Well, did I mention this place was packed? Like a sardine can?
Yep, we’ve not been packed in so tight since we were in a place called Lagoon Cove in British Columbia, Canada doing the peak of the season. They squeezed boats into every possible nook and cranny this weekend here in St. Michael’s. If you arrived first you were stacked in the back according to size. The dock guys are the best valets I’ve seen in a long time. It was comical to watch as they hopped from boat to boat with the agility and elasticity of monkeys stretching toes out to push off boats from hitting others and confidently pulling others into slips that I thought would be impossible. Once you were in, there was no getting out at least until your late arriving neighbors decided to hit the water the next day for another destination. It was a good thing we planned to stay put for a couple days as we wondered how we’d ever get out of here. It provided some great entertainment though.
The migration of boats would come and go about 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM everyday. So if you wanted to get in or out you had better plan on at least trying to do so between that window of the day. Fortunately when we finally left St. Michaels it was a Monday and the mad rush of the weekend was pretty much over. The marina got emptier and emptier as they all disappeared and went back to work I guess.
FUNNY AND SCARY ANTICS
Just hanging around the marina was pretty entertaining. Besides the docking there were other antics as well. One guy in particular tops the cake. It was the silliest thing and yet so frightening to watch as he tried to get his dinghy back up on his boat. Since we were all so packed in he couldn’t get it up and on the boat the regular way so got inventive. He tried to lift it up and over the bow sprit.
He got himself in such a predicament that at one point he was stuck and his main ship was tipping precariously to one side from the off balance weight of the dinghy. He was stuck in this position for the longest time and finally decided to swing it around and over the foredeck of his neighbor’s boat and that’s when he almost dropped it. Finally he slammed in to the next door neighbor’s windshield which brought the neighbor out immediately.
All the while this he was doing this the goofy guy’s two small kids were running amuck on the bow of his boat looking at some ducks in the water with the props of the dangling dinghy swinging just a few short feet of them! Another man and I watched from across the marina in shock and awe and at first laughed at the hilarious antics and then in horror at the vulnerable kids. It all happened so quickly and was over before anyone could warn the nut. He with the help of the stunned neighbor finally managed to get the dinghy in its cradle only by pure brut force if nothing else.
I think the marina was so crowded because it was kind of the last hurrah weekend before people started putting their boats away for the season. We were having spectacular weather and perhaps they thought it might be their last until the cold weather set in. They were pretty accurate if that was the assumption as the whether did change quite a bit for the worse after we left.
A weather system moved up our way followed by several days of stormy weather. Kyle was heading up the Atlantic Coast and though 100 miles off shore was creating havoc all along the Eastern Coast.
So maybe it was their last one last hurrah!
DOG AND PEOPLE FRIENDLY
St. Michael’s is a very dog friendly place. Water bowls are not an uncommon sight at the doorsteps of shops all along main street so a hot thirsty pooch could refresh himself as he accompanied his master shopping.
Ziggy and other well behaved dogs were welcome at every outdoor restaurant that we decided to go in to! He wasn’t turned away once.
We especially liked the restaurant and people at the St. Michael’s Marina. The food was great, the people friendly and it was just a few steps from the boat. We’d just step off the boat, go a few steps, sit at a table and Voila table service!! I think I could get spoiled here.
Actually the people all over town were friendly.
The town has lots to do and see, great little stores and all within walking distance. Everywhere we go people talk to you and have a great sense of humor.
It’s always fun to see the Maritime Museum too or just take long walks down their shady colonial streets admiring the beautiful restored houses, lovely gardens, oyster shell paths and classic boats docked in front of their green lawns that curve down to the water.
KIRKIN OF THE TARTANS
Sunday morning we were fortunate to see what they call the “Kirkin of the Tartans” a once a year event. Some of the towns folk dressed in full regalia of kilts and tartans and slung bag pipes over their shoulders as they marched and played bagpipes down Main Street heading to Sunday Service. Their destination was St. Michael’s historic Christ Church established in 1672!
The entire congregation was dressed for the occasion pulling out of their closets bits and pieces of their family plaids. It’s an ancient tradition that now has become a hand me down Scottish American tradition. It can be traced back to the 1600’s when the Scott’s were forbidden by the government to wear their tartans in the Scottish Highlands so they secretly brought patches and pieces of their family plaid hidden under clothing to Sunday church to be blessed.
Of course the main reason for coming to St. Michaels was to say “hello” to our good friends Bill and Bonnie Wilson and their pooches Nautica and Denver. They have two fabulous Leonberger dogs, a rare breed originally from Germany. Those dogs are definite show stoppers no matter where you go. They are a cross between a St. Bernard and Newfoundland, so you can imagine, they are big dogs. I think Denver, the male, weighs in about 155 pounds.
They have sweet temperaments and are very intelligent which proved true by their amazing tolerance of Ziggy and his big ego. Their coats are beautiful like a lion’s man, thick and reddish brown. You feel like you are in the midst of celebrities when you are with them as you are constantly being interrupted by people asking questions and wanting to pet them. It’s kind of like being mobbed by the paparazzi but unlike Ziggy they deal with the attention with grace and dignity and lots of tolerance.
I think Ziggy was a bit jealous by them and the attention they were getting as every once in awhile I’d hear a little cryfull bark from Zig expressing some annoyance. Zig looked like a little peanut beside them but nevertheless still held his own and tried his best to convince them he was boss, but in reality, I think he just plain decided it was best to go with the flow and not get too bossy. It was a funny sight to see the three of them walking together around town and stretched out in some local restaurants while we ate. Somehow they did just fine together.
HAMMERING AND PICKIN’
I know the Chesapeake is famous for crab but did I mention how much crab is consumed in St. Michael’s? No? Well, LOTS! And LOTS!
It was so funny so see all the people eating crabs here. It’s a lot of work to eat these crabs. You don’t just eat them; you have to hammer them first. I’ve never been to a restaurant filled with people hammering at the tables. It makes quite a racket and it’s messy too so the restaurants bring a big piece of butcher paper to lie across the top of your picnic table. Then they bring you a bucket, a roll of paper towels and a wooden mallet one for each crab consumer to hammer those crabs.
Pretty soon after placing your order along comes the waitress with a big tray full of steamed crabs seasoned with Bay Seasoning. They are in a big mound all piled on top of each other. She just dumps the crabs right out on the table on the butcher paper. Plates aren’t required. That’s when you get to start hammering followed by pickin’. It takes it seems hours to get all those crabs hammered and picked but people like doing this. Yep, that’s how they eat crabs in the Chesapeake.
Some people prefer soft shelled crabs. These are exactly as the name says, soft and kind of shell less. They are fried up and seasoned and then the whole fried crab is slapped between two slices of what looks like Webbers plain white bread with the legs, head and claws just hanging out the sides. Some people are eating these too but me and Larry? Well, we prefer crab cakes if we have to eat crabs. They are already picked and seasoned and fried up nicely in a round mound and the main thing is they are easy to eat.
WEATHER SYSTEM APPROACHING
We were sad to leave but had procrastinated long enough. We had to get moving south. We also were dallying a bit because we were waiting on a part to arrive at Campbell’s Boat Yard. Yep, one more little loose end on the boat to take care of. It’s a spring mechanism for the forward hatch and if it arrives in time, we’ll be headed back to Campbell’s again for a quick fix and if it doesn’t arrive by Tuesday we’re going to skip it. We got the call though as the part arrived, so off we went back again to Oxford.
We could feel a weather system approaching. Last night the winds were blowing through the harbor and wavelets were slapping the side of the boat all night even though we were snug and protected in the innermost part of the marina. The air was becoming thick, wet and damp though not raining. The humidity was growing to about 80% but the temps were dropping to the sixties. It felt strange.
We were watching the weather reports. Gale force warnings were predicted for tomorrow, Tuesday after noon, between Smith Point and Windmill Point where we were headed. If we can get the hatch fixed early the next morning we’ll leave with the tide and wind on our side and get to Solomon’s before the storm is due to arrive. That will be a good place to hole up for a couple days waiting out the storm. There we can get protected dockage and have restaurants, groceries and a West Marine nearby.
Other Photos of St Michaels
FOR THE QUICK FIX
We left St. Michael’s in the afternoon and headed back to Oxford for the “quick fix” of our forward hatch. The winds were picking up and the seas getting choppy. You could tell some bad weather was headed this way. We decided to take the short cut again through Knapps Narrows much to my chagrin but it saved us valuable time.
MISTAKE ON THE CHARTS
This time we came through the narrows from the north. Everything went smoothly. When we came out the other side we were on the alert watching out for the shallow area we got ourselves into last time. We did just fine until the very last marker and then things went haywire again. That’s when we realized the last marker didn’t match the electronic charts. We couldn’t believe that it was off but we could only hesitate for a moment as we had to make a quick decision. Which side of the last marker to go? So we took the one that made the most sense to us. Guess we made the right choice as we didn’t rub bottom. The chart was wrong and I guess we didn’t make a “boo boo” like we thought we did the first time through.
It seemed like such a long trip today to Oxford. It’s hard to believe it took us so long to get there when in actuality it’s such a short distance by car. That’s because you have to cruise out past all these long fingers of land to come around and back in to the crotch of the inlet where Oxford was and only a few miles from St. Michaels. All these fingers provide some of the most miles of cruising shores in one concentration in the entire US.
MORE FUMBLING WITH THE LINES
The winds were blowing 15-20 knots and were blowing us off the dock as we tried to tie up. We had an easy spot right on the end of the T. Again I was fumbling with the lines and those dam posts and felt like the clumsiest person on earth. I was of no help to Larry what so ever. We finally got ourselves secure and settled in for the evening. The boat yard knows we want to get going early as possible in the morning to beat the storm. They don’t know it but there will be an unexpected repair for them as we discovered the water pump stopped working! That means no water so I had to do everything with the dock hose which included cooking, washing dishes and getting water for coffee. Had to use the facilities at the boat yard too, so no showers tonight!
INVASION OF THE FLIES
It wasn’t long after we got settled when the flies showed up for dinner. Who invited them I asked? One by one they arrived and soon it was one big fly party. They were circling and landing on everything thinking it was one big free for all. What pests they are. I was getting crabby. I shut the doors and screens so I could lock the rest of the uninvited guests out and deal with the pesky party crashers that had made themselves at home.
I kept thinking to myself…why did I throw out those fly swatters that the previous owners left on the boat????? Dang it! Now I know why they so thoughtfully left them for us. No problem, I resorted to the old standby, a rolled up newspaper, and began battle. One after another they bit the dust until they were all put to rest. Just the carcasses remained which were quickly cleaned up.
HURRY PLEASE, WE GOT TO GO
Morning came early and workers arrived early to get the things fixed for us. They are a great bunch and have been a pleasure to work with. Everything was a “quick fix” even the water pump. I can’t remember exactly what was wrong with it but nothing major. I was getting nervous though as I watched the winds pick up in the marina and eyed a big thick dark blanket of clouds approaching this way. I wondered if they will they get us out of here before the storm hits?? If not, we’ll be here for a few days waiting out the storm without a car and no supplies and not much to do.
Along with the guys that came to fix the hatch and water pump came the next batch of fly’s disguising themselves as workmen. I wasn’t fooled by their sad act and so began to swat again…bam, smack, smack. The flies don’t seem to bother the locals. I guess they are used to all these bugs living on the East Coast. I mentioned the flies to Tom Campbell and he said the "A cold front gets the flies in a panic and they try to get inside where ever they can but normally they aren’t a problem." These particular flies hung around for days as several hitched rides to our next destination, the Solomon’s. They were the clever quick ones that we could never get a good shot at. They outsmarted me every time with their quick get-a-ways and clever hiding places.
THESE DANG POLES!
We said our goodbyes again but made them short as were anxious to get out of there because of the weather. The wind as I said was picking up. I had looped all the lines around the poles this time so I could release them from the boat for a quick get away. All went fine until the very last line. It was getting hung up on the rough edges of the pole. The wind was pushing the boat away quickly that I couldn’t get the round unwound fast enough. I finally just had to throw the line on the dock and then hope to pull it around the pole and back to the boat that way. It worked just fine until the line got tangled at the end in a knot stuck itself between the dock and the pole!!
I yelled at Larry. The line was so tight now that something was going to pop. There was no way to give it any slack to even get it off the cleat on the boat because the wind was too strong. I just couldn’t get it lose. It was almost time for a knife to cut the line when Larry left the helm coming out quickly and with some amazing pure brut force pulled it free and off we went. Larry to the rescue again! And yes sadly as much as I hate to admit it, it was yet another failed attempt on my part at handling the lines for this boat. My nerves were severely bruised and my confidence level low.
We headed out the Choptank River toward the Bay. The seas were on our beam so it was going to be a wobbly ride until we got into the Bay where we will change course and the wind and seas should be on our stern which will make for an easier ride. Ziggy was nervous and beginning to shake and pant. I put him on my lap and that’s were he stayed for the duration of the trip. He’s a smart little guy and you’d think he’d get this figured out by now but his fear never goes away when the seas are rough. So the only thing you can do is hold him and try to comfort the little feller.
The seas were pretty rough, maybe 3 feet and on our beam. They could be smaller I guess as everything looks bigger when you are riding low to the water. I have no idea what the wind was clocking but we had white caps so must be 15 plus knots. The boat was wobbling without stabilizers, but she was handling the seas with ease and confidence but try and tell that to scared little Ziggy.
SIGHTS ALONG THE WAY
We passed leaning Sharpes Light. Even though I was curious to see it, I wasn’t even interested today with the uncomfortable seas and drenched windows from the spray splashing off the waves. You just have to stay put during these conditions.
SHUDDER AT THE THOUGHT
You could see in the distance the light colored shores of Calvert Cliffs and the strange and monstrous nuclear power plant nearby. It’s an ominous sight. Amazingly only just a few miles further are the big concrete docks where the Goliath-like freighters carrying LNG (liquid natural gas) dock and unload. I shudder to think of the big boom these two places could make being so close together. The decision to have these two controversial plants here is surprising.
We saw not another mariner on the bay that day. What fool would be out here with gale force winds predicated in a few hours? I guess most people were already hunkered in getting ready for the next few days.
We could see Cove Point Light in the distance. It cluster of charming buildings would make a good picture but not today as it was just too rough. Zig and I just stayed put.
We finally made our way around Drum Point and headed towards the channel markers to Solomon’s. It was blowing even more down Patuxent River and the seas whipped up into steep short 3 footers. A few waterman type boats were outside the channel markers still working in this mess dressed in their orange rubber pants held up by suspenders. The tending of their crab pots goes on no matter what the weather throws them I guess.
We finally made our way past the channel markers and into the protection of Solomon’s. Sand Point Marina was our destination today as they managed to find a spot for us even though the place was full due to the Trawler Festival scheduled for the upcoming weekend. Larry said he thinks they will have some cancellations though as boaters coming from the south aren’t going to make it with these weather conditions. Sand Point Marina is located far back in the channel, near the Calvert Maritime Museum, West Marine, a great grocery store and several restaurants so it will be a handy place to be while we wait out a storm.
We hailed the marina to let them know we arrived and decided we’d fuel up before getting settled into our slip. Of course this wasn’t my preference as the winds were at least 15-20 knots but we did it anyway. I guess it makes sense to fill up for a hassle-free-early-get-away when we leave for the next destination. While Larry was filling her up I went by foot to check out the slip assignment. I wanted to get a head start on what we were in for in this wind and my track record for docking was a big “F” right about now. The space they had for us was way back in next to the shore ramp. The turning radius was going to be tight and with these winds I don’t think we’ll want to chance trying to do that. We’re going to have to back her in all the way down the aisle to the slip and then it’s my turn to deal with those dam posts again. Well, you can’t be choosey when they are making room for you when they were full and you’ve got a bad storm coming.
I came back to the fuel dock and reported the situation to Larry. So with the wind blowing like crazy, he backed her down and right in the slip and fortunately for me the dock hand was there to help with the lines and things went unexpectedly smooth considering all the possible scenarios. We were in a protected place and just in the nick of time as the storm was arriving and the winds were really picking up now. The marina also had to move a big catamaran off the end of the T to make way for a big ship that had to come in from the bay for shelter. The marina got out their work skiff and helped to push and maneuver to get him in next to a wall with three other people on the dock to secure her.
WORLD FALLING APART??
Once in our slip there was nothing to do but watch the storm as it progressed. Sadly we had no reception on the Sat TV because we were nestled in behind some tall trees and the only time we could bit a bit of reception was when the tide came up and raised us a few feet so we had a small hole with a shot momentarily to the satellite going by. It would be splotchy reception at best when we did get it. It was frustrating because it seemed the outside world was falling apart with the financial crisis. Last time we looked the stocks were dropping to frightening and catastrophic lows and talks of ridiculous trillion billion dollar bailouts were scaring the heck out of us. We sat there not knowing what was happening. We missed the much anticipated Obama Mc Cain Debate too. We were in limbo land but were safe and sound. All we could do was sit in our little boat watching the thunder, wind and pouring rain for a solid night and day.
Poor Larry wasn’t feeling good the whole time we were here. We think he was bit by a spider in St. Michael’s. The bite eventually swelled up like a tennis ball on the center of his forehead and then began to spread. Our friends Bill and Bonnie had taken him by car to a medical center in St. Michaels and the doctor there put him on some antibiotics and a cortisone cream. But even a few days later he wasn’t improving and was very tired, achy and suffering from terrible headaches.
So we decided it wouldn’t hurt to have it checked one more time while we were here. Fortunately, Solomon’s has about everything a boater needs close by, even an Urgent Care Center. Larry must have been feeling really bad as he rode his bike to the Care Center in the worst part of the storm. He was soaking wet when he got back. He said the Urgent Care Center was great, very professional and organized. The doctor said to continue the antibiotics and take Benedryl and put ice packs on the bite to reduce the swelling. Larry felt miserable the whole time we were there and spent a good amount of time just resting. We didn’t know exactly what bit him but our only thought was that it could be a spider. Nothing was biting me though which was confusing to our diagnosis.
WINDOW TO GO
As I mentioned earlier, The Trawler Fest was this upcoming weekend and we felt sorry for everyone trying to get ready for it. You couldn’t do a blasted thing as it just poured and poured. We kept checking the weather on our satellite reports and figured we could make a quick get away if we left early Saturday morning. There was a short window before the next batch of crap was headed this way. We thought we could make our way as far south as the Rappahannock River if we timed it right with the tide and winds. So it was decided, we were going to make a run for it.
So, Saturday morning we left early with clean laundry done, the boat reprovisioned with fresh produce and a few other necessary purchases at West Marine we left the dock headed for a place called Fishing Bay.
So, not feeling too well, Larry drove the boat in another batch of bad seas. I was fine battling the seas in the Bay but when I saw the ominous looking clouds I got a little uneasy. We checked and figured the winds, current and wave heights but ignored the warnings of thunderstorms. Somehow thunderstorms are never much of an issue when cruising on the West Coast where we come from and we forget that here you need to take them into consideration. Here they can be sudden, quick coming and fierce as we experienced off the Florida Coast in the Nordhavn. I started to get scary flashbacks but Larry said not to worry. Ziggy was shaking and panting again. The boat handled itself well and the dark clouds behaved themselves and after a few hours we were making our way into the marked channel to Fishing Bay with even sunlight and blue skies peaking through a hole in the dark skies. Amazingly a group of sailboats were lined up getting ready for a regatta.
POT OF GOLD
It was like a pot of gold at the end of a dark scary rainbow as every other glimpse of the Bay that day was dark and ominous and here this small patch on the Bay was cheerful and sunny with big puffy white clouds and blue skies. Yep, we were right all those sailboats we saw in the small patch of sun were a regatta and they were right in the marked channel. Larry politely weaved his way through them without disrupting any sailing patterns. They were beautiful out on the water with their colorful spinnakers up contrasting against the dramatic skies.
CHIP ON HER SHOULDER
We followed marker after marker to make a big wide turn around a long pencil of a shoal and back in to the marina at Fishing Bay. Larry called the marina to get instructions and the woman on the other end of the radio rudely told Larry off about the wake he was making. We thought we came in slow. What was she huffing about? She sure didn’t make us feel welcome but at this point we weren’t going somewhere else.
As we began to enter the marina I could see it was going to be another battle with those blasted pier poles again! The aisle to get down to the slip was narrow and Larry had barely enough room to make the turn into the pole infested slip. The rude woman that had been on the radio and a man were waiting on the dock to help get the lines. I thought I had the lines figured out this time and was stumbling around looping my first loop for a spring to keep the boat from going into the dock. While I was doing that the woman yelled at me that I should get the bow line on instead. Well, that threw me off completely and so while I stopped to do that too the boat started swinging over almost into the next slip. I think I should’ve kept to my original plan. Anyway, we got in OK but again I didn’t feel good about doing the lines. The man helping with the lines was friendly and said I did just fine but the woman still had a chip on her shoulder. I don’t quite know what her problem was but you know what, we didn’t care, as we were happy to be there.
KYLE HEADING NORTH 100 MILES OFF COAST
We were happy to be here and to have made our way further south again with all the crazy weather going on off the coast. Kyle was headed up the East Coast but staying about 100 miles off offshore. His expected impact was smack dab for the New England Coast. We have people who emailed us from Block Island who said they left their anchorage and headed into the docks to get ready for the blast. We sure were getting a bit of it out on the Bay each time we headed out and tried to get further south.
PEACEFUL AND QUIET HERE
Even though it was choppy out on the bay, it was quiet and serene here. We had dinner on the boat though we were told some nearby restaurants would gladly come to pick us up and take us back. We were exhausted and just wanted to stay in and since we finally had TV reception again were anxious to get caught up on all the financial disasters! What a mess the US has gotten itself into!
Some other photos along the way