Leaving DC, the cruising was cold and windy, and our minds began to turn toward winterizing Red Pearl and leaving her on the hard—and the realization that we have no Thanksgiving or Christmas plans. Nights on the hook were fiercely beautiful and required running the generator all night for heat—except for the night that the generator quit during the night. Steve spent the entire next morning, and then some, changing the impeller and successfully reinstating its function while I tended the helm. There was no coffee that morning.
We had read about the charms of Crisfield, but again found a little crabbing town down on its luck and all but closed up at the end of the season. We enjoyed Waterman’s Grill for dinner on Saturday, but it was closed Sunday due to staffing shortages and was not scheduled to open again until Thursday. We ventured into a little ice cream shop as it was readying to close, and Michele—wearing a bedraggled cat-ears headband over her teal, short-cropped, frizzy curls—recommended the fried shrimp. She discouraged us from drinking the city water, and after watching as we searched for a beverage without caffeine and sugar, she retrieved a 32-oz bottle of water from her car. “You can have this,” she said. “I drink 8 of these a day.” We find kind and generous people everywhere! Crisfield did not warrant a 3-day visit, but the weather that set in required it, and we restlessly bided our time.
Being detained in Crisfield squeezed out plans for another stop at St. Michaels, and so—did I mention it was cold?!— we headed back to Deale, capturing the best weather window for docking without wind and rain. The delight of the week was meeting up with Michael Sommer, my next door neighbor from grad school in Cincinnati, who now lives in Annapolis. It was so good to catch up with him, to enjoy his infectious laughter, and to rediscover many shared interests and ideas.
Herrington Harbor East, the marina where Red Pearl will be for the winter, had no available slips, so we came in a stone’s throw across the way at a smaller marina. On the day we were scheduled to transfer to Herrington Harbor, nothing went smoothly. As we prepared to make the short hop, the port engine display indicated that there was no oil pressure. Steve, not feeling confident to dock with just one engine in windy conditions, called a tow; and while we were grateful for the service, being towed for that tiny, final leg felt enormously anticlimactic. Arriving at the T-head, we discovered that the pump out station was down. No sooner were we were tied up, it became functional again, so Steve jockeyed around to get that accomplished. Maneuvering such “back and forths” is complicated on even an optimally functioning boat—but black water is something one do NOT want to ignore!… It seemed like packing up should be easy, but combing through the entire boat and removing items we haven’t found useful Just. Took. Time. Ah, my amazing Skipper—such a minimalist he is!
We enjoyed a week-end visit with Scott, Holly and Wes on our way home and now are settling into life in our “dirt home.” A new “to the boat” pile has been started in the basement. Our fingers are crossed, hoping for a full cruising season next summer of the northern waters, and for crossing our wake near Paducah, KY. But for now, let the wind blow.
Twelve days in Washington, D.C.! Last fall when we visited, we fell in love with the beauty and vibrancy of this city, and it was a delight to spend more time here this fall. Upon arrival, we scrambled to find dinner on a happenin’ Saturday night at the Wharf and ended up at the bar at Nara-Ya, a very hip sushi restaurant.
We had Sunday plans! While every Smithsonian Museum required timed entry last year due to Covid-19, this year one could pretty much just show up, excepting one. The National Museum of African American History is still so popular that one needs to watch the website and seize assigned entry a month ahead of visiting as soon as sign-up is available. I nearly missed it. October 9th was the only remaining date that might work, and we crossed our fingers. Four floors of history, from the lowest level and up, cover Slavery and Freedom, Reconstruction and the struggle for Civil Rights, and the continued pursuit of Equality and Justice. There was so much to read and ponder and struggle with, so much sadness, each step forward toward inclusion seemingly followed with another innovation intended to divide. Finally reaching the top floor, our spirits lifted amidst the expansive coverage of African Americans in the arts. The innovations made in popular music go on and on, and it was fun to hear recordings and see so many iconic costumes. Steve, having played the trumpet, reveres the Big Band Era, heralded by Duke Ellington and followed by Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong. I pondered Jessye Norman’s rich voice and the gown from her performances of “Aida” at the Met, she being the first black female to sing on that stage. From the 50s and on—Etta James, Little Richard, Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, the adult Michael Jackson, and so many others. We spent the entire day and left exhausted and satiated, inspired by the manifest determination and creativity of the human spirit evidenced there.
Through the week we returned to the Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of American History, and one of the American Art Museums. We scoped out Georgetown via the Metro and explored the inspiring estate, Dumbarton Oaks, developed by Mildred Barnes Bliss and her landscape designer, and now bequeathed to the public. (Robert Woods Bliss was a diplomat with family money made through slave trade.) Mildred wrote to a friend: “I know that what Dumbarton Oaks has to give—the work that it can do—can never be done in a big center—it must be small and quiet and unemphatic: a place for meditation and recueillement.” Indeed! Exploring their collection of pre-Colombian and Byzantine art in the house will have to wait until our next visit. We returned to Georgetown another day by bike to visit Tudor Place, an 8-acre estate built by descendants of Martha Washington. Spanning six generations, it had four owners and was a stately albeit rather plain house with a gorgeous hilltop view of the Potomac in its day. We appreciated the history and could imagine what connections did and still do today in the political sphere.
We enjoyed both fine and simple dining. We prioritized returning to Rasika and had an amazing Indian meal. We scoped out Szechwan fare in Chinatown and Continental cuisine and Neapolitan pizza in Georgetown. Thai and tacos nearby on the Wharf were good enough.
Needing provisions, on Saturday we rode our bikes to the Eastern Market, located a few blocks south of the Capitol Building. We found a bustling market featuring handcrafted items, vintage clothing, lovely fresh fruits and vegetables, and high quality meat, cheese and seafood. We selected an attractive hand-painted glass tray, and I bought an alpaca poncho before lunch at a small Italian deli. Then we loaded up our panniers with a big chuck roast, a rock fish on ice, and bulky produce and headed back to the Wharf. It took two more trips to SafeWay to finish provisioning, but we were finally ready for company!
With delight, we welcomed Wishart and Mary Bell aboard on Monday. We had scoped out a great deal in city parking—$20 a day just a couple of blocks away! They unpacked into our tiny guest quarters, and we visited, waiting for the drizzle to subside before taking a walk. After that cold, windy walk, we were ready for a hot meal, and the pot roast, prepared in the InstantPot, hit the spot. Tuesday we explored Alexandria, honing in on the National Inventors Hall of Fame. A panel of esteemed scientists and inventors annually selects from a long list of nominees 25 inventors to be showcased in this mostly-digital display. My personal favorites this year were the three women who developed the sports bra, using jock straps as a prototype. The resulting innovation proffered women the confidence to participate in sports after Title IX, giving females equal access to participation in sports in the early 70s, was passed—a moment I well-remember. We enjoyed several hours perusing the displays and being regaled with many stories by enthusiastic staff person, Helena, a petite woman with a heavy Polish accent who was passionate about many of the inventions. So dramatic was Helena that at one point she shared a story which brought her to tears in the telling, leaving us a bit puzzled. 😯 Around the lobby we discovered a few patent models, and across the lobby was the U.S. Patent Office itself, where one actually applies for a patent. We all are familiar with Edison, Tesla, and Alexander Graham Bell and their inventions, but the top 5 holders of patents are not even household names. (Australian Kia Silverbrook, holds the most patents—4747 as of 2021, mostly in the area of digital printing.) Dinner at Virtue Feed and Grain on the water near historic King Street was fun and noisy.
On Wednesday we set out on foot for a U.S. Capitol tour. We had discovered late that the public is once again welcomed into those hallowed halls, and fortunately our extended visit gave us lead time to secure tickets. Entry into the Visitors Center made an airport TSA look like child’s play, and we solemnly noted the guard with the AK47 at the door. Enforcement of the No-food-or-drink policy required trashing our lovely bag of specially mixed nuts from home. (As difficult as provisioning is without a car, this was no small loss.) But the tour was so worth it! The Crypt, in which the symmetrical radii of the city all converge, felt small. We heard the story of the vision that the Crypt would be the final resting place for George Washington’s remains—and why that never came to pass. Upstairs the awe-inspiring Rotunda, fashioned after the Roman Pantheon, was designed to literally be a “temple to democracy,” the dome’s remarkable “stone work,” actually iron. We saw the original, out-grown Senate and House chambers. Interestingly, the beautiful senate desks in these spaces are replicas, with the originals in use in the current Senate chambers, autographed and etched by those who have served in the past 13 Senates. We were reminded of the irony that many who labored to build this magnificent building never lived to experience the freedoms that it enshrined. The tour concluded in front of the monument to Flight 93 and the brave souls who deterred that plane from slamming into this building where the nation’s leaders were convening that tragic day on September 11, 2001. We took a moment to imagine a sudden loss of the entire legislative body of government. In closing, our effervescent guide became sober as he described the fragile moment in which we live today, encouraging us to do all we can to uphold the democratic freedoms that have been achieved. Dinner at Szechwan Pavilion was warming on another blustery day.
Our time in DC had come to a close, and we shared coffee and leftover baked oatmeal with the Bells before heading out. They saw us off, waving from shore, before continuing by roadways to visit Mount Vernon and family in Virginia. It feels good to be sought out by dear friends on this journey. And it feels like such a privilege to spend time in this iconic city, to understand better its history and its founders’ reverence for knowledge, understanding, and compromise. This is as close to “patriotism” as I come, and I feel enormous gratitude this morning.
Brrrr. Starting the day in foul-weather bibs, the forecast high today is the 40s.
With Trawlerfest in our site, the cruise into Baltimore was an easy hop. Entering this shipping hub was enlivening: container ships were being lade, tiny-but-mighty tows pushed a huge freighter into the channel, military and industry and green space appeared separate, but in succession along the shore. We easily located Harbor East Marina, our landing spot while we are here, and we were expertly assisted by the marina manager, who cleated our lines, masterfully whipping them against the pier so that they caught the horns of the cleat, without his even bending over. We are between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point, in an upscale neighborhood with lovely shopping, a Whole Foods and a Haagen-Dasz parlor—what more could you want? Oh! The classes!
Over the course of three days, Steve and I attended courses on boat handling with classroom and hands-on components, boat-buying, and boat maintenance. Some of the content was very helpful, some of it review with a few pearls to pick up. An in-water trawler show concluded the event, and we went aboard a variety of boats from Ranger Tugs to a 65-foot Fleming (2009, still $2.3M). Red Pearl is slipped near the end of the boats in the show, and we fielded a lot of questions about Mainships, inviting a few guests aboard to have a look around.
Our hope to head out on Saturday was thwarted again by weather. Hurricane Ian, which whipped up so much destruction in Florida and the Carolinas still swirls just off the eastern seaboard, pulling down northerly winds and continued precipitation. We watch the weather and wind apps regularly, and the forecast for moderately comfortable cruising keeps extending further out. Sadly, we have cancelled plans with Steve’s sister and brother-in-law to join us for a few days this week due to our delays. The bonus is time to actually explore this historic city.
We visited the American Visionary Museum, dedicated to exhibition of the work of untrained artists. The exterior decoration is its WOW feature, mosaics in swirls of mirror and glass executed by at-risk teens. Inside we found such extraordinary variety—from live-tree sculpting, to an 1800-pound ball of bras, to a whimsical collection of mosaics and musings on farts, and a devise that visitors can step onto to produce a variety of “wind-making” noises! Viewing this unique collection made for a delightful afternoon.
We fed our souls, as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with guest conductor performed Dvorâk 7 and collaborated with young Israeli pianist Tom Morrow in Mozart Concerto No. 24. It saddened us to see this fine orchestra, in its beautiful Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, play to a hall only half-full.
We ventured out on a cold afternoon in a bleak, constant drizzle to Fort McHenry, most famous for its inspiration of the American National Anthem during the War of 1812 against the British. When we entered the fort a docent asked how he could help us. I asked if he could make the sun shine, and he responded, “No, I can’t do that, but I can offer you a true historical experience, with weather as it was on September 14, 1814.” Francis Scott Key, a Baltimore Lawyer and conflicted slave holder, had boarded a British ship in the harbor during the British attack on Fort McHenry, to present papers for the release of Dr. Beane, a medical doctor who the British were holding. Successful in his mission, Key nonetheless was required to spend the night on the ship of the adversary, and was inspired at the sight of the flag still waving over the fort in the morning. As he penned a few lines, he imagined it sung to the tune, “To Anacreon in Heaven,” and when he returned home after the battle, he finished the four-verse poem. The piece immediately captured the hearts of citizens, but it wasn’t until 1931 that it officially became the National Anthem of the United States. As a matter of fact, the Stars and Stripes has been regarded in many different ways among Americans. The confederate states resented it, seeing it as a symbol of northern aggression. Others through the years have felt its representation of the “land of the free” to be an empty promise. Raised by pacifist parents, I was taught that the anthem glorified war and was discouraged from singing the words. I feel a sense of comfort with the knowledge that even the celebrated Francis Scott Key was conflicted in this moment of greatness: He was against this young country going into war, but given war, he hoped ardently that it would prevail. He had the moral conviction that slavery was wrong, but at that time, prosperity of the land hinged on the inexpensive labor and talents of dark-skinned people. I feel a more sympathetic to the moment, knowing of some of Key’s inner conflict. Life is rife with points of conflict. Perhaps when we fail to see it, our eyes are not wide open.
We have eaten well in Baltimore. We enjoyed Italian, Lebanese, and Japanese cuisine, as well as lots of seafood, all within walking distance. But we also carefully monitor our provisions so as not to waste the food that we schlep to the boat and carefully maneuver, like puzzle pieces, into our tiny fridge. Breakfasts/lunches sometimes are a little quirky, such as the chickpea pasta we finished with a fried egg atop. We commented that, after having given us three lovely dinners, the last bit of pasta probably would have been tossed at home.
We also bought some warmer clothing. (I’m actually wishing for wool socks and boots!) Today I note that Baltimore and Washington D.C. have the lowest high temperature in the contiguous 48 states. It’s colder here than in Bozeman, Montana and Freeport, Maine. But, while the cold is unwelcome, the rain will stop and the winds will die down, and we will leave Baltimore tomorrow. The sun will be shining once again by the end of the week. We have provisioned and readied for anchoring out the next four nights. D.C., here we come!
I am puzzled as to what happened to our photos on this post, so I have updated AGAIN, hoping they transfer this time. Thanks for your patience.
Last Thursday we made the bumpy cruise across the Chesapeake to Bodkin Creek where we docked at Pleasure Cove Marina in Pasadena, a bedroom community between Baltimore and Annapolis. Meeting our son and daughter-in-law, Scott and Holly, and grandson Wes worked like clockwork. Scott brought lovely pastries, and we celebrated Holly’s birthday. Trying to keep a semblance of a two-and-a-half year old’s schedule was the challenge of the week end, and bedtime and nap-time required heroic parental efforts. We are grateful that Scott and Holly were willing to take the challenge, because our time together was truly a delight.
The weather, having turned chilly and windy, did not cooperate for our Friday cruise, and we stayed put. Having Scott and Holly’s car, however, allowed us to scope out beautiful Downs Park, a 20-minute drive to the coast, with a playground which was a perfect place to land for the morning. I prepared an all-in-one-dish pasta dinner, which we enjoyed on the fly bridge, where we had wind protection and plenty of buttons, ropes, nooks and crannies for Wes to explore.
On Saturday, we cruised east across the Bay again, past Rock Hall and up the Chester River to historic and charming Chestertown. Founded in 1706, Chestertown became one of the English colony of Maryland’s six Royal Ports of Entry. The shipping boom that followed this designation made the town at the head of the Chester River wealthy. In the mid-eighteenth century, Chestertown was Maryland’s second-leading port, following only Annapolis. With 6500 residents today, it is also home to Washington College, with an undergraduate student enrollment of 1100 and a Lifelong Learning community of 400. After cruising for 5 hours, Wes needed to expend some energy, and once he was acclimated at the nearby playground, Holly and I ducked away for some shop-browsing. On Main Street, we found a children’s arts festival in full swing, with vendors, booths for kids to create their own works of art, and a big Bounce House. The 5 of us met up again for an early dinner at The Kitchen at the Imperial, and as we were escorted through dining rooms filled with tables dressed in white table cloths and votive candles, we adults looked at each other, wide-eyed. Thankfully, we were seated in our own little porch, and Wes happily passed the time with the plate of bread and his new truck sticker book. It was a successful dinner out, and Wes was a delightful dinner companion. That evening as Steve made the necessary engine check, Wes followed him down into the belly of the boat. “I’m impressed!” he stated, matter-of-factly.
Sunday morning felt chilly, but Wes had been waiting patiently for a ride in our new dinghy—and understandably, as it afforded closer access to the water and was more “hands on” for a tot. The four of them enjoyed a couple of spins around the head of the Chester River, Wes taking the helm and taking full advantage of the power of the throttle. Wes was very tickled when Scott turned into a wave and soaked Holly who sat in the bow. They returned in good spirits, and back aboard Red Pearl, we returned to the west side of the Bay and bid farewell to this sweet family.
Steve and I both were ready for a long, hard sleep that night!
From Leeds Creek, we hopped down to St. Michaels, one of the most popular resort towns on the eastern shore. We anchored in San Domingo Creek with 5 other boats, finding it more developed than we expected with homes surrounding the creek. (The new dinghy is wonderful, and our well-functioning davits make this attractive rhythm possible. We can enjoy both the serenity of the anchor and the buzz of the area.) We waited until the following day to go into town, per CDC Covid guidelines and our symptom day counts. Ashore at St. Michaels on Chew Street, a colorful, hippy house with a bright green picket fence, wild and exuberant gardens, and pithy signage greets folks who dinghy in. The town was quiet, the shops easily an afternoon’s entertainment, the ice cream delicious. We made reservations for dinner and then returned to the boat to rest. After eating aboard for a week, we enjoyed sharing a delicious crab cake dinner at the Crab Claw on the patio, watching the activity on the water.
On Saturday we cruised to Oxford and anchored in Flatty’s Cove. In town we walked to the park, enjoying a constant breeze and the shade offered by its mature hardwoods right up to the shoreline. We felt like we had stumbled onto the Chesapeake’s version of Saturday soccer—one-design sailboat racing. Parents stood ashore with binoculars, handheld radios, and snack coolers with the family dog on leash, as they milled around, watching and chatting. We continued our walk along the popular anchorage known as The Strand. The field of mooring balls was empty, but in high season it is filled with both partiers and cruisers on the move. The following day, we returned to town for Sunday brunch on the porch of the historic Robert Morris Inn. Morris built this house overlooking the water in 1710, and it is the oldest full-service inn in America. Morris, himself a founding father, and his son Robert Jr., a financier of the Revolutionary War, would have discussed trade issues and the state of affairs here while hosting other dignitaries, such as George Washington who visited eight times. Serving as a convalescent home for soldiers in World War I and a general store, the Robert Morris Inn has come full circle in offering lofty creative inspiration: James Michener, who owned a home in nearby St. Michaels, wrote the outline for his novel Chesapeake here.
On Monday we returned to Herrington Harbor North for steering fluid and to check out a possible house battery issue. Both issues were addressed promptly and with relatively little ado. In other words, whatever issues remain are not urgent and can be addressed during the winter (i.e. “the 2 weeks prior to our departure in the spring”). Refilling our water tanks, pumping out our black water, doing laundry, and provisioning filled our day.
Tuesday we crossed the Bay again, finding the passage choppy and rough, and arrived at Rock Hall, northeast of the Bay Bridge and a favorite destination for Loopers on the Chesapeake. We got a slip at Rock Hall Landing, and easily understood its attraction. The marina provides inviting accommodations for groups, with not only swimming pool, picnic tables and grills, but also hammocks hanging between mature trees and 18 Adirondack chairs encircling a gas fire table. A town of 1500 sturdy year-round inhabitants, Rock Hall is quaint and—rather sleepy at this time of year. It being Wednesday when we road bikes to town, most businesses were closed. We chatted with the shop keeper of a lovely little quilt shop attractively packed with fabric, quilting essentials, and classroom space, and I purchased a few yards of fabric that called out to me. Our circuit around town concluded with afternoon coffee and a treat at Java Rock. There was still time left in the afternoon for some cleaning chores, and having eaten at the popular Waterman’s Crab House next door the previous night, AND it being Wednesday, with many restaurants closed, we opted for grilling and eating dinner aboard.
The night Tuesday was a restless night one for us, as the wind shifted and whistled through the jetty at the perfect angle for causing a loud slap-slapping of waves against the bow right at our ears. We lay awake thinking about the weather and the projected high waves the next day. Just when one has plans, the weather interjects with a reminder that there are things beyond one’s control. Meeting Scott, Holly and grandson Wes tomorrow is a “go!” Which side of the Chesapeake we will meet is yet to be determined!
As I’ve blogged, I’ve thought a lot about how to tell our story. I’ve noticed how people gather ‘round, smiling and nodding over a tidbit of gossip or a tale of woe. I’ve noticed that the telling of well-laid and -executed plans that go off without a hitch somehow lacks that dramatic punch, and further, can be plain boring. According to blogger Jane Hope on the art of story-telling, there has to be a “pain point” that disrupts the setting. There follows a “quest,” during which a “crisis” is encountered. All this can finally result in a “new normal.” Aboard Red Pearl, Steve and I have had lots of suitable material for a good story in this blog, whether I’ve told it well on not. Just once, however, I would like to write a boring tale, one lacking a pain point and a crisis. Wouldn’t it be great to arrive at a new normal without all the angst and time spent in boat yards!?” Evidently, the opportunity to write that boring tale is yet to be.
In April we were making preparations for the 6-month completion of our Loop. The piles of gear had begun to move from the lower level of our house to the back door (setting). And then I turned my ankle on the uneven pavement between the driveway and the garage floor. I heard a “pop,” and the seering pain suggested that I had really done…something (pain point). X-rays (quest) indicated that my peroneus longus tendon, which runs lengthwise on the outer side of the foot, had snapped. It had been complaining during the winter, enough that I had had it injected and hoped that whatever was ailing it would heal on its own. This “healing on its own” bit not being the case, our plans quickly shifted; instead of completing the Loop, I spent the summer recovering from surgery (crisis?!). Since the peroneus longus is largely responsible for foot stability, I was advised to give recovery 4 months before cruising again, and Steve good-naturedly took to furthering his nursing and hearth-keeping skills (new normal 😉).
Despite our disappointment at another delay in completing the Loop, the “booby prize” is allowing for more cruising time on the Chesapeake than most Loopers have time to enjoy. Due to season limitations, most Loopers pretty much cruise straight through, having played around Florida in the winter and then gunning (at 8mph) to make Canada on July 1. And so—once I was weight-bearing again and had regained my independence, Steve and two of his adventuresome friends, John Dick and Bob Zook, spent a lovely week on Red Pearl in June. Steve flew out a few days before the others arrived, in order to make sure everything was ready. Things were not ready, and Steve was fit to be tied. The boat was not in the town where he was meeting his friends, not even in the water, and many of the repairs which were frequent topics of phone conversations with John Shanahan were yet incomplete. Steve begged and cajoled and complained to get the boat ready enough, and then during the course of the week on the water, he decided to leave Red Pearl at Zimmerman Marine, located at Herrington Harbor North (owned and run by the same Zimmerman family in Deltaville, VA, where our davit motors were replaced last summer. Since the dinghy davit conundrum continued to be illusive, it made sense for Zimmerman to resolve that problem). And so—after the guys’ week, Red Pearl spent the summer “on the hard” (in a parking lot up in cradles), still awaiting work. Two weeks before we were set to head back to Maryland for fall cruising, the phone started ringing again with marine workmen’s questions regarding this and that…and one recurring question: “Now, what’s your drop dead departure date?” Even with the additional week we allotted the team, multiple guys were still aboard the day before we set off. This just seems to be the rhythm of boatyards, but come next spring, we will be resorting to telling a little white lie, padding that “drop dead date” by a couple of weeks.
After hanging around the marina for 5 days, we were keen to get off, an additional day’s delay for stinky weather just being the way things go on the water. Steve executed his exit plan from the narrow fairway well, but I noticed a strange grinding noise from where I stood abaft as we turned the corner. And then some odd steering issues ensued…We came up too close to a line of slipped boats. Steve reversed and adjusted. Finally, as he mopped at steering fluid streaming from the helm, he stopped at the pump out station and called our dear friends at Zimmerman. Mike and Joe sure enough figured out that the steering fluid level was low (a no-brainer even for me!) causing excessive free play in the steering. Unrelated was the discovery that the auto helm wasn’t working due to old cable connections. Fortunately it was revived by jiggling the cable, while Joe held his tongue just right. Ehh, it’s a boat!….
On Monday, Sept. 12 we crossed the Bay over to the Wye East River, seeking some natural beauty in a quiet anchorage. It was here that a second antigen test confirmed that my cold is indeed COVID19, and Steve’s symptoms are about 3 days behind mine. Thus, we will spend the next week avoiding people and will mask up after our 5-day isolation. An evening thunderstorm offered the biggest lightening show we have ever witnessed, and watching the hour-long display from the flybridge was thrilling—and a little scary.
Tuesday morning we took the dinghy to an Audubon sanctuary with hiking trails, and, while we saw few birds, we enjoyed walking the beautiful forest. Returning to the boat, we cruised up the Wye West River, the east and west sides encircling Wye Island and interrupted only by a simple wooden bridge with a slim 10-foot clearance. Beautiful manor-like homes whispering promises of a perfect bucolic life dot the shoreline, their expanses of mature trees shading manicured lawns. Wilderness abounds here, too, with natural habitat for Bald Eagles, cranes, and snapping turtles. We anchored in Leeds Creek, another beautiful spot in the East Bay, choosing its protection as high gusts were forecast, but our mosquito encounter at dusk suggested that there was no wind, after all!
Steve and I are going to lay low now and recover, while enjoying the scenery and boat-cooking, coughing sweet nothings to each other.
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.
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 RedPearl 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.”
Two days’ cruise from Colonial Beach—with a delightful night on the hook at Mill Creek near the Great Wicomico River on the western shore—landed us in Cape Charles, VA, a town with War of 1812 history near the southern tip of the Eastern Shore. The crossing was choppy and not very pleasant, requiring us to take a less direct course in search of protection from northeasterly winds, and we were grateful, at last, for the shelter of dockage. During our stay there, we watched the docking “show” of a number of motor and sail boats, all challenged by the high winds, one of which made unfortunate contact with others in the harbor and sustained some damage.
Cape Charles is a cute town, and it was a good place to sit out the big 5-day blow. We rode our bikes and enjoyed dinner at The Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery, where the black beans and rice accompanying the grouper were the star of the evening. Knowing we were staying a while, we took our time perusing the town, more than once having plans upended by unpredictable hours of business due to lack of help, end of the season, and broken water mains. The pancakes at Cape Charles Coffee House were deliciously memorable, and additionally so for being served with the longest fingernails we’ve seen in action. 😂 Brown Dog Ice Cream is open only on week ends these days, but it’s worth the wait. There was a jewelry store specializing in
“fish leather,” bracelets and earrings made from leathery hand-painted fish skin, and a photographer’s studio filled with crisp, artistic, local shots all taken from a small plane. If we were not at the end of our cruising, I might have provisioned for docktails at the gourmet market. On a particularly blustery and rainy day, we walked out to the end of the fishing pier and watched the action, seeing Ribbon Fish being hauled in, one after the other. These beautiful long flat silvery fish with wavy fins like curling ribbon have teeth, mind you! Wikipedia says that, although Americans don’t know what to do with Ribbon Fish, it is an excellent eating fish which the Japanese prize; hence, our observation that the fishingpeople were Asian.
Once high winds abated, we cruised north to Onancock, a tiny town which undoubtedly oozes charm during high season. However, it not being high season, welcome mats were all but rolled up. We enjoyed docktails and dinner with lovely folks from Victoria, BC, Judy and Greg Waller on Rumabout, who we had met in Cape Charles.
Cutting back west 16 miles is the soft shell crab capital of the world, Tangier Island, population 450 with a town the altitude of 3 feet and an area of one square mile. Two-thirds of its land mass has been lost since 1850 due to sea level rise and erosion and continuing at an accelerating rate. According to an article in New Yorker, this Island is one storm away from being wiped out; and yet, the mayor is no believer in climate change. One steps back 75 years in time on Tangier, and James Michener fans go back even further in their imaginations, recognizing Tangier as an important setting in his novel, Chesapeake. The channel through which boats approach Tangier Island is lined on both sides by fishing “bungalows” —shanties, really—the man caves of the watermen who make their living trapping blue crab, sorting them to market those with intact hard shells from ones that have molted their outgrown shells, and throwing back those that have begun to grow a new one. We walked the single road into town and found residents congregated and chatting from their golf carts, awaiting the tourists disembarking the final ferry of the season, to escort them around the loop for a small fee and a big tip. Two churches, a grocery which is restocked every Thursday, a post office bearing evidence of Amazon shipments, a K-12 school with 50 students and a football team(?!), a part-time medical clinic for which a doctor flies in once a month, a quaint museum, a T-shirt shop, and a few restaurants—Lorraine’s being the only one still open this late in the season. The main transport on the island is golf cart or scooter, but some residents keep a car on the mainland. There is no cellphone service. We had heard about the dialect spoken by the locals, a sort of “Elizabethan English meets Waterman,” and as we were preparing to push off in the morning, we could hear a unique cadence among watermen across the water as they prepared for the day. The museum listed a lot of fun local vernacular: “Nippity cut” means a close call and “old whackems” are long-time buddies. We couldn’t resist purchasing the 3-page list of unique phrases of the dialect for coffee table reading. We chatted with 90-year-old Milton Parks, owner of Parks Marina, who was born on the island and raised here. “There are only three names on the island—Crocker, Pruitt and Parks,” he told us. (A little simplified—the internet say there are 6 family names.) They have no police—everyone knows everyone, and if you misbehave, your mom’ll hear about it! Dinner at Lorraine’s, with its oil cloth table cloths and a white board listing the desserts so that you’d be sure to save room, was delicious. We splurged on crab dip and shared a crab cake dinner, at “market price,” currently $31/pound, according to our server. We had read at the museum that government regulation has shortened the crabbing season by 5 months due to over fishing. But watermen dispute this and attribute the poor return this season to pollutants in the water. We suspect the crab shortage in the crab capital of the world to be a more nuanced issue—perhaps both, and some others reasons, as well.
The dock master at Onancock told Steve, “If you don’t go to Tangier once, shame on you. If you go more than once, shame on you, too.” That’s just about right.
Monday was another beautiful day for cruising, but we departed D.C. with a little sadness. We agree that three weeks would have been perfect, allowing us to see more sights, while not hitting it quite so hard. We hope to come back when the capitol building is open to visitors again, to see the National Museum of the African American, which had no openings for the whole month of October, to get to Georgetown…
Our destination was Colonial Beach, midway down the Potomac, where the options were slim for side-by-side accommodations appropriate for a 35-foot RV and a 40-foot trawler—sort of a meeting of a fish and a squirrel—in order to meet up with Wishart and Mary Bell. As luck would have it, the accommodations were not ideal for either of us, and our expectation of being able to dinghy back and forth two minutes across the little bay was tricky, there being no good place to tie up on their side. That did not deter us—Wishart and his truck, Gustav, are just about unstoppable! 😉 They hosted for dinner, we made s’mores camper-style, and enjoyed a good visit around the fire.
Tuesday we drove across the Potomac to St. Mary’s City, a colonial town that was Maryland’s first European settlement and capital. It is now a state-run historic area, which includes reconstruction of the original colonial settlement and a living history and museum complex. Settled by the Roman Catholic Calvert family (of the Lord Baltimore ilk) for religious freedom, they lived amicably enough with a majority of Protestants in this small town. As we entered the historic area we met Thomas, a young man on staff in some capacity, who found in us an opportunity to enthusiastically regale us with facts and dates, theories and conjectures, causing us to feel like, as Wishart said, we were “drinking-water-from-a-fire-hose.” Apologies to Thomas: a scholar without an appropriately appreciate audience… (Steve adds that we were appreciative for a while.) Still an active archeological site and training ground for archeologists, the reconstructed living history area includes a church, a barn with a few original timbers, an inn, a tavern, a store, and a ship. Tobacco was not only the cash crop; it was also the currency: a night’s stay at the local inn would have cost 7 pounds of tobacco. Of course, only the brawn of enslaved workers made this labor-intense crop possible, although at this early point in American history, some of the enslaved were indentured workers, who eventually regained their freedom. We went aboard the re-created MarylandDove, a 76-foot cargo ship, crewed by 9 men with 40 tons of stores and supplies lade up below. The docent helped us visualize the hard-knock life of crew aboard a 17th-c. ship. Before leaving the area, we ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant where we were the only gringos and the Margaritas were great. Back on Red Pearl we resurrected our memory of Pinochle, having enjoyed it together on our Glacier vacation—albeit with some rules askew!
Our final day with the Bells included nuts and bolts of life on the move—provisioning, food preparation, and a black water pump out. Having had lunch on the boat, we had dinner at their place again, campfire-grilled steak and boat-baked apple crisp, and a second evening of Pinochle. We look forward to trying to rendezvous again in the spring and are always grateful for time with dear friends—at home, but especially on these memory-making, away-from-home adventures.
Saturday morning, Scott, Holly and little Wes drove into D.C. for the week end. We’ve had friends aboard a few times, but this was the first family visit, and we were a bit nervous about keeping our 18-month-old grandson safe and happy. We ordered a big fajita box for lunch from the taco shop and enjoyed our picnic on the fly-bridge. Then we headed to the National Children’s Museum for a delightful afternoon, watching our grandson explore a new setting. He loved the pillow fight with his parents, and as he settled in, he found slides, and lots of places to try out his construction skills. Returning to the boat, Steve and I quickly grilled and prepared dinner, but Wes’s late nap in the stroller after his very busy afternoon, plus his novel environs, understandably, made bedtime a challenge. Sunday morning after baked oatmeal, we took a short cruise down the Potomac. Wes loved the big yellow “taxi boats” and the steady procession of planes taking off at Reagan National Airport, but remained wary of the noisy and slightly threatening helicopters. Riding at the bow with his parents and rearranging the ropes was fun!
We returned to the dock to find a small boat in our slip. After hanging out for 20 minutes and not knowing how much longer it would be before the owner returned, we decided to dock temporarily on the neighboring pier. I called to two guys out working and asked for their assistance with our lines. They readily came to help, but as we came nearer, I realized that one of them was Senator Joe Manchin. As I handed him our lines I said to him, “ I can’t believe I asked a US senator to catch our lines!” He kindly responded, “You’re fine.” After we were secure, Steve came down from the flybridge and joked, “You know, I usually give the guys who catch our lines 5 bucks!” The senator laughed as he turned to walk away and said, “No problem— just pay your taxes.” Later Steve saw him again around the yacht club, and the senator greeted him and slapped him on the shoulder. As a side note, I will add that we had come to understand that Mr. Manchin lives on MV Almost Heaven at Capital Yacht Club when he is in D.C. Thursday evening a group of protesters in kayaks and small boats chanted and heckled until he came out and talked to them. We had also seen him and exchanged greetings another time on the ramp to the club entrance. Whatever your politics, however big the infrastructure package should be, I would venture an opinion that Joe Manchin is a nice guy.
Back to Sunday—Mr. Manchin’s friend knew the owner of the boat in our slip and went to find him. It wasn’t long until the boat owner returned and was appropriately contrite, and we were able to return to our spot. After lunch and Wes’s nap, Scott and Holly headed back to Frederick, just an hour’s drive. Suddenly feeling exhausted, we caught dinner at the nearby pub before retiring unusually early. Red Pearl is extremely cozy for five people, but how we loved having family aboard!