Piankatank and Rappahannock 2023

July 1st, 2023

I finally had a day to go on a long daysail, so I set out from a boat ramp on the Piankatank River and sailed around to the Rappahannock and up to a ramp on Carter’s Creek. I ended up going 33 miles in 7.75 hours with an average speed of 4.25 mph and a max of 7.4 mph. The Piankatank section was mostly upwind and things got a lot easier after I rounded the long skinny Stove Point at the mouth of the river.

After getting everything rigged at the ramp I motored over into the lee of Berkley Island to raise the sails. Then I set out on a light air upwind course towards the bridge.

Looking up the Piankatank. It’s been hazy from the wildfires in Canada lately, although fortunately it didn’t smell too smokey today.

Tacking upwind in light air against the incoming tide took forever, but I eventually got through the bridge and the sailing improved. I’ve heard it’s almost always faster to row if you’re going dead upwind and it took me 45 minutes to tack 2.8 miles on a 0.9 mile route as the crow flies.

After rounding the bend at Ginney Point I could just make out the Chesapeake Bay. Way off in the haze is Stove Point on the left and Gwynn’s Island on the right. Along the way I went from sailing downwind to upwind in the space of 50′. It was really cool how there was a flat calm section of water between the two opposing wind directions.

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to point high enough to get around Stove Point, but I just managed to sneak by. I saw a Hobie Cat and Sunfish on Fishing Bay, and a paddle boarder and windsurfer out on the bay side. From here on it was downwind the rest of the day.

Rounding Stingray Point. The waves were stacking up pretty well since I was heading through a shallow area. In 1608 Captain John Smith ran aground along here on a falling tide in their ~30′ shallop while exploring the Chesapeake Bay. Provisions were running low so the crew began fishing and Smith managed to nail a stingray to the bottom with his sword. While removing it he was stung on the wrist and nearly died. But, he recovered and had the ray for supper! The generall historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles

Starting across the mouth of the Rappahannock at 6-7 mph. It was so hazy I couldn’t see the 110′ bridge 8 miles away. Quite a few sailboats out here.

Looking back at Stingray Point and some of the waves were at least 2′ but it’s hard to capture that in a photo.

Heading towards Windmill Point where I’ve launched many times. The boat was rolling pretty good and it took some concentration on the tiller to not to broach, but it didn’t seem particularly out of control.

After turning at Windmill Point I started on a broad reach and decided I was overpowered as the wind had picked up. I hove to for 10 minutes to put a reef in and drifted 0.3 miles NE at 2 mph. I just about buried the rail when I jibed to get going again, but fortunately the side decks kept the majority of the water out.

Heading up the Rappahannock past Mosquito Point. Quite a few boats were out and there was a tugboat and barge in the mouth of the river coming behind me. They often drop barges near Cherry Point to the east of the bridge which is where this guy ended up going.

Halfway to the bridge the wind died down some so I hove to and shook out the reef. It took 6 minutes and I only drifted 80 yards due to the tide and wind opposing each other. It took a long time to figure out how to reef a spritsail efficiently, but I think I’ve got it pretty much as good as it’ll get.

I decided to cut over towards the 3rd span on the Middlesex side of the bridge and see if I could get a picture of my boat with the traffic cam. Along the way there’s this marker that is steadily deteriorating. As a kid sailing my Sunfish I’d come by here and it’d give me the heebie jeebies that this metal structure was just sticking up out of the water. It’s still a little unnerving.

No luck with the traffic cam… the app’s video feed got stuck and after it refreshed I was out of view. So I cut back across the river for Carter’s Creek. It’s a curving, narrow entrance and there’s always tons of boats blasting by throwing up big wakes.

Once out of the entrance I got the rig down and motored 3/4 mile to the ramp where my wife met me. The trolling motor I’ve been working on did well and it pushed me along at 3 mph against the wind. This is my kind of ramp, there’s a $5 honor box and none of this applying for a permit that takes two weeks to approve like the lake our friends live on in Maryland.

I recently installed a hitch to our Toyota Highlander so this was the first outing with the trailer! The hitch was a pretty simple installation, it took less than two hours and only required some minor cutting to a plastic fairing under the car. The electrical was just a simple plug that fit an existing socket under the trunk space.

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