Onto the Chesapeake and we visit Tangier Island
35 Days Looping
699.2 Nautical Miles Total (804.6 Statute Miles)
210.1 Nautical Miles This Week
25.7 Hours Underway This Week
8.3 NMph Average Speed
0 Locks This Week, 2 Total Locks
Monday – May 13th – 18.5 NM – To: Hampton, VA
On Monday morning we left Norfolk under cloudy rainy skies. We’d been at Waterside marina and were in need of a change of scenery. Our plan was to go to Cape Charles, MD which is about 50 miles away on the other side of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. For any of you who have taken the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, this is the Northern end of the system. We passed Red Marker 36 which is the official 0-mile maker for the ICW and headed up past the container terminals. A large container ship pulled into the river about a mile in front of us, and we slowed and fell in behind to give it plenty of space as it was still being managed by tugs.
As we passed Hampton Virginia, we got a call from Charlie on The Lower Place asking what our plans were. They had spent the night in Hampton and had decided to stay there for the day as the weather was rainy. We told him we were going to give Port Charles a try. He told us that there was plenty of space in Hampton if we got out there and decided to turn around. We continued past the navy yards, keeping a close eye on the radar for ships ahead.
Toward the end of Norfolk Harbor, we saw another large ship heading toward us through the mist. As we got closer we could see that it was a large Navy ship with a couple of tugs next to it. We pulled way over to the outbound side of the channel to allow for a port-to-port pass, making sure not to get too close to the Navy piers to give it room. Then we heard a call on the radio “Kissed Some Frogs, Kissed Some Frogs, this is Navy Warship Supply off your bow. We are about to turn into Pier 12, would you mind passing us on the 2?” (The two is their starboard or right side) We acknowledged, and made a quick turn to port to comply with their request!
Once we cleared the Navy Ship, we headed out of Norfolk harbor. We were still in sight of the container ship and were following it out into the main shipping channel. The wind was predicted at 10-15 which is within our boating limit, as we continued up the river, we only had minor waves, but the farther into the Bay we got, the larger the waves became. The wind was not too bad, still 10-15 with occasional gusts to 20, but it was against the tide and after about 5 miles or so, we were seeing 5-6 ft waves breaking over the bow and it had started raining off and on. We decided that it wasn’t fun anymore (Brenda decided a bit sooner than I did, but we agreed), and turned around and headed back to Hampton, VA.
We arrived in Hampton City Marina at around 11:00. After a quick tie-up, we were greeted by 4 other Looper boats that were already there waiting out the weather. During the afternoon, we had several others that stuck their nose out into the Bay and turned around to come in for the night. We heard the next day, that a boat that continued on to Cape Charles had received damage due to the large waves. We’re glad we turned back.
We walked up into town to see the sights and find a quick snack to settle our stomachs. Robin and Charlie gave us a tour as they had been there before. We walked past the NASA Langley Space Research Visitor Center, then decided to have a light lunch at “Brown Chicken, Brown Cow” a popular local restaurant. Downtown Hampton has lots of painted murals on the sides of buildings, some are amazingly detailed.
By evening, there were 8 Loopers, (Dash Away, Catalina Jack, Mazie-C, The Lower Place, Inshallah, B-Side, Golden Daze, Kissed Some Frogs) and a couple of sailboats, all in Hampton waiting out the weather. We had an impromptu docktails on Golden Daze, then walked up to the micro-brewery right at the marina for dinner. Dinner was good, and they had some great beer on tap. I had a Double IPA, and it was so tasty, that as I was paying the bill, I asked the bartender if I could get one in a to-go cup. She said, “No, but I can make you a can if you like!” It was very cool, she grabbed an empty 16 oz can with no lid from under the counter, filled it with beer from the tap, then sealed it with a can top!
Tuesday – May 14th – 57.7 NM – To: Reedville, VA
Tuesday dawned bright with just some high clouds and light winds. The afternoon had predictions of rain and thunderstorms. We chatted with The Lower Place and decided to stay on the Western Shore and go to Reedville, VA which was about 60 miles away. By staying on the Western side, we had several other ports that we could quickly tuck into if the weather deteriorated.
We were traveling at about 8 knots most of the day, which is about 1/4 power for the Frog, and close to full power for the Lower Place. At about noon, the winds came up and we saw some rain on the radar. As the weather front came through, we moved down to the lower helm to get out of the rain. The wind brought the waves up to 3-4 feet, but as we were going with the current, the waves were manageable. Also, having another boat with us gave Brenda a sense of security. The rain was not hard, but we did see some 20-knot winds with a few gusts to 35! The weather only lasted about an hour, and then things calmed down. When we made the turn into Cockerel Creek for the trip up to Buzzards Bay marina, the water was almost smooth.
The run-up the creek was only a few miles, and we passed a large Menhaden Fishing port. This area was one of the richest in the area in the ’20s and ’30’s due to the Menhaden fishing (Menhaden is a smaller fish used for fish oil), and the shore is lined with nice older homes.
We arrived at Buzzards Point Marina and pulled into our slips for the night. Charlie on Lower Place picked Buzzards point because if you take the Ferry that they operate to Tangier Island, they give you a free night’s slip rental. We wanted to visit Tangier anyway, so this was a great deal, and we could enjoy the trip over and back without having to worry about driving!
We met George Talley (http://www.CrazyGuyOnABike.com) who was riding his bicycle from Key West to Bar Harbor Maine (he just finished a coast-to-coast bike ride last year)! We chatted with him for a while. He was camping under the pavilion at the marina as he was taking the ferry across to Maryland in the morning.
In the evening, we got together for dinner. Robin made a great Lentil soup, and Brenda put together a salad with some fresh herbs from our onboard garden and made a strawberry shortcake for dessert. We brought a piece to George who was very appreciative as he says he burns through an average of 5,000 calories a day!
Wednesday – May 15th – 0 NM – In: Reedville, VA
We actually did travel on Wednesday, but someone else did the driving. The Ferry departed Reedville at 10:00 for the hour and a half crossing to Tangier Island. Tangier Island is a fishing village in the middle of Chesapeake Bay. The island is being washed away on one side and sinking into the bay. Due to its relative isolation, the population of 450 has a unique accent which is a holdover from the original British settlers. The crossing was very smooth, and we visited with George the biker for a while on the crossing. Pulling into the harbor was like stepping back in time.
As you get off the ferry, there are locals in extended golf carts waiting at the end of the pier offering 20-minute tours of the island (you get to see EVERYTHING in the 20 minutes). We took one of the tours and got a history of the island from an older woman with a unique local accent. Because of the island’s relative isolation, they have retained a British Cockney-like accent that’s quite unique. Sort of like the “Down Easters” in Maine.
Tangier is primarily a crabbing community and is reputed to have the best crab cakes on the Chesapeake. After our tour, we walked to one of the two open restaurants (it’s still early in the tourist season) and had Crab Chowder, and Crab Cake sandwiches both of which were fantastic!
After lunch, we walked up “Main Street” and visited a souvenir shop and the post office. Then headed back to the harbor to take some photos before our 2:15 Ferry departure. Linwood the marina manager, dockhand, and captain of the ferry, told us not to worry about missing the departure time. “We’ll be back here tomorrow at the same time!” The ferry ride back was as enjoyable as the trip out. Charlie and I rode up in the wheelhouse chatting with Linwood for most of the trip back.
When we reached the marina, we relaxed a bit, and in the evening borrowed the marina pick-up and drove into Reedville for dinner. We arrived about 7:00 and found that they had already rolled up the sidewalks, and everything was closed, so we drove to Burgess the next town over and found a nice restaurant called Horn Harbor on the waterfront. It was karaoke night and the hostess asked us “Is karaoke okay, or would you rather sit on the deck?” We decided to stay inside, and it was fun to watch the locals, most in their 80’s have their Wednesday night out.
Thursday- May 16th – 45.2 NM – To: Solomons Island, MD
On Thursday morning the weather was perfect and we left Buzzard Point and headed for Solomons Island, MD. We were still traveling with The Lower Place and we pulled out together. We went past the Menhaden factories, passed an inbound fishing trawler, then exited Ingram Bay back into the Chesapeake. As we headed north at about 8 knots, we passed a few lighthouses.
We saw a large ship off to our starboard side and were wondering what it was. After getting a little closer, and checking it out with binoculars, we saw that it was an old wreck. We then noticed that it was charted as a bombing target!
We passed yet another lighthouse, this one the “outhouse” was hanging a bit precariously! Not sure I’d want to use that! Shortly after passing the lighthouse, we crossed into Maryland, our 4th state!
Solomons Island is on the Northside of the Patuxent River, on the south side is the Patuxent Naval Air Station, a huge facility. The coast leading up to it is littered with radar and tracking stations. Also, the military air traffic is almost constant.
We arrived in Solomons Island and docked at the marina. The marina has lots of covered slips and there were 5 or 6 of our Looper friends there, and even more across the harbor at another marina. After checking in, Brenda did a load of laundry. In the evening, we had docktails on The Lower Place with some of the other Loopers and then walked to the little sandwich shop at the marina for dinner. We had planned to only stay in Solomons for one day, but there was a lot to see, so we decided to stay another day.
Friday – May 17th – 0 NM – In: Solomons Island, MD
On Friday, we broke out the bikes again and rode the 3 miles to the local McDonalds for breakfast. On the way, we passed a Sculpture Garden and decided to stop on the way back.
After breakfast, we rode another mile or so, to the marinas on the other side of the bay. On the way, we stopped into West Marine to pick up a few bits and met “Aquaman” who was also there to get some parts. We then stopped by to say hello to Herb on Phantom. As it worked out, he was just getting ready to move his boat to another slip so we helped him move and re-tie up.
We then rode to the Calvert Maritime Museum and Lighthouse which we could see just across the harbor from our dock but was about 4 miles away by road around the end of the bay. We just wanted to check out the lighthouse and an old sailboat at their docks, but when we went in, the exhibits included a selection of fossils taken from the bluffs nearby on the coast of Chesapeake bay. The fossil collection was very interesting including whales when they walked on land and had fur, lots of shells and fossilized alligator skulls, and a reproduction Megaladon Shark skeleton. The museum also has a small aquarium, cute river otters, and many displays about fishing and boating history.
We had hoped to ride down to the end of the point to visit “The Tiki Hut” a famous bar that has been closed for several years and re-opened Friday. They were expecting a large turnout and had a Police Command Center set up, and two police boats sharing our dock to patrol for anyone BWIng (Boating While Intoxicated). However, when we left the museum, we felt a few raindrops and decided to head back to the boat.
On the way, we stopped at the local Grocery Store for a few things, then made a quick stop at the Sculpture Garden to see what it was all about. It looked interesting, so we rode back to the boat to drop off our groceries and check the weather. The weather looked like it was clearing, so we jumped back on the bikes and rode the mile or so back to the Garden.
While not as large as our home sculpture garden Brookgreen, it still was interesting. The garden is mostly a mile-long path that winds through the forest with the sculptures in small clearings along the path. Their collection is mostly modern art style with very few human or animal forms like Brookgreen. They had also just had a “Fairy House” competition, so children had built and placed Fairy Houses in the woods all around the path.
We spent about an hour walking around and then rode back to the marina. In the evening, we were too tired to cook or walk to a restaurant. Charlie and Robin stopped by for a beer, and Charlies suggested ordering Papa John’s delivery and sitting on the boat to watch the police patrols catch boaters. The pizza arrived just as the marine patrol pulled away from our dock, and they had not been out for more than a few minutes when they stopped their first boat… a dinghy from one of our fellow Loopers. It appears they had failed to register their dinghy, so got a ticket. Herb from Phantom cruised past us in a dinghy with some other Loopers and they pulled up to the dock to say hello, when they left, they traded good-natured jabs with the couple whose boat was stopped (and still tied up to the patrol boat).
We finished the pizza, and there was very little action. We could hear the music from The Tiki Bar in the distance, but none of us had any interest in going there. We decided that we would both leave by 8:00 am in the morning, so called it a night and turned in.
Saturday – May 18th – 49.7 NM – To: Saint Michaels, MD
Saint Michaels, Maryland on the other side of Chesapeake Bay. At 8:00 AM on the nose, we pulled away from the dock right behind The Lower Place. When we cleared the harbor and were out of the Crab Pots, we said goodbye to Charlie and Robin as they were going to Cambridge Maryland, and we sped up a bit. We followed the Western shore which has large bluffs of clay that are the source of the Fossils that we saw at the Calvert Museum.
We saw a large Liquid Natural Gas loading facility in the distance. There was an LNG tanker just getting ready to leave, and they were making radio calls to stay well away! In case someone didn’t get the message, they also had police patrol boats stationed nearby.
We turned East and crossed the bay, it’s fairly narrow here and we crossed without any incident. The winds were very light and it was a great day. As we approached the eastern shore, we saw another lighthouse in the distance, this one was sitting at a bit of an odd angle, so we cruised over to take a closer look. The foundation has eroded away, and it’s slowly toppling into the water. Sort of the “Leaning Light Tower of the Chesapeake”!
When we turned into Eastern Bay, we looked ahead and saw a LOT of other boats. This being Saturday, and with nice weather, there was a lot of traffic. We counted over 55 boats visible at one point. “The Journey” a looper we met in Solomons Island, came in from another port, and us in We played a bit of dodge-em with fishing boats, and sailboats until we pulled into Saint Michaels harbor.
Saint Michaels is a small vacation community. The marina is one block off of “Talbot Street”, (the main street). When we called for a reservation, we were initially put on a waiting list so the marina was full! We pulled into our slip in the shadow of a large 85 ft Ocean Alexander yacht and tied up. Because we were only going to be staying one night, once we had checked into the marina, we walked downtown to see the sights.
The town of Saint Michaels is named after the Saint Michaels church which was founded in 1672 with the current stone church built in 1878. We did a Geocache near the church, then wandered up and down Talbot Street, visiting shops, and a local microbrewery. Saint Michaels is the most well-kept town I think I’ve ever seen. Most of the houses are from the 1800s and everyone is well kept, in perfect repair, with beautiful landscaping. I’m sure there must be some heavily enforced town ordinance requiring that you keep your place looking good. We even took a few side streets to see if it was the same off the tourist routes, and it was! Quaint neat home after quaint neat home.
After a couple of hours walking, we were hot, so we headed back to the boat to cool down before dinner. There are 4 or 5 restaurants around the harbor, so we picked one near the marina and went for dinner. When we were seated, we ran into two other Loopers, “Cats and Dogs” and “A You Wish”. We chatted with them for a bit while we were waiting for our food.
As we were leaving the restaurant, we notice that “Lucky Me” was docked just outside and went over to chat with them for a few minutes. Then back to the boat and another early bedtime as we were planning to head for Baltimore in the morning.
Sunday – May 19th – 49.7 NM – To: Baltimore, MD
Overnight, we got a round of thunderstorms, and at one point some small hail which was very loud on the fiberglass deck above the bed. By the time the sun came up, the storms had moved out and it was a bright, clear, and warm morning. The trip to Baltimore is all in open water and the marina had asked us not to arrive until after 2:00 so we took our time in the morning. (The Preakness horse race was run in Baltimore on Saturday, and they were busy clearing out all the boats that had come in to see the race.) We walked up to Talbot street and had breakfast before leaving as we had some time.
By the time we left the dock at 9:30, it was already in the upper 70’s, but the light breeze made it comfortable. We left Saint Michaels harbor and cruised toward the Kent Narrows. Kent Narrows is a cut-through where two large bays meet, and go through a narrow (400′) channel. The currents can be quite strong in the narrow section, and there is a lift bridge there that we had to wait to have open. We timed our arrival so that we wouldn’t have to sit in the narrow channel fighting the current for very long so we only had to wait a few minutes for the bridge. There was another boat heading south that had the right of way because he was going with the current. Once he cleared the bridge, we popped through and into the Chester River.
From the Chester River, it was pretty much a 22 mile straight shot to Baltimore Harbor. As the waves were fairly calm, we cranked up the engines to 22 mph to blow out the carbon (and to make the trip go a bit quicker as there was very little to see) and at about 1:00 we passed under the “Francis Scott Key” bridge and into Baltimore Harbor.
Baltimore feels like our first really BIG port. Norfolk is probably larger, but it’s spread out more, so Baltimore feels like a major port with lots of large commercial vessels lining the waterway. Also, with the Francis Scott Key bridge spanning the harbor entrance, you feel like you are really arriving at a destination. We cruised under the bridge, and headed up the harbor toward “Fort McHenry” which was the site of the battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the “Star-Spangled Banner”.
At the fort, the harbor splits, and we took the North East Channel, heading for what is called the “Inner Harbor” where our marina is. Once past the bridge, the speed limit drops to 6 mph, and you are dealing with water taxis, tour boats, pirate ships, commercial traffic, and pleasure boats. We cruised past some navy ships, a large freighter unloading salt, and the Domino Sugar plant where a freighter was unloading raw sugar. As you cruise past the plant, you can smell warm sugar, it smells like sugar cookies!
Right after docking, 4 Navy training boats came through to anchor in the inner harbor on their way to New York for Navy Week. Notice the Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers all around the boat!
When we checked into the marina, they gave us a discount coupon for “The Horse You Came In On” a famous bar in “Fells Point”, an (infamous) neighborhood that’s been the bar and warehouse district in Baltimore since the 1700s. Fells Point is about 1/2 mile walk from the marina, so we headed there to check it out. Fells Point has a feel like Camden in London (for those who’ve been there), it has rows of small old storefronts with cobblestone streets. It’s pretty gentrified now with lots of very expensive re-developed condos lining the side streets, but in the mile we walked, there must have been 150 bars, so I’m sure on a Friday or Saturday night it keeps some of its historic bawdiness!
I had a beer and Brenda had a Cider we were planning on eating, but they had a guitarist playing and it was just too loud. Also, the seats are shaped like saddles, and not all that comfortable. So after finishing our drinks, we headed back out and walked around Fells Point for a while checking things out. We had been given a recommendation for a restaurant called Duda’s which was right in Fells Point, so at 5:30 we headed there. Unfortunately, it was closed on Sundays. So we headed back around the waterfront to the marina to find something else. The temperature was around 90 with high humidity, so we were not up to walking around much more. It was almost 6:00 when we got back to the marina and we had skipped lunch so we stopped at Gordon Biersch (the beer garden chain) which was right off the head of the dock, and had dinner.
After dinner, we went back to the boat to cool down. Once the sun set, we took some night photos of the Baltimore skyline.
Next week: We are in Baltimore until Wednesday morning, then headed north up the Chesapeake toward the C & D Canal and New Jersey.
Tom & Brenda