Spanning ten days from late September into early October, a group of 43 ICOYC cruisers joined up with a roughly equal number of Annapolis Yacht Club cruisers for a Chesapeake Bay experience. The cruising fleet of 30 boats included a host group of AYC sail and power boats as well as a handful of locally chartered sailboats. ICOYC cruisers hailed from Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, Royal Southern Yacht Club, Seattle Yacht Club, Southern Yacht Club, Royal Thames Yacht Club, Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Norddeutscher Regatta Verein, Long Beach Yacht Club and St. Francis Yacht Club.
The Chesapeake may well be among the finest cruising estuaries in the world, with relatively easy tides and currents, a temperate climate and a soft bottom, combined with a seemingly endless shoreline of gunkholes, small towns and a couple of big cities to complete the captivation. Taken together they provide a plethora of experiences that fit the Goldilocks definition: “just right”.
This was the first ICOYC cruise where all the guest participants did not charter their own yachts. While five sailboats were chartered with 23 people onboard, 20 more were hosted aboard AYC boats. Additional members hosted guests in their homes before and after the cruise. The camaraderie on host boats and in host homes contributed to the just right feeling of the cruise.
The cruise was organized and led by former AYC Cruising Committee Chair, Sue Pitchford, and executed by an able committee of several dozen AYC cruisers and hosts. Naturally, this just right cruise began and ended with kickoff and capstone events at AYC. In between the fleet made stops in the middle Chesapeake Bay on both the Eastern and Western Shores of the state of Maryland.
Our first stop was an overnight anchorage in Dun Cove just north of Knapps Narrows. In well-practiced cruising fashion, everyone boarded dinghies and joined seven host boats for a small group happy hour.
Our next port was Cambridge. Adding spice to the short transit, we hosted a race from just off Dun Cove to a finish line near Choptank River Light. Ten cruising sailboats participated, enjoying winds out of the south at 10 to 15 knots. The overall winner was Bermuda 40 Icefire, skippered by Geoff Tobias.
Cambridge Yacht Club hosted our two-day stop, which afforded us an opportunity to get to know this historic town. Arranged tours included the Harriet Tubman Museum and the Horn Point Oyster Hatchery. Oysters, it seems, were among the common food languages of our international group.
After a lay day we were off to Oxford, hosted by the Tred Avon Yacht Club (TAYC). The one-day stop included a walking tour of Oxford, a visit to Cutts and Case Shipyard and a very nice dinner at TAYC. Naturally oysters were part of the fare! We also had the pleasure of discovering another shared food language—ice cream—as the walking tour included a stop at the Scottish Highland Creamery.
No tour of the Eastern Shore near Annapolis could be considered complete without a stop in St. Michaels. And so it was that the fleet next made the 30-mile trek from Oxford to dockage at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM). It was a great sailing day, a bonus for our fleet.
Our two-day stop in St Michael’s included tours of CBMM and local dining delights. Our cruisers also made stops at the Lyon Rum Distillery and Eastern Shore Brewing, as well as the Classic Motor Museum.
The week started overcast and rainy with sailable winds, but quickly evolved to sunshine and lighter winds. Departing St. Michaels, our cruisers caught the last of the wind and mostly motored to our next stop, the Chesapeake Yacht Club (CYC) in Shady Side.
CYC hosted a fine happy hour and dinner that included a Chesapeake Bay trivia contest for the out-of-town cruisers. Contestants were divided into two groups pitting the Aussies, our largest contingent, against the rest of the world. The Aussies eked out a trivia win by one point.
Our final stop before heading back to AYC was an anchorage on Mill Creek. Here the cruising fleet was divided up and hosted shoreside at the waterfront homes of four AYC members. Pulled pork and pulled chicken barbeque was delivered to the host homes and yes, barbeque is also a common food language!
The closing dinner and awards ceremony was back at AYC. The group of newfound friends enjoyed the best that AYC’s Chef Michael has to offer and music by the always fun Eastport Oyster Boys.