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Madcap Sailing
Meandering Through the Marshes
12/10/2007/10:26 am, Cacaway Island, MD

We have had a delightful few days. It feels so very good to slooooow down - waaaay down. There has been a rhythm to our journey just as there is in any journey. Weather, events, and our level of energy or fatigue have guided us. Sometimes we feel the urge to press onward in our eastward/southward movement. Sometimes we stay in a particular place for an event; sometimes we stay to enjoy the company of friends and family. Sometimes we want to explore an area in a little more depth than "just passing through" allows us to do; sometimes "getting there" is the driving force.

We pushed down the New Jersey coast and up Delaware Bay because we wanted to attend the Annapolis Boat Show last weekend. Having done that, we are now in a position to slow down until the end of the month while we explore the Chesapeake Bay. Strathspey and Madcap are setting our own itineraries for this period so there is no need to consult on destinations or timing. Each crew gets to do exactly as it wants - when it wants. And so, Jim and I have been meandering!

We left Baltimore on Monday and made our way back down the Patapsco River to an anchorage in Swan's Creek near Rock Hall - on the eastern shore of the Bay. I started dinner as soon as we arrived, and a couple of hours later we feasted on roast turkey (yes - from my own little oven on board), apple-cranberry stuffing, peas, carrots and coleslaw with a chilled chardonnay. After allowing that to settle a bit, we dropped into the silky water for a swim, and followed up with carrot cake and a sip of Niagara Ice Wine. T'was a memorable Thanksgiving indeed.

Tuesday was hot again - in the high 20's (it may even have hit 30) and although we had planned to explore Rock Hall - the local town - it was all we could do to walk as far as the Waterman's Museum. That was closed up so we asked for the key at the neighbouring store and spent a pleasant time examining the memorabilia there. Then it was a hot and dusty walk back to the dinghy and a speedy run to Madcap where we jumped immediately into the water again.

This swimming has been an unexpected treat. We had never dreamed it would be warm enough, and the water temperatures have been the highest we've seen all trip - high 20's. We keep hearing about sea nettles, also known as stinging nettles. I thought they must be plants, but it turns out they are jellyfish (Jim knew that all along). When we eventually saw some in the Chester River, they were smallish white ones with trailing stingers. The books say the water is fresh enough as we travel up these rivers that they are not a problem, and we have found that to be true.

We saw the most elaborate and plentiful duckblinds - good sized ones with thatched sides and roofs - in Swan's Creek. We're happy that they don't appear to be in use right now since we have been able to spot several from almost every anchorage we've been in, and we don't relish being caught in any crossfire.

On Wednesday, we raised anchor and traveled on to the Chester River. We had read about an anchorage just off Cacaway Island and so we navigated our way up the river, into Langford Creek, through the marsh-lined channel to the anchorage. I have just finished reading James Michener's Chesapeake in which he talks a great deal about the marshes and it is interesting to be moving among them. Much of that novel is set in the Choptank River, which we will explore next week, but I think we are certainly getting a taste of it now. These rivers twist this way and that, and the shoreline is almost always lined with rushes.

Cacaway Island is small - no landing allowed - and is home to a variety of birds. We saw a magnificent bald eagle soar in for a landing. He perched high above us for quite some time and I was desperately wishing for a "zoomier" lens on my camera! What strong birds they are - huge claws, thick necks, and so distinctive with their white head and tail feathers. At the other end of the island, a couple of turkey vultures were putting on a show. One was perched atop a dead head and the other came soaring in to land higher up on the same branch. They appeared to be engaging in some kind of interaction - do adults feed each other like cardinals do? One flew off again while the other stayed with wings outstretched, tail up, head down and appeared to be eating. I wish I had been able to get a better look but it was just too far away. Today, a turkey vulture came in to a branch closer to us, and sat for the longest time with his back to us and his (her?) wings spread wide out. The wing span had to be close to a metre. I don't know if they need to spread their wings out to dry like cormorants do or not. I'd be very happy to hear from any birders out there about turkey vulture habits. A couple of elegant blue herons appeared as well - one standing so still along the shoreline while another landed high in a tree and pulled his long neck in as if to take a nap. This morning we saw a great mass of Canada Geese fly overhead.

What a treat it is to be up close and personal with nature in the Chesapeake. Later today we head for Chestertown to do some connecting with people.

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14/10/2007/6:54 am | Linda and Peter
Notes from the ornitholigist bro-in-law:
Other species engage in courtship feeding but I'm not aware of this in vultures;
Birds such as eagles, hawks, owls and vultures may spread their wings out over a food resource to protect it - known as "mantling";
If a food resources isn't being protected, such birds may be spreading their wings to dry if wet - spreading is also thought to enhance feather maintenance.
Love the nature notes!
Annapolis Boat Show
08/10/2007/9:29 am, Baltimore, Maryland

We had a long trip from a lovely little anchorage in the Sassafras River to Baltimore. It has been so warm that we even went for a swim on Saturday in the semi-salty water. How delightful to swim in October!

We wanted to visit the Boat Show but would have had to rush too much to get there by boat, so we opted to come to Baltimore and rent a car. That plan worked well, although the trip up river to get here was not our favourite. This whole area is really shallow and the channel was like a highway of fast boats. Every wake rocked us all over the place and there was no wind so it didn't make for an exactly pleasureable journey.

However - we anchored in a lovely little corner of Canton - a neighbourhood on the edge of Baltimore. It's busy but pretty, with condos and a boardwalk lining the river banks. The folks at Anchorage Marina were kind enough to let us leave our dinghy in their secure area while we went off to Annapolis, and if we were to need dock space, we would come here.

The Boat Show was interesting as always - we met some friendly merchants we had dealt with last year and were able to update them on our adventure - also making plans to connect with them again. We purchased some new charts and guidebooks to take us through the rest of the US east coast, a wifi antenna that we hope will help solve our connection problems, a gadget for keeping our diesel clean and polished, and a system for ensuring a watertight seal around our mast. We'll see how they all work over the next few weeks.

We leave Baltimore today and will find a quiet anchorage where I'll pop the (small) turkey into my oven, roast some turnip,potato and carrots, chop up some cabbage for coleslaw and enjoy our very own Thanksgiving dinner.

We send our greetings to all our friends and family who are celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving, and to American friends who are celebrating Columbus Day.

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08/10/2007/3:33 pm | Tim and Steph
We saw you moored in Baltimore during our side trip from the boat show on Sunday, via the water taxi. It certainly was great to see a fellow Canadian visiting that wonderful area. We'll continue to read about your journey. Happy Thanksgiving...from London, ON
09/10/2007/7:08 am | Jac van Beek
Went to the Senators game with two of my adult 'children' and have two bits of news - Sens undefeated after 4 and Bert's Bar URL = If you get there, there are always too many Ottawans - fantastic!
09/10/2007/10:42 pm | Pat Sullivan
Jim and Beth - George sent us your website link - we had been thinking of you and wondering how you were making out - it's so great to read about your adventures - I'm so envious! Your former house on Echo is under total renovation and still has a dumpster outside - taking much longer than they thought. We're all fine, and wish you both a heartfelt and safe Canadian Thankgiving!
10/10/2007/5:51 am | Rob Wells
Well it was good to hear from you yesterday. I have had a few minutes on line this Am to catch up on your progress. With my Hospital slow dialup I am envious of your WiFi antenna as well of the navigational challenges you are experiencing. I too am on a learning curve as I try to navigate my current over stuffed and unstable chair over Halifax sidewalks. Each outing is rewarding but not near any life long dreams I ever had. My dream currently has more about planting feet on the hard. Life is full of irony, when you least expect it.

Carry on in your adventure but do take care.
11/10/2007/10:55 am | Ernie Roberts
Thanks for your blogs..we leave on Monday for the trip South from Connecticut.

sail well and beware the fog !
From NYC to Chesapeake Bay
Beth - below the 40th parallel
05/10/2007/2:22 pm, Sassafras River

After taking one last stroll around while the laundry dried, we reluctantly packed ourselves up and headed down the Hudson River on the noontide. We circled around near the Statue of Liberty so that Strathspey and we could take pictures of each other. That was a bit of a trick because of all the traffic - pleasure boaters doing the same thing we were while commercial vessels tried not to hit anyone as they went about their business. We were a bit flummoxed by the fellows on the sailboat next to us who both went forward to take pictures, leaving no one at the helm - and they weren't operating a remote control either!

Our stop on Sunday night was Sandy Hook - an aptly named hook of land out past the Verrazano Bridge, where we gratefully dropped our anchor and made an early night of it. Next day we were off at 3 am to make the run down the Jersey coast to Atlantic City. The coast is supposed to be full of lovely beaches - but from our vantage point about 3 miles off shore, it just looked flat! The wind was fine though and we sailed most of the way, turning our engine off about 0930 and not on again till about 1600. The guidebook said it could be an exhilarating run into Atlantic City - and the guidebook was right! The tide and wind combined to make it a rollicking ride - not dangerous, but certainly exhilarating. We anchored just outside the channel in the glow of all the casino lights, and after a quick dinner we turned in early again. We went right back out again the next morning as soon as it was light enough to see the entrance clearly - about 0700 - and set our course for Cape May. This was the last stretch of the Atlantic Ocean that we'll travel in for a while and we rolled along comfortably on the swells.

The entry into Cape May was much more peaceful, and we found a number of boats anchored in front of the Coast Guard station. We joined them, chatted with the folks on Camelot II who had come straight down from New York City, and dinghied ashore to find the Lobster House - a well-known seafood restaurant and market. With bags of shrimp, swordfish, and a tub of crab bisque, we made our way back to Madcap at dusk, fired up the BBQ and dined sumptuously on our fresh and tasty purchases. Cape May is supposed to be quite lovely with an area of restored Victorian houses, but it will have to wait for our trip back up next year because we needed to push on in order to be somewhere near Annapolis for a visit to the boat show on the weekend.

We opted to travel around Cape May Point rather than go through the Cape May Canal because although we could probably clear the 55-foot bridge, we were happier not to risk that couple of feet we would have to spare. The trip around took a couple of hours, and our trip up the Delaware Bay was speedy. Mary and I had checked the tides as we always do and the flood tide moved us along at close to 7 knots most of the way. Reports say that it can sometimes be choppy and uncomfortable, but it was a smooth run for us. Rather than go through the C&D Canal (Chesapeake and Delaware) late in the afternoon when we weren't sure of anchoring possibilities, we opted to stop off behind Reedy Island. It was a secure little spot for a stay when the wind wasn't bad. I hoped to see a variety of migratory birds among the reeds but no such luck.

We woke up on Thursday morning to a thick fog so we delayed our departure till about 0900 - still time to catch the end of the ebb current running westward through the canal. Once again, the weather was with us as the fog burned off, leaving us with smooth motoring under blazing hot sunshine. No excitement in the canal and no wind made it a fairly tedious day so we were happy to make the turn into the pretty Sassafras River. We made our winding way up Georgetown where we anchored behind the mooring field for the night. The banks along the river are just tinged with autumn colour and among the reeds and bushes we saw several bald eagles - their white heads gleaming in the sunlight.

We went ashore with Bair and Mary to the Granary where we devoured wonderful cashew-crusted oysters and crab and corn fritters. The sky was full of stars and frogs were singing loudly in the marsh near us as we arrived back at Madcap. This was a lovely introduction to the Chesapeake Bay where we'll spend the next two weeks exploring.

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