04 November 2015
Michner's “Chesapeake” centers around life on the Choptank River, the beautiful Eastern Shore of Maryland. We were excited to visit the places we read about.
Just north of the Choptank River is St. Michaels. Glyn and Laura Livermore joined us for a few days of sailing after the Annapolis Sailboat Show. St. Michaels was just across the Chesapeake and highly recommended. We enjoyed several days in this town featuring the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. This museum covers 18 acres and the exibits encourage you to touch everything. The boat building was especially interesting.
Log canoes were built by facing 3 to 15 logs, fitting them together in a rough “U” shape. These were carved inside and out until a boat was formed. There were no saw mills because the land is so flat, hence no water power. Sawn lumber was not available so the log method, while time consuming, was prevalent.
There was reference to a house in St. Michaels with British cannon balls lodged in the walls from the war of 1812. Michner's book made a similar reference. There was also a sign honoring a slave who surreptitiously taught other slaves to read. He eventually escaped to the North. Michner goes into great detail about this brave man.
Tighlman Island is at the mouth of the Choptank. This is a commercial fishing area with few recreational boats. They had docking contests that have to be seen to be believed. I'll try to upload a video here or on facebook. It involved starting on one side of a narrow harbor, gunning the throttle and making a sharp 180 turn. The boat was turned toward the center of the harbor then gunned in reverse to dock between pilings. The race was complete when the skipper dropped two rings, the size of hula hoops on the back pilings. A good time was 23 seconds. We are not talking about dinghies, the boats were all around 40 feet long.
There were two competitors in the youth class. One was 12 years old and one was only 7! They both did a great job. I would describe this as an event that mudder, pick-up trucks would do if they could float! The competitors showed great skill and the crowd loved it!
Further up the Choptank was Oxford, MD. Oxford is definitely where the wealthy people live. The homes are all old and beautifully maintained. Sadly, they didn't have a single bar or restaurant that had the Packer game available. We spent three days there. This is becoming the time we think ideal in each area. You get to know the area, meet some local people and relax.
I loved morning walks with Sophie in Oxford. Everyone we met said hello and several stopped to talk. One couple we met suggested we visit the Cutts and Case boatyard. They even emailed the owner and said we would be coming. Ronnie Cutts gave us a tour of their boatyard that specializes in classic wooden boats. His father was a master boatbuilder and even had a patented construction method. Many of his boats were in their small marina, cared for by the Cutts brothers. This was not only a boat yard but a museum. Ronnie also showed me his motorcycle collection. He had a Velocette, BSA Gold Star, Vincent Black Shadow and even a Ducati Diana!
The Cutts reminded me of the Quaker boat builders described in Michner's book.