May 29, 2011 Crisfield, Somers Cove Marina, Day 3
It had cooled off enough last night that we were able to sleep with the hatches open and not use the AC. We haven’t been able to do that for a long time. This morning the breeze picked up again, but it was still warm in the high 80’s. I did a couple more loads of wash (left over from Friday), while Bob walked Auggie. When I got back, we did some trip planning for next week. Because there is such a great distance (71 miles) between Crisfield (where we are) and the next place to stop, we decided to cross Chesapeake Bay and go over to the Solomons, a shorter distance of 50 miles. In my reading, it seems that this is what most cruisers do because of the large gap of emptiness north of here with no place to stop. We’ll spend a few days in the Solomons with our friends, Don and Pam, who are also cruising Chesapeake Bay this summer. We’ll finally get to hook up and spend some time together. We plan to head back across to the Eastern shore after leaving the Solomons. It will be at a place where the Chesapeake Bay narrows more in the north. There we’ll get to visit Cambridge, Oxford, St. Michaels, and do some anchoring. At least that’s the plan for now. Bob programmed the GPS for our trip tomorrow and gave Auggie a bath, while I cleaned the inside of the boat. We walked up to the Soft Shell Crab Festival around 1:00 to get some lunch and check things out. The place was pretty busy with everyone checking out the food, music, flowers, vegetables, and arts and crafts for sale.
We got a couple of beers and listened to the band, Jesse’s Outlaws, play.
While the band took their break, the city presented the Watermen’s Hall of Fame awards. There were 4 men and one woman (the first ever) to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The men were in their 70’s and 80’s and had spent 50 to 60 years on the water crabbing and oystering. The woman had spent most of her life making crab traps, over 100,000 traps in her lifetime. It was quite impressive.
Then they announced the winner of the Miss Crustacean contest. Bob had to get his picture taken with her. Surprised?
We decided to get a little lunch after watching the ladies preparing the soft shell crab sandwiches. The crab are unwrapped after being kept in a refrigerator and then rinsed in water. Next, they are breaded with flour and then fried. They put two small crabs, #2s (medium-sized) as they are called, in two slices of bread or a bun and are served with cocktail or tartar sauce. Delicious!
We sat under the canopy enjoying our soft shell crab sandwiches, some beverages, and listening to the music.
Yum! There is no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. After a couple of hours, we left there and walked over to the Tiki Bar down the street where they were having a “biker day”. We stopped to look at the bikes and have a couple of beers.
We spotted a couple who was enjoying 12 Maryland hardshell boiled crabs. We interrupted their meal and asked them about eating boiled hard crabs with the smash mallets. They were very proud to tell us about how to correctly eat the crabs and that it was an “experience” not just a meal. It looked like a lot of work, but they said it was worth it. The meal cost them $38, but they were really enjoying it.
We left there and headed back to the boat to get ready for our departure tomorrow. I took Auggie for a walk while Bob filled the water tank, washed his windshield, put the bikes away, and scrubbed the waterline on the boat. Auggie picked up his third tick. We were warned that they were pretty bad around here. Everything is ready to go for tomorrow. We had a later dinner and relaxed the evening away with a DVD. We would make an early getaway tomorrow to do the 50 miles to the Solomons.
May 30, 2011 Crisfield (Somers Cove Marina) MD, Day 4
Happy Memorial Day! We were up early at 7:00 AM with plans to leave by 8:00. Bob checked the weather and the winds were already blowing 9 mph with 2 foot waves on the Bay. He checked multiple sites to see if the forecasts matched. They did, so we made a decision to spend another day here and go tomorrow. Since we were here another day, we decided to take a chance and see if the historical museum would be offering their walking tour today. No such luck! We did enjoy looking around the museum and gift shop and bought a souvenir of our trip here. No not this crab hat, but I was tempted.
We left there and tried to search out the only company that still does handpicking of crab meat, out of the five processing plants still left in town. We walked over to MeTompkin and Co. and looked inside the open doors.
Nobody was around, but we could see the area that they used for sorting, picking, and packaging the crab.
This picture from the museum, shows the crab pickers at work from a earlier time.
We were told it pays pretty well and a “highly skilled crab picker” can pick 5 pounds of crab meat in 10 to 15 minutes. That’s a lot of 5″ crabs! We walked from there down to the City Dock where all the mailboats from Smith Island and Tangier Island were in and waiting.
They would leave again at 12:30 PM fully loaded with mail and cargo. We walked up to the upper deck of the fishing pier and had a great view of the watermen coming in.
They would stop at the processing plant dock, unload bushels of crabs, load up with bait, fuel up, and head back to their own dock, all in less than 10 minutes. No time was wasted! Out on the water at 5 AM, back to the dock by noon. What a life! Walking back to the marina, Bob pointed out some guys he had talked to earlier. They were on 5 Wayfarer sailboats, getting ready to embark on a week long trip. It was 5 guys and their mates from all over the country, who get together each year and do this trip. They trailer their boats someplace where they’ll start and end their trip, and then sail around the area for a week. They pack up their sailboats with as much gear as they will hold and sleep in whatever places they find along the way… sometimes on the dock if they have to. They were going 21 miles to Onacock today. They didn’t leave till after 10 AM, so it will be a very long day on the water for them. Then they’ll go to Tangier Island and come back to Crisfield. That’s a lot of sailing in a little two-person boat. What an adventure!
I worked on co-ordinating the charts with the guidebook information on anchorages and marinas this afternoon. Bob did some checking on the Internet for a spare sounder for the boat. It was hot and muggy today out of the wind, but the breeze by the water kept things tolerable. It is supposed to be in the upper 80’s the rest of the week. We are finding that this time of the year is a good time to travel around this area. Not much happens until Memorial Day and even then, the boat traffic is way down because of the economy, according to the marinas and local boaters that we’ve talked to. Marinas are empty and we don’t see much traffic on the water in the places we’ve gone. It’s hard to believe that we have been gone less than 2 months. It seems a lot longer than that! We’ve done and seen so much already, and the best parts are yet to come. We ordered a pizza and had it delivered to the boat for dinner. We haven’t had pizza in over 2 months. It was so good! After walking Auggie, we watched a DVD until after sunset.
May 31, 2011 Crisfield (Somers Cove Marina) to Solomons (Calvert’s Marina)
We woke up early to a blue sky and calm winds. We were good to go! After Auggie got his walk, we untied the lines and left the dock before 8:00. We pulled up to the pumpout dock and did the self-service free pumpout of the head. We were on our way at 8:00. We passed the crabbing boats coming and going as we motored out of the channel from the harbor. Our route today would take us north in Tangier Sound, past Smith Island to Hooper Strait. Hooper Strait is a cut between the Hooper Islands and Bloodsworth Island to the Bay. The seas were glass calm and the only breeze we had was the one me made ourselves as we motored along at 10 mph.
It was a hot day in the sun, with a high today reaching the upper 80’s. We tried to stay in deeper water to avoid the shallower areas where the crabpots tend to be. There were a lot of boats out crabbing and charter fishing in Tangier Sound. Our charted course would take us north of the designated “danger zone”on the chart–an area where unexploded bombs may be found. The haze over the water finally lifted and we were able to see Deal Island shoreline as we passed. As we transitted through Hooper Straits and into the Bay, the waves increased to 1-2′ because of the opposing force of the tidal current vs the wind. It got us a little wet as we were going into the waves, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. I came up from making us lunch and was surprised to see a huge ship gaining ground on us!
As we neared the Solomons, it calmed off and we could see the beautiful red Calvert Cliffs standing 100′ high along the shore.
We entered the Patuxent River and headed north to a slip at Calvert’s Marina for tonight. We were going to anchor out with our friends from Wisconsin, Pam and Don on their 56′ Jefferson “Gallivant”,
but their generator was giving them trouble and with this heat, it would have been unbearable to be without AC. By now, the temperature was 93 degrees (felt like 100) and there was no wind at all, so we decided to take a slip for tonight as well. We were tied up to the dock at 1:30 and ready to relax. We ended up docking next to each other and will get a chance to spend some time together, I hope. It’s great to see them again.
The Solomons are teeming with boats from all over the country. It is a place everyone wants to be. There are more boats here than we’ve seen in one place in a long time.
We got the last space at this marina (or so she said) and were happy to be able to use our AC. After getting all tied up, we sat around in the AC to cool off and chatted awhile. We checked in at the office and took a look over the area before hopping in the dinghy to go to dinner. We got a tour of the area from Pam and Don on our way to the dinghy dock at the Sherriff’s office where we left the dinghy.
From there, we walked a short distance along the Riverwalk along the Patuxent River to the restaurant.
We ate at the Solomon Pier Restaurant and had a great time catching up on things. I had the best crabcake sandwich yet!
We took a slow ride back to the boat past some of the marinas on the river.
We wanted to shower after our hot 49.9 mile ride today and find a place to cool off while waiting for the sun to go down. It’s supposed to be another hot one tomorrow!
June 1, 2011 Solomons (Calvert Marina)
What a restful night we had after going to bed at 9:00. We were beat after our 5 hour ride in the heat yesterday. We used the courtesy car after breakfast to go to the Food Lion for a few groceries and a visit to CVS pharmacy. They gave us an old Mercedes to use–the AC didn’t work in it and the windows didn’t go down. It was like being in a sauna, but it was better than walking or riding our bikes. The temps heated things up quickly today and it was really hard to stand out in the direct sun for very long without overheating. The official temp was 92 degrees with a heat index of 103. For a few hours, Bob helped Donny change out his non-working AC unit in the main stateroom for one in his 3rd stateroom. Pam and I took a run to the liquor store with the courtesy car while the guys worked on the AC. We got back just around the time Bob got finished helping Donny, so Pam, Bob, and I took a dinghy ride down Back Creek to the Tiki Bar where we thought we could dock the dinghy and check out some shops.
They weren’t within easy walking distance and in the heat today we didn’t really want to go any farther than we had to. We walked to another bar nearby, the Calypso, to check it out. It ended up being closed, but we were able to get inside to cool off in the AC awhile. After cooling down, we headed back to the dinghy and took a leisurely ride up Back Creek so Pam could show us the marina they had been staying at to get some work done on their boat and the anchorage nearby. She gave us a great tour. We had also cruised by the Marine Museum earlier where 2 lighthouses stand—the Drum Pt. Lighthouse, one of the 3 remaining screwpile lighthouses of the original 45 on the Bay and a smaller one.
We passed a “bugeye” tourboat, The Wm. B. Tennison, that has been afloat since 1899 and gives tours leaving from the museum.
We got back to our boats all hot and sweaty and relaxed a little with Auggie in the AC. Later, Bob took Auggie up to the marina office to meet their dog….a cute little yorkie about the same size as he. Bob said Auggie ran around like a wildman, ate her food, drank her water, and stole her toy. They chased each other around the office for about a half an hour. They had a blast and Auggie came back to the boat with his tongue hanging out. He needed a nap after that.
We left Auggie to take his nap and went over to “Gallivant” for cocktail hour. We sat around talking and making plans on where to go tomorrow. It should be cooler, but the winds should be up. We’ll have to decide in the morning after checking the weather report again. We went back to our boat and made dinner. After the sun went down, we watched a DVD and took Auggie out for his last walk, now that it was cooler. I can’t wait for cooler temps tomorrow!
June 2, 2011 Solomons (Calvert Marina)
Happy 60th anniversary, Mom and Dad! We woke up to winds out of the north, so we had cooler temps (thank goodness), but with the winds come waves, so we decided to stay another day at the marina and move to an anchorage tomorrow. Saturday looks more favorable for crossing the Bay to return to the Eastern side too. The guys were working on little jobs on the boats, so Pam and I decided to dinghy over to the area along the Riverwalk where the shops are.
Pam suggested we take the dinghy ourselves, instead of having Bob take us over there, so I got a refresher course from Bob on how to start the motor and we were off. We dinghied over to the dock near the Sherriff’s office and self-pumpout station and left the dinghy tied up there. We walked up and down the street across from the river checking out the shops and restaurants that are found there. The Calvert Marine Museum was closed, but the sign there explained that it was once the J.C. Lore and Sons Oyster House. It was a oyster, crab, and fish packing house from 1912-1978. It was built on oyster shells discarded by the watermen and later converted into a museum.
There was a cute little church, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, built in 1889 that we passed.
We walked along the boardwalk for a bit and watched some sailboats under the big bridge that crosses over the Patuxent River to the mainland from the island. The first causeway was built in 1870.
The sign along the Riverwalk explained that Solomon Island was named for Issac Solomon who had an oyster packing facility here in 1867. Eventually, shipyards were developed to support the “bugeye” sailing fleet that was being built here in the 19th century. It’s been a busy harbor ever since and very popular with boaters.
We crossed over to a shop where Pam bought herself a cute dress and I found something for Bob for our anniversary in July. By the time we were ready to dinghy back to the boats, the wind had really picked up and there were white caps on the Patuxent River and mini-waves rolling down Back Creek in front of the marina. We stayed dry and I did a pretty good job of driving and docking the dinghy, if I do say so myself, especially since I haven’t driven one for over a year. Good job, Cindy! Pam and I got back in time to make ourselves a little lunch. Bob had been doing some research on finding a new air conditioner, in case ours should decide to stop working. It’s over 12 years old and starting to make strange noises. He wants to be prepared. I cleaned a little dirt off of the sofa and you know how that goes…..I could see how dirty it really was from the clean spot I made, so that lead to a full cleaning job of the sofa. I decided that the quilt on the bed needed washing also, so I did a load of wash for $1. After that it was time for a cocktail. We had drinks on Gallivant with Pam and Don and then came back to our boat to cook dinner. We walked Auggie and finished out the night by watching a DVD and then calling it a day.
June 3, 2011 Solomons (Calvert Marina) to St. Leonard’s Creek, Patuxent River
What a refreshing morning to wake up to. The stifling heat and humidity were gone and cooler temps prevailed. The winds were fairly brisk out of the north and that made all the difference. After a little discussion between the 4 of us this morning, we decided to head a little further up the Patuxent River to St. Leonard’s Creek to anchor. We pulled out of the marina ahead of Pam and Don to top off our tanks at the fuel dock. We took a slow ride up the river at 10:45. Pam and Don would fuel up also before joining us on the river. We saw a really cool double masted sailboat at Waterman’s Wharf on our way out of the harbor.
We rounded the sandy tip of Pt. Patience and into the main body of the river. It was over 100′ feet deep there. There were quite a few boats in the river as we made our way up the Patuxent fishing for thta elusive croaker fish. There were a few white caps on the river now and then, but it was a smooth ride. St. Leonard’s Creek is described as the most beautiful branch on the Patuxent River. The creek is 5 miles long from beginning to end. We rode up about 4 miles to Vera’s White Sands Beach Club. It looked like a Polynesian Island placed on the Chesapeake complete with fake palm trees.
We dropped anchor at 12:15 in John’s Creek, a branch off St. Leonard’s Creek after traveling 10.7 miles. The horsetails in the sky told us a change in weather was coming, so we listened to the weather radio while waiting for Pam and Don on “Gallivant” to arrive.
They pulled into the anchorage around 1:00 and dropped anchor right behind us in John’s Creek.
There were no issues with the weather that we could tell, so we were content to stay here for the night. Bob figured out that SO FAR we have traveled 1,565.3 total miles since we left home with many more to go. That’s quite an accomplishment! Bob and I launched the dinghy and took Auggie to shore for a walk and to check out Vera’s Place. It sits on top of a hill with a great view of the river and has a neat little bar/restaurant inside.
The stage area and bar are made to look tropical.
Outside there’s a pool and sand beach area for marina slipholders to use.
Tonight they had a band, but we would be asleep by the time the music started. Vera was a “B” movie star from the 50’s who owned the restaurant until she died in 2007 at 92 years old. This is her house which sits next to the restaurant.
We brought Auggie back to the boat after visiting on Gallivant for awhile, and then the 4 of us took their Whaler to the bar for “happy hour”.
On our way to the bar, Bob noticed a boat name he really liked.
We had a couple of beers and some nachos at the bar before coming back to our boat for a cocktain before dinner.
The anchorage was peaceful and quiet with just the two boats anchored there.
We had a later dinner and took Auggie to shore for his evening walk before sunset. The sun went down and the sliver of a moon came up. We called it an early night.
June 4, 2011 St. Leonard’s Creek to Cambridge (free wall)
We slept with the hatched open last night and with a low of 64 degrees, it was very pleasant. The sunlight stresaming in the hatch woke us up around 6:45. We lingered awhile, but finally got moving and took Auggie to shore before making preparations to leave for Cambridge. We hauled anchor (as did Gallivant) at 8:45 and were on our way down St. Leonard’s Creek to the Patauxent River, and then on to the Bay. The weather report was favorable for a crossing, but lately the reports haven’t matched the actual conditions, so we were unsure of what we’d find. At the mouth of the Patuxent River where it meets the Chesapeake, is the Navy Seaplane Operating Area, but no seaplanes were visible.
There were many fishermen out at the mouth of the river getting an early start. The sky was clear and the temp was a pleasant 72 degrees on the water. Out of the Bay, it was glass calm—no breeze to even create a ripple on the water. The orange Calvert Cliffs appeared on shore as soon as we rounded Drum Point.
They were very distinctive against the green of the trees and the blue of the water. As we continued NE up the Bay, we spotted the Cove Point Lighthouse sitting on the point. What a beautiful speciman of a lighthouse!
Farther up the Bay, I noticed an unusual structure sitting a mile from shore. It was the LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) facility with at least 6 white holding tanks on shore.
We were passing near an enforced security zone that surrounds the nuclear plant up the shore. We had to stay a 1/4 mile off shore and the helicopter buzzing overhead reminded us of that. Near there, we saw a large collection of fish traps set up. Fish traps are large structures made of heavy wooden stakes, connected by netting that traps fish for harvest.
There were quite a few boats of all kinds moving about on this gorgeous Saturday and the seas remained calm all the way to Cambridge. As we neared the mouth of the Choptank River, we could see lots of fishing boats off in the distance. We’ll have to find out from someone what they are fishing for. We entered the Choptank River entrance at 1:00 on our way to Cambridge. The Choptank River is a major waterway of the Eastern Shore. The book I’m reading, “Chesapeake” by John Michener, was set there. Now I can really visualize what I’m reading about. Cambridge itself, is still a commercial port, Maryland’s second in tonnage to Baltimore. Early Cambridge was a tobacco port and later beame a port for vegetables and grains. Trappers, farmers, and fishermen still dominate life here. Our sonar went out as we neared our destination, so we followed Gallivant into the harbor.
We arrived in the Cambridge harbor at 2:30 and looked for the free wall in front of the courthouse that we had heard about from Pam and Don. We were amazed to discover that it was totally empty for a Saturday. Gallivant and Justavacation took spots on the wall.
We got ourselves tied up and settled in. Auggie got a walk around the immediate area and everyone relaxed. I grabbed my camera and went exploring in town. Don and Pam had been here before, but this was our first time. I began my walk by crossing the bridge and getting a look at our boats on the wall from a distance.
From there, I could also see across the river to the J. M. Clayton Company, the only crab-picking house on Cambridge Creek. Too bad they were closed. I would love to see the crab-pickers in action.
Across the bridge, there was another restaurant called Portside. It had a cool deck overlooking the river.
I passed an old train station with a railroad car sitting nearby.
Walking back across the bridge towards town, I headed for the shopping and restaurant district, Race Street.
I walked up and down the street and a tiled mural caught my eye in a little courtyard off of Race Street.
I followed the signs to the Historic District along High Street. There I found the District Court Building of Maryland and the Cambridge Municipal Building that was part of an old fire station. Inside the arched doors sat an old-fashioned fire truck.
I passed a beautiful Episcopal church, Christ King. It had an amazing rose window!
I found the Dorchester County Circuit Courthouse, which was the site for 2 Underground Railroad trials. The sign in front explained that one of the men on trial was the nephew of Harriet Tubman. She helped him escape to the north before he could be tried. The Underground Railroad trail ran along the Choptank River for quite a ways.
High Street continued all the way to the water which ended at a park. The street itself was paved in bricks. The houses there were from the mid 1700’s and the mid to late 1800’s. They had such beautiful architectural features.
When I got back to the boat, we all went over to Snapper’s Restaurant right near the boats and had a few beers and nachos at their tiki bar…..complete with sand!
A couple of boys who were fishing for crabs spotted Auggie and wanted to meet him, so Bob took him off the boat and let Auggie and the boys play. They loved it and Auggie loved it. He came in after they left and fell right to sleep. I think he had a good time….and so did the boys.
We were finally in a place where we could get some TV and hear the news. We haven’t seen the news in about 2 weeks. It was quite a treat. We relaxed as we waited for the sun to set. Everyone was tired after over 5 hours of travel and 51 miles today.