An early morning departure from the Portsmouth ferry basin places Cutter Loose northbound in the Elizabeth River just as the large boat traffic is beginning to build. The inbound Carnival cruise ship Glory shares the channel with the outbound naval warship #66. Both vessels are entitled to a 100 yard security zone, sending Cutter Loose scurrying to the shallower water just outside of the red side of the channel where we can avoid the big ships. The City of Hampton, Fort Monroe and Old Point Comfort pass astern as we make sail near Thimble Shoal and turn north into the Chesapeake Bay on a beam reach.
Our diesel engine is behaving strangely this morning, struggling to power Cutter Loose at her normal cruising speed. We first became aware of this symptom on our approach to Portsmouth a few days earlier. We held out hope that replacement of the primary fuel filter would correct the problem. But today, we must rely on a favorable tidal current along with east winds to help us motorsail past the York River, Mobjack Bay, Wolf Trap Light and Deltaville on the Piankatank River. Our destination today is Indian Creek near the town of Kilmarnock, VA, just north of the Rappahannock River. At 4:30 PM, Cutter Loose is at anchor in Bells Creek, a placid tributary of Indian Creek.
We have previously arranged to visit my cousin Darla and her husband Turner on Tuesday. They have secured dockage for Cutter Loose at the Indian Creek Yacht and Country Club. On Tuesday morning, we arrange a house call from a local diesel mechanic to replace the secondary fuel filter on Cutter Loose. With the utmost of confidence that the diesel problem is now history, we enjoy a dinner of delectable crabcakes with Darla and Turner in their comfortable home overlooking Indian Creek.
At 6:30 AM on Wednesday, Cutter Loose is underway from the T dock at the Yacht Club. Our planned destination for today is Annapolis. Our course takes us past the mouth of the Potomac River and into the State of Maryland. Despite our pre-departure optimism, yesterday’s fix does not correct the engine problem on Cutter Loose. In the absence of wind and under diminished power, we spend the next 12 hours reaching Solomons on the Patuxent River, a distance of 43 miles. Cutter Loose limps into the harbor at Solomons for an overnight anchorage in Back Creek near the Calvert Marine Museum. We make an appointment with a diesel mechanic at Zanheiser’s Marina for tomorrow morning with the hope of a quick solution to our diesel problem.
On Thursday morning, Cutter Loose is in sick bay at Zanheiser’s Marina where a team of diesel experts endeavor to diagnose the problem with our engine. The news is not good. There will be no quick fix today. In fact, the repair may take weeks. Rather than remaining in Solomons to resolve the problem with the engine, we decide instead to take advantage of 15 knot southeast winds and sail Cutter Loose back to her home port of Rock Hall, about 46 miles to the north.
We are underway from Solomons at 1:30 PM with an assortment of military aircraft overhead practicing takeoffs and landings at Patuxent River Naval Air Station. It is a delightful afternoon for a sail north on the Chesapeake Bay. Dusk turns into darkness near Thomas Point Light. Two anchored freighters off of Annapolis are easily avoided as they are illuminated like twin Christmas trees and create huge radar echoes. But an inverted vee-shaped light pattern near the Bay Bridge is confusing to us. The radar echo is minimal and there is no AIS imprint on the chartplotter. As we sail closer, we make out the silhouette of a sleek naval warship at anchor. With this mystery solved, Cutter Loose passes under the Bay Bridge, alongside the northern tip of Kent Island and into the familiar waters approaching Rock Hall. At 1 AM, the anchor is down in Swan Creek, less than a quarter mile from our slip at Osprey Point Marina.
On Friday morning, we move Cutter Loose to her slip, thereby bringing our winter cruise to a bittersweet conclusion. Our unforgettable journey has spanned 215 days and some 3,641 nautical miles. It is good to be home.