Ok, it’s not called Assateague Sound. Officially, it’s Chincoteague Bay. But it’s almost all behind Assateague Island, not Chincoteague. And where I come from, bodies of shallow water behind barrier islands are called Sounds. In Georgia and the Carolinas, even the river mouths are called Sounds. Bays are big and round and deep. This body of water is big, yes. Round and deep, no.
On the ocean side of Assateague the bottom drops off steeply, and beyond the breakers is about 35 feet deep. It’s a different story on the other side. Assateague Sound is 30 miles long and about 5 wide, but the average depth is less than 4 feet. In fact, a lot of areas would be better described as damp. Over the whole 150 square miles there are relatively few places where a grown man would find himself in water over his head. As Mike Wick put it, if you screw up and capsize, you just stand up and walk ashore. This relative safety makes it one of the few places he feels comfortable sailing solo.
Another big plus of such shallow waters, for me, is it forms a natural barrier against big wallowing stinkpots of drunk and noisy revelers dragging their mountainous wakes behind them. The only power boat I remember seeing the whole four days was some watermen quietly working their crab traps at sunrise. Small boat sailing bliss, and perfect hunting grounds for these Melonseeds.
Morning was calm and peaceful. I haven’t completely figured out why, but I sleep really well inside these little boats, much better than in a tent on land. It must tap into some buried memory of sleeping in a cradle, with all the comfort and security that comes with it. Sound is both muffled and focused in pleasing ways. Sharp edges of nearby sounds are rounded off smooth, but I could clearly hear the shushing of ocean surf far away over the dunes, something I couldn’t hear standing up, and the calls of geese flying south overhead in the moonlight. Add a bit of gentle rocking when anchored out, and you have all the ingredients for sleeping like a baby.
Reminds me, maybe, of my favorite nursery rhyme when I as a kid, in which three little boys sail off in what is at once a boat, a wooden shoe, and a trundle bed. I still remember the watercolor illustration in the book. It starts like this:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe —
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!”
Said Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
After coffee and breakfast, winds were still light, so we took a walk in the marsh. Tony and Peter and Shirley then headed over to the beach for a bit.
Down at the Old Ferry Landing a busload of school kids were paddling around in a swarm of kayaks.
Here you can see the same boathouse that was knocked off it’s pilings a few days later by Sandy.
After lunch the wind picked up. We rigged up and headed out for what turned out to be the best day of sailing in all four days.
The whole gallery here: