Final Leg

Oct. 22, 2021

Continuing northwest from Tangier Island, we crossed back to the western shore to Solomons Island, Maryland, a sailor’s haven where motor yachts are vastly outnumbered. Hunkering down again for high winds, Solomons was another good place to kick back and enjoy watching the boats come in, to read and blog, to dine overlooking the water, and to take in the excellent Calvert Marine Museum. The museum has quite a fine fossil exhibit from the cliffs on the bay side of the island, which is rife with traces and treasures from prehistoric times. It also holds enjoyable aquariums displaying marine life of the area, a War of 1812 exhibit,** and information and anecdotes regarding the oyster industry of the Chesapeake—another resource-turned-industry in this region that has been highly stressed due to the demand. We learned that the oysters of the Chesapeake do not form pearls; I admit to feeling rather disappointed for the shuckers, who I had envisioned enjoying at least that little perk, as they opened hundreds of oysters every day, day after day. A museum is a great way to pass a stormy afternoon…unless one is on foot and emerges just as the storm is about to hit. We made a bee-line back to the boat, and were  almost there when the big, heavy drops began pelting. It was quite a storm, and later we donned our rain gear, bibs and all, to walk the half-mile to dinner. A shout out to CD Cafe, where we savored a memorable dinner in a comfortable and intimate setting with just 12 tables. 

No, this is not a model for a Pixar movie. Many of the fossils we saw at the Calvert Museum were reconstructions made by impressions of the fossil. This is one, as well, along with a rendering of the complete skeleton of a megalodon, a prehistoric 60-foot shark.

For days we watched sailboats come and go; sailing south used the northwest wind to great advantage. But we, with a light boat and a high profile, did not relish the thought of putting our nose to 18mph winds with gusts to 24. Finally after four days, the wind laid down, and we reveled in our final cruise of the season. We were captivated by a profusion of sailboats heading south, all beautifully aligned on a starboard tack. Was it a regatta? We counted as many as 38 at a time and they just kept coming. Whatever the event, we noted that the wind will dictate that they motor back north. Leaving the big water of the Chesapeake, we followed the choppy Choptank River into the lovely quietude of Trappe Creek, timing our arrival perfectly at Dickerson Marine during high tide, compensating for its shallow depths. There, in Trappe, MD, where Red Pearl will reside “on the hard,” indoors for the winter, we were told—with apologies—that there wasn’t room to dock and that we would have to get to their other facility in Oxford, an hour away. It being 4:00, this news was a little nerve-wracking, as we had not researched the route and sunset arrives earlier every day; had we known, we would have given ourselves more time, would not have needed to wait to make it in at high tide…would have missed seeing Trappe Creek. But we made it. Our hail on the radio went unanswered, until finally we heard the faint call across the water, “Red Pearl!” An older guy with wild white hair, nearly as much growing out of his ears as on top of his head, pointed to the slip. The set-up of pilings being unusual, he gruffly asked permission to come aboard and officiously secured our lines. We have never seen anyone lasso a piling 20 feet off on the first try like he did. I complained to Steve, as this guy was adamant about a certain arrangement of lines which is unsuitable to the way our dinghy sits on its davits. It turns out that this dock hand, who waited after closing to meet us, is the guru and boatyard owner, John Shanahan. Over the next days, we picked up tidbits here and there, gaining confidence that John is one of the “big fish” in the boat business, which should not have come as a surprise—Steve had done his homework in choosing this boatyard for over-wintering Red Pearl! Trained in engineering and business, John has been a boat designer for Grand Banks, an iconic line of boats, for most of his career. He was an attentive listener as we shared our davit saga, and as he studied it, his face held the smile of a master totally in his element. John has our “to do” list, but chances are that Steve and I are going to learn a whole lot through some lively phone conversations with John…and that the list is going to morph over the coming months. 

Sock weather is arriving on the Chesapeake, but the sun was shining as we changed out of our shorts and into slacks to drive home. It’s still gorgeous here and we are not quite ready to leave, but the calendar says that it’s time to go home. 

**A bit of historic and personal irony—not required reading, by any means: I was quite fuzzy on the triggers for the War of 1812 and went looking to sort things out. I was sobered to ponder what another war some 35 years after the devastation of the War for Independence meant to this young country. I was puzzled by the connection of the War of 1812 with Tchaikovsky’s Overture of 1812. I admit to often being slow to connect the dots of events which happen simultaneously around the globe. For example, it took me too long to realize that Benjamin Franklin, who enjoyed extended stays in Europe, would have known of the young phenom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and might have even caught a performance London or at the French Court. And with a similar failure at dot-connecting and perhaps a small dose of American hubris, I was confused as to why Tchaikovsky would write a grand overture about a war an ocean away between Great Britain, Spain, and the United States. After all, the 1812 Overture is the most popular accompaniment to our Fourth of July fireworks displays on the Fourth of July! My search reminded me that one has to ask the correct questions to find answers. I didn’t have to look very far to be reminded of what was happening simultaneously in Europe, of Napoleon’s military ambitions; and that this overture is a programmatic retelling of Napoleon’s defeat in the Battle at Borodin in Tchaikovsky’s Russia. The irony of co-opting a symphonic work which celebrates the victory of one despotic government over another wanna-be despot for our Independence Day celebrations might have been funny a few years ago… One might note, as well, that the tune to “The Star Spangled Banner” comes from an English drinking song, and that “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” changes up the words to the British national anthem, “God Save the Queen.” Sheryl Kaskowitz, a scholar of American music, says when the source of both the words and music are known, the song carries a dual meaning: “The words can be a direct protest to the tune.”

Part of the cliffs of Solomons Island, where fossils and clues to Earth’s prehistoric past are rife
A morning full moon over the tidy Oxford boatyard workshop
Sunset at Solomons Island

One thought on “Final Leg

  1. Would love to know John Shanahan’s story that ended up as a boat guru now! Also loved the history which has never been my forte. Music references were enlightening and fun. Intriguing that My Country ‘Tis of Thee could be considered a “protest” song.


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