Our Next 30 Years

24 October 2023
01 October 2023
30 September 2023
29 September 2023
21 September 2023
18 September 2023
04 September 2023
29 August 2023
30 December 2020
02 April 2019 | Chula Vista Marina, San Diego, California
02 March 2019 | San Diego, Ca
28 February 2019 | San Diego, Ca
28 February 2019 | San Diego, Ca
28 February 2019 | San Diego, Ca
16 January 2019 | Rivergate Marina, Brisbane River, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
11 November 2018 | Bundaberg Port Marina, Bundaberg, Australia
09 November 2018 | Bundaberg Port Marina, Bundaberg, Australia
04 November 2018 | Bundaberg Port Marina, Bundaberg, Australia


24 October 2023
David Balfour
Annapolis holds the honor for the hardest place to get a reservation on the Chesapeake (followed closely by St Michaels). For most of the summer we were on not one, but three different marina’s wait lists. It boiled down to several issues - 1) many of the marinas in Annapolis are just not set-up to handle catamarans, and one dock master went so far as to make it clear that he didn’t want to deal with catamarans, 2) at 60 ft, we were long enough that we needed to be on their long T-Heads or face docks, but they had enough demand from the larger yachts (100+ feet) that they wanted to save the space for these guys, and 3) we wanted to be at a marina vs mooring or at anchor. While I knew the boat shows the end of October would make things impossible, I had no idea it would be like this all summer long. We finally found a spot (Chesapeake Harbor Marina) that was somewhat removed from the Annapolis proper marinas (and that spot had it’s own challenges once we arrived). And at the last minute one of our wait-listed marinas opened up, but we were committed to the other location by then.

As we approached the marina we called for our arrival instructions, and were given our “slip” assignment. Because of our beam, we typically can’t fit into a slip, unless it is wider than “normal”, so I “reminded them” that our beam was 20ft and length was 60ft to make sure they had us in the right place. Sure they said, the slip was 21ft wide, so no problem! Hmm I said, our fenders are bigger than 6” in diameter, so that doesn’t leave us any room to fit into your 21ft slip (if indeed it is actually a full 21ft wide I didn’t say out loud). They replied, no problem, we can put you on our wall. Just come all the way down the main fairway and turn to your right. You can then turn around and go onto the wall with your starboard side to. We will be there to take your lines. Sounds good I said. As we came into the marina through their breakwater I searched for the fairway to port that I would be turning on to. Not seeing anything I asked Cindy (who was on the bow getting the dock lines and fenders ready) to help me identify where the fairway was. Her reply back confirmed my original observation - there was no fairway on our port side that I can see! As we continued cautiously ahead, we passed the original slip they had assigned to us and confirmed that it was not at all appropriate. Then I saw a small opening to port, and indeed it was the fairway, but it also had two large boats on the opposing T-Heads, that would be to port and starboard as we turned on to the fairway, leaving a bare minimum of space for us to pass through. And, as we completed our turn there were 4 more T-Heads some with even wider catamarans that we would have to get past. It was at this time that I was glad that a) we didn’t have much wind to deal with, and b) we didn’t have any current to deal with. We proceeded very cautiously with Cindy running from side to side with a fender to drop down - just in case. We arrived to where we were to turn and realized that we had maybe 70ft to turn our 60ft boat around in. After getting to the dock, I was greeted by the dockhands telling me how well I did coming in, and that there would be boats leaving the next day, so it would be easier going out!

Cindy had a cousin that had arranged to meet us there, and we were looking forward to visiting the town and US Naval Academy. We had been in Annapolis before during one of the boat shows many years ago, so we had a bit of an understanding about the town. Unfortunately, while the weather was great for the trip down the Bay, the next couple of days were a bit rainy.

The good news was that the marina ran a shuttle to and from town, making it easy for us. The bad news was that Cindy left her drivers license back at the boat and guess what you must have to gain access into the Naval Academy. Not to be out-done, I left my phone back at the boat, so when Cindy was finished with church, she had no way to contact me. Some how our random motion brought us close enough that she could see Ruby and I, and we were able to have a pleasant lunch at the Chophouse.

Walking around downtown Annapolis is always fun and you never know what you will come across. From Midshipmen that are fun to talk with, to the Alex Haley “Roots” sculptures, to the young kids tacking their Opti dinghies up “Ego Alley”, there is always something fun to do. Ruby made numerous friends, including having her picture taken for the “Dogs of Annapolis” website! Add a stop at the ice cream shop, and in spite of the rain and miscues, we all had a great day.

Havre de Grace

01 October 2023
David Balfour
At the top of the Chesapeake Bay is Havre de Grace. It is a little town at the mouth of the Susquehanna River. We honestly would have never known about it, but we met some cruisers in Coinjock, NC that were on the way to their home port of Havre de Grace. After listening about the town and realizing that it would offer another meet-up location with the grand-kids, we added it to our list.

We continue to learn about cruising on the East Coast, and our lesson this weekend was to avoid traveling on Holiday weekends! We got our first lesson when the Marina in Baltimore presented us with their “special” Holiday daily rate. No problem, we will leave before said “special rate” kicks in. It’s not just the additional boat traffic, it’s the fact that the crazies come out. They only travel at one speed - as fast as they can go (so much for the no wake - 6kt buoys) - and they want to come as close as possible to you - I guess to say hi? Or maybe they thought Cindy wanted to say hi, since she was waving and screaming at them to slow down and control their wake. Once in the marina we were told that one of the other marinas was having a Poker Run, which was the source of the crazies (or at least a lot of them).

Coming into a new marina is always a bit of a wait and see game. The engineer-in-me wants to know and be prepared ahead of time. So, when the marina doesn’t respond to your radio calls and you have no idea which dock you will be on, let alone whether to put out fenders and dock lines on the port or starboard side, and Cindy is asking what she should do, it reminds you to stay calm and be adaptable. Then when you realize that they have assigned our 60ft boat to a 50 ft space and there is no space to turn around at the face dock - you must back in through the breakwater with a tidal current running - and oh yeah, all those crazies zipping by creating wakes. And then Cindy points out all of the rocks just breaking the surface and a sign that says DANGER. Stay calm and be adaptable. You know what they say about airplane landings - well boat docking is somewhat the same. Let's just say we walked away from this one, but we left the folks on the dock with something to talk about - and it wasn’t style points. Neither the Dockmaster, nor any dockhands ever showed their face the entire time we were there.

That said, we enjoyed our stay in Havre de Grace. We had a great walk to the park that had both a fabulous playground for the kids and a really great restaurant, where we paid homage to Jimmy Buffett and enjoyed our cheeseburgers. Coming back to the boat we followed the shoreline trail and were treated to lots of birds as well as bird carvings atop pilings that were stupendous. Since everyone had been on the boat before, they were all old-hands and made themselves at home. The next morning, we took off in search for all of the murals about town - and some breakfast goodies. We found a wonderful coffee/bake shop where the husband and wife did their best to spoil the kids - and us. Searching for all of the murals gave us a chance to see much of the town and take some great pictures.

The Grandchildren left on Labor Day, and we departed the dock on Wednesday. The good news about having to back into a spot at the dock is that leaving is a lot easier! And the cherry-on-top was that the crazies were all back at work and we had the water to ourselves for the most part.


30 September 2023
David Balfour
Cindy was born in Baltimore, and has extended family there, so she was looking forward to going. We stayed in the Inner Harbor Marina, which had mixed reviews. We found it to be a nice marina - the area was safe with great access (water taxis, etc.) anywhere we wanted to go. Plus, it was easy and secure for people coming to visit to park. The area was a popular dog meet-up, so Ruby got to meet lots of new friends and run and romp with them off-leash.

We were assigned a spot on their long face-dock sandwiched between two large (read expensive) boats - one sail and one power. This challenge brought out a crowd of on-lookers - including the owners of the boats most at risk, in addition to the marina dockhands that were there to help us. Prior to approaching the dock, I asked (over the radio) if they were sure the space was large enough for us. An assuring young voice came back that from a distance it always looks smaller than it really is. After putting the boat on the dock without any drama the crowds dispersed, and I asked the dockhands what the betting line was on our hitting one of the boats - they got a kick out of that. We found the local boaters, as well as other transients like us to be very friendly.

As you already know, our friends from Davis Diesel spent part of the day with me in Baltimore replacing the port injector pump (the starboard side had been replaced in Norfolk). Meanwhile, Cindy spent the day with a cousin, catching up, touring the Inner Harbor area and having lunch.

Another one of Cindy’s cousins joined us for a tour of Fort McHenry (be sure to take your National Park Pass). We had viewed (from the water as we entered Baltimore Harbor) the Fort, as well as the location (a red, white and blue buoy) where Francis Scott Key stood aboard a British ship looking through the morning mist to see which flag flew over the Fort after a night of shelling from the British warships. The tour was very informative, and in addition to learning a lot about the particulars of the War of 1812, and the role the Fort played, we also learned about the numerous other “lives” the Fort had - like the largest military hospital when it was set-up and taken down, to treat casualties from WWI and the controversy over the statue selected from a competition and eventually erected to honor the Fort. As you stood at the Fort looking out at the Harbor, you could not help but “feel” what happened here.

We grabbed a late lunch at Phillips Seafood, a long time Baltimore establishment. The Restaurant and Piano Bar has a special meaning to Cindy’s cousin because her mother played there, and she spent many a night there with her mother.

We had numerous recommendations to not miss seeing the Aquarium. Cindy discovered (and we took advantage) that they have a half-price special on Fridays after 5PM. I cannot say enough good things about this Aquarium. It is by far the best I have ever seen. The presentation, as well as the content is just awesome. Because of the Friday pricing, numerous families were also taking advantage of the special. This gave us the additional enjoyment of watching and listening to all of the young kids as they looked with amazement at the creatures of the sea.

Unfortunately, our time ran out well before we were ready to move on from Baltimore. While it is an expensive stay, it is well worth it - we will be back!

Maryland's Eastern Shore

29 September 2023
David Balfour
There are a number of small, charming, historic towns along the Eastern Shore of Maryland - not to mention many great anchorages. Obviously, we couldn’t see them all, and because of the oppressive heat, Cindy declared that we would be staying in marinas where our air-conditioning could keep us cool during the day when we weren’t out touring (as well as at night). We selected a handful to visit, based upon things we had previously read and recommendations from others. Each had something unique to offer, and it was interesting to contrast their history and how they presented themselves today.

St. Michaels was at the top of everyone’s list of “must-see” places in the Chesapeake. The first 3 times we tried to get reservations we were told they were full up and to try back later. (Annapolis was the only other place we had as much trouble trying to get a reservation!) Not only does St Michaels have high demand for their marinas, but the same is true for their B&Bs. There are a number of restaurants and shops to fill your time walking up and down Talbot Street. We really enjoyed Ava’s Pizza - try the Chefs Favorite, it was recommended to us and we are passing along the recommendation, and JoJo’s ice cream shop open until 9:30 (one of Ruby’s favorites). There was a helpful map of historic homes that allowed us to take a self-guided tour of the area near the marina. We also found the dog-walking locals to be very friendly, including a help yourself dog biscuit stash on one street corner!

The stand-out highlight of St. Michaels was the Maritime Museum. Tickets were good for two days and for good reason - there are more than enough things to do and see to fill two days. The volunteers were all very knowledgeable and enjoyable to talk with. The Museum itself is a campus that includes one of the old screw-pile lighthouses, a boat building shed where a project is always in progress, multiple examples of watercraft that are in the water and operational, and multiple “museum” buildings highlighting different aspects of the area's history associated with the Bay. The Maritime Museum alone is worth the trip to St Michaels.

Oxford has a great Safe Harbor marina with floating docks, a full-service boat yard if you need any help, and good protection from storms. This was one of the first locations where I wished that we could have put the stand-up paddleboards in the water - it was clean and inviting. There is a bit of a walk into town, but the “strand” was very picturesque. We really enjoyed our lunch at the Robert Morris Inn and Tavern (the British chef does great fish and chips!), as well as the memorabilia. The Inn and Tavern is the oldest continuously operated in the US, as is the ferry (or so they say?). The DAR chapter was having lunch in a private room while we ate. There were historic buildings and a local museum that had a timeline of the towns history that highlighted its glory days and the subsequent decline - but not much more that was open while we were there.

Cambridge, though just around the corner from Oxford, could not have been more different. While there was a church (Christ Episcopal) and accompanying cemetery from revolutionary war times, the historic period on display in Cambridge was from a much later period. Like Oxford, Cambridge was once a center of commerce with a major port and large canning operation employing large numbers of low wage workers. When the canning operation shut down the area was thrown into a recession and became a focus of civil-rights activity including notables like H Rap Brown (“burn it to the ground”) and Spiro Agnew. That said, Cambridge has found another way to bring income to their city - each year they host what has become one of the three largest international Iron Man events. And we happened to show up on this year’s weekend, when over 3000 competitors, plus friends, family, support operations etc showed up in the town. It was actually quite fun, especially when we found out that the daughter of the family whose boat was docked behind us was competing and came in first place in the Pro-Women’s Division! We also enjoyed some great restaurants - they also have an Ava’s Pizza, as well as a great bakery - Blackwater, and a great (even by Texas standards) BBQ - Lil bit of Bull. The people from the town were out in force and were very friendly sharing the history of the town, etc. Don’t miss Simon Central Market - family owned and operated for over 100 years and the Harriet Tubman Museum and mural.

Rock Hall has a nice little marina that they have gone to great lengths to make comfortable for everyone. Their claim to fame was that George Washington would come by boat from Annapolis and get a horse in Rock Hall to ride to Pennsylvania. The walk into town was a bit of a hike and Ford’s Seafood even further, but worth the walk and much less expensive than Waterman’s Restaurant next to the marina. Walking back to the boat, with our milkshakes (Get the Scoop, local ice-cream shack), we came across the town’s Mayor and City Manager siting out on the porch talking, and we had a fun but short hello how are you!

Chestertown is a bit up the Chester River, but well worth the trip. The Maryland farmlands are stunning. The marina was welcoming, with convenient pump-out, and complementary trikes. Yep - trikes. Cindy and I used them on one of their rails to trails bike path to get to the Drug Store and had a great time. Ruby enjoyed some time off-leash, running in the park. Chestertown is home to George Washington College, and classes were just starting when we were there. We learned a bit about the school talking to the students (where else but the ice cream shop), and later learned that one of Cindy’s cousins went to school there. It is a neat town and easy to walk around. While we were trekking through one day, we saw a historical marker showing the spot where George Washington visited his favorite tavern while traveling to and from Pennsylvania - the tavern was no longer there. We ate lunch at the one place open on a Monday - The Kitchen at the Imperial, which had come highly recommended, and it did not disappoint. A bonus were the historical yachts that called Chestertown their home and were used for educational programs during the summer.

Change, a Lesson of Time

21 September 2023
David Balfour
When we returned from Washinton, DC (and Colonial Beach), we left the Potomac River and crossed the Chesapeake Bay to Crisfield, Md. We choose to go to Crisfield, because it had tour boat access to both Smith Island and Tangiers Island, two places we wanted to visit, but did not feel comfortable trying to get our boat there and safely moored. If you don’t know anything about Smith Island or Tangiers Island, there are several good documentaries available on YouTube. These were the introductions that made us want to go to these Islands.

Crisfield is a nice state-owned marina (Somers Cove) that has easy access, is safe in most any kind of weather, has floating docks for transient boats, and has been well maintained. The town of Crisfield is nothing really to write home about. But we met some nice "transient" cruisers (like us), and after moving to allow the Secretary of the Navy to dock his boat where we were docked (yes, that really happened), some nice "local" cruisers that kept their boats there, full time.

There are several ways to get to these islands. You can go to the Crisfield town dock and try to get a ride over on one of the boats that deliver mail, supplies etc. Or you can charter a boat for the day to take you (very expensive). Or you pile on to one of the commercial excursion boats (what we did). First however, you have to find out how and where to buy a ticket. Cindy will tell you that this is a very well protected secret - but she finally cracked the codes! Dogs are welcome, so Ruby came along with us. It is about an hour (Smith Island) to 90 minute (Tangiers Island) one-way trip. The Captains do a good job of pointing out items of interest, and the time goes by quickly. You have about 2-1/2 hrs on the island, which allows you to look around, talk to people and have something for lunch.

Smith Island has a wonderful Restaurant that we highly recommend. Don’t miss the soft-shelled crab, and make sure you hear the story of how that soft-shell crab you are enjoying came to be! This is where most of them come from. You can also buy a Smith Island Cake (or just a slice) - yes, it is the Official Cake of Maryland! There is such great demand, that commercial production and distribution has moved to Crisfield. They have a really well-done museum that chronicles the history of the Island, as well as the current challenges they are facing.

Tangiers Island is actually in Virginia, which is only the beginning of the rivalry and squabbles between the people of the two islands. Tours of Tangiers were facilitated by the fact that the ladies of the town take you around in a stretch-golf-cart-limo and narrate what is what, how they make do, and some of the history. The older men of the island have a unique dialect, that can make it difficult to understand what they are saying. The women seem to work hard to make sure you do understand what they are saying.

Both of these islands are tied to the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. They are “watermen”. Their lives revolve around their profession. Time seems to have passed them by, but they still hold on to what they know - the crabs, oysters and fish of the Bay. How much longer they will be able to continue is in question. Between the dwindling number of inhabitants that choose to stay on the island and embrace this life, the fact that their islands are sinking into the Bay, and the growing list of rules and regulations that they are being forced to live with, their time is numbered. If you get a chance to visit these islands, don’t pass up the opportunity. Spend an extra day and visit both - it is interesting to see the differences in how the people from each Island are dealing with their challenges.

Washington, DC

18 September 2023
David Balfour
One of the first stops that got scheduled on our travels around the Chesapeake Bay was Washington, DC. Our youngest son has taken a position with the DC Fire Department, and as a result the Grands have moved away from San Antonio. So, Cindy wanted to make sure we had a chance to spend time with them as soon as possible.

We had been told that it was a long, boring trip up the Potomac, and that it would be difficult to find a suitable marina to stay in while in DC. People said to try the Capital Yacht Club first, but we would probably never be able to get a spot (yes, it seems that this is where many of the politicos keep their boats in DC). However, luck was with us and we were able to get a reservation at the Capital Yacht Club (founded in 1892!), for the dates we wanted.

Our trip started with a bit of a tough lesson. Schedules are not a good thing when it comes to cruising. Yet we were on a schedule - to see the grands and make our reservation with the Capital Yacht Club. The trip up the Potomac to DC is a long one for us. At just over 120nm and our cruising speed of nominally 10kts, that is a 12 hr trip. Since we are conservative and like our departures and arrivals in day light, that would mean finding a stop along the way. We selected Colonial Beach which was very close to being at the half-way point. The weather forecast showed some weather that we didn’t want to be caught in, so we decided to depart a day earlier than originally planned and wait out the weather at our stop-over point. As we departed from Ingram Bay heading north, all looked good, but once we got out into the Bay proper, we (some fishermen in a small boat and another unlucky sailboat) quickly found that the conditions (15-20kt winds) were not as forecast the day before! I realized that we were in a current vs wind condition that was resulting in 3-6ft, square waves (wave height and wave period about the same). As is normally the case, the boat handles things better than the humans (and in our case the dog). Ruby got sick with the up and down motion, and then after trying to clean up after her, I started to feel sick. Luckily, we only had about an hour or so of those conditions before we were able to turn into the Potomac and get some relief - both Ruby and I. By the time we arrived in Colonial Beach the event was just a memory - but one we had no desire to experience again - we will check the forecast the morning we depart to make sure nothing has changed. The ride up and back down the Potomac was enjoyable (not boring) - good sightseeing, including Mount Vernon, interactions with a NOAA ship that was doing sea-trials - very professional radio communications with us, an encounter with a pirate ship - we outran them, and a military live-fire operation that required us to follow specific navigational instructions in real-time to stay out of the active area!

Colonial Beach (the Boathouse Marina) was a wonderful experience. The people were as friendly, and kind as could be. We were loaned a golf cart to take us around town to dinner and get groceries. Ruby had a blast playing with dogs in the Dog Park and we got to meet many of the town's residents. And if you go, make sure you ask Bill to show you all the treasures he has collected over the years! That said, beware that to get to Colonial Beach, you will first have to run the gauntlet of crab traps, and just when you think you have figured out their pattern, they throw a few out at random. Be sure to have your head on a swivel, and remember, if there is any sea-state or when you are heading out into the morning sun, they will become almost invisible.

Our approach and entrance to the DC harbor area was spectacular. As we came under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge the Capitol and Monuments came into view - another one of those feel as well as see moments. The dockhands at the Capital Yacht Club were great and worked through an issue with their shore-power in a professional manner. Our son joined us for dinner at the Yacht Club (which had been highly recommended to us and did not disappoint - don’t forget a dessert!). The next day the Grands arrived (along with mom and dad, and it was a special treat having them all (including our grand dog!) spend the night on the boat with us. We had a wonderful time walking the Wharf area, playing in the fountains, watching the presidential helicopter and escorts fly back and forth along the Washington Channel, etc. After the Grands had left the next day, we found time to catch-up with a Godson, and a former classmate and best friend of our middle son.

DC gave us an opportunity to spend time with people that matter to us. No, we didn’t see or do the things that you typically do while in DC - we have been there and done that before. But our time visiting, and the journey there and back will leave us with many great memories and that is what cruising is all about.
Vessel Name: Songlines
Vessel Make/Model: 60' power catamaran designed by Malcolm Tennant
Hailing Port: Austin, Texas
Crew: David and Cindy Balfour
Songlines's Photos - Main
No items in this gallery.

MV Songlines

Who: David and Cindy Balfour
Port: Austin, Texas