Crossing of the Chesapeake

February 15, 2010 - No Comments

by Jim Barnes

We received this notice from Lt. William King, USN concerning an interesting event upcoming in
May. It sounds like a fascinating endeavor and should be of particular interest
to those of the maritime pursuasion. Good luck and Godspeed to all involved:

On May 15-16 2010 a crew of 10 will attempt to row and sail a 26-foot monomoy surf boat
across the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.  The transit, covering 14 miles of open water
skirting the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Henry to Cape Charles, will terminate at Kiptopeke
State Park on Virginia's Eastern Shore.  The park is noted for its sunset vistas and a
line of 9 sunken WWII era ships that form its breakwater.  The crew will land at the
park, camp overnight and then return to Virginia Beach the following day.

This test of traditional seamanship skills is being held in conjunction with local
environmental interests to raise awareness about pollution in the Chesapeake Bay
watershed.  It does not commemorate any particular event, but celebrates the historical
use of small boats throughout the Chesapeake and the age-old seamanship and navigation
skills required for long transits over open water.

No modern navigation equipment will be carried, with the exception of hand-held VHF
radios and an emergency locator beacon.  Rather, the boat's coxswain will navigate by
magnetic compass, leadline (a primitive depth finding tool, literally a weight on the end
of a small rope) and a chip log (another primitive device used to estimate speed).

Both the US Coast Guard and Virginia Pilot Association have been consulted and have
agreed to help prepare the crew and monitor its crossing.  Both have said they await the
event with great anticipation and interest.

The boat being used in the crossing was carried aboard US Navy and US Coast Guard vessels
from 1963 to 1974.  It has no mechanical propulsion system, relying on the power of eight
oarsmen or a single large sail to move it.  Boats of nearly identical design have been
used on the east coast of the US for more than 250 years.

For more information, contact LT William King, USN at


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