The Route South

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Solomon's Island and the Eastern Shore

After Randy returned from a one-week trip to Clearwater, there was plenty of work to be done…so what’s new?  Cindy stayed with Morning Star at Calvert Marina.  There was a constant stream of boats coming and going, boats to help dock, people to meet and docktails and potlucks to attend.  At one time there were nine Krogen trawlers there.
...and suddenly a docktail party broke out!

Before Randy left for Florida, we made an appointment with Drum Point Marine to find and fix the source of the diesel leak and do an oil and filter change on the generator.  Katie, the diesel mechanic showed up on Friday and got right to work.  It didn’t take her long to pinpoint the source of the leak – a cracked fuel filter housing.  Unfortunately, the replacement would have to be ordered and wouldn’t come in until Monday so we had a date for Tuesday. 

Of a more immediate concern was our new air conditioning system.  Yeah, the one we had installed in South Carolina just three weeks ago.  It was frosting up and freezing up on a daily basis.  Fortunately Drum Point was a Marine Air dealer and warranty station and our new best friend Katie, in addition to being a diesel mechanic par excellent, is a certified Marine Air technician.  She took a quick look at the unit, squirted some soapy water in all the right places and declared that the unit was leaking Freon.  A repair would require that the unit be disconnected and removed from the boat, the Freon pumped out of the system, the fault soldered, pressure-tested with nitrogen and then recharged.  Finally, it would have to be reinstalled.  All this would be done on Marine Air’s dime, but we would without air conditioning for the duration.  And it’s HOT out.  I told Katie that since the unit was only three weeks old, I really wanted Marine Air to replace it with another new unit.  Katie made a quick cell phone call to Marine Air and they concurred.  They wanted the old unit back so they could examine it and were shipping another unit immediately.  But, you will remember that it’s Friday so the new unit won’t be in until Monday.  Katie will be a busy little girl on Tuesday.  So she charged the old one up with Freon and we were good for the weekend.  Yea Katie!

On Sunday, Sister Jane and Sam showed up, driving four hours from Pennsylvania to spend the afternoon with us.  They must have been bored and really wanted a road trip.  We had a great time showing them some of Solomons from the dinghy (Morning Star’s fuel system was shut off because of the broken fuel filter casing), having lunch at Fair Winds Café and then extending their road trip even further by driving to Greenwell State Park and Sotterly Plantation for a look-see.  Before we knew it, it was time for a quick bite of dinner and they were back on the road.  It sure was a quick visit but it was great to see them again.
Do these people look hungry?  (Hint: The correct answer is "Yes")                        Picture by Sam

Tuesday morning Katie called.  The good news is that all our stuff showed up.  The bad news was that they had an emergency and she had to put us off until Wednesday morning.  But Wednesday came and so did Katie.  The new filter housing was installed in short order and the oil and filter was changed before we knew it.  The air conditioner swap was relatively quick and before we knew it, Morning Star was whole again.  Yea Katie (again)!!!

Sunday June 26, 2011
At 0800 the engine is warming up.  Morning Star has been tied to the dock for three weeks now.  But the mechanical work is completed and the painting project is at a stopping point.  Several Krogen friends are on the move again and we are feeling the pull to go see somewhere new.  The Eastern Shore is calling!
By 0815 we have cleared the entrance to the harbor and are underway in the Patuxent River.  At 0900 we pass abeam Cedar Point, into the Bay, headed south and east.  An hour-and-a-half later Point No-Point, on the northern shore of the Potomac River slips by 1-1/2 miles to the west.  Shortly after 1330 we enter the channel to Tangier Island at marker #1.  It is only a fifteen-minute ride up the channel to Parks Marina. 
It was a short thirty-nine mile trip but somewhere along the way we travelled through a time warp.  Tangier Island and its sister, Smith Island are a world unto themselves.  These two islands, isolated eleven miles out in the Bay, have for centuries been inhabited by watermen –crabbers mostly.  They speak their own brand of English – almost a mix of Bahamian English with a strong Virginian influence.  It has a heavy accent and when two locals start to speak to each other, you can’t understand them! 
Eighty-year-old Milton Parks, the owner of Parks Marina, helped us tie up the boat and get the power cord plugged in.  He insisted that he was going to give us a guided golf cart tour of Tangier.  So Cindy and I stuffed into the front seat of the cart with Mr. Parks and off we went.  Mercifully, it is a small island.  Three in the front of a golf cart just doesn’t work.  By the time we were done my butt was asleep from sitting half on the armrest.  Tangier has only about 600 people living there.  Like watermen everywhere that take their living from the sea, it is a tough life with long hours in all kinds of weather.  And like watermen everywhere, its getting harder and harder to make a profit.  They are being squeezed between fuel prices being so high and the price of crabs being so low.  Add in government “interference” in the form of quotas, closed seasons and other regulations meant to protect the fishery and the problem gets compounded.  After returning to Morning Star and thanking Mr. Parks for his hospitality, we struck out on our own to visit the small museum after taking a stroll around town.  As you can imagine, it doesn’t take long to stroll through town, but the museum gave us a fascinating glimpse into island life.  Tangier is an island and everything has to come to the island on a boat.  Boards and nails for your house and the hammer to join them together all have to be specially ordered and a trip to the mainland organized.  There is ferry service several times a day for most of the year and many of the residents keep a car at Crisfield so they have transportation.  But there have been winters when the Bay has frozen over and the ferry can’t move.  The museum has newspaper clippings and photos of food being delivered by Navy blimp sometime around WWII!  More recent freeze-overs have been negotiated by helicopter or light planes because there is now an airstrip on the island.  These days tourism has become an important part of the local economy and the ferryboats bring visitors several times a day.  The last ferry left at 4 PM and the island really slowed down.  It was Sunday and the restaurant was closing at 5 PM because church started at 7!  It was earlier than we normally eat, but we wanted to sample the crab-cakes for which Tangier is famous.
Tangier Island is low and marshy.

Cindy and Milton Parks.  They are still smiling after the tour.

Parks Marina.  That is Milton's old crab boat in the foreground.

The town and the houses remind us of Man-O-War, Hope Town and New Plymouth in the Bahamas.

You can understand why the town streets to flood easily.

The main channel passing through Tangier Island.

Watermen shanties.  Crab is king on Tangiers.

Monday June 27, 2011
We were up and ready to go early but there was a boat from New Zealand docked ahead of us and we were blocked in.  Since the New Zealander decided to go out to breakfast, we waited until almost 0930 to leave.  We were surprised to see a small cruise ship making her way northbound as we entered Tangier Sound, on the east side of the island.  Going to Crisfield I guess?  Our course took us south around Watts Island, avoiding the shoals and Watts Island Rock.  By 1045 we were heading north up Pocomoke Sound.  Just before 1300 we entered the Pocomoke River at marker #1 PR.  The trip up the river was beautiful.  Slowly, the grass marshes gave way to heavy forest on one side of the river and farms and homes on the opposite shore.  We saw several Bald Eagles about half way up the river – what a highlight!  At 1600 we tied up alongside the town docks at Pocomoke City.  The dockage is free, including electricity, for the first two days of your stay.  It is located in an idyllic park setting and is simply beautiful.  Mark and Emily Little on the KK39 “Grand Adventure” were tied up on the dock on the other side of the bridge and Ken and Sylvianne Roberts (KK48 “Sylken Seas”) were tied up directly behind us.  Ken and Sylvianne are Canadians who have kept their boat here for the last two summers. They head to the Islands for the winter.  The KK44 “Crackerjack” lives just up the river behind Ray and Bonnie Nordstrom’s house.  Ray is the local Chevy and Toyota Dealer.  We all had cocktails aboard “Sylken Seas”.  Ray’s daughter made us a party of nine and we all piled into two cars and went to the local Mexican restaurant for dinner.  It was excellent!
Fishing day at the town dock.  A field trip for one of the local summer camps.

Pocomoke City’s downtown is dying.  There is a beautiful downtown area but almost all the businesses are closed.  There isn’t even a place to buy a cup of coffee within walking distance.  It’s a real shame.  The town would love to attract boaters, hence the free dockage.  And it is a beautiful trip up the river.  But when you get there, there’s not much to do.  That’s just what we were looking for.  We started a paint project in Solomons but we have too many friends there and there is always something going on to get in the way of progress.  The fact of the matter is that we don’t have much discipline!  But here there are few distractions and the dock is the perfect height to paint the trim on the cabin side.  So for the next four days we will immerse ourselves in painting.

But that’s not to say that we only worked and didn’t enjoy ourselves.  Far from it!  I just told you that we don’t have much discipline.  Actually we have almost none!  There is a small museum that we visited one afternoon.  And then a quick phone call to Enterprise and they came running – well not exactly, but you get the idea.  So one day we worked in the morning and then got a car at 4 PM, which meant that after we got our morning chores done we had the afternoon off.  Can you say ROADTRIP!?  We made a trip to WallyWorld for groceries, not our favorite place and lousy selection.  Fortunately we didn’t need much.  
That night we went to see a rocket launch.  Turns out that NASA has a launch facility at Wallops Island, just south of Chincoteague Island, about twenty minutes away.  Who knew?  Actually, they have been there since WWII - before NASA was NASA.  So after dinner we drove to the NASA Visitors’ Center and scoped it all out.  After wandering around the site and looking at the displays we went into a large auditorium where they had live video of the launch site and the control room on a huge screen, complete with audio.  When the countdown got to -10 minutes, everybody got up and went outside and stood at the edge of the marsh to watch the rocket go up.  At -7 minutes, there was a hold!  The launch window was somewhere between 2030 and 2330 and it was almost 10 PM by now (you can do the math – I just know that you can) so we went back inside and watched and listened as the launch controllers worked their way through the problem.  They were able to resume the countdown in time and we all went back outside to watch them launch an Air Force satellite into orbit.  It was exciting and fascinating just to see the whole process.  We have seen two space launches in two months.  Wow!
WAAAAY COOL!!!              Photo purloined from NASA.

The following day we finished our paint project so we did a road trip, traveling to Snow Hill, Berlin (both pretty little towns) and Salisbury (not so much).  We especially liked Berlin.
The idyllic town dock at Pocomoke City.  

Saturday July 2, 2011
After briefly warming the engine we pulled away from the dock at 0700.  The bridge tender immediately opened the bridge and we were headed down river with the tide in our favor, giving us 8 knots of boat speed!  We saw even more Bald Eagles this trip than on the way up.  What a magnificent sight.  The extra speed makes a difference and we were back in Pocomoke Sound 2-1/2 hours later – thirty minutes quicker than the trip up the river.  Shortly after noon we doubled the mark at the south end of Watts Island and started north in Tangier Sound.  By 1345 we were at Big Thoroughfare, the entrance that leads to the small town of Ewell on Smith Island.  Pauli met us at Smith Island Marina and helped us dock a few minutes before 1500.  She and her husband own this small marina and she was trying to find ways to shoehorn in five or six boats.
Smith Island is even smaller than Tangier Island – only about 200 residents.  Like Tangier, it is a crabbing community and like Tangier, it is trying to attract tourists.  But the last ferryboats leave at 4 PM and EVERYTHING closes at 4PM.  Actually there was one small place that closed at 6 PM so we were able to eat an early dinner.  The place was about 150 years old and looked it was about to fall down around us.  But they do serve the famous Smith Island cake.  It is made with 8 or 10 layers of cake, each about ½ thick and iced between each layer.  It’s delicious.  Cindy wasn’t feeling well so we decided to lay over an extra day rather than pushing on to Oxford.  But that allowed us to eat lunch at the much nicer, newer restaurant the next day.  They rent golf carts to tour the island but it’s so small that we just took the bikes down and rode them around.  Not much to see on Smith Island.
Smith Island waterman's shanty and local crab boat. 

Monday July 4, 2011 - Independence Day!
We were up early and grabbed a quick bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee and were under way by 0730.  Ten minutes later we were clear of Smith Island marker #1 and were back in the Bay.  The autopilot was set for a course to take us to Solomons but it was quite rolly.  The wind and the tide weren’t playing well together so we ducked back into Tangier Sound at 0830 by way of Kedges Straight.  There we found a lee so the waves were quite small and the wind was no longer a factor.  On our way we passed the delightfully named Solomons Lump Light.  I have no idea.  By 1100 we were making our way through Hooper Island Straight.  By 1200, when we re-entered the Bay, it was flat calm!  What a difference a few hours can make.  The autopilot was reset to make for Solomons.  By 1400 we were passing Cedar Point and an hour later we were tied to the familiar floating dock at Calvert Marina.  Wil and Sue Parry (KK48-Second Star) were there and invited us to watch the fireworks from their fly bridge.  The fireworks were shot off from a barge anchored in the river and we had great seat.  They were spectacular!

Tuesday July 5, 2011
It will be a short trip today, so we didn’t depart until almost 0930.  As we passed Drum Point and entered the Bay, it was flat calm and hot.  By 1300 we entered the Choptank River and an hour later, Oxford was in plain sight as we entered the Tred Avon River.  By 1430 the anchor was down and set in Plaindealing Creek.  It was quite hot so we started the generator and ran the air conditioner to cool the boat (Yea Katie!) while we busied ourselves lowering the dinghy and outboard motor so we could go to Oxford.  We really NEEDED to visit the Scottsman’s ice cream shop.  It was part of our plan to cool off!

The following morning we pulled up the anchor at 1100 and were tied to a slip at Mears Yacht Harbor in Oxford before lunch.  After lunch we took the bikes down and went for a ride before hitting the swimming pool for a cooling dip.  Nice town…one of our favorite stops.

Thursday July 7, 2011
 Started up and left Mears shortly after 0830.  We reversed our course from two days earlier, running back out the Tred Avon and Choptank Rivers.  However, today we changed course, taking us through Knapp’s Narrows, a short cut to Annapolis, at 1025.  The Bay was calm today and we were abeam Thomas Point Light by 1215.  An hour later we were tied up to mooring #24 in the Annapolis mooring field.  We intended to tie up at the City Docks in Ego Alley but they are closed off!  Lincoln-Mercury is filming a commercial tonight and Ego Alley and Main Street are being used as the venue.  The waterfront is all pimped out with special lights and decoration.  We took the water taxi in to Pussers for dinner with Dr. Jane and Fuller.  It was almost dark when we got back to Morning Star and it was a bit cooler, but just a bit.  Tomorrow we go to the docks.
Old skipjack sloop in Knapp's Narrows. 

Old Chesapeake buy-boat.  These used to go into the Bay and buy the oysters from the watermen and take them back for processing and sale.

Friday July 8, 2011
The lad on the harbormasters boat told us that they were supposed to be finished shooting by 0600 and we could go into the City Docks any time after that.  Just to play it safe, we waited until 0800.  We went in and tied alongside the wall, as close to the dinghy dock as we could.  We plugged in and turned on the air conditioner.  Annapolis has a shuttle bus called the Circulator and for 50¢, we got a ride to the top of the hill where we visited the State House.  It was very interesting.  It is the oldest continuously operating State Capital in the country.  Did you know that it served as the capitol of the United States for a while?  And it was here that General George Washington resigned his commission after the Revolutionary War.
After the tour we walked back down Main Street, stopping for lunch at a local pub.  As we sat at the table, Pam Loving (KK42 “Compass Rose”) called to say they just saw Morning Star in Ego Alley.  So they walked up the hill and had lunch with us.  It was great to finally get to spend some time with them and catch up.  We visited Stevens Hardware and Storm Bros. Ice Cream; both conveniently located 25 ft. from where we are tied up.  I ask you, could this possibly be a coincidence?  Dr. Jane and Fuller were planning to come down and have a drink aboard and take us to dinner at the Severn Sailing Association.  Unfortunately, a severe rainstorm forced them to cancel the dinner.  We walked across the street to Buddy’s where we partook of their seafood buffet.  Great oysters, among other things!
Morning Star at the City Docks, Annapolis.  You can't dock any closer to Storm Brothers!

Saturday July 9, 2011
Breakfast at Chick and Ruth’s Deli.  It is an institution in this town and has become an institution for us.  Back aboard, its time to get under way.  We are away from the City Docks by 0945.  We have a short trip to Herring Bay and Herrington Harbor Marina today, only about 20 miles.  1000, Horn Point – 1045, Thomas Point Light – 1220, Herring Bay – 1245 docked at Herrington Harbor.  After lunch Cindy went to the pool while I watched the Rays game on TV.  I stopped in at the West Marine for a few things before heading to the pool to join her.  This is a big marina…they have their own West Marine store on the property!  Dinner aboard tonight.

Sunday July 10, 2011
Twice a summer the marina has a catered breakfast for all the slip holders.  Scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit and juice.  We are in luck because today is one of those days!  Breakfast by the pool starting at 0800.
At 0925 we were leaving our slip, headed back to Solomons and Calvert Marina.  The weather is great and we are making good time going down the Bay.  By 1330 we were abeam Cove Point and an hour later we entered Back Creek at Solomons.  By 1445 we were tied to the floating dock at Calvert, a nice quick 34-mile trip.  We will be here for several weeks, since Randy is flying to Florida for a week on Wednesday.  So we have a few days of chores before he leaves.  We ordered some sunscreens for the windows from the local sailmaker and he is going to install them on Monday.  This should help greatly with the afternoon heat.  Check one more thing off the To-Do list!