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Archive for the ‘Maryland’ Category

When I was a kid, we used to play a game in the neighborhood called Red Light, Green Light.  If you’re not familiar with it, check the Wikihow description here.  After spending about 2.5 weeks getting from Long Island to Norfolk, I’ve come to the conclusion that cruising the Mid-Atlantic coast is a bit like playing a game of Red Light, Green Light with Mother Nature.  Mostly she played fair and everyone won.

From the Atlantic Highlands area of New Jersey, the only way back south is to go offshore.  Unlike the southeastern coast of the US where the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW) offers the option of an inside/protected route from Norfolk/Portsmouth, VA all the way to Miami and into the Florida Keys, there is no such route along the Jersey/Delaware/Maryland/Virginia shore.  Yes, there are short inside stretches, but they are restricted by the occasional low fixed bridge.  To get south, you simply have to make some outside/offshore runs.  Our Cheshire however, is not a heavy weather boat. Consequently she and her crew are very cautious about weather, especially when heading offshore and particularly during hurricane season where conditions can change with little notice.

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Lori’s offshore survival stash

Everyday aboard starts with coffee and weather checks.  Not just the what’s-the-temperature-going-to-be and is-it-going-to-rain kind of weather.  Like all cruisers, we have multiple weather sites bookmarked on our various electronic devices.  We’re interested in wind velocity, wind direction, precipitation, sea states, storms, storm tracks, etc.  Then there are currents and tides, very important if coming/going from inlets where things can get dicey in unfavorable conditions.  For planning an offshore run, we’re interested in all of these things, but for multiple locations along our planned route, and not just for today, but for several days into the future.  When the planets line up and a weather window looks good, we go.

From the Atlantic Highlands/Sandy Hook area, we made a 25+ hour/125 nautical mile overnight run to Breakwater Harbor near Lewes, DE where we’d pause to await the next window.  It turned out to be a long pause.  We were in a protected anchorage, but with not much for easy shore access.  There’s a beautiful beach nearby, Cape Henlopen State Park, but apparently the powers that be have gotten cranky about folks arriving via water, so landing one’s dinghy on the beach is apparently now a no-no.  In any event, we spent 4 days anchored here without setting foot off the boat.  Needless to say, we did a lot of reading.  At least we had a nice view of nearby Breakwater Light.  I was amused to watch the sight-seeing tour boats come and go.

We’d hoped our next jump would take us all of the way to Norfolk, but Mother Nature was having none of that.  One morning we finally had a small weather window (which I’ve come to refer to as a weather porthole) and decided to make a day run to Ocean City, MD.  Six hours and 32 nautical miles later we’d successfully navigated the inlet and were anchor down behind Assateague Island.  Shore access here for anchored boats is also limited, so we opted to move to a nearby dock the next morning for the couple of nights we anticipated we’d have to wait for our next window.  Unlike our last stop, we took full advantage of being attached to a dock (for the first time in nearly 3 months).  We did laundry, we did some provisioning, both much easier from the dock vs by dinghy.  We supported a number of local drinking/dining establishments.  Decatur Diner was a favorite, in fact we went twice.  Don’t miss the Pipeline for breakfast; we shared a half order.  Harborside Bar and Grill was good for beers and apps.  They’re famous for a drink called an Orange Crush; I (Lori) had the grapefruit version which was quite tasty.  At Martin Fish Company, a seafood market/take-out/eat-in spot, we had some good draft beers and shared a fried clam dinner.

One afternoon, we pedaled over to check out the and Life-Saving Station Museum and the Ocean City Boardwalk.  The Life-Saving Station was a mid 1970’s rescue/rehab effort and has been transformed into a nice maritime museum.  The Boardwalk dates from 1902 and was quite a trip.  The arcade was like none I’ve seen.  Tourist-trappy restaurants also looked to be plentiful but we limited ourselves to a bag of carmel corn as we strolled.  The small craft advisory level winds made for some impressive kite flying displays.

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Maryland’s Indian, artist Peter Toth

As we made our way back to our bikes, we stumbled upon an interesting sculpture.  Maryland’s Indian is one installment in a collection known as the Trail of the Whispering Giants.  Hungarian-born sculptor  Peter Wolf Toth set out to place at least one carving in each of the 50 states, a goal he completed in 1988.  His sculptures are a tribute of sorts to native peoples around the country.  See the website linked above for more of his story and some photos.

After three nights total in Ocean City, a window opened.  Alas, the tides and currents of the inlet dictated that we’d best plan for a late afternoon departure.  Cheshire got a much needed bubble bath which was promptly undone when we were waked by a ginormous sport-fisher before we’d even got out of the inlet.  But we did get out and had a beautiful run, albeit motoring, down the coast.  As the 37 mile length of Assateague Island is state park and national seashore land, it was mostly dark.  Little ambient light made for an impressive sky full of stars, and in the early morning hours, a pretty crescent moon.  See photo below, my weak attempt to capture the sunrise.  We caught a couple more lighthouses on this run, or three actually if you count Assateague Light on the southern end of the barrier island of the same name, but I saw only the flashing light during a night watch; sorry no photo.   Cape Charles Light was very distant in the early morning light, and Thimble Shoals Light  greeted us as we approached Hampton Roads inlet.  A morning weather check advised of a small craft advisory in the lower end of the bay (not previously forecast), so our entry was a bit bumpy.  Twenty-four hours and 115 or so nautical miles later, we were anchor down at Hospital Point, mile-marker 0, the northern most point of the AICW.  

We’d heard even before leaving Ocean City though, that there had been much rain and consequent flooding in the area, so much so that both the Virginia Cut and the alternate Dismal Swamp Canal sections of the AICW were closed.  Opening/closing bridges and locks alike don’t behave well in flood conditions.  Although we had hoped to do the Dismal again (find posts about our last trips here and here), it remained closed after the Virginia Cut route opened.  So we’re off, down the Virginia Cut.  Hopefully we’ll make Oriental, NC in a week or so.

As always, thanks for following along.  Stay tuned.

 

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When the weather nixed an outside run from Norfolk, we opted, instead of waiting indefinitely for more favorable weather, to make our way inside up the Chesapeake Bay.  Now at the north end of the Bay,  our route would take us through the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, or C&D Canal, then down (yes, that would be south, when we’re really trying to go north) the Delaware River, into Delaware Bay to the Atlantic.  First though, we’d pause briefly in Chesapeake City.

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via US Army Corps of Engineers

The construction of the C&D Canal  was apparently quite a process, and it’s evolved a bit since its initial construction.   After a false start earlier in the century, the canal opened in 1829.  In the beginning, it was 14 miles long, 10 feet deep, 66 feet wide at the waterline and 36 feet at the channel bottom… all dug with picks and shovels, and included 4 locks.  Teams of horses and mules towed vessels through the canal.  In the mid 19th century, a steam operated pump was added to help move water around the locks.  By the end of the century, larger, deeper draft vessels were problematic.

Enter Teddy Roosevelt who decided the waterway needed to be “free and open”.  The Federal government purchased the whole mess in 1919, and over the next few years, replaced all the bridge and removed all the locks.  This “new” sea level canal was 12 feet deep and 90 feet wide.  By the mid 1930’s however, it was deepened to 27 feet and widened to 250 feet.  The mid 1960’s – mid-70’s saw yet another expansion, to 35 feet deep and 450 feet wide.  Of course the several bridges were improved as well.

Today, the C&D Canal is designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Landmark… who knew there was such a thing.  The original pumphouse now houses a small but nicely done museum managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, and includes the waterwheel and pump engines.  Also on the grounds is a full-sized replica of the Bethel Bridge Lighthouse, one of several lights that helped to mark the locks of the original waterway.

 

We spent a couple of nights in Chesapeake City, which is full of  19th century homes that are well maintained.  It was a pleasant place to wander around a bit.  Lunch at Bohemia Cafe was OK.  We had a drink later at the Chesapeake Inn tiki bar, which is apparently the place to be… saw more people there than in the entire rest of Chesapeake City, though we weren’t impressed with the party-central vibe of this place either.  Our last night in town though, we dined at the Hole in the Wall Bar, part of the Bayard House restaurant… said to be about 200 years old, this place had lots of character, local beers and some tasty eats.

In addition to having to dodge ginormous commercial vessels (we’re definitely the small fish in this pond), there are also some wicked currents flowing through these waters.  We would time our passage very carefully.  Friday morning we were up and out, though not as early as we’d hoped as we had to wait for the only fuel dock in the area to open.  Poor planning on our part; should have gotten fuel when we arrived.  As planned though, we had a favorable current through the canal.  It was uneventful in that we only had one commercial vessel to contend with.  The canal wasn’t spectacular to look at, but I found myself in awe imagining the efforts over the years to build and then expand this bit of water that used to be dirt.

Late morning, immediately upon entering the Delaware River though, things got ugly.  We knew we’d encounter pretty stiff head current and sure enough we did.  We opted as planned to anchor for a few hours behind Reedy Island to wait for it to turn around a bit, during which the skies opened up and rained on us… which wasn’t so bad because we collected some water.   A few hours later we were underway again, with a good current behind us, but the winds were on our nose (definitely not what was forecast), so the sea state was ugly.  The best part of this run was a close up view of Ship John Shoal Light.

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Ship John Shoal Light, NJ/Delaware Bay

Ship John Shoal Lighthouse actually sits in New Jersey waters on the Delaware Bay.   It had a long history up until about 2001 when it was deemed “excess to the needs of the United States Coast Guard” (translate: they didn’t want to pay to maintain it any more) and offered to eligible organizations under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000.  This is actually a pretty interesting program and has saved a number of historic lighthouses, but alas, not the Ship John Shoal.  No eligible  organizations (that is nonprofit or historical organizations that meet certain criteria) were interested , so it went up for auction.  First pass, a reportedly ridiculously low-ball bid was rejected.  Second pass someone actually bought this light for just over $60,000.  I’m not sure much has happened since then… it looks pretty untouched to me.  The birds seem to enjoy it though.

We tucked into a small cove on the Jersey side of the Delaware Bay for the evening and finished our run into Cape May the following morning.  We’ll pause here for a bit of rest and recuperation.

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After several days in Reedville, VA, we agreed that we needed to step up the pace a bit.  The Chesapeake Bay is vast, and we could easily spend the summer and years to follow exploring its nooks and crannies, but for now, we need to pick up the pace a bit.

Despite the wind having a more northerly component than was forecast, and the fact that our Cheshire prefers not to go into weather, we managed a nice sail up the Bay, crossing the Virgina – Maryland border mid morning.  Being a Sunday, there were plenty of day-sailors out and about, but plenty of commercial traffic too.  On the ICW, it’s not unusual to see an occasional barge or tug, container ships, military vessels and in Florida especially, even cruise ships.  On the Chesapeake Bay, it seems they’re more plentiful;  thankfully, so is the water we share.

Earlier in the month, coming through Norfolk/Portsmouth, military vessels lined the waterway, and are jaw-dropping big, and consequently difficult to photograph, particularly from a moving boat.  Then there is the occasional cruise ship as well, including this one “sailing” out of Norfolk.

One calm morning, we motored past this Coast Guard buoy tender.

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USCG buoy tender

 

The most curious of all though came shortly after we crossed the Virginia – Maryland line (which is not marked on the water as it is on land, but I always keep track).  On our charts it’s marked as an “exposed wreck”.  Really?  In the middle of the Bay?  And they just left it there?  Of course, I had to do a bit more research.

From a distance it appeared as a dark silhouette, perhaps one of several cargo ships we’ve seen temporarily anchored.  As we got closer, you could see it’s a rusted mess, but still floating?  Turns out it’s not floating, rather was intentionally sunk in this spot… by the US Navy.  Not kidding.  In pretty sorry shape now, this vessel has quite a history.  Meet the American Mariner.

 

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American Mariner, 2016

This vessel started her service life as a Liberty Ship.  I’ve written about them in a previous post a few years back (Liberty Ships of Brunswick GA), these vessels were built specifically for service in WWII.  This one in particular started construction in 1941 as a cargo ship, but before she was finished being built, was converted to a Coast Guard training ship for merchant marines and renamed American Mariner.  She did her time in the war and beyond, active from 1941 until she was parked/placed in reserve in 1953.  In 1958, the Army put in dibs, and she came back into service.  She underwent some serious upgrades, including some fancy hi-tech gear for her new role in the ballistic missile program, followed by some time in the Pacific as part of some nuclear testing with Operation FISHBOWL.  In 1963 she was transferred to the U.S. Air Force and NASA borrowed her for some stretches to help with the Mercury program.  By the mid-1960’s though, she was tired and not needed any more.  In 1966, the Navy took responsibility for her, moved her to her current location not far from Smith Island in the Chesapeake Bay and sunk her.  She now sits in the mud and serves as a gunnery target for pilots who fly out of the nearby Patuxent Naval Air Station.  Kind of like a floating (or previously floating) Giving Tree I guess.

I quote Wikipedia: “She appears to have been the only ship to have served in the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Navy after being built for service with the United States Merchant Marine.”  Find a nicely written piece, including a couple photos from her earlier years here.

Interestingly, our anchorage that night would be just off the PAX Naval Air Station.  Thankfully all of the planes and helicopters appeared to be grounded during our stay.

 

The following day, we were up and out early and spotted this beauty off our starboard side.  She’d have been even prettier I think with full sails up. This tall ship is a full-sized replica of the original ship of the same name, a Dutch-built merchant ship that brought Swedish settlers to North America.  Check out their website here for some history, current events and some photos of her under full sail.

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tallship Kalmar Nyckel

 

We ducked into Harness Creek off of South River, not too far south of Annapolis.  A nearby park complete with dinghy dock gave us a chance to stretch our legs and hit a grocery store.   A relatively short run the next day took us within decent photo distance of a couple of interesting lighthouses, as well as under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  The Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse is a big deal.  The Chesapeake Bay was full of these screwpile lighthouses  once upon a time, but as automation came to the Bay lighthouses and many became unmanned, these structures became victims of neglect and vandalism.  Thomas Point Shoal Light is the only one still in its original location; a few others have been moved and are now museums (including couple that we’ve visited… previous posts/photos here for  Drum Point Lighthouse in Solomons, MD and Seven Knolls Light in Baltimore).  Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse, was apparently not so captivating.  It was auctioned off in 2006 and is now privately owned.

We dropped the anchor early afternoon, partly to avoid some opposing current and mostly to duck out of a nasty thunderstorm.  The upside is we managed to top off our water tanks, and Cheshire always appreciates a fresh water rinse.  Another early morning run put us in Chesapeake City, MD  (more on this spot later) where we’ve taken a lay day. Tomorrow morning we’ll top off fuel and head into the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

As always, thanks for following along…

 

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It’s been a fairly quiet couple of weeks aboard Cheshire.  We spent a day exploring St Mary’s county, just over the bridge from Solomons, including the waterfront towns of Leonardtown (walked a great little waterfront and had yet another crab cake lunch, this time at Kevin’s Kafe) and St Mary’s.  We added another lighthouse to our list… Piney Point, which isn’t as impressive as some of its cousins in the area, but interesting all the same.  Late that afternoon we stumbled on a park commemorating the site of a Revolutionary War era POW camp.

Maryland has an interesting history with regard to the Civil War.  Just south of the Mason-Dixon line and one of the so-called “border states” leading up to the war, the state itself was very much divided in sympathies.  Although it was a slave state, at the outbreak of the war there were almost as many freed blacks as slaves.  While the powers that be fooled around debating about whether or not to secede and join the Confederacy, the Union moved in May of 1861 and essentially occupied Maryland for the rest of the war.  For those interested in more of the story, Wikipedia has more on Maryland in the Civil War.  One of its distinctions was to have been home to one of the largest and worst POW camps in the Union. Officially known as Camp Hoffman but more commonly referred to as Point Lookout, the prison/camp was built in 1863 to accommodate 10,000, but is said to have housed nearly twice that many during most of its 2 years in operation, and under some of the most deplorable conditions.  Click on the link for some really interesting history.  These days the land is occupied by Point Lookout State Park, complete with Confederate POW memorial and cemetery.  As it was late in the day/close to closing time, we opted not to visit the state park itself, but found another interesting spot nearby.

Adjacent to the Point Lookout State Park, the Confederate Memorial Park has quite a story.  It’s a private memorial, conceived, built and maintained by a group of descendants of the camp’s POWs, described as “a place where people can visit to learn of unedited, non revised, no-compromise history”.  Apparently the group had issues with the VA regarding what was going on or not going on next door at the “official” memorial site, among other things over how many actually died at the camp and the flying of the Confederate flag, so they decided to create their own memorial.  Quite impressive actually.  Unfortunately it was too late in the day for good photographs, as least by this photographer.  Check out the website for details.

On a completely different note, we always enjoy having visitors.  This time around it was Team Staats, our friends of more than two decades, who drove all the way from Ohio to hang out with us for the recent Labor Day weekend.  Unlike the previous weekend when it rained and rained and rained some more, this time we had some decent weather.  Or at least it started out that way.  And despite the fairly warm temps, we decided to take them up the Patuxent River where we found another new-to-us anchorage in Island Creek.  We got lucky as the sea nettles aka stinging jellyfish that have been everywhere this summer were no where to be seen, so we were able to get in the water for a swim. Happy Hour topside.  Catching up with good friends.  The rain caught up with us overnight… no big deal as we spent the evening tripping down memory lane with Pandora radio.  The following day brought us calm water again, so we motored back down the river, poked our nose in one of our favorite creeks, the St Leonard, and this time saw cows.  First time I’ve ever seen cows on a beach.  Go figure.  That was a new one in the wildlife viewing category.  Things got real interesting though as we got nearer to Solomons.  A more-serious-than-average afternoon thunderstorm caught up with us.  Thankfully were on the edges of it, so all of the crazy dark skies, rain and lightning were enough to get our attention, but didn’t actually open up on our heads like we feared.  Of course, as soon as we had Cheshire tucked in safely at the dock, it cleared up.  So we headed for the pool.  A very tasty dinner followed later at another new-to-us place on the water called Clark’s Landing… more crab cakes of course.

For those who have been paying attention to the “Find us Now” tab on this blog, you’ll have noticed that except for our “boat camping” weekend with Team Staats recently, that we’ve not been on the move much in the last couple of weeks.  That would be thanks to yours truly, who is officially getting old.  And stubborn.  Seems I’ve developed a case of bursitis in my shoulder over the last few months, and being very stubborn and in denial of getting older, postponed the seeking of medical attention for said shoulder problem.  So now, in addition to bursitis (doesn’t that just sound like an old person’s ailment?) I’ve also been diagnosed with Adhesive Capsulitis, aka “Frozen Shoulder”.  Apparently I injured my right shoulder several months ago, very likely pretending that I wasn’t 50 years old and being more aggressive than needed hauling in an anchor, and after slight injury, favored said shoulder long enough for it to “freeze up”.  Which is very painful by the way.  The good news is that we have the option of being stationary for a bit, we have the car, and I’ve found a very good osteopath who has been inflicting pain aka physical therapy 3x/week for the past couple of weeks, and slowly but surely, I’m on the mend.  Speaking of which, it’s time once again for my in-between-therapy sessions stretching exercises.

Until next time…

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OK, so that’s a title a little all over the map.  I had to share our most recent creature photo though.  For those who expressed concern, there have been no further snake sightings aboard Cheshire.  We did however pick up an interesting hitchhiker though on our way back across the Bay last trip.  I for one have never seen a bug so big.  Thanks to our friend Donna who was able to id it as a Swamp Darner.  He hung with us for quite a while.  Photo below.

Back in Solomons for a bit, we’ve continued with some boat chores with some touristing sprinkled in as well.  The weather finally cooled off a bit to make it all a little more tolerable, thank goodness.  The AnnMarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center had been on my radar for a bit, but I’d been holding off for a particular exhibit that opened just recently, and IMHO, it was well worth the wait.  As with some other places we’ve visited lately, this 30-acre Garden was a gift to Calvert County from a generous couple, an architect/builder/developer out of DC, Francis Koenig and his wife AnnMarie, on the condition that it be developed into a sculpture park.  It’s quite an eclectic place.  In addition to works on loan from the Smithsonian Institute and the National Gallery of Art, serious art if you will, they are also quite known for an annual Fairies in the Garden event, which includes fairy and gnome dwellings by mostly local amateur artists which are scattered throughout the wooded grounds, and other more whimsical exhibitions.  There are also a variety of art classes for the community and it’s a very kid-friendly place as well.  During our visit, there were tons of wee ones wandering around wearing fairy wings.  Very cute.

The highlight though was Marc Castelli’s “The Art of the Waterman” exhibit.  Although new to me, Castelli is apparently a well known artist in the Chesapeake area.  His recent works have focused on the watermen of the Chesapeake, those who live and make their livings on the Bay.  It’s a fascinating culture really, and one that is feared to be headed for extinction;  Castelli has captured it beautifully.  Shortly after we arrived in the Chesapeake, I read a delightful book by William Warner titled “Beautiful Swimmers”, a Pulitzer prize winner of some years ago, an enlightening introduction to the Chesapeake Bay, and everything you could ever want to know about blue crabs and the watermen who make their living catching them.  Castelli’s watercolors provided the visuals for the book for me.  Amazing stuff.  While not the same as seeing his work in person, his website is extensive. On the “past exhibits” page, check out the “view collection” tabs for photos of his work.

And for the less impressive but all my own photos, check these out:

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Until next time…

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When we brought Cheshire north, our plan was to spend the summer seeing the Chesapeake.  That was as much of a plan as we had.  We’re now about halfway through the three months we planned to stay and I’ve realized that you could spend years cruising the Bay and not see everything. The largest estuary in the country, the Chesapeake is about 200 miles long, and varies from about 2.5 miles to more than 30 miles wide.  So, my planning has shifted a bit… enjoying the time we have, but not trying to see it all the first season we’re here.  We’ll definitely be back.  As with all of the places we visit, I find myself intrigued by the history and culture of the place, and very much troubled by the environmental issues impacting the area.  The Western shore of the Bay, what with its proximity to the DC and Baltimore metro areas, not to mention Annapolis, is quite a bit more developed than the Eastern shore, which is much more remote, more natural, less developed.  There are a lot more watermen living and working on the Eastern shore and it’s been interesting to watch during the week we’ve been exploring.

The day before we left Solomons though, we made a visit to the former J.C. Lore & Sons Oyster Packing House, now operated by the Calvert Marine Museum.  The current building dates from 1934, a replacement for the original 1922 vintage building that was taken out by a hurricane.  It’s a simple place, open only from 1-4pm daily depending on the tides.  Seriously.  Apparently the whole building sits atop oyster shells discarded by the original place, and when tides are high, water literally comes up through the floor and floods the place.   It stands much as it did when active (closed since the late 1970’s), complete with original equipment and lots of old photos that bring it to life.  My favorite part though was a piece of the Patuxent River Folklife and Oral History Project.  I was captivated by the voices and stories of those who had worked here decades ago.  It was a very kid-friendly exhibit as well, complete with a gigantic stuffed oyster complete with giant stuffed oyster innards and a volunteer to explain how it all works.  As it turns out, oysters are pretty amazing water filters, and their decline over the years is said to be a factor in the declining water quality of the Bay.  The museum’s website (link above) has some more info and photos for those who are interested, but you’ll have to visit in person to appreciate the oral history piece.  And if you’re really, really curious, a National Park Service piece has some great description of not only the building, but oyster processing itself, information apparently compiled as part of a nomination for National Historic Landmark designation.

Smarter than before, we headed off across the Bay to do some exploring.  We headed first for the Little Choptank River and its tributaries, and found some lovely remote anchorages there.  It turns out my bald eagle sighting, while very exciting for me, was in fact not so unusual.  I’ve learned that the nearby Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is quite the spot for American Bald Eagles.  They even have an Eagle Cam on a nest from December through the nesting season.  (I believe it may have been while biking through this refuge that our friend David had his “get eaten alive by mosquitos while changing a flat tire” experience?)  We’ve also wandered a bit in the Choptank River area, including visits to Oxford and St Michael’s, both places we’d visited 18 years earlier on a week-long Chesapeake bicycle tour with friends.

In Oxford,  we found a quiet little spot to anchor not so far from shore.  We even got to watch a few local boys trotlining for crabs, which involves tying bits of bait along a long trotline strung between two buoys, which then settles to the bottom.  Some period of time later, one pulls up the line from one end, and running the boat alongside, snags with a net any crabs who have tried to snag the bait.  Looks much more labor intensive than using crab pots, but then the investment is much less as well.  Trotlines, jimmies, sooks, peelers, doublers..(ooh, spell check didn’t like any of those words!).. not so much words in my vocabulary until recently.  My brain feels very full.  For the very interested, check out BlueCrab.Info for everything you ever wanted to know and more about crabs and crabbing.  Interesting stuff, but I also like to eat them.

And eat them we have… in Oxford, we had lunch at a place on the water called Schooners  where I had yet another delicious crab cake sandwich and Mike had some of the best mussels I’ve had in a while, then walked it off wandering around town.  We found the Oxford Inn where we’d stayed before on the bicycle trip I mentioned, as well as the waterfront restaurant, now called Masthead, rebuilt recently after being trashed by yet another hurricane,  where we’d had an amazing crab feast years ago, though this time settled for a local brew and a great view.

After another night of “boat camping” as Mike refers to it (referring to nights that we spend at anchor in more remote places where there’s no civilization nearby even if you did want to get off the boat), we wandered up San Domingo Creek, known by some as the “backdoor” anchorage to St Michael’s.  Sure enough, a short dinghy ride and a 1/2 mile walk landed us in the heart of St Michael’s.  Nice.  We’d been here before too, but it’s changed a bit in the passing years, i.e. I don’t remember the spas.  Still, a lovely place to spend some time.  We opted to check out the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, which is probably twice the size that it was 18 years ago, and ended up spending the day there, with a break mid-day for a picnic lunch at a waterside park.   It’s a place that’s evolving over time.  Highlights: They’ve got an active boatyard where they do restoration projects… currently the skipjack Rosie Parks, one of only 5 remaining on the Bay.  Skipjacks are the traditional sail-powered oyster-dredging boats.  Check out a very good NPR story here.  The 1879 vintage Hooper Straits Lighthouse, another screwpile-styled light, was also rescued and restored here.  Not surprising, the museum also has great exhibits on both oystering and crabbing, complete with hands on aspects… see photos of Mike below.  They even have an old drawbridge, relocated from Knapp’s Narrows;  it’s installed at the entrance to the museum so that those traveling by car have a sense of what boats experience passing under/past these bridges… though I personally don’t think it’s the same without the opening/closings, currents, etc.  Still, it’s a cool idea.  All in all, a great visit.

St Michael’s has also become somewhat of an artsy place, which is kind of fun, even if you’re not in the market for much art.  Not much room on the boat, so we’re pretty particular.  And of course there is the food.  This visit we checked out a place called Gina’s, very funky, good margaritas and yummy crab nachos.  Carpenter Street Saloon wasn’t bad for breakfast the next morning.  Of interest to cruisers, they’ve also got a full-blown grocery as well as a really nice little gourmet market.  Love St Michael’s, definitely a place we’ll come back to.  Next visit we’ll check out the sushi and pizza places.

In the meantime, we’re still hang in out on the hook in San Domingo Creek, and after a couple of trips into St Michael’s in recent days, today opted to just hang out aboard Cheshire  and enjoy the cooler temps and comfortable breezes that last night’s thunderstorms blew in.  And try to not think too much about snakes…

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Stowaway aboard Cheshire

I have to admit that for all my love of wildlife, I really prefer watching it from the boat or during a land excursion, that is not having it hang out with us aboard Cheshire.  That said, I’m learning to deal with bugs.  You live on the water with windows open (sometimes we put the screens in), you get some bugs.  Thankfully not much for mosquitos lately; the worst was in Oriental last summer, post-Hurricane Irene when they were out with a vengeance.  The biting flies one afternoon in the Dismal Swamp weren’t fun either.  We’ve even had a couple of big ugly water bugs wander in.  In our division of chores, I’ve become the official bug killer; a fly-swatter and flip-flops are my weapons of choice, but I’ve even been known to get them bare-handed, and I have to say I’m pretty fast.  All of that however went out the window so to speak last evening when Mike opened what we refer to as the propane locker (in the cockpit where the propane tanks live) to collect the extension hose for the propane grill.

What I hear from inside where I’m boiling corn-on-the-cob and dishing potato salad: “Hi little guy, where did you come from?”  I’m thinking a crab or turtle or something in the water.  Turns out there’s a snake, a small snake, 18 -24″  max, but a snake nonetheless, curled up on top of one of the propane tanks.  And I hate snakes!   And mind you, we’re bobbing around in the middle of a creek, so it’s not like I can go very far should he decided to start exploring beyond the propane locker.  He must have been a bit freaked out too, because he disappeared into the bottom of the locker.  Meanwhile, we’re eating dinner, me with a fork in one hand and my i-phone with the Field Guide to the Chesapeake Bay app up in the other, trying to clarify what it was we were dealing with exactly.  Our best guess was a Northern Water Snake, which I read will “defend themselves vigorously” when they are threatened, will bite repeatedly if picked up, and whose saliva contains a mild anticoagulant which can cause the bite to bleed more.  Great!  But at least they’re not poisonous.

So after dinner, with me standing as far away as possible while still within photo range with Mike’s longer lens camera, Mike starts emptying the locker… not sure what was going to happen next.  Not sure Mike knew either.  In any event, while Mike and I blinked simultaneously  I guess, the snake disappeared.  We think up through a gap into an adjoining storage locker aft, but by this time it was getting dark and with a thunderstorm brewing, we opted not to start tearing the storage lockers apart.  And this morning, there’s no sign of him.  I like to think he found his way to freedom and is enjoying this Saturday afternoon swimming in the creek with his friends.  But just in case, I’ll expect to be a little cautious opening lockers for a while to come.

 

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