Volume 16, Issue 31 - July 31 - August 6, 2008

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Gunk- Holin’ by Alice Snively

Access to Oxford without Crowds

Plaindealing Creek on the Tred Avon River

38 degrees, 42.6 minutes N;
76 degrees, 10.2 minutes W

Boaters seek gunkholes for various reasons including convenience, like this week’s location. Plaindealing Creek off the Tred Avon River offers handy access to the delightful town of Oxford on the Eastern Shore, while the anchorage in Town Creek can be quite crowded during peak boating season.

Legend has it that Plaindealing Creek was named for Quakers, (known for their honest business dealings), who traded in the area. Located across the river from Oxford, the creek today is more developed, but with interesting homes and woods, it’s still a pleasant place to anchor. From there it’s a short dinghy trip to Town Creek, where you can tie up to eat out, shop or tour the historic village.

But you should know before you go that the historic Robert Morris Inn is no longer serving food.

Which Way is North?

Lest you lose your way, read these few words about compasses.

GPS and other navigational aids notwithstanding, a good compass remains a critical nautical instrument. Most boats are equipped with the standard magnetic variety, and one of its greatest advantages is that it doesn’t require battery or electrical power. Should all your powered equipment fail, your trusty compass will still perform.

But what does it really tell you?

Myth: North on a compass points to the North Pole — true north.

Nope. Your compass basically indicates the direction of magnetic north, which is not the same as true north.

If you imagine lines drawn through the earth from the North to the South Pole, and from magnetic north to south, the magnetic pole line is inclined from the true pole line by about 11 degrees. To make matters worse, longitude and latitude are based on true north. Clear as good anchoring mud, right?

Chart coordinates that convert the Earth’s surface to a flat grid are designed to show you where you’re located at any given moment. The course lines noted on charts with degrees and directional arrows show compass headings. The compass itself indicates the direction in which you are moving relative to magnetic north. True north is 11 degrees away.

If you’re a novice boater, I suggest you obtain a basic book on navigation.

On Course to Plaindealing

Now on to that convenient anchorage on Plaindealing Creek. Consult your charts, plot a course for Choptank River, and make for the flashing Red 10 bell buoy just southeast of Tilghman Island and north of Cook Point.

Take care not to cut too close to the island; fish traps and shoaling can ruin a fine cruise. Travel a course of 103 degrees for about a mile and a half to the Red 12 buoy. Then change course to 86 degrees.

Continue about 4.2 miles toward the flashing Green 1 that marks the mouth of the Tred Avon River. Keep it to port as you pass.

A heading of 27 degrees for about 1.8 miles will take you to the flashing Red 2. The village of Oxford will be on your right. Keep this buoy well to starboard.

Continue until you see quite close together another Red 2 and Green 3 to starboard. These mark the entrance to Town Creek.

Look across the river just ahead and locate the Green 1 daymark. This is the mouth of Plaindealing Creek. Keep this marker to port and a close eye on your depth finder as you enter.

A nice cove to port will soon appear. While there’s deep water for another half mile or so, this is the best anchorage and the most convenient if you plan to cross over to Oxford.

Don’t want to mess with the dinghy? Cruise to the village, anchor on Town Creek for the day, then return to Plaindealing and drop the hook for a more peaceful night’s sleep. However you do it, this creek offers a convenient, pleasant anchorage with good holding and a southeast breeze in hot weather. Keep a lookout for the local herons.

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