Unlocking Our Minds Eye
Places we’ve never been to before always seem mysterious and harbor the element of many unknowns, at least for me. Before visiting a new harbor, I’ll conjure up images in my mind’s eye as to what the harbor will look like, I’ll wonder how well kept are the historical monuments, or how the town will manage to capture and hold our attention. This is especially true of destinations on the water that folks have told us about long before we got there to see it for ourselves. One such place is Saint Michaels, Maryland – a must-see, in my opinion, if you’re cruising the Chesapeake Bay area.
After Lisa and I returned from a two-week road trip to Ohio and Michigan, we felt it was time to get back out onto the water. We made plans with Bob and Sharon, on Catch Me If You Can; to depart our slips in Solomons, Maryland, together, for a three-day outing to this quaint port we’d heard so much about. We wanted to see firsthand if everything we’d heard was true.
We left Solomons at 7 a.m., with clear skies and calm seas for our 50-mile run up and across the Chesapeake Bay. Three hours into the trip we started to hear chatter on the VHF radio about a severe high-speed storm working its way towards us. This was somewhat unexpected, as we’d known a storm was coming but not scheduled to arrive until well after our estimated arrival time. So much for forward planning to experience an uneventful cruise.
We were heading into Eastern Bay, about 20 miles southeast of Annapolis, about an hour out of Saint Michaels, when the storm approached us from behind. The sky darkened as all visibility from our pilothouse windows quickly vanished. By this time the radar was warmed up and displaying the bleeps on our screen of many of the other temporarily lost souls traveling to and from Saint Michaels. There must’ve been at least 25 vessels showing up on our radar screen, all going in different directions. We took it slowly. Between our limited visibility, straining between the flapping of wiper blades, and watching the radar screen, we hoped all the other vessels were keeping a careful eye for us as well as for themselves.
|If it wasn’t for the paved streets and sidewalks we could almost picture ourselves riding into town 200 years ago on a horse.|
With the sky now as dark as night, coupled with the hard-driving rain, our visibility was only about 100 feet, not anyone’s ideal boating conditions. Driving from the vantage point of our pilothouse, using our radar helped us keep busy as we kept a close eye on all the approaching boats. We also hoped that they could see us as well. I recall one small runabout maneuvering erratically by us; once we were close enough I could see that they didn’t have any radar aboard. Then I noticed that their Isinglass was steamed over, making their navigation problematic for seeing around their boat. I hope they made it back safely! As we rounded Tilghman Point and started into Miles River, the storm finally made its way past us, and the clear blue sky returned to make our final descent into Saint Michaels picture perfect.
Dating back to 1677, Saint Michaels has a rich marine history in fishing and boat building but today the town has transformed into a tourist Mecca for boaters and landlubbers. As Lisa and I left the marina for our first tour of town, we were excited to unlock the mysteries Saint Michaels held for us. Not far from the marina we could already tell that the glowing reports we’d heard were based in truth. We knew we were going to like this place.
|Dinner on the boat with friends is always a treat. We first met Bob and Sharon on the water more than three years ago.|
As we walked the narrow streets into town from the marina, through one of the old neighborhoods, it seemed like each house had an historical plaque attached to its façade. The homes have a distinctive colonial look to them, are all nicely painted and sit on wonderfully immaculate tree-lined streets. Some streets have even been returned to the cobblestone era, making our first impression even better then our mind could’ve imagined. As we worked our way up to the main street, we noticed that there are only local shops, bakeries, restaurants, grocery stores, and art galleries – nothing with any national chain association attached to it. For us this completed the package. This is what we find attractive about small-town America. We continued our walk into the town proper where we found the typical tourist shops, ice cream parlors, and restaurants lined up and down Main Street, however they’re all housed in a Mayberry-type setting.
Later that evening, back at the marina, we had Bob and Sharon over for happy hour and dinner on Kismet, and watched the tranquility of the harbor together from our pilothouse. To think that only a few short hours ago we were all struggling with the wind, rain, and visibility, trying to make it into the shelter of the harbor. We had a nice social hour before retiring to the salon to enjoy one of Lisa’s wonderful meals with crème brulee for dessert. To top off the night we played a board game called Sequence. Bob and I took on the ladies and they trounced us three games straight. Next time I want a different partner. Bob and Sharon had so much fun playing they went out the very next day and bought their own game.
|When we can find locally baked bread, rolls, and cakes during our travels it’s always nice to partake. I’m really surprised we don’t weigh a lot more than we do!|
We’d never been to Saint Michaels before, so Lisa and I wanted the convenience of being close to town by staying at one of several marinas that line the harbor. On our next visit, we’ll undoubtedly want to explore the highly touted anchorage possibilities off the Wye River, Leeds Creek, and Hunting Creek, then dinghy into town as needed. The possibilities for exploration are seemingly endless on the Bay. So many places with so little time!
One of the big attractions in Saint Michaels is the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum that sits on 18 acres of waterfront property close to the harbor entrance. Developed to chronicle the history of the region’s maritime life, they have a working boatyard, a collection of Bay boats and nine buildings of artifacts. This is a remarkable one-stop place to visit and learn about the Bay’s history. For additional information visit: www.cbmm.org
|This represents a typical postcard photo op of the neighborhood area in the oldest part of Saint Michaels… picture perfect!|
We spent the next two days being tourists. We went for long walks along the waterfront and through the tree-lined neighborhood streets. We found Sugar Buns, the local bakery and pastry shop on one of our morning walks. It’s critical to us that we sample the local bakeries on all of our trips, to make sure we haven’t missed anything special. We’ll be back.
|Even the Museum Store at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is a converted vintage colonial home!||Saint Michaels has several waterfront restaurants, including the Crab and Steak House, that sits just across from the marina where Kismet was docked.|
A good portion of our afternoons were spent in the refreshing water at the marina pool trying to reduce our body heat from the hot and humid temperatures that finally arrived to the Bay area. Up until now, the weather has been what I’d describe as normal summer weather. We were warned ahead of time to expect very hot and humid weather conditions on the Bay so when it finally arrived we were somewhat prepared, but, for northerners, we couldn’t help but think that these temperatures were over the top. We don’t care to run our air conditioners much but during these temps and humidity, we really had no choice. I never thought I’d be wishing for cooler weather and that we’d be thankful when it arrived later in September.
Saint Michaels, holds all the characteristics, charm, and history needed to draw us back for future visits. From the many waterfront restaurants, unique stores and museums, there’s enough to even keep me busy. Plus, a bonus, everything’s just a short walk away from the harbor. If you’re in the area go and unlock the mysteries of your mind’s imagination. We did and found it well worth the trip.
|I must’ve done something wrong to deserve to be in this shot. Crabs, crabs, crabs! It’s all about the crabs. And now Lisa has turned into one and has me by the pincers.|
After three full days, we departed Saint Michael’s for or return trip to Solomons. As we were maneuvering out of the marina I noticed our stern thruster was making an unusually loud noise. It worked but sounded more like a garbage deposal with a bone rattling around inside. When I discovered the new noise I recalled that a line from our dinghy, when we’d been towing it last, had got caught up in the thruster’s prop and apparently bent or broke one of the blades. Upon further investigation I found out it was missing a blade, which created the unusual noise. Just when I thought I had all my projects completed, a new one found me.
|Once this damaged thruster propeller was replaced with a new and improved five-bladed model, it was much quieter and more powerful then the original one.|
The ride back to Solomons was as beautiful a day as we could have asked for. We had a slight breeze in the early morning, calm waters, and a clear blue sky, all complimented by gentle one-foot waves. We slowly approached the west coast of the Bay and traveled by the beautiful Calvert Cliffs before we made our cut into the Patuxant River. Today was a special day, as the 30 miles of sandy cliffs were made even more dramatic with the clear-blue sky as a backdrop. The cliffs were formed 15-million years ago when all southern Maryland was under water. Today Calvert Cliffs is a Maryland State Park that boasts over 600 species of fossils with a variety of different shark teeth as its most abundant fossil. Most of what the park offers is like most State Parks, with the exception of the fossils that can be seen there along with the stunning display of natural beauty from the vantage point of the water.
Our mind’s-eye image of all the places we’ve been on the Chesapeake Bay has been surpassed by the real-time experiences we’ve had so far. We’ve been more than pleased with the explorations, people, anchorages, marine and wildlife, history, museums, and natural beauty. Best of all, we still have two more months and many more mysteries to unlock before our summer spent on the Chesapeake Bay comes to an end.