This is the first in a series of posts about a trip I made to the Chesapeake on my old Catalina 22, Helbent, during the summer of 2011.
The origins of the trip seem shrouded in mystery. I imagine the planning must have begun during any number of sails with Jonny in the summer of 2010, my first with Helbent. Undoubtedly, a few solo overnights on the bay, some telephone conversations, and a little research on cruisersforum.com fueled the idea through the summer and, after I returned to Arkansas, the fall.
Still, my concrete memories of the planning begin at Christmas when I was back east for the holiday. I was very lucky to receive some awesome presents from my folks, namely a Icom M36 01 Handheld VHF, a West Marine offshore inflatable PFD, and Cruising the Chesapeake: A Gunkholers Guide (now in its fourth edition as of late 2012). Like every Christmas on the island, this one involved a lot of hanging out and talking about summers past and adventures awaiting, and these new boat toys were influencing my thoughts about the summer to come. Over a number of beers, Jonny and I dreamed up somewhat firm plans. After a three-week New Mexico trip with students, I would return to the island as quickly as possible in early June. Then, we would get the boat ready and head out two or three days later.
Returning to Arkansas for the second semester, I ordered a copy of Maptech Chartkit – Chesapeake and Delaware Bays and began to work my way through Shellenberger with the charts in front of me, a copy of NOAA Chart No. 1 at my side, and the occasional companionship of Active Captain (when I could pick up internet from the neighbors). From the head of the bay to the Potomac, I read every page while following along on the charts, usually over dinner. Both how much I learned and, once I got to the Chesapeake, how incomplete my knowledge and image of the bay was from this process still surprises me. Moreover, being introduced to the bay through the Gunkholer’s Guide began my relationship with the Shellenberger book, a friendship that would develop even more during the trip. I began knowing his preference for undeveloped shoreline and quiet spots, his conservative attitude towards mileage and weather, and his desire to explore and share his experiences with other like-minded folk. As I pick up the book now, it is as if an old buddy were sitting with me sharing memories of the trip.