Fall sailing trip

Fall sailing trip

Our rough plan for our fall trip was to sail to Annapolis. I was really looking forward to taking the tour of the Naval Academy, but we’ll have to do that another time. Instead, we spent some time on the Eastern Shore and had a really lovely time.

Our trip started out on a beautiful day. There were boat races going on out by Solomons, which was cool to watch as we slowly made our way through the spectator area.

039That evening we walked through the Holiday Inn parking lot on our way to pick up some beer. On the way through, we saw two of the racing boats and their crews cleaning things up and getting ready to go home. We got to look at the boats up close and the kids got autographed pictures and hats, and we got a pair of koozies from them. It was pretty neat.

That night our propane system failed when we started to fix dinner, so we stayed in Solomons another day to get parts and fix it. That delay is the reason we didn’t get all the way to Annapolis. It turned out to be a pretty happy change of plans.

We headed to Oxford, Maryland the following day. Oxford is just a lovely, perfect little town. We so loved just walking around the town in the perfect September weather.

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The kids loved playing in this beautiful park. As we watched them, the church bells in the church next door played beautiful music at noon for ten solid minutes. It was just unbelievably idyllic.

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The Oxford Market had everything on our list that we were looking to pick up. I was actually already thinking the town was perfect before I found Mystery Loves Company, Oxford’s very nice new and used bookstore.

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We enjoyed lunch at The Masthead and the ice cream was amazing at the Scottish Highland Creamery. We also did a little bit of boat shopping while we were there…

After spending a couple days in Oxford, we decided to move on and head to St. Michaels. We went in the back way, anchoring in the San Domingo Creek. Quite honestly, St. Michaels did not impress me. It was crowded and touristy and mostly nothing but shops and shops and more shops. There was one real gem we found in St. Michaels, though. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum was really, really wonderful. Unfortunately I forgot my camera on the boat that day, but seriously, if you go to St. Michaels, check it out. Lots of good stuff for everyone, and it’s spread out over a large area – there are many different buildings and outside exhibits, so there’s plenty of sunshine – you’re not spending the whole time in one big building. The museum gives you a comprehensive overview of life on the Chesapeake Bay: history, culture, boats, fishing. Plus, the Hooper Straight lighthouse is there, and we always enjoy checking out a lighthouse!

After a day in St. Michaels, we started heading home. It was a long, wet, rough ride back to Solomons. We were all ready for hot chocolate by the time we anchored.

126131And now we find ourselves in the market for a new boat… but that’s a story for another time. Anyone in the market for a Bristol?

Home from Yorktown

Home from Yorktown

After leaving Yorktown, we needed to choose an anchorage with good provisioning possibilities. Although it was a great place to stay for things to do, there was no place on the Yorktown side of the bridge to get ice and ours didn’t last that long. Luckily I had planned on depending primarily on non-perishable foods anyway, but we did need to replace some of the things we lost. I chose an anchorage in Jackson Creek, near Deltaville, VA. The reviews of the spot were wonderful: great for provisioning, very protected – from all but SE winds. Anyone wanna guess which direction the wind was coming from when we got there? It was pretty rough that first evening. Our first dinghy ride in to walk to the gas station for cold beer left us all soaked to our skivvies. Alan was super nervous about the anchor holding, but hold it did, and the wind changed direction around midnight.

Deltaville was a fabulous stop. Just like at Yorktown, we again stayed longer than we had first planned (hooray for a flexible schedule) and are definitely planning to return. I can’t say enough good things about the Deltaville Marina. Their facilities were very nice and the rate for transients to use them was very reasonable. We were able to borrow their courtesy car to run to the market and replace our lost provisions. The kids loved their huge swingest and the pool. Savannah even swapped a book out at their book exchange area.We borrowed one of their grills for a picnic lunch our first full day there.

IMG_5277One of our absolute favorite things was a scene repeated many times on our trip: quiet moments after after dinner when we all cozied up on the bow to enjoy the twilight together. Alan and I would enjoy a glass of wine, we’d bring out a blanket or two, and the kids would snug themselves around us. Those were the moments I wanted to hold onto the most, the ones I made a conscious effort of committing to memory, detail by detail. There are so few similar moments at home. At home, there is always something to be done. The laundry needs washing, the grass needs cutting, everything needs dusting, clutter needs to be cleared away, a hundred things, all the time. On the boat, life is simpler. After clearing up dinner, I can usually feel pretty satisfied that my to-do list is done, and I can just soak up the time with my family.

It was in one of those perfect evenings that we unexpectedly had a bit of fearful excitement. One of our neighbors at anchor was an older gentleman who lives aboard his boat. I must have been paying attention to other things, but Alan was watching him as he came up to his boat. He stood in his dinghy for quite a while, then suddenly Alan couldn’t see him anymore. The night was getting close to totally dark, so he thought perhaps he just hadn’t seen him get onto his boat, but after a few minutes no lights had come on inside. Alan was quite worried about him, so he and Savannah went out in our dinghy to check it out. It was quite a good thing that they did because it turned out the man had fallen in. He has one “good leg,” which he had injured earlier that day, making it difficult for him to get onto his boat from his dinghy. They were able to help him get back aboard.

We also stopped by the Deltaville Maritime Museum while we were in town. The museum had just reopened in the spring and is still rebuilding after a devastating fire last summer. We’ll definitely have to go back again when they finish their new building. I especially liked their reproduction of the boat John Smith used to explore the Chesapeake. His was an unnamed boat that he referred to as his “discovery barge.” They named their reproduction Explorer.

IMG_5295We also made a couple trips to Nauti Nell’s: part marine consignment store, part gift shop. I’m sure it will be one of the necessary stops when we return to Deltaville.

After Deltaville, one of our favorite stops was a bit of a surprise. We have stayed in Solomons so many times. We always thought about checking out the Calvert Marine Museum, but just hadn’t made it there yet. This time, we went there right after setting the anchor, which just a couple hours until closing. We figured that would be enough time for the kids to make their way through. We were so wrong. We were instead left with the realization that we need to come back when we can spend the better part of a day there. We went to the Drum Point lighthouse first because we never tire of lighthouses.

IMG_5402And then we tried to see as much as we could see of the museum before they closed. It was so much bigger than we realized. The kids most enjoyed digging for fossils. They all came away with shark teeth for souvenirs. Felicity won the prize for best tooth finder.

IMG_5407The touch tank and all the other fish and invertebrates were a close second favorite. Felicity ran from tank to tank in wonder, declaring it the “best museum ever!” when she found the seahorses. It was a very nice way to wrap up our trip, and yet again we found a place to which we hope to return. IMG_5323

First trip of the season

First trip of the season

After several delays due to repair jobs and exceptionally low tides, we finally got Green Eyes back in the water and back to her summer home at Grandma’s house. We thought perhaps we’d head north to Mount Vernon and Mount Aventine before turning south toward the Patuxent, but there was so little wind when we started out, we decided we’d better head in the right direction. Luckily, the wind picked up shortly after we crossed under the Potomac River bridge. Our weather remained great for the rest of the trip. We went through a couple brief storms, but we had great wind and mostly sunny skies.

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IMG_4919We thought we might stop back at St. Clement’s Island, but the wind was too fierce to attempt it. Last time was fun, but we weren’t looking for a repeat of that adventure. Felicity was disappointed. She has declared that it’s her favorite island.

We spent our first night in Brenton Bay, which was uneventful until we left in the morning, when we ran aground right beside a marker on the way out. We were afraid we’d be stuck there all day until high tide around 5 pm, but Alan’s quick thinking got us out of there relatively quickly. He took an anchor out in the dinghy to the opposite side of the marker and ran the line back a winch and pulled it tight. After a couple hours that constant tension pulled us free and we were able to get on our way, apparently to the relief of the osprey nesting in the marker, who squawked at us the whole time we were stuck.

IMG_4884IMG_4883From there we sailed back to St. Mary’s City.

IMG_4933IMG_4935 It’s a good thing we were able to leave Brenton Bay when we did. We got to St. Mary’s City with sunshine and blue skies, but when we checked the weather report learned there were tornado watches all around us. Dark storm clouds were rolling in just as we were getting settled, but luckily they didn’t amount to much more than some mild thunderstorms overnight.

In the morning we went back to the museum at St. Mary’s City. The museum has two parts: the town and a tobacco plantation about a mile up the road. Last time we were there, the plantation seemed like a bit far to walk after seeing the rest of the museum. This time, after visiting the Maryland Dove, which had to be the first thing according to the children, we decided to make the trek to the plantation before doing anything else. It was a bit of a long walk, and we had a few complaints of being tired and hot, but it was so worth it. The interpreters at the plantation were the best in the whole museum (and the others were very good.) For just a taste of their presentation, one of the “indentured servants” assured Alan that he knew he was wise in the ways of tobacco from his own plantation, but asked his leave to speak on tobacco to the children, for their edification. Then he had the kids de-worming the tobacco plants. They had a great time.

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The following day we made our way to Solomons. There was no beach nearby, so the kids swam right around the boat with Alan keeping watch in the dinghy.

IMG_4965By coincidence, we had a neighbor at anchorage two nights in a row this time. The yacht Jack Tar was anchored near us at St. Mary’s City and again at Solomons.

IMG_4961There was one heck of a lightning storm overnight, but we were so protected in the Back Creek that it didn’t amount to much else for us.

The next day we finished our trip back to Grandma’s house, where she stays, awaiting our next adventure. Our next long trip will be to Jamestown! We went to the library today to stock up on appropriate historical reading to give the kids some background.

End of the Season

Although it wasn’t the plan when we set off at some point we decided that it would be best to sail the boat right to the marina where it will be stored for the winter rather than making a round trip. In light of Hurricane Sandy‘s imminent arrival, I am very thankful that we made that call.

Our two day journey from Breton Bay to Goose Bay was mostly uneventful. On Thursday we hopped up to Cobb Island, where we stopped for fuel and stayed at a marina for the night. It had been a damp, chilly night and the chili I’d brought for dinner was perfect in our cozy little boat, followed by an Italian ice treat we bought at the local grocery store. We walked over to look at the fire-boat  and when Felicity saw all these seagulls, she exclaimed, “Holy poop eagles!”After a brief thunderstorm in the morning, Friday turned into a much prettier day. On our way out of Cobb Island we were contacted by a Navy range boat by radio letting us know that the naval base at Dahlgren, Virginia was about to do live testing in the river so we needed to stay well away from them. They called Alan “Captain.” The conversation was interesting. After inquiring about our destination, they instructed Alan to get out his charts and proceeded to give him very specific marker-to-marker instructions for how to proceed. Basically they were just keeping us as close to the Maryland shoreline as possible, but they left no grey area for wandering any closer than was absolutely necessary to keep us out of shallow water.

By mid-afternoon we arrived at Goose Bay, where she’ll stay for the winter. The marina is just down the street from where I grew up. The feeling of being home, in a place where things are as they should be hit me hard for some reason on this trip back. I miss the trees of southern Maryland. The area where we live in Pennsylvania is all fields, where trees only line the open spaces. I realized how deeply I want again one day to live where the water is close and the woods are all around. As Savannah solemnly informed her siblings as they watched me add Old Bay to our tuna fish salad, “we’re Maryland people.”

The Monday following the end of our journey, Green Eyes was hauled out for the winter. I was a bit sad, but we weren’t sure if the weather would cooperate for the time we had tentatively scheduled for sailing her to the marina. As it turns out, the weather really would be a problem if she was still in the water. I’m still rather nervous just knowing she’s going to be sitting there in the kind of winds they’re predicting with this storm. We’ll have to change her home port before she goes back in for the spring, since we’re Maryland people.

 

 

Saint Clement, Pray for Us

After our lovely visit to St. Mary’s City, we got another pre-dawn start to our next historical destination: St. Clement’s Island, which was the first landing site of the Ark and the Dove before they settled at St. Mary’s City. There they celebrated the first Catholic Mass in the English New World, and waited as negotiations with the Yaocomaco Indians proceeded for the settlement of the St. Mary’s site.

It was an absolutely gorgeous sunny day, although there wasn’t a breath of wind. We motored the whole way there.

The island couldn’t be more beautiful. There’s not much there. At one end is a replica of the original lighthouse (which the Navy dynamited in the 1950s after it was declared unsafe), a bell tower, and a 40 foot tall cross dedicated to the memory of the first Marylanders.  St. Clement's IslandThat’s about it. There are picnic tables, grills, restrooms, and even a little stage that Felicity particularly enjoyed running about on. For the whole day, we were the only people on this little piece of heaven. The kids collected shells and rocks at the beach. We grilled hamburgers and ate a picnic lunch. We walked the length of the island, reading all the signs, soaking up the history, the beauty, and the sunshine.

Sammy named his little caterpillar friend “Daddy” after Alan.

It was a day I will never forget and I can only hope my children will remember. Truly that day it was our own secret paradise. All ours, and yet, not abandoned, but pristinely maintained.

At some point the breeze finally started to pick up a bit. Alan went down to the boat to check on the lines and returned musing that we might need to just hunker down there for the night, it was getting a bit rough. We soaked up a few more minutes of sunshine on a bench in front of that big cross, then decided it was time to leave. By that point ‘a bit rough’ had turned into uh-oh scary rough. The wind had picked way up and it was beating right into the island. The boat looked like a bucking horse as the bow surged up and down with each wave.

We got the kids into life jackets before even walking them down the pier toward the boat. Alan leaped aboard first, then grabbed each kid in turn by the shoulders of their life jacket, heaving them aboard and walking them safely down below. When my turn came, I assumed I’d have to grab on and help pull myself up, but before I even knew what had happened Alan had grabbed me and flung me on board like it was nothing, even as he grunted that I didn’t have shoulder straps.

I tried to take a picture that would show how rough it was, but the picture doesn’t begin to convey the situation. The only indications are the soaked pier and that Alan had all our lines doubled.

After checking and re-checking the lines, Alan sat to listen to the weather on the radio and worry. A cleat on our stern snapped right in half, and Alan worried some more, as it began to get dark. As the wind and waves continued to beat us all around, Sammy and Felicity blessedly fell asleep and Savannah experienced seasickness for the first time before falling asleep as well. I noted with a detached bemusement the irony that there at St. Clement’s Island we were in our worst sailing predicament yet. Maryland’s first settlers, surely travel weary after their ocean voyage, had named the island for Saint Clement because he is the Patron Saint of Sailors.

We reached the decision point. The weather reports indicated that the winds were only going to get stronger the next day. We had to try to get out of there. Alan said it was go time, say a prayer, and I said several. I was absolutely terrified that I wouldn’t be capable of doing what he needed me to do.

How we actually got out of there is a bit of a blur. Through a series of tying and untying lines from the pier, Alan managed to get the boat turned around so the stern was toward the pier in the next slip down from where we’d started. I was on board, catching lines and tying them off (badly and messily) and doing my best to keep us off the pier. Both of us nearly fell in the water at least once, but thankfully, neither of us actually did. At one point we were very nearly beaten into the pier. Alan was trying to pull the boat back with the lines and was absolutely at the end of his metaphorical rope with exhaustion. He gasped to me, “Watch…the dinghy….it’s…not…mine.” As if I didn’t remember the dinghy was borrowed? It was safe anyway. He was imagining it being crushed between the starboard side of the boat and the pier, but the tide had dropped enough that it had slid cleanly under the pier.

We did manage, after what felt like hours, but I’m sure wasn’t, to get all untied, with Alan back aboard. One of my big fears had been him somehow not making it back onto the boat after the lines were off and I had no choice but to get out of there before getting blown back into the island. I gunned the motor, which luckily was strong enough to get us away from the island without getting thrown back into the rocky point.

Darkness had set in completely as Alan rushed around undoing the mess I’d made of the lines, securing them properly and I steered us away from the island. I made a whole slew of LOST references in my head at this point. After he got things cleaned up a bit, Alan dug out the spotlight to check things out. Lo and behold, I’d missed an unlit marker by…. not very much. (I’m terrible at judging distance, but more on that another time.) That spooked me terribly. Why the heck would they put an unlit marker in the middle of the channel in the Potomac anyway? As much as possible I avoid steering at night now. After Alan took over I was able to appreciate the beauty of the sky full of stars and just a sliver of red moon.  It took us about an hour and a half to get to our anchorage that night: a nice protected little cove in Breton Bay.

All in all, our adventurous night cost us only a little bit of fiberglass damage and that broken cleat. Not nearly as bad as it could have been. Perhaps Saint Clement was looking out for us after all.

‘Twas the night before vacation…

We’re about to leave for a week of sailing. The preparation for these trips always overwhelms me. Just how much stuff does a family of five need to survive for a week anyhow? This will be our longest trip yet, and now that we’re properly into fall, preparing for weather possibilities is a bit more involved. I’ve made so. many. lists…

My notebook has been with me constantly all week – generally it’s traveled in my knitting bag, which is already constantly with me. I’m a bag lady.

I’ve shopped, and shopped again to pick up the things I forgot. I bought a gazillion snack things, made chili to freeze, boiled eggs, and carefully planned other easy meals for the week. I’ve packed clothes to take us through mild and dry to cold and wet weather. Thankfully, the forecast looks good right now, but one never knows. We have blankets, pillows, sheets, towels, toiletries, etc… Where the heck will we put all this stuff?

This is the main pile of stuff to be packed, but oh yes, there are others. (Shameless self promotion: I LOVE my SailorBags sailcloth stow bag that contains our towels and sheets. Once emptied it will make a perfect laundry bag. I just happen to sell these and other SailorBags products over at Hartlove Books and Gifts. The store is “closed” now for vacation, but will re-open in a week.)

Space is a big concern of mine. Our boat is a 32′ Bristol. Apparently it’s a “small” 32′, in that it has very little storage space compared to other 32′ boats. Alan explained to me why this is in regard to the design of the boat, and at some point I remembered and understood. Regardless, just like my nearly closet-less house, the boat has very few places to stow things. I’m not sure how all this is going to work out. Fall and winter clothing takes up a lot more room than summer clothing, and we just have more of everything this time. I’m sure somehow it will work out, but along with food supplies, it’s just one of those things I stress over.

And while I stress and pack and plan and check my list two dozen times, almost everyone else is calmly enjoying the anticipation of a lovely trip. Sammy must feel a bit of the worry I do. He was concerned enough to make sure his favorite friend Puppy Bear was not forgotten he choose to forego sleeping with him to leave him in the pile of things to be packed. He fell asleep hugging his stuffed shark instead.

I’ve hired Savannah as a product testing intern. She’s trying out a sailcloth book cover with her copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Assuming it passes her quality control test, that’s a product I’ll soon be offering in my store.

Meanwhile, Felicity pretends to sleep, betrayed by her cheesy grin.

We’ll be off to Maryland after church tomorrow and pushing off early Monday morning. The plan includes St. Clement’s Island and historic St. Mary’s City – places I haven’t been to since the Maryland history unit in 4th grade – so the history nerd in me is excited to return and to share the stories of these places with the kids. Here we go!