Independence, Huzzah!

Independence, Huzzah!

We had fantastic plans to spend Independence Day weekend in Yorktown. Yorktown, for you non-history nerds and other strange people, was the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War and the surrender of Cornwallis to George Washington. Are you getting excited with me yet? Celebrating independence at the very site of victory, Huzzah!

We’d sail down Thursday night and grab a mooring ball, which we had reserved several weeks in advance. There would be a parade in the morning, beach time, and walking around the lovely historic town. After grilling kabobs, we would eat dessert and drink wine as we watched fireworks from the aft deck. Fourth of July perfection, right?

Then this guy came along.arthur

The outskirts of the storm that became Hurricane Arthur was supposed to be reaching the lower Bay just about the time we were hoping to leave Thursday night. We had to decide what to do, and since we had the kids with us, we decided to hunker down in the marina until it passed. In retrospect we probably would have been alright if we’d left when we originally planned, but by the time we realized that, it was too late to change our decision.

Our good friends Matt and Sarah and their son Dallas joined us, and we had a relaxed Independence Day at the marina, playing and swimming. Late afternoon we all drove to Yorktown, where we parked in a field with the rest of the crowd, and trudged to the waterfront with our cooler and chairs to wait for fireworks. We thought longingly of our vision of grilling on the deck as we waited in long lines for food and envisioned our relative solitude on the boat as we waited in more long lines to use port-a-potties. Ick.

The company was lovely though, and the kids got to play on the beach and had lots of fun helping to corral the very inquisitive Dallas.

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And there was a nice fireworks show.

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It really was a very nice holiday. It just wasn’t what we had envisioned.That, however, more or less came the next day.

On Saturday, Matt and Sarah headed home, but we sailed/ motor-sailed up to Reedville, a historic town known for its menhaden fishing industry. We had heard they were having fireworks that night. It was a beautiful day and a nice little trip up there.

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We passed the historic smokestack and arrived during their Independence Day parade. We caught glimpses of fire trucks between the houses, and could hear their horns and sirens. After finding a spot to anchor on Cockrell Creek, we took the dinghy into town. It is really a lovely town. Every house was festive, with flags and banners displayed for the Fourth.

We had read in online reviews that there was a nice place to get ice cream. Some kind local folks were more than happy to give us directions there and wish us a pleasant stay. We located the ice cream shop, Chitterchats, and decided to come back after dinner. We rode back to the boat and grilled those kabobs we’d been wishing for the previous night, then returned for ice cream. The line was long, but the ice cream was delicious.

After dark were more fireworks. It was so much more pleasant to watch, knowing my bed was right there below waiting for me when they were over. The town put on a very nice fireworks show, which was followed by some pretty impressive private fireworks from the opposite side of the creek.

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The weekend went so quickly. After sailing back and cleaning and packing Sunday, we had to begin the long drive home. Alan went right to DC as he had to work the next day, so the kids and I made the trip back to PA without him. It’s always a long drive, but this time it was especially painful, due to an earlier accident on the Potomac River Bridge, which added about 2 slow, painful hours to my trip. I will be ever so grateful when our trips to the boat are no longer bookended by that drive.

Memorial Day Sail

Memorial Day Sail

We had a lovely though uneventful first family sailing trip on Tipsy Lady over Memorial Day weekend. We sailed up the Rappahannock and found a couple nice little anchorages off the Corrotoman River. It was incredibly nice to be close enough to anchorages to just go leisurely and pick out a spot. We’re used to having to leave early and press hard all day just to get somewhere. We even ran into one of our nice new “neighbors” at the marina at the anchorage, which was a lovely surprise.

The kids all report that they “love sailing!” We suspect they really love finding secluded beaches, swimming off the boat, and staying up late looking at the stars, but we’ll take their enthusiasm.

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Sammy made his famous Sammy Sandwiches for breakfast one day. (Bacon + mustard + bread) I’m afraid they were nearly all wrong, though, as I only had the wrong kind of bread and the wrong kind of mustard.

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The weather was lovely all weekend and we all enjoyed having a bit more room to spread out.

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One of the habits we’ve fallen into that everybody especially loves is spending the evenings cozied together with blankets and pillows on the bow as it gets dark and the stars appear. As it turns out, we still don’t fit very well on the bow of our new boat. Darn kids just keep growing. But we have a nice wide stern that we all fit in nicely. And Sunday evening, sitting in the back positioned us perfectly to catch a surprise fireworks show. That’s summertime perfection right there.

And now, a random shot that partially shows inside the boat… because I just realized that a couple people mentioned wanting to see pictures of the inside and I still didn’t really take any.

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First sail

First sail

Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were dedicated toward getting Tipsy Lady moved from Annapolis to her new home at Stingray Point. I was packed and ready to leave right after church for Deltaville, where I’d meet Alan so we could leave a car there. The day began in the tradition of many a great adventure – my car wouldn’t start. After charging the battery for a while and a previously unplanned trip to Autozone, we were back on schedule.

I drove to Annapolis, provisioned the boat, then down to Stingray Point to wait for Alan. Then we rode back up to Annapolis together to spend our first night on the boat. We were both so pleased that it is much more comfortable than our sleeping arrangements on Green Eyes. We both slept like we were in our bed at home.

We got started sailing toward Deltaville early Monday morning. The getting out of the slip bit made me all kinds of nervous, as usual, but we got off without incident. It was a chilly but  beautiful day, a nice day to get to know our new boat. We are so incredibly pleased. It handles so well, and requires so much less effort than the other boat. I hardly felt like Alan even needed me there to help.

We enjoyed a bit of champagne while the boat sailed herself.

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The weather was just beginning to turn a bit, with showers and the wind picking up, when we tucked into Smith Creek off the Potomac for the evening and enjoyed some hot chili for dinner. We were given a hint of what the next day would hold as we listened to the wind howl all night long.

Tuesday was long, cold, wet, and rough. The wind was a fierce 30 knots, gusting higher, and the waves were awful. Our one relief is that it wasn’t raining all day also. We went through showers here and there, but no real sustained rains. We still got rather wet between the splashes and sprays from the huge waves and the rain showers. I forgot my foul weather pants, so I wore a pair of Sammy-sized rain pants Alan happened to have with him. They stretched around my waist fine, but only covered halfway down my calves. I looked ridiculous and was grateful that my tush wasn’t soaked.

I was terribly seasick most of the day. After a few episodes of this, although none as bad as this last time, I’m finally learning that I really need to take precautions for that possibility when the weather isn’t good.  All in all it was a rather miserable day. I was so sick I couldn’t do much to help Alan out, and unlike the day before,  he could have used some help. He looks like he’s got it all under control though, yes?

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We did learn two fantastic things, though.  Firstly, our boat handled the awful weather nicely. She handled pretty well and we made decent progress all day long, even when we were fighting into the wind. We discovered a few things we need to work on before we get out in any bad weather again, but all in all we were very pleased with how she made it through.

Also, Stringray Point Marina is amazingly well protected. The weather was just plain nasty. The whole way from the Potomac to Deltaville, we never saw another recreational boat out on the water, just a few commercial vessels. No one else was foolish enough to be out, it seems. But once we got up into the marina, it was hard to detect the slightest hint that it might be bad out. The only clue was the wind still howling in the distance if you really listened for it. It was perfectly calm tucked up in there; we had no trouble backing into our slip – well, no more than normal, anyhow.

After getting settled and introducing ourselves at the marina office (where we could not possibly have been made to feel more welcome), and stopping at Lowery’s in Tappahannock for dinner,  we began the long, late drive back to Annapolis to pick up the truck and then all the way home. It was fun, it was trying, it was exhausting… already looking forward to next time.

I’m especially eager to spend a day going through the boat and figuring out how we want to stow things to really make it ours. It has so much storage space, it’s incredible. I’m used to not knowing where to put things because there’s just no space to work with. Now I have plenty of space and I actually have to figure out what spaces make sense for keeping particular things. Amazing.

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

Sail to the Historic Triangle

Sail to the Historic Triangle

Our longest and farthest trip yet is finished and I am declaring it a success. Since there did not appear to be any good options for anchorage in the James River, we sailed down to the York River and used Yorktown as a base to see all of Virginia’s “Historic Triangle”: Yorktown, Jamestown, and Williamsburg. Our weather was beautiful. We had a few brief storms, but only one rain day in two weeks. We saw one shark, a bunch of dolphins, lots of stingrays, herons, pelicans, and ospreys, and oddly enough, a ridiculous number of dragonflies.

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IMG_5348IMG_5313Our first two nights at Yorktown we anchored across the River in Sarah Creek. We celebrated Alan’s birthday with a made-aboard-from-scratch cake. My super secret keepers helped keep it a surprise by assuring him multiple times that we were definitely not having dessert that night, especially not cake! He was totally shocked.

IMG_5052The next day we made our first foray into Yorktown. The river was too rough to dinghy across, so we took a taxi across the bridge. We thought we were going to the Yorktown Victory Center, a living history museum of the Revolutionary War that is run by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Instead, the driver took us to the Yorktown Battlefield, run by the National Park Service. I felt a little cheated. There’s not much there besides a very small museum and a bunch of cannons. There is a self-guided driving tour that might be good, but it wasn’t any good to us. The kids liked the cannons, though.

IMG_5057One of the greatest things about Yorktown, though, is the free trolley that runs through the town, as well as the free buses that run to Williamsburg and Jamestown. After exploring the battlefield a bit, we jumped on the trolley and visited the Yorktown Victory Monument, and the home of Thomas Nelson, a signer of the Declaration.

IMG_5065We couldn’t have anchored on the Yorktown side of the river because of the wicked currents, but the county has some mooring balls right by the riverfront for a very reasonable rate, so we decided to grab one the next day and stay while we went to Jamestown. We so enjoyed everything the area had to offer, we stayed for three days. In Yorktown, we enjoyed the beaches, the Watermen’s Museum, and the Yorktown Victory Center was great when we finally got there.

IMG_5126Jamestown was awesome. We did both Historic Jamestowne (the actual site) and Jamestown Settlement (a living history museum) in the same day, but to do them justice, in the future I would plan a full day at each. At Historic Jamestowne, they had uncovered a skeleton of a horse about a week before we were there. I couldn’t convince Sammy it wasn’t a dinosaur.

IMG_5081Historic Jamestowne was even better than I remembered and gave me goosebumps, but the kids loved Jamestown Settlement more.

IMG_5098We’d been planning to leave Friday morning, but we decided to stay one last day to make it to the Carrot Tree Restaurant’s all-you-can-eat crab night at the Watermen’s Museum. Unfortunately, that week’s event was canceled due to forecast thunderstorms that never came. (Boo.) We decided to go to Williamsburg for our last day. We went and walked around a bit and had lunch there. We weren’t able to stay for long though, after getting a late start because we wanted to get the head pumped out first and the dock didn’t open until 10. We’ll definitely have to go back to the area another time when we can spend more time at both Jamestown and Williamsburg.

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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.