Saturday, June 6, 2009

Blue skies??

Not quite, but it's not raining!

So we're taking off across the Bay to the Chester River. We've only been there once--many years ago on a 4th of July. We anchored near the Russian Embassy's summer house in the Corsica River and were treated to a fireworks show from a homeowner. It almost rivalled a town production.

Gotta shove off. Captain Pete is calling.

Foul weather indeed

Sure glad that walking around Baltimore in bright yellow foul weather gear is stylish. It has been raining since we arrived.

We had a long overdue reunion with my great high school friend, Sharon Casey, on Thursday night. She was our matron-of-honor 35 years ago. We enjoyed a great dinner in Little Italy restaurant, Amicis (walked there in the rain) and traded boating and grandchildren stories. Some ties will always remain--no matter how many years go by without seeing each other.

More rain all day Friday, with no relief in sight until Saturday. No WiFi connections either. So it's reading and another Scrabble marathon game.

We walked around funky Fell's Point in a drizzly rain, and tried to find where Uncle Rollo's used to be. That's not a story from olden days fit for this blog. Didn't get to eat at the famous Bertha's Mussels since we had already enjoyed sandwiches on board. Actually there are 70 restaurants within walking distance--if you believe the marketing from area marinas. So much food, and so little time!

There's a movie theatre within walking distance so we saw "Angels and Demons" in spite of the less-than-stellar reviews. Actually liked it. Maybe it's the rain that makes murders in Rome a good movie theme. How does Dan Brown come up with these ideas and symbology?

A visit to a nearby Whole Foods allowed us to re-stock the frig and freezer. Sure wish we had one of these in Willieburg. So many options for dinner tonight, but we chose crabcakes.

Now I'm Annie and singing "Tomorrow, tomorrow . . . " NOAA forecast says the sun may shine.

On my environmental soapbox

After crabcakes at Phillips, the National Aquarium was on the docket today since it was raining again. Lots of cool fishies were there, probably second or third generation of those we saw last visit to the aquarium about 15 years ago. We couldn’t find Elmo, but did find sharks that Beebe would have enjoyed.

Many “environmental warnings” throughout the place too, with photos of turtles swallowing plastic and wrapped in fishing line, plus dire warnings of disappearing fish species due to changing climate and invasive jellyfish. It seems that an invasive jellyfish (native to our east coast) has devoured most of the fish eggs in the Black Sea, before moving into the Mediterranean, and even the North Sea. We saw that up close and personal a year ago while snorkeling off Greece. Very few fish could be found, and the commercial catch was suffering as well. Our beloved Chesapeake is not the only endangered body of water.

We again saw the amazing “marine flotsam and jetsam picker-upper” at work in the Jones Falls waterway as it empties into Baltimore Harbor. A floating boom of sorts too to stop the stuff. Lots of plastic! If I need to go back to work after this wine and dine tour of the Bay, I want this job—except when stinky dead fish are the culprits. I could be the Riverkeeper on our end of the James. Or not.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ballmer, Merland

Going up the Patapsco River is similar to going up the Delaware—lots of industry, and little real scenery, unless Sparrows Point steel works can be considered scenery. he "industrial hand of man" has been quite busy on our major waterways in big cities.

Finally spotted this unique red, white, and blue buoy. It marks the spot where Francis Scott Key sat on a boat watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry.

We’re now back in our old stompin’ grounds. We pulled into Baltimore Harbor (Ballmer to the locals) around 4 p.m. and spent an unproductive hour trying to 1) unload our bag of recyclables, and 2) finding WiFi. Ballmer is behind the times on both counts. Gal running the marina office told us she’d take our recyclables home with her to put in her curbside bin—which Baltimore JUST began! Yegads, next thing I’ll hear is that Frances Scott Key is still trying to write a cool national anthem.

Saw this impressive 4-masted barque (ask Jake what that is) anchored in the harbor. Some crazy crew members ( e.g. Jake) have no fear of heights and actually go aloft to make the sails all neat and pretty when they anchor. On MicMac, we simply furl the mainsail into the mast. Then it’s five minutes to happy hour.

I got all excited to see a Texas flag on this big ship, and thought the Bushes were onboard. But it turned out to be a Chile flag. Beebe hasn’t painted this one yet, but there’s still time! Actually, we thought it was a Puerto Rico flag, but serendipity had us eat dinner at a newish Italian restaurant , Cinghiale, right across the street from the marina. The restaurant manager told us that the Esmeralda is the Chilean Navy training ship and that his father-in-law is a shiphand.
Cinghiale (Italian for wild boar) was a great choice for dinner too. Actually, we had reservations in Little Italy, a few blocks away, but another downpour left us drowned rats hiding under Cinghiale’s awnings. Looked in and that was that.

Getting back to ships . . . artists would be painting only still-lifes if it wasn’t for boats. Every time we walk into a gallery or museum on the Chesapeake, we realize that Bill Beebe has a lot of company, although no way near as talented. Everyone is painting ships.
Speaking of Beebe, the Pride of Baltimore II is not here today. . . and I wanted to compare her to the Beebe version. I forget which one she is in his painting, The Virginian (shown here).

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor really is a hoppin’ spot, and so much different from the real dives on the waterfront that I remember from college. Marlon Brando fit in there, and he actually might still fit in today.

Just saw one way that Baltimore is WAY ahead of other locations. We saw this weird looking “tractor-on-water” gizmo approaching us in the marina. Finally figured out that it’s a marine scooper-upper cleaning vessel that skims off garbage and other flotsam. I had read about it last year after googling ways to clean up floating debris on the Potomac. A much larger version was much needed then post-tornado—to remove the floating trees. Anyway, it looks like it’s as much fun as driving those Duck Tour boats.

Bohemian Rhapsody???

MicMac crew came close to mutiny yesterday morning, after leaving the C&D Canal, after Captain Pete bypassed “her favorite river,” the Bohemia (off the Elk River). “Not enough water, “ said the captain. “Seven feet is plenty,” the crew responded. A lunchtime anchor-break at the mouth of the Bohemia ensued. Compromise is preferred over mutiny! Crew compromised since it was too cold to swim in nettle-free water anyway.

Then on to the Sassafras River, crew’s second favorite river in the upper bay. I used to go to Girl Scout camp here at Grove Point. So every time we sail by, I break into a chorus of "I've got something in my pocket that belongs across my face . . . It's a great big Brownie smile." this usually brings a frown to the Captain's face!

A water “convoy” of Navy training boats approached as we sailed south. No shirts on a few of them. See how binoculars can be used.

The high bluffs as you approach the Sassafras and all along the north shore are really eroding. Many homes look like they're in danger of dropping into the Bay in the near future. I'd imagine the homeowners have some restless nights during heavy rains.

Woodland Creek looked ideal as an anchorage since a major thunderstorm was predicted from the south. Only occasional noise was a blast from Aberdeen Proving Grounds across the bay. Pete used to do this same stuff at Edgewood Arsenal back in 1969-1970.

Before dinner on the hook, we were entertained by the “Three Stooges” (three mallards) who suddenly flew in to look for happy hour handouts. They circled the boat very patiently ten times then flew off. It’s amazing how easily boaters can be amused.

A loud clap of thunder was our 3 a.m. wakeup call. That’s short for captain running around on deck to tie down the dingy, while trying to dodge big raindrops, and crew running around below closing all the hatches as another rain of biblical proportions hit us—from the north of course. Anchor chain cleared an entire 360 degrees of the bottom of Woodland Creek last night.

Today we did notice LOTS of SAV (submerged aquatic vegetation) floating on the top of the upper bay. MicMac could not have done this much damage!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Down the Delaware

We had a great visit with Dave and enjoyed his “famous Mexican burgers.” Then he drove us to Wilmington for a quick lunch out with my 90-year-old Mom who had a busy social calendar. She squeezed us in, before going to a high school graduation party. Then we visited my Aunt Sue who is recovering from a hospital visit.

MicMac ‘s captain and first mate were happy this morning as we caught the current down the Delaware River. Trawler friends know what it’s like to move along at 6 to 7 knots, but sailors don’t enjoy a quick pace like this very often.

The Philly skyline was beautiful this morning as we left. We had to share the river with very few tankers and barges. Few pleasure boats either as the marina choices are few. Piers Marina has a lot of liveaboards—some on rather sketchy boats.

Once again we got a very limited view of Wilmington’s skyline because of the humongous landfill that’s filling in Cherry Island. Brody diapers will soon be there since Julie and Rob plan to drive down to introduce Brody to Grandmom Cloud in a few weeks. Julie and Dave diapers are on the lower layers in this same landfill, I’m sure. That's family bonding!

It’s a darn shame that Wilmington never tried to capture the cruising boat market with a scenic marina. Perhaps the duPonts prefer solitude? A commercial dock on the Christina River is the home berth to the Kalmer Nyckel, Delaware’s tall ship, which was absent today, probably off on a good will trip. Two huge container ships were unloading: Dole and Chiquita logos on them. Yes, we have some bananas in Delaware!

I finally got to see Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island as we motored by. It’s been there since Civil War days and was used as a prison for Confederate soldiers, although I didn’t remember that from my Delaware history classes. Sorry, Sister Mary Agnes.

On the other side of the river (on the Jersey side) is a justaposition from Civil War days. There's a great plume of water vapor (I hope) coming out of the Salem, NJ, nuclear plant. Or as "W" would say, "nucular plant."

The scent of honeysuckle overwhelmed us as we motored down the C&D Canal today. Then a big barge and towboat overwhelmed us as well. Captain Pete displayed a look of relief at this “close encounter”!

Just pulled into the Summit North Marina in Glascow, De, again for a one-night stay. 7 and a half hours to get here vs. the trip north. Thank you, God, for currents.
Filled up the 70 gallon water tank and 38 diesel tank—to get ready for numerous nights on the hook in the upper Chesapeake. Yes, Rob, that means “dropping anchor.”

Pete just threatened to throw this netbook overboard. I'm addicted to blogging on the seas. If only we had WiFi everywhere.