Gunkholing in Wonderland
Eagle Cove on the Magothy
If you’re asked to go gunkholing, what might you be getting into? An exploration of the city’s storm tunnels, perhaps, or mucking about in a dark, wet cave looking for stalagtites?
No, gunkholing is a more earthy term for anchoring your boat on a pleasant out-of-the-way cove or creek. A simple cruise with peace and quiet, beautiful surroundings, tranquil waters and none of the usual daily grind as your destination. What’s not to love?
There are many good gunkholes around Chesapeake Bay, but some are more accessible than others. Consider what follows as a good first adventure in gunkholing that requires minimum skill yet provides a pleasant anchoring experience. Let’s head to the Magothy River, to a place locally referred to as Eagle Cove, so named because there are many osprey and, according to some, bald eagles, nesting around this pleasant, protected cove.
Before you pack in the beer and prepare to launch, there are three things you need for successful gunkholing in addition to a boat. First, you need an anchor appropriate for your vessel and anchor chain in good condition. Dragging anchor in the middle of the night could leave you beached at dawn.
Next you must have a good up-to-date set of charts. Among the many chart sets available, one of the best and easiest to use is the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland and Virginia spiral-bound chart set produced by ADC. It includes fishing locations, marina data and other useful information, and the company is conscientious about keeping the data current.
Finally, you need an operative and accurate depth finder, for you may be entering areas where depth may shallow out very quickly, and the last thing you want to report to your friends after your adventure is that you spent most of it grounded.
Once you have your complement of required equipment, locate your destination on your unspotted charts, plot your course and stock up the galley. You are ready to part the waters. If time permits you to reach your gunkhole retreat before sunset, then cruise at a leisurely pace. Getting to the Magothy from just about anyplace is not difficult, so you can take in the scenery and toss off tensions along the way.
Eagle Cove is a truly lovely location, off the northern end of Gibson Island, but it isn’t marked by name on any charts I’ve seen. However, it is easy to find on the charts because it is located between Holland Point and Purdy Point, both of which are shown on most charts. The cove itself is surrounded by marsh, woods and a small sandy beach. This is an easy place to get to in a reasonable amount of time from Annapolis or points north, and if you are coming from farther south, it’s still a nice anchorage that doesn’t require traveling very far up the river.
Once inside the mouth of the Magothy, you will see Sillery Bay to starboard, easily marked by Dobbins Island, which will be in front of you just to starboard. Once you pass the sand spit off the southern end of Gibson Island, move to your right and follow the island, but stay well off shore because there are shoals. Continue on to Magothy Narrows, which is just west of Holland Point and noted on the charts. You have plenty of depth, but it’s called narrows for a reason. It’s a small throat of water you must move through to reach your anchorage. Be sure to keep lighted green No. 3 to port and lighted red No. 10 on your starboard side. Depth through this area is about 10 feet, so sailboats as well as power boats can navigate here. You just don’t have much room on either side to play around.
Keep your eyes on the markers, watch for shoals and check your depth finder, particularly if you are going in at low tide.
When you pass Holland Point, the cove will open up to starboard. But move closer to Purdy Point before anchoring. From this vantage, you will see masts hidden by marsh. If you followed the waterway past the cove, you would end up at the private yacht yard belonging to the Gibson Island Club. None of the homes on Gibson Island is visible from the cove, so you have privacy in addition to protection from weather.
In the height of the summer boating season, there may be other boats in the cove, but most remain in Sillery Bay and around Dobbins Island, so you may pass through a crowd to get to your little hideout. Don’t tell them where you’re going.
Now that you’ve dropped anchor in this idyllic location, what are you to do? This particular gunkhole is custom made for relaxing on your boat, swimming if the sea nettles aren’t about, watching the sunset or spotting osprey and other wildfowl. This is a perfect environment for reading a good book, slow dining and listening to your favorite music. This is not a destination from which to go sight-seeing. Gibson Island is a private island and off limits for exploring, and there’s very little else nearby.
Eagle Cove is an easily accessible getaway for a one- or two-night outing, a simple rural marine cradle made for escaping from the rigors of a much-too-hurried lifestyle. If you are on a longer cruise and will be passing by the Magothy, it’s well worth an overnight.