May 22, 2011 Yopps Cove anchorage, Rappahannock River
It was a warmer evening overnight and we woke to clear blue skies this morning. We’ll spend another night in Yopps Cove because of the wind prediction for tonight and then we’ll change locations tomorrow. We had a leisurely breakfast out back for a change–with nowhere to go and nothing pressing to do. Auggie woke up early with us and went right back to sleep. The songbirds were singing, the geese were honking, and the osprey were busy feeding their young on a nesting platform nearby. Everyone was waking up. We made a few phone calls home before we left on another dinghy adventure. Auggie was all set to go.
Our first stop was the boat launch to walk Auggie. Our new friend, Russell, was there working on a boat for his grandson. His crabbing friend showed up with a bucket of live blue crabs that Russell was anxious to show us.
I was thrilled to see a live blue crab and one that was even molting.
Russell told me to pick one up to get a closer look.
He said they couldn’t bite because they were too weak in their molting stage. It was so cool and they were such a beautiful shade of blue. I’m sorry my picture doesn’t show the color better.
We left there to get a closer look at the oyster and crab processing plant we saw yesterday. The crab and oyster boats were in, but the plant was quiet.
We could see the sorting trays and holding tank in the building. Behind the building was a giant mound of oyster shells.
It was calm this morning, so we took the dinghy out on the Rappahannock River after picking up more gas for the outboard at the Tides Inn. (We used a lot of gas yesterday exploring all the tributaries and branches of this area.) We floated on the river as we watched the sailboats setting up their course for a regatta.
Back at the boat, we set up the sunshade over the cockpit and tried to stay cool.
Bob worked on polishing the plastic windshield and I did some reading. Boat traffic out to the river was busy all day and we had a great spot to view all the action from where we were anchored. Later in the afternoon, the skies became cloudy and they were calling for a small chance of rain later today. We relaxed listening to music and watching the boats go by. After supper, we took Auggie for his last walk of the day back to the boat landing. We met a young woman and her dachshund, Scotch, who were out for their evening walk too. Scotch was a standard size doxie, but just 7 months old, so he and Auggie (mini, 11 months) were about the same size. They played for over 20 minutes while we talked. She was a teacher from Pennsylvania who took a short term position in Irvington from March until June. Then she was back to teaching summer school in PA. We had a good time talking while the puppies played. They had a blast and wore each other out. They will both sleep well tonight. We got back to the boat as the sun was setting.
It turned out to be another beautiful day.
May 23, 2011 Yopps Cove anchorage to Corrotoman River, Rappahannock River
We had rain overnight and overcast skies this morning. It was already warm, 76 degrees. We left the anchorage at 10:00, went over to Tides Inn to top off the tanks (buy often, buy cheap), and were on our way at 10:20. The sun came out, but it was very hazy. We were going right around the corner to the Corrotoman River to anchor for the night. The Corrotoman River is a river of many creeks, off the Rappahannock River’s northern shore. It has beautiful residences that dot the shoreline, but they are few and far between. The shoreline is forested with sandy beaches here and there. We found a good spot in a secluded cove just past the ferry at Ottoman Wharf.
We only went 8.4 miles today and dropped the anchor at 11:15. This whole area is filled with nesting ospreys, more than I’ve ever seen in one place. It must be prime fishing grounds for them.
We did some trip planning and reading as the afternoon wore on. Auggie took his usual afternoon nap. That dog will sleep anywhere.
We decided to re-anchor the boat to get out of the waves that were wrapping around the point. Later on we took a dinghy ride. By now the day was hot and steamy, so a ride in the dinghy was very refreshing. We went to check out the Eastern arm of the river and to stop at the ferry landing to walk Auggie. He was ready and waiting!
The evening came quickly so we ate dinner and took Auggie back to the ferry landing for his last walk of the day.
There were 4 locals fishing at the landing when we arrived and they were having some luck catching croakers. Auggie and I took our walk up the road while Bob sat in the dinghy and got eaten alive by no-seeums. Someone had told us that the ticks were out in force around here and sure enough, we found one crawling on Auggie’s eyebrow. Good thing I spotted it before it took root anywhere…..especially on me! We hurried back to the boat and watched a movie in the comfort of a little AC before going to bed. There was lightning off in the distance, but nothing on the radar showed that it was coming our way. The boat stayed cool all night.
May 24, 2011 Corrotoman River, Rappahannock River anchorage (day 2)
Our decision to move the boat a little out of the waves yesterday paid off. We had a peaceful night! The sun was shining brightly and it was very hazy this morning. It would be another steamy day. At least there was a nice breeze blowing. We took Auggie over to the ferry landing after the “rush hour traffic” to cross the river had died down.
The ferry operator was a busy man, for a short time, at least. We dinghied down the Western Branch of the river to the end. If you can’t find a quiet, secluded anchorage in this river, you don’t really want one. We just hung out most of the day trying to stay cool in the shade. In listening to the local radio, we heard there was a severe thunderstorm watch for our area until 8 PM. On radar, it looked like it would split and go around us. The storm clouds arrived later in the afternoon, but nothing came over us. It was a hot afternoon and even Auggie tried to find a cool spot to nap. He can sleep anywhere, even in my shoe.
It was a quiet, non-eventful day of reading, trip planning, conversation, and contemplation. One last trip to the boat landing with Auggie was how we ended the day. Back at the boat, a tick check (finding one in his ear), and then early to bed. Tomorrow we would celebrate Bob’s birthday in Urbanna with a nice dinner out. What a treat!
May 25, 2011 Corrotoman River anchorage to Dozier’s Port Urbanna Marina
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BOB! What a beautiful day – cloudless, blue sky and cool breeze. Bob got to sleep a little later today because of his birthday and the fact that the wind kicked up a little last night and made the anchor “groan” as we moved from side-to-side in the wind. It died after about an hour, so then we could go back to sleep. We left our anchorage at 8:45 and headed out the Corrotoman River, to cross the Rappahannock River, on our way to Urbanna. We enjoyed our time on the Rappahannock River and its tributaries. We had been looking for quiet, secluded, scenic anchorages – the kind we remembered from our boating days in the North Channel of Lake Huron and we found them here. This will be remembered as one of the highlights of our trip! The Rappahannock River crossing was calm with barely a ripple on the water.
For awhile now, we’ve been having intermittent issues with our sonar. Sometimes, it would go out for a short time and then work again for days. The problem has gotten more pressing and we need to solve the problem for good. Sonar (depth sounder) is a very important piece of equipment, especially traveling in unfamiliar waters that have rapidly changing depths and when anchoring in shallow water. Another thing we discovered while being on the Chesapeake is that the water is brackish and much less salty. The rivers produce fresh water and mix with the salty water from the ocean at the opening of Chesapeake Bay. After a short trip of 10.3 miles, we arrived in Urbanna around 10:30 and took a spot right in front of the boater’s lounge.
Urbanna is one of the 4 remaining towns of the 20 sites designated in 1680 as ports through which all tobacco could be shipped. All imports, goods, and slaves also passed through here. It was also an easy target for pirates because of its location. Urbanna is also the home of the official Virginia State Oyster Festival. In November, 75,000 people come to partake in this celebration of oysters. Once we settled in, Bob worked a little on finding a solution to the sonar issue. I did a little cleaning in the boat before we left to check in at the office and take a look around town. We walked down Cross St. to the Bristow Store built in 1876.
The Bristows established the Bristow’s Store – “The Home of Good Goods”. They were the first family in town to have a camera and electricity.
We just HAD to stop for the soft-shell crab special at the Virginia St. Cafe. It was WAY better than I imagined it would be. We walked down Virginia St., formerly known as Prettyman’s Rolling Road. It is where hogsheads of tobacco were rolled to and from the harbor.
Farther down Virginia Road was the Urbanna Courthouse, built in 1748, one of 11 courthouses of the Colonial Era still standing in Virginia. It has now been converted to a church and used in that capacity.
Across the street was Lansdowne, an estate once owned by one of Virginia’s Lee families. (General Lee)
Next door, was the Marble House. It got its name from the lavish use of marble to adorn its porches, steps, and the basement.
Farther down the street was the Wormeley-Lee Montague Cottage, the oldest surviving house in Urbanna.
Walking down Virginia Road to the waterfront, we saw the Old Tobacco Warehouse. Built in 1766, it is one of the oldest surviving structures in America associated with the sale of tobacco. It now serves as the Visitor’s Center.
At the bottom of the hill was Payne’s Crab House where you can buy soft shell crab and crab meat. It is run by two ladies and open on a limited basis. It was closed, but we could see the live, blue crabs swimming in the tank.
Our last stop was Marshall’s Drug Store, where I just HAD to have a root beer float at an old fashioned soda fountain.
Walking back to the boat, we saw a cute boat name in the marina.
This house next to the marina had a yard full of oyster shells, instead of grass.
Many homes and businesses use the oyster shells as decorative ground cover. It’s a good way to use all those empty shells.
Back at the boat, we went into the Boater’s Lounge and Bob entertained me on the old piano. What a talented guy!
We had a cocktail at the boat before going to dinner at the All Fired Up Smokehouse Grill for Bob’s birthday. Bob had Seafood Fettuccine and I had crabcakes. Delicious!
After dinner, we watched some cable TV. We haven’t seen TV in about a week and a half. What a treat! Tomorrow if the weather is right, we plan to cross Chesapeake Bay to Tangier Island.
May 26, 2011 Urbanna Dozier’s Marina to Tangier Island, Parks Marina
I had a restless sleep thinking about our crossing of Chesapeake Bay today. The weather report was mixed, but we decided to chart a course for Tangier Island. If conditions got too bad, we could duck in some place or turn around and go back. That’s what’s nice about not having a schedule. We left the dock around 8 AM, and once out of the harbor, we took off a cruise speed (18 mph) to make the best of calmer morning winds. It was a hazy, steamy morning with an expected high of 92 degrees. Yikes! Who ordered that? The wind was out of the SSW so as we crossed from Urbanna at a diagonal course across the Bay to Tangier Island on the eastern shore, the waves were 2-3′ on the starboard aft corner. The farther out we got, the bigger the waves got (all 3’s all the time). As we were motoring along, Mr. Parks, the owner of the marina, called us on the radio to see where we were. He wanted to give us directions on how to get into the harbor once we got closer. It was definitely a rougher crossing that I had hoped it would be, but it was not uncomfortable by any means.
We pulled into the entrance channel of the harbor to Tangier Island from the Bay and it was calm. By the way, have you ever tried to look for crab pots in 3′ waves, going 18 mph? It’s NOT EASY!
This map shows the cut through the island that we entered. (The marina and the city are on the right. You can also see the airstrip on this map.) The cut was filled with Chesapeake Bay boats, crab shanties, and the watermen that use them.
We spotted Parks Marina and Mr. Parks was standing on the docks waiting for us.
We arrived at 10:30, waited for 2 sailboats to move at the dock, and were finally all tied up with Mr. Parks’ help. It was a trip of 50.2 miles of rough water.
The first thing we did was turn on the AC and cool off. It was a hot one!
Mr. Parks came over and offered to give us a tour of the island on his golf cart. We jumped at the chance since we had heard so much about his “golf cart tours”.
So all three of us sat on the front and only seat of his golf cart and away we went. Mr. Parks (Milton) is 81 years old and has quite a memory and sense of humor. He amused us with his stories and anecdotes about the island and its 500 residents. He has a story about everyone. He is one of the original Tangierians and was born and raised on the island. He was a waterman (crabber) for over 40 years and one of the best, to hear him tell it. He told us that most everyone on the island is related to everyone else. We traveled on every street on the island, I think, crossing little wooden planked bridges over the marshland. Sometimes we even had to share the path with pedestrians.
He even took us out to the path that led out to the beach. Tangier Island is supposed to have a wonderful sand beach. (Note the cute little trash containers on the right made by a psychiatrist I will mention later)
The island has its own brand new health clinic, museum, post office, policeman, mayor, fire department, and airstrip. His daughter is a nurse at the clinic and an EMT for the volunteer fire department.
Tangier Island is truly a working waterman’s island.
Besides showing us around the island, pointing out places of interest, he arranged for us to see a working crab sorting operation. There we saw those amazing blue crabs.
Pruitts, Parks, and Croketts are the most common last names of people who live on this 1 mile by 3 mile island with one school for all 90 kids (15 teachers). This year there are 5 seniors in the graduating class and we got to meet all of them on our guided tour. Two girls, three boys. Great odds. Who are you going to ask to the prom?
There is also a doctor who visits by plane once a week. The nurses and physician’s assistant can take care of your ills until he arrives. On our tour, we were shown the home of a retired psychiatrist who had a helicopter pad in his back yard. This doctor made the town cute little trash bins you saw in a previous picture. (Signs like this one are placed around town to mark significant places in the town’s history.)
Folks on the island get around on golf carts, bikes, or scooters. The roads are too narrow for cars. They keep their cars on the mainland in Crisfield. Yup, that’s a road.
There is a strong sense of community and shared heritage in the people of the island. The grocery boat delivers food to the one grocery store on Thursdays and this truck takes it from the boat to the store. It seemed everyone came to shop today and the store had a constant stream of people getting groceries on carts, bikes, and scooters.
Have you ever seen a golf cart traffic jam? We have in front of the grocery store today. We even saw a golf cart vs bicycle accident. Golf carts won. I could go on and on about all the things I learned on Milton’s tour, but you’ll just have to visit Tangier Island for yourself. After our hour tour with Milton, Bob and I relaxed on the boat with Auggie and helped Milton tie up more boats that arrived. Bob and I took a walk into town after lunch to get a closer look. We saw a brood of 13 baby geese crossing the road and lots of people touring the island who had come by ferry.
There are a couple of B and B’s on the island and 3 good restaurants to choose from. Hilda Crokett’s Chesapeake House is well known for her family style, home cooked meals.
There are two churches and a town cemetery, but why bother? They all just bury their relatives in the front yard. (It’s true!) Makes it kind of hard to forget about Uncle Louie when he’s right out front.
We spent a lot of time in the Tangier History Museum learning all about the past, present, and future of the island. Aren’t those the cutest crab chairs you’ve ever seen?
Tangier Island is relatively isolated. There are only two main roads running parallel. Between them is a “gut” that cuts through the marshes. The island has canals cut into it, so the watermen can get their small skiffs home from the crab shanties where they leave their crabbing boats.
Many of the homes are cute and well taken care of. Every yard is enclosed by a fence. One thing you can’t buy on Tangier Island is alcoholic beverages.
After our self-guided tour, we returned to the boat and walked Auggie. He was enthralled by all of Milton’s cats, his first cat encounter. These aren’t even all of them. There are more. P.S. Auggie thinks cat turds are delicious!
We decided to go to an “early bird” dinner at Lorraine’s Restaurant. We had a delicious vegetable crab soup and a crab cake sandwich special. To top it off we stopped at Four Brother’s Crabhouse to get an ice cream. I know…ice cream….at the Crabhouse…..???? But it was good!
We relaxed on the boat as the sun went down and talked about how the island is changing with the hurricanes, erosion, and tourism. It’s nice to know that efforts are being made to preserve their unique way of life. The orange sunset was a beautiful end to a wonderful day.
May 27, 2011 Tangier Island (Parks Marina) to Crisfield (Somers Cove Marina)
There was no cell service or Internet on Tangier Island so hence, no blog to post for yesterday….until today. We listened to the weather radio and decided we needed to go today or not until Monday. Auggie and I took our morning walk. The streets were empty except for a few early risers.
We stopped at the Waterfront Restaurant and Mail Dock…..the only place with a large patch of grass not fenced in.
The mail boat was in, waiting to make its run over to Crisfield.
We left the dock at 8:15 with the help of some other boaters and motored slowly out of the channel past the crab shanties and docks piled high with crab traps.
Some watermen were working at the docks after returning from their morning run.
We entered Tangier Sound and had to travel broadside to the waves for a short time. The conditions were pretty much the same as when we came over yesterday, but the ride would be shorter. Bob did a great job of keeping the boat riding in the troughs, while I hung my head and tried not to look at the size of the waves. Once we turned north, we had the waves on our stern and again, Bob did a great job of keeping the boat speed matched to the pace of the waves so we wouldn’t bury the bow in the waves. Way to go, Captain Bob! It takes a lot of concentration and steering to get it just right. We crossed the Maryland-Virginia border marked by a red buoy on the water. Here is another example of a border buoy that we found on land.
The ride wasn’t bad, but I’m glad it was a short one. We got to experience the waves coming broadside to us, as we entered the Crisfield channel. What a thrill! Three and four foot waves on the beam are never fun.
We entered the breakwater at 9:00 and were tied up and checking in at the office by 9:30.
The skies were clear and without the wind it would have been HOT! We checked the Internet weather and found out there was a small craft advisory on Tangier Sound where we came across today. For this afternoon and tonight they are predicting winds of 10-15 mph with gusts up to 20, waves at 3′ increasing to 4′. Good thing we left early and came over when we did. Bob washed the boat while I worked on updating my blog. Then we took a walk to check out Main Street. In the mid 19th century, Crisfield became the leading producer of oysters. With plentiful blue crabs and terrapins (a type of turtle) too, it became known as the “Seafood Capital of the World”. Everything about Crisfield has to do with crabs.
Our walk took us down Main St. to a cute little store called Crustacean Station. I loved it because of the name and the cute things it had inside. I bought a crab ornament for my Christmas tree.
We stopped at the hardware store for some hose clamps, but we weren’t sure of the size, so we had to come back. The store was original from the turn of the century, including the creaking, sagging floor. They had EVERYTHING, but could they find ANYTHING?
We walked down the City Dock to watch the watermen bring in their catch for the day. W. Glenwood Evans buys their crabs and sells them all over the country.
On our way back to the boat, the brightly colored Old Crisfield Crab House caught our attention. We just had to go inside the General Store on the lower level and look around.
Next door, was the Dockside Tiki Bar, a cute little outdoor bar and restaurant. We stopped and had a beer and chatted awhile with a local realtor. He gave us tons of local information about things to see and do in Crisfield and the crabbing industry. We asked him if there was a theater in town. He looked at the bartender and they both laughed. I guess not. Oh well, we’ll have to catch the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie somewhere else.
While we talked, a waterman came in with his day’s catch to sell to the restaurant. He had 12 bushels (which is the state limit) of crabs.
Bob went to talk to him and found out that he was getting $85 a bushel for “select” crabs (large), $45 a bushel for medium, and $35 a bushel for females. He was also loading up bait for his traps, which was menhaden.
After we finished our beers and clam strip appetizer (half price at happy hour), we headed back to the boat. Bob noticed that at the end of our dock there was a houseboat that had the names of “Bob and Cindy” in yellow on the back. We just had to get a picture! I liked the sayings that were there also. “No lawnmowing necessary.” “360 degrees of waterfront.” I guess that must be Cindy.
After we got back, Bob rested his back, while I went to do some laundry. We found Auggie sitting in his new hiding place.
We had a late dinner and took Auggie for his walk. The wind had blown strong all day long and into the night. We watched a DVD before turning in. It’s nice to know we will in one place for a few days.
May 28, 2011 Crisfield, Somers Cove Marina, Day 2
We had wind this morning, but not as strong as yesterday. That kept things feeling a little cooler even though they weren’t. Auggie got his morning walk before Bob and I took a bike ride down Main St. into the old part of Crisfield. We saw some stately old homes along the way, but that part of downtown is dying. I just love the purple one. Purple is a favorite color of mine.
We ran into our dock neighbors here who suggested we ride down Somerset Drive and there we found some beautiful and unusual homes.
We continued on Somerset until we came to the Food Lion grocery store where we picked up a few times and then speedily pedaled back to the boat with our groceries. After unloading, we took a walk over to the museum where we checked on a walking tour of the crab and oyster processing plants for Monday. We stopped at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation outdoor exhibit to look at the blue crabs, horseshoe crabs, and puffer fish they had on display there.
Bob got to hold a live softshell crab and see how soft they feel after they molt their shell and before the new one hardens. I had to have a feel too. They are pretty defenseless at this stage.
From there, we went back to the hardware store for a hose clamp and a few repair items. We also stopped at the Old Crisfield Crab House General Store again to pick up a famous Smith Island Cake for 2. Smith Island Cake is the official Maryland dessert consisting of 10 thin layers of cake separated by an equal number of layers of sweet icing (lots of eggs and sugar). The most popular variety is yellow cake with chocolate icing (that’s the one we got), but it has branched out into as many as 32 flavors. You can tell the real Smith Island Cake from an imposter by the design in the icing on the top of the cake.
Nobody is sure who first developed the Smith Island Cake, but it his believed to have started out as a variation on an English Torte.
We stopped for a few “crab” souvenirs and then headed back to the boat. There was a message on our cell phone when we got back, that our parttime Florida neighbors from Delaware would not be able to meet us tomorrow. They had planned to drive from their home in Seaford, DE (about an hour) to Crisfield to join us at the Soft Shell Crab Festival at the City Dock on Sunday. Jane wasn’t feeling well, so we would try to hook up with them again down the road….maybe in Cambridge. We hope you’re feeling better soon, Jane. Bob and I had lunch and then took a ride over to the small boat marina to check out the Chesapeake Bay crabbing and oyster boats there. After a quick bike pump repair, we were able to inflate our tires a bit and head off. We rode a short distance out to the that marina where a charter fishing boat had just come in with some croakers and sea trout. Many of the crab boats were already in after working today.
I did spot a huge pile of oyster shells behind the crab pots on the shore. What a pile!
From there, we rode back to the City Dock to see if they were setting up for tomorrow’s festival. At the City Dock, a crabbing boat had just delivered his bushels of crab to the dock at the processing plant. From there, they ship them out to restaurants and stores.
We rode around to the other side of our marina to where the charter fishing boats come in. One had just arrived with a catch of bunkers (baitfish) and flounder.
We pedaled back to the boat, put up some Memorial Day decorations, and relaxed in the shade of the cockpit. We made a few phone calls home today and sat out back enjoying the breeze. Bob cooked shish kabob on the grill and we watched the sun go down.
After walking Auggie, we watched a DVD and had a quiet, relaxing evening.