Good Memories Swan Creek and (Almost) Aground
23 August 2013 | Solomons Island, MD
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!