Wed 15 Aug 2012
Docked at Cape Charles Harbor marina, Cape Charles, VA
[one of the many watermen plying his trade from Smith Island]
We both slept well considering we had partied a bit too much the night before. Up to the shower at 0700, we saw Steve and Pauli leaving for their boat ride to the mainland. They are nice people and we will always remember Smith Island fondly.
Getting off the dock with the strong current pushing us toward Paul and Cyn's boat was tricky and one of those times when you have to commit. After pulling our boat as tight to the starboard side as possible, I got her in reverse, added judicious throttle and we simultaneously cast off the lines. The current swept us sideways so fast that we only missed their boat by a foot, but Diane was ready to fend off, if needed.
Recovering from that maneuver and getting out of the narrow channel proved to be easy by comparison and we were soon on course to the S for Cape Charles. The wind was such that we could just barely use it by sheeting our headsail as tight as possible. About 5 hours into the passage, we had to furl the sail and just motor, but at least by then the current had switched and was in our favor. We averaged just about 6.5 statute miles per hour for 9 hours and made it in before the building thunderstorms to the W threatened.
Cape Charles Harbor marina is pretty nice. The docks and the bathhouse and showers are brand new and done well. It was one of the best marina showers of our trip so far. The cost is only $1.50 per foot plus $5 for electric. We would really recommend this place for those reasons alone.
After getting settled in, we both showered and dressed for a brief shoreside excursion. Even though Duane had made a meat sauce and cooked penne pasta for tonight's dinner while underway, we wanted to get off the boat, so we strolled to Kelly's Irish Pub. We had our traditional beer and decided that the pasta would keep, so we ordered 6 sweet bourbon-glazed wings and a plate of calamari. We loved the wings and only ate one-third of the calamari, bringing the rest back to the boat.
The storm threat was over, so we walked down the main street for several blocks (most store were closed at 1930) and then headed back to Diva Di. Clyde walked the docks with Diane for a while and we relaxed in the cockpit before heading below. It was a surprisingly comfortable day; the entire time we were underway in the bay, it was nice, and only for a short while after we docked was it stifling hot. By 1900, it was almost pleasant.
We have decided to leave later than normal tomorrow so that we can spend some time cleaning up the boat. The decks and cockpit really need scrubbing. Our destination is up in the air for now.
Tue 14 Aug 2012
Docked at Smith Island marina, Smith Island, MD
[Note: I don't know how I was able to post Monday's blog because within a minute of getting an Internet connection, it faded away and I never got another one until we got to our next destination.]
Once we killed those mosquitos that got below, we enjoyed a comfortable evening below (all together now) - in the air conditioning. We spoke to our slip neighbors who abandoned their boat in the middle of the night to sleep in the tiny, but charming, "yacht club" building at the end of the dock with its small window air conditioner.
After our breakfast, we got the bicycles out for the first time in many weeks. Their dearth of use was due to the much hotter and humid weather, and more travel time and less time in port. Smith Island is very flat, and barely above sea level. There were many puddles along the sides of the roads and this was just from a high tide flooding over the road. A local worker said they get flooded frequently to a foot or more, which wreaks havoc with the homes and low-lying equipment.
Our ride was interesting and challenging only in the sense that we had to keep removing one hand from the narrow handle bar to swat biting flies. The entire island is a series of marshes and there are flies in abundance. We passed the town of Ewell's dump, incinerator, and waste treatment plant. We passed dozens of homes that were all very modest but one and ranged from absolutely decrepit to well-kept. None but one was anywhere near new and most were in desperate need of scraping and painting. There were many structures (shacks, really) that housed gear for crabbing and many with bay water flowing through PVC plumbing that were obviously for storing crabs alive until they were ready for selling.
From our brief observations, it seems that the inhabitants are friendly, hard-working, stout-hearted people. That so many properties are in disrepair and littered with broken down boats, boat parts, junk cars, and other things may just be reflective of how hard it is for them to scrape out a living as watermen today.
After our ride of several miles, Duane was soaked with perspiration and tired of swatting flies, so we stowed the bikes back aboard and relaxed in the cool, dry, bug-free cabin of Diva Di. A small thunderstorm rolled over us briefly, but later we heard deep rumbling and discovered a large powerboat was coming in beside us. Once they were docked, we introduced ourselves and helped acquaint them with the charms and limitations of the place.
They were a bit shocked to learn, for example, that the marina accepts only cash or check, and that there are no ATMs on the island. They were equally shocked that the town's two restaurants close at 1600, since that is when the cruise boat leaves and takes away pretty much anyone that dines there. We finally decided to dine at 1500 to avoid any surprises.
When 1430 came, we were all assembled at the foot of the dock conversing with Pauli. When 1500 approached, we readied our pre-dinner cocktails and dinner wine (it was BYOB) and then went into the Bayside Inn Restaurant. It was exactly what you might expect from a down-to-earth establishment, yet our food was very good and quite affordable.
After dinner we sat on the restaurant porch in the nice breeze and finished our wine. After much great conversation, we decided to retire to their boat, Original Cin (named after Cynthia), and enjoyed quite a few cocktails and innumerous stories of life on the water. It is a truism that only near calamities make for interesting, but not tragic, stories.
An interesting note is that Paul and Cynthia were thrilled that we (as sailors) were so friendly and eager to make their acquaintance; their previous experience was that sailors did not associate with power boaters. It was apparent that regardless of the mode of propulsion, we all face the same challenges and enjoy the same rewards.
Following a few too many drinks and stories, we made our way back to Diva Di, where Clyde was ready to come out for the night. We allowed him up on deck, but quickly closed all the hatch boards to keep the bugs out. Within 20 minutes, he was ready to come inside and we buttoned up for the night.
Mon 13 Aug 2012
Docked at Smith Island marina, Smith Island, MD
Thanks to the air conditioning, we slept well and awoke before 0630 to get ready for our big date ashore at the Comfort Inn breakfast buffet. Duane made the mistake of thinking the small, thin, round, pale discs next to the sausage patties were small pancakes, so they got pancake syrup on them. It turns out they were eggs and usually used to make a sandwich with the sausage and a muffin. Oh, well; it was still pretty good.
After breakfast, we were able to get ready to leave rather quickly and then the challenge began. Being in the second slip from the seawall, there was not enough room to get our stern toward the wall so we could exit the fairway bow first. We set up a spring line on the outboard piling to the midship cleat and Diane tended it as we backed. At the appropriate time, she held the line fast and we pivoted stern first into the fairway. She cast off the line and we were on our way. It helped that the wind was fairly light.
We got to put out the headsail almost right away, but it only served well until we had to turn SE on our course, then it was of marginal help for just another hour or so. One exciting thing occurred as we left the Patuxent River; an F-22 Raptor was coming in with gear and flaps down for a landing at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. We had never seen one except in photos and videos before.
It sure was a great day to be a powerboat; the wind was so light that the water was almost like glass for half our trip. Getting into the main channel at Smith Island and transiting it and the secondary channel proved less of a challenge than we expected, but finding the right slip was the problem. Our first approach was into what turned out to be a restaurant slip where a small cruise boat was coming in momentarily. We were scooted out of there pretty quickly and when we tied up where the woman told us to go, it was still not one of the marina's slips.
We were trapped temporarily, until another boat moved and then we were able to make our third and final docking maneuver. Diane says that none of these "were pretty" and she is right, but considering the conditions, I think we did just fine. First, we had to get unstuck off the bottom to get out of the second spot, and then maneuver around part of the cruise boat that was partially blocking the slip. Coming into the last slip, there was strong side current and there was nothing to be done about the lack of water depth; we were aground again about 5 feet from the pier.
Fortunately, Diane was still on the pier, so she could catch the lines I threw her. Once she tied them off, it was all Duane could do to pull the boat through the mud close enough to the pier to get on and off the boat. At high tide after supper, they could finally pull it in to a normal distance. We will need to be careful with the tide when we want to leave.
After getting the boat just forward enough in the slip so that the shore power cable reached, we plugged in the air conditioning and then tried to get cool. With the sun beating on the deck and the water temperature at 83F, the cabin only cooled from 87F to 84F in 3 hours (it got to 77F after the sun set). On the plus side, there was seemingly little humidity in the boat.
While the boat was cooling, we got some cold beverages ready and lowered the dinghy to explore a bit. It was comfortable with the breeze generated from moving through the water at 10 knots, but it was a little nerve wracking in that the water in the island's many waterways is murky and shallow. You don't know you are getting ready to run aground until you do. Fortunately, we could raise the propeller and keep going back to deeper water. You know it is shallow when a dinghy needs to stay in the main channel to avoid running aground.
When we came back, a nice-looking pleasure tug boat was aside of us, so we introduced ourselves and got a nice tour. They were invited for cocktails later, and we relaxed and then took showers in the very clean and spacious bathroom/shower at this tiny little marina. It is run by a husband/wife team (Steve and Pauli) and they are very nice and accommodating. The price is only $1 per foot of boat length plus $5 for electric usage. We are pretty sure it is the only game in town for transient dockage.
Our slip neighbors in the tug informed us they were taking a long walk and would be back later. We prepared dinner around 1830 and then while Diane was cleaning up, Duane was banished to the cockpit. Our neighbors saw me arise from the boat and they came over. Before long, the local pastor strolled by and we invited him to have a glass of wine with us. What followed was a series of very interesting and varied conversations. We cannot stress enough that the most enjoyable part of cruising is the people you meet along the way.
The sunset was gorgeous, but within 20 minutes the noseeums (tiny biting gnats) and the mosquitos became ferocious. Duane is bothered by biting insects more than most people and we were driven to say good bye and head inside pronto after exchanging contact info. Our slip neighbors are moving on tomorrow, but we are staying to enjoy and explore this little piece of yesteryear.
Sun 12 Aug 2012
Docked at Beacon Marina, Solomon's Island, MD
After another restful night, we were up by 0600 and departed the dock at 0700. It actually took most of that time to straighten up, stow gear, put away power cords and water hoses, etc. The passage was very nice in that there was no bad weather and we made decent speed. The wind was abaft and too little to use except for a brief period, but it was a good 52 statute mile run all the same.
Arriving at the entrance to the Patuxent River, there were many sailboats out with no destination, so they could actually sail. We had to motor into the harbor at Solomon's Island under power alone. The dockmaster was absent this weekend, so the slip assignment was made by a desk clerk at the Comfort Inn. She may or may not have had information that we would be sitting on the bottom at low tide, but at least we could sneak in with a few inches under our keel when we arrived. We will have about the same when we leave tomorrow.
It is a sad thing when you have to admit that after getting the boat secured, the first thing you do is get out the power cord for the air conditioning. The conditions out in the bay were very comfortable the entire way, but the apparent heat index soared once we got into the slip with almost no wind. Diane remembered sooner than me that this place has a pool, so we quickly got the laundry, pool and shower stuff, and some cold drinks and headed there.
Of course, it was crowded with many young, boisterous children so we did the best we could. After Duane moved several times, though, to be where the kids were not splashing, I finally had enough and asked them in a nice but serious tone where they wanted me to go where I could have a little splash-free zone to read my book. At that, the grandmother watching the 5 kids (not counting the other families' children) finally attempted to counsel them that other people needed to enjoy the pool, too.
We had 10 minutes of peace after they left and then it was time to retrieve the laundry and start supper. It was chicken medallions ala Marsala over noodles, with fresh Brussel sprouts. Yumm! Surprisingly, after dinner we were able to sit in the cockpit with a light breeze, no bugs, and comfortable temperature and humidity until 2100.
Monday we head for Smith Island where we will stay just a night, or perhaps 2 since we have never visited there.
Sat 11 Aug 2012
Docked at the City Dock in Annapolis, MD
[photo: Ed and Shirely with us in front of the Bill the Goat statue, US Naval Academy]
It was another great night at the dock in the air conditioning. Ed and Shirley called just before 0900 to say they were on the way from the hotel. We got in their car and went to a local grocery market for some serious reprovisioning. After returning to Diva Di, we stowed the provisions while Ed and Shirley parked their car in the garage.
We rendezvoused a bit later and then walked a few blocks to the Barry Gate at the Naval Academy and found the visitor center where we booked a guided tour. Our tour lasted almost 2 hours and had us walk well over a mile, but it was absolutely fascinating. The level of detail that our guide presented was amazing. It was mostly about the life that the plebes and midshipmen lead and a bit about the history. Overall, it was terrific.
Following that great tour, we ordered hot dogs and Italian sausage sandwiches from Pip's, a block from the boat, and ate on Diva Di. After all that walking in the heat and humidity, we collectively decided to take a short nap, Ed and Shirley in the main cabin, and Duane and Diane in the V-berth. We awoke refreshed and sat in the cockpit for a while enjoying the freshening breeze. Shirley and Diane left the boat to go shopping downtown, while Ed and Diane found it entertaining to swap stories in the cockpit and watch the interesting sights of the active waterfront.
When the ladies returned, we started happy hour and then thought about supper. When Duane called Cantler's (a local favorite), they had a 1.5 hour wait, so we decided to stroll the downtown streets. We got no further than one block and decided on Italian at Maria's Ristorante. The food was pricey, but all very good and we enjoyed it very much.
We said our goodbyes on the street and they left for the hotel as we did for the boat. As with all our friends, we are very grateful that they took the time to come down and visit with us. Tomorrow, we have a long passage to Solomon's Island, MD.
Fri 10 Aug 2012
Docked at the City Dock in Annapolis, MD
We slept in great comfort, and awoke in the early morning to rain. Diane got up first to bring a few items in from the cockpit that were better off staying dry and we went back to sleep. It was a somewhat lazy morning until about 1000 when we both walked to the liquor store to re-supply. Duane then left Diane alone on the boat (she requested an hour, minimum) to pay the harbormaster, take a shower, and buy more ice. We make our own ice, but with company coming, it was well worth the $2 per bag to not have to fuss with that.
Our friends, Ed and Shirley, drove down from PA and got a space in the parking garage (did I mention that parking is at a premium here?). They walked down the hill and we met them at the docks. After a visit of several hours with some nibbles, we strolled around a bit and then stopped at O'Brien's for a drink. That was special since it is Ed's last name.
We then came back to the City Dock to take the water taxi across the Spa Creek to Eastport (In a good-humored way, they have seceded from Annapolis and prefer to be known as the Maritime Republic of Eastport). After a short walk, we dined at The Boatyard and enjoyed our food very much. As a recommendation by our local friend, Bill, it is a place the locals will frequent more than the tourists and the prices reflect that.
Well sated, we came back by taxi to the dock and boarded Diva Di. We chatted in the cockpit for a short while, but it was apparent that everyone was full, and tired, and ready to call it a night. Ed and Shirley left to fetch the car and drive back to the hotel. We will rendezvous with them in the morning when we will go grocery shopping and then tour the Naval Academy.