Every time we meet someone who is or has been on the Great Loop the one thing they all seem to say is that it is all about the people you meet. Even though we are only 6 weeks into this adventure, we agree. As you will see from this post, not a day goes by that we have not met someone who has fascinated, amused, impressed, intrigued, or informed us. It is all about the people and we have spent so much time with people that we have neglected this blog post. It is a long one, so sit back and enjoy!
Annapolis, MD & St. Michaels, MD
Several years ago when Mark and I visited Annapolis we talked of one day taking our own boat here. Well, that day came and we could not have picked a better time to be there. It is Commissioning Week (Graduation) for the Naval Academy Midshipmen and there is so much going on. Of course it is crowded and the marina fees are astronomical, but we decided to splurge. Our plan was to get there and get out by Memorial Weekend when all things get really crazy, as if they are not already.
However, before we report on all the fun stuff in Annapolis, there is all the adventures leading up to getting here. We have been trying to strike a balance between moving the boat to the next port, meeting people, enjoying the sites, and working like crazy. Denise had another prospect contact her for more work and Mark is trying to get some projects closed and invoices paid. Hopefully, our future weeks won’t be quite so busy and we can spend more of time enjoying the journey.
Here is a rundown of our activities over the last week or so.
Wednesday (5/13/15) – Wasting away in Deltaville: We were planning to leave after Denise’s webinar yesterday, but we had a change of plans. Although it was a sunny day, the wind was still blowing quite a bit so we decided to sit tight and enjoy all that Deltaville had to offer.
After a short morning run by Denise, and calls with clients for Mark, we used the courtesy car to go into the town of Deltaville to pick up a few things at the grocery store. We also stopped at the local ACE hardware store that sells EVERYTHING – kind of like Miller’s in Winter Park. It is now Denise’s favorite type of store to visit whenever we enter a new town.
In the afternoon we visited with some of the other Loopers in the marina to discuss plans for moving on. We spoke with John (“Endeavour”) who attempted to leave that morning, but turned around at the entrance to the Chesapeake as he was getting beat up pretty badly. Our new friends Paula and Jim (“Palmetto Paradise”) left because they are trying to get up to New York as soon as possible and have done parts of the Chesapeake already. We later caught up with them in Solomon’s Island and they told us we were smart to have stayed in port as it was very rough on the bay.
We decided to cook on the boat tonight and Denise made her famous enchiladas which we love when we are home. However, the corn tortillas were not the same as the one’s used at home, and it was quite a challenge. The food was still good, but we learned a valuable lesson: not all products are alike (lesson #1 of the day).
We also made some Nestlé’s toll house (chocolate chip) cookies. Those of you that know Mark, know that this is his favorite cookie to make and he is a whiz at it in our home oven. However, without a mixer and all our “tools” we opted for the prepackaged cookie dough found in the dairy section of the grocery store. Since we have a microwave-convection oven on the boat, and we know the roasting works great, but we thought the same rules applied for using the convection- bake feature as our home oven (mistake #2). After 30 minutes and several thermostat adjustments we finally had a half-decent batch, but not enough to share with the other cruisers as was our original intent. Some of these were ok and went into the fridge for future nights; others made it into the trash. After that we called it a day and looked forward to tomorrow’s adventures.
Thursday (5/14): We knew the wind was still blowing, but it was considerably calmer and was supposed to die down even more as the day wore one. Finally, at 12:30 we untied the lines in Deltaville and bid Dozier’s and the other remaining cruisers a farewell. John (“Endeavour”) had already left, and Pam & Mark (“Sea Bear”) were heading out after they got a pump-out.
We cruised the 24.1 n miles to Tangier’s Island without much fan-fare in a light chop. We encountered one slow moving tug pushing a barge (“Capt. Ted”) that we could see for miles, but other than that and a few pleasure boats, the bay crossing was uneventful.
We arrived at Tangier’s Island around 2:30 and we were greeted by the infamous Milton Parks (aka “Mr. Parks”).
He is a long-time marina owner and a native of the island with a reputation for telling you EXACTLY how to bring your boat in to the marina. There is a swift current so he will guide you and help you tie up without incident. Mark did as he said and put us comfortably in a slip right near the restroom/showers.
While the marina is nothing to shake a stick at and is quite rustic, it is very clean, convenient, cheap ($35/night), and has good electricity. Unfortunately, as some of you may have experienced, we had little cell phone coverage or internet. Fortunately, we were only staying overnight, so it was not a big deal.
Mr. Parks is a very gracious host and took us on a tour of downtown Tangier – in his golf cart. It is the only real method of transportation on the island, and everyone drives them. The Maritime museum and two of the restaurants were closed as it is not yet “tourist season”, and the ferry had already left for the day. But, he still gave us a grand tour and explained that on the island he calls all the guys “George” and all the women “Love”.
Mr. Park’s is a widower and lives right at the marina in a nice brick home. He takes care of 15 cats that hang out on his front porch or around his house. They have all been “fixed”, but they still seem to be growing in numbers. When he pulls up in his golf cart they come out to greet him and jump in if you have vacated the seat. It is a hoot to watch.
After a quick tour of the island and a few boat chores, we walked to “Lorraine’s” for the requisite crab cake dinner (after all we are in the Chesapeake Bay).
There were a couple of guys on a sailboat who came in behind us at Park’s Marina, and a few locals, but less than 10 people in the restaurant. Also present however, were a couple of women who are an advanced research team (and photojournalists) for a company called Blackfin Productions. They are doing research and initial footage on a series about eroding shorelines and the impact on the people who live there. They are looking to sell this idea to one of the Nat Geo companies (Animal Planet, NatGeo, Discovery, etc.) as they have most recently for other series. We had a great conversation about other projects they have worked on, Ireland (where one was from), and other places they may consider visiting. It was very cool talking to these women and hearing of their adventures.
After dinner we walked down to “Spanky’s Place” for some ice cream and got to experience the locals at play.
Around the back of the (Methodist) church is a playground where you could hear the kids swinging, laughing and experiencing life as it once was for many of us.
Going to Tangier Island may very well be one of the highlights of the Chesapeake Bay. It is like stepping back in time and experiencing a lifestyle that is simple and pure. The people are very friendly and happy, and they are very self-reliant. Less than 650 people now live on the island; most of them are “watermen”; working to make a living off of the Bay in the crab or fishing industry. It is a dying profession and the island is shrinking and displacing many families. Therefore, the interest by the woman from Blackfin. There are so many other crazy things about this place (like how people have graves in their front yards – but now have to go off-Island to be buried because there is no more space). This is a fascinating place and we thank Chris Campbell for encouraging us to cross the Bay to come here. For more information on this beautiful place, check out Tangiers Island.
Here are some of the other sights on Tangier’s:
Friday (5/15) – It was a beautiful morning and we woke up to chirping birds and a gorgeous sky. Since we were both awake early, we left Tangier Island at 7:30 and headed out back to the western shore bound for Solomon’s Island. Sometime around an hour later we entered the state of Maryland – but it is not like you come across a Welcome Center in the middle of the Chesapeake –it is all based on your Latitude & Longitude and we were not really keeping track at this point. In this part of the Bay, the eastern and western shorelines come closer together and so crossing the bay is nowhere near as long as it is further south (like around Norfolk). And yes, Jeanne, we can still see land…..that is unless there is fog!
There were two interesting sightings during this passage across the bay.
The first is an old navy Liberty Ship that is “sunk” in the water, You have to pay attention to the Securite’ that may be issued by the Coast Guard, as the Navy will use it frequently for target practice during training events. As the “Notice to Mariners” advises, you have to stay at least a quarter mile away from it as there are several other sunken vessels that did not pay attention and ran aground on the shoal in which it sits.
The second event was being buzzed by an FA-18 jet that was doing “touch & go’s” at the NAS PAX (Patuxent Naval Air Station). NAS PAX is located on the southern point as you enter the Patuxent River (aka PAX River) off of the Chesapeake. Solomon’s Island is located up the river about 5 miles and is a tourist spot with lots of history.
It took us just under 3 hours to pull into Calvert’s Marina. We chose them as they are a BoatUS partner and offer an excellent rate for members. Its location is up the Back Creek River and not on the side of the river where the spit of land forms the peninsula into the Patuxent River. This was actually a good thing as we avoided a lot of the touristy areas. When Denise pulled the boat into the marina, we were on a long dock right in front of our friends Jim and Paula (“Palmetto Paradise”) and later John (“Endeavour”) whom we met in Deltaville. Of course she did a great job of docking the boat and it was nice to have friendly faces to hand dock lines to.
After checking into the marina and getting the lay of the land, Mark washed the boat while Denise vacuumed and straightened up the inside. We had been invited to a looper Pot Luck by Paula & Jim so Denise made a salad with the remaining spinach from the Yorktown Farmer’s Market that was still fresh. We all gathered together at the picnic tables near our dock at around 6 pm. It was Paul & Jim, as well as John, and we got to meet a new couple – Rob & Corrine (“Ariel”) whose boat we had passed a few times in the Carolina’s.
We had a great time getting to know each other a little better, telling boating stories and sharing our plans until the no-see-ums started to get at us; at which time we headed back to our respective boats for the evening.
Saturday (5/16) – Solomon’s Island: Denise was up at the crack of dawn and took off for a short run from the marina in one of the hottest days we have yet to have on the trip. It felt like a Florida summer day. Although the road had no sidewalk most of the way and she was forced to run on the shoulder, there was no traffic except for a few fisherman headed to their boats for a day on the water. Solomon’s was the initial amphibious training grounds for the Navy and there is a signpost attesting to it at the entrance to the marina from the main road. This was one of the many things that was discovered during the run, along with the new home developments going in all over. It is too bad because right now it is still pretty much an old boat repair and marina-oriented part of the Island, away from the touristy area facing the Patuxent River.
We started the day borrowing the marina courtesy car to go get a spare oil filter for the boat. While we were not 100% sure that we needed it, Mark had noticed the oil pressure had increased slightly, albeit still within appropriate operating range. One suggestion for resolving this is to replace the oil filter; which would also mean an oil change. Since we had a complete engine maintenance done on the boat before we left (with the requisite oil change), we did not feel this was an urgent issue, but still wanted a back-up just in case. And of course, we did not get this item (as well as a few other spare parts) purchased before leaving for our adventure, and now we felt like it would be prudent to make sure we had one on board. The problem is that you just can’t walk into a Wal-Mart and buy an oil filter for a Cummins 600 hp diesel engine.
So, Mark went internet-shopping and determined we could buy one (equivalent substitute) at the NAPA Auto Parts store by the PAX Air base. However, the air base is on the other side of the PAX River and the marina does not allow their loaner car to go there. We went anyway (sometimes it is better to ask forgiveness then permission).
The car ride itself was an adventure. First of all the car was a definite “beater” albeit a Mercedes Benz – (circa late-1980s) and had over 250,000 miles on the odometer which has stopped working. All of the seat adjustment buttons were missing completely and the AC only blew hot air. But the scariest part was that you had to hold the ignition for about 10 seconds while the car turned over and finally started. Needless to say Denise was nervous that the car would not start again once we got it going and refused to turn it off. So when we got to the store, Mark had to run in and buy the filter (and oil) while Denise was waiting in the running car with the not-working ac blowing hot air – which was better than nothing. We were taking no chances that the car would die when we were on the “wrong side of the river” and have to call the marina for a tow. Fortunately, we got back over the river and stopped twice (grocery & liquor store), turning the car off and having it start successfully when we were done.
Once back at the marina, we went for a ride in the dinghy. First we cruised around the lower part of Back Creek, scoping out the other boats and marinas, as well as the eating & drinking establishments along the water.
While these face out over the water, they are really on the very narrow part of the peninsula with their front doors on the main street running along the PAX Riverwalk. We tied up at the city dinghy dock and walked along the PAX Riverwalk until finding a lunch location.
Afterwards, we went through some of the shops along the main street. We discovered one art studio that had some really great photography digitally transferred to canvas and other medium. While we were considering the purchase of an (astronomically expensive) pillow, the owner/artist came in.
We had a chance to talk with him for a bit and he told us he had only been doing photography for 4 years. He quit his corporate sales job to pursue this and had no knowledge of his talent until he got into it. He is very good and is a Ducks Unlimited Artist for his shooting of crabs on the beach. His website is here, but does not reflect all of his work, nor how good it really is. We did not buy the pillow, but will consider it and his other works when we redo our home in a beach motif next year. When we were done here we walked to the other end of the River walk, took some pictures, and then headed back to the dinghy.
Once back on the water we cruised along other parts of Back Creek and through several other marina’s. It was in one such location that we met loopers Joel Davis & Sarah Shed (“Snow Goose”) who were from Maine. They were flying their “AGLCA” burgee and so we stopped and talked to them to share stories and our respective looping plans. They are a retired couple (as most are) and they are taking their time on their adventure and plan to spend lots of time in Solomon’s, so it is unlikely we will see them in our travels. We bid them farewell and continued to explore other parts of Back Creek before heading back to our marina.
Later that afternoon we borrowed the loaner car again and attended 4:00 pm mass at “Our Lady Star of the Sea”.
As the marina normally doesn’t loan it out once the office closes at 5:00, we were granted a reprieve since we were going to church. We were told to just drop the keys in the office mail slot when we return, which we did. Life in these parts is so refreshingly different! We think they liked the fact that we had actually put fuel in it earlier in the day when we didn’t have to. Fortunately, the car started and got us to and from church without incident.
When we got back to the boat, we had drinks with John (“Endeavour”) before bidding him goodbye. He was staying in Solomon’s another day before heading to Annapolis where his boat will be put up for sale. He will be returning to his home in Atlanta to spend time doing other things with his wife. He is a very funny guy and we really enjoyed getting to know him over the last week or so.
Other pictures from Solomon’s:
Sunday (5/17) – On to Annapolis: Our friends Paula and Jim left at the crack of dawn as they wanted to get up to Annapolis early. They were really hoping to get a mooring ball in the Annapolis Harbor, which are available on a first-come, first serve basis. We left Solomon’s about two hours later, but first we had to make a stop at the fuel dock for a complete fill-up. One thing is for sure; the further north we go, the more expensive diesel fuel and marinas are becoming. We will definitely be spending more nights on a mooring ball or at anchorage and we wanted to top off our tank before heading into higher prices in MD, NJ & NY.
Motoring on the Chesapeake today was different than any day we have had so far. First of all, there was a slight drizzle when we started out, but it quickly stopped, even before leaving the PAX River. But the sky remained cloudy & overcast and the Bay was as flat as a pancake. There was no wind and it was a bit foggy in parts.
One of the first things we encountered was the liquid natural gas platform off the coast of Cove Point. This is a huge superstructure platform that sits close to shore, but is not connected to it – giving the appearance that it is in the middle of the bay. It is a quite large and is visible for miles.
Shortly after this, we came through what was obviously a large fishing tournament. There must have been 100 boats all with lines in the water and in the very middle of the main shipping channel. At first it appeared that all the boats were trailing a net of sorts, but we later figured out that it was a type of indicator for where their lines were in the water. It was a bit of a challenge to make sure we did not cut across the lines on a few boats that were very close together.
Add to that the fact that we were dancing down the shipping channel with a large ship (“Empire State”) that was going just slightly slower than our boat, but on a similar course. With all the course changes on our part in order to dodge the fishing boats, it made for some interesting times. That is until the ship completely changed its course for another destination. Shortly thereafter we passed a Maersk ship (the “Kalamata”); the same shipping line hijacked as shown in the movie “Captain Phillips” (but that one was the “Alabama”).
But perhaps the most interesting and exciting part of the trip was passing by the “Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse”.
This is a very famous lighthouse, and the one most people associate with the Chesapeake Bay. It was a thrill to go past it and see it in real life. Susan G., here is another one you will want to add to your collection.
At the same time we came close to our friends Kathy & Kenny Walker (“No Zip Code”) who we last saw in Deltaville. We shot some pictures of their boat under way and will send them to their email when we get a chance.
Shortly thereafter we came upon the mouth of the Severn River, which is the home of the Naval Academy and the town of Annapolis. Coming into Annapolis on our own boat was such a treat and we were met with a plethora of boats out for what turned out to be a beautiful day on the water. There was a sailboat race right at the entrance, and it included the little Optimist International Prams; a boat Mark first learned to sail in many years ago.
We had reserved a slip in the Yacht Basin marina a few days before, and once we negotiated the anchorage and mooring field, we pulled into our slip. The marina is on Spa Creek which is right in the heart of Annapolis and backed up to the Annapolis Yacht Club (AYC).
It was a nice place in a good location to both shopping and dining. Our primary reason for choosing to be in a marina was that we needed to do laundry and knew we would want to have easy access to the dining and shopping. Of course this came with a hefty price tag ($2.75 per foot/day, + $18/day electricity) and we originally committed to two nights, but ended up staying through Wednesday (more on this later).
Once settled in and got our showers, we went for an early dinner as we had skipped lunch. We got a recommendation by the dock master and it was later reinforced by Claire (sister) who had also dined there before. “The Boatyard” was located in Eastport, a neighborhood just over the bridge from downtown Annapolis. Most of the restaurants on the Eastport side of the harbor overlook all the boats and marinas, but The Boatyard does not. Instead it is known for its excellent seafood and crab cakes, not the view. Even though it was crowded, we got seated right away and had the best crab cake sandwiches we have ever had. They were baked not fried, and they were 99% crab meat – no filler. If you ever get to Annapolis, this is the place to eat!
After dinner we walked back over the bridge and all around the downtown Annapolis waterfront. There were a lot of people out and about as it was a nice night, including all the Midshipmen. Classes and exams are over at the Academy so all the Midshipmen get to go out at night and many have family in town. They all stick around until the graduation, and for the whole week of celebration.
Monday (5/18): Denise decided to go for a run and explore Eastport a little further. We were not familiar with this area as past visits had us explore the streets around the Academy and the town circle. It ended up being a very fun run through a mostly tree-lined residential area. The exception were all the marinas that are on the opposite side of this peninsula from the Annapolis harbor side. This body of water is Back Creek (also – yes, it seems like every town has a Back Creek).
In the morning, we introduced ourselves to Gold Loopers Mark & Pat Chamberlain (“Catrina”) who were several slips away from our boat in the same marina. As of last Friday they closed on their house in Illinois and now live aboard their boat; that is when they are not RVing or traveling to see their kids in FL or IL. It was then that we learned their son (Ryan) was the #6 pilot for the Blue Angels. They were awaiting his arrival in town as the team would be performing on Wednesday for the Academy Graduation. They had plans to take him and some friends out on the boat for a few hours later in the evening. They follow him around to various air shows when they can as it is a special treat to watch him fly.
Denise spent the rest of the morning preparing for and then delivering a web-based sales presentation to a prospect, along with one of our associates who lives in Michigan. Things went well but we won’t know anything for a few more weeks. Then, Mark had to make some work-related phone calls, and Denise wanted to seize the opportunity to find a gift for Mark’s upcoming birthday. So, off to the shops of Annapolis while Mark worked. She also explored the campus of St. Mary’s Elementary and High schools that were right near the marina.
We decided to go out to dinner to a place in Eastport called Dave’s Pub. It’s a small “locals joint” that had been featured on the TV show “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” because of their fresh seafood. It was delicious and we found the prices to be quite reasonable. While we were there we sat near and had the chance to talk to four Midshipmen; one of whom was lucky enough to be chosen from the enlisted ranks to attend the Academy. His sport of choice (they are required to have one) is sailing and he has the sunburn nose to prove it. They were friendly, courteous, and impressive gentlemen and we were thrilled to talk to them.
After dinner Denise took Mark around several of the areas she had run earlier that day so he could see the cute houses as well as other interesting points. When we arrived back in the marina, Ryan was leaving his parents boat with his friends, all of whom are part of the Blue Angels team. We had a chance to talk with them for a few minutes, including #1 Pilot and the only female of the team (Corrie) who is the “event coordinator”. It was very cool and they were super nice about sharing information with us. The one thing they did emphasize was that we needed to stay and at least watch their rehearsal performance scheduled for the next day.
Tuesday (5/19): We were undecided if we should leave the marina today, or stay one more night and watch the rehearsal performance of the Blue Angels scheduled for 2:00. If we left we could go anchor out up the Severn River, but would have to be there before 10:00 when the 1 mile stretch is closed in preparation for the airshow. The mooring balls in the main harbor were now all filled and so that was no longer an option for us. Although we both had seen the Blue Angels numerous times, now that we had met several of the pilots we knew we had to stay in Annapolis at least for the rehearsal show. So that is exactly what we did.
Denise decided to use the time before the show to work on this blog posting and got all the pictures downloaded and captioned. That is until she got interrupted. Around 11:00 we could hear the jets in the air as the first group began their practice fly-bys. There was little stunts at this point and only 3 of the jets were flying; we later learned that 4 usually go up, but there was a mechanical issue so it was not part of this practice. They continued with the exercises for about an hour and half and then took a break before the 2:00 show.
We grabbed a quick lunch and then went back out to the first dock in the marina for nearly front row seats to all the action. Never have we been so close or been so deafened by the noise of afterburners. For 45 minutes we watched the spectacular airshow and were thrilled. It was a big rush and we were glad we stayed, even if it was just the rehearsal.
Here are some of the sights from our front-row seats:
We hung out around the marina most of the afternoon talking to other boaters. We talked with Sandy & Chuck (“Holiday”) on their 65’Marlow. Denise had met Sandy earlier when she was walking their beautiful dog (a Welsh springer spaniel). Although they are from Aspen, CO, they now live aboard their boat 8 months out of the year. Sandy told Denise that ever since they legalized marijuana in Colorado, Aspen now has 4 growers and the whole town smells like marijuana. They can no longer stand to live there most of the time, so they are headed north to New England for the rest of the summer.
Late in the afternoon Mark & Pat (“Catrina”) stopped by on their way back from the airshow. As parents of a Blue Angel, they had VIP seating and were invited to several special events. They stopped and talked with us for over an hour and they shared more information about the Blue Angels; how they operate, tenure for the pilots, etc. We shared our respective family information and discussed our looping plans. They were the most wonderful people and we feel like we have met new lifelong friends already.
By then it was getting late so Mark and I walked down to the center of town and ate dinner at the Federal House, followed by an ice cream at Storm Brothers; a locally owned ice cream shop right near the Academy visitors entrance gate. We walked around the grounds up to the visitor’s center and encountered a Midshipmen who stopped and talked to us for a bit. He was graduating this week and was headed to Quantico as he was being commissioned into the US Marines. OORAH!
Here are some other sights from our time in Annapolis:
Wednesday (5/20) to St. Michaels: This morning we bid goodbye to Annapolis and motored our way East back across the Bay (again) to St. Michaels where we intend to anchor out for a few days.
We had been watching the weather and knew that the wind was going to pick up overnight, which it did. It was still blowing a bit when we left Annapolis and there was a good chop on the Bay, but it only took us two hours to make our voyage and it wasn’t too bad. The boat and crew handled it well. Of course the boat is now covered in salt and, since we are not in a marina we will have to wait to wash it all off, or until it rains (which it is supposed to do tomorrow all day).
The town of St. Michaels has a lot of restaurants, interesting shops and a few art galleries. In a way it reminds us a lot like Boca Grande. It also has a maritime museum which we are going to try and go to tomorrow. There are several Bed & Breakfast places with beautiful gardens as well.
Outside of the town is a resort called the “Inn at Perry Cabin” that sits on a piece of land that was an original land grant from the English Crown to the new world. The resort was used to film the wedding reception scene in the movie “Wedding Crashers”. For us, it is the view out of our boat window as the anchorage is right off of its point.
This afternoon we used the dinghy to go ashore and explore as well as pick up a few things at the grocery store. Before we left, we were visited by the owner of a sailboat (“Freebird”) anchored near us. “Dave” stopped by to introduce himself as he saw our AGLCA burgee and wanted to talk about the loop. He and his wife (Karen) completed it in 3 years and now cruise the Chesapeake Bay all summer. He invited us for drinks later aboard their boat and to meet his wife. So at 5:30 we joined them to hear their stories and some great suggestions, particularly about Canada. They were warm and gracious hosts and we have now made new friends.
We are happy to report that this batch came out much better than the one last week, and we now have a handle on the convection baking part of our oven.
Other sights from St. Michael’s include:
Tomorrow we plan on going into town and having lunch at the Crab Claw restaurant. However, it is supposed to rain and that may keep us boat-bound. We’ll just have to see….and you will read all about it very soon.
It is now time to get this very long blog posted and go meet some more interesting, fun, kind and friendly people.