I was gone over 4 months in my Chesapeake Bay 2013 adventure. I had hoped to get as far north as New York and Long Island Sound but it did not work out for several reasons...NY will be there next year....so I resigned to stay in the Bay for the summer. Turned out not to be disappointing but was filled with fun, laughter and adventure. I made many wonderful memories, went to some lovely places, rekindled old friendships and made new friends
Am grateful for the week spent with my nephew, Greg, who flew out from San Diego and met me at a marina in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. We did the tourist thing, ate great food, laughed and talked.....
Revisited good friends, Thom and Terri on Outrageous, at Severn River Marina off of Mobjack Bay. Also caught up with Bob on Pooka who had left Jordan Creek with me in May but had stopped in Norfolk before moving on to Severn River Marina... He and his dog, Sweeney, will spend the winter at the marina. Bumped into Godwin and Sylvia onboard Bojangles.....Rats not seen for almost 20 years who just happened to stop to get dinghy OB gas!
Spent a couple of weeks anchored off of Ed and Alice Sealing's lovely house on the Wye River, Eastern Shore of Maryland. Ed was Bud Sealing's brother whom I had met on several occasions when he would come to the Creek to visit Bud. I am grateful that I had the chance to get to know them better and I thank them for their gracious hospitality. I am hopeful they will visit the Rat Nest soon.....
Had a chance to rekindle a friendship with Frank at the Baltimore Yacht Club when I anchored off of their docks. I am grateful for his help in dealing with the fenders and lines the night Celerity spent banging against the free dock wall in Rock Hall during a storm. I am doubly grateful for his support and help when my electric windlass broke on Swan Creek near Rock Hall. Thank you Frank!
Chesapeake City on the C & D Canal...wonderful anchorage made special by a chance meeting of John and Karen on SV The Chance. We spent a delightful evening at dinner in a restaurant which I will remember fondly. He was able to snap the pic of the huge cargo carrier coming through the canal with the pilot climbing the ladder on the side! I am especially appreciative of their nomination of me to become a Commodore in the Seven Seas Cruising Association.
River Rat and good friend, Pam, drove to Solomons to spend a week and we crossed the Bay to visit St. Michaels and Oxford......good wine, great food, swapped stories.....found unexpected art gallery and rode the last privately-owned ferry. Wish we could have sailed but wind was either on the nose or dead calm. Met Canadians, Ian and Michelle on Mahina, in the Oxford anchorage and crossed paths again in Solomons at Zahniser's mooring field. Delightful and fun...wish we could have spent more time together.
So many magical, wonderful memories including those that taught me something about myself..........Playing, like a kid, in the water with my new pool toy, making it through Kent Narrows without hitting the bridge, some wonderful sails, realizing I can cope alone with rough passages, connecting with old friends and making new ones, numerous peaceful lovely anchorages and breathtaking sunsets, listening to the geese honking at dusk, playing "get the plastic hotdog" with Abbie on Celerity's cabintop and laughing at her antics, learning that I can do this by myself and gaining confidence every day, getting through the Mr. Maxwell goes-off-duty incident, current weather reports from Bob (Pooka) when I could not get Wifi (thanks!!), being thankful that Abbie does her business on the side-deck so no potty trips to shore, have mostly good weather with not much rain and fewer than expected mosquitoes, many yummy dinners and much laughter with new and old friends, sounds of laughter from kids and adults playing in the water, world's tallest milkshake at Ruth Chick's in Annapolis, Abbie barking and whining at dogs on other boats and ashore, serene moments at Oyster Cove (Rock Hall), and finally turning due south at the last red marker in the Pungo River before the entrance to Jordan Creek.
I learned so much about myself during those 4+ months....I was excited to head out in May, anticipating the adventures ahead. I had a wonderful time but am also grateful to be home at Jordan Creek. My future plans have changed...I will not be heading to Florida but will remain at the Creek through the winter. Come early summer 2014, I will head north again with hopes of getting to NY and LI Sound but time will tell!
Was blessed with an easy crossing of the Albemarle and anchored in the Little Alligator River after weaving my way through too-many-crab pots-to count at the entrance...so numerous and so close together that the crabs don't have a chance to escape! But I guess that's the goal.
Next morning discovered that Celerity had been invaded by millions (so it seemed) of fuzzybills, small mosquito-sized flying bugs that lined the underside of the biminis (canvas on frames over the cockpit to create shade and cover from the rain)...I'm told they are male mosquitoes. But unlike their female counterparts, fortunately they don't bite otherwise Abbie and I would have been eaten alive. While motoring down the Alligator River, spent some time trying to get rid of them...batting and swatting at them to shoo them away didn't help..they just moved to another part of the bimini. Frustrating! Bug spray took care of them but then the little carcasses littered the cockpit floor! Flushing the floor with buckets of water helped to wash most of them away....
Spent a quiet night anchored at Deep Point (nice anchorage with plenty of water) near the end of the Alligator River (no bugs!!)....my last anchorage before arriving at Jordan Creek! Ran Alligator-Pungo Canal without incident..Last year I was fortunate to spot a Bald Eagle while passing through the Canal!
I was both happy and sad as I exited the canal and entered the Pungo River for the first time in over 4 months. Was glad to have help with my problematic docking caused by the strong NE wind (thanks Greg, Sue and Bob) which kept blowing the bow around. Relief to be home, back in my slip, tied up with all the electricity I need (shore power!). No more concerns about dragging anchor, charging batteries, pumping up the dinghy tubes. Hooray!
Hard to believe Celerity has completed her last leg in the Chesapeake Bay for 2013! Seems I only just tossed my dock lines and pulled out of Jordan Creek but that was over 4 months ago........This last leg was a doozy...wind was 10-15, gusting to 20, out of the North, mostly on the port stern quarter but was shifty so occasionally Celerity would run directly downwind for a few moments .
Chester, the autopilot, was doing a fair job of keeping course but he could not always respond fast enough in the shifty wind to keep the boat from rolling. I had elected to motor sail with just the head sail (no main) to help control any rolling and to eliminate the possibility of jibing (occurs when the wind shifts from one side of the stern to the other, throwing the main sail from one side of boat to other. Can be dangerous and cause damage to the boat if uncontrolled.)
As we worked our way south towards Norfolk, the waves increased to 2-3 ft with breaking tops, still on the port stern quarter, but with occasional rogue waves which hit Celerity on her beam......the first of these caused the boat to roll from rubrail to rubrail (the rubrail is just below the edge of the deck) with crashing sounds coming from the cabin.....I thought I had stored stuff below well enough to avoid having items fall but guess not good enough for the conditions! Fortunately, nothing broke; just messy below with CD's, some plastic glasses, sofa pillows, magazines and papers on the floor. Could have been worse! Neither Abigail nor I were happy campers! So I disengaged Chester and hand steered for a while since I could feel the boat's movement on the waves in time to adjust the helm to prevent a severe roll......but hand steering in these conditions can be very tiring.
I was very glad to say good-bye to the Bay with its rollicking conditions and turn into the entrance to the Elizabeth River at Hampton Roads! The entrance crosses over one of the tunnels for the Bay Bridge Tunnel system. I imagine the cars and trucks that are zooming along under me! At its entrance, the river is very open and wide to the Bay so not much protection from the wind and waves on the stern but I knew that conditions would eventually moderate as I moved further in, past "battleship row", towards the Norfolk waterfront. The land blocked some of the wind, allowing the waves to calm some, so conditions improved.
I was tired from hand steering, having to counteract the wave action and was relieved to put Chester back on duty in the moderating conditions. We passed through "battleship row" where numerous navy and and then cargo ships line the sides of the river. Never ceases to astound me at how closely all boating traffic passes to the Navy ships, including smaller aircraft carriers, ships sprouting arrays of antennas, and many other types (see pic). But all dwarfed Celerity. As always, a Navy patrol boat with blue light flashing and a machine gun mounted on the foredeck, motored slowly along, parallel to my course, staying between me and the Navy ships. I expect the Feds wish they could close the waterway to non-military traffic but not realistic since commercial and recreational vessels have to use it to travel from Norfolk to the Bay; there is no other route.
I had considered not stopping in Norfolk but continuing on to Great Bridge and spending 2-3 days tied up to a free dock. But by the time I reached the anchorage at Hospital Point, on the Norfolk waterfront, I did not feel like traveling another 3 hours and several opening bridges to reach Great Bridge. Hospital Point is a very popular anchorage, literally at the edge of the ICW, behind a couple of red channel markers. On charts, it looks shallow and small but is actually a wide band of deep water (10-15 feet) that can accommodate many boats (especially when the crab pots are absent!). It is called Hospital Point because it is located immediately in front of the 10ish-story-tall Portsmouth Naval Hospital.
When I was last at Hospital Point in late May, the anchorage was wonderfully free of crab pots. Not this time! Maybe crabbers set them in the fall.....for whatever reason, there were a ton of pots, forcing me to weave around them. Goal was to find a spot where neither the anchor nor prop would snag a pot. I found a small pot-free spot and dropped the anchor, nestling Celerity in between the pots. I could only hope that we would not "catch" one when I started the engine and raised the anchor. I have heard horror stories of pots getting entangled in props or rudders, requiring the captain to go overboard with a knife to cut the lines. That is one experience I hope to avoid!
After a couple of nights at Hospital Point, I upped anchor (none of the pots were dragged alond with us so free and clear!) and headed to Great Bridge Lock and Bridge. There are numerous bridges on the ICW: a few are high-rise bridges (they have at least 65 feet of vertical clearance under them and don't open) and several are opening bridges (less than 65 feet clearance; some have less than 20 feet!). There are also several railroad bridges but these are routinely left open and only close if a train is coming. The opening bridges open on a set published schedule, typically on the hour and half-hour. Some open by rotating around a fixed center point (swing bridge), others (bascule or drawbridge) open by swinging upward.
The first opening bridge south of Norfolk is a bascule bridge at Gilmerton and has a railroad bridge immediately south of it. There were several motor yachts and sailboats circling around or idling in place in front of the bridge, waiting for it to open. This particular bridge is closed from 0630-0930 for rush hour so we were all there for the 0930 opening. The bridge tender always wants the boats to get packed in very close to each other and close to the bridge ("come on up, captain!") before it opens. They don't want to hold the bridge open for longer than absolutely necessary since the line of cars piles up behind the closed gates. Boats don't have brakes and the bridge operators do not always open on the exact minute.....so we all jockey in place, trying not to hit another boat or the bridge! It can be some anxious sphincter-tightening moments....As I am thinking "come on, open for heaven's sake!), the bridge tender announces on the VHF radio that the opening will be delayed... a train will be coming over the RR bridge ("you've got to be kidding!").....so the waiting boats continue to carefully jockey, circle, weave, reverse slowly in a narrow channel to avoid any collisions, while trying to hold position. The bridge finally opens without any announcement...so we all move through in a line, in orderly fashion...the motor yachts first since they are faster, followed by the slower sailboats.
The motor yachts zoom away, headed to the next bridge, leaving the sail boats in their wakes....The three sailboats travel in a cluster, reaching each of the following opening bridges together. We catch up to the motor yachts at the Great Bridge lock and all lock-through together. A couple of sail boats in my "cluster" stop at the free dock while the motor yachts are probably headed for marinas further south.
I decided not to stop at the Great Bridge free dock but headed on to Pungo Ferry to anchor overnight which is close to the north end of the Currituck Sound. This allowed me an early morning crossing of the Sound, hopefully in benign conditions. There is only an old abandoned decrepit marina at Pungo Ferry. ....otherwise it seems to be just a name on the chart. No trespassing signs are posted on what remains of the dock and office...it is tempting to tie side-to but the dock is in terrible shape with rotting boards and leaning pilings but think not.......
In 2009, I was able to find enough deep water behind a red marker at Pungo Ferry....I tried to find that deep pocket of water but it was elusive.....trying to avoid the crab pots might have been the problem........so I decided to try the other side of the ICW in hopes of finding enough water behind a green marker amongst the crab pots....If I could not find a spot, I had no choice but to run the Currituck that afternoon but the conditions would be undesirable. Hallelujah! I was able to anchor, nestled among the pots, with about a foot under my keel! A foot is as good as a mile!
The wind is predicted to continue to blow out of the north which will keep me safely parallel to, and behind the green marker, out of the channel. (I did not have any Wifi so thanks to Bob B. for being Celerity's personal weatherman and providing up-to-date weather forecasts.) I needed to stay parallel to, and out of the channel, since commercial traffic, tugs pushing a barge, use the ICW, day and night, to travel between points to the north and south. The boat didn't move out of position all night which is a good thing since a tug and barge passed in the night......I couldn't believe that the loud rumble of the approaching tug didn't wake me up....I was awakened when the wake lightly rocked Celerity..then I heard the rumbling engine as the tug receded in the distance!
I am up early in the morning, just as the sun peeks over the horizon. I want to get across the Currituck early in the morning before the wind pipes up. Fog is rising off the water and I can see my breath in the chilly air. Brrrr! Reminders that fall is not far away; the gloves, jacket and hat feel good. I leave Abbie below where it is warmer, out of the light north wind, still coming from behind me, blowing straight into the cockpit. As I raise the anchor, and motor away, I am relieved to see that none of the crab pots that surrounded me are coming with me! Currituck Sound crossing is easy-peasy...conditions are benign with small wavelets and a light wind. Later in the morning, the wind shifts to the SSW at 5-10, putting on my nose. I will anchor at Buck Island to give me an early morning crossing of the Albemarle Sound.....maybe with the same benign conditions as for the Currituck!
Sept. 11- Departed from Solomons in winds from SW 10-20, waves 3-4 ft, with breaking white caps, bound for Sandy Point anchorage on Great Wicomoco River, about 40 nm away, and just south of the Potomac River. Celerity has some growth on her bottom (apparently the Bay has been especially bad for growth forming on boat bottoms this year) so can really only go about 5.5 knots at cruising speed...adding her big genoa headsail increases her speed to 6 or more. Yeah! Because I am headed southwest and the wind is out of the same direction, it is on my nose (of course!!). So I am forced to sail farther out into the Bay than my ideal course line to keep the wind on my starboard bow (not on my nose) to be able to use any sail to gain speed and save diesel fuel. We are moving along, taking some water over the bow, occasionally it splashes onto the dodger but Abbie and I are dry behind it. But she is not a happy dog! The autopilot (Chester) is doing a good job of holding course even though the wind and waves are pushing Celerity around.
I am tacking occasionally, in a zigzag across my course line, so as to not stray too far and not make more distance to travel later. (Tacking means I change my course by ~90 degrees across the wind so the headsail moves from one side of the bow to the other.) I had never really noticed the "Restricted Area" marked on the chart farther out in the Bay bracketed by Point No Point light (a ways north of Potomac entrance) and Smith Point light (marking the point south of the Potomac). As I motor sailed, I noticed a pair of helicopters flying overhead periodically and heard a Navy Patrol boat hailing vessels on the radio but did not think much of them....... I should have! Navy Patrol boat 301 appeared suddenly close by my port side, seemed like he just materialized there, hailed me on the radio and asked me to switch to a working channel. (For you non-boaters, VHF radio channel 16 is used only for hailing a vessel and then, once contact is established, both parties agree to switch to one of several working channels.) I was told that the Navy had scheduled live firing exercises for the area and was "asked" to immediately head due west (towards the shore) for ~2nm before I returned to my original course. Helicopters passed overhead again. I turned west and motor sailed as fast as I could until I reached the 2nm mark, then I resumed my original course. I thought I was out of the area but not.....helicopters again.....maybe half hour later I was hailed again and asked to move another ¾ nm to the west.....I did so. Just as I thought I reached that point, I turned back to my original course.....then heard a tremendously loud boom off to my port side...I jumped because it seemed close but am sure it wasn't....did not see any smoke or water disturbance.....then I hear over the radio "thanks folks, that's it for today"! Glad that's over!!!!!!
The northern shore of the Potomac is in Maryland while the southern shore is in Virginia. So as I crossed the mouth of the Potomac, I entered Virginia for the first time in about 3 months! Hard to believe it's been that long.....The Great Wicomoco is the next river down and has a cluster of about 50 fish stakes out in the water near the entrance. They have nets running between them so have to be avoided! I furled the headsail as I turned to run up the Great Wicomoco to my anchorage which is about a mile down and round a jutting finger of land. This gives the anchorage good protection from wind and waves and makes for an easy pleasant stay. I joined about 7 boats, sail and power, already anchored at Sandy Point. The area has plenty of water depth, room for many more boats and is lined with trees and small beaches with just a few houses along one of the shorelines. A couple of smaller creeks branch off of it where small power boats come and go. It has been a rough trip and I am tired so I crash shortly after feeding myself and Abbie. Plan to be underway early the next day to hopefully have made good distance towards Fishing Bay before the wind (out of the south this time) pipes up.
Sept 12- Have a great sail from Great Wicomoco to Fishing Bay, near Deltaville, in winds out of south blowing 10-15...better conditions than yesterday. Very little water comes up on the bow. Yeah! Only have to tack twice.....second tack put me headed straight up the Rappahanock River...too bad that's not my destination! I am headed next door towards the Piankatank River.....my tack is not so good...so I furl sail and motor into the river, around the long finger-like peninsula and anchor behind it in Fishing Bay. Another really nice protected anchorage with plenty of water depth and the home of Fishing Bay Harbor Marina, the Fishing Bay Yacht Club and Chesapeake Boat Works, the latter is a very friendly boat yard. I am alone in the anchorage for the first night but am joined by 2-3 boats the next day. A front is forecasted, brings rough weather in the Bay, so we will remain here for 2-3 days to wait for more settled weather.
One of Abigail's favorite toys is a plastic hotdog that I bought at Dollar General for a buck...she loves it more than the more expensive toys purchased at pet stores! I leave it on deck for her (us) to play with. In late afternoon, usually after we are anchored, I stand in the cockpit companionway, on the ladder, under the open dodger and toss it forward onto the cabin top or deck....she runs to fetch it, comes back and then teases me with it...she gets almost close enough for me to grab it but not quite.......she stands there and chews on it, looking at me sideways, daring me to come get it....if I get closer, she moves farther away. Sometimes I am quick (or maybe she lets me as part of her game) and can take it from her to toss again. We play at this until one of us tires of it, usually me!
Sept 15- Up anchor and head to the fuel dock to get diesel and fill water tanks and then continue south to Sevrin River Marina off of Mobjack Bay. Have about 40 nm to travel so at ~5 knots, should take about 8 hrs. Wind is very light 4-6 knots out of the south (on the nose of course!) so not much help from a sail.....Bay has few ripples but no waves so will be straight motor day unless wind increases later (it doesn't until I'm almost at my destination). Am looking forward to seeing good friends, Terri and Thom and their schnauzer puppy, Jack, on Outrageous and reuniting with Bob and his schnoodle, Sweenie, on Pooka. Bob onboard Pooka left Jordan Creek in late May with me as we headed up the ICW with plans to buddy boat for a while. However, he had to remain in Norfolk to resolve dental issues before continuing to Severn River Marina. Am glad he decided to spend the winter aboard at the marina!
I have had a relaxing time visiting, eating, laughing and talking to Terri, Thom and Bob. Abigail has been a crazy dog...racing around like she's never seen or smelled green grass. She has been deprived of any canine interaction for several weeks....she stand on my cabin top where she barks and whines at dogs she sees on other boats that we pass on the water but no chance to visit. The sound she makes is a howl combined with a high-pitched whine. You'd think I was torturing her! So at the marina, she is whining and carrying on when she meets Sweenie and Jack....lots of sniffing butts, some yips and growls but it all sorts out. Even better, there are several people to pet her and let her jump in their laps. What more could a dog want?
And who should I see on the marina's docks? I'm walking up the dock....Bob and I had gone out to lunch and I left Abbie on his boat with Sweenie..I had just taken her off his boat and was walking up the dock. A very tall guy with a baseball hat and wearing a Rat shirt was striding towards me...I was wondering who is that guy with the Rat shirt....as I got closer, I thought that looks like Godwin Jones (River Rat from about 20 years ago....he worked for Dupont then and was transferred to Tennessee in 1994)....but can't be...why on earth would he be here.....but it was! He gave me a huge hug and said Sylvia was over on Bojangles. (The boat looked brand new even though they had her at Rat's Nest.) They had run out of gas for the dinghy OB and had come into the marina only to get gas. Otherwise they would not have been at the dock and we would not have had that incredibly lucky meeting!!! What is the chance that I would be on the dock at the time he was walking down it at Sevrin River........You never know when or where a Rat or two will show up! They now live off the Piankatank River on Wilton Creek and keep the boat at their dock.....I promised that next year I would come to visit!
Sept 21- There is a front with rain coming through tonight. I will be leaving here this morning to get to my next anchorage at Hospital Point in Norfolk to beat the front. This will be my last leg in the Bay of my 2013 Chesapeake Bay adventure since I will be headed for Norfolk and the ICW. Weather is predicted to have winds out of the North (hooray!) so that will be a gift to have them on my stern instead of my nose for my farewell to the Chesapeake Bay.
Sept 1- River Rat, Pam Sinclair, drives to Solomons to spend a week with me poking around Eastern Shore of Maryland. Unloading the stuffed car's contents into the dingy takes several trips down the dock.....I am wondering if I misunderstood and that she will be able to stay for a couple of weeks.....there is barely room for our legs in the dinghy among all the stuff but we manage. But she had brought lots of wine and some great food (salmon fillets, ribeye steaks and Brats) so we will eat and drink well (we're Rats aren't we?).
I had decided that we should go to St. Michaels and then Oxford on Maryland's Eastern Shore since she has not visited either one..and Oxford is still on my "to visit" list. We head out the next day across the Bay, with hopes of sailing but Mother Nature does not cooperate. But at least it is sunny and not too hot. Pam is an excellent sailor and a great friend and I am delighted to have her on board. She will spoil me and especially Abigail who will have someone else to "entertain" her. There are two routes to St. Michaels. We will use the "backdoor" route on San Domingo Creek (off Broad Creek, on Choptank River) ......otherwise we would spend an additional day going farther North to gain the entrance to Eastern Bay and down Miles River to reach harbor at St. Michaels.
After we get underway, I notice that there is a green praying manthis who has come along for a ride......he seems to like to sit on the wheel or in the sheet bag hanging on the lifeline. We assume he will shortly fly away....The water in San Domingo Creek is skinny (reminds me of Celerity's home waters on Jordan Creek).......I circle the small area to be sure there is enough water for Celerity's keel and we anchor... only to discover that it is too shallow (how did I miss that shallow spot?). Up the anchor and move further down the creek...now have about 1 foot under the keel.....guess it's as good as 50 feet if we are not on the bottom!
Sept 3-4 Our stowaway, Mr. Praying Manthis, is still with us, sunning himself on the pushpit......hope he (she?) did not have a family in Solomons! We dinghy up San Domingo creek about ½ mile....the creek is lined with big homes...don't look like weekend cottages! If they are, then the primary residence must be a mansion! Lovely park at creek's end with a few old workboats in slips and couple of small sailboats on moorings. All the boats have seen better days. We tie to a wall alongside the workboats and walk about 2 blocks...and poof....we are in the middle of the main street lined with shops, restaurants many inns and Bed and Breakfast establishments. Some of the latter have lovely front yards, with flowers and wicker rockers set out under trees. Looks very inviting....wonder if they would notice if we strolled through the gate and took a rest stop? We have lunch at an Irish Pub (yummy reuben) and do some shopping..Mandatory ice cream stop.....Cappucino Crunch for me and Salty Caramel for Pam which we relish on our way back to the dinghy.
Next day we visit the Maritime Museum and the old Hooper Strait screwpile lighthouse that used to be on the Eastern Shore, south of St. Michaels. This style of lighthouse had a base that was "screwed" into the bottom of the Bay that supported a framework for the lighthouse building. It was originally constructed in 1879 but was decommissioned by the Coast Guard in the 1960's. To save it, it was dismantled, cut in half crosswise like a biscuit (!) and the 2 halves loaded on barges to be brought to St. Michaels and reassembled. The exhibits in the lighthouse capture what it must have been like to be an attendant. Very well done! There are about 5 small sparsely furnished rooms including tiny bedroom (single bed !!!), living room, kitchen, sort of a study and room for stores. Apparently, none of the lighthouse keepers had wives with them...having your wife at the lighthouse was frowned upon (guess a single bed was all he needed!). There are 3 huge tanks sitting in corners of 3 rooms, probably 10 feet tall and 6-7 feet in diameter that store the fresh water for drinking, bathing, etc. Workmen are renovating an old wooden sailing skipjack...visitors can stand on a platform, above the work area, to see inside the vessel as they replace beams, knees, boards, etc. We learned a lot about the history of boating on the Bay and how it has changed dramatically over the decades. (I wrote more about St. Michaels and the Museum in an earlier blog installment.) Lunch at Big Al's......couple on a Whitby 42 anchored nearby recommended the place for hamburgers and steamed crabs...popular with locals. It was delish!
Sept 5-6 Celerity is moving to Oxford (our stowaway is still onboard)...we up anchor and motor sail couple of hours to Tred Avon River off Choptank. Oxford is on Town Creek and has lots of marinas but we anchor off Hinckley Marina and use their dinghy dock. Walk through part of town...lots of lovely old private homes, many from late 1800's. But not much "town"..no shops, a few restaurants......very different from St. Michaels.
Oxford was established in the mid-1600's and became an international shipping center surrounded by wealthy tobacco planters. In the late 1600's, it was one of two towns selected to be the only port of entry for all of Maryland. Today it has a population of about 700 and is still important in boat building, yachting, and harvesting of oysters, crabs, clams and fish. When we return to Celerity, a Canadian boat, Mahina, has anchored in front of us with Ian and Michelle onboard. Ian dinghies over to borrow my air pump to inflate tubes on their dinghy.....when he returns with my pump, the tubes are still flaccid.....in trying to get his end adapter on my pump, part of the hose took a swan dive overboard...he was so apologetic and so sweet! I felt bad for him. We had already established that both boats were going to Solomons within next couple of days so he promised to get me the needed part by the time we were there...
I am worried about Mr. Praying Manthis.....what can he find to eat on Celerity? When I was a kid, my Dad used to catch one in our backyard and bring it to me. We would put loose it in our big picture window in the kitchen and I would leave bits of hamburger for it.....after a few days it was gone so maybe my Dad turned it loose......So I think we should try to feed Mr. Manthis....He's on Pam's side of the boat so she volunteers....she offers him/her a bit of leftover bratwurst...he is sitting on the coaming...she holds the bit out to him...getting closer and closer to him until it is almost under his "nose".....it happens so fast....he moves like lightening and aggressively grabs the meat and lands on the cockpit seat, nibbling at it. Scared the crap out of both of us....he then drops it after couple of minutes....too spicy?? Too full?? She tries to offer a bit of bread but is unwilling to get too close so she lays it on the seat. I don't blame her.....but he/she does not come get it. He moves to the under-edge of the bimini, hangs upside down, where seems he will spend the night.
The wind that night was dead calm, the water unruffled, giving it a mirror quality. The Schooner restaurant across the way had a deck hanging over the water that was lighted with a string of amber and bluish lights. The lights reflected off the still water in perfectly straight streaks of color, as if an artist had put her finger in a paint can and smeared it across the water. It was beautiful and mesmerizing. I tried to get a picture of it but didn't come out.
Next day, we dinghied down Town Creek into the Tred Avon River and around the point to a ferry terminal where a small ferry, the Oxford-Bellvue ferry crosses the river. The ferry was established in the 1600's and is still privately owned making it the last privately owned ferry in the US. It can carry 9 cars (or 11 mini-Coopers or so the sign reads) and makes the crossing in about 10-15 minutes. Pam and I pay our $5 for a round-trip pedestrian ticket ($4 for a car plus $1 for each passenger one-way). Lovely sunny breezy day....a bicyclist tells us about an art gallery on the Bellvue side, The Gallery by the River.....we check it out. Ceramics, jewelry, tapestries, sculptures all by Swedish artists. Very unexpected for a small town like Bellvue! Lovely unique lovingly hand-made pieces but very expensive.
After our return to Oxford, we strolled down to the Tred Avon Yacht Club which sits on the point and commands a breathtaking view of both Town Creek and the Tred Avon River. The building has floor to ceiling windows overlooking the water with a second story deck off the dining room. We were hoping to use reciprocity to have lunch in their dining room or maybe a drink at the bar but we were too early and did not want to wait for it to open....
We console ourselves with ribeye steaks on the grill! Mr. Manthis is nowhere to be seen...we hope he flew away and found a new family. Guess he didn't like the food on Celerity!
Sept 7-8 Pam needs to leave on the 8th so we up anchor and head back to Solomons. The next day, she helps me pick up a mooring at Zahnisers. Easier access to get her to her car and for me to do laundry! And Mahina is also on a mooring ball. And as promised, Ian dinghies over with the replacement part for my dinghy tube inflator in his hand!
I am sad to see Pam leave.....we have eaten tasty meals, drank fine wine (matched to our entrée, thanks to Pam's expertise), laughed and told stories. And had some great adventures and seen amazing things. It has been a visit filled with great memories!!!!!
Wanted to share some good memories of my prolonged stay at Swan Creek that will hopefully overshadow the saga of Mr. Maxwell.........of course the surprise visit from John and Karen, SV The Chance, was very sweet (you may remember that I met them in the Chesapeake City anchorage and thoroughly enjoyed our time together. I did not expect to cross paths with them again, especially not this soon). We dinghied into shore and took the trolley ($1/person in a canopied trailer with several bench seats towed by a jeep) into Rock Hall to poke through the various shops that line the streets....the Swan Creek anchorage is ~2 miles or more from the main part of Rock Hall so the trolley is a great service for cruisers and for the local businesses!
The day is perfect.....sunny with a light breeze to keep us cool.
First stop, as always, is the local ice cream shop. Play Dough, Cappuccino Crunch, Circus Marshmallow and others are interesting. We make our selections, licking and slurping (yum), as we continue our stroll down the sidewalk. We pass a small wooden case with a glass door on a post...sign says "take a book, leave a book, courtesy of the library". Charming, unusual idea. Inside are about dozen books, paper and hardback. We scan the books... a few catch our attention. Some are related to boaters/fishing (cruising the Chesapeake and saltwater fly fishing) while most are novels. But we do not have a book to trade, so leave them for another reader.
We wander on and notice a small sign "Oyster Cove shops" hung between two buildings with an arrow pointing down the alley......our curiosity made us go exploring. And am so glad we did! At the end of the alley is a charming "cove" park-like area with seemingly randomly placed small 1-2 room buildings, maybe five or six, painted in bright pastel and primary colors. Not all the shops are open and a few are "for rent". The shops contain T-shirts, jewelry, crafts, sweaters, etc. But the real treat are the grounds the shops are nestled in. Small pockets of seemingly unkempt flower gardens are bordered by an uneven flagstone path that winds around them, leading you to each of the shops. The gardens have a profusion of color....towering red cannas, petite bright yellow marigolds, dark purple flower clusters on tall green stems, wild dark pink-tinted rose bushes, bright orange daylilies, ground-hugging pink petunias and others. Ornamental grasses and shades of green-hued foliage are scattered through the flowers. Dark blue ceramic bird baths on tall wire stands are nestled in a few spots. Birds and butterflies flit around. Wind chimes and music drift through the air. As we follow the paths around the gardens, we find couple of benches in strategic locations, perfect for resting and soaking the day in. I could have spent the day in that spot......the buildings are clearly old, small and seemingly placed randomly....we wondered about their original purpose. Perhaps they were housing for the crab pickers that would have worked in the long-closed crab factories that were located in Rock Hall when crabbing was at its peak many years ago. But it is only conjecture........
Another good memory.....on my many trips with the windlass motor and the rental car between Rock Hall, Baltimore and Annapolis, I passed through Chestertown and Centreville. Both towns are old, many historical houses from the 1800's and few from 1700's. Many are from Victorian era, restored as painted ladies, with the typical contrasting bright paint colors on the trim, windows and doors. Centreville especially had many remarkable old houses. One house, painted golden yellow with Robin's egg blue shutters was at the very edge of the road. A plaque proclaimed it was built in the late 1700's. Although a sign read "The Blue Lantern Inn", it did not seem to be a functioning inn now since the several sets of doors were closed and the interior through the windows was dark. Various items on the long porch were dusty and seemed to be in poor condition. Perhaps it is/was apartments now. I was fascinated by this particular house/inn and wondered about its history...if only it could talk, what stories it would have to tell! There was another plaque by one of the doors but was too far from the road to read...and I was always in a rush coming and going so could not take the time to hunt for a parking place....
There was a stunningly beautiful sunset on Swan Creek on one of the last nights I was there (see pic). One of the surprising things about Swan Creek are so many geese seem to call it home....it should be called Goose Creek! The evening was serene, the circadas called, the geese honked, and the water lapped softly. Although there were a few boats anchored nearby, no voices or other man-made noises disrupted the peaceful evening.
Aug 19- Mr. Maxwell hauled up Mr. Bruce and we put Swan Creek in the distance! Planned to anchor overnight up the Rhode River, off West River and south of Severn River and Annapolis. Wind out of SSW 10-15 was on the starboard bow quarter...so I motorsailed with headsail into waves that were just forming white caps. The anchorage was quiet, surrounded by trees and few homes and three smallish islands: flat, big and high islands. Flat Island was in middle of anchorage and totally submerged but fortunately its edges were marked with buoys with "shoal" in large black letters. High Island was "high" but very small with trees and shrubs. I could not figure out where "Big" Island was even after looking at the chart.
Spotted a bald eagle as he flew by, high up, headed for trees that lined the shore. Tried to watch for his landing spot but he disappeared into the trees. Only the second time I have seen a bald eagle in the wild (the first sighting was in the Alligator-Pungo Canal in 2012). YMCA Camp Letts was on one shore...fun to watch the little kids learn to sail their tiny craft. Some were really good at maneuvering and making quick tacks around floating marks.....maybe future Olympic sailors!
Aug 20- Headed out of South River, bound for Solomons, MD. No wind (5-7 knots at best) with almost flat Bay so motored all 40ish miles. Dropped anchor in my favorite little cove off Mills Creek. SV Kentress with Rats, Tom and Pat and guests Trina and Dave, were on a mooring ball on another creek nearby so arranged to have dinner with them. Another memorable Rat reunion with good food, plentiful drinks and fun conversation. By the time I realized I needed to dinghy back to Celerity to take care of Abbie, the sun had disappeared and darkness had descended.....it was some distance to travel from their boat, down Back Creek, around the point of land and up Mill Creek to my boat. Although there was a moon, it was partly hidden by clouds so not as much light as we could have wished for. Many of the channel markers (to indicate the edges of the channel to keep you out of shallow water) are unlighted (called daymarks as name implies) on the creeks so were hard to see until you almost ran into them... they would suddenly loom out of the shadows.
So Dave and Tom, being the gentlemen that they are (!), escorted me in Tom's dinghy alongside mine, kind of like a tug towing a barge alongside.....so there we are side-by-side, motoring along with Tom tightly holding the rope attached to my dinghy, straining to see the channel markers in the dark ahead. Tom's dinghy is bigger and heavier than mine and his outboard has more power so he steers for both of us. We are motoring along, trying to chat over the drone of the two motors when my motor's prop starts bumping along the bottom and I suddenly realize we are in very shallow water! I'm yelling at them to "move over" so I can get into deeper water...Tom has hold of my dinghy by its rope and they block the way, so I can't get over until they do. But they aren't hearing me over the noise of the two outboards and continue on for couple of minutes when they finally realize what is happening because they too are hitting the bottom. My dinghy's rope is released and they move over so I can also...I have to raise the motor partly out of the water to get off the bottom but we rejoin in deeper water with no damage done to motors but maybe some to our pride......and continue up Mill Creek without any more excitement! Thanks Dave and Tom for getting me home safely........
Unfortunately, the crew of SV Kentress had other plans for the next day and then had to be on their way down the Chesapeake Bay to return Dave and Trina to their car (they had to go back to work next week!). I was thankful we were able to rendezvous for at least one night of good times! Perhaps Kentress and Celerity will cross wakes again in the Bay before both boats turn south for home......
Aug 21- Midnight and a severe T-storm with lightening all around me...was wishing my nephew, Greg, was here since he had wished for a T-storm during his visit with me in Baltimore but was disappointed that one never appeared. He lives outside of San Diego and T-storms don't exist in southern Calif. The flashes of lightening were so numerous and day-light bright, that they filled the sky and were almost blinding, if you looked directly at them. The thunder boomed and the rain hurled.....but thankfully not much wind. It seemed to last forever but had come and gone within half hour or so. Celerity is tucked into her favorite anchorage on a creek off Mill Creek. The spot is well protected by trees and small hills with houses on three of the sides.
Celerity "hunts" at anchor, in even a light breeze. She will move slowly back and forth, constrained by her anchor, as far to one side as the anchor allows, then she stops and the wind pushes her in the other direction to the limit and then back again.....over and over. Many sailboats do this.
I spent most of storm standing in cockpit companionway, keeping an eye on lights/structures on nearby shore, checking to be sure that their distance/position doesn't change, as she "hunts" back and forth, reassurance that my anchor is holding. But I always worry that the anchor will drag and Celerity will hit something...memory remnant of THE T-storm in Baltimore June 2012.......It will be hot tomorrow and the water will evaporate and the humidity will be high.....more clouds will build and another T-storm may come tomorrow night! Typical late summer pattern in Chesapeake Bay!
Celerity, Abbie and I will be at Solomons for a while, waiting for my forwarded mail, doing a few small boat chores, going to grocery store, doing laundry, etc...Will see what the next week or so brings to provide fodder for the next installment!