Log of the Chesapeake cruise

I was ready to leave early on Wednesday and Susan came down around to to pick me up. With my changed plans, I had to take a bag on the plane, - an extra $25 –I tried to upgrade my flight for $50 but found as I was almost done that it was just the last 30 minute flight! So just stuck with my original booking and checked in.

We spent a little time in Silverdale for a cup of coffee – bought a pound to take on the boat - and new books at the Goodwill and then hit the road. The only traffic we ran into was going through Bremerton at the bottom of the bay. I had made ressies at the Best Western so checked in then went to Safeway for a bottle of wine and some snacks.

It’s interesting after being in the back woods for so long, seeing the ethnic diversity in the city. I like it. I set the alarm on my phone for 4:45 for a 6:25 shuttle to the airport. But woke at 3 am and couldn’t go back to sleep.

So I was groggy and out of sorts when I left, hoping to get some rest. But that wasn’t to be – I just don’t sleep on flights. It was uneventful although there was a real holdup on the runway in Philly – there must have been eight or nine planes in front of us and at least 15 behind us. But no problem – arrived just a little late, grabbed my bag and met Betsy and Bob outside.

The air hit me as I went outside. It felt like Durban in the summer – humid and sticky – and SO good! There has been a huge amount of rain on the East Coast this summer and people are really sick of this weather, but I just love it – goes right through to the bones and warms me up.

Bob’s sister Maryann lives in the Annapolis area and she was kind enough to put us up for the night. On the way there, we stopped for supper at an Italian place, then went to the liquor store and the grocery store for supplies.

Maryann and her husband Ray have a rescue Staffie called Karma. She is just a sweet girl and reminded me so much of Zena and Scooter. When they got her, she had been abandoned and her chest was full of bird shot. I just can’t believe someone could do something like that.

I slept well but woke up early, still on West Coast time.

Down to the Boat

Wow, this boat is enormous! It’s 44´long (almost 15m) and with a 24’ beam (8m) and luxurious. Three staterooms and three heads. Betsy and I share the master and Bob and a friend Peter each have a private cabin and head. The main salon is almost the full width of the boat with all the navigation panels, the galley and a big table and couches. Then on deck, but under cover is another big table and seating and the piloting station is up there too. The winches and lines are all close to the wheel. Everything is just plain big.

Betsy and I loaded all the food and found space in the numerous lockers for our clothes. We left the charter company, Lets go cruising, at 11:05.

It is water, water everywhere. And more boats than I can remember seeing anywhere. Beautiful, simple, classic boats, so different from the West Coast floating condos.

Weather was gorgeous, warm and sunny, wind about 10. After we figured out how everything worked, we got under way, cruising very comfortably around 7-8 knots. But cats don’t go to weather or point well, but regardless, it is a very comfortable ride. We sailed south for about four hours, before heading into Knapp channel to tie up at the old boat yard on Tilghman Island (pronounced Tilman). This is the kind of yard I love. It’s old, funky, with all kinds of old boats around, in various stages of (dis) repair. In the shop, Carl Griebel the owner has the boat he has been building, a lobster-type boat called a dead riser, and a beautiful little Herrshoff Alerion that had run aground and her side had been caved in. But the repair was perfect.

Bob used to live in this neck of the woods and everywhere we go, he has friends. These old guys – and young ones – all know him, or of him and he is so gregarious! Carl and he go way back as do a lot the other “watermen” on the river. It’s like going back 30 years around here.

Once we tied up at the rickety dock, we wandered down the main street to see the “sights.” Tilghman Island is not big and we checked out the general store which is really cute, painted bright red with big tubs of chrysanthemums on the porch.

All the roads lead to water. At the end of one of the small roads, the small harbor was filled with fish boats – and two skipjacks. These are classic old boats with the longest booms I have ever seen. Both the boats are on the Register of Historic places.

Then headed back down to The Bridge restaurant. The restaurant is right down on the dock, close to the drawbridge which we had gone through on the way to the yard. One long, one short horn blast alerts the operator, the barrier arms comedown amidst clanging bells and the bridge rises up.

At the restaurant, we were joined by a couple more friends and we decided to check out the crab cakes. My first East coast crab. They were only ok. And very expensive. We were shocked! But the St Michael’s Ale, the local beer was good. Rennie and Steve, Bob’s two friends drove us back to the boat yard. Betsy and I lay out on the trampoline between the amas and looked at the stars and chatted, catching up. It was warm and quiet. All the fish boats were home so there was no traffic. There were no bugs, just clear skies, stars and laughter.

The wind rose in the night, and Betsy was up checking lines and making sure we were secure. The docks are fixed, not floating, but the tides aren’t as extreme as in Washington.

We got underway around 11 that morning, heading out through the Knapp Narrows and as we exited into the Choptank River, we saw one of the skipjacks heading out too. Of course, Bob knows the skipper and had photographed him and the boat years earlier. So we called (cell phone) and Betsy let them know that we were not “stalking” them, that we wanted to photograph them. They raised the jib and main and we went along the lee side and then let them get ahead for some silhouette shots. Just beautiful.

Our next stop was Cambridge. Again, we stayed in a boat yard, but there were no amenities at all. We were all in need of a wifi fix. I had tried to hook up my phone as a modem, but in order to do that I had to download a program, but seeing as I couldn’t get online to do that, we were stuck. But we figured that somewhere in town we would find an internet café.

A short walk away from the boat on the way to town, we stopped at the Port Side Bar and Grill for our second crab cake test. First we checked the price – doable. Betsy ordered six crab balls, which we assumed, would be small crab cakes, and I had a cream of crab soup. The crab balls were a lot better than our first ones, but still could have been crispier. The texture was good but I think they should have had a crust. The crab soup was wonderful, rich, creamy and artery clogging. I will definitely make some with all the crab I have in the freezer.

Cambridge is a pretty little town, undergoing a revival of sorts. We found out that the entire main street had wifi, we just didn’t know how far off the mainstreet we were and whether we could connect. Up the street a bit, we saw a place called The Hot Spot and discovered that it was THE new place in town. The waitress asked if we wanted to be served; she must have been concerned as we looked rather ragtagged with backpacks and satchels. “If we can connect, we’ll be ordering.” I booted up the computer and sure enough, I got right on the Mainstreet system. So we ordered and I downloaded the program, checked emails and had a nice glass of Australian viognier.

The clouds had been building and the weather reports were telling us that the weather would be changing. As we walked home, we wondered if we would make it without getting soaked. Betsy and I wanted to check out the local grocery store for a few supplies on the way, so ducked in and were astounded by the lack of real foodstuffs. We bought the only dozen eggs, saw one can of Spam (is that considered real food?) three cans of tuna and that was about it.

We made it back to the boat before the rain came bucketing down. I tested out the new software and I can get online now with my phone ($20 a month for 2G).

Saturday morning, Betsy’s young twin niece and nephew arrived to spend the weekend on board. Betsy had hoped for decent weather but we didn’t get lucky. Fortunately, we had a short distance to go between Cambridge and Oxford, our next port of call.

We actually made reservations at Oxford boatyard as the open anchorage looked iffy, with poor holding. With the weather and wind so shifty, we thought it best to be tied safely to a dock. But we made a couple of detours before heading in. There was a Star boat regatta with a 12 boat fleet out, all looking really good – and very cold. And we had to take a look at the little ferry running between Oxford and Bellevue. It is believed to be the oldest privately run ferry. It has been running continuously since 1836.

Once at the dock – which took three times to make it because there is so much windage – we went walkabout. Another pretty little town with lovely old houses. Also the home of Cutts and Case Shipyard. This place epitomized –at least for me – what I think of East Coast boat yards. The old sheds were filled with wooden boats, from old Lymans to small sailboats and everything in between. They were stashed in there so tightly, just wondered how they ever got them out! The front of the yard looks like a museum and the back opened out onto the docks. Bob said that the majority of the boats in the slips were built by the yard. In the sheds, there were varnished hatches that looked like they had been sprayed, old style brass fittings and carefully crafted binnacles and tillers. A wooden boat lover’s dream spot.

They have a particular picket fence in the town since the 1800s and there were a whole lot of gates in the park, painted beautifully. It’s an eclectically inclined little place; even a trapeze artist practicing in the park. We had heard that the little store was wonderful, with a full mural on the wall, but I wasn’t that impressed. The mural was great, but the supplies were limited.

Peter’s wife came to pick him up while we were out, so we walked back to the boat via the Yacht Club that was hosting the Star regatta. It was the standard yacht club hang around, everyone bragging and rehashing the races. But a pretty place. We had a drink and headed for the boat.

Bob decided not to do dinner. We had a couple of choices and chose the Tavern at the Robert Morris Inn. The original Inn structure was the home of Robert Morris, one of the signers on the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution. We walked in to the tavern, greeted by a warm fire and enjoyed a pleasant meal. Nothing particularly special, but ok.

Sunday we woke to a freezing wind and dark, ominous clouds. Not what I signed up for. Rennie returned with a friend, John, for the sail to St. Michaels. We got underway at 10 as planned.

It was so damned cold, we were happy to have the two extra hands on board. Betsy and I hung out in the main salon, writing and providing food when required. And more importantly, staying warm. Lunch came and went, cheese, crackers, and really good blue fish cakes that John brought.

I don’t like the sailing motion of a catamaran. I appreciate the roominess and comforts but the slamming and sloppiness is disconcerting. We had probably a 15 or so knot breeze and at times the boat got to about 9 knots. But the seas were short and choppy and slamming on the hull, making the whole boat shudder. And it pitches, never a nice easy motion. Trying to get anything out of the fridge was a mission, jars and bottles wanting to jump out! “Caution, items in the overhead bins might have moved during flight.” No kidding!

And I made the mistake of making coffee while the boat was pitching and slamming, so the grounds got stuck and the whole thing nearly overflowed! I nursed it and ended up with a really good cup of coffee that you could eat with a spoon.

The twins slept almost the entire day! Betsy kept checking on them to make sure they were ok. I think that they are so rigidly scheduled during the week, they were exhausted and were happy to do nothing for a day, and just sleep.

After a six hour sail, we tied up at the St Michael Maritime Museum. It was closed so will no doubt sign in tomorrow. We will be here for two nights, so will have time to explore a bit.

The twins’ parents picked them up, and took us all to dinner at the Crab Claw, an old restaurant right next to the museum.

So now the kids are gone, it’s just Bob, Betsy and me. So Betsy decided to move into the other cabin and I have the master to myself!

I will be adding captions over the next couple of days.