Are the good times really over for good?*

Well we had a hell of a run of nice travel days and fun stops.  Now we’re worried that we’ll never get to New York.  It’s not that we mind Cape May, but storms and big waves are in our future as far out as the people who predict these things are predicting these things.  Grrrr.  Don’t they know we have friends and family to meet and packages to collect in New York?

Sunday morning the forecast for Delaware Bay was horrible, and the actual conditions reported by the NOAA weather buoys were worse.  We don’t voluntarily travel in six-foot waves.  Tim said we could stay another night in Delaware City, which wasn’t as magnanimous as it sounds since he had about a thousand feet of empty dock.

Our heroes Jeff and Ann famously celebrated Sundays aboard High Drama and No Drama with “Bloodies and Beethoven.”  We aren’t that high-brow, but we fired up some Bluegrass gospel and settled back into our wise decision not to travel.  Praise the Lord, we saw the light.  

The good news is that the extra day provided time to ferry over to Pea Patch Island, which on previous trips through here we’d only managed to visit from afar by drone.

Pea Patch—in the middle of the Delaware River—is home to Fort Delaware, which protected Philadelphia and Wilmington from Confederate attacks that never came.  Apparently it didn’t occur to the designers that mid-nineteenth century armies were using cannons and other heavy artillery—not horses, lances, and spears—such that a medieval moat probably wouldn’t do much good no matter how cool it looks.

Then they stacked up Rebel POWs in nasty barracks outside the fort.

Now, Fort Delaware is just a neat tourist attraction run by the Delaware Park Service. 

In addition to all the history stuff, the Park Service is quite proud of and protective of the large colony of brown bats living in the fort.  They also host “paranormal tours.”  No offense to anyone who believes in ghosts, but spending Delaware taxpayer money to subsidize crack-pot searches for the spirits of dead confederate prisoners amongst a large colony of brown bats is bat-shit crazy.

Monday looked to be a nice travel window for the run down the Delaware River to Cape May.  Light variable winds and moderate waves in the forecast.  Perfect.  Fortunately—unlike on our trips farther north—we don’t have to worry about fog in these parts.

When we woke up and looked out that nice travel window, of course, the view was obscured by fog.  What the fog is going on here?   As everyone who ever encountered fog said, however, we figured “it’ll burn off soon.”  Plus, fog in part is why God invented radar.  So off we went.  Not too bad in the Delaware City canal.

Truthfully, although the river was a bit foggier and although the C&D Canal Authority shut down traffic because of it, it wasn’t too bad.

Delaware fog turns out to be the kind of fog that Nova Scotia fog and Maine fog would bully on the playground.

The Delaware Bay has a series of shoals, with menacing lighthouses plunked on them to warn people like us.  Every single time through, we see those lighthouses in the distance and mistake them for big boats heading our way with ill-intent.

Yesterday we were minding our own business, relying on autopilot, and glancing up from the iPad just often enough to make sure we were keeping those lighthouses on our port side.  Maybe a bit more glancing up was in order, however, because suddenly one of those lighthouses was named Majestic and was bearing down on us at a twenty-five-knot closing speed.

Despite our fog of stupidity we dodged her—and survived the five-foot wake she gave us just off her stern—and we left a much larger safety margin for the next few lighthouses steaming up the river.  We also gave the ferry plenty of room to get into the Cape May Canal ahead of us.

We got to South Jersey Marina just fine, tied up, and settled in with a plan to run up to Atlantic City this morning.  No rain predicted.  Moderate waves.  Might be uncomfortable, but doable.  But just as we were discussing that plan with Painkiller, the storm hit.  Eddie Rabbitt may love a rainy night when the lightening lights up the sky, but we don’t.  Especially when said lightening strikes a transformer and knocks out the marina shore power, which is what this one did.  Then again, no shore power in part is why God invented diesel generators.

1.21 Gigawatts!  If Tumbleweed had a Flux Capacitor and we could hit the connecting hook at precisely 76.45 knots, right now we’d be in New York next week.**

Instead, Ida’s remnants are going to roil the Atlantic for the next few days.  We’re stuck here until at least Saturday.  If it stretches out beyond that, Dana might qualify as a Real Housewife of Jersey and Doug might join the mafia.  At least Cape May is a decent little town though, with shops and restaurants and a bookstore Dana found on one of our prior stops.

Cape May claims to have been the first “seaside resort” in the country.   Maybe that’s true, but it’s bizarre that vacationers were frolicking in the waves while just up the river an army was waiting behind a moat in case King Arthur laid siege.  Either way, Cape May does have a beach.

We’re not sure what else we’ll do to fill time but hopefully something other than storms will come along.


*RIP Merle Haggard.

**Shame, shame, shame on anyone who hasn’t seen Back to the Future multiple times.  And yes, we’re pretty sure none of the Georgetowns were named for Marty’s wimpy father.  Hello McFly.  Anybody in there?

We’ve left the Chesapeake Bay, by George

Wednesday we had an absurdly easy ride up to Rock Hall, after a decent-but-not-spectacular sunrise in St. Michaels.

And yes, we chickened out of Kent Narrows yet again—thus adding two hours to the trip—but there’s no need to be in a hurry when the water is as smooth as a delicious smoothie from the Paradise Juice next to where the Albertson’s used to be across from Doug’s office on Tatum Boulevard in Phoenix.  Plus it gave us time to take an artsy photo while passing under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which clearly should be plural not singular.

There also were some bulk carriers waiting to pick up or drop off in Baltimore, but they weren’t in our way so we don’t need to complain about them.

We’ve been to Rock Hall a few times now, but this is the first time we’ve noticed the town motto, which is way sketchier than the St. Michaels’ motto we referenced in the last post.

If the town claimed that “Only Nice People Live Here,” that’d be saying something.  But as it stands they only need two nice people in the whole place to make the motto work.  Which makes it pretty unimpressive.  Heck, almost anywhere in America could muster up at least two nice people who live there, the obvious exceptions being Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Gainesville, Florida, and a handful of maximum security prisons.

Rock Hall is famous for being the place where we first encountered Second Wave, the Mainship 400 with which we traveled some two thousand miles on our Loop.  It’s hard to imagine better times than the times we shared with Brent and Karen.  Rock Hall ironically is not famous for being the Rock Hall of Fame, which is in Ohio.  But it’s a neat little town.  Very scooterable.

We figure our luck won’t last forever, but Thursday was another great day on the Bay.  Smooth, and we had current push us all the way to and up the Sassafras River.  Monique on Star Gazer calls that kind of day “Girls Day Out,” which probably would be sexist if it didn’t come from Monique on Star Gazer.

In the happy coincidence category, whilst enjoying the trip up the Sassafras to Georgetown we happened upon Rock N Chair, the sailboat we helped off a stump in the Pungo-Alligator Canal a couple of months ago.  Seeing them was awesome, in large part because it provided an unexpected opportunity to work in the word “Pungo” again.

After some more dock assignment funny-business, we tied up at the Georgetown Yacht Basin rather than The Granary Marina.  No biggie.

We’ve now stopped by boat in Georgetown, South Carolina, and Georgetown, Maryland.  Mallory went to Georgetown University in D.C.  The Second Wave crew lived in Georgetown, Texas.  That’s a lot of Georgetowns.  It’s not really that odd to find so many places named Georgetown, of course, because history has given us so many Georges worthy of the honor:  Costanza.  Jefferson.  Jetson.  Curious.  And most notably, The Possum.  What we do find quite inexplicable, however, is the dearth of Dougtowns.  Go figure.

This Georgetown is another town on the Chesapeake Bay that England’s forces sacked, because the people of Georgetown apparently weren’t as clever as the people in The Town that Fooled the British.  Kitty Knight’s House is one of the few places left standing after the attack, which is quite lucky for us because the barbecue shrimp and crab flatbread was unbelievable.

Tumbleweed has been due for a wash and wax job, and we picked Georgetown to do it.  Unfortunately, the Thursday and Friday “real feel”—which we understand is the millennial version of what us old-timers knew as heat index—was roughly a gazillion sweaty degrees.  Celsius.  Miserable.  We only can imagine how much worse the chore would’ve been if we hadn’t found the great guys at Sunshine Boat Detailing willing to do it for us.

This Georgetown is sandwiched between Galena and Fredericktown.  All three are so tiny that even when combined they’re not any bigger.  But the scootering was fun and the marina ferried us across the river for an early dinner on Friday, maybe to make up for failing to process our slip reservation.

We’re well behind the Looper peloton, so it’s nice when we bump into boats with the familiar burgee.  In Georgetown, we joined Our Town and Carousel for docktails.  Big fun.

This morning we exited the Sassafras River into the path of some joker pushing a barge towards the same Chesapeake and Delaware canal we needed to get through to reach Delaware City.  AIS said he was traveling about a half-knot faster than us, a mile and a half behind us.  Basic math told us he’d catch us in three hours, which is just about how long we had until we hit the Delaware River on the backside of the canal.  At least that gave us something to worry about when we weren’t worrying about the railroad bridge and the potential for rain.

Railroad bridge?  No problem.  We took a picture—it’s the background one—only because now it’s a tradition.

Shortly after we passed under it, the railroad announced that the bridge was dropping for a train.  But not in time to stop Joker, which actually was the tug’s name.  Maybe he slowed down, or maybe we don’t math well, but either way we still had him by a good quarter-mile when we hooked north up the Delaware River.

As we’ve noted before, we do love us some Delaware City.

This time through is supposed to be just a quick one-nighter, however, so as soon as we arrived—in a choreographed move every Looper immediately will recognize—Tim the Dockmaster spun us around for a quick getaway tomorrow.

In spring this dock is full of Loopers and unbridled enthusiasm.  This is our second time through during the sad off-season.  Three Dog Night was right.  One is the loneliest number.

Tim also is famous for his weather briefings for the trip down the Delaware Bay to Cape May, New Jersey.  Today Tim told us it might be fine.  Or there might be six- to eight-footers.  It all depends on a few degrees of wind direction.  So maybe we’ll go.  Maybe we’ll stay.

Three in a row, now this is more like it

One of the things Dana looks for in a town is a cool bookstore.  Preferably one that’s full of mysteries.  She popped in to the punny and possibly world-famous “Mystery Loves Company” Saturday morning.

Not only was this place Dana’s kind of quirky, but the owner hooked her up with a book not readily available elsewhere.  That’s like turning on your TV and watching the final season of Yellowstone even though it doesn’t come out until November 7.  We already liked Oxford, but bumped it up few notches on the list before heading off down the Tred Avon for Cambridge.

Cambridge actually required about eleven miles of going in exactly the wrong direction for our intended arrival in New York, but we couldn’t very well let some waterspouts control our destiny.  Plus the weather was decent so we were in good moods.

Shortly before reaching the point where boats hail the marina for docking instructions, we passed a giant yellow ball with a West Marine ad on it.  Very weird, but we saw it too late to get the camera out.  The West Marine ball wasn’t the only weird thing we encountered though.  As we pulled into the marina, we had to dodge weird looking skinny boats being hip-towed out.

Turns out they’re called “log canoes,” and they have sails despite sounding like something Pocahontas might’ve paddled out to meet John Smith before she was was turned into a white woman.  Log canoes are big on the Chesapeake Bay, and we bumbled into one of the several races held in these parts.

The freeboard on these suckers  approaches zero, so they can’t be dry.  Which means they can’t be fun, although the folks aboard seemed in good spirits.  Doug rushed around to get the drone up but was foiled by pesky FAA geofencing.  Anyway, most of these boats are a hundred years old, plus or minus a few years, and pass down through the generations like granny’s silverware and china.  Later on—after applying our powers of deduction to the circumstances—we figured out that those West Marine balls might possibly have been race markers.

Geography-wise, Cambridge is on the Choptank River.  Which explains the Choptank River Lighthouse.  Since we came up it, the river somewhat obviously feeds into Chesapeake Bay.  Which explains all the Chesapeake deadrise crabbing boats.

History-wise, Cambridge is famous for slavery-related stuff, good and bad. The marina, for example, is hard by the place where slaves were off-loaded and traded.  The Dorchester County Courthouse still stands, although not-surprisingly the slave auction pens that once were in front of it are long-gone.

Harriet Tubman was born just down the road, did much of her railroading through the area, and rescued several family members from auctions at this very courthouse.  Which is why the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center with the cool mural on the back wall is located in Cambridge.

But of course we were there on a Sunday.  The Harriet Tubman Museum is closed on Sundays.

The one of us who enjoys Indian food is the one of us who walked to the delicious-sounding Bombay Tadka for lunch.  Bombay Tadka is closed on Sundays.  Lots of other options in town, but none with shrimp vindaloo.

Fortunately the one of us who enjoys poking around in the little shops is the one of us who found some little shops open, so things worked out.  For one of us.  But Cambridge is very cool.  We’ll stop again next time through Chesapeake Bay.

Although Oxford and Cambridge were awesome, time for the trifecta.  Back down the Choptank yesterday morning, heading for St. Michaels.  No yellow balls to dodge, and although at the start we encountered unexpected waves,  we cranked up John Denver on Pandora and ignored the spray that reached the flybridge.  It’s a long way from this place to Denver, but we’re happy to be in this part of the Bay, especially after the waves started cooperating.

Because we have great memories from our family trips to St. Michaels, rounding the corner at the harbor entrance felt like going home.

St. Michaels was the first place Doug flew the first drone—which some readers may recall was murdered by dirty, rotten, drone-killing-tree-planters, in Rogersville, Alabama—so it seemed fitting to send up its replacement as the sun was setting.  Where’s Waldo?

Anyone who can spot Tumbleweed might notice the Prestige and the Azimut right behind her.  The former is She Said Yes.  The latter is Knot Divorce.  We find it noteworthy when two adjacent boats both are somewhere on the continuum between marital bliss and an episode of Forensic Files.

As town mottos go, St. Michaels’ motto is high on the list.  Not only is it unique, it’s also more factually accurate than, say, Grafton’s claim to be “The Key West of the Midwest.”

During the War of 1812, those pushy Limeys pushed a barge of cannons into the harbor under cover of darkness.  The St. Michaelsers were tipped off, however, and put out every light source in the town.  The cannoneers then wasted all their artillery shooting at lanterns hanging in trees well behind any valuable targets, and the next morning left empty-handed.  Only one cannonball hit a house, which not-surprisingly now is known to history as “Cannonball House.” “And to think that we saw it on Mulberry Street.”

A town that has a “Cannonball House” is cool and all, but an Old Bay store and a place that sells Christmas what-nots all year-round would make it incredible.  Yup, St. Michaels.

Anyway, Oxford, Cambridge, and St. Michaels, are a great threesome.  From here, we’re now planning just one new stop before Long Island Sound.  Penn’s Landing basically said if we came to Philadelphia we’d have to sit on mud in four feet of water, so we declared our independence by deciding to give it a skip.  That leaves only Georgetown and a bunch of familiar places that can’t be avoided on the run to New York, although we do like Delaware City and Cape May.

Somebody on this boat ain’t livin’ right, but we’ve sorted it out for now

Rather than point fingers at each other, we’re just assuming it was Oscar who ticked off Thor or Neptune or Poseidon or whatever god decided to punish us, but enough is enough.  Tuesday morning, the sun was behind clouds but all the weather apps suggested a nice five-hour ride to Cambridge.  Yeah we’re crossing the Bay yet again, but shouldn’t be a problem.  Slip the last line in Solomons just after 8 and we’re off.

Rounding Drum Point, however, things suddenly didn’t look problem-free.  Mostly things were ominous.  Right where we’re headed.  We knew it was ominous because sometimes we didn’t doze off during the first part of that weather webinar.

At 8:34, the National Weather Service issued a Small-Craft Advisory for this part of the Chesapeake.  What the hell is this?  Storms.  Wind.  Rain.  Waves.  Probably sea-monsters to boot, although they left that part out so as to prevent mass hysteria.

But still, we remained in good spirits as we passed the Cove Point LNG Terminal, which at the time was pumping gas—intended for the good people of Panama—into a brand new tanker named Gaslog Windsor.  Fully loaded, that sucker cruises at eighteen knots.  How embarrassing to lose a race to something that big.

At 9:15, Lucky 13, heading south on a reciprocal course, hailed us on the radio.  “Huge waterspouts along the eastern shore,” the Captain offered.  Wind and waves building.  The skies over there indeed looked even lower and darker and Good Lord, what’s next?

Well, checking the weather service again is what’s next.  Dang, clearly we should’ve slept in.

By then, of course, we were well past Drum Point heading towards the storm.  And Cambridge is up the Choptank River.  And we don’t like waterspouts or anything else that “can easily overturn boats.”  The Cambridge Dockmaster said the fishing boats all had run away scared and that the Choptank River acts like a funnel and that we should do what the weather service advised, which was to “seek safe harbor immediately.”  But not in Cambridge.  Fine, but while an eight-knot trawler in the middle of Chesapeake Bay might “seek” shelter, actually getting to shelter before being sucked into a waterspout that lands us in the marine version of Oz takes hours.  We’ve been in worse, but the decision to flee to Herrington Harbor on the western shore—at eight knots—was unanimous.

At 11:54, the Coast Guard issued a Notice to Mariners extending the Small Craft Advisory for another six hours.  More storms, winds, waves, and spouts.  By then we mercifully had safety in sight.

But safety didn’t come easily even after we turned into the narrow harbor.  The first spot they put us was too small, so turn around, down the wrong fairway, so back out, down another fairway, barely enough room to spin, and the dockhand didn’t know port from starboard so move everything over at a sprint.  We almost landed in the weeds but we made it, just about the time some blue patches poked through.

Not the end of our troubles though.  Tuesday evening they pushed the weather advisory out another thirty-six hours.  Then Wednesday they added some more stuff.

Hey, why stop there?  How about the weather just sucks until Labor Day?

Another issue—unrelated to criminal elements or weather elements—took two days, shuttle trips to ACE Hardware and West Marine, and enough cursing that if Doug had one of those jars for quarters we could use it to send a village of kids to Harvard.  We’d describe the problem further, but it’s one of those holding tank things best not discussed in polite society.

But here’s the thing.  We really like Herrington Harbor.  Our slip was twenty feet from grass for Oscar and thirty feet from a good place to eat.  The shuttle girls were cheerful and prompt.  The Dockmaster loaned us a tool we needed.  The WiFi was awesome.  And although out in the Bay things were rough and tornados were predicted, we were rock solid.  Yesterday morning?  Back to beautiful everywhere.

Which meant another trip across the Bay, this time to Oxford.  A moment about these British copycat names.  We have New York, but not New Oxford. We have New London, but not New Cambridge.  A little consistency isn’t too much to ask of the eighteenth century is it?

Regardless, the Chesapeake and the Tred Avon River were just like they’re supposed to be when we’re traveling on them.

Oxford is another of these little towns that called us up the Eastern Shore in the first place.  Despite some dock shenanigans for the second stop in a row, we ended up in another one of those cool spots with nobody in front of us to block our view of what we counted on being a glorious sunset.

Lunch took us down the tree-lined street, but then back to the boat to meet the AC guy.  No worries though, because the scooters are charging for a big day exploring town on Friday.

Hmmm.  Thursday evening the clouds started gathering again, which mostly screwed up the sunset.  This morning, solid rain.  But it left cooler air behind when it left, which we consider a net win for the good guys.

The town isn’t much, but that makes it easy to scooter to the four corners.  Which we did.  Looks a bit like those fishing villages in Nova Scotia.  Our kind of stop.

We often bumble across stuff to remind us of the good times with Second Wave, and this time it was Scottish Highland Creamery, ranked by TripAdvisor as a top-five joint.  Not just in Maryland, or even the Chesapeake Bay area, but top-five in all of our United States.  Out of a sense of obligation Doug had a waffle cone, because nobody sniffs out ice cream like Brent Bazar.

Again pesky clouds screwed up the sunset, but we tried.

Finally, Dana got one of those cool photos where the moon looks like something else.  In this case, a giant anchor light.

The forecast for tomorrow is crappy again, but we’re going to find a window for the eleven miles down to Cambridge.  Unless we don’t.

Bullets and Barges and Jellyfish dodged

The good news is that anyone prepping to report our sad and untimely deaths can stand down.  Actually, things in Salisbury didn’t seem quite as bad Saturday morning.  Tumbleweed was intact and Oscar hadn’t slept through any gruesome mayhem during the night.  Heck, there even was some blue-ish sky over the gritty downtown.

But still, Russian roulette isn’t our game of choice.  One night was enough.

Then the day got even better.  The Wicomico was prettier than the day before.  Calm and flat.  As calm as Mahatma Gandhi on Xanax.  As flat as a Plate Jack®️, invented by Robin P. Stagg, of Austin, Texas, who also is 50% responsible for inventing Dana.

The trip was so peaceful that we nearly were dozing off when the reverie was shattered by a radio call to Tumbleweed.  Woooo!  Our new AIS transmitter is working fine.  Not Woooo!  The call came from a tug pushing a barge—presumably loaded with mace or pepper spray—heading upstream to Salisbury.  The river isn’t overly wide, but the Annapolis Captain slowed down so that we could take him at a decent spot.  One whistle.  Zero problems.

We’ve posted roughly a gazillion photos of Chesapeake Bay so we’re skipping it this time, but it also was calm and flat.  It’s still hotter than hell, of course, but we cranked up the AC and enjoyed the six hours over to Solomons.   Dana’s call on the weather was perfect.

Now about Solomons.  Nice place.  Decent restaurants.  Mostly famous as one of Lord Baltimore’s havens for Catholics and as the place where we sort of ended our Great Loop and started our Down East Circle.  Zahnisers gave us a great spot away from the crowds, and more importantly away from the jellyfish.

But we’ve discussed Solomons at length in other posts and don’t have much to add.  We did take the dinghy up to the end of Mill Creek, however, which was new.   That Rick sure knows how to outfit a RIB.

We also knocked out some work stuff (Dana), some engine room stuff (Doug), and some sleeping and peeing stuff (Oscar).  Nothing too exciting about any of that.  Today brought rain, which also isn’t exciting.

So yes, basically this is just a sad little post serving as filler between our near-death experience in Salisbury and what we anticipate we’ll find in Cambridge, Maryland, where we understand such luminaries as Charles Darwin, John Maynard Keynes, and General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett attended university.