Rock Hall, MD (Friday, 6/2)
Unfortunately, today is the day we had to leave Solomons and head north. It is easy to see why people come back here, and most likely we will too on our way home. It’s a wonderful community and it has a lot to offer those who like to spend time on the water.
Regrettably, we left Zahniser’s Yachting Center around 8:00 and moved to the city dock for a free pump out. This took about 20 minutes and then we got under way, heading out of the harbor and onto the Pax River. From there we turned north and headed up the Chesapeake Bay under spectacular conditions. These are the days that make us fall in love with boating. Calm seas, lots of sunshine and plenty of scenery.
We passed the Cove Point Lighthouse and the Dominion Cove Point LNG platform. We remembered this structure from our prior trip up the Bay two years ago, and still find it fascinating that such a place stands out in the middle of this body of water. Of course it has a security zone around it that is heavily patrolled, so we didn’t get too close.
We continued cruising north right through the middle of the usual fishing boats, and eventually passing Annapolis to our west. Naturally, there were plenty of sailboats there enjoying the day, and probably in a race (there always seems to be one there). We cruised under the right section of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, not wanting to travel (and burn unnecessary fuel) by going under the center spans which were too far west from our direct course routing into Rock Hall.
Entering the Rock Hall harbor is a bit tedious as there is a big shoal area to its west, so you must head east of the shoal and ride the coast into the well-marked but narrow channel. Once behind the breakwater we could see these huge triangle floats in the water that were to mark the swimming race course for the triathlon taking place tomorrow morning.
According to the charts we could take the channel around to the north, making a semi-circle to get to our marina, or go straight up the middle; a shorter route. However, the shorter route had Active Captain reports of being shallow so we opted for the longer, but deeper channel around to the north. As luck would have it, the boat in front of us chose the direct route and ran aground. We were grateful we had already taken the more prudent path and easily navigated through the harbor and into our slip at Rock Hall Landing Marina.
After we had settled the boat and checked in at the marina office, we settled into an afternoon of things to do: work and getting the last blog completed and posted. Mark did manage to get a nap and Denise did manage to get a few work things accomplished.
Also during the afternoon Mark looked at the weather forecast for the next few days and from that we decided to re-plan our itinerary. We had a few good days of travel, but the winds are forecasted to pick up to 25 kts and we didn’t want to be on the Delaware River heading to Cape May, NJ in those conditions. So we decided to forego our trip to Havre de Grace and head straight for Delaware City, DE on Saturday, and then early on Sunday make our way to Cape May before the winds really take off. Having decided this, Mark called the marinas and adjusted our reservations accordingly. After Sunday, all bets are off, but with a little luck we will get a good window to move from Cape May to Staten Island by the early part of next week.
Once our work was accomplished we took showers and made our way to the Waterman’s Crab House, a pretty famous restaurant in these parts. This is located adjacent to the marina and overlooks the harbor, with indoor and outdoor seating available. The place was busy, but not so crowded that we could not get a table right away in the covered area outside, affording us a view of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
The people in the boat next to ours recommended the blue cheese and crab topped hamburger, which Mark ordered, while Denise got a crab cake sandwich. Both were delicious and we were happy to give the locals some business. We also noticed a sailboat was in the very middle of the harbor, and we later learned they had run aground trying to transit the middle of the harbor as well.
Rock Hall is a town with a population of 1,200 people and they very much depend on fishing and tourism to drive their economy. So, tomorrow’s triathlon is a big deal as there are 1,000 participants for the event, and other spectators and support personnel who will also be here. Unfortunately, because the swimming will take place in the harbor and starts at 8:00 a.m., we will not be able to leave until they are done this part of the event.
Here are some pictures of our marina and the surrounding area:
We ended our beautiful and fun-filled day with a spectacular sunset over the harbor!
Delaware City, (Saturday 6/3)
The day started out a little cool, but the sun was shining bright. Denise headed out for a run and to explore the downtown area that we did not get to see yesterday. It is only a half a mile from the marina, and is quite small, but adorable. From there she ran down the main road to the marinas north of us, and where there are many homes and a few condos right along the water. There is a wetlands area, a Waterman’s Museum, and a few other interesting sights. She came into an area that was known as “Gratitude” and still houses a working marina, shipyard and yacht sales. Turning south she passed Ferry Park, a beach area that overlooked the Chesapeake Bay, and from which you could see the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Here are some pictures of the Rock Hall area from her run:
In the meantime, the skies turned overcast and a very slight breeze picked up. Denise was happy for the cool air while running, but felt for the athletes who were about to jump in the 70° (so they said) water. Once back at the boat, we ate breakfast and then walked down to see the start of the race. We were able to capture some of the athletes in the water, and also getting out and then running to the transition point. We also noticed the sailboat that ran aground yesterday was no longer there, and had been told they had to be pulled off as they were in the very middle of the course.
Here are some pictures from the Triathlon events we were able to witness:
While waiting for the harbor to re-open to boating, Mark changed the fuel filters on the boat. Something we knew was necessary so he went ahead and took advantage of our “wait time”.
Finally around 9:15 the last swimmers were completely out of the water and the CG Auxiliary opened the harbor for all boats. Along with many other boaters we left immediately, cruised around the north channel of the harbor, and exited to the Chesapeake in a direction to avoid the shoal area.
We were thankful that it was overcast as it would have been really hot if the sun was out as there was no real wind to speak of. The Bay was pretty calm and we were grateful for an easy passage. The only thing we had to worry about was a freighter that we wanted to pass before we got up to the C&D Canal, and we managed to do that.
However, by the time we got up to the area where the Sassafras and the Susquehanna Rivers simultaneously dump into the Bay, not far from the Aberdeen Proving Grounds (military base), the northwest wind had picked up and we encountered a bit of a chop.
Fortunately, we only had to deal with this for a short time. Soon we encountered the high cliffs of Turkey Point Lighthouse Park and the Elk Neck State Park to our west, and we entered into the Elk River. The Chesapeake Bay was over; well at least until we return in the fall.
Not long afterwards we came up on a cruising yacht that looked very familiar to us. We encountered “Lady Catherine” when we anchored at Pine Island, just north of St. Augustine; our first night on this adventure. This time we talked with them on the radio and learned they were headed to Connecticut and Cape Cod for the summer where they will have several charters, then return south in the fall. They told us of their delay in Beaufort, NC as they were hit by a steel boat and it took 4 weeks to get them repaired and back under way. We wished them better luck and hope to see them again on the water. We are always grateful for our “uneventful” adventures!
Continuing on, we entered the C&D canal and cruised its 12 miles peacefully. We passed by Chesapeake City, crossed into Delaware, sped under a handful of bridges, and encountered only a few other boaters along the way. One of the cool things about the Canal is that there is a bike path (called the Michael N. Castle Trail) that runs along the northern part of it. Since the weather was so bad the last time we went by here, we did not know this. However, today there were many cyclists out enjoying the now sunny, but cool weather.
As we approached the Delaware River, we came up on a tow pushing a barge. After communication with him we were able to sneak past on his port side and run up river outside the shipping channel to Delaware City; his destination as well. However, were going into the Branch Channel and he was going to the terminal dock actually on the Delaware River, so we were able to zoom past him and get in before we even were close.
We passed by Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island to our East, and started to enter the Branch Channel just as a ferry boat was leaving. This is a very narrow entrance, so we chose to stay outside, let the ferry boat pass, and then cruise up to the Delaware City Marina. Here we were met by two dock hands who did a fantastic job of helping us pull into a side tie, then turn our boat completely around for easy exit, all while fighting an incoming current that can run as much as 3 kts. We were grateful for their help and expertise.
Once we had tied everything securely and settled the boat, we did a quick cleaning; Mark on the outside and Denise on the inside. We then walked up to the Marina office and met Seth and Tim. Seth is young man who is learning how to work the marina office and has Tim (the marina owner) as his coach. We discovered he is going to do a study-abroad program at Oxford, and is an Eagle Scout. Together the two were so nice and friendly and told us everything about the area.
During the afternoon Denise worked on cataloging pictures and writing this blog, while Mark reviewed weather, planned the departure for tomorrow and took a nap. In late afternoon we went exploring the town and seeing some of the sights.
Here are some pictures from the marina and the town:
Although we were planning to eat dinner on the boat, we got intrigued with “Lewinsky’s on Clinton” and had to stop in for at least a drink. Well, one drink led to dinner and then our plans were changed in a blink. The place is like an old time bar, with some references to Bill Clinton – although the name comes from the street which it is on. And yes, they do sell cigars.
Delaware City is an interesting place. In addition to being surrounded by state parks and having some great cycling trails all around, there are a few other things that we learned about from the locals. First, it is home to the American Birding Association (www.aba.org) and has the largest species of variant birds in the US. In fact, outside of Florida it has the largest heron and egret population.
Another thing we learned is that the area is full of haunted places, including Fort Delaware, which has been featured on the show “Ghost Hunters” numerous times. The fort dates back to 1815 and was used in the Civil War and Spanish-American War (1898), with over 2000 souls buried there. You can learn more about this historical park here.
There is also a hotel/restaurant in town that has a former chamber maid that haunts the place, and recently showed herself during a Chamber of Commerce event. Needless to say, this place doesn’t seem to be able to stay in business, despite numerous attempts.
After dinner we walked back to the boat and started into the latest season of “House of Cards”, racking up three episodes before we had to go to sleep. Tomorrow (Sunday) we will leave early to cruise down the Delaware Bay to Cape May, NJ before the winds start to really blow, and hope not to repeat what happened the last time we were there.