Time for Crab Cakes: Chesapeake Bay to New York Harbor / April 24-May 15, 2003
April 24, 2003 / Norfolk, Virginia to Dozier's Regatta Point Marina, Deltaville, VA
We had originally planned to leave Norfolk yesterday, but high winds changed our minds. And if we had left then, we'd have missed seeing fellow AGLCA members Frank and Barb Wiegand, who had just that morning finished their Loop. Congratulations! We also would have missed seeing a sailboat with a great name--"Blame It on Buffett." (See? We aren't the only ones.)
Today we had blue and sunny skies, even though the winds were less pleasant than we would have preferred, coming from the northeast and building up some good-sized waves. Maggie didn't like the amount of bouncing we were doing, so she headed below and curled up on the bed in the aft cabin. We could not coax her out until we arrived at the marina later in the day.
Not being familiar with this part of the Bay, and not wanting to follow the ICW line out into the Bay's middle, we used some of the recommended sailing lines in the ADC Chartbook of Chesapeake Bay, choosing courses that took us closer to Virginia's western shore. We found fewer crab pots when we stayed in those channels than when we ventured out of them in an attempt to shorten the distance between our original waypoints.
Our route to Deltaville, VA from Norfolk took us 61.6 statute miles. We had reservations at Dozier's Regatta Point Marina and planned to buy gas there, but they do not yet have a fuel dock, despite what their ad and entry in this year's Mid-Atlantic Waterway Guide says. Just across the creek from them is Norview Marina, whose price for gasoline was $1.899 and for diesel, $1.39. BoatU.S. membership knocks off an extra 10 cents/gallon. We were told that Dozier's plans to put in a fuel dock, but we saw no evidence yet. They are working on constructing floating docks (also advertised)--but these aren't ready yet either--and the advertised satellite TV was also reportedly not working. We get rather irritated with places that advertise features they do not have--would it hurt to say "Coming in 2003" or "Under construction"??
We nonetheless spent a quiet, peaceful evening after taking the courtesy car into town and shopping at BoatU.S. and a local grocery store (there's also a West Marine). Maggie had to be lifted off the boat onto the fixed dock, but enjoyed exploring the quiet surroundings, even though she found no fuzztails. She'll give one squirrel to Dozier's Regatta Point.
April 25, 2003 / Deltaville, VA to Zahniser's Yachting Center, Solomons, MD
Today the winds were different, coming from the east and gradually shifting to southeast. What a big and welcome difference in comfort levels! Maggie didn't trust our assurances that today's ride would be smoother, and she spent the morning in the cabin below, but by lunchtime, she was ready to rejoin us on the bridge.
The Bay is so big that it's hard to judge distances. Some of our runs between waypoints were hard to steer, as there was nothing but water on the horizon. We were always glad to see a lighthouse or tower. Not many boats on the water, apart from those of Maryland watermen, whose work keeps us well fed with seafood. Crab cakes tonight!
Our tailwinds helped us cover 64.3 statute miles in a little less than seven hours. We arrived at Zahniser's Yachting Center in Solomons well ahead of the predicted rainstorm, which got there a couple of hours after we did. Zahniser's regular transient dockage rate is $1.80/foot, but we got here early enough in the season to qualify for the winter rate of $1.00/foot, plus $8 electricity for 50 amp service. We enjoyed dinner at the excellent restaurant on site (The Dry Dock). We also enjoyed walking around this quaint bayside town, even in the rain. So did Maggie, who found not only squirrels to chase, but also lots and lots of rabbits. She needs some help getting on and off the boat at low tide, but that's her only complaint. Three squirrels for Zahniser's (telephone (410) 326-2166).
April 27, 2003 / Solomons, MD to The Yacht Basin Co., Annapolis, MD
Ever so often you get one of those days that reminds you how glorious boating can be. This was one of those days. Light clouds in the early morning gave way to bright sunny skies, and the light northwest winds were no impediment to our voyage north. Even the crab pots were in less abundance along the route, though the amateur fishermen were certainly out in numbers. They tend to hang out along the deep underwater cliffs, which you can find by looking at the contour lines on the charts.
It's early in the boating season in this part of the world, but as we got closer to Annapolis, it became evident that those who were out wanted to know who else was out there, wanted to advertise themselves on the VHF radio, or just wanted to vent on the air: "Mary B, Mary B, Mary B, this is Fair Winds. Do you have your ears on?" "Hey, are you catching any rockfish over there?" "You schmuck, you cut me off." Lots and lots of chatter on Channel 16. Fortunately the marinas monitor Channel 9 up here, or we might never have gotten a chance to call in as we neared the docks.
We arrived at The Yacht Basin in Annapolis (telephone (410) 263-3544) in mid-afternoon, winding our way around the flurry of sailboats in the harbor approach. We chose this marina because of its location, right on Compromise Street and below the Spa Creek bridge. We were put in a rather narrow slip near the back of the basin, which we thought would be protected, but between the wakes of all the boats and the swells coming across the Bay, we rocked and rolled pretty violently, banging and scraping against the pilings. Let us define "narrow slip": only enough room to put out fenders on one side of the boat. And by the time we figured out that the rocking was not just a Sunday afternoon phenomenon, we had already paid our dockage for the coming week, a reduced, nonrefundable rate. Oh well. It was still a good location to meet our guests for the week, Gary's sister Nancy and her husband Charlie. We'll spend some time sightseeing in the Annapolis/D.C. area, and weather permitting, do some Eastern Shore cruising with them before they head back to Little Rock.
Late April and early May is a wonderful time to visit Annapolis. If all the flowering trees, shrubs, and other perennials weren't pretty enough, there are also gorgeous flower baskets on the doors and porches of so many of the historic buildings and homes, thanks to the local garden clubs. Add to that the midshipmen in their summer whites, and you have many great photo ops. And strangely, none of the end-of-the-year school field trips seem to target Annapolis, as they do Norfolk and Washington. The only day we saw a lot of pre-teens on the streets of Annapolis was the day that Ben & Jerry's gave out free samples, and those kids were from the local St. Mary's High School.
The fixed piers and constant rocking made Maggie uncomfortable getting on and off, and for that matter, simply staying on the boat--but she very much enjoyed exploring the narrow picturesque streets of historic Annapolis, even though it seemed that all the squirrels had migrated to the few places dogs were not allowed, like the grounds of the State House and St. John's College. Her squirrel rating for The Yacht Basin at Annapolis is two .
May 4, 2003 / Annapolis, MD to Mears Yacht Haven, Oxford, MD
We wanted to give Nancy and Charlie a (literal) taste of the Eastern Shore, so we set out to find the best crab cakes. First stop had to be Oxford's Robert Morris Inn, dating from 1710, where James Michener outlined his novel Chesapeake (slightly later than 1710) and pronounced the crab cakes #1 (definitely occurred later than 1710). Trouble was, the Robert Morris Inn serves two kinds of crab cakes--one lightly breaded and fried, one baked and pretty much unadulterated by bread. Decisions, decisions. Charlie opted for the platter that featured both. We decided that both kinds are great.
We stayed at Mears Yacht Haven (telephone (410) 226-5450), located on Town Creek on the back side of Oxford's peninsula--same place where Gary and I practiced backing into a slip when we took the powerboat handling course from Annapolis Sailing School four years ago. Fortunately we were assigned to an easy side tie-up this time (one of the occasional advantages of having a big-beamed boat). While the boating season may have officially opened from the marina's perspective (we were charged $2.00/foot + $6 for electricity), we saw little evidence of other transient boaters on this Sunday visit. Mears sells gasoline for $1.899 and diesel for $1.499.
Maggie found not only squirrels and ducks to chase, but also swans (okay, the truth--we didn't let her chase the swans) and rabbits. And the resident marina dogs were friendly. Mags gives three assorted squirrels to Mears Yacht Haven.
May 5, 2003 / Oxford, MD to St. Michaels Marina, St. Michaels, MD
St. Michaels has more to see and a lot more places to shop than Oxford does, so it was a good stop for us and our guests. It can't be more than 10 miles from Oxford as the crow flies, but by water, it was 41 miles to cruise down the Choptank River, circumnavigate Tilghman Island, and run up the Miles River. We were pleased with the facilities at St. Michaels Marina (telephone (410) 745-2400), but glad we arrived on a weekday, when dockage rates are $1.50/foot. On Saturdays and holidays, it goes up to $3.00/foot. Fuel prices ease the pain a bit--$1.799 for gasoline and $1.499 for diesel.
Great location for seeing the harbor and being seen by other boaters, restaurant patrons, and sightseers (we'd recommend advance reservations if you come during the busy season). It's an easy walk into town, to the museums, to two quite good grocery stores, to the post office, and to at least a dozen good restaurants. We chose one of the classic St. Michaels restaurants, the Crab Claw, and can happily report that they also serve quite excellent crab cakes.
And while you're at the St. Michaels Marina, whatever you do, don't miss seeing the Weather Stone.
May 6, 2003 / St. Michaels, MD to Annapolis Landing Marina, Maritime Republic of Eastport, MD
After two days of intermittent rain and threatening weather reports, we thought it best to head back toward Annapolis, where Charlie and Nancy had left their car, but finding a quieter marina this time around. We followed the recommendation of fellow Loopers Frank and Barb Wiegand, going to Annapolis Landing Marina (telephone (410) 263-0090) on Back Creek in Eastport. Good recommendation, too (thanks). Eastport has officially been annexed by Annapolis, but asserts its personality and pseudo-independence by proclaiming itself the Maritime Republic of Eastport (you'll see MRE bumper stickers on cars, MRE flags on houses).
Quiet water, roomy slip, two laundry and shower areas, courtesy car, and dockage at $1.50/foot with BoatU.S. discount, plus $10 for electricity. Discount coupons for the water taxi, if you want to get over to the historic part of Annapolis by water. Great play/poop area for the resident dogs, and it was easy to dip into the waters of Back Creek to cool off--um, we're talking about what Maggie did. We used the showers on the boat. She rates this place with four swimming squirrels. We'll say goodbye to Nancy and Charlie tomorrow morning and head for Baltimore.
May 7, 2003 / Eastport, MD to Inner Harbor East Marina, Baltimore, MD
The last few days have been smothered by morning fog, which has usually burned off by about ten a.m. Today seemed the same, so when the blue skies opened up over Eastport about 1015, we headed out and north up the Bay. About an hour and a half into the cruise, however, we found ourselves in quite heavy fog. Turn on that radar! And let's cruise just slightly outside the major shipping channel. We heard a big cargo ship, Top Leader, announcing herself to smaller boats in the channel: "Sailing vessel just west of marker 24, this is the big ship that is headed toward you. Please move out of the channel." You betcha. We saw Top Leader on the radar long before we saw her materialize out of the fog. She told us to pass on her port side, which was a good thing, as we were already there and would not have had time to go anywhere else to get out of her way.
The fog continued all the way up the Patapsco River into Baltimore, where we continued to run just outside the channel and passed well north of two more big ships headed out of the port. Neither of them seemed interested in letting smaller boats know to get out of their way. We appreciated all the more the courtesy of Top Leader in announcing her passage down the Bay.
The fog was slowly clearing as we approached Baltimore's Inner Harbor. We opted for a slip at Inner Harbor East Marina (telephone (410) 625-1700), a large but uncrowded marina that is in close walking distance of Little Italy, Fell's Point, and all the shops, restaurants, entertainment venues, and museums of the Inner Harbor area. We enjoyed the floating docks, the 24-hour security and locked gates to the docks, the computer phone jack, and the general atmosphere. The Inner Harbor area is vibrant and growing. We were dismayed, however, by the actual condition of the water of the Inner Harbor--thick gray-green, with trash (styrofoam cups, cigarette butts, plastic bags, you name it) floating everywhere. We've never boated anywhere with such filthy water. And yet the marina staff thought it necessary to post a sign telling visitors that the oily yellow scum on the water was pollen, not pollution. To us, the pollen slick was nowhere near as disturbing as all the ordinary garbage that bobbed around. Maggie couldn't find any squirrels either, and precious little grass on which to do her business. Since she liked trotting down the sidewalks like a city dog, however, she's giving two squirrels to Inner Harbor East Marina.
The weather across the country has been nasty this week. Here in Baltimore we're not experiencing tornadoes, but we do have fog and rain. We'll stay here at least a couple of days until we see a promising forecast for heading farther north.
May 10, 2003 / Baltimore, MD to Chesapeake Inn Marina, Chesapeake City, MD
No dense fog this morning, but the forecast is for thunderstorms this afternoon. We pulled away from the dock at 0800, headed for the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. We had decent visibility, light rain, and winds from the southeast, so we throttled up to beat the weather. Behind us we could see gloomy gray clouds, and a couple of times, some lightning. It never caught us, however, and by the time we approached the Elk River, the rain had stopped and the water had calmed. The C&D canal had been closed earlier in the morning due to fog, but we saw green lights indicating its reopening, so on we went.
We refueled at Schaefer's Market and Marina in Chesapeake City ($1.95/gallon for gas), then headed across the canal to the Chesapeake Inn Marina(telephone (410) 885-2040), located inside a basin on the south side. Shortly after we tied up, we saw a familiar face--it was Jeff Laufer, on Slo Roller,who was docked near us in Norfolk and who is headed for New York. Later we met Frank Dunn on One Grand, flying the AGLCA burgee, and like us, finishing the north half of the Loop over the next few months.
We walked around the village of Chesapeake City, which is filled with small homes built in the mid- to late-19th century. Maggie looked in vain for squirrels, but still seemed happy to explore, or to stop for a few minutes when small children asked to pet her. She didn't like the noise and wakes from the cigarette boats and runabouts that kept the basin waters churning until dark. She figures two squirrels is a fair rating for Chesapeake Inn Marina.
The Chesapeake Inn (telephone (410) 885-2040) is a popular place, with fancy upstairs restaurant and casual dockside eating and entertainment. The docks were busy, too, as boats from Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey came and went all afternoon. The outdoor tables were fully occupied and the live music was enjoyable, though the songs played by the bands were less and less familiar to us as the evening proceeded (at 9:23 p.m., "Gary, is that 'music' or thunder I just heard?" "Music."). But hey, it felt okay--maybe summer will arrive before long. This seems to be a sign. We are ready.
May 12, 2003 / Chesapeake City, MD to Utsch's Marina, Cape May, NJ
While the weather wasn't great, it was decent enough and the morning winds calm enough that we thought it would be a good time to make the run down Delaware Bay. We left Chesapeake City at 0644 and entered Delaware Bay on a falling tide, which, coupled with westerly winds, meant that if we moved fast enough, we could traverse the Bay before the seas built up. In addition, we plotted a rhumb (straight) line from Ship John Shoal Light to the western entrance of the Cape May Canal, which kept us out of the ship channel and shortened the distance traveled. And then, in an attempt to appease the Boating Gods (B.G.s), we put some music by the Brothers Gibb (Bee Gees) on the CD player. It must have worked.
We arrived at the Cape May Canal entrance at 1136, and we were careful to stay on the north side of the canal as we passed the ferry docks, as we had been warned of 1-foot depths at mid-channel in that spot. The huge ferries that run between Cape May and Lewes, Delaware must kick up a lot of mud and sand, which builds in the channel south of their docks. The advised strategy was a good one, as no ferries were backing out as we came past and as there was plenty of water in the dock area. Not long after we passed this spot, however, we did hear a boat calling SeaTow because it had gone aground just south of the ferry docks. Once again we are very glad to belong to the AGLCA, whose members are super about passing on relevant information. Fuel prices to our south seem to be dropping from what we paid just a few weeks ago, so we can only hope that this welcome development is also spreading north.
We refueled and docked at Utsch's Marina (telephone (609) 884-2051) at 1220, getting settled in before the really nasty wind gusts hit. Gas here is $1.899; diesel is $1.499. We have floating docks, but the boater's Internet lounge and new shower/laundry area is not open. They still charged us regular season dockage rates--$1.75/foot. Maggie has looked in vain for squirrels, but has found only cats (who are probably the reason for the squirrel shortage). She will award two mewing squirrel stand-ins to Utsch's Marina. We will spend a couple of days in Cape May, walking down to the historic district and waiting for a good weather window to run up the New Jersey coast.
May 14, 2003 / Cape May, NJ to Brielle Marine Basin, Brielle, NJ
The weather window we were waiting for opened tall and wide. We left Cape May at 0652 under sunny skies and very light winds from the northwest (landward). As we will be running about a mile offshore, light northwest winds are good, as they mean we won't have to fight big waves. We took advantage of the weather conditions and ran fast for a couple of hours, covering the 102 statute miles in a little more than nine hours.
We used the Manasquan Inlet to return from the ocean, refueling and docking at Brielle Marine Basin (telephone (732) 528-6200), which is just west of the railroad bridge. Gas was $1.649; diesel was $1.279--all right! Let's keep up this trend, please.
Brielle more than made up for Maggie's squirrel deprivation--they were scampering in yards, across the streets, up and down the tree trunks--she didn't know which way to point. And every once in a while during our walks, a rabbit would hop across her field of vision. She was happy about everything except our failure to let her off the leash. Three
playful squirrels for Brielle.
May 15, 2003 / Brielle, NJ to Liberty Landing Marina, Jersey City, NJ
If our luck held out and we kept the Boating Gods appeased by playing enough Bee Gees tunes over the stereo system, we hoped we might merit fair conditions to run all the way to New York Harbor. It did, they were, and we were tickled to have mostly calm seas and light winds for today's 47.5 mile run. We could see the Verrazano Narrows Bridge long before we reached it, but as we passed under it and followed the channel to the northeast, New York Harbor was spread out before us--the Statue of Liberty on our left side; Battery Park and the Financial District off to our right; cargo ships at anchor awaiting harbor pilots to take them into the wharves; Coast Guard patrols and cutters keeping every one on their best behavior; ferries dashing north, south, east, and west.
Liberty Landing Marina (telephone (201) 985-8000) is on the Jersey side of the Hudson River, just a little north of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and a short ferry ride across the river from lower Manhattan. What a beautiful view of the skyline, even though the absence of the World Trade Center towers is heartbreaking. Dockage is pricey ($3.00/foot), but we felt it was worth it to have such easy access to the City and to have a sheltered berth, on a floating dock, with good security in a calm canal basin. Gas and diesel are available, but we didn't buy any, so didn't get the prices. Liberty State Park is adjacent to the marina, so Maggie had lots of room for romping and chasing Canadian geese. Two migrating squirrels for Liberty Landing .
The ferry drops passengers at the World Financial Center, just a block from Ground Zero--now of course a massive hole in the ground, but construction crews hard at work--seeing it was sad and uplifting at the same time. We plan to do a lot of walking, some subway riding, and a little exploration of places we've not seen before--like the Lower East Side, Chinatown, and Tribeca--and stroll a bit up and down Fifth Avenue, too. Coleen thought we should make a sign ("Came from Arkansas--by boat") and try to get Al Roker to interview us on the Today Show, but Gary wouldn't go for it. He didn't want to try to find Bill's office up in Harlem, either. Oh well. We will enjoy a couple of days in New York and get ready to begin Leg 10. We are ready to return to fresh water, rivers, and locks, our natural boating habitat.