Wolf Trap 2020

April 11th, 2020

Today was forecast to be a really nice day, so I decided I’d try again to make it to Wolf Trap light from Gwynn’s Island after my previous attempt was cut short by some serious fog. I’ve also made a few improvements to the boat which I wanted to test. I epoxied in two additional belaying pins and welded up a stainless catch for the centerboard rod.

I won’t keep you in suspense, I did make it and here’s my GPS track. It was a 21.1 mile trip!

All loaded up and ready to head to Gwynn’s Island. I get some strange looks when I pull in at the boat ramp beside a row of lifted F250’s pulling 300hp center consoles. Clearly I’m in the wrong line of business.

I launched right at low tide and I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to get to Rigby Island since it’s so shallow. Fortunately I could rely on a rising tide throughout the day and hopefully a boost on the return trip.

This time I did a better job of brailing up the sail. I think some bungie cords might be easier to use rather than wrapping the brail line around everything. I’m starting to get better at getting everything rigged and launched without incident. From arriving to launching took 40 minutes.

Heading away from the ramp on a run. My mother was a postmaster on Gwynn’s Island and she’s told me stories of how that swing bridge would sometimes stick open. One time it jammed just before a hurricane arrived and she was worried she’d have to stay in the post office. But fortunately they got it closed again.

Towards the bottom of Gwynn’s Island I saw a number of watermen checking crab pots. Growing up I used to think I wanted to work on the river, but I bet the freezing cold or sweltering hot days would outweigh the nice days.

Heading towards Rigby Island. It was somewhere along in here where I heard an unwelcome grinding sound emanating from the centerboard. The boat speed also seemed to take a hit. Looks like I was running out of water! I need to get a jam cleat and mount it to the centerboard cap for the downhaul. Currently I just tie the line around the thwart, but that makes it hard to get the board up in a hurry.

The sandy part of the island is so low that I was having a hard time seeing it and I strayed into a shallow area. I made a turn towards shore because most of the houses had docks, so I assumed there was deep enough water.

There are a lot of sandbars in this area and with the low tide they were just barely submerged.

Navigating by the color of the water. The sandbars seem to be pretty sharply defined though.

Heading out into the bay. I found a row of PVC pipes marking a channel between islands so I followed it out rather than follow the shore further south.

There’s Wolf Trap light on the horizon! It’s a little over 5 miles away. As I got away from shore the wind started picking up. The waves were the biggest I’ve had the boat in, maybe 3′ at times but the majority were probably 2′. At one point I had waves coming from two different directions and the wind from a third… so it was an adventurous trip. The boat really handled it well.

Eventually I made it to the lighthouse. I wanted to circle it, but the wind shifted so I’d have to beat directly towards it. Everything was making me start thinking about heading back, so I decided to turn around. Maybe another time. These pictures really don’t do the waves any justice.

Aiming at what I thought was Stingray point just north of Gwynn’s Island but it turns out that was actually Windmill point. I was a little over 20º off of where I should have been going.

After checking my phone I realized I was about to miss my exit.

Heading through the hole in the wall wing and wing. Despite being ~30 yards wide in places the channel was well marked. I’ve been thinking about making a tool that is a combination whisker pole, boat hook, and mounts to the rudder head to support a tent’s ridge line.

Nearly back to the ramp. I went 21.1 miles in 5.5 hours with an average speed of 3.9mph and a max of 6.8mph. I think I need to get my GPS tracker to take more finely spaced points. It’s currently set to take a point every 2 seconds, but I can’t believe 6.8mph is the max I hit today.


4 thoughts on “Wolf Trap 2020

  1. I just found this blog, and it really takes me back to my summers on Gwynn’s Island and various boating adventures on the Rappahannock River.

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