Gunk- Holin’ by Alice Snively
Fuel Costs Got You Anchored?
Try Blackhole Creek on the Magothy River
39 degrees, 5.8 minutes north; 76 degrees, 29.8 minutes west
Boaters are none too happy about fuel prices, and power boaters in particular are rethinking their summer cruising plans. Faraway trips may be put on hold until prices drop. Be not dismayed. There are plenty of gunkholes in our area of the Western Shore, and my chosen anchorage for this week is one of them.
Into The Blackhole
Among the creeks that feed the Magothy River is Blackhole, and for a short cruise, it has much to offer. Located about three and a half miles upstream from the mouth of the river, it’s generally not as crowded as creeks closer to the Bay. More like a harbor than a creek, Blackhole is well-protected and relatively secluded. A designated wildlife sanctuary, it’s also a good place to swim. The Potapskut Sailing Association has its home on this creek, but the sea of masts need not put you off. There is plenty of anchorage apart from them.
Before I get to the specifics of reaching this gunkhole, it’s time for an installment of important maintenance info.
Worse than bad French, but germane to our topic: rigging. Power boaters, some of this may be useful for you, too, so keep reading. Sail boaters may not feel the sting of fuel prices, but if your rigging fails while your engine’s on the fritz, you’re in a pickle.
A few weeks ago, my captain and I attended a seminar on rigging. Thank goodness the presenter was a showman and made us laugh, because the whole business was sobering. It’s so easy to look at all that steel holding things in place and believe it will last forever.
Power boaters, take heed: The stanchions and rails that keep people from falling off your boat are prone to the same problems as the rigging on a sailboat.
Here are some highlights. Sailboats should have their standing rigging replaced every 15 years. (The room became very, very quiet when that proclamation was made.) Steel does corrode, from brackish as well as salt water or moisture trapped in fittings. All metal parts are subject to cracking and fatigue with age and stress. Very small cracks in the wrong places can cause catastrophic failure without warning. (I saw a neighbor’s boat dismasted last year by a single turnbuckle that failed.)
For both sail and power boats, through-hull fittings are prone to moisture and stress damage. Mating different metals can also cause problems. In short, it’s worth having your metal inspected regularly by a professional. I became a believer when our presenter brought out his jeweler’s loupe and had us inspect a few pieces that appeared to be sound.
The Magothy is the first river north of Annapolis after the Severn and easily accessible. From any direction, the 52-foot-high brick Baltimore Light is visible standing about a mile and a half east of the entrance. Consult your chart and pay attention to the markers when passing into the river’s mouth.
Blackhole Creek is located on the north shore about three and one-half miles upstream. Locate the Green 3 marker to starboard. This is the entrance to Broad Creek; across the river to port will be the Green 9. Very soon you will see to starboard the Red 10. Honor this marker before turning north. Many cruisers have gone aground trying to cut short here. Keep a close eye on your depth finder. Once you’ve made the turn, make directly for the red and green entrance markers; passing between them, you should enter easily.
Immediately to port, after the Green 1 is a bight where you can anchor. Directly ahead is a small private island; beyond you will see the clustered masts of the sailing club. You can also anchor anywhere in this part of the creek in eight to 10 feet of water. Dinghy to the sailing club if you want; they welcome visitors. One caution: don’t go through the next narrows farther up the creek because the water shallows very quickly.
Blackhole Creek is a nice place to drop anchor for a few hours or overnight, and a fuel-saving alternative to more distant gunkholes.