You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

11/18/2009

Chesapeake Bay

As Lisa and I pulled out of Solomons Yachting Center, our home base for the summer, I couldn’t help but reminisce about our five-month adventure in the Chesapeake Bay area. It seemed like just yesterday we were arriving when Quinton, our new harbormaster, helped us into our slip for the first time. It was here we began our exploration of the Bay, meeting the locals, taking road trips to Washington, having friends and family visits, immersing ourselves in local events, sampling the food, all the while trying to learn as much about our temporary summer home’s rich history. Just like the Beatles hit song “Hello, Goodbye” we were saying our hellos not ever thinking that someday we’d have to say our goodbyes. Although we were on the Bay for five months, the goodbyes seemed to come way too quickly.

The Chesapeake Bay is honored with festivals, crabs, boating, and even replica vessels. It offers a great seafaring tradition.

Lisa and I would go for a walk almost every day while in the Solomons, so it was not unusual for us to take off on a long walk before our departure, a farewell tour of sorts. During our morning ritual walks we became familiar with our favorite route’s lawn decorations, vegetable gardens, dogs and cats, construction projects and even witnessed two funerals at the small local cemetery we walked by every day. On one of our first walks we saw a baby rabbit and throughout the summer we’d occasional spot it again, growing bigger each time we saw it. We got to know what a Crepe Myrtle was and admired the beautiful flowers all summer.

This lawn art delivered a unique message, one we enjoyed seeing on our daily walks.

We both became repeat customers at the local barbershop and hair salon and got to be on a first name basis with the folks at the post office. We enjoyed meeting the many people who worked at the marina. It was nice having these familiarities along with getting to know Paula, one of the hardest working and personable dockhands we’ve ever met. We also had good dock neighbors in Andy and Lisa, who run a sailing school and charter business across the dock from us. They were both very helpful with all of our questions when we were newly arrived. It was just starting to feel like home as we had settled in quite nicely; therefore, it was a bittersweet feeling when the time came to leave. We were anxious to move the boat and ourselves to follow the warm weather south but now we had to part with what we had become familiar with.

This is Paula, we will miss her ever-present smile and helping hand.
Our fall plans are to head south on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). We’ll meet up with our friends on Bella Luna, in Morehead City, where we’ll continue our southern migration along with our boat buddies Louis and Diane. It will take us about three weeks to navigate from Virginia to northern Florida, with layovers in some of our favorite waterfront cities, Charleston, Savannah, Southport, and Georgetown, just to name a few. With our desire to experience new waterways, our main goal is to reach and explore the 160-mile-long St. Johns River in Florida. It’s our plan to spend four weeks in this often ignored old Florida area that was the original tourist destination in Florida well before Miami, Orlando, or Ft Lauderdale. More on that later.

After we said our goodbyes to the Solomons we pointed the bow of Kismet north for a tour of the northern Chesapeake Bay, stopping in Oxford, Rock Hall, and Annapolis, Maryland. We thought we’d be in for a gentle ride as the waves NOAA had forecasted were to be one- to two-footers. All was fine as we exited Back Creek making our way the seven miles into, then out of the Patuxent River and soon into the open Bay. We began to feel the full force of the wind and waves as we approached Cove Point. First, we saw some small whitecaps off in the distance, but still the waves were only two feet or so. The further we went the larger the waves became. I remember Lisa saying, “Hmmm, white caps already and we’re not even around the point yet.”

Our normal routine when traveling in open water is to put movable objects down and away, and we’d done that. Even so, with the waves building to four and five footers – Lisa said six to seven – coming directly towards us and in short intervals, the dishes, bottles, and blinds were all banging around, the electric fan fell over, and the magazines became strewn throughout the boat. The water would occasionally spray over the rails and onto the pilothouse windows; it just was not any fun at all. By the time we made our Oxford anchorage our nerves were shot, the boat had so much salt on it that it looked like kosher salt sprinkled on a pretzel and we were ready for a cold one. The good news was that the boat took the punishment quite well, much better then we did. Our only casualty was the loss of a clothespin, which secured a rag to the upper railing.

The Town Creek in Oxford provided us with a comfortable anchorage for the night, as we were beat and glad to be out of the wind and waves in the Bay. The next morning we had coffee, took our showers and while I thought we were getting ready to depart for Rock Hall, Lisa thought we were taking the dinghy down and going for a walking tour of the quant town of Oxford. Unbeknownst to me, as I was busy preparing the boat to leave, Lisa had changed into nice clothes and prepared for a town visit. She thought she’d heard me getting the dinghy down but when she came up from the stateroom all dressed up (not her typical travel attire), with camera and purse in hand, she had this puzzled look on her face when she heard the windlass as I was beginning to lift the anchor.

“Are you resetting the anchor?” she asked. It took me a minute to take in the unusually well-put-together outfit, and more importantly the look of excitement my wife sometimes displays when she is on the cusp of a shopping trip. I suddenly got this very uncomfortable feeling that I’d missed something important. One of those guy moments when, it appears, we don’t pay close enough attention to our mates. Communications! Well, we had a good laugh and agreed to compromise on our itinerary. We continued to depart Oxford but I promised we’d return on our way back, after we went to Rock Hall and Annapolis. Besides, Rock Hall was a 40-mile run this day and unlike the day before the waves were just as forecasted, one foot or less. We both finally agreed that we shouldn’t pass up this weather window.

Oxford, Maryland, sits off of the Tred Avon River, which is a few miles off the Choptank River, which is the Eastern Shore’s longest river. Founded in 1694, Oxford is one of Maryland’s oldest cities and a popular destination spot, so I’m sure Lisa will make sure we return in a few days. Our trip from Oxford to Rock Hall was 40 miles of calm glass-like water the whole trip from our anchorage, down the Choptank, and through the man-made Knapp Narrows Channel, a shortcut that saves a good 10 miles of boat travel. The only hazards of the day were dodging the crab pots and negotiating the turbulent current at the Kent Narrows Bridge.

Rock Hall's town dock, crab pots and all, sits in a very well-protected harbor. This is where we spent our first night.
 

As we approached Kent Narrows we radioed the bridge tender to request an opening. We were second in line for northbound traffic and because the tide was going out the two southbound vessels had preferential passage, because of less steerage control, through the narrow drawbridge opening. Once they’d safely cleared the bridge we proceeded through, a good distance behind the Grand Banks ahead of us, against the 2-knot current. There’s only room for one boat at a time and laser-like attention is needed while traversing through the narrow opening. The current works off the cement pilings and does a good job pushing a boat around, so it was white-knuckle time for a few seconds. Once past the opening it felt like we were shot like a cork popping out of a bottle.

Haven Harbor, our second day's stay, is a first-class full-service marina. You name it, they've got it!
Rock Hall, Maryland, was our second stop on our farewell tour and ultimately it ended up being our most northern destination this year. Rock Hall sits on the Eastern Shore of the Bay and is only 22 miles from Baltimore, 15 miles from Annapolis, and only an hour car ride to Philadelphia. Because of its central location and close proximity to endless gunkholing possibilities, it’s a popular place. However as I write this the weather has started to turn colder, the birds are migrating south, and we’ve had to break out our long pants, socks, and jackets, and the marinas are hauling boats for winter storage. Lisa’s herbs are starting to show the effects of the cold weather; they aren’t taking to the untypical any better than we are.

 

Rock Hall is called the Pearl City with an abundant reference to Oyster's.
We arrived at Haven Harbor mid-day and were anxious to get off the boat to explore, we donned our cold-weather clothes, scarves, and gloves, and walked into the 300-year-old Rock Hall downtown area to find a nice place for lunch. Apparently most places are closed, not only on Mondays after Labor Day but Tuesdays and Wednesdays as well, so after a tour through town we walked out to the harbor where there were two restaurants open for lunch; we chose the Waterman’s Crab House. Waterman’s looked like it would be a really fun and busy place in the summer but today it’s a little quiet – another indication to us that it’s time to start heading south.

 

 



Waterman's Crab House was open even though it was Monday. We stopped for lunch to sample the local flavor and it turned out to be a very good choice.

Annapolis is one of our favorite small historic cities on the Bay. Lisa and I have visited by car several times over the summer but this is our first boat trip into Annapolis since 2006 (when we visited on our first Loop trip). Because we’ve toured the Naval Academy, which we’d highly recommend (especially the Rogers Ship Model Collection), the State Capitol Building, and marinas, we felt this time we just wanted to walk the quaint streets of downtown Annapolis and go window shopping.

 

The Bay Bridge spans the narrowest part of the Bay, from annapolis to Kent Island, providing access to the Delmarva Peninsula.
Annapolis has a rich American heritage, and we felt this as we walked the same streets as our founding fathers did over 300 years ago. We wandered up from the harbor, past Ego Alley over to Prince George Street and up to Maryland Street. It was on Maryland Street that we found an Irish Pub called Galway Bay just a short distance from Maryland’s State Capitol Building (the oldest in the country). We could almost feel the presence of George Washington walking the narrow downtown streets of Annapolis, a place he visited frequently during the forming of our country.

Chick and Ruth's Delly is much more than a restaurant! If you go to Annapolis, put them on your short list.
The next day we went to breakfast at a downtown Annapolis institution called Chick and Ruth's Delly, a Main Street restaurant since the 1960s. Chick and Ruth’s is one of those places that are best left to the imagination for one’s first visit. Lisa and I both felt that if you only have one opportunity to visit Annapolis then you don’t want to miss this place. The portions are generous, the prices are reasonable, and the eclectic makeup of the place is most unusual.

Besides the great food, the best surprise at Chick and Ruth’s was the 8:30 a.m. pledge of allegiance, where they ask all the patrons to stand and recite the pledge. This has been a daily tradition for over 20 years and one in which we were glad to participate. We felt honored to be a part of this ritual. It was a great way to say hello to the adventures yet ahead of us, and goodbye to our well-spent summer on the Chesapeake Bay.