Friday, July 14 - Wilton Creek, Virginia
After an unprecedented eleven nights spent off the boat, we have finally returned to our floating home, which has been relaxing in a slip under the watchful eyes of Godwin and Sylvia Jones. We had a truly wonderful visit with my sister Lori and hardworking husband Ron at Gallastar Equine Center, which in the past few years has also become one of the leading potbellied pig sanctuaries. When you visit Lori and Ron, you'll also get to meet animals of all kinds, including cute little piggies living in the kitchen who will occasionally climb into your lap or more often gently chew on your toes.
The highlights of our visit included an endless parade of gourmet meals, attending a naturalization ceremony at Monticello on the 4th of July, learning about the Declaration of Independence at the University of Virginia, a fun night of dancing outdoors to Beatles music at Veritas Vineyards, an actual pig rescue (in which we collected the last of two pigs out to join their old herd now at Gallastar), listening to the unique sound of forty pigs all chewing at once, and riding and enjoying the company of graceful horses. Laura really enjoyed helping out with the chores such as feeding the animals and cleaning out stalls. And of course there was the birthday celebration, Laura's grand seventh, with new friends and too many presents of all kinds. Over a three day period I helped Ron fence in an additional pasture for the largest herd of pigs, and will always remember how eagerly they explored their new territory, munching away at every edible plant they encountered along the way. Life on the farm, as we called it, is a different world from our water-based life of the past eight months, full of hard work but just as rewarding in its way.
Photos, clockwise from top left: (1) Cleaning hooves before riding Heaven. (2) Kitchen piggies in Annie's lap. (3) Pugsley is a familiar site around the barn. (4) Laura aboard Heaven. (5) Birthday girl attacked by the kitchen piggies. (6) Laura at the 4th of July celebration at Monticello. (7) Laura and Dalmosz. In the center, Laura opens birthday presents with the assistance of two most helpful party guests.
Sunday, July 16 - Dividing Creek, Virginia
We left the comfort of the Godwin home at mid-afternoon yesterday, grateful for the comforts and kindness they had provided. Godwin's advice was to travel in the mornings to avoid almost daily thunderstorms out on the Bay, and sure enough, we were barely out of the Piankatank River when the VHF radio started urging mariners to seek harbor due to severe storms in the area. Sure enough, two large storms were visible on our radar. We successfully flanked one of them only to have another form directly in front of us. Since it was getting late anyway, we ducked into Antipoison Creek on the west shore, having endured only about five minutes of heavy rain, and anchored in a peaceful spot for the night. Hearing a boat calling for Living Well on the radio, we discovered that our friends Steve and Gloria were anchored back at Fishing Bay on the Piankatank, so we made plans to rendezvous in the morning.
Now that we are north of alligator country, we had been looking forward to swimming off the boat to keep cool, but a new threat has emerged: thousands of stinging jellyfish, the dreaded Sea Nettles! They seem to be all too common here on the Chesapeake.
Living Well was on the move early this morning, but reported that winds and waves on the nose were slowing progress to four knots or less. Out on the Bay, we also began having problems getting to windward, so much so that I began to suspect we must have wrapped something around our prop. When Steve announced they were diverting into Dividing Creek, just a few miles north, we followed. Once anchored at the mouth of the creek, I checked our waterline and found we had picked up a continuous patch of barnacles along our waterline. They were tough to scrape off, but I did the best I could from the dinghy, then braved the threat of jellyfish to snorkel under and check the prop. Sure enough, it looked like we had wrapped a rope at the cutless bearing, but it was probably just weeds because they came off very easily. We all dinghied over to the beach nearby and enjoyed a walk with the Bay on one side and a pretty marsh on the other. The breeze kept the heat tolerable but we did encounter a few biting flies. These things look exactly like Tennessee houseflies, but they bite! Laura and I had successfully cooled off in the water at the beach, looking out for Sea Nettles, and when we got back to the boat I took another quick swim to get the sand off. Ouch! A Nettle came out of nowhere and got me in the chest. The ones here seem to be less numerous than we'd seen before, but their long, impossibly thin tentacles can stream three or four feet behind them, firing their tiny harpoons before you ever see them. Annie put meat tenderizer on me, which seemed to help. Other suggestions we've gotten include hot water, alcohol, and most promising of all, Windex (actually it's the ammonia in Windex that supposedly does the trick).
Photos: (1) Laura holds a tiny live crab. (2) Steve holds a big dead crab (horseshoe crab, that is). (3) Here's one of those dreaded jellies, this one in shallow water at the beach. As I found out, most are not this easy to spot from the water. Godwin calls these things "Stinging Nettles."
In the evening we went over to Living Well for a delicious meal and more tales of adventure from Gloria and Steve. They'll be heading up the Potomac towards Washington tomorrow. We plan to continue moving up the bay, heading in the direction of Annapolis. It's very nice to be back on the boat with no particular schedule to keep.
Monday, July 17 - Solomon's Island, Maryland
After saying goodbye to Steve and Gloria as they left the anchorage, we motorsailed northward, ever northward, into Maryland. As always, the wind and current were against us, but conditions were much better than yesterday and with some of the barnacles off the boat we managed to make at least five knots over the ground. As we approached the area of a large rusting ship that marks a naval bombing range, it was somewhat disconcerting to have F14's screeching overhead and then hear several booms off in the distance. Since the Navy trains with electronic targeting these days rather than live ammunition, what we heard were probably just sonic booms, but it still gave me something to think about.
During the 40 mile trip up the Bay, I also listened to two Coast Guard sagas on the VHF. The first was a fellow who had broken down in a 17 foot boat and wanted a tow, but evidently not bad enough to engage the services of SeaTwo or Towboat U.S. When no one volunteered to help, the Coast Guard finally sent a boat out, but couldn't find the disabled vessel because the fellow had no GPS and couldn't describe exactly where he was. Not long after a true emergency, a stroke or heatstroke, unfolded on a charter boat out of Baltimore. I know that there are people who say the Coast Guard is never there when you need them and spend all their time harassing boaters instead of helping them, but from what I've heard so far on this cruise, that's just not true. Their patience and professionalism in the face of both the ridiculous and the emergency requests they receive ranks pretty high with me.
We finally pulled into the town of Solomons, about 30 miles south of Annapolis, around 5:30 PM and anchored just past Zahnisers Marina. The marina has moorings available, but a very nice fellow named Eric on the Hardin 45 Reckless told us the fee was $25/night. That's steep compared with anchoring nearby for free. Eric tells us there is a big race tomorrow, which explains why there are so many dozens of J-boats and other sleek craft at the docks, each with a number on their bow advertising the "West Marine Screwpile 2006." it was too hot on the boat, so after happy hour we toured the creek in the dinghy and found the very distinctive motor yacht Steel Away, friends of Steve and Gloria, but they were not home. Now, as the hour approaches 9:00 PM, the temperature in the boat has dropped below 100 degrees and with every fan we own going, it's still too darn hot. Time to get out the charts and see just how far it is to Canada, or at least Maine.
Photo: The round object in the water is a "boat pool," apparently designed to allow a person to get into the water without getting attacked by the millions of Sea Nettles that inhabit the Chesapeake. See nettle-net.com. Fortunately, it looks like the probabilities of encountering these beasts will drop once we are north of Baltimore (see coastwatch.noaa.gov/seanettles/sn_maps.html.
Wednesday, July 19 - Rhode River Anchorage, Maryland
It was almost too hot yesterday to move, so after putting up the awning we dinghied into town for ice cream and supplies. The final 2006 Screwpile race was taking place, so all the race boats were parading through the harbor. Finally, once I had changed the engine oil and filled up with diesel and more frozen dairy products (15 gallons, 741 hours, two ice cream sandwiches), we motored back out onto the Bay at the somewhat late hour of 5:00 PM, figuring we could at least move to an anchorage that was getting more breeze. With the current against us (naturally!) we didn't make fast progress and were forced to divert back south into Hudson Creek on the Little Choptank River. By the time we got there the spotlight, radar, and chartplotter were in constant use because the sun had gone down and it had gotten dark. Who could have predicted that would happen? I had just determined that the water was too shallow to get off to the side of the channel in one particular spot when a 20 knot gust front came out of nowhere and started pushing the boat around. In the darkness it was quite disorienting, and I was glad to have my electronic friends to get us back out to deep water. We quickly got the anchor down and stowed the awning, which we'd left up all day. There was lightning to the east but the storm missed us completely, so it was a quiet night at anchor, more akin to the seclusion we're used to in Tennessee than the hot night we spent in Solomons.
Today we slept in and then motored for five hours to the Rhode River, just a few miles south of Annapolis. We considered going into Annapolis today but getting a mooring should be more certain if we arrive early in the day, and that way we'll also have more time to explore. According to the map, there is a playground not far from the city dock...who knows, maybe it will even be shaded!
Thursday, July 20 - Annapolis, Maryland
We arrived in Annapolis, arguably the sailing center of the eastern United States, shortly before Noon and easily picked up a mooring. The mooring field filled up during the day but there are still some available even tonight. Lots of boats come and go, with people milling about the nice little park around "Ego Alley," a canal that fronts the park and a collection of restaurants and shops. The mooring fee (collected by a nice fellow within a few moments of our arrival) is $25.00 with a check-out time of Noon. For that you get access to private showers and laundries, and wireless Internet (although it's not been particularly reliable for us). Several boats are anchored a couple of hundred yards further out, along the seawall in front of the Naval Academy, although rumor has it that anchors have been hung up there on debris.
We dinghied in to the nearest dinghy dock (100 feet away) and walked over to the Naval Academy and then into the visitor center. There were hundreds of people touring the campus in little groups, taking pictures of plebes (this is, I think, the part of the year called "Plebe Summer") marching in singing cadence from one place to another. One of the highlights of the tour is the Chapel, which seats thousands and might be better called a cathedral. Afterwards we got ice cream and made our way over to a nice playground nearby where Laura made lots of friends and played for a long, long time. I did some shopping at the Fawcetts Marine Store on Ego Alley, which had an impressive collection of all kinds of things on display, better I think than any West Marine I've ever visited.
I did notice that everyone locks their dinghies here. The boat traffic, the people gathered along Ego Alley, and the physical plant building of the Naval Academy make this anchorage anything but quiet, but interesting just the same. Given the limited space, I don't understand how they manage to host the huge Annapolis Sailboat Show here every October, but perhaps that's part of the wonder of the event. I have to admit I haven't seen as many sailboats out on the water in one place since Annie and I visited San Francisco.
Photos: (1) Exterior of the Jones Chapel on the Naval Academy campus. (2). Interior of the chapel. They ought to hire someone to play that pipe organ as the continuous tours come through. (3) The head of Ego Alley, the heart of Annapolis. You can tie up here for three hours for $15.00, I believe.
Saturday, July 22 - Dobbins Island, Maryland
We left Annapolis yesterday and with fair winds behind us could have sailed to our next destination, but we needed to charge the batteries so once again we found ourselves motorsailing. Our destination was just a few miles upriver, just past the massive twin bridges over the Bay. We entered the Magothy River and anchored behind Dobbins Island with about a dozen other boats, including the S2 36 center cockpit Tranquility. We hadn't seen a Sea Nettle since Annapolis and noticed that other people were in the water, so it didn't take long to convince Laura to go swimming.
I spent the late afternoon and evening replacing the vent for the holding tank, which had rusted and was leaving stains down the starboard hull. The hole through the outer glass was about a half inch, but S2 had removed the core and inner glass in a two inch circle, then filled the gap with a big ring of silicone. The core was still dry, so the idea had been working, but if the silicone ever separated the core was at real risk. I taped off the hole and filled it with epoxy (this always sound easier in theory than practice), then drilled out a new hole for the new vent so the core is totally sealed off from the hole.
We thought about moving a little further towards Baltimore, but given the forecast Dobbins Island isn't a bad compromise between getting enough wind to stay cool and having a place to hide if storms threaten. I'd rather get to Baltimore early next week, when both the crowds and thunderstorms should be less prevalent.
Sunday, July 23 - Baltimore
We're anchored "between the marinas" at Baltimore (just off the Anchorage Marina in Canton) and finding this a very friendly place. We came up the Patapsco River all the way up to Baltimore's Inner Harbor, where we eyed the anchorage off the World Trade Center with some scepticism. The tiny space for anchoring, although conveniently in the thick of things, was too much in the thick of things--specifically, paddle boats, although we've been assured that people do anchor there. We retreated to the Canton anchorage where we met Frank and Joanne of Fantasy Island, a Brewer 12.8 we'd seen in Annapolis, a nice fellow on a Mariner 36, a guy named Tim on an O'Day 25, a man and his son who stopped by to tell us how to dinghy to Walmart...yep, this is a friendly place, I think. There is a dinghy dock nearby, with a Safeway store right across the street. The only mystery is where to buy beer in this town.
Photos: (1) If you yearn to anchor next to a submarine among a hundred out-of-control paddleboats, Baltimore is the place for you. (2). The Canton anchorage just downstream is a bit less crowded.
Tomorrow we'll dinghy in through the paddleboats (the word is you can tie your dinghy to the inside of the Water Taxi dock next to the submarine) to visit the Baltimore Aquarium and other attractions.
Monday, July 24 - Baltimore
We had a successful day touring the Baltimore Aquarium, the lightship, a submarine, a Coast Guard cutter, and a small playground. We took the dinghy, although we could have taken the big boat right up to the dock (the fee is $5.00 for four hours, or $1/foot for overnight to tie up on the copious dockage around the harbor). The Baltimore Aquarium is expensive but very nice. The same folks later designed the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, and although Annie disagrees I think the one in Baltimore has a much more varied and interesting structure. The entrance, with a waterfall and rock faces a hundred feet high enclosed behind a wall of glass, is amazing. The tropical fish made me want to return to the islands. I had mixed feelings about the dolphin show, much preferring to see them perform in the wild, but at least they tried to insert a conservation message into the performance. Overall, there was a decent amount of educational message available to visitors if they cared to make use of it.
Photos: (1) The plaza in front of the National Aquarium in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. (2). "Paddleboats approaching! Ready torpodoes!" (3) Did Nature intend for dolphins to jump this high?
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