Big views, big anchorages . . . it’s hard to find a better place to hold a meeting than this lovely Chester River tributary.
by Jody Argo Schroath
I’ve never met a Chester River tributary that I didn’t like. Who has? The river, with all of its twists and turns and byways, is incontestably beautiful from bottom to top. But on this particular occasion, I wasn’t going up the Chester as far as the Corsica River just to enjoy the scenery . . . though that would have been a perfectly rational reason. No, I was heading to the Corsica to meet a couple who had towed their homemade, Chesapeake-designed boat all the way from Wyoming to try it out on its waters-of-origin, so to speak. I don’t want to tell you too much about Craig and Marigene Vogt and their charming boat Baxter in this story because they deserve one all their own—and this column is, after all, dedicated to sharing good places to cruise. On the other hand, I can’t describe the cruise without mentioning them because it was thanks to their shallow-draft boat that I saw this familiar river from a new perspective.
On the morning of the day we were to meet, the Vogts had put in their boat at Centreville, Md., whose community dock sits about a mile outside of town on one of the two creeks that meet to form the Corsica. There is a boat ramp there too, and you can arrange to tie up at the dock ($10 a night), if there is space, but the slips are primarily for the local watermen. The water there, and in the channel leading to it, is thin—very thin. Before trying it himself, Craig wisely got directions from a waterman on how to avoid running aground in the channel. Once the Vogts had picked their way through the markers and reached deeper water in the river, they gave themselves a tour before settling into the cove where I found them a few hours later.
They were settled in and riding comfortably, when the Ship’s Dog Skipper and I rounded Holton Point on my Endeavour Sailcat Zen (draft just shy of 4 feet) to enter the Corsica. I thought they might have chosen to anchor right behind Town Point in Middle Quarter Cove. This is well protected from the south and east and shares a shoreline and little beach with the Russians. Yes, the Russians. You may already know about this but in the 1970s the Russians (the Soviets in those days, of course) bought the old Raskob estate on Town Point, thereby throwing an excitable portion of the local population into a tizzy, with visions of spy submarines launched in the dead of night and sent off down the Chester to do unspecified mischief. It turns out the Soviet embassy just wanted a nice place for their employees to go swimming and grill caviar in the summer. The house (which is, ironically, bright red) remains an unmistakable sight on any trip up the Chester.
But, to return to my story, there was no little boat anchored in Middle Quarter Cove. Nor in Tilghman Cove just beyond. Then, as I squeezed between red “4” which marks the shoal off Wash Point and the shoal (not marked) off Ship Point on the other side, I spotted them in a lovely deep cove off Emory Creek. It is a bit open to the south, which is where the wind happened to be coming from at the moment, and I noticed that a trawler had chosen to nestle up against the river’s south shore, where the water was unruffled by wind. But a bit of breeze at anchor can be a good thing, so I followed suit, circling around to test the depths before turning into the wind to motor forward 100 feet or so. I slipped the motors into neutral and went forward to release the anchor. I keep forgetting to paint depth marks on the chain, so as the boat drifted back in the wind, I tried to estimate the rode as it paid out. Don’t do this at home. It’s not very bright, but through dumb luck it’s worked so far and I haven’t dragged. Which is probably why I keep forgetting to mark it.
Meanwhile, a ketch flying a French flag slipped into the cove as well, putting Zen quite in the dust by coming in under sail and then backing down still under sail to set the anchor. Oh, those French! I thought ruefully as I stepped on the foot switch to release more anchor chain. In my cautious American way, I had dropped the sails and started the engines (not in that order) out on the Chester just upriver from Reed Creek. (Wait, I’m just joking about the cautious American thing. I know that there are legions of U.S. sailors who can sail into and out of any anchorage twice before breakfast. Um, me too. It’s just that I can’t seem to get that backing-the-jib thing through Skipper’s head—maybe a little peanut butter on the clew.) With the anchor set, I dropped the dinghy off the davits and clambered in, followed immediately by Skipper, who hates to miss anything, especially if it might involve cheese chunks. I decided to row rather than put the motor down, but neglected to get the oars even before setting out, with the result that we had a decided tendency to go around in circles. It wasn’t elegant, and Skipper began to bark half way to across, but the Vogts were polite and stifled their laughter.
Skip and I scrambled aboard Baxter, and Vogts and I chatted the afternoon away, talking about building the boat and their tentative exploration of the Bay . . . and eating cheese and crackers. But when Craig proposed taking her for a spin, I really perked up. He went forward to pull up the anchor, while Marigene edged us forward. Like pros. She headed Baxter upriver and then invited me to drive. Oh, yes! I took the wheel as the 25-hp Yamaha purred away under its cowling at the stern and tried to look as if I knew what I was doing.
The Corsica is not a long river—Langford Creek just across the Chester is at least as long in each of its two branches—but it is full of quiet rural charm. Perhaps the most outstanding thing about the Corsica, however, is that it has at least nine good anchorages within the span of two and a half miles. I may well be wrong, but I think that might be a record for the Bay. Not only that, eight of those nine have room for a medium-size cruising club to anchor for an evening of martinis. And the one anchorage that doesn’t (Emory Creek) makes a simply terrific storm hole. On top of all that, the Corsica is at least 7 feet deep in a generally wide channel (except for those points) up to Fort Point. The closest anchorage to Centreville lies just before that, in a cove on the north side between Green Point and Jacobs Nose. From there it’s a dinghy ride of about a mile and a half to the community dock.
As we passed Fort Point in Baxter, Craig diplomatically suggested he take the wheel. I happily relinquished it. Running other people’s boats aground . . . well, you don’t want to do it. It was nice to go where the workboats go in a real boat rather than a dinghy. Somehow it felt more grown up. Since it was late in the afternoon, all of the watermen’s boats were backed up against the bulkhead, unloaded and ready to go early next morning. The facility looked lovely. Too bad most of us will never see it. The channel is marked on the charts at 3 feet MLW and then 2 feet MLW. Baxter’s depth sounder wasn’t operational, so I don’t know what it was when we were there. But I do know we didn’t run aground. We also didn’t stay long. The sun was headed down and it suddenly felt as if it was thinking about blowing up a storm. We made short work of our return. Once Baxter was re-anchored, Skip and I made a beeline back to Zen. It didn’t storm. Instead the wind blew the sky clear and a full moon lit the cabin through most of the night. The morning, however, brought clouds and 15 knots of southwest wind. The Vogts were headed up the Chester to see what they could see, and Skipper and I were headed south to a new anchorage. We waved good-bye at the mouth of the Corsica and went our separate ways.