|Crew:||Jack Markin, Debi Dennis|
The trip down the Delaware was relatively uneventful given the amount of planning and fretting that it created. We saw a few barges. One of them yelled at me for changing course ( I veered sharply because I was too close to a channel buoy,and the barge thought I was going to cut in front of him). There was an Army Corps of Engineers survey going on. There was a big freighter getting towed by a tug. There were a few other recreational boats. Nothing unexpected. We had the current with us until the last hour. For a couple of hours we were going 9 kts! The Cape May canal entrance proved to be a little tricky with more 'skinny' water than was charted, and then there were the bridges...There are two fixed bridges in the canal which are supposed to be 54 feet at high tide, but the heights given in various sources don't agree. Bob423, of Active Captain ICW advice fame, gives a formula for calculating whether your mast will clear based on bridge height, tide height and the difference between observed and predicted water level. We got all the data and calculated that we should clear so we went for it. But thought we could back out if the height board at the bridge showed otherwise. Hmmm, there were no height boards at either bridge, but we crossed our fingers and did get through. Actually it's not clear to me if it's a shortcut in terms of time. Our friends on Max went around the outside and arrived about the same time we did. Of course they go a little faster than we do. Well, it was an experience nonetheless. We came to Utsch's marina, advertised as a family run business. Really we came here because of the laundry facilities. I saw a picture of the machines on their website and knew it was the place for us. The laundry was just as good as it looked, even faster than I thought it would be. We now have all clean bedding and clothes. Our clothes are beginning to look quite ratty. We have maybe one outfit each that we can wear without broadcasting our sailor trash status. We were given two nice tshirts from Pepper at The Wharf at Handy Point before we left, so we probably will make it to Maine on what we have. We are approaching the end of this grand adventure. We are definitely not in the south anymore. I really love hearing the east coast and Jersey accents. Of course it's like any new territory I sometimes can't understand what is said. When we came in to the marina we were told over the radio to 'parallel' the t-head before turning to starboard. I had to ask him to repeat the word a few times before I realized it wasn't 'power low' , which didn't make any sense to me but 'parallel' makes perfect sense. We walked through Cape May and admired the Victorian homes, picked up a few groceries and stopped for some local scallops which we will sear for dinner tonight. The walk provided a fitting bookend to our voyage by reminding us of Burgstaaken, where we also walked from the marina through a residential area of many vacation rentals to a quaint little town dependent on tourism. Cape May is sort of New Jersey in a nut shell. It has the largest, actually second largest fishing fleet in the US after new Bedford Ma, it is home to the most, second most restored Victorian homes after San Francisco. The huge and hugely popular restaurant, the lobster house is packed but not really making money "...because they just don't get the clientele.", according to the bartender we overheard talking to some guy whose father worked at the place sometime between now and about 1931. The place is solidly conservative. The marina is an exercise in being able to like, at least appreciate, people who watch fox news and have pictures of every Republican president since Reagan in the marina office. The trump picture is actually more like a clown mask that you might hold in front of your face. The marina has been here since 1951, and the people who work here would like to be appreciated by a time traveler from 1951. But they are, like it or not, products of this era with the foibles of any of us who matured in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. There's no such thing as stopping time. We can only go forward.
Didn't stay long in Annapolis. We had a choice between one ten hour day or two five hours so chose the latter. We want to get down the Delaware River on Wednesday when conditions look favorable. Lots of people were staying or coming in to Annapolis for the Blue Angels who will be flying over tomorrow. [...]
We really enjoyed our stay at Calvert Marina. It was super chill and everyone was so nice to us. The loaner car is an ancient diesel Mercedes and you can't open the windows though. Luckily it was a cool rainy day when we took it to the supermarket and the windshield wipers worked. There's the Ann Marie sculpture garden that we walked to with lots of works on loan from the Smithsonian. The great thing about it is the way they are sited in the landscape. It was a nice walk even in the rain. Finally the sky started clearing yesterday and there was a good south wind so we came up to Annapolis and picked up a mooring at the city dock. This morning we passed a nice beach, obviously a park, with some picnic tables. It made me think how nice it would be to be able to take some time off and relax in a park. One thing about our cruising is that we never relax. We always have to think about the weather or tide or distance to the next destination, or what is the next destination. The list of worries goes on and on when you add in boat maintenance and provisioning. Do we have enough diesel? water? propane? bread? beer? I guess to those of you in the daily grind of work, errands, chores, eat, sleep, repeat this sounds a little self-indulgent. Well, our lives depend on how sound our boat is and how well we manage it. So it's not trivial and it's wearing us down. One thing we have learned from this trip is that we are not cut out for the life of living aboard. Some people thrive on it. We want a garden and a puppy. That being said, there are times at the helm when the wind hits my cheek just right, the sun shines, there's just the right tension on all parts of the boat, the water slides by like ice under a skateblade and it's all worth it. It's a state of flow that makes one happy to the core.
Day before yesterday we left the Deltaville area in heavy fog and no wind under motor power and that lasted all day. The tedium was somewhat relieved by a visit from a little bird who caught and ate a lot of the flies that invade every time we go into the Chesapeake. (Identified as a female redstart by our friend, Nina)She left when we got close to land again. We decided to tuck into a creek on the north side of the Potomac instead of anchoring out in the open because every day this week has a forecast for thunderstorms. We dropped anchor between two marinas on Smith Creek, put up our mosquito nets and proceeded to cook a delicious meal of steak, corn and zucchini. Just as we were taking our first bites in the cockpit we were visited by a dinghy. The man asked if we knew about the weather forecast - we didn't - he said he noticed we were open to the west, that a severe storm with 50kt winds was approaching from that direction, and suggested that we go upstream around a bend which would protect us from the west. So many sailors are helpful like this, but it was really nice of him to take the trouble to warn us. And so we set aside our plates, raised anchor and moved. We also took down the mosquito nets and checked for anything that might blow away. There was plenty of time to finish eating and clean up before the rain started. It poured down buckets and thunder and lightning surrounded us but there was no big wind. We felt lucky, the bark was worse than the bite. Yesterday morning we got an early start out of there and were able to sail a good bit. There was a fighter jet that appeared to be practicing takeoffs and landings. It would take off, circle, land and repeat over and over. When we came up the Patuxent River to Solomons the wind picked up. Something about the sail in reminded me of sailing in the Kieler Bucht with Jens and Dorte. Maybe it was the curve of the land, maybe it was the military zones. It just kind of felt the same I'm not sure why but I was happy to remember that. We came to Calvert Marina, across the water from the more popular Zahniser’s and much less expensive. It turned out to be where the navy had its amphibious training base for WWII. It looks like someone is trying to make it into a retirement community but it hasn't quite worked out yet. There is lots of signage, including one for the planned pool, but not much actual building. The marina is serviceable but definitely not modern or luxurious. The price is the same as a mooring in Annapolis. The ambiance is late 1970s campground. If boats were campers they would be mostly popups, a few tents some larger RVs along with one or two airstreams. The bathrooms are clean and old. The whole place is mom and pop all the way. We seem to be the only transients here. There is a mallard duck couple who live on our dock. Every time we walk by they fly down into the water, but they always come back. There are also lots of geese here. Last night's storm came much later-around midnight with lots of wind but not quite as much lightning still buckets of rain. We've move into the Maryland part of the bay and are planning the next stage, through the C&D canal and down the Delaware River.
We thankfully arrived at Fishing Bay Marina before we were eaten alive by biting black flies. We thought we would have a nice sail up here, but after about an hour the wind died, the flies came around and the temperature started rising. It was well into the nineties before long (like 33C). All in all not a fun day of motoring into what appeared to be a typical marina on a small bay, of which there are many, many on the Chesapeake. There are just so many rivers, creeks and inlets along here it's no wonder they didn't have roads and went everywhere by boat. This marina and boatyard is actually quite big with lots of beautiful boats. The pool isn't open until Memorial Day though, a sure sign that we're no longer in the south. But we rode the loaner bikes into town past fields that have already been hayed so clearly more southern than Wisconsin. The hay here is Timothy and some sort of giant clover. We contacted the OCC port officers to see if they would drive us to the restaurant Merroir to eat oysters and they did. We learned of Merroir from a Splendid Table podcast about oysters. The story was about two brothers who started farming oysters in the Rappahannock River and their attempts to market them as the French market wine. Hence the name Merroir from the concept of terroir. It's not actually clear that oysters from different rivers taste different but it makes a good story. Anyway, when we were leaving Cape Charles a guy who helped us with the lines said if we were going to Deltaville we should go to Merroir and that's how we found out that there is a restaurant as well as the oyster farms. And Captain Story and his wife, Martha, came to meet us and drove the 12 miles to the restaurant where the oysters were excellent and they had a soft-shell crab special today. The weather is variable and unpredictable. Tonight it's actually quite cool. We'll see what tomorrow brings.
Cape Charles is a sleepy little town near the southern tip of the Delmarva peninsula. It was started as a planned community in 1884 to support the end of the railway where freight and passengers were transferred to barges and steamers to cross the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk. The remnants of the train tracks where the cars were transferred to barges are still here, but since the sixties there's been a bridge/tunnel across the bay and trucks have taken over. The area is still mostly agricultural and there is still some fishing. The crab boats come in here and the refrigerator truck meets them to take their catch. Jack bought some crabs from the truck driver and we plan to have a crab boil on the dock here tonight. He would only sell us females because the price is so high right now. Females being $60/bushel and males being $160, our bucket full was $10. We went to the hardware store to get a steamer pot and some crackers for the claws. The crackers we had on the boat were all broken on the hard shelled French crabs a while back and we didn't have a big pot. The hardware store is a treat beginning with the occupied rocking chairs out front (3-4 old men) and continuing past the gun counter and through the crowded but complete stocks of anything you might think of. The guy working there asked if the crabs were hardshell and said if they were soft he'd be coming over--they're hard. The only other stores are tourist oriented, ice cream, knickknacks, candy, cafes. There is a large old public library though. We walked to the end of the main street then turned and walked until the sidewalks ended then looped around to where we started. These southern towns are small enough that we often end up walking not just by the large, in this town Victorian, houses but also by the smaller houses on streets with no sidewalks. It's different than a city where we just see one neighborhood. The town dock is nice with new floating pontoons, a large shower and toilet building, and a popular bar/restaurant. There's a coast guard station across the way and another marina being developed for megayachts. It's a retirement area with multiple golf courses around. Tomorrow we'll cross over to the western shore.