Cruising the South West Shores of the Chesapeake

July 9th

We watched as a Hampton crab fisherman came by in the early morning and cleared his pots. He lifted and moved the one that had been placed near the middle of the anchorage and was bothering us. We then lifted our anchor – leaving it dangling in the water for a while to get the dark mud off it before bringing it on board. We radioed in to the Hampton Public Piers dock master to thank him for his hospitality and help with the drifting boat and headed back out to Hampton Roads.

As we cleared the channel and headed out into the Chesapeake we realized that storm Chris was still sending stiff winds and swells our way. We had the stabilizers on and Sonas took us comfortably north towards York River. Two hours later we turned towards the river and Yorktown.

Along the way we saw all of the big ships sitting off Cape Charles waiting for their pilots to take them to Norfolk to the south and Baltimore and other ports to the north.

Dozens of ships wait for their pilots

We had called the Yorktown Riverwalk Marina earlier and asked them about their mooring balls. They were first come first served. As we approached the town we called again to get directions to the balls. We were somewhat concerned as the NE wind was blowing straight up the river and causing quite a chop. When we got to the mooring field we found heavy metal cans, well encrusted with shells at the waterline, and no pennant (the piece of floating rope that you pick up to tie off to). There was a piece of metal in the shape of a cross on top that looked like it needed to be lassoed or cleated to using a dinghy.  We went alongside but it was clear we were not going to be able to tie off to the mooring as it was set up.

We considered the Yorktown City Marina, but there were no boats in there so we decided against it. Later, on visiting Yorktown, we saw that the marina was closed down and the power pedestals all covered over.

Empty Yorktown City Marina

So we had a close look at the cruising guide and decided to go across the river to the York River Yacht Haven and tie up.

We went ashore to check in and have lunch at the marina’s restaurant, the York River Oyster Company, then called the Yorktown Shuttle as suggested by the marina.

Lunch with Sonas in the background.

We were transported into the American Revolution Museum in Yorktown and spent a couple of hours there. When we went to pay our admission Paul asked the lady if we could get a discount because Sian was English. That didn’t work!

Outside the Revolutionary Museum

After visiting the museum we caught the free Yorktown shuttle tram that took us through the town. We got off at the Victory Monument by the Yorktown Battlefield and walked back into town by way of the historic main street, with houses that remain from the siege.

The Victory Monument

We had beer and tapas at the Water Street Grill before getting an Uber back to the marina. We reserved a car with Enterprise Car Rental in Gloucester for tomorrow, with arrangement to pick us up at the marina. We planned to go see the colonial towns of Jamestown and Williamsburg!

July 10th 

We had a car reserved with Enterprise from 8am this morning to 8am tomorrow morning. I called them yesterday and told them that I would need to be picked up at the marina. They said it would be around 8:30 since they didn’t open until 8. When they hadn’t showed by 8:40 we called them, finally getting them to show at 9:15. We  headed off to Williamsburg, getting there around 10:15. We had an interesting six hours there, visiting all of the homes, the stores, the foundry, coopery, Capitol etc. We had lunch in the Shields Tavern and then met our tour lady for a history walk. We were the only people to sign up so had a private one and a half hour tour!

The Capitol Williamsurg
The Governor’s Palace Williamsburg
Capitol Committee Room
Capitol Courtroom

After leaving Williamsburg we went to the store and bought some fresh veggies and fruit, bread, and milk. We then drove to Newport News and picked up some wine at Total Wine. We had planned on going to have a look at Jamestown, but passed as there was not a breath of wind and it was really hot by now, and we frankly had enough history for one day! We returned to Sonas, put the purchases away and returned to the York River Oyster Company for dinner.

July 11th

After breakfast Paul took the rental car back to Enterprise and got a ride back to the marina. He then filled the bucket with hot water and soap and gave the port side, which was against the dock, a good wash down. Sian meanwhile topped up the water tanks, did a laundry load, cleaned the galley and heads. We were ready to set out again for the next stop!

We headed out to the York River and found about eight coast guard vessels running exercises. There is a Coast Guard training base right here on the south shore on the York River. We held our breath hoping that vessel boarding for safety checks was not part of the morning exercises. It wasn’t, and we passed by uninterrupted!

We cut across to the entrance to Mobjack Bay, which is north of the York River. Based on the cruising guides the East River, running north from Mobjack was a place with beautiful vistas and safe gunk hole anchorages. We wanted to get there in plenty of time to set the anchor and watch the World Cup match between England and Croatia. We motored passed the village of Mobjack and pulled in behind green market #7, dropped anchor in 11 feet depth and he anchor held on first asking.

It was a delightful anchorage, with soft winds, no current, and beautiful landscaping in the shoreline.

East River, Mobjack

After lunch we sat and watched the soccer match, which sadly England lost. Sian then got her swimming costume on and swam six laps around Sonas while Paul set the snubber. We had a very tasty fajita dinner and then sat in the foredeck seats and watch the sunset.


Unfortunately we had left both our Chesapeake Chart Book and Cruising Guide on the fly bridge and while we were watching the soccer game a rain storm had come through and they were soaked. We will dry them out and hopefully save them!

July 12th

Our plan today to is to do a bit of tidying on Sonas, clean some stainless, wash the fore deck to get rid of the mud and dirt that the anchor brings up, and clear some of the “cruising items” to their respective storage lockers (like weather gear). While Paul swabbed the fore deck Sian used Never Dull on the swim platform staples, swim steps, and on the cockpit cleats and other stainless.

Paul then went below to do an engine room check. This is just a regular check on the engine oil and transmission levels, a general look around the engines and the bilges. On lifting one of the bilge covers he discovered about a quart of “red!” For non-sailors, marine diesel has a red coloring in it to differentiate it from road diesel as it has a different tax treatment. It is not a good sign to have diesel in your bilge compartments!

Paul cleaned up the fuel, putting it into a container as we did not want it being pumped overboard by the bilge pumps. He grabbed our strong LED flashlight and walked around the fuel lines, engines and generator, and could see nothing amiss. We then started the engines and ran them for 30 minutes and watched for any leaks. We did the same with the generator. And found nothing.

There was one other consideration. The fuel transfer pump. As mentioned we had been transferring fuel from one tank to the other to balance the boat. Given that we had found noting with the rest of the fuel system, and had used the transfer pump a few days ago, Paul suspected that the pump might be leaking.

So we switched on the transfer pump and watched it – and it was leaking! We turned it off and Paul took some photos of the pump from all angles. He saw that there were three small screws holding a face plate on the pump, and it seemed to be leaking from that plate. He got the right size ratchet and tightened the screws. After we ran the pump again –and no leak! Problem resolved! No more fuel in the bilge – which is a good thing!

Leaking transfer pump

By the time we had resolved the issue we didn’t feel like launching the dinghy to go visit the village of Mobjack, which we had planned to do. So we broke out our Kindles and had a relaxing evening reading with cool light winds across the anchorage.

July 13th

We had decided, now that we were in the Chesapeake proper and we were only doing short two to three hour runs when moving locations, that we should take an hour or so each day and keep Sonas clean and tidy. So today Paul washed the Portuguese Bridge and pilothouse while Sian tackled the stainless on the foredeck – which is quite substantial. We paused to watch as a ladies rowing crew went past in the early morning light.

Ladies coxless fours at sunrise

After that Paul upped anchor while Sian was on the helm getting some practice maneuvering Sonas out of anchorage. As the chain and anchor came up they were covered in grey mud, good for holding the anchor on the bottom, not so great when it comes aboard a freshly cleaned foredeck!

We ran for two and a half hours out of Mobjack bay, past Port Comfort Lighthouse and into the Chesapeake. We went north passing Wolf Trap light. Turning into the Piankatank River, we then navigated the narrow channel into Jackson Creek at Deltaville, our next stop. Along the way we had to keep focused watch for crab pots as we passed endless row upon row of the things. While Sonas has line cutters on her props, we certainly don’t want to be cutting some guy’s livlihood away.

Port Comfort Lighthouse
Wolf Trap Light

Deltaville is known as a boating destination, with the main concentration being in Broad Creek on the north east end of the peninsula. Unfortunately there are no good anchorages in there, only marinas and boat yards. Since we love anchoring out we chose Jackson Creek. From what we read there was a public dock that we could dinghy to and then only a three block walk to town. We launched the dinghy and went over to the public dock to find that there were no ladders to get up. We tried a couple of times but finally gave up. Instead we went over to Deltaville Marina and Boatyard and tied up to their dinghy dock, went and paid the $5 fee and then had to walk one mile into town! Paul says he may consider writing to the town suggestion they install a couple of ladders to facilitate cruisers and their dinghys.

Deltaville Public Dock

The town of Deltaville proper is basically one road with a few buildings. We went to the post office and posted some mail, then to the hardware store to buy a new mop as Paul had worn out the old one! Then we looked to see if we could sit somewhere and get a cold drink and maybe an ice cream. The little coffee shop had closed at three and the restaurant didn’t open until five thirty! So we were out of luck, and headed back to Sonas. Clearly the place to be in the Deltaville area was Broad Creek. Perhaps we will visit on our way back south.

We also had zero connectivity as here was no AT&T signal. Now and then it came in as “one bar”, and we received emails but didn’t stay long enough for us to reply. Paul was able to get a quick read of the Trawler Forum to find that the other boat in the anchorage, Briney Brig from Miami, was a member and had earlier given us some information on the channel into the anchorage.

Briney Brig at anchor in Jackson Creek

July 14th

This morning, Saturday, brought us a beautiful sunrise into a sky without a cloud and glassy water. We saw Briney Brig already on her way out of the anchorage at six am. We contacted them through the Trawler Forum once we had connectivity and found that they were heading back south as we were heading north. So we would not be seeing other again on this trip.

Briney Brig heading out at first light

We had originally planned on staying two nights at anchorage but had decided last night to move on today. We looked at the Chesapeake Magazine Cruising Guide to see where we might want to visit before making our way up the Potomac River at the end of next week. One creek and town caught our interest – Onancock. This was on the Virginia eastern shore of the Chesapeake so we would be cutting across the bay for the first time.

We left Deltaville. As we exited Jackson Creek we set our course directly for the mouth of the Piankatank river. We saw that this would take us through a series of crab pots, but we were not concerned as there was no wind and flat calm water, so the pot markers were easy to see. We waved as we passed a crabber busy at work, He yelled at us that the channel was “over that way,” and got really annoyed when we continued our more direct, and deep water, course. Seemed he didn’t like us navigating our way through his pots.

We set our auto pilot for the mouth of Onancock Creek and just short of three hours later we entered the creek. We then had a very pleasant cruise up the creek for about five miles, past beautiful houses with well manicured lawns. We tied up at the Onancock city wharf and, after getting the boat settled, took a walk through the historic village. We walked up Market Street and visited a couple of art galleries. Had a beer at the Blarney Stone Irish pub and then made our way back to Sonas. Paul had asked for restaurant recommendations when at the dock masters office and we reserved a table at Bizzotto’s Italian restaurant. We had a very nice meal there, and would highly recommend the restaurant and staff to anyone visiting this quaint Eastern Chesapeake town.

Sunset from the Onancock Wharf

July 15th

We wanted to get some things from Wal-Mart so we unloaded the bicycles and, like good riders, we donned our helmets and set off. It was three miles each way, but on pretty flat terrain. Along the way we noticed the office supply place that managed FedEx shipments as we had something we needed to send, and Ker House, a mansion and gardens that we planned on visiting.

Bicycle helmets on!

When we got back from Wal-Mart Paul went to the dockmaster’s office to see if it was possible to stay a second night. We had originally asked for two nights but a catamaran had specifically booked the bulkhead for the second night and we were hoping they had cancelled. But no. There wasn’t a slip suitable for us, so we loaded the bicycles and went over to the anchorage. After anchoring we were visiting by the crew of Pelican which was anchored nearby.

Later that evening we went in to Mallard-On-The-Wharf for dinner – what else, crab cakes!

Of course no catamaran had turned up and the bulk head was empty for the evening!

Sonas anchored at Onancock
Ker Place

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