Outside Baltimore, MD Here we sit at the Maryland Yacht Club thinking how lucky we are to have this great adventure. We have been so in awe of the people we meet, and the sights we have seen. This really is a beautiful world, especially when you can get away from the places that man has mucked up pretty good. Baltimore is one such place, but I will save that for later. Here is the latest on our activities since we last posted from St. Michaels. Thursday (5/21/15) – St. Michaels, MD. BRRR – we woke up this morning to cold weather again! It was 80+ degrees on Wednesday but the cool breeze turned cool with temperatures in the 50’s. To add insult to injury it was starting to sprinkle outside and the wind had picked up. As usual Denise was up when the sun came up and watched a beautiful red sky turn cloudy and grey. All she wanted was coffee, but since there was no shore power to make the 110 electricity go, and she didn’t want to wake Mark, she did not turn on the generator. Instead she got working on the previous week’s blog post that was taking forever to complete. The boat had swung overnight and they were now facing east with the back of the boat closer to the Inn. Twenty minutes later she noticed that the boat had gotten closer to the bulkhead by the inn; we were dragging anchor! So Mark was awaken and after several attempts at good holding we managed to get the boat re-anchored for the day. Mark went back to bed and slept for a little while longer while Denise did some work and boat clean-up. By this time it was sprinkling pretty regularly and we noticed a few boats had left the anchorage, but a new boat was entering and anchored not too far from us. Come to find out it was our new friends from Solomon’s Island Rob & Corinne (“Ariel”). Like us, they were hunkering down to ride out what was forecasted to be a day of nasty rainy weather.
Around noon Denise was getting antsy and talked Mark into taking the dinghy into town and getting some lunch at the infamous “Crab Claw” restaurant. She also wanted to go back to a store she saw a sweatshirt in from yesterday. So, off we went and as luck would have it, the rain started again by the time we got to the dinghy dock; we got a bit wet. But the individual crab pizza and the seared tuna sandwich were great and we were glad we came.
The Crab Claw is an institution in St. Michaels and sits right in the main harbor overlooking the water. They are celebrating their 50th anniversary on Friday night (tomorrow). There are festivities planned and a lobster special, but we probably will not stay as the place is supposed to be quite crowded; all the marinas are booked up with ridiculously expensive rates ($3.85/ft – with no maid service). The Maritime Museum is also celebrating its 50th anniversary so the place will be packed. After lunch we walked back into town and found the shop where Denise bought a cute sweatshirt for a whopping $14; after all it is the end of their cold season even if we Floridians think it is still cold. Of course on the way back to the dinghy it started to rain again, and by the time we got in it and headed back to the boat it was really coming down. We were so thankful for the jackets we had (courtesy of WDW Marathon Volunteering) and the Columbia outdoor pants which were waterproof. As soon as we got back to the boat, we changed and put on dry clothes and did some work.
Today was Mark’s birthday, so Denise made some brownies to celebrate. As with the cc cookies, it was another lesson in boat-oven-baking 101. However, 1hr+ later they were finally done. For dinner we ate leftovers, then paired the brownies with the last of the ice cream that we still had in our freezer from Spanky’s (Tangiers Island). It continued to rain into the evening and part of the night.
Friday (5/22/15) – St. Michaels to the Wye River, MD – The wind blew a last night and it was a cold. Denise was afraid the anchor was dragging again and didn’t sleep much after about 2:00 am. Finally, at 5:00 she got up and turned on the generator as it was 49 degrees. No sleeping in-birthday reprieve for Mark. The sun came up about 5:45 and it was a gorgeous day, even if it was a bit chilly. After breakfast, we took the dinghy to the fuel dock to get a fill of gasoline. There we saw our friends Mark and Pam (“Sea Bear”) who were next to us in the slip in Deltaville. We talked for a while and discussed future plans in hopes of catching up again after NYC. Our plans were to stay in St. Michaels until Mark was done his 11:00 conference call as we knew it was a place where there was good cell phone coverage. While we were waiting for the call, the anchorage started to fill up. We watched a few boats come in and anchor well, and another idiot come in and try to anchor in 3 different spots. Once the call was done and we left, he immediately moved to take our spot. There was another boat “circling” the anchorage waiting for an opening. We were glad we were leaving as it was going to get crazy! We made the short run up to the Wye River to find a quiet anchorage for the night. This river splits in two shortly after entering and we took the Northern route first.
It was big and open and we loved seeing the homes along the way. However, after a few attempts to scope out an anchorage and try a holding spot for the night, we reversed our plans and went down the Wye East River. Here we found a little cove that we had all to ourselves and offered protection from the North wind. It is expected to blow from the North about 20 kts and we wanted to not rock all night long.
This area is spectacularly beautiful and quiet. We saw a grey heron, numerous hawks and a bald eagle. There were several other boats about a mile up the river in another cove (Shaw cove), but this one is nice and secluded; just us! For people who never anchor out and only stay in marinas, they miss some of the best cruising grounds of the Chesapeake Bay. Here are some of our sights from the Wye River:
Saturday (5/23/15) – Kent Island (The Narrows) – The big wind expected overnight never really came (or at least we didn’t feel it) and was now delayed to occur later in the day.
Last night we had been trying to decide where best to go next; cross the Bay and move up towards Baltimore, or hang out on the Eastern Shore. One of the things weighing on our minds was trying to locate a church for Sat. evening or Sunday morning mass. The challenge isn’t just finding a Catholic church nearby, but one we can get to by either walking, biking or catching a cab (not as easy as you think), and anchoring out would further complicate the transportation logistics. Another consideration was that it was Memorial weekend, and marina rates would be high. But most importantly, if the wind was going to be strong, we didn’t want to be crossing the Bay in large seas – which build pretty high in the upper Bay when the wind is out of the South (like it was). So, we opted to stay on the Eastern shore and move into a (relatively speaking) cheap marina for the night at Piney Narrows Yacht Haven on Kent Island (the “Narrows”). It was only a short trip from the Wye River and since it gets light here so early, we were on our way by 9:00 am. We arrived just after 10:00 am, got a pump out of the holding tank, and were tied up at the dock in time to have an early lunch.
Immediately, Mark made friends with people on the dock. He met “Suzie” and “Bill” Clark, a divorced couple who still own their boat together (“Clark’s Ark”), but it serves as their “hotel” for weekend getaways. They live in separate residences in Maryland, but come to the marina where their boat is permanently docked; it never leaves. Their adult son Tim is the main reason they stay on “good terms” and share the friends that they have had for many years. There are a handful of families that all permanently dock their boats here and who for years have gotten together every weekend all summer long. The children have all grown up together and as Tim is an only child he is very close to many of these families.
But this particular weekend was a big one for the marina. For the last 9 years they have had a Memorial Day fishing tournament, and they have a big cookout and party. They also use it as a way to honor the founder of the gathering who passed away unexpectedly a few years ago and so many of his old friends and his widow come to the celebration. Of course they invited us, but we declined as we had plans to move on (more on this later). Later in the afternoon, we were considering the options for getting to church – 3 miles away. Denise had proposed that we borrow a bicycle and ride to mass (we have one bike on the boat). So she went and asked Suzie if she knew where we could borrow a bike, as it appeared this marina did not have any to rent/lend. Working with Suzie she secured a bike we could use to hit the 5:00 pm mass. Denise returned to the boat all excited, only to be met with Mark’s reluctance to get sweaty riding a bike to church. Instead, Suzie insisted we take her car and we eventually took her up on her offer. Now here is a woman who met us less than 4 hours ago offering us her car….it gets better.
We returned from church and were trying to figure out what to do for dinner. We went to return the car keys to Suzie, but Bill reported that she and Tim had taken his boat across the river to get some appetizers and drinks. We inquired about the restaurants in the area and he told us all the good places to eat were about 1 mile away, across the river. He then offered to take us there and we could bum a ride home on their boat if we wanted. Which is exactly what we did.
We met up with Suzie, Tim & his fiancée (Rachel) at the “Fisherman’s Crab House” and had some great shrimp & crab nachos, as well as a round of drinks. This is a very casual open-air restaurant that overlooks the river and has a small marina that you can “boat in” for dining. So after some good eating, a round of drinks, and getting to know each other better, we picked up the tab and rode back to our marina in Tim’s boat. We had a great time and really consider ourselves lucky to have met such wonderfully warm and hospitable people.
We really wanted to stay another day, and enjoy the party this marina was getting ready to throw. However, the weather forecast for the coming days did not look great for crossing the Chesapeake Bay, so we took the “best day” option (15 – 20 kts), which meant leaving on Sunday morning. Other sights from “the Narrows”:
Sunday (5/24/15) – Stony Creek, MD – The morning came with some wind, but not big gusts as was originally thought. We had boat chores to do and wanted to maximize the internet connection and benefits of a marina, so we waited until the last possible moment to leave. Denise managed to get in a run and take a few of the above pictures before we headed out of town. Like hotels, marinas do have a “check out” time and really want you off the dock if you are not staying for another night. We had already made the decision to anchor out tonight, so we untied our dock lines and headed for our next destination. But first we had to get away from Kent Island and the area known as “the narrows”. There is a reason why it is called this. The channel to the North that takes you out to the Chesapeake Bay is very narrow; nearly two boat widths apart, and is heavily traveled. We passed through there and it reminded us of rush hour on I-4 in Orlando. This was harrowing as it is very shallow if you get outside the channel, and with the boats passing and the wind kicking up the waves, it is a bit tedious to stay on course. Fortunately, it is not long and within 20 minutes we were on the Bay in what was probably the busiest boating day we have seen on the Chesapeake since we started on it in Norfolk.
We headed northwest across the Chesapeake Bay to the entrance of the Patapsco River. If we were to continue in this direction we would go into Baltimore Harbor, but we were not ready to go there yet. Instead we turned up Stony Creek, one of three tributaries that dump into the Patapsco at its southern end.
Here we found a nice anchorage in Big Burley cove. This is a small cove that is mostly surrounded by homes on one side, and a forested area on low cliffs on the other side. Towards the back of the cove is a point of land that jets out a bit, and on it sits a wedding hall known as “Bleues on the Water”.
We anchored near the center of the cove, not far from the only other boat which eventually left in late afternoon. Here we settled in to watch as the venue prepared for what was going to be a wedding for which we had front row seats. It was terrific fun and we were able to hear just enough (thanks to their PA system). Naturally, when the big kiss came, we honked the boat horn in celebration. There were two other small boats that came in to watch and they honked too…what a hoot! Other sights from here:
Monday (5/25/15) Baltimore, MD – Memorial Day – We awoke at the crack of dawn to a very calm anchorage. There was not even a ripple on the water and as the wind was scheduled to dramatically pick up during the day, we left to make our way up the Patapsco River and into Baltimore Harbor.
One of the coolest things about this cruise today was going under the Francis Scott Key Bridge which signifies the entrance into the Baltimore Harbor. Of course we all know that Mr. Key wrote the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner. His inspiration came as he was on a ship in the harbor sent to meet the British and negotiate a prisoner exchange during the War of 1812. The British were hammering Ft. McHenry and Mr. Key watched in horror through the night, awaiting to see the outcome. In the morning during “dawns early light” he saw the hoisting of the US Flag, indicating that the US held back the British navy and prevented them from taking over Baltimore. Today, during the summer months, there is a buoy that is placed just west of the bridge in the harbor and in the location where Francis Scott Key’s boat had been. It is about 2 miles from Ft. McHenry and was amazing to be on the water as he was looking at the fort.
Since it was still pretty early (9:00 am) and very calm waters, we decided to take our boat all the way up the to the Inner Harbor before things got really busy with boat traffic. It was a good move and we got to see this area before the crazy boaters, water taxis, tourist boats, container ships and barges churned up the water and created chaos. We shot some beautiful pictures of the Baltimore skyline and got to see it in its quiet state. However, we were also able to witness how very trashy the harbor waters are, as there is lots of debris everywhere.
We had been “marina shopping” to see what would be the best and most affordable place to stay, but still be close enough to easily get to the things in the harbor. We settled on “Crescent Marina”, which is really not a marina, but docks that belong to a condominium that are sitting vacant and thus are for rent. The nice cheap rate ($1.50 per foot +$10 for electricity) entitled us to nothing but a tie-up and water; no showers, captains’ lounge, etc. But, it was a lot cheaper than the $2.75/ft all the other marina’s wanted. Pat the dock master was very friendly, courteous and informative.
The nice thing about our marina was the location; an area known as Fells Point. It was not directly in the Inner Harbor, but a short walk from the water taxi stop that could take you to any of the venues in the Inner Harbor and the surrounding neighborhoods.
After getting the boat settled we grabbed a water taxi out to Ft. McHenry. Now grateful for the annual National Park Pass we got at Yorktown as we now have recouped our initial investment and all future park visits will be free. The fort is massive and quite impressive, especially considering how old it is. In a lot of ways it reminds us of the fort in St. Augustine, and they have staff dressed in period costumes walking the grounds. They perform various re-enactments throughout the day, including raising the flag (s) for which there are actually 4 different sizes that get flown over the fort. The biggest one that is the same size of the actual one Mr. Key saw is huge (20’ x 40’) and is only flown in the calmest of winds. While we were there they were removing the second largest and putting up a smaller one as the winds had increased dramatically.
We took the water taxi back to the Fells Point terminal, switched to another water taxi and went into the Inner Harbor. The place was very crowded with street performers and lots of people all around. It being a holiday and beautiful weather, everyone was out on the streets and walkways – locals as well as tourists. The restaurants were crowded, but not full up, and there were a lot of touristy water craft available for rent. While there is much to see here, we felt 100% of it is very touristy and overpriced. The science center was on the other side of the harbor, and we really didn’t have time to do it justice, and for us (being from FL) we did not think the Aquarium was worth the time and $$. Everything else revolves around shopping or eating. We grabbed a quick appetizer for a late lunch at Cheesecake factory, and then took the water taxi back to Fells Point and walked the neighborhood a bit; scoping out a possible location for dinner. We were in need of milk for breakfast and there is a Safeway grocery store in the Canton neighborhood a short distance from our boat. So we decided to find a restaurant near there for dinner, then go to the grocery store afterwards. We dined on pizza and salad at a great “locals” place (“Verde”) that was delicious, then walked to the store and then back to our boat for the night.
All-in-all it was a very fun day, with a lot of walking and great experiences, but we both agreed we did not want to stay another day in Baltimore. We are glad we came, but we felt the west side of town (near Camden Yards & the ball field) was off limits due to the recent disturbances, and the “up and coming” neighborhoods of Fells Point and Camden weren’t that great. That evening the wind was really howling and we were rocking in the boat quite a bit, so we knew we were leaving as soon as possible in the morning; which we did. Tuesday (5/26/15) – Maryland Yacht Club (MYC)– Rock Creek- We had made prior arrangements to have the boat in this marina while we fly home for Rob’s graduation. The AGLCA member (Greg) who is the Baltimore Harbor Host is a member of this yacht club and keeps his boat here. He had given us a drastically reduced rate and promised to keep an eye on it for us. However, we had originally planned to be there on Wednesday, not Tuesday. Mark called ahead and they were willing to let us come in early anyway, which is what we did. The sail from Fells Point to MYC was short, and we pulled up to the fuel dock within 90 minutes. We filled the boat up with fuel, then Mark backed the boat into the marina slip and we tied her up for the week. After showers and checking in, we settled into work and conference calls that had been previously scheduled. The good thing about marinas is that they usually don’t complain if you want to ‘check-in’ early (unlike hotels). It is especially helpful if you drop a few hundred dollars buying diesel fuel from them.
In the afternoon we needed to decide what to do about dinner. The area that MYC is in is very residential with few restaurants, none within walking distance. A bike ride was considered but there was no one to bum a second bike from, and the “delivery” options from local places was limited to Chinese. The club has a restaurant, but it is only open for dinner certain nights of the week and Tuesday is not one of them. So, we broke into our “emergency dinner” provisions; pasta and home-made marinara sauce. This was the second meal from our jar and so we now have to get more from our stock when we are home. Knowing we are leaving, we have not been stocking the fridge and so our choices for dinner are now nonexistent. This marina is extremely quiet and there are little to no cruisers around right now; it is too early in the season. There are several people who live aboard, but most have kept to themselves. Later in the day we met Scott (sorry no picture) who pulled his sailboat (“Irish Memories”) into the slip next to ours. He is a widower with 4 adult kids and is from Ohio. He is keeping his boat in Maryland for the summer and will be doing some major repairs in the boatyard further up the creek. Wednesday 5/27/15) – MYC – The day began with what looked like storming clouds. Rain and thunderstorms had been predicted, but they seemed to have disappeared by 6:30. So Denise went for a run and to check out the surrounding area. After photographing some Canadian geese pooping all over the grass, and rescuing a turtle trying to cross the road, she ran past a house being torn down making way for a new mc-mansion on the waterfront. She also confirmed that the decision to eat on board last night was a good one as a 3-mile bike ride would have been on a busy street with no shoulder in which to ride.
We spent most of the day working and setting up for activities when we are home. We also began packing and arranging for the cab ride to the (BWI) airport. At the end of the day we went up to the MYC for dinner and had a good meal at a reasonable price (Denise had Salmon and Mark had the burger in case you were interested). The marina is preparing for its grand opening weekend next weekend (6/5 and 6/6), so there is lots of maintenance activity going on. The funniest one for us to watch is the filling of their swimming pool. Being from FL, we all know that if you pool needs water you put your garden hose in the pool and turn it on. Here, they cannot do that; they have to have trucks deliver the water in tankers. They started this early in the morning and by 7:30 at night they were still trying to fill the club pool. What a sight!
Other pictures from this area:
Tomorrow morning we will be up early to catch our flight home, and therefore there will be no more posting until we are back on the boat on 6/3. Stay tuned for more!