Monday, October 20, 2008

On the Chesapeake

Photos from the C and D Canal to the mid Eastern Shore: 1. Dietrich roamed Chesapeake City at 2:00 a.m. for this shot 2. A Skipjack bowsprit, an oyster dragger in use until the 1980s
3. Skipjack and a Cat Boat on the Miles River outside St. Michaels 4. Rescued Screwpile Lighthouse at St. Michaels and 5. Watermen at work on the Choptank River, near Oxford

Hudson River and New York City

Here they are:  1. Sunny day on the Hudson, nearing West Point   2. Greenwich Village, NYC,
fire escapes   3. 9-11-08, midnight view of Ground Zero, from the boat, NYC   4. Our N.J. marina,
five minutes from the subway  and  5. "Oh say, can you see.." the Statue of Liberty

Heading South

Well, times flies!  A relaxed, carefree vacation is not happening here.  It's a busy adventure.

We did the last lock in Troy, New York, then put the mast up on the Catskill River, near Hudson.  Sailing down the Hudson River was a thrill as we experienced our first tides and tidal currents.  West Point was beautifully sited in the rocky cliffs to the west, scenery everywhere along the way was memorable.

NYC was just so much fun that we are already plotting a visit for the trip north.  Along with typically tourist stops, we enjoyed shopping at Zabar's Deli.  Since there was no time to get back to the boat (via subways, at our N.J. marina) we checked our groceries in the coatroom at the Majestic Theater then watched a Broadway Show.  We were also part of the audience for the taping of a David Letterman Show.  It was a three hour commitment, a lot of work, but worth the effort.   Dietrich's birthday was celebrated with the Siepkers from Glen Arbor, Michigan...they met us at their daughter's (Brita) apartment and we went to the best pizza
joint in town.  Vanilla gelato with mango sauce served as the birthday goody, complete with a song from the waiters.  We left the city two days early, due to threats of nasty weather heading north with tropical storm Hanna.

The New Jersey shore was a challenge.  Sailing off-shore was easy compared to those tricky inlets where rowdy tidal currents met incoming waves.  Dietrich's tenacious grip on the wheel kept us safe.  We were visited by a whale just north of Atlantic City, up close, big and beautiful. At an anchorage across the Atlantic City inlet, we sat up most of the night to ensure that we stayed in one spot while 47 knot gusts whipped around us.  As he wrestled our CQR anchor off the bottom the next morning, Dietrich said it had dug in so well that it would have held a tanker.  Captains may be a lot like fishermen when it comes to sea tales.

The trip from Cape May up the Delaware Bay was long, wild, and not Annie's kind of sailing. She may bicycle it's perimeter on the way home!

We took a two and a half week hiatus in late September.  Our friend, Deb Langseth, arranged to keep Calliope safely tucked into her neighborhood marina, just off Maryland's Severn River. She opened her home to us and was a superior hostess.  Her name should be in lights!  Dietrich drove Annie to visit her parents in Ohio while he went on to jobs in Michigan.  During the first day he injured his knee, but managed to limp through all the work.  In the meantime, Annie's parents were good sports about the longest visit she had made with them since 1967.  Her flight from Akron-Canton was late so she missed the connection in Atlanta.  Arrival in Baltimore was much later...a typical flight experience these days.  Dietrich drove back with a car full of  things we thought we couldn't do without.  Now, the boat sits lower in the water but it still points admirably!  Anchored off the Naval Academy, we wandered around the boat show and historic Annapolis.  We welcomed a dinner with Paul and Nancy Jacobs, formerly of Traverse City and recent long term cruisers.  They readily shared wise ideas and fishing gear!
Maryland's Eastern Shore has kept our interest for the past twelve days.  During the first sail, up the Miles River, we met a charter boat with our friend Jeff Basista standing on the bow.  We waved and hollered quick greetings...small world.   St. Michaels and Oxford are villages so steeped in early American history that we thought we could hear the canons from those old square rigged ships.  Both towns were fragrant with lush gardens (roses everywhere!), bumpy brick sidewalks edged in moss, crunched oyster shell driveways, and homes dating to the mid 1800s.  We dodged crab pots and oyster dredgers as we sailed the Choptank and Tred Avon Rivers.  Naturally, we devoured as many crabs and oysters as we could tolerate.

A bumpy, wind-on-the-nose trip to Tangier Island was next.  It's near the east shore in Virginia, celebrating 400 years since being claimed for England by Captain John Smith.  It's two feet above sea level and many houses sit on fat legs.  Residents say the Chesapeake is rising.  We were there for nearly four days, during the season's highest tides.  Yards and pathways were often  awash and the strong harbor current meant that we stayed at a dock. 

Tangier has few shops or restaurants, all closed by this time of the year anyway.  Cell and internet services are unreliable, most of the 500 residents take the mail boat to the mainland for major shopping.  It is an island of tough Chesapeake watermen.  Each morning, we watched their graceful boats (a style called Chesapeake Bay Deadrise, named after wives and girlfriends) leave in the dark, then zoom back after lunch, heavy with bushels of crabs, trying to beat each other to the buyers waiting at the dock.
Hundreds of cats roam the island, fed (they do love seafood!) and cared for by everyone.  We heard little feet padding our deck each night, on patrol.

We walked the streets and alleys for hours each day, dodging bicycles and the golf carts that are the main transportation.  As a result, we talked with many island residents, all of whom were uncommonly friendly and helpful.  Mr. Milton Parks, the marina owner, told us to be at the end of the dock ten minutes after we tied up!  We crowded into his cart (with a gray cat) for an hour's tour, complete with marvelous tales from that 77 year old waterman.  Dietrich found the only library...Muddy Toes Free lending and give-away library, across the path from Drs. Neil and Susan Kaye.  They fly to the island on weekends from Wilmington, Delaware, then spend their time organizing the book collection and working at the history museum they sponsor.  Neil also flies Angel Flights along the mid-Atlantic coast.  We accompanied him when he flew an island resident to a Hospice facility on the mainland and we were impressed with the program.  OK...we were also wildly excited about a helicopter flight that took us over the Tangier Island group and along the coast, about the two bald eagles and numerous sea birds we observed, and about just hanging above the white-capped bay.  Wow.

There is a K-12 school on the island, with around 80 students and thirteen teachers.  A low student-teacher ratio like that is a major key to quality education and many island graduates go on to college.  Part of the result, however, is that the general population is aging.  Life is hard on a soggy island in the Chesapeake Bay, but the marsh grasses and salt air seem to breed good humor and great strength of character.  We hope the winds will be in our favor when we head north next spring.  Tangier Island will be on our Top Priority List.
We are going to reread Michener's CHESAPEAKE.