26/06/2008/4:14 pm, Lusby, MD (Mill Creek)
What a very cool feeling - to write this posting from Mill Creek in the village of Lusby, Maryland.
We met Carole and Richard Hackett in Green Turtle Cay on New Year's Eve, and waved good bye to them in Black Point Settlement. As I said to Carole, I always felt we didn't have enough time to get to know them despite several happy hours and streetside conversations so we were very happy to take them up on their "When you come this way, stop by" invitation. As we neared the dock where Kilissa was moored, Richard hailed us and said that his neighbour, Joe, had offered his dock if we wanted to tie up. We did, and in the process met another group of "beautiful Chesapeakeans". Richard, Joe, Robin and Bob took our lines, offered us beers and a warm welcome to that exquisite little cove. Before long we were seated around the table in Richard and Carole's lovely home, admiring Richard's carpentry skills and enjoying Carole's culinary skills. With all the tall trees and shady greenery, the area reminded us of where we lived in the Princess Park area of North Vancouver. True - these trees shed their leaves, but the summertime feeling was the same.
We rented a car on Tuesday and drove to Baltimore for an extremely exciting encounter at the Customs building. You may remember from a few postings ago our frustration with the Cruising Permit process. Well - I have a new recommendation. Get to know the good folks in Baltimore.
Let me back up a step or two. We had our horrible visit to Morehead City. We called in to Norfolk like the woman told us, only to find out that Newport News handles the Hampton side of the River, so we called there. The officer at that office told us we didn't have to report in person, cleared us in and also gave us permission to leave. Jim called Baltimore on Friday to let them know we were in Maryland and got a voice message telling us to call back on Monday. After warning us that "we had been misinformed and were subject to arrest and seizure of our boat if Coast Guard stopped us, Miss Gray said, "Why don't you just come in and get a new permit?" Once Jim picked his jaw off the floor and recovered his voice, he replied, "We'd love to do that" and made an appointment for 11 am Tuesday morning.
This official visit could not have been more different from the last one. We went through the sign in and screening at the front door of the Customs House, and then walked into the friendly cheery confines of the vessel permit office. We presented our vessel registration, the Bahamian Cruising Permit, the documentation of our entry back into the US and soon had a year long US Cruising Permit in hand. Miss Gray told us she had been worried about us and was glad we now had the proper documentation. Along with it, she gave us a list of all the phone numbers to call for the check ins from here to the Canadian Border. We still don't know why we have to go through that process - but we know it is just a phone call - no more expensive taxis and rental cars and fees. Last year, the Reed's book said it was not necessary, and the officers who issued the permit and checked us agreed with that. In 2008 there doesn't seem to be that ambiguity; Reed's doesn't offer any exceptions, and Miss Gray was clear on the issue so we'll do it.
We roamed around Baltimore's Inner Harbour, ate delicious crab at Phillips and returned to Lusby. Carole had book Club that night, so Richard joined us for dinner at CD's Café over in Solomons Island. It was just as good as on our last visit.
Wednesday morning was taken up with putzing around on the boat, followed by a yummy lunch at Richard and Carole's where we met their friends Deb and Doug - Floridians and also boaters. After another dockside conversation with our slip host, Joe, who made us feel so welcome, we headed over to Spring Cove marina for fuel and a pumpout, then anchored at the beginning of Mill Creek (near where Dick and Tina used to live) for an early morning start on Thursday. Jim (Sea Rose) dinghied over for a chat after dinner - he and his wife are headed up to Canada - through the Trent-Severn Canal, and back down through Lake Champlain. As senior sailors, they are a reminder for us that we can look forward to many more sailing years.
We had a quiet night and an absolutely fabulous sail on Thursday all the way to Annapolis where we grabbed a mooring ball right next to old buddies Mike and Kathy (Sapphire).
23/06/2008/4:11 pm, Manokin River, Maryland
On the way south, I read a book called Beautiful Swimmers by William Warner. It was about crabs. These postings are about people!
We spent a night in Antipoison Creek and met local resident, Don McClean. We traveled across the Bay and up the Manokin River to spend a couple of days with Bob and Mary Lou Culbertson, friends from our Bahama days. Then we moved back across the Bay to Mills Creek in the Solomons Island area to visit Carole and Richard Hackett, where we also met Joe Frost and his relatives, Robin, Bob and Carol. Beautiful Chesapeakeans, all.
We had been all set to spend Thursday night in Jackson Creek, till we looked in our log book and discovered that we'd been there on the way south. In the interests of discovering new anchorages, we headed for Antipoison Creek. It was a beautiful little spot, ringed with lovely homes and not far off the Bay. Twenty minutes took us from the entrance buoy to our anchorage - no mean thing in the Chesapeake Bay.
An ospreys' nest covered the green buoy nearby and several birds came and went from it. I've rarely seen two birds on a nest at the same time, but that was the case here. They swooped around, snatching fish from the water and flying back to the nest. Their piercing cheep cheep cheeps always surprise me - they sound like little birds rather than hunters.
Don came by for a chat on Friday morning, welcomed us to the area and told us stories about boats that had dragged across the bay in past storms. He even took a bag of garbage away for us before we upanchored and headed off to the eastern shore.
Mary Lou and Bob live on the Manokin River, and we decided to anchor off their house rather than at the Crisfield Marina so we wound our way carefully up the channel and stopped just where the water shallowed out. Although this was not a route suggested by any of the guide books, the channel was well marked and the holding was fine. We waved madly as we dinghied to shore to see these friends first met in Spanish Wells and last seen at Cat Island. Mary Lou soon had a big pot of clams on to steam and we dined with gusto on clams with drawn butter followed by steaks, asparagus and baked potatoes with sour cream. We even slept in a real bed, opting to stay at their house rather than dinghy back and forth to the boat.
On Saturday, after a huge breakfast of eggs and bacon and toast and coffee, we sat on their deck to watch the birds and the rabbits as we caught up on all the news of who's been doing what since we last met and then we went exploring - through their pretty little local town of Princess Anne to the larger Salisbury. We picked up Mary Lou's mother and attended a cheerleaders fundraising lunch. We then headed for Asseteague Beach - a National Seashore Park - where we walked the beach in company with dozens of others. The water felt cold so I didn't mind walking instead of swimming even though we've been missing the fine swimming of the clear Bahamas water.
We stopped by the Yacht Club for their traditional Saturday Bellringing. Members take turns hosting a Saturday Happy Hour with excellent food and drink. This time, the steamer was producing a steady flow of clams and the table was laden with meatballs, cheese, chips and crackers with delectable little Hershey Kisses for the sweet teeth. It seemed like a great idea for regular socializing among the members, and we met a friendly bunch of boaters. Despite partaking liberally of the edibles, we managed to down plates of shrimp and pasta and a bottle or two of wine back at the River House.
Bob helped Jim fish a new reefing line through our boom and they looked up weather and charts for the next stage of our journey before we set off to do more exploring - to Deal Island and more of the surrounding area. Grocery shopping and laundering were on the list as well.
Mary Lou puts out two crab pots (or crab hotels as Bob calls them), and under her instruction, I hauled them in. We harvested a dozen blue shell crabs, steamed them with Old Bay seasoning, and in the evening picked them clean. Oh - they were GOOOOD. Jim and I especially liked the "newspapers on the table, finger lickin' process." We re-learned where to break open the shells, how to use the little hammers to crack the claws, and how to get every scrap of meat out of those creatures.
By Monday it was time to be on our way again so, with a certainty in our hearts of more visits with these dear friends, we bade them farewell and headed down the river and across the Bay to Patuxent River. We had the mainsail up but needed to have the motor on too or we'd have been out there a long time.
18/06/2008/8:09 pm, Hampton, VA
We cruised past all the warships lining the Norfolk Harbour, spotted at Hospital Point a couple of boats we had last seen in the Bahamas, and pushed on to Hampton. A leaflet we had been given in the Dismal Swamp welcomed us to that area and assured us we could anchor across from the Downtown Piers. Well - we could, and did, but watching our stern swing awfully close to a piling was part of the deal.
We were first anchored close to red marker 22, but while we were ashore and blissfully ignorant, we slid backward. Fortunately we were still afloat, although we provided entertainment for our friendly neighbours on Escapade. With the anchor reset and more rode out, we were secure but watchful. When the anchor alarm (set at its lowest setting) went off with every wind shift and tide change in the night, we paid close attention to see whether it was a swing or a drag! Depending on tide and swing, we had either 4 ft under us or almost nothing.
Showers were $1.00 apiece - fabulous price - at the Public Piers so we cleaned up and went off to explore the impressive Virginia Air and Space Center. We checked our problem-solving abilities and reaction times to see if we'd make good pilots, and looked in wonder at the command module from the Apollo 12 mission to the moon. We peered at pieces of rock from the moon and from Mars. Interestingly, that piece was from a meteorite that fell out of the sky one day in Nigeria. It was only later that its chemical content could be compared with information from the Mars Rover expeditions, and a match was made.
Then the question was - move on for a few hours or stay and make a real day of it on Thursday. You guessed it - we stayed. It felt like we needed the time to look at charts and regroup ourselves - into Chesapeake Bay cruisers. Jim bought a couple of jerry cans of diesel ($4.95 US gallon); we chatted with Hamish, Kieron, and little Jack on Free at Last (Sarah was getting dinner) and were reminded again how much we like meeting Aussie friends. We dug out our Down East Circle Route book - by Cheryl Barr - our guide for the St Lawrence River part of the trip - one they are planning to take.
Which reminds me...
Our two favourite books for traveling the ICW were: "Managing the Waterway: an Enriched Cruising Guide for Intracoastal Waterway Cruisers" by Mark and Diana Doyle.
2005, Semi-local publications LLC. It was beautifully set up to provide specific information on anchorages, marinas and bridges for each mile, and had a rich narrative portion for reading along the way.
Intracoastal Waterway Chartbook: Norfolk VA to Miami FL (4th edition) edited by John Kettlewell and Leslie Kettlewell. 2002, International Marine/McGraw Hill. This one is set up in flip chart fashion with arrows. It's like a CAA triptik for the waterway and we found it immensely handy in the cockpit.
While we are happy that we followed the ICW all the way down to Lake Worth once so we have a clear idea of what it is like, we did several outside passages on the way back and are very happy we did that too. It meant that we spent far fewer days traveling on the inland route and were able to stop for several days at a time when we wanted or needed to. To be more specific, we spent 28 days moving along the ICW on the way south and 7 days moving on the ICW coming north. (That was mostly because we made outside passages, but more hours of daylight helped too.) It took 30 traveling days to go from Norfolk to the Bahamas, and 13.5 traveling days to come back.
There is something to be said for being either ahead of or at the end of the pack too - less crowded anchorages, no jockeying for position at bridges.
So here we are ready for the Chesapeake Bay. We're off on Thursday for the Deltaville area and will then go across to visit Crisfield on the eastern shore - weather permitting, of course! This time, we've friends to visit all along the way.