Monday, June 22, 2009

Back to the Rappahannock & Home

A Swell Day

The Bay was still a bit riled up from yesterday's winds, and it was a swell day. That's not "swell day" as the Beav and Wally would have meant it. It was big swells, but not big waves today. So we rolled sideways most of the way home, but it was nothing like yesterday. Notice the calm look on the Captain's face.

The big highlight of the day (other than returning to terra firma) was being in the midst of a huge pod of bottlenose dolphins (about 30-40) --off Fleet's Bay. They followed us for about 30 minutes. Quite entertaining. Some of them came right up to MicMac. Maybe she looked like a big momma dolphin to them??

We have only seen dolphins further south in the bay and never as many as today. We felt like they were guiding us home--quite a touch of good luck! I got a few videos, but they couldn't capture the moment.

HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN . . . after 33 days

Five weeks is a long time to spend on a 36' sailboat, with only a few shore excursions. I have no idea how John Smith and his men on a shallop smaller than MicMac did it. It was quite refreshing to round Windmill Point and enter MicMac’s major stomping grounds, the Rappahannock River. Deltaville never looked so good!

We’ll most likely be seeing crab pot floats (which we have to steer around) and fish pound nets in our sleep for a few days after we get home to Willieburg. Nor will I try any of Chef Tony’s famous crabcakes for a few weeks, since I’m growing claws.
Sailing is definitely not the Ritz, but it's a lifestyle that opens up more horizons than you can imagine. Now, however, I'm looking forward to AC, electricity that does not depend on batteries, and non-marine toilets that really flush.

Our kitchen is bigger than our entire boat. We just figured out that we've been living in approximately 150 square feet.

As we sail more and more of the Bay, I wonder just how much of its shorelines have been reinforced aginst erosion. Of the 9000 miles of shores, I'd suspect that at least 1000 miles of it are hardscape--and 500 miles of that riprapped. As the sea rise in our area, invest in a riprap company. They'll always have work.

Victory at Sea

Back to the Northern Neck
Hind-sight is always 20/20. When we sailed past Solomon’s Island in 10 knot winds, NOAA was still predicting 15-20 knot winds with gusts of 30 from the Northwest. But NOAA has had a bad track record this past five weeks and we were doubting Thomases. In fact, I joked that NOAA stood for “No One Accurate Answer.”

This time, NOAA was right on the money and the seas tested both Captain Pete’s and MicMac’s overall ability to handle big winds and rolling seas. Crew’s as well. I hate roller coasters and got the ride of my life for 6 hours. Lifejackets were on, and later the tethers. Those are straps that tie you to your boat. Bondage for sailors!

When we made the decision to cross the Potomac, it was too late to turn around. That would be worse and we’d have been heading directly into 5-6’ waves and gusts of 30 knots. Crossing the 10 mile wide mouth of the Potomac is always best when it’s over. It can be very feisty as winds, tides, and currents converge. It’s rarely placid. But this crossing was memorable. I kept looking at the stern, warning Pete when the biggest waves were coming. The earlier whitecaps had transformed into breaking waves. White everywhere. At one mesmerized moment, I even commented how beautiful it looked and how I just saw our first brown pelican of the trip. Pete later stated, “Those were the biggest waves we’ve ever been out in.”

For you non-boaters, the Chesapeake runs north-south, so if the winds are from the north (or the south) there's a lot of fetch (miles of water) for the waves to build. NOT good.

Smith Point still looked so far away. But we finally happily motored back into our first anchorage of this trip, Mill Creek off the Great Wicomico, after a nine-hour trip. Happy hour immediately commenced.

We have always avoided Reedville as an anchorage ever since an odoriferous evening there a few years ago. The mendaden fleet out of Reedville is a big business, but the processing plant is most unfriendly to one's olfactory senses. It may be the smell of money to Reedville folks, but we never experienced any smell so awful. The fleet uses small planes to sight the schools of these small fish--sometimes called alewife or bunker.


Captain Pete’s a tad worried about me and my short term memory since I can’t seem to remember whether I’m on the Patuxent or Patapsco rivers. I can keep Piankatank, Potomac, Pocomoke, and Pamunkey straight. All these Algonquian names are real challenges. I’m glad we have a few mundane river names, like James and York.

But I'm having fun blogging. The only way Captain Pete could stop me this morning was driving the boat away (literally) from intenet access-right in the middle of an email to my cousin Elaine.

Very Vera

Vera Freeman was an eccentric but charming, and quite a character. Too bad that this legendary hostess passed a few years ago. Vera decorated her restaurant on St. Leonard’s Creek like a Polynesian village, which the new owners have adapted, while adding fake palm trees. She used to glide through this restaurant wearing a long flowing gown and a diamond tiara—visiting each table during the evening with amartini in hand.

I doubt she was attracted to this scenic river because of its role in a War of 1812 battle. The British burned down the town at the headwaters, on their way to or from burning Washington D.C., and not much has been built here since then. The view is spectacular from both the beach club and her nearby home which is the beginning stages of restoration.

I somehow think Vera was in her heyday during Tallulah Bankhead’s time. Tallulah was also attracted to the Bay in her senior years after a very scandalous life. Then again, John Lennon owned a farm on Mobjack Bay, and quite a few other folks in the headlines seek quiet lives on Chesapeake shorelines.

The cruising guide recommended reservations be made for dinner at Vera’s. I can just imagine the look on the face of the gal at Vera’s who answered Pete’s phone call who told him no reservations were taken. When we got there, it was quite a surprise. Vera must be turning over in her grave.
It was the 4th anniversary of the new owners who bought it from Vera shortly before she died. We had just missed the afternoon rock band and the bikini contest! NASCAR and a poker tournament were playing on the two TVs over one bar. We had hoped to see some of the US Open, but this was not a golf bunch. One homely busboy with greasy hair wore a “Chick Magnet” t-shirt (that took cojones). One very tall “big-haired” and big-bosomed bikini contestant was now clothed—but still wearing her 6-inch rhinestone stilettos.

And once again. . . we missed another biggie on the Chesapeake. We were one week too early for the annual “Badass Boat Poker Run” next Saturday at Vera’s. Another dance band was setting up when we left; atmosphere was definitely festive. Surprisingly, my crabcake was as good as Chef Tony’s, and even bigger. I will never order another one at Two Rivers without thinking of Vera’s. Now you’ll understand the smile on my face.

St. Leonard’s Creek is Super Scenic

Leaving Solomon’s Island, we turned right up the Patuxent River to scout out some creeks we had never visited before. All the cruising guides describe St. Leonard’s as the prettiest part of the Patuxent, but they didn’t describe it thoroughly.
Sailing by the high tree-covered bluffs is the closest thing on the Chesapeake to entering a fiord. That’s a slight exaggeration, but use your imagination. There are few homes and few watermen either. But it was a rainy fiord (what else on this trip?). We quickly dropped the anchor as the lightning and thunder began, and enjoyed the Grill Sargeant’s Barbecue (next door to Tiki Bar) that we had picked up last night for lunch. We were just up the creek from Vera’s famous White Sands Beach Club that we’ll visit for dinner later tonight. We read that it’s an “institution” in these parts. After the rain, the day turned into a perfect one. Not too hot and not too cool. Perfect for a dingy ride up to the head of the creek.