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!
Aug 5-14- Celerity, Abbie and I are literally stuck in Swan Creek thanks to Mr. Maxwell going on strike. I initially stopped by a nearby yard at Haven Harbor and spoke with the Service Manager, Bill Neff....after I described the problem, adding that I wondered if corrosion inside the motor/windlass could be the problem (that had been a previous problem in the fall), Mr. Neff wanted to sell me a new windlass (or maybe a new motor)....that was his solution! He did not want to send someone out to look at the windlass and do any troubleshooting. However, I told him neither was in my budget and persuaded him to send someone to look at it (I was desperate!). He very reluctantly agreed but said he could not guarantee it would be repaired or, if repaired, that it would continue to work! Was only concerned about how I might bad mouth (his words) Haven Harbor if repair was only temporary after I had possibly spent several hundred dollars! He finally agreed to send someone next day.....
After several telephone consults that afternoon/evening with boating friends and thinking about Haven Harbor's reluctance, I called him next morning and cancelled my work request. A good decision in many ways! Best guess/advice from my consults was that the motor needed to go to a shop for rebuilding (replace brushes and other pieces and parts that wear out in motors, like starter in your car). Frank found a place that could work on a DC motor, Best Battery in Baltimore (thanks Frank for finding it since I am/was wfi-less!!!) but I had to get the offending beast to them.
Being a boat, nothing is easy...always in a dark locker usually requiring you to stand on your head, contort like a gymnast, making a choice to either see the thing or feel the thing...not both! In this case, it was all of above. The windlass and motor are bolted to the deck aft (behind) the opening part of the locker, with part of windlass and all of the motor underneath the deck. I had to lay across the hawse pipe (cover with opening that chain feeds down into the locker below) and on top of the chain snaking across locker opening (my anchor was attached to the end on bottom of creek) while hugging the locker lid, and squeezing my face down the locker edge to look aft at the motor. I had to feel the tops of the bolts (2) and nuts (3) to line up the wrench....which kept falling off (I am tool challenged in best of circumstances). Barely enough clearance to move wrench or socket a couple of inches, skinning my knuckles on the floor of the locker.....took forever to unfasten nuts on three huge power cables and two big bolts holding motor to windlass and the motor dropped about 3 inches to the floor. It was very heavy.....I heaved the offending thing onto the deck and then lowered it into the dinghy to take it to shore to a rental car and Baltimore.
The nearest rental car agency is in Chestertown, MD, about 20 miles to the south. Am very thankful that Enterprise will pick you up! Took it to Best Battery in Baltimore to be rebuilt. Rock Hall is on MD Eastern Shore about 2 hours from Baltimore which of course is on the Western shore! Only way to get across by car is to head south to the Bay Bridge near Annapolis then head north again to Baltimore. Frank was able to pick up the rebuilt motor and bring it to Rock Hall, saving me a second trip into to Baltimore. However, nothing is simple when a boat is involved!
Very long (sad) story short, re-installation/re-alignment of motor with windlass was a problem and resulted in the motor not running...thought maybe was something not right that Best had done during rebuild... so I uninstalled it....rented another car....back to Baltimore. They discovered that the motor was broken (yes, broken) during the attempt at re-installation (by non-professional) and Best did not have needed parts....referred me to Fawcetts in Annapolis since they carry Maxwell parts. Unfortunately they did not have what I (the blasted motor) needed! I was lost and unsure as to what was next step.... Maybe a new motor? If not that, then what? Fawcetts was not very helpful...
But I was in right place at right time....customer at counter suggested a local DC motor service place, Mamocks. What did I have to lose? Tom at Mamocks was very understanding...examined motor and went in the back of shop.....after few minutes he came back carrying a twin to my motor! Something had happened to this motor that caused it to overheat and fry.........but the parts I needed were probably ok.......he would take it and my motor apart to be sure. Called next day to tell me that he could fix my motor for couple of hundred dollars of labor....Hooray!!!!
I had kept the rental car an extra day so back across the Bay Bridge to Annapolis to pick it up. No more self-installation (good lesson learned!)....Frank recommended Gratitude marina on Swan Creek so I stopped by with the car and spoke with the General Manger, John Helwege. He was very understanding and said he would come out in their powerboat next day to manually lift my anchor and bring Celerity into marina to install the motor.....
Aug 15- John did come and got the 66lb Bruce anchor up (with just his upper body strength...I was impressed!) and helped put Celerity into a slip.....the motor was reinstalled in about 30 minutes (that's a professional doing the job!!!) and Mr. Maxwell was back on duty! My experience with Gratitude, John and his mechanic was very positive...very professional place. John did not charge me for his time of coming out to lift my anchor and get me into a slip! I was only charged for the actual time taken to install the motor. Amazing! I would recommend Gratitude to anyone needing boat work and will return if I am in the area needing repairs........
By now, it was late in the afternoon so Celerity returned to the Swan Creek anchorage......Mr. Maxwell did his job of putting Mr. Bruce on the bottom.
Aug 16- Seems I have pulled muscles in my back....probably from the ordeal with the windlass motor...so will stay at Swan Creek through the weekend to recover. And am glad I did....on Fri, John and Karen Kraft, The Chance, come motoring into the anchorage! What a wonderful unexpected surprise! You may remember that I met them in Chesapeake City, had dinners and a great time......did not expect to see them again this year....but there they were!
Another great dinner ashore with them at The Bay Wolf restaurant in Rock Hall....dirty vodka martini, white wine and delicious Veal Marsala with great conversation and laughter. Another memorable evening....and I remembered it very well next day....and re-learned I can't mix a martini and white wine without repercussions! Aspirin to the rescue (of course, for my back......).
On Sat morn, the Krafts invited me to join them on Sat morn in a dinghy ride to explore further up Swan Creek (where we can't go with sailboats due to shallow water). Lovely creek and we hoped to see Bald Eagles since they are frequently seen in the tall trees lining the upper creek. It is always fun to do these exploratory trips...never know what you might see. It was very peaceful and serene as we motored along, talking, telling stories (they have plenty!), and scanning tree tops for eagles.....perfect weather. Sunny with a slight breeze but cool like fall and not the heat and humidity of August! Another treat for us! But today we are not fortunate...no eagles to be seen. We go as far as we can until we bump bottom....the water is now too shallow for even an outboard motor. We head back down the creek.....it has been another wonderful visit with John and Karen. They drop me off and return to The Chance to up anchor and sail out of the Creek to return home just south of Baltimore....they will be back at work on Mon! I will plan to leave here on Mon, weather permitting........with Mr. Maxwell back on duty, Celerity will not be stuck in Swan Creek!
Aug 4- Time to leave Chesapeake City and return to the Bay. I planned my departure time for about 0930 to catch the ebb current which would be with me and I hoped to get a good push! Started out smooth with winds at 5-10 and small wavelets.....by the time I reached the mouth of the Susquehanna River (about 2 hours), the winds had increased to 10-15 out of NNW (on starboard bow quarter) with forming white caps on the 2 foot waves. I was motor sailing with the full headsail and doing 6 knots (typical cruising speed) as I passed Turkey Point (head of the Bay) and was once again in the Chesapeake. The current was with me and increased in speed pushing me along. My GPS said we were going 8.2 knots!!!! My speed got me to the mouth of Worton Creek way early (I had intended to anchor for the night before going on to Rock Hall next day)......I was going so fast I decided to go on to Rock Hall and anchor in Swan Creek. This decision turned out to be a blessing...more on that later. At one point my speed hit 9.2 knots!!!!! I thought the GPS must be broken.....
There is a long shallow shoal, Swan Point Bar, that runs north/south and separates the channel into Rock Hall/Swan Creek from the Bay....so when headed south, you have to run down the western side of the shoal for about a mile before you reach a deeper part of the shoal to cross safely (not run aground!) to turn into the channel and run in the exact opposite direction up the eastern edge of the shoal. Very aggravating! Especially today!!! I had already furled the big headsail before crossing the shoal. I needed maneuvering room with enough water depth to not risk running aground when I turned into the wind (For you non-boaters, Celerity's keel draws about 5.5 feet....so if the water is less deep, she will run aground...can ruin your day! Facing into the wind makes it easier for me to furl the headsail since it is not trying to fill with wind, putting pressure on it.) By now, the wind had built to 20 with frequent gusts to 25 with 3-4 foot breaking waves now on the port bow quarter, almost on the nose. Made very slow going heading up the channel! I was only able to do about 4.5-5 knots against the wind and seas! Seemed to take forever.....I had lots of company....there are several marinas in Swan Creek and about 7-9 sailboats were headed the same way and fighting the rough conditions! Everyone wanted to get into Swan Creek where we would get protection by the land from the wind and the waves.....
I was the only one of the pack who went into the anchorage (rest went into marina or took a mooring ball). Got positioned and went forward to have Mr. Maxwell lower the anchor and chain....... (the Maxwell electric windlass whose only job is to lower and raise my 66lb Bruce anchor and all chain anchor rode). I pushed the down button....I was stunned and stood there just staring in disbelief when nothing happened!!!!!! He refused to do his job......I had other boats anchored around me so I had to get anchor down. I had to very carefully use my fingers to pull chain out of anchor locker, let some out manually, push Mr. Bruce off his platform, and then let the chain catch on the teeth of the windlass to keep too much from going out.....I did this many times to get the anchor and enough length of the chain out to be anchored safely and securely.
Time to take a rest break, have a strong drink and figure out why Mr. Maxwell refused to do his job......
July 27- Departed BYC and headed north to the top of the Chesapeake Bay and the C & D Canal. Plan to head to NJ and NY has been shelved until next year....they will still be there when I'm ready to visit! Have decided to do a little reconnaissance of the C & D Canal as far as its midpoint, Chesapeake City, and check out the anchorage.
The top of the Chesapeake Bay is considered to be Turkey Point at the convergence of the mouths of the Elk and Susquehanna Rivers. The former connects the C & D Canal to the rest of the Bay. The C & D Canal originally opened in the early 1800's as a barge canal with 4 locks which were eliminated in the 1920's, shortly after the US government purchased it. The C & D is ~12 miles long and reminds me of the Hobucken cut ....but much grander and wider (~450 feet) to accommodate huge cargo ships. They seem to fill the canal and I would hate to share the suddenly small space with one of those behemoths!
The passage up here was uneventful...the wind was 15-20 on the bow starboard quarter with 2-3 foot waves in the Middle River (Sue Creek and the BYC are located off Middle River). Conditions moderated (wind dropped to 5-10) after I was able to make the turn north into the Bay and then head northeast up the Elk River. I unfurled the headsail and motor sailed. Turned out to be a lovely day! I timed my departure from the club to catch the flood tidal current which goosed my speed, especially when the river narrowed at entrance to Back Creek which becomes the canal.....GPS said 8.2 knots! Abigail is restless in rough conditions but settled down for serious nap in cockpit with moderating conditions.
The scenery sliding by was beautiful! At the edges of the river, forests marched up hills which were occasionally interrupted by large areas of bright green grass surrounding a sizeable home. Only sour note were the "schools" of powerboats roaring by, throwing huge wakes as they traveled north and south. The wakes caused an almost continuous churning of the water which would have tossed Celerity around but there were so many powerboats of varied sizes, moving in two directions, that their wakes seemed to cancel each other out!
The anchorage in Chesapeake City is a popular layover spot for boats heading to or from Delaware Bay and Cape May. The entrance to the anchorage is just beyond the high rise bridge (~135 feet vertical clearance...far more than ICW 65 feet for cargo ship passage). It is an egg-shaped basin with plenty of water inside but thin water at narrow entrance. Celerity slipped across with 1.8 feet under her keel....but with 9 feet under inside! The Army Corps of Engineers has a large facility on one side of the anchorage with lots of green grass and picnic tables open to the public...they are responsible for managing/maintaining the Canal. A public boat ramp is on another and the Chesapeake Inn and Marina is on the third side with a small bridge and houses. A small City dock including a dinghy dock is at the entrance.
Basin has enough space for a lot of boats, depending on how comfortable one is with tight anchoring! I shared the anchorage with about 8-10 boats on Sat night. The Chesapeake Inn is a very popular restaurant and marina in the basin....an almost constant hail on VHF with requests by power boaters to come in for dinner.....unfortunately there was not enough slip/dock space for all of them...so they anchored and water taxi would pick them up. Typical of most large and small power boat owners (ok...maybe too broad a generality)...toss the Danforth, let out some rope rode, kill engine and board the water taxi. I was thankful the night was calm and that the boats did not seem to be the type for the people to stay on overnight. The anchorage became very crowded, with some of the boats separated by only a few feet! By nightfall, most of these boats had departed for home, leaving a trawler and 4 sailboats. Thank Neptune!!!!!
July 28- On Monday, I dinghied over to a Catalina 30, The Chance, and introduced myself.....John and Karen from the Magothy River in the Bay. Came up to Chesapeake City for couple of days and then would return home to go back to work (those dirty words!) We went to town to check out the charming shops including a vintage clothing store (wish I had a closet!), antique shops, fibers shop (amazing textures and colors of yarns), an artist's studio and gallery, and several others. Not typical tourist shops! Walked couple of miles to post office, bank and gas station and rewarded ourselves with an ice cream cone at a walk-up window at a road-side grill.
That evening, we had dinner at The Bayard House, the oldest house in Chesapeake City. We were fortunate to sit on patio overlooking the canal.......Evening was cloudless and cool with a slight breeze. Perfect! Food was delicious (broiled Alaskan Salmon with shrimp and scallops and a Tomato Coulee...yum) and a dirty vodka martini, shaken not stirred. Marvelous! John and Karen were delightful and entertaining dinner companions. They cruised the Caribbean full time some years ago on a Tayana 37 (same name as their Catalina) and surprise, surprise, knew River Rats, Carl and Mary (Camryka) and Bob Nimmo (formerly of Christina). It is a tiny world! We swapped stories and told only a few lies (as boaters will). Am fortunate that they happened to come to Chesapeake City when I did......They will depart for home tomorrow. I hope we will stay in touch!
While we were at dinner, and before the sun set, we had quite an amazing sight in the canal...a huge car carrier cargo ship was emerging from around a bend in the canal and headed our way. There were 2-3 small powerboats in the center of the canal who were headed his way...they very quickly moved close to the edge of the canal! A tiny red pilot boat was moving alongside the behemoth to deliver a pilot who would take over control of the ship to get it safely through the canal (a highway bridge that crosses the canal is the state line between Maryland and Delaware...pilots have to change at the bridge when ship crosses state line). The pilot would have to climb a long rope ladder draped down the huge wall of the ship (seemed like the side of a skyscraper to me) to reach the bridge. The red pilot boat looked like a bathtub toy alongside the cargo ship (see pic). The tiny white speck on side of the ship, above the pilot boat, is not dust...it is the pilot climbing the ladder! No wonder they get paid big bucks!
July 29- Did I mention a public boat ramp in the back of the basin? On sat night, it should have been take a number boat ramp! Seems everyone wants to end their day of boating at the same time.....to load the boat on to the trailer and head home......so there was a serious boat jam at the ramp.....boats were in line waiting for the guy in front of them to hurry up, back the trailer down the ramp without taking 8 tries to get it lined up, and then don't take 4 tries to get the blasted boat lined up on the trailer, and 2 tries to pull the whole mess off the steep ramp! And be sure you pull out of the way before you finish tying it down and moving all the water toys and fishing stuff to the tow vehicle! Hurry up! Tempers flared! It was kind of entertaining to be sitting at anchor watching the whole mad dance. Sunday night was downright boring with only a few boats using the ramp!
In addition to boaters, the edge of the basin at the Corps of Army Engineer grounds seems to be a favorite spot for numerous geese (is that a gaggle or more?) to hang out..may be because it is a green grassy area bordering the water and the government facility is closed on weekends so no workers are there. The geese pretty much have the whole area to themselves....On Sunday at dusk, a large goose was calling.....another goose would answer. He would call again...maybe couple of geese answered. He called again...more answered. Seemed like a goose roll call before night set in.....
July 31- Who would have thought that Chesapeake City would have been full of so many delightful surprises! In a few days, I will head west back down the Canal to the Chesapeake Bay and will spend the next few weeks gunkholing. Who knows what the next adventure will be!
July 13-July 25: Weather gods finally allowed us to leave Swan Creek and head up to the Baltimore Yacht Club where we anchored across from their docks. The Club is on Sue Creek, off of Middle River, outside and north east of Baltimore (on Patapsco River). Although the Club was founded in 1939, the current location was built in 1950's on a hill overlooking Sue Creek (see pic) giving breathtakingly panoramic views of the creek and Middle River. Thanks to RRYC membership in Yacht Clubs of America and its resulting reciprocity (yeah!), allowed us to use the BYC facility which included pool, Wifi, laundry, showers and restaurant. It also gave me the chance to take an inexpensive slip for a couple of nights so I can do some chores requiring shore power (defrost my fridge holding plates and groom Abigail). The folks at BYC could not have been more friendly..their hospitality is very much appreciated! We very much enjoyed sitting by the pool under an awning, drinking ICE water! Luxurious! We could become spoiled......
We partly decided to come to BYC because our plans have changed...we are not going to take the boats through the C & D Canal and up Delaware River to Philadelphia where we would have had to stay 2-3 days at a marina. We decided it would be cheaper to share the cost of a rental car for a few days and drive to Philadelphia for sightseeing and to take care of a list of errands. Also, Jim has never been to Baltimore so it also gives him a chance to see some of the attractions on the Inner Harbor (the historic ships, etc).
Philly is only couple of hours drive....so we set off on our "car" adventure...just like regular tourists! Parking became the first challenge....we did not realize how expensive it is to park a car....$16 for about 4 hours! Yikes! Unfortunately we picked the hottest week so far this summer...the high humidity combined with temps of 95 degrees made walking around Philly a sweaty tiring experience.
We had a very educational tour of Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were created.....the official name of the building is the Pennsylvania State House because it was originally used for governing the British colony of Pennsylvania; it was "loaned' to the delegates for the meetings of the Continental Congress. The tour guide did a wonderful job of bringing the events to life by colorful descriptions, quotes from some of the delegates and sharing of amusing anecdotes. I had goose bumps to think that I was standing in the chamber where George Washington, John Adams, Ben Franklin and all the others created our country. I haven't thought about it since grammar school history class, but it is still amazing that our forefathers had the courage to separate from Britain and the belief that they could create a new country with a functioning government "for everyone".
We wanted to see the Liberty Bell but the line was a long winding curve that disappeared around the building...mostly in the sun. It seemed to be moving so s-l-o-w-l-y! I was too hot and too tired to endure it so we agreed to come back the next day and get in line early in the morning instead of in afternoon.
Next morning.....decided not to return to "hot" Philly....instead we drove to what we thought might be "cooler" Fort McHenry (guess all the grass and trees around it fooled us). The fort is on a hill overlooking the Patapsco River several miles below Baltimore. I did not get to visit the fort when I was in Baltimore in June so it was a win-win for both of us. Am so glad we went out there........The museum had a movie that did an outstanding job of bringing the events surrounding the "Star Spangled Banner" poem to life. In 1814, during the War of 1812, the British needed to eliminate Fort McHenry so they could make a successful attack on Baltimore. Francis Scott Key was detained on a British ship anchored across the river from the Fort (remember the Star Spangled buoy marks the spot)....he was an influential lawyer who had come out to the British ship to negotiate the release of an imprisoned friend. While onboard, he apparently learned of the impending attack on the fort and was held so he could not tell the Americans. The British bombed the fort for 25 hours....Key watched the bombs "bursting in air" and feared for the survival of the fort. Next morning he saw the huge American flag "waving in the air" and was moved to pen a few lines of a poem......when he was released that day he returned to Baltimore where he wrote most of the rest of the poem we know as our national anthem. It was originally titled "Defense of Fort McHenry", published the next day and was soon being sung to the tune "To Anacreon in Heaven". Now known as "The Star Spangled Banner", it was made our national anthem in 1931.
I was very hot so took shelter in the shade under a roof overhang while Jim walked around the fort. It is surrounded by a dry moat and dirt embankments fortified with stone which enclose enlisted and officer's quarters down in the hollow. Rows of large black cannons point towards the river and the British fleet. Unfortunately, the range of the guns was so limited that the British navy could stay outside of their range but with their greater range could send cannon that reached the fort. Even more amazing that the fort did not surrender!
Despite the heat, I was very glad we went.
In current BoatUS magazine, an article about ICOM RAM mics having insulation that cracks and falls off...very description of my mic! Apparently, BoatUS had received complaints from several members and had become involved. As a result, ICOM agreed to replace cord at no charge, regardless of mic model or warranty status. Hooray! Since I have a temporary stable mailing address, I boxed mine up, enclosed the ICOM repair request form and mailed it to ICOM in Washington state. It should be back in mail this week....
Sue Creek, where BYC is located, seems to be a very popular spot for numerous power boats (large and small) and a few sailboats to anchor on pleasant weekend afternoons. Some of them form rafts of two or more boats. Although Sue Creek is longer than Jordan Creek and about as wide as Jordan Creek (minus the marinas), it was chocked full of anchored power boats. Seemed that I could almost lean out from my stern and shake hands with the nearest boat's occupants! Boats passing through all the anchored boats have to run a kind of obstacle course! As soon as the anchor was down, the people offloaded all kinds of water toys....floats of every description including platforms with "seats" for one or four, colorful noodles, lounge floats, ring floats. They string them together with line tied to the boat.....otherwise the float and person would drift down the creek! One boat even had a floating bar with drinks!
Another large power boat had what looked like a small ramp off the swim platform that went down to the water......they would toss a red plastic toy into the water and two small dogs (maybe Boston terriers) would jump in, retrieve and return with it. I wondered how they would get back aboard.....that's the purpose of the ramp! The dogs would bark, the owner would toss the toy and in they would leap to get the toy and repeat! Abigail had a squealing fit whenever the dogs barked.....but she was not about to jump in!
I had bought a small float at Walmart and wanted to join the crowd in the slightly briny water but I was reluctant to take the plunge...worried about jelly fish...they would be very numerous at home in Jordan Creek in July and no one there would voluntarily go into the water! But I did not see any in Sue Creek and I scanned the water searching for any. I also reasoned that all the people and kids would not be in the water if jellies were around. So I took the plunge and jumped in...the water felt delicious! It was comfortably warm but cool enough in the 95 degree heat to keep me comfortable. No jelly fish to be seen...to justify my "float" time, I scrubbed the dirt from Celerity's topsides (accumulated in Rock Hall during the night at "the wall")....shiny red again. And then just floated around......glorious way to spend a few hours and a great way to cool off! I felt like a kid again.
Plans for the next adventure are pending.....however for several reasons they will not include a trip around NJ to NY. Those plans will be postponed to next year...as a good friend said, NY will be there next year. Instead, I will stay in the Bay and explore more of the Eastern and western Shores of MD and VA. There is still so much to see! Jim has also decided not to head North....he will soon be heading south to a yard in VA to haul the boat and do a long list of large projects. They will take him 6-8 weeks to complete and he does not want to be there when cold weather comes! I plan to be back at the Creek by late Sept/early Oct.....hopefully, after the probability of hurricanes has passed.
Brief revisit to our stay in St. Michaels.....the pic is of a lighthouse at the junction of the Wye and Miles Rivers.....Ed and Alice Sealing had taken us down to St. Michaels in their power boat...the sun was setting as we returned to their house. I took the pic at the exact moment that the sun shown through the old lighthouse lens...looks like the lantern is still working (it has been decommissioned for years).
How could I have forgotten to mention that Jim and I fixed Surf and Turf onboard Celerity in St. Michaels? We found fresh lobsters at the Acme grocery (amazing!)....bought a couple of them and 2 sirloin steaks....Jim grilled the steaks and I boiled the lobsters. Did not have the right tools for dealing with the shell so had to improvise with pliers and knives.....Yummy!!!!
In St. Michael's harbor, there were a couple of young guys in a center console RIB with elec. start for OB floating nearby...they seemed unable to get the OB to start despite repeated attempts. An elderly couple anchored near me had offered to tow them into the dock...they had a small dinghy with a small electric OB and tried to tow the RIB astern of them.....did not work....larger RIB just pulled them all over with no forward progress. I jumped into my RIB and motored over to offer to take the tow. I thought my 5HP gas OB would have more power and I knew from previous experience with the Morgan 46 that you have to tow larger/ heavier vessels alongside (remember Bill, Mike and Pam????). Celerity's RIB did great job rescuing the stranded young men!
On July 8, we hoisted anchors and headed to Rock Hall, MD via Kent Narrows and the narrow bascule bridge (continuing to work our way up the Eastern Shore of MD).......Ed had recommended that we go through the channel at ebb current..apparently the current rushing through the narrow opening under the bridge can be fierce....4-5 knots! Going against the current would give us more control. Other problem for Celerity and her deeper draft is that the channel is shallow and shoals frequently.
So off we went to the Kent Narrows bridge.....the bridge tender was grumpy (or maybe he's naturally that way). Tank was in front of me and hailed the bridge about 0915 to request an opening scheduled for 0930 (standard protocol for opening bridges so tender knows you are there and waiting). He responded to hail him again 3 minutes before the scheduled opening....at 0927! He also said that if he wasn't hailed at 0927, we would have to wait for the next scheduled opening (1000). First in our experience with opening bridges! Usually the tender will say something like "ok captain, will open on schedule". For those of you unfamiliar with opening bridges from a boater's perspective (especially for sailboats)....bridge tenders usually want boats to be VERY close to the bridge when it opens so vehicular traffic is held up the shortest time....but we obviously do not have brakes and even in neutral can be swept towards a bridge by current...so it's a stressful "game" to hold position, close enough to bridge to keep bridge tender satisfied, but not too close. Will definitely ruin your day if you hit the unopened span! The tender does not always open the bridge at exact scheduled opening time....can be 2-3 minutes late.
KN bridge tender opens bridge and I notice with some alarm that the gap between the 2 halves of the open bridge is actually extremely narrow! And the actual channel width between the bridge's walls is also narrow....holding my breath, I motor under the bridge, praying that the mast does not hit the edge of the open span! I cannot look up! If I could close my eyes, I would! Meanwhile Celerity is doing small fishtails through the opening....the current is pushing her to one side, then the other, as I steer to try to compensate...am afraid I am going to ricochet off the walls of the bridge! Very tense few minutes but we make it through....whew...never want to do that again!
The channel on other side of bridge is shallow....I pass over few spots with depth sounder reading zero (depth sounder has 6 inches to spare before I am on the bottom).....a little bit more shallow and I would be aground! And the channel is narrow...fortunately not too long and then we are released into the deeper Chester River and heading north (~22 nm) to Rock Hall, MD . Relief! I can breathe again.
Rock Hall Harbor is small and partially protected from the wind and waves from river by breakwaters at the entrance. Imagine a baseball diamond that is covered by water that is only 1-2 feet deep......the edges of the diamond where the hitters run between bases are 8-10 feet deep and form the channel for boats to travel around the harbor/diamond. There are channel markers (signs) that tell you where the edge of the channel is to keep you out of the shallow middle area. We tied side-to to a free dock about halfway around the harbor..we're on a budget and try not to stay at marinas (a transient slip in Rock Hall would be ~$2/ft/night = $76 for Celerity plus $8-10 for electricity!). Seems like it will be a great place to spend the night...no anchoring or dinghying; just step on to a dock. Nice change!!!!!
Several marinas and restaurants line the harbor. Had lunch at the Harbor Shack on waterfront....had Blue Moon beer on tap! Yeah! After lunch, we took a guided tour of Rock Hall....There is a trolley with seats in rows like you see in parking lots of huge amusement parks, (i.e., Disney World, etc) pulled by a jeep that will pick you up at a marina, waterfront or if you call him (he had given me a brochure when I was docking the boat)...we took the tour and learned some history of Rock Hall for a few bucks ($1/person for the town and tips for driver) ....Main street is some distance (long walk) from waterfront....several cute shops and small local restaurants...very different flavor from St. Michaels. Rock Hall is a working waterfront town with many commercial fishing/crabbing boats and a few marinas.......St. Michaels is "yuppified" with few commercial boats, lots of marinas and upscale shops!
The dock was actually a wood wall/bulkhead along the shore with pilings to tie to.......that night the wind and waves were in a perfect direction to come rolling through the opening in the breakwater at harbor's entrance and hit the sides of our boats, repeatedly slamming the boats into the wall. The waves slammed into the sides of the wall making a loud slapping sound. Rubber fenders/bumpers tied to our sides helped but the boats danced around so much that they had to be repositioned repeatedly through the whole night. When the bumper was out of position, the boat's rub rail would slam into the wall with a loud crash "bang". Frank, a friend I met couple of years ago, was in area teaching a sailing class, stopped by to visit and offered to stay onboard to help with fender repositioning (thanks Frank!). Jim had his hands full with same "fender" problem on Tank. Am glad Frank did stay since several times I needed his help to push the boat out enough (against wind and waves) to reposition the fenders between the boat and the pilings. None of us got much rest....
July 9- Next day, harbor was like a millpond! We were all exhausted...Frank had to go teach his sailing class. Jim and I decided to leave pronto and move to a quiet (hopefully) nearby anchorage around the "corner" outside of the harbor in Swan Creek. Anchors went down and I gratefully fell into bed to get some much needed rest. FYI....for anyone interested....neither of cruising guides we have including 2013 edition mention the huge mooring ball fields (with lots of empty balls) on Swan Creek...... The Guides do list the several marinas but no mention of mooring balls....Frank says they are probably managed by Gratitude Marina and may be $1/ft/night but verify if interested.
July 10--We are still here on Swan Creek....bad weather forecasted....overcast skies, promising rain much of day but held off until early evening.....T-storms came up fast....Jim was barely able to row back to his boat before the storm hit...he was rowing against strong winds and waves with white streaks of foam....black sky with lightening and gusts to 32 knots and a lot of rain...I clocked the wind gusts and reported them to Jim via VHF....we agreed that if it reached 40 knots, we would each put out 30 feet more chain (we had 60 feet out). Fortunately gusts stayed max of 35 but I did not get much sleep; kept worrying about dragging anchor but Celerity stayed put. (Thank you Mr. Bruce!!!). Tank also stayed put. Good holding for the anchors!
July 11 and 12- Still stuck on Swan Creek for weather. Sky is overcast; more T-storms and rain forecasted. Rained buckets on both days. With overcast skies and no sun, my solar panels can't generate enough power to charge the batteries adequately to feed my hungry refrigeration system. For you non-boaters, my fridge runs off of my boat batteries which have to be charged every day....rain or shine! With no sunshine, I have to run my noisy engine (in neutral) for couple of hours just to power the alternator to charge the batts (same as your car and its battery except I have 4 that need a lot more charging).
All the rain created a bathtub in my dinghy...thought about using it to bath Abigail but she shook her head at the idea of it! So had to pump the "bathtub" of water out of the dinghy several times using a manual pump.......Good day to rest (Abigail has this down to an art form!) and listen to books on tape and do few small boat chores. I know the rain will stop, the sun will return and we will eventually get out of Swan Creek! Cabin fever is beginning.....
Weather forecast for tomorrow (July 13) is better so we will hopefully up anchor and move north to an anchorage at the Baltimore Yacht Club, off Middle River, outside of Baltimore (city is on the Patapsco River, about 20 miles by car from the Club)....Polaris, Outrageous and Celerity were there last year.......good holding ground for an anchor so no fear about dragging! The adventure continues......