Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eastern Bay: St. Michaels and the Wye East

Tuesday, August 31 - Monday, September 6, 2010
Okay, everyone...confession time. Here we thought we had posted everything up through the arrival of Rene's mom, and were...ahem..."kindly reminded" (thanks, Skip!) that we were waaaayyyyy behind on any updates. Sorry about that! To give you a little insight into our blog writing (or maybe just the author's less-than-stellar memory), the draft of our trip to St. Michaels and the Wye East has been done since Labor Day. But did we post it? Nooooooo. Anyway, sure I may be writing this on September 27, but let's don our time-warp glasses again (humor me here) and pretend it's August 31st again...

It's official...we've begun the last segment of our Chesapeake adventure. We're spending the next few days in St. Michaels and the Wye East River, and then it's back to Annapolis for a 2-week visit with Rene's mom followed by a month-long haul-out in Deltaville. It still doesn't seem possible that it's almost over, but the cool overnight temps are reminding us that Fall really is on the way.

We decided to spend a couple of days in St. Mike's at the beginning of the Eastern Bay/Wye East trip, rather than at the end, given that we're heading into Labor Day weekend. We expect the town to be a zoo over the holiday weekend, so a Tuesday-Thursday visit is a safer bet. After an 8-hour trip from the Chester River (during which we get to see a fire boat in action and the Bloody Point Lighthouse), we finally make it to St. Michaels by late-afternoon. We cruise through the town's harbor, but there isn't enough depth or swing room for us. We head back out of the channel to the anchorage in the Miles River, and are grateful that the winds are supposed to be light. It wouldn't be much fun to be anchored out in this unprotected anchorage in 20 knots of wind! Wednesday we go ashore to wander through town and do some window-shopping. Since this is our last trip to St. Michaels, we go a little nuts...lunch is a dish of ice cream on Talbot Street, and we follow that up with a tasting at the Eastern Shore brewery. (Author's note: they're celebrating their 2nd anniversary over Labor Day weekend. This is a terrific family-run brewery that is well worth a visit. Stop by if you're ever in St. Mike's!) We manage to drag ourselves away from the brewery in time to do some grocery shopping at ACME (a large grocery store in town that's mere blocks from the dinghy dock - cruiser heaven!), and are back on the boat in time to make some calls to friends and watch the Wednesday night sailboat races. We head back ashore for dinner at Ava's Pizza & Wine Bar. We've read some great reviews of this place, and can see why it's a locals' favorite. Rene has a fantastic meatball pizza (homemade meatballs, of course) and Stacy goes with their fettuccine carbonara. Ava's has a good, casual atmosphere, and every table is full. Yet another wonderful find!

Thursday we motor-sail 5 miles up the Wye East River to Pickering Creek. We're anchored with two other boats (motor-cruisers traveling together), and we feel good about this well-protected hurricane hole. Good thing, too, since Hurricane Earl is heading for the mid-Atlantic coast. We're only supposed to get 20-25mph winds, which shouldn't be an issue since we're surrounded by trees in all directions. In fact, when Earl passes offshore early Friday morning, we only have 10-12kts of wind and a few rain showers. (It doesn't even disturb the little guy who's taken refuge on our anchor chain; see pic.) Talk about a non-event! Not that we're complaining...we certainly breathed a sigh of relief when Earl veered further offshore. We had visited friends Dave & Camilla from Southern Heat in Kill Devil Hills, NC (you know, the place where all of the Weather Channel live reports came from), in May, and were relieved that they didn't get the full brunt of the storm.

Thanks to higher (18-20mph) winds that brought whitecaps into our little creek, we decided against going kayaking on Saturday. By Sunday, having spent three straight days on the boat, one of us was getting a little stir-crazy. We finally had beautiful conditions for a kayak trip, and paddled around the creek Sunday morning. We also went ashore to the Pickering Creek Audubon Center, which can be reached by land, by dinghy at the Waterman's dock, or by kayak from a small beach. The Audubon Center, a nature preserve of sorts, offers miles of hiking trails through the forest and past wetlands. Somehow we managed to miss a turn when we first started our hike, and ended up on a long gravel road running between the forest and a corn field. There wasn't a soul in sight...creepy! (Stacy read way too much Stephen King as a kid...can you say "Children of the Corn"?) The corn field finally ended as we reached the park's entrance - complete with welcome center, herb garden, honey bee hives, and educational buildings. We made our way past the buildings to the wetlands overlook loop, only to take yet another wrong turn (granted, our grounds map didn't necessarily match the terrain). At some point the grassy trail gave way to thigh-high vegetation, causing us to turn back the way we came. After a few more wrong turns, we finally managed to get on a trail leading back through the forest. Did we mention this place wasn't exactly for the faint-hearted? We were passing by a small pond when Rene says, "oh, look at that". "That" turned out to be 3-foot-long black rat snake. Stacy let out a blood-curdling scream and ran back up the path, and Rene was disappointed that he didn't get a picture. That was a little too much nature for some of us!

Sunday afternoon we moved three miles downriver to the Shaw Bay anchorage, which would be our jumping-off point for the trip back to Annapolis on Monday. Now this is what we had in mind when we decided to cruise the Chesapeake! The anchorage was full of other boats, both sail and power alike, and being surrounded by cruisers made us feel like we were back in the Abacos again (granted, without the palm trees and blue water).

As much as we hate to end our trip, it's time to leave the Eastern Shore for Annapolis. We're looking forward to reconnecting with Skip, Betsy, Rick, and Linda, and are of course excited about Rene's mom's visit. Cheers!

Pictures for this Blog chapter:

Last Days Above the Bay Bridge

Wednesday, August 25 - Monday, August 30, 2010
Wow - it's hard to believe that we've already spent three months in the Chesapeake. We initially planned to head south soon after Labor Day, but our decision to haul the boat out in Deltaville has given us an extra month to play.

Between tourist days, visits with old friends, and unexpected boat projects, we stayed in Baltimore longer than planned. We have less than two weeks before we need to be back in Annapolis for Mom Foree's visit, and we're trying to figure out where to go next. We've heard great things about the Sassafras River, northeast of Baltimore. Dave from Hullaballoo recommended Chestertown on the Chester River, and a number of cruisers have said the Wye East River is a must-see for kayaking and pristine anchorages. Of course, we also want to visit Dave and Lisa from Hullaballoo at their home on the Magothy River. So many choices...what to do?

After estimating distances between the various options, we realized that we'd need 7 days just for traveling and 5-6 days to spend a single day in each spot. That would take all of our remaining days, leaving no room for weather or rest days...not to mention unexpected boat projects! Knowing our penchant for lazy days and our luck regarding unforeseen boat problems, we figured such a tight schedule was a really bad idea. The Wye and the Magothy were both must-do's for us, which left us with a choice between the Sassafras and Chestertown. Chestertown seems to be a quaint college town full of 18th century architecture; the Sassafras's draw is its jellyfish-free water and lovely spots to drop the hook. Figuring we'd have plenty of seclusion in the Wye, we decided to skip the Sassafras. That left us free to start a southward route, so we decided to begin our trip with the Magothy River.

We first met Lisa, Dave, and their kids aboard Sojourner at one of Rick and Linda's happy hours. We really enjoyed meeting them, and wanted to pay them a visit on our way to or from Baltimore. It didn't happen on the northbound leg (although we did get to meet Dave for lunch in B'more), so this seemed like our best chance. We got lucky - they were available for visitors, and even had a free mooring ball we could use. Like all cruisers, they also knew what was most important to fellow boaters who come ashore - a laundry machine and a trip to the grocery store! We had a fantastic time with them, and hope to see them somewhere in the Caribbean once they start cruising again.

Our next stop was Chestertown, MD. The Chester River meets the Chesapeake Bay nearly due east of the Magothy River, and the town itself is 28 miles upriver. (At least that's what the guidebook says...it felt closer to 20.) The only downside - and this is only a problem for die-hard sailors - is that the river constantly curves. Not only are you tacking all the way up; at some point, the wind WILL be on the nose. You, dear readers, know the drill...it's us, which means we had a combination of no wind and "unsailable" winds (a.k.a. +/- 30 degrees off the nose). Gotta love it! It was an uneventful motor up to Chestertown, if you don't count our near-grounding north of the Kent Narrows. (Author's note: the chart said 7-12'. It wasn't my fault!) We arrived in Chestertown by 6pm and anchored off the town marina. We were still pretty tired thanks to a great send-off with Hullaballoo the night before, and were more than ready for a quiet evening.

Remember those "unforeseen boat projects" we mentioned? Two miles out of Chestertown, we began hearing a strange noise near the stern. We realized it was water being pumped out, and wrote it off to the engine exhaust. Big mistake. By the time we anchored, we realized that the water was actually flowing from the hole used by the watermaker and bilge pump; a check down below quickly verified that it wasn't the water maker. Any boater knows that it's pretty disconcerting when your bilge pump activates! On top of that, once we turned off the engine, we could hear the angry boat sounds of our water pump running dry. Rene found water on top of our main water tank, which made no sense at first. There was also water under the salon floor and in our canned-goods storage under the salon bench. That triggered Rene to check the hot water heater, which would've been a beast to repair or replace. Luckily, the culprit was a hose that had vibrated loose and sprayed 125 gallons of water everywhere. On the positive side, it was a cheap (free) and easy repair job; on the negative side, we lost 75% of our water and had a heck of a clean-up job to do!

Sunday afternoon we decided to go into town for lunch and a tour of Chestertown. Rene lowered the dinghy...and was hit by unforeseen boat project #3 (#1 being the gallon of hull cleaner that spilled into the lazarette a week earlier). He pulled on the dinghy outboard starter cord...and pulled...and pulled...and pulled. NOTHING. When the outboard finally started, there was almost no water flow from the exhaust. We continued into town, but Rene's head was on the outboard engine. After a quick trip to the visitor center and a yummy lunch at the Fish Whistle restaurant, we went back to the boat for some dinghy outboard maintenance. Good news - it turned out to be a few tiny pebbles in the hose. It's amazing what gets sucked up when you ground the dinghy in Baltimore. :-)

Monday morning we returned to the town dinghy dock in much better spirits. The engine was working, the sun was shining, and we were ready to explore Chestertown in all her glory. We'd picked up a self-guided walking tour brochure the day before, and this took us around the main streets of the historic district. Chestertown was founded in 1706 as a port city, and still contains a number of original merchant homes from the 18th and 19th centuries. Notable sites include the Kent County Offices, which originally opened in 1901 as the Chestertown Public School; and the White Swan Tavern, built in 1733. George Washington is said to have visited the White Swan, which has since been restored to its 1795 appearance and is now a popular B&B. Also worth a visit is the schooner Sultana; this reproduction of a 1795 schooner was built entirely by local volunteers, and now offers public sails advocating "preservation through education". Chestertown also houses Washington College, the first college chartered in the U.S. after the Declaration of Independence. Founded in 1782, the college was honored to have its namesake sit on its Board of Governors for five years.

Another great thing about Chestertown is its size - it took about an hour to do the walking tour, and that covered the majority of what we wanted to see. We kept a leisurely pace for some extra photo ops, and were still back on the boat in time for lunch. We decided to get a few miles under our belts to shorten the next day's trip to St. Michaels. After a fuel top-up and some much-needed water, we headed 12 miles downriver to Grays Inn Creek. We're wary of the shallow depths through Kent Narrows (a shortcut between the Chester River and Eastern Bay), so we'll have to take the long way around Kent Island to St. Mike's. It looks to be about 40-45nm from the creek to St. Michaels and the Wye East, where we'll spend the next few days before returning to Annapolis. 'Til next time...

Pictures for this Blog post:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Baltimore, MD

Tuesday, August 10 - Tuesday, August 24, 2010
We left Annapolis Tuesday morning for the 30nm trip up to Baltimore. Leaving Weems Creek was rough, but we knew some new surroundings were needed. We had an easy motor up the Chesapeake (light winds on the nose - big surprise!), and made it under the Francis Scott Key Bridge by mid-afternoon. (Thanks to Google images for the cool shot of the bridge.) If you've never been to Baltimore, prepare to be inundated with Star-Spangled Banner trivia. First, here's a little refresher if you don't remember your American history course: Francis Scott Key, a young Washington attorney, was aboard a US truce ship during the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814. He and a companion had been sent to secure the release of a friend, Dr. William Beans, from a nearby British vessel. The release was arranged in a matter of days, but the British commander had plans to attack Baltimore and feared that Key and his friends had heard too much. The trio was held aboard the British ship until after the attack commenced; they were then transferred to the US ship where they witnessed the 25-hour long bombardment of Fort McHenry. On the morning of September 14, 1814, Key saw a massive American flag flying above Ft. McHenry amidst the smoke from the battle. He wrote a poem immortalizing the battle which was quickly put to song; that song, of course, is now our National Anthem.

So just how many Star-Spangled Banner references are there in Baltimore? Well, first up is the Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge. Passing beneath the bridge, you can soon spot the Francis Scott Key Memorial Buoy to starboard. The buoy is painted with the stars and stripes and denotes the location of Key's ship when he wrote the "Star-Spangled Banner". Two miles further upriver, you pass Fort McHenry itself to port. (The property is managed by the National Park Service, and you can tour the fort and surrounding grounds daily for a small fee.) In town, you can tour the Flag House, where Mary Pickersgille sewed the original 42' x 30' flag commissioned by Ft. McHenry's commander, Major George Armistead. Legend has it that Armistead wanted the flag to be large enough "that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance"; having seen the original Star-Spangled Banner in the Smithsonian a few weeks ago, we can tell you that it truly is enormous (the flag's dimensions even exceed the footprint of the home in which it was created).

We started off our Baltimore trip as "dock royalty" at the Anchorage Marina. The forecast called for another heat advisory ("feels like" 100+), and the marina was one of three in our guide book that had a swimming pool. We managed to enter the marina fairway by 3pm, and Rene did a gorgeous job of backing Pipe into the slip (our power cord isn't long enough for a bow-in landing, and we wanted to plug in to use our newly topped-off A/C). Power on, A/C on, check-in at the marina, late lunch eaten, and we were off to the pool! Ahhh, heaven... Since "someone" didn't take anything out of the freezer for dinner (I can be sneaky sometimes), we decided to explore the town to find someplace to eat. The lifeguard at the marina pool recommended Kooper's Tavern for a tasty, simple meal; Tuesday was "burger night", where you could get anything from a basic burger for $3.50 to a Kobe beef with triple cream brie & onion straws for under $10. There were lamb burgers, veggie burgers, turkey burgers, and build-your-own burgers. Kooper's also has a case full of Mount Gay red hats (sailors, you know what we're talking about). There's a sign that says you can bring in a hat to trade, as long as it's worth at least as much as what you're getting, or is from a more difficult race (subject to management's approval). We didn't try to trade, but it must be a lot of fun during race week! Wednesday brought more new adventures as we walked back to Fells Point to attend their "Films on the Pier", a movie showing that takes place on the Boardwalk Pier. The event is "BYOC", or "bring your own chair", and there's a good-sized crowd. The movie was "Blind Side", and we finally got to see why Sandra Bullock deserved her Oscar. After the movie, we and our folding chairs found a table at Max's Taphouse, a local watering hole advertising over 100 draft beers and 1000+ bottled beers. (Who thinks this might be a dangerous place for us???) We each had a nightcap before the walk back to the boat, and learned that Max's would be holding their "Rare & Obscure Beer Fest" event that weekend. We knew we'd be back!

We've spent the past week getting to know Baltimore. Neither of us has been here before, and the place has really grown on us. After staying at Anchorage Marina for two nights, we moved the boat to a popular anchorage spot between Anchorage Marina and Baltimore Marine Center. How can you pass this up? There's a dinghy dock at the head of the anchorage, a huge Safeway (complete with Starbucks) across the street, a West Marine two blocks down, another Starbucks next to the bus stop in the Safeway parking lot, not to mention a liquor store, a wine bar, and a Cold Stone Creamery all within sight. For food and shopping, Canton Square is two blocks northeast of our dinghy dock, and historic Fells Point is a mile-long walk along the city's waterfront promenade. The only negative thing we'll say about Baltimore is the harbor: this is officially the MOST polluted body of water we've been in so far! There's trash floating everywhere, and much of it gets caught up in the marshes along the shoreline. Baltimore even has a fleet of "garbage boats" that look like floating bulldozers; they motor around the harbor with their scoops picking up crap, and push the garbage to the back of the boat. It's a losing battle, and we cringed when we watched our neighbor don his snorkeling gear for a waterline cleaning. Yuck!

Baltimore is also famous for its National Aquarium, which hosts over 10,000 species. Besides the usual suspects, there's a tank full of rays and baby hammerheads; a 5-story Atlantic reef tank with sharks, moray eels, tarpon, and other fish; a rain forest exhibit complete with birds, tarantulas, tamarins, and marmosets; an Australian outback exhibit complete with 35-foot waterfall; a jellyfish exhibit; and even a dolphin show. The aquarium covers two piers in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, and is near even more shopping and dining. (We managed to spend a few hours in the aquarium, go across the street for a PF Chang's lunch, and return to spend the rest of the day at the aquarium.) If walking or taking a bus doesn't suit you, there's always the water taxi. For $10, you can get an all-day pass with on/off privileges to over a dozen stops around the inner harbor, Fort McHenry, Fells Point, and Canton.

We decided to try Baltimore's water taxi on Saturday, which gave us a chance to explore the Inner Harbor and the visitor's center. We've gotten so used to closet-sized tourism offices that we were blown away by Baltimore's visitor's center. Situated between the Science Center and Phillip's Seafood restaurant, Baltimore's visitor's center offers city, state, and regional information (brochures, maps, etc.), plus volunteers to help you find the perfect activity and a ticket center to purchase your harbor cruises. Pirate ship? Check. Schooner ride? Yep. Party boat? Sure. Super-fast rooster-tail boat with chickies doing the Macarena? Of course! This place really does have it all. Granted, we don't really need to go on a boat tour of the harbor...getting OFF the boat is our idea of a good tourist day! Not to worry, we found a couple of neighborhood walking tours that got us excited. First up was the historic Mount Vernon neighborhood (not to be confused - as we did - with George Washington's home). Hopping on our trusty bus #11, we rode to Harbor East and started walking uphill...and uphill...and uphill...all the way to the Baltimore Basilica. The Basilica was the first metropolitan cathedral built in the United States after the adoption of the Constitution, and visitors have included Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa. Built from 1806-1821, the Basilica had fallen into disrepair; it recently underwent a 30-month renovation to restore it to its original splendor, and visitors may now tour the area underneath the Basilica which houses a museum, a chapel, and the Archbishop’s crypt.

Next up on our Mount Vernon tour was the Washington Monument - the first monument built to honor George - which pre-dates the DC monument by 50 years. Designed by the same man who created the DC obelisk, this Washington Monument rises 178 feet (vs 555' in DC) and could once be seen by ships entering Baltimore's harbor. From the monument, we wandered up Charles Street, lined with shops, restaurants, churches, and interesting architecture. We found a great little bistro for lunch, and were too full from our sandwiches to partake in the gelatto that greeted us at the door (next time!). Mount Vernon is full of antique stores, restored town homes, and funky little shops. It's a great way to spend an afternoon, and is close enough to both the Inner Harbor and the new Harbor East district if you want to cover multiple tourist spots in a day.

Thursday we met Dave from the catamaran, Hullaballoo, for lunch. (We originally met Dave and his wife, Lisa, through Rick & Linda at a Sojourner happy hour.) Dave took us to Miss Shirley's (thanks, Dave!), a great dining spot not far from the aquarium. We got to catch up a bit, and made plans to visit Dave & Lisa at their home on the Magothy before heading back to Annapolis. After lunch, we took a self-guided walking tour of Federal Hill, which is situated southwest of Harbor Place. Federal Hill was first called "John Smith's Hill", after Captain John Smith spotted the hill in 1608. The hill later became the site of a "marine observatory" and signal tower; the tower allowed approaching ships to be seen up to 15 miles away, thus alerting the local merchants that business was on its way. The city bought Federal Hill in 1880 and turned it into a park; if you ever go to Baltimore, you really should get to Federal Hill Park for an amazing bird's-eye view of the Inner Harbor.

After a 3-hour walk around Federal Hill, our tired feet were ready to hop on a bus, but the Baltimore Police had other plans. Some of you have heard of our travel horror stories before...our arrival at the Bristol, England airport a day after they'd had a bomb scare; our transit back from Ireland through London on the day the underground was bombed. Well, Baltimore now gets a special mention of its own. We were watching our bus slowly make its way down Pratt Street towards us; thanks to horrendous traffic, it had managed to cover two blocks in 20 minutes, and was a block away from us (of course they won't let you on if you're not at an official stop). Just as the bus was about to get the green light that would bring it to us, a police car came zooming down the bike lane against traffic and cut in front of the bus and the other cars waiting at the light. A block ahead of us, another cop car was blocking traffic and forcing it away from the waterfront area. Nearby, a black, unmarked police vehicle (similar in shape to an ambulance) sat next to the curb...SWAT team or Bomb Squad? It became very apparent that we weren't going to find a bus to get home, so we decided to start walking. Hold it...pedestrians weren't allowed to go any further along the waterfront, either. What's going on? The officer began to say something, then said he wouldn't tell us anything at that time. However, we overheard two officers talking about a suspicious suitcase that had been found a couple blocks away. We were told we'd have to detour eight blocks before we could get back to the waterfront promenade. Thank god it wasn't quite that far! Strangely, we never heard anything else about the scare - there was nothing on the local news or on the internet afterward. Go figure.

That weekend we got to welcome one of Stacy's college friends to the boat. Stacy's family may remember Jennifer as Lexie cat's first mom; Stacy's mom adopted Lexie when Jen left Embry-Riddle. Jennifer and her family live in New York now, but she flew down to BWI to spend a couple of days with us. The girls hadn't seen each other in 14 years, so it was quite a reunion! We showed Jen Fells Point and the Inner Harbor, and met up with another college friend, Becky, for dinner Saturday night. We had a terrific time together, and will try to keep up with each other better than we've done so far. (Facebook has made the process much easier!)

We're finally leaving Baltimore on Wednesday. We've really enjoyed getting to know Baltimore, but we're ready to see what else the Chesapeake has to offer. First up, we're meeting up with Lisa & Dave from the catamaran, Hullaballoo, on the Magothy River. Dave has also told us that Chestertown, a college town nearly 30 miles up the Chester River, is well worth a visit; we'll likely head there from the Magothy, and will then explore the Wye East and pay St. Michaels another visit. We have two weeks before we're due back in Annapolis for Rene's mom's visit, so we're hoping the weather will agree with our plans to explore a few more anchorages. Til next time...

Pictures for this Blog chapter:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back to Annapolis Via "the Hub"

Saturday, July 31 - Monday, August 9, 2010
Okay, it's official...we've now been to Solomons more often than any other spot in the Chesapeake. For one thing, it's a very convenient town for cruisers. As we've mentioned before, there's a grocery, a liquor store, and a West Marine a short walk from the Holiday Inn dinghy dock. You can bike around the city, eat at a number of good restaurants, and visit the Calvert Maritime Museum. To be honest, though, we've pretty much done all there is to do in Solomons. Its real draw is its location - Solomons is a perfect jumping-off point to or from Annapolis, the Potomac, the Eastern Shore, or points south. If you want to break a trip into more manageable segments, Solomons is your place.

Having arrived at the Solomons jetties on Saturday afternoon, we found ourselves trying to maneuver among the dozens of sailboats out for pleasure cruises. "Rules of the Road" say that a sailboat under sail almost always has right of way (just don't try that argument if a commercial tanker is barreling down on you); we were motoring into Solomons, and nearly everyone else was under sail. Imagine a pinball machine, and you get the general picture. We dropped the hook at our favorite anchoring spot behind Zahniser's mooring field, and weren't there for 30 minutes before our phone rang. It was Sue and Art from Destiny, and they were in Solomons! Best of all, it was Art's birthday, and we were invited to join them for dinner. Talk about a surprise ending to the day! We were thrilled to see them both, and will hopefully spend more time with Art in Deltaville later this year.

Monday we made our way up to Annapolis. Winds were light, but it made for a comfortable trip. We arrived in Weems Creek before 6pm, and were helped onto a mooring ball by our neighbors. You may remember the blog from our first Annapolis trip: Weems Creek has seven US Navy moorings that are reserved for the Naval Academy patrol boats during hurricanes. If there isn't a storm, cruisers often use the moorings. Well, leave it to us to arrive in Weems Creek when a named storm is brewing in the Atlantic. Granted, there wasn't a single computer model bringing the storm to land, let alone to Annapolis. Still, a skiff with a couple of official-looking gentlemen came by Tuesday morning to tell us we weren't supposed to be on the moorings, and that the Navy could tow our boat if they needed to use the ball. All righty then... One of us (take a wild guess who) got paranoid about getting into trouble or worse, coming back to find our boat gone. Rene had reserved a slip in the harbor on Wednesday morning to have our air conditioner serviced, so we compromised: one of us would stop looking out the window for a Navy tow boat to come confiscate Pipe, and we would drop the anchor in the creek when we came back from the A/C service appointment on Wednesday.

Wednesday we were off the USN mooring by 8am to move Pipe to a slip in the Yacht Basin. We had expected to be on the face dock, so imagine our surprise (borderline terror?) when we were told we'd have a slip mid-way down a very narrow fairway. Rene did an incredible job of getting us into the slip without incident, and Derek from Annapolis Cruisair soon arrived to save us from the heat. Our A/C units had been slowly losing their effectiveness over the past few weeks, and we learned that both were out of freon. Oops... We were back at our anchorage that afternoon, basking in the comfort of two working A/C units. (P.S. Rene chatted with the Annapolis Cruisair office while he was arranging for a dock and the repairs, and we learned that a few of them have begun reading the blog. We have to thank them for doing such an outstanding job, and want to recommend this family-run company to anyone needing A/C work done in the Annapolis area!)

We had also re-connected with friends Skip & Betsy from Ducks in a Row upon our return to Weems. Betsy now works from home on Fridays, meaning she actually gets to spend more nights home than away each week. (We're so happy for her!) They invited us to an incredible home-cooked meal on Friday evening, where Betsy made tenderloin and scallops, with mushrooms, red potatoes, and asparagus. We brought appetizers and dessert, and Rene even crawled into the cellar for a couple of good bottles of vino. Skip's son, Matt, stopped by for a bit, and at some point the Zaya sipping rum came out. Somehow we managed not to get any pictures of the evening...let's just say a good time was had by all. Thanks, Skip & Betsy!

Saturday we met up with Stacy's college friend, Rob, and his wife and daughter, Rachel & Cailin. They live two hours from Annapolis and made the trip up for a visit. Little did we know downtown Annapolis would be such a zoo! Granted, it was a Saturday, and a beautiful one at that. After spending 30 minutes hunting for a parking space, they finally found something across the bridge. Talk about dedication! We had a great visit over lunch, and then brought them back to the boat...we even got to provide Cailin with her first dinghy ride!

We wish we could say this visit to Annapolis has been all good, but we have some very sad news to share. After getting back to the boat Friday night, we discovered that Tawny (our Calico, aka "baby girl") was missing. We looked throughout the boat at all of her usual hiding spots, and then dinghied along the shoreline twice with a spotlight. Rene circled the creek again at sunrise, and repeated the trip a dozen times over the weekend. (We really need to thank Rob and Rachel for being so understanding on Saturday; God knows we weren't the best company, and we really appreciated the distraction.) Our friends and family know how much we love our furry kids, and this has been heart-breaking for us both. We hope Tawny was somehow able to make it to shore, and that maybe she's bringing as much joy to whoever found her as she's given to us. Tux is safe and sound, although he's been much clingier than normal. We're sure he senses how upset we are, and on some level recognizes that his "partner in crime" is missing.

After lots of searches and more tears, we've finally decided to leave Weems Creek and go to Baltimore. We haven't been able to stop scanning the creek and shoreline for some sign of Tawny, and have decided that some new scenery is needed for our mental health. We appreciate all of the kind thoughts and words from our friends and family, and hope that each day will get a little easier.

Yes, It Really IS a Sailboat!

Friday, July 23 - Friday, July 30, 2010
Having made the three-day trip back down the Potomac, we're back in Yopps Creek on the Rappahannock to visit friends Carl & Debi from River Rat. We got quite a surprise at our last anchorage in the Potomac: Art from Destiny called to catch up, and it turns out he was anchored in Reedville, just 15 miles away! We tried to hook up en route to Yopps, but Art was on his way to Solomons to meet his girlfriend, Sue. She was flying in the next evening, and he wasn't about to miss that! So instead of meeting we had to settle for a radio conversation while we crossed a mile from each other in the mouth of the Potomac.

We dropped the hook off Carl & Debi's dock around lunch time on Monday, and gratefully accepted their offer of an air-conditioned room. The next couple of days were supposed to be scorchers, and it was a treat to be off the boat in a cool house. Debi made a fantastic dinner using fresh veggies from their garden, and Carl took us on a massive shopping run the next day. Rarely do we miss having a car, but they sure do come in handy once in awhile! That evening, we made a mess of their kitchen making Rene's "famous" seafood lasagna with white wine reduction sauce. We always jump at the chance to do some serious cooking when we have access to a big kitchen, and it gives our generous hosts a chance to relax. What a perfect combination!

Wednesday afternoon we all piled into our respective boats for a cruise to the Corrotoman River, the next entrance up the Rappahannock from Carl & Debi. The winds were perfect for a day cruise, and Debi & Carl radioed to see if we'd mind just sailing for a bit. Just sailing? Really?? Sadly, that's become somewhat of a foreign concept to us. We've gotten so used to following a designated route (you know, the shortest distance between two points), that we only sail (or motor-sail) if the winds accommodate us. Crazy, we know. So here we were, just five miles from our next anchorage, with plenty of time to just...sail. Engine off, sails up...ahhhhhh. This is what got us started sailing in the first place! We tacked back and forth for two hours, going wherever the wind took us. We only headed in when Carl's satellite weather warned of an approaching storm. It may have been a brief sail, but it reminded us how much we love it. Summer winds on the Chesapeake don't always allow much sailing, but we're going to have to try to do it more often.

After such a great afternoon on the river, we had an easy dinner of grilled steaks and corn aboard River Rat that night and headed upriver to Urbanna the following morning. Winds were light and on the nose, leaving us to motor the 9 miles to the anchorage. Fortunately it was a short trip, and we were anchored off the town dinghy dock in time for lunch aboard. We spent the afternoon wandering along Urbanna's quaint main street, window-shopping and watching some menacing storm clouds overhead. We made it back to the boat by 5pm, only to hear NOAA warning of a line of thunderstorms producing 70mph winds! We secured the boat as best we could, and Rene and Carl each spent the next 90 minutes in the cockpits...engine running, ready to take action if either anchor dragged. Our Manson held up beautifully, but River Rat began dragging half-way through the storm. (Debi had warned us that the holding was poor in Urbanna, and that they sometimes had to re-anchor 5-6 times to get a good set.) The dockmaster from a nearby marina radioed River Rat offering dockage for the night, which they happily took once the worst of the storm was over. Thankfully we never saw winds above 35mph; there was already plenty of excitement to go around! After the storm, we went back to our original plan: dinner at Cafe Mojo. The food and company were fantastic, and we really enjoyed our visit. Carl & Debi have offered to take us to the airport in October, so we'll be seeing them again in a few weeks. Thanks, guys!

River Rat left for home early Friday morning, so we worked our way down the Rappahannock towards our next destination, Reedville. We managed to sail part of the way - gorgeous! - but we had to drop anchor at the mouth of the Rap. Northerly winds were steady at 20kts with gusts of 25+, and the waves were miserable. We'd made such good time down the Rappahannock that we decided to hunker down until after noon when the winds were supposed to subside. Wouldn't you know, they never went below 15kts. We finally headed out after 1pm and slogged our way through the waves to Reedville. We made it to our anchorage in time to savor the fishy aroma from the menhaden plant over a G&T. (Note to Stacy's family: if I haven't said it before, Reedville is worse than the old "Aroma of Tacoma". Think paper mill PLUS day-old cat food. Aren't you jealous?!) Admittedly, Reedville isn't our favorite stop on the Chesapeake, but we've learned that there's a ferry from Reedville to Tangier Island. Tangier is supposed to be a unique trip in itself, albeit one for a ferry ride thanks to a shallow entry channel and a lack of anchorages. Stacy calls the ferry office Friday afternoon: "we'd like to reserve two spots on tomorrow's ferry to Tangier." A long pause... So you know those movies where someone tries to get a reservation for THE hot restaurant of the moment, and the response through the phone is invariably laughter from a snippy maitre 'd? Well, the woman at the ferry office was very nice, but the feeling was pretty much the same...don't even THINK about getting on a Saturday ferry at the last minute!

Truth be told, we're not up for spending another day in Stinky-ville so we can see Tangier. We may be in too much of a rush back to Deltaville to go at the end of September, but we'll play it by ear. In the meantime, we're heading back to Annapolis after a quick stopever in Solomons. Art and Sue are up in Annapolis now; while we may not make it in time to see Sue before she flies home, we'll hopefully hook up with Art for the first time in the Chesapeake...finally!