by Alice Snively
Dropping into Virginia
Cockerell Creek on the Great Wicomico
Latitude 37.84 N; Longitude 76.27 W
If you are making the southern Bay tour this summer, perhaps to Jamestown for the 400th celebration, Reedville on Cockerell Creek off the Great Wicomico River just south of Maryland on Virginia’s Northern Neck is a great place to visit.
Trains, Boats and Homes
An overnight on Cockerell Creek and a day exploring Reedville is more than worth the time. The area’s original claim to fame was as the world leader in menhaden fish processing, and the fleet and processing plant still operate there. But these aren’t the main attractions these days.
Reedville, located north of the plant and shipyards, is a beautiful example of historic restoration and preservation, with homes that date back to the 19th century. This also a great stop on a family cruise because the excellent Fisherman’s Museum and its fascinating exhibits and workshop will fascinate your children. Behind is a wharf with two boats that appear on the National Historic Register along with others of interest. The oldest standing home of the town is also on the grounds and open for touring, and there are lovely gardens with benches. Next to the museum is the local artisans’ workshop that includes boatbuilding. An astounding model train is set up, complete with replicas of major historic buildings and towns of the peninsula. All of these high-detail exhibits are the work of locals.
Reedville also offers interesting shops, restaurants and bed and breakfasts. There is a small marina and good restaurant by the wharf at the foot of the main street where boaters can tie up to tour the town, shop, dine or stay the night.
South to Great Wicomico
This is a good place to stress again the importance of current charts, which show the one-way lanes in this area of the Bay due to the heavier ship traffic. These are designed to help prevent collisions but do not supersede rules of the water.
The Great Wicomico River, located south of the Potomac and Little Wicomico rivers, is easy to find. Locate the Smith Point Light/Horn on your chart just south of the Potomac River and east of the Little Wicomico.
Caution: Wind and currents in this area can be quite contrary. Stay well offshore during passage to the river’s mouth. Plot a southerly course from Smith Point, keeping that marker to starboard. Continuing for about four miles, then angling gently to starboard toward the Great Wicomico Light, a steel spider at the mouth of the river. Keeping the light to starboard, continue into the river for a little more than a mile. Pass well to port of the Red Nun 4. Ahead of you, near the center of the channel, is the Red 6. To starboard is the entrance to Cockerell Creek. Turn into the channel and pass to starboard of the Green 1.
The fish-processing plant will be plainly visible to starboard and the boatyard to port. Pass by these, and proceed around the bend in the creek, which winds to the west, then east before finally opening up with a branch to the northeast and the larger main channel, which is to the west, then northwest.
Reedville sits on the little peninsula between these two, and the wharf, marina, restaurant and village will appear ahead and to port as you emerge from the bend. The best anchorages are to port up the main branch, which is navigable nearly to its end. Anchoring in this area also keeps you far enough away from the fish plant to avoid its sometimes odorous output.
Cockerell Creek offers fine protected anchorage whether you visit historic Reedville or not. But I highly recommend a day ashore in this beautiful and interesting community.