived but things could have been easier. Tuesday is predicted to have light winds (good!) but rain all day (not good!) The rain starts at 9:00 am and ends at 8:00 pm, no window at all for going north, unless you don't mind motoring in rain all day. If the forecast stays the same, we'll spend another day at anchor in Solomons and wait for better weather on Wednesday.