Friday, June 19, 2009

Happy Hour on Solomon’s Island

We sailed almost all the way to Solomons Island from the Little Choptank. Much too windy to explore James Island, so I hope it’s still there for a future time. It’s disappearing fast.

Back to WiFi land, so I'm busy.

Captain Pete and I enjoyed happy hour with the folks on 12 other boats from Stingray Harbor Yacht Club. They took off long after we did and we just joined up with them. They call West Virginia, Noth Carolina, Pennsylvania, Annapolis, Richmond, and lots of other places home. They all sail the Chesapeake since it's the best sailing spot on the east coast.

Everyone shared the highlights of their cruises. Most chose the personal tour of the Cutts & Case Shipyard (famous wooden boat builders) in Oxford. Unfortunately, we missed that tour, although we saw the facility two years ago.

One sailboat had three generations onboard. They picked up Granddad in Annapolis yesterday. He said that spending Father’s Day weekend with his son, daughter-in-law, and three grandkids was quite the experience for him. Dave and Julie, that would be a great weekend some day for Captain Pete.

Since hor's oeuvres were plenty dinner for us, we met up with the gang later after dinner. Paul and Sherry Davis joined us for a visit to the island's famous open air Tiki Bar. Sherry vouched for their potent drinks. Yes indeed they were. One was enough! Had a nice walk back to the marina with no rain predicted for he night. The Breeze-Booster (or Booze-Breester as I called it one night when I was wixing my murds) will be needed tonight since we're on a mooring.
Pete bought some BBQ from the joint next door.

More Fin, Fur, & Feather Observations

This trip has been a huge nature study, up close and personal. The osprey poulation is doing very well. There's a nest on every mark in the Bay, and then some.

After dinner we witnessed the Eagles vs. the Ospreys battle of the day. It was even better than the Eagles vs. the Cowboys. We watched two ospreys dive-bomb an eagle that then fell into the creek not far from MicMac. I could almost hear our feathered white-headed friend thinking “I am not a duck. What am I doing in the drink?” Of course, my sympathy is always with the eagle, so I started yelling at the two ospreys. The chagrined eagle soon got his senses back and arose out of the water, joining his mate in a nearby tree where they sat for quite some time. The ospreys soon flew off, feeling pretty cocky about downing an eagle.

We have seen at least 18 eagles so far on this trip. One was even imitating a heron, sitting on a branch just above the water, ver Zen-state. Most are soaring overhead or perched high up overlooking the water.

We missed the Two Rivers’ winetasting tonight, so we renamed our vino tonight—Beckwith Creek Chardonnay. Another marathon Scrabble game in a thunderstorm. I probably won’t play either Rummycube or Scrabble for at least a year after we get home. But it’s a great alternative to TV—or no TV as the case is.

More rain the next morning with a major wind shift. It was tolerable only if you like riding roller coasters. As soon as we could, we returned to another sheltered anchorage back in Hudson Creek, just in time for lunch. I invented “Little Choptank Cheesesteaks” with some of the remaining ingredients in our frig. Not bad, but Philly has nothing to worry about.

We talked with Joran and Lyn who had just pulled into a slip in Philadelphia. It’s a shame that our cruising calendars didn’t match up, but we hope to see them in the bay later this summer. More of our sailing friends from Stingray Harbor Yacht Club are also up this way, but our paths have not crossed yet. Perhaps tomorrow in Solomon’s Island—if this blasted rain and wind ever stop.

A Rainy Afternoon with Billy Bob Thornton

Dave loaned us some of his movies to entertain us on rainy days. This was such a day, so we watched Slingblade, even though we remembered seeing it many years ago. Still a very powerful movie. We have lots more movies for the next week. Cape Fear is not onboard!

We have a flatscreen digital TV on MicMac, but the transition to digital broadcasting affected its ability to receive anything other than ads for digital boxes. We can’t figure it out, but the Hunter manufacturer will hear from us when we get home. At least it can play DVD movies. After whining about it for a few days (no news or Jeopardy!), I’m adjusting to life in a media vacuum. Pete’s phone can scan email titles, but it’s a real tedious job to read them. The only “news” announcements we get are from the Coast Guard on VHF. Last Sunday, we heard that the Bay Bridge would be closed for four hours and my first thought was terrorists. It turned out that they were closing it for a “Swim across the Bay” fundraiser!

"Progging about" the Bay

I just learned a new expression for what we’ve been doing, progging about (with a long o if you’re a Smith Islander). It means prowling or poking about to discover fish, crabs, muskrats, and anything else of interest that might be around the bend or—in our case, around the next cove or creek. The estimate for the Chesapeake shoreline is 9000 miles (if you count every little in and out) so we have a lot of progging still to do!

A nasty weather forecast sent us further up the Little Choptank the next morning, looking for shelter from 15-25 knot winds. We found it on Beckwith Creek, another perfect anchorage behind Cherry Island and its square tower. Only three homes are on this compact island, and I wonder who they are. What’s their story? What inspires someone to live on an island like this? I can’t wait to get home and “Google Earth” some of the anchorages or places we sailed by. The rest of the creek is pure wild eastern shore Maryland. More duck blinds than homes. Only a police boat zoomed by the entire afternoon.

Drat . . . missed another event

If we had been here on the Little Choptank in February, we could have witnessed the annual muskrat skinning contest, non-sanctioneed by PETA.
Last August when we were in Montana with Laurel (Sista Suggs) and Arthur, we missed another tantalizing sounding event—The Annual Testicle Festival. We’ll need to plan better in the future.

A Bay Out of Time?

After a late departure from St. Michaels, we returned to Tilghman Creek to hang on the hook for the afternoon and night—even though Pete declared that it had bad karma. Sure enough another thunderstorm approached, but nothing as dramatic as the sky-darkening blow we endured here a few nights ago.

In the morning, a waterman dropped one of his crab traps just off MicMac’s beam, so we “enjoyed” his skiff’s wake every 20 minutes as he came back to check. No crabs that we could see. Indeed we've seen very few crabs pulled out by any waterman. What a tough way to wrest a living from these waters, but generations of watermen have been doing it on this bay, most for generations.

I’m reading Tom Horton’s book about Smith Island, An Island Out of Time, and it’s giving me great insight into a waterman’s life. I probably won’t recommend it for either of my book clubs, but I’m loving it. I think you’d need to be sitting on the bay to get the most out of it.

I see the title having three meanings. Isolated Smith Islanders live a life that is set back in Mayberry times. They used to spend long days drudgin’ for arsters, but most are now crabbers, pulling up war (wire) crab pots or running trot lines. Then there’s the diminishing year-round population on Smith Island—less than 200 right now—as the younger generation, especially the girls, look for a more modern life off the island. Finally, there’s the diminishing land itself as erosion takes away more each year, and the water rises. Hurricane Isabel did some major elevation changes just a few years ago.

Atlantis could be here.We’ve sailed past “sunken islands” almost every day on this Bay cruise—or note their presence on the charts and GPS where they’re kindly called obstructions. I’m sure they have a story to tell. I wonder who lived on them just a hundred years ago. One of our sailing heroes, Tom Neale, listed his favorite Chesapeake anchorages in Cruising World in 2001. Our dog-eared copy of his article has checks next to the ones where we’ve dropped the hook for the night. One of his favorites was Grog Island (sure sounds like a great story to me) in Dymer Creek, down near MicMac’s home on the Rappahannock. A few dead pines poke out of a watery grave there now, and his article was written only 8 years ago!

It was blowing 10-15 knots all day and made for a perfect sail. We sailed by James Island, or what remains of it on our way to the Little Choptank River. Three mini-islands (see photo) with loblolly pines barely stay above sea-level, and another is a remnant of its former self. Sure hope we can explore it tomorrow if the wind dies down.

We anchored up Hudson Creek, another favorite Neale anchorage, which appears to have an average elevation of 6 feet. Glad we got to see it before it too disappears. The entrance spit is one hurricane away from gone.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bummer!

Here's today's scuttlebutt. We were going to drive our beautiful Rent-a-Wreck car from St. Michael's to Wilmington this morning and surprise Julie and Rob who are visiting my Mom with Brody--IF I was not still coughing.

I'm recovering but now Pete has the same symptons I had a six days ago, and is now going to My Doc's In to visit my favorite doctor of the week.

Does MicMac need A YELLOW "QUARANTINE" FLAG? But neither of us has been near a pig, so I guess it could be worse. Guess we'll get outta here and go anchor out and feel sorry for ourselves. We're really disappointed because Brody is almost 3 months old now and really smiling a lot now.

FYI: The concept of the quarantine flag dates back at least to the Middle Ages, when the Black Plague (Bubonic Plague) swept over Europe. Cities with seaports such as Venice required ships wishing to enter port to wait a prescribed period of time before passengers were permitted to disembark. In addition, these ships were often required to fly a flag identifying their status as quarantined, although it isn't known when the yellow color was first used. Today, the yellow quarantine flag is universally recognized to signal that a vessel wishes to enter a port and is requesting pratique, or clearance.
"Scuttlebutt" origin: Sailors of yore stored water in wooden barrels called butts. Scuttle means to cut a hole in something. So the scuttled butts were where they drank and got their scuttlebutt. The water cooler gossip of olden days!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Your Doc's In

What a quaint name for an Easton, MD, "Doc in a box" office.

I've had a hacking cough which was not going away by itself. Neither wine nor tonic water killed the germs either.

BUT . . . St. Michaels has no taxis, no Avis or Hertz, and no doctor who will see non-established patients.

My Willieburg doctor wouldn't concur with my diagnosis of bronchitis without seeing me (even after I explained the extenuating circumstances) and refused to phone in an Rx when we were here 6 days ago. So we left St. Michaels and now were back.

Rent-a-Wreck to the rescue! We felt just like we were back in the Caribbean with an automobile of questionable performance. But it got us to "Your Doc's In" in Easton, about 30 minutes away. Only about 25 people ahead of me in the waiting room (it was a Saturday), and I wondered if any of them had kissed a pig recently. No signs of swine flu, but I washed my hands four times while I was there. Finally met the nice doc, got my prescription (for bronchitis), and am now mending!

We were told not to drive this dandy car more than 100 miles, so we drove up to Claiburne (10 homes and a post office), Tilghman Island (Knapp's Narrows) and the site of the hangin' tree where we had previously anchored. All in all, a nice diversion from a day of sailing. We returned to find that the tide had dropped and we had an inch under MicMac's keel.

Since we had to move her anyway, we sailed over to Leeds Creek for the night where we anchored (alone again) with a huge swan and more rays and herons.

We returned to St. Michaels for a fun day of a real laundry (see the alternative laundry method), a marina shower, and dinner out.

We finally have internet access again, so I'm blogging and emailing while Pete is snoring.

Wye River Wildlife

Wye River is a WILD river.

Not like in "The River Wild" and no rapids with Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon. But wild as in untouched by man--or at least few developers.

The Wye River is across from St. Michael's and it's like we remembered from our one day here in September 2002 when we moved the first MicMac down to Virginia. We only had one night to spend at anchor here then since we were in a hurry to beat any hurricanes.

So we spent three days this time sailing (or motoring) from one perfect creek to another. Too many choices on where to anchor! Plus, one side of the river is an island owned by the state of Maryland and saved from development.

We dropped the hook for lunch in Granary Creek within sight of horses, an eagle, and a muskrat. Then on to Skipton Cove for sundown with lots more cow-nosed rays, ospreys, and blue herons (they are everywhere!). Since no ducks were in sight, we enjoyed duck with orange sauce on the grill. Finally emptied the freezer, which drains the batteries much too quickly.

There's this impressive old manor house/estate (Wye Heights Plantation) on Skipton too with walled gardens and this creekside steps entry with eagle scuptures. Date on the boathouse by the shore said 1687. The owner didn't invite us to visit, and Pete didn't want to trespass. He's always saying I'll get shot!

On the 12th, we headed to Pickering Creek and a nice onshore surprise. The cruising guide says it has lots of homes. Truth: only two until the end of the creek where a mega-house and new vineyards look pretty impressive. That owner also wasn't around to invite us in for a taste of his chardonnay grapes.


Cruising guide also said there was a kayak/canoe landing for the 400-acre Pickering Creek Audubon Center. Truth: there's an easily accessible (which means a ladder is included) brand new dinghy dock with a tiny "Waterman's Shanty" sign.

So we'll now doubt everything that's in a cruising guide. Or perhaps the author lives on Pickering Creek and wants to discourage boat traffic?

Lots of birds (obviously) at Audubon Center, plus a succession forest, and organic farming displays. We hiked about two miles of their maintained nature trails and literally ran into Bambi. We needed this trails fix after being gone from Governor's Land trails so long. The director told us that about 10,000 students (1st through 10th graders) visit annually.

Then on to the Wye West. Dropped the hook in Grapevine Cove where we were once again the only boat and had our own little private beach. VERY hot with no breeze that night. Thank goodness for fans!

There are still googads (nautical term, I'm sure) of cute little creeks and coves to explore on the three branches of the Wye River. So this is a future repeat destination.