There are already a goodly number of southbound cruisers in the Chesapeake Bay. With the expected approach of Hurricane Florence, it is time to start considering where to hide if the storm comes into the Chesapeake. We have lived on and cruised the Chesapeake for 30 years. We’ve experienced many tropical storms and a few hurricanes. With that experience here are some observations about Chesapeake hurricane holes. As a general observation, marinas and anchorages below the Rappahannock are going to feel the full effects of a coastal storm. Further up the Bay the winds may be somewhat mitigated going over land. Generally speaking moving inland up the Bay is a good plan.
Marina Options – If a hurricane approaches, it is best to be up the Bay and away from the coast. Here are a few marinas with floating docks to consider.
Baltimore. The Patapsco River runs SE to NW. If the winds are forecast to be SE. I’d not go there. Otherwise, go as far up the river as possible. No closer to the Bay than Harbor View Marina, northwest of the Domino Sugar plant. That is pretty protected but last time I was there the docks were rather tired. Harbor East and also Baltimore Marine Center at Inner Harbor are probably good choices.
Choptank River – River Marsh Marina http://chesapeakebay.hyatt.com/en/hotel/marina.html/
Oxford, try https://www.campbellsboatyards.com/ not sure they are floating docks. But a good secure well run marina.
Rock Hall. Osprey Point Marina. Well protected. Floating docks. http://www.ospreypoint.com/
Crisfield MD Somers Cove Marina. Floating dock for transients. This marina and town can get severely flooded.
Irvington VA Tides Inn Marina https://www.tidesinn.com/
Protected Creeks to consider in the event of a storm.
There are two important factors in locating a hurricane hole on the Chesapeake. The topography, and the boat density. These storms often bring east winds so any creek open to the east and south east is probably not a good place to hide. The topography of relatively high bluffs and deep anchorages will be found in two parts of the Bay. The Eastern Shore from Worton Creek to the C&D Canal and the western shore from Havre de Grace to the York River. The lower western shore and most all of the eastern shore are relatively low lying without bluffs to bock the wind. However parts of the area are densely wooded and the trees will provide some protection.
The boat density is an important factor as during storms cruisers head to find a secure and protected anchorage. These creeks get additional congestion, as boat local boat owners will take their boats off the docks and anchor them in the creeks, often with no one aboard. The densest boat population on the eastern shore is from the C&D Canal to Kent Island. On the western shore the boat density is very high from the C&D canal to Solomons. Most boat owners in the higher density area will not move their boats very far from home, so any good looking hole in the high density areas will probably have several unattended boats anchored in it. My choice is to get way from other boats, particularly unattended boats.
My choice is to get away from other boats. I do not want to be in a marina. In a marina someone else’s lack of preparation can imperil your boat. I try find a creek with no other boats around me, protected from the south and the east. For my boat I would look at the Wye River, Patuxent River, Potomac River, or Rappahannock River.
Wind Direction – Bay winds often get funneled North/South. A creek open to the south east is generally a poor choice. In these conditions these storms bring strong east winds ,and extreme high tides are caused by the wind driven water. For hurricane protection an E-W running creek, closed at the east end is preferred.
Above the Bay Bridge – The Bay Bridge is 60 miles inland from the Delaware coast.
The Eastern Shore from Worton Creek to the C&D Canal has several good hideouts. But the boat density is relatively high, so you are likely to have company. If possible I’d recommend you get to the Eastern Shore below the bridge. If not, choose an anchorage in the Chester River Basin such as the Eastern Branch of Lankford Creek, or the Corsica River. But the land is low here and is mostly farmland with less wind protection.
Bay Bridge to Solomons – Solomons is also 60 miles inland from the coast at Chincoteague VA
Western Shore has some deep protected anchorages on the Severn and South Rivers and also in the Solomons area. The boat density is high. You will not be alone. There will be unattended boats anchored around you.
Eastern shore – Below the Bridge you have the deep and undeveloped creeks of Wye River East. You may find that you can have more separation from other boats. Pickering Creek off the Wye River East, is practically undeveloped. The land is not very high but good wind protection from trees
The Choptank River – Tilghman Island is low lying and offers little wind protection. If the forecast winds are NE backing to W, you might be able to find a spot on Harris Creek but the land is low. The Tred Avon has some good anchorages, but also has high boat density. I would certainly consider the anchorage in in Goldsborough, Trippe and Peachblossom. La Trappe Creek has decent protection in its upper reaches.
Little Choptank. Low lying land but low boat density. Philips Creek should be all yours, and Fishing Creek has some development but might give you some protection.
Solomons area – Due to the high boat density, the many deep creeks here will have other boats anchored for the storm.
Solomons to York River
Western Shore. The Patuxent river is very sparsely developed. The eastern side of the river has several deep creeks. 10 miles up the Patuxent is Battle Creek. Higher land and few boats. This would be pretty secure in the cove west of Long Cove which would be my choice. Deep and good wind protection. The same applies to St. Leonard Creek, though the proximity to Solomons might mean that there are more boats anchored in the creek .
Potomac River – Smith and Jutland Creeks are low lying and only somewhat protected by trees. Further up the Patomac is the St Mary’s River. St. Inigoes is deep and has high bluffs. Horseshoe Bend would be OK with high land to the east if you anchor right off the college. The college is very boater friendly. You are welcome to use the nice dining hall at St. Mary’s College. The last time we were there it was $9 for all you can eat. Or go up to Tippity Witchety island.
On the other side of the Potomac, the upper end of the Coan is very well protected. But even better protection will be found in the Yeocomico, particularly Lodge Creek.
Potomac to Rappahannock, Western Shore
Little Wicomico is very low lying not a place to be.
Great Wicomico has good protection if you can get above and under the 54 foot bridge .
Mill Creek is a famous hurricane hole if you can get a mile inland where the land rises, It is open to the east. From here south to the Rappahannock spit, all the creeks are east facing and not recommended.
Rappahannock – Carter Creek has bluffs and good protection up by Dead and Bones Cove, as does the Carter Creek eastern branch, but boat density is high so my preference is the Eastern Branch of the Corrotoman. High bluffs make this a popular hurricane hole particularly the eastern branch at Sandy point and also Taylor Creek. Boating density is low and this is my preferred area.
Urbanna is over developed now. If the winds are north the area above the 21 foot fixed bridge is a good call.
South of the Rappahannock you are very close to the ocean and will feel the full brunt of the storm . I’d try to stay in the Rap or in the upper Bay. But if you find yourself caught in the southern bay:
Piankatank River. Jackson Creek will be crowded and not recommended. Wilton Creek has high bluffs and great protection. You will not be alone though but the protection is so good that this creek would be a good call. If you can get under the 43-foot fixed bridge, the cove at Berkley Island has bluffs to the north and east.
Mobjack Bay. This area is low lying and open to the south east. Only East River is likely to offer you any security. I’d try to get further north into the Rappahannock.
Eastern Shore – The eastern shore is low lying and generally very shallow below the Little Choptank. I know of no good holes unless you can run well inland in one of the rivers. This part of the Bay is very close to the ocean, and the storm winds will not abate much as they cross the low lying topography. This part of the Eastern Shore is very prone to flooding.
York River to the sea.
York River – there are no decent anchorages along the SE running river.
Poquoson and Back River – East Facing, low lying, high density. I’d not recommend it. Go north.
Hampton River only if you can get to the Hampton Public Piers, or get under the 29 foot fixed bridge. This anchorage is soupy and you will want two anchors. The HYC marina and Bluewater are quite exposed to the south. This is not recommended due to boat density and poor holding
Norfolk and Chesapeake VA – Just above the Deep Creek lock in the Dismal Swamp is a free dock. Elizabeth’s Dock. Can hold 3-4 boats. Above the Deep Creek bridge on the eastern wall there is a space for one or two boats
The upper reaches of the Elizabeth river do offer good protection, but there are no anchorages, it is very commercial. Top Rack Marina has about 12 slips, but only 4 of them have electricity. Atlantic Yacht Basin is well protected. But have a good pair of high boots.The storm surge can put the docks and the pilings under water, or worse under your boat. Choose a marina and or wall that can accommodate the storm surge. Better yet more the boat north to the Rapp or the Potomac.
Throughout the Bay the bottom is mud. In most of these anchorages you will be in 15 feet of water or less at high tide. We have had very good holding with a Danforth HT, but 10 years ago switched to a Manson Supreme anchor on an all chain rode.
We have been to all of the named places and many others I’ve not mentioned. BUT we have not been to every creek on the Bay. Use this list to help steer you in the right direction. In the final analysis, you have to decide what wind direction is expected and how best to secure your boat.