Good-Bye, Chesapeake Bay

Cruising the Chesapeake was such a yearning that I haven’t spend much time preparing for beyond. We have loved the accessibility of the Chesapeake to our family in Frederick and the ability to drive home to Indiana in one long day. Experiencing the charms of small towns and bucolic anchorages, the bustle of the port cities, envisioning early exploration of the waterways, and visiting sites of some of the most important events of our country’s history have been true joy. 

Red Pearl’s upkeep seems always to become the stuff of stories, and the replacement of the ice maker was no exception. At the writing of our last blog, the ice maker had popped its last cube, and we had overnighted a new one—but alas! the new one arrived damaged. Steve and I had originally considered driving the 7 hours to Waterford, CT to pick it up it, but with this new wrinkle there was simply no other way to avoid sitting another weekend in sleepy Tracy’s Landing. After an early supper we drove Wednesday evening, stayed in a hotel, arrived at opening to exchange the damaged ice maker for a new one which we inspected ourselves, and were back in time for dinner on Thursday. The Zimmerman mechanics showed up the next morning bright and early with their buoyant charm and creative skills, and (for the double the cost of the ice maker), we are good to go!

We departed Herrington Harbour Saturday morning with a sort of disbelief that we could actually go. As we made way, I noted that every channel marker is home to a nesting Osprey couple, a sure sign of spring on the Chesapeake. I pondered where Ospreys nested before the advent of channel markers; they usually scare off when one ventures too close, so it’s not like they just love boaters. My small internet search reminded me that Ospreys had been endangered, and their comeback is a story of survival. Of course, their first choice for nesting would not be  a channel marker, but with loss of habitat, at least channel markers are close to their food source. Sixty miles later, we entered the beautiful Sassafras River on the northeast side of the Bay, and watched a Bald Eagle soar across our path and into the highest treetop on the southern bank. Yes, that’s where to get away from it all! With wings broader than an Osprey’s it can effortlessly soar high.

Our anchorage was lovely, but it was a restless night, as waves slapped the bow by our heads all night. After a proper Sunday morning breakfast of scrambled eggs and French Toast with strawberries, we cruised another 5 miles upriver to what we thought to be the little town of Georgetown. Unsuccessful in rousing anyone at any of several marinas by phone, we discovered once we got there that Georgetown Yacht Basin is permanently closed, and that Georgetown is not really a town at all. On the other side of the river was a viable marina, but, still unable to hail anyone by phone or radio, we pulled alongside a T-dock, hoping that the spot was open for the night. Eventually a young dock hand and then the aged owner arrived, breathless from the run, and they assisted us. We had a delightful stay in Fredericktown—also not a town. Joe, the owner of the marina, was quite a talker, and we learned that he had farmed over 30 years, had owned a transport company for nearly 30 years, and had run this marina for 34 years. “Count ‘em up!” he said, and by my calculations, I got to “dead,” but he only got to 84. That’s one industrious fellow! His complaint about paying taxes on the sale of his farm last year and his anticipation of another such tax on the sale of his well-maintained marina explained to us why he was flying a Trump 2024 flag. 

The next morning we said “goodbye” to the Chesapeake and entered the C&D Canal, acknowledged as one of the busiest waterways in the world. To our amazement the lone tow which we encountered before the narrow channel was the only one we saw. We had the place to ourselves the entire 17 miles. At the east end we entered a large shipping channel and ducked north a couple of miles to the popular Loopers’ staging point at Delaware City—also not a city. The owner of the Delaware City Marina, Tim Konkus, is well-known to Loopers, and because of a wicked current running through his marina, he talks each skipper into place alongside a single face dock with assurance and calm. We docked in front of 3 boats with AGLCA burgees, and 5 more showed up the next day, the first looping community we have experienced by boat for years now. Tim gives a daily 4:00 briefing on how to navigate the Delaware Bay, as its tides cause swift currents and its weather systems demand respect. We had anticipated just one night at Delaware City, but weather conditions being what they were, opted to stay second night. 

The 3 boats behind us are traveling together, a Seattle contingent—and the skippers invited us aboard for Manhattans after dinner. It was enjoyable to hear their stories—only one of them brought his American Tug down the coast and through the Panama Canal; the others had purchased boats in Florida. They’re young—40s, 50s, early 60s with kids and dogs. Having made commitments with tickets and reservations in New York, they will be high-tailing it up the coast. 

We finally realize that Memorial Day weekend is here. The holiday marks the beginning of boating season on Lake Michigan, but we don’t even know the traditions here! Opting for Tim’s recommendation, we’ve decided to hang out in Lewes, DE for the week end, a town that reportedly has made a remarkable comeback but so recently that few Loopers take time to explore it. As I write, there is no commercial traffic on the Delaware Bay, and we are screaming downstream at 12 miles an hour. Over-prepared is the way we like it—on high alert for nothing. 

Ospreys nest on every channel marker.
The charming Sassafras River
The lone tow which we encountered on the bustling C&D canal. The height of this one is notable.
The long face docks of Delaware City Marina. Can you see Red Pearl?
24 hours later, there are 8 Looping vessels.

2 thoughts on “Good-Bye, Chesapeake Bay”

  1. So off to visit Lewes – I grew up in it’s backyard in Milford (to the NW) about 15 miles. My brother (James) & wife along with 3 of their 4 children still are in Milford. Enjoy your time!


  2. So glad you connected with some other loopers! From your description it feels like all is well, now that it is also iced! Love reading these blogs! Bev and Joel


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