MD - Sandy Point Lighthouse - 2008/08/03



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Sandy Point Lighthouse is only a kilometer off the shore of Sandy point Lighthouse. It is still used as a navigation aid although it no longer has a lighthouse keeper. Just a few miles to the north another lighthouse of similar design marks the entrance to Baltimore harbor. So from the state park it is an easy paddle to two lighthouses.




Jerry McQueeny suggested that we paddle out of Sandy Point Park and paddle to see the two lighthouses located on the western side of the approach channel into Baltimore harbor just north of the 4 mile long Chesapeake Bay bridge. Right off Sandy Point is, of course, Sandy Point Lighthouse. About 3 miles to the north is the Baltimore Harbor Lighthouse. At one time both were manned lighthouses with a two story octagonal keepers house over top the steel cylinder caisson foundation built around the late 1880's.




Sandy Point is a very popular state park located at the last exit before the toll facility for the Bay Bridge. Fees are $5.00 per person, a rather stiff access charge. But the facilities are extensive and there is a very large wide long brown sand beach. The park is very popular so an early arrival is recommended. On nice days like this one the park is frequently closed later because it is full. However at 8:30 things were still rather quiet. Wayne and I drove around looking for the small boat launch that I had seen on the map link Jerry had sent me. we didn't find it. ( It was behind a parking lot that was closed off for a runners event. We needed to know where it was in order to take the detour to get to it.) So we went over to the boat ramp section. There are 22 boat ramps here and a very large lot to take all the trailers that they obviously can handle. Only 3 of the ramps were being used so we unloaded our kayaks from the car top and launch from the center ramp just like we belonged there. Half way through park ranger came by and told us that there was a small boat launching area, actually a beach, on the other side of the park, but that it was OK if we launched at the ramp.
With the brisk 15 knot north wind sending 2 foot waves onto the beach, our launch in the quiet tidal lagoon where the boat ramps was easier than our friend Tom & Jerry had at the beach. We paddled across the lagoon to several warning from passing fishermen in power boats that it was choppy out there and that we should be careful.

We paddled out of the lagoon and headed north along the beach to meet Tom & Jerry who were launching from the beach. We bobbed in the 2 footers until they got their gear together and pushed out through the little surf breaking on the shoreline. We decided to paddle upwind and against the tidal current so that the tougher part of the paddle would be in the beginning and we could cruise back easily, assuming the wind stayed in the same direction. It was past high tide so we knew that the current would be increasing later in the day. This is one of the few points in the Bay where tidal currents can be significant, running as much as 2.5 knots.




We could see the white clapboard of the living quarters of the old lighthouse easily as we pulled away from the beach. The wind had kicked up some decent sized waves as we pulled through the 2 footers rolling down the length of the open bay. There wasn't much breaking going on - just waves steep enough to cause our boats to pound into the trough after climbing over the peak of its predecessor.
As we passed the mouth of the Magothy River, the current and waves coming down out of this tributary set up a cross wave and current pattern that jumbled up the wave pattern. Our boats rocked unpredictably in the confused sea state and was much more tiring than the regular and predictable swell we had had until then. This paddle is more exposed than many in the Chesapeake and on a windy day like today, or one threatening thunderstorms, should only be attempted by paddlers experienced in rough conditions or with good rescue skills. You can some appreciation of the size of the swell coming through from the picture below.




We hung out at the light for a while and then headed back. It took us 1:45 to make it to the light and only 40 minutes to get back. The wind died a little and the waves reduced somewhat so that we were not able to surf much on the way back. Once we got back however, the wind and waves picked up again. We stopped briefly at a beach on the north end of the park to a snack. Jerry and Tom went into the beach at the park to practice rolls. but the current was so strong by then that they found themselves swept way down the beach each time they went over and found it a constant effort to stay opposite their landing point. Wayne and I went out to see Sandy Point Lighthouse. The waves had built again and the current was very strong. The jumpy sea state left water droplets all over my camera lens and the few pictures I tool out there did not come out because of the water droplets on the lens always being in supremely strategic places.
We returned to the beach and landed on the steep shore, pulled our kayaks up onto the grass and walked over to retrieve the car from the boat launch parking lot. During our paddle the park had filled with picnickers and swimmers and some of the lots were closed. I had to argue my way into the small boat launch area to pick up the boats as that whole section of the park had been closed by the park attendants. We loaded up the boats and were soon back on US 50 and I97 headed back to Bel Air and home.


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