Sights And Sounds Of The Bay


One of the pleasant aspects of having a single place to call home for five months is being able to immerse ourselves in the surrounding area by absorbing the local and regional history. Another aspect is the opportunity to acquaint ourselves with an area that is rich in nature and marine culture. With over 150 major rivers, 11,684 miles of shoreline, 64,000 square miles of surface water touching six states and the District of Columbia, Lisa and I are beginning to understand what a wealth of opportunities await us in the months ahead. There’s a lot to see, learn, and do.

Lisa standing on the steps that leads to the House of Representatives at the Capitol Building in Washington.

So, shortly after arriving we wanted to cast off the lines and take off, but first things first. We’d made arrangements with our Congressman from Michigan, several months ago, for three tours in Washington, D.C.; these included the White House, Capitol Building, and Bureau of Printing and Engraving. So, we left Kismet in the Solomons for a couple of road trips to D.C.; it’s only one-and-a-half hours away. As you can imagine there’s a lot to see in this big city and you could spend a week there and still not make much of a dent. So, our plan includes another trip by boat in a few weeks time to tour the Smithsonian, the memorials, the Holocaust Museum, and whatever else we can fit in.

We awoke at 6:30 a.m. for our first trip to Washington, to the sound of singing birds. We’ve come to realize that this continuous chorus of singing goes on every day and is prevalent throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay area. This was something new we’ve learned about the Bay area, there are birds everywhere including the American Goldfinch, Song Sparrow, Ruby Throated Hummingbird, and Scarlet Tanager. They all seem to have a song to sing or a story to tell and at times it seems as if they’re talking to each other. I’ve learned that not only are there 200 species of birds in the Solomons area but that we’re located in the major nesting area for the Atlantic migratory bird flyway. As I’m sitting in Kismet’s pilothouse writing this log I find myself listening to a dozen or so birds chirping away.

Lisa and I standing on Pennsylvania Avenue with the White House as our backdrop. They don’t allow cameras inside the President’s home.

We were advised, because of all the traffic, congestion, and lack of parking, to park short of Washington and take the train into D.C., so we did. We decided that, to us, marine navigation seems a lot easier than negotiating a foreign looking parking structure and an endless array of possible train/bus routes and stops. With boating we find deep enough water and keep the boat between the green and red markers and with the assistance of the GPS we are in good shape. We did persevere, with the help of route and city maps, and eventually it all started to make sense.

After making our way through the new Capitol Building’s Visitor Center, Lisa and I had a small group tour of the historical building. For us it was awe inspiring to stand where our presidents have stood, to learn about the construction of the dome, and see where democracy has stood the test of time. The Bureau of Printing is where our paper money is printed and we were able to see the entire process. From the blank paper, which is one-quarter linen and three-quarters cotton, to the printing, cutting, serializing, bundling, wrapping, and packaging, it’s quite a sight to see. The only problem we had with this tour was their resistance to give out free samples.

The Capitol Building Dome separates the Senate and House chambers and is the place where deceased Presidents lay in state.

The highlight of our Washington trips, we drove to town two separate days, was our visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the most famous address in the United States. We entered the White House through the East Wing and through a corridor where we could see out the many windows over the magnificently groomed grounds. The tour was self-guided and took us through the East, Green, Blue, Red, and Vermeil Rooms, in addition to the State Dining Room, entrance, and front porch. Originally built in 1793 when George Washington was President, the White House has been lived in by every President since James Madison moved in, in 1809. It’s the oldest public building in Washington D.C. Here we are, Lisa and Jim from Michigan, along with a hundred or so other visitors, taking it all in. In this building some of the most important decisions that formed and have maintained our country’s freedoms have been made and we’re roaming through like we own the place. Well I guess in a way we do, along with every other tax-paying American. We found out later that night that while we were there President Obama had given a speech in the Rose Garden.

So, as I mentioned, our plan, after scoping out D.C. by land, is to make a seven-day boat excursion up the Potomac River. Two days up, three days for more sight seeing and knowledge gathering, and two days back. Once we get to Washington by boat there are several marinas or anchorages close to the National Mall where we’ll be able to visit the Smithsonian; the Lincoln, Jefferson, and Vietnam Memorials; the Holocaust Museum, and I’ve only scratched the surface. We hope to have enough time left over to visit George Washington’s Mt Vernon along the banks of the Potomac. Too much to see and not enough time, but it’s all worth it.

Since we’ve been in Maryland I’ve learned that a screw pile is a type of lighthouse, that St. Marys City was the first Capitol of Maryland and is currently celebrating it’s 375th anniversary. In addition I’ve learned that during the War of 1812 the largest navy battle in Maryland’s history was fought in St Leonard Creek in 1814, off the Patuxent River, only four miles up from our dock. It was after this battle that the British continued up the Patuxent to eventually make their way to Washington where they burned the Capitol Building and White House.

We’ve been here just long enough to learn that the locals refer to the Chesapeake as simply the “Bay.” After three weeks of being at dock, five days on the hard for maintenance, one week preparing for and having company on-board, and Washington week, our wanderlust finally started to kick in. It was time to untie the lines and start exploring the greatness of the Bay.

The mouth of St Leonard Creek, located only seven miles from the Chesapeake Bay, is a modern-day boater’s paradise. It’s hard to think of war ships at battle in this water today.

Just to get our sea legs under us again Lisa and I were going to head up the Patuxent River and explore several of the side creeks and coves, find a secluded anchorage for the night, and return the next day, including St. Leonard Creek. Mother Nature didn’t want to co-operate so we stayed tied to our dock instead with hopes of heading out the next day. Instead we worked around Kismet and when it appeared Mother Nature had deceived us with beautiful blue skies we decided to tour around Back Creek in our dinghy. During our two-hour trip we came across two separate boats that were from Michigan. Not too unusual except we find out in both cases there’s a connection of sorts.

Fellow Michiganders getting to know their new Ocean Alexander.

The first boat, Fidelitas, has a homeport listed on the transom as Cheboygan, Michigan, where our friends Charlie and Linda of Freedom’s Turn moor their boat. After a short conversation I find out that they keep their boat at Duncan Bay Marina, also Freedom’s Turn homeport and there is only five slips separation between them. This couple had just bought the boat and they were heading to the Great Lakes. The second boat, Present Moment, had a homeport of Macatawa, Michigan, which is south of our Lake Michigan homeport of Charlevoix.

As we’re dinghing by their boat it appears no one is home and their dinghy is absent. Just as we’re leaving the owners pull up in their dinghy and call out “Are you the Favors?” Of course this seems rather unusual until we hear the rest of the story. It appears they’ve been following our adventures and reading our BoatUS logs and knew we were in the Solomons. As we were engaged in conversation we discovered a mutual connection with a coworker of mine in Traverse City, Michigan. Boy, it really is a small world. They too had just recently bought their boat and were taking it to Michigan before starting their Great Loop trip in September.

Take a close look beyond our boat at anchor and you’ll see few houses and high tree lined bluffs which made a great place to drop our anchor up St Leonard Creek.

The weather forecast looked good so we headed up the Patuxent River on Sunday. Blue sky accompanied by a light breeze made for the perfect day for our inaugural trip. We only went up the Patuxent eight miles and along the way tucked into Mill, Cuckold, and Island Creeks. We didn’t have any agenda, our goal was to scope out potential future anchorages and see the Maryland countryside by water. We were pleasantly surprised when we found the area not all built up, with lots of farms, cottages, dense woods, and high natural bluffs. Don’t get me wrong; there are large estate-type homes here as well, but they are the exception to the rule.

Vera’s is a fun tropical themed restaurant bar with access by water or land, a must visit when in or around Solomons.

After exploring some of those creeks, we retraced our path back south to St. Leonard Creek, first made famous when a group of Maryland militia fought to protect their farms and settlements from the British during the War of 1812. You can cruise about four miles up the St. Leonard Creek from the Patuxent River and we found that there are plenty of opportunities for quiet anchorages along this route. We settled in just off of Breeden’s Point in 10 feet of water, the sight I’m sure of many conflicts during the war but today it’s jet skis, sailboats, trawlers, water skiers, go-fast boats, and of course all the singing birds. It sure is nice to be away from the distractions of the dock and marina tucked into this small cove with only one other trawler nearby. Once the boat traffic calmed down so did the water and the evening turned into a quiet pleasant experience. We’ll be back.