Lionheart Cruise:  The Chesapeake Bay

Summer 2007


Looking back on Washington, DC, as we leave the Capitol Yacht Club on July 14, 2007

Checking into the Officer's Club at the US Naval Academy.

Midshipmen's dorms at the US Naval Academy

Anchored in the Tred Avon River with Why Knot's crew aboard Lionheart for cocktails and dinner.

Estee and Sue shopping in St. Michaels, MD.  After lunch and just before the storm struck.

Leaving Fred, Sharon and Playpen at their dock on the Wye River, MD.

This photo is a bit distorted due to technical ineptitude of the writer but a good time was had by all on the Captain's 63rd birthday!

A drive through the Amish countryside of Pennsylvania.

Downtown Frederick, Pennsylvania.  Est. 1745

Shopping at the farmers' market in Georgetown, MD, courtesy of Judy Gill(center) and Clark and Cindy with the Captain.

Fun meeting Milt and Fran Ohlsen aboard Sea Fox.

Heading south on the Chesapeake on a beautiful day on the Bay.

Captain & Admiral eating crabs in St. Michaels after the Labor Day crowds departed.

This is the traditional Chesapeake Lighthouse.  We saw many this summer as we crisscrossed the Bay from west to east, south to north and back again.

The house that Vera built on St. Leonards Creek.  A one of a kind in this part of the world.  Very Hollywood!

The Captain exploring Tangier Island.  You can see the entire town in the background.  A golf cart tour of the entire island takes 15 minutes......with narration stops!

There are hundreds of cats on Tangier Island.  This one looks just like Nikolas when we adopted him in Wrangle.  It was tempting to add a little brother for the boy, but alas, it was not to be.

Merv, Nancy and the Admiral at Hilda's on Tangier Island.

Grocery shopping by bike in Hampton, VA

One of many summer sunsets enjoyed by the Captain, Admiral and Cat Unit.  It was a wonderful summer on the Chesapeake Bay.





Having spent a wonderful month in our nation's capitol, touring the sights and doing boat maintenance, we were ready to leave our friends at the Capitol Yacht Club and head back down the Potomac River to continue our exploration of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay stretches about 200 miles, north to south, from the Elk River in Maryland to the Atlantic Ocean outlet between Cape Henry and Cape Charles in Virginia (this is the entrance to Hampton Roads and Norfolk).  At its widest point, the Bay is 26 miles across.  The waters cover a surface of roughly 2,500 square miles and it has a 4,000 mile shoreline winding along countless rivers, streams, bays and sounds.  Until about 3,000 years ago, the Bay was actually the Susquehanna River.  At the end of the last Ice Age the ocean waters rushed into the mouth of the  Susquehanna and formed the Bay.  About 1,000 years ago Native Americans (yes indeed, I am learning to be totally PC) traveled in the region.  500 years ago they began to settle the region.  The original English settlement of this area began in 1607 when Capt. John Smith led the founding of Jamestown, VA.  We began our trip on the Chesapeake on June 5, when we entered the Bay from the south and cruised on the James, York, and North Rivers on our way to the Potomac.  Much of the Bay is too shallow for Lionheart and it tends to shoal in many places.  Therefore, while cruising, the Captain and Crew have to be attentive to the channel markers and cruising guides to insure adequate water under the hull at all times. 

On Saturday, July 14, we left the dock in Washington, D.C., with the intention of covering most of the 96 miles back to the Bay in one day.  The days in July are long and warm and we anchored at 8:00 that evening in the mouth of the St. Mary's River which is on the north shore of the Potomac River, and the western shore of  Maryland.  At the head of the St. Mary's River is St. Mary's City, established in 1634 as Maryland's first settlement.  While it never really became a city, St. Mary's served as the province's first capital.  Now there are reconstructed buildings from the original settlement and St. Mary's College is there.  The College is known in the boating world for hosting the Governor's Cup Race for sailboats every August.  This is the east coast's largest sailing competition.  The overnight race starts in Annapolis and sails south around Point Lookout and into St. Mary's.  The College is also known among cruisers as a good place to eat well for cheap.  They welcome the anchored cruising boats' crews in the dinning hall.

We left St. Mary's on Sunday morning, cruised around Point Lookout, north to the Patuxent River.  We caught up with our friends, the Sheppards (on their boat Why Knot), at the marina at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station.  The PAX River NAS  figures in several of Tom Clancy's novels.   As retired Navy, Jerry was able to get dockage at the marina which is right in the mouth of the Patuxent.  We stayed there for a week while we explored the history rich area by auto.  First, we explored the area between the Patuxent and the Patomac which included a trip to St. Mary's.  We ate in the dinning hall and, sure enough, there were boaters whom we had met in the Bahamas having lunch there as well and we had a nice time catching up on our various travels since leaving the islands in April.  We visited several of the many Civil War historical sites.  Also prevalent in this farming area are roadside fruit and vegetable stands.  We got some fantastic overripe peaches at one.  We purchased a basket from the stand owner who instructed us that the locals bought this soft fruit to make daiquiris.  Of course, we thought that was an excellent use of nearly gone fruit and, let me say, they were delicious when served as directed!  The next day found us on the north shore of the Patuxent at Solomons Island.  Solomons was established in 1867 when an oyster-canning plant was opened.  It has since become a major boat building, waterside community.  Lot's of weekend homeowners, boaters and bikers infest the area all summer and into the fall weekends.

On July 18 we drove north about 60 miles to Annapolis where we had reservations to stay at the US Naval Academy, also as the guests of the Sheppards.  We arrived mid-morning and toured the city until it was time to check into the VIP quarters at the Officer's Club.  While we had visited Annapolis briefly in 2006, this time we did all the tourist stuff.  Annapolis was settled in the mid-1600s, incorporated in 1796, and has been the capitol of Maryland since 1779.  The Maryland State House, built in 1779, is the oldest American government building still in continuous use.  The old Senate Chamber is where George Washington resigned his commission as commander of the Continental Army on Dec. 23, 1783.  The entire old town section is full of quaint old buildings.  The City Dock has a statue of "Roots" author Alex Haley as a reminder that this is where Kunta Kinte (and I don't mean Elaine Steward's cat!) was sold into slavery.  One of many reminders of the slave-holding history of our country. 

The whole downtown area of Annapolis literally backs up on the wall of the Naval Academy which is where we finally checked into the Officers Club late in the afternoon.  By then our dogs were barking and we were totally done in by the humid heat of mid-July on the Chesapeake!  We cooled and refueled with some vodka in our air conditioned suites which looked out on the beautiful grounds of the USNA.  Then we limped out of the gate and down the street to an Irish Pub for some dinner and Irish singing.  The next morning we were up early and off to tour the US Naval Academy.  While I am usually loath to use the word awesome, this is the only adequately descriptive word that comes to mind.  The history of this institution began in 1845 when then Secretary of the Navy, George Bancroft, established the Naval School at Fort Severn in Annapolis, MD.  Fifty students were taught by 4 officers and 3 civilian professors.  In 1850 it became the USNA and adopted the curriculum of 4 consecutive years, with at-sea training during the summers, which is still the educational format for the 4,200 midshipmen in attendance every year.  The original 10 acres is now a 338-acre complex which occupies the land between Annapolis town on the south and the Severn River on the north.  It has a huge waterfront on 3 sides.  We toured the dorms, the sports facilities, the chapel (including the crypt of John Paul Jones), the student center and museum.  All set amid beautiful old trees and many monuments to US Naval history.  The current Commander is a woman.  The row of faculty housing looks like our old street in Pasadena except most houses have either a Navy or a Marine flag flying instead of USC or Stanford.  The only students there in July are the new midshipmen whom we saw marching across campus in units.  No fat kids in those ranks!  All-in-all, I would have to say this was a highlight of our land touring this summer. 

We only stayed in Annapolis one night because of Mr. Cat, who was left in charge of Lionheart, can only handle one night on his own.  We returned to PAX NAS to find that Nick had guarded the boat very well and was ready for his reward of extra Fancy Feast.  We stayed at the dock for several days while there was a wind advisory and a couple of serious downpours of rain which cooled things off a bit.  On July 25, we headed across the Bay to the eastern shore.  The eastern shore is called the DelMarVa Penninsula.  This landmass is low lying country between the Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  It includes a piece of Delaware on the Atlantic side and a piece of Maryland on the Bay side, and a piece of Virginia on the southern tip which has an Atlantic side and a Bay side.  We had a nice day and a smooth crossing with Why Knot.  We entered the Choptank River which is the major waterway of the eastern shore.  James Michener set his novel "Chesapeake" in this area of the Bay.  There are many little rivers off the Choptank as well as many little towns.  We anchored in the Tred Avon  River near Oxford, just a few miles from Cambridge.  The Captain had ordered a part to be delivered to a marina in Cambridge so the Sheppards and we got into our dingy and headed out to the Choptank, and then across the Choptank to Cambridge.  This proved to be a poor choice of activities for the afternoon.  The wind came up, the Choptank got choppy, and the Admiral almost decided to spend the night in Cambridge or have the Captain go back and get Lionheart and bring her there!  In the end, we all were good sports, if a little foolish, and we braved a long rough ride back to the Tred Avon, which was still like a millpond, where we had a lovely evening.  We moved to Trapp Creek the next day and Dun Cove the next.  It was windy in Dun Cove and Why Knot dragged their anchor.  Their close shave with Lionheart caused much consternation and a wrenched back on Why Knot, and we both went to another anchorage.  The next day we parted ways early and we headed back into the Bay, through Knapps Narrows,  to the western shore to meet up with our friends, Estee and Rick Edwards.  We had been in touch with them all summer as they made their way across the US in their motor coach.  We had picked Maryland as a good place to meet.  We had seen a number of marinas with RV parks attached in the southern part of the Bay and it never occurred to us that we would not be able to find them on the eastern shore.  However, we could not and so we settled on the Herrington Harbor North marina in Herring Bay, about 30 miles south of Annapolis.  They found an RV park about 5 miles away but they had a really hard time finding the marina.  With the use of cell phones we finally found each other.  We spent our 35th anniversary (July 29) with the Edwards, driving to Annapolis and then over the Bay Bridges to the eastern shore and lunching in St. Michaels.  St. Michaels is a lovely little town that is very popular with Washington VIPs, including VP Chaney who has a vacation home there.  It is very posh.  Big boats visit the town docks and pay over $3/foot for docking.  Too dear for Lionheart's bankroll!  Anyway, it was a lovely day topped off by a rain storm that made driving back a bit dicey.  Not to mention that it appeared that all of the western shore had visited that day and were lined up for miles on the main road to get back.....along with us!  The Edwards treated us to a lovely anniversary dinner and then bade us farewell as they continued their summer adventure on the roads of America.

On July 31, we made our way north again and anchored in Clements Creek off the Severn River which flows on the north side of Annapolis into the Bay.  Lovely spot which really looked like a mini Lake Arrowhead with trees and big homes all around the protected anchorage.  We stayed there 2 days and then headed north again to Baltimore which is in the Patapsco River.  We had stayed in Baltimore on our way up to New York in 2006.  Since we had thoroughly explored Baltimore at that time, we spent our 4 days this time seeing new cruising friends and doing errands, like driving to Rockville, Maryland, to get my hair cut, do a Trader Joes run, and hit Costco.  Our friends on Long Haul, Jim and Joanne, were staying at a boatyard on Bear Creek, off the Patapsco River.  They came for dinner and a game of Mexican Train.  We also visited Little Italy for a wonderful dinner one night.  On Aug. 7, we headed back to the eastern shore to meet some friends whom I had never met in person but had known since 2002.  We met them over the VHF radio as we were coming down the west coast, bringing Lionheart home from our last cruise to Alaska.  They were aboard their Hatteras LRC, on their way home to the Wye River on the eastern shore of Maryland.  We traveled several days together, last seeing them as they turned left into Santa Barbara in October, 2002.  We kept in touch as they made their way down the west coast, through the Panama Canal and home.  They told us to visit them if we ever got to the east coast.  We decided to take them up on their offer and found their dock, in front of their lovely home, that evening.  We stayed with them 2 nights.  We caught up on cruising stories and they showed us the area around St. Michaels, including the Aspen Institute, and gave us a lot of historical information.  Aug. 10 found us crossing back to the western shore to Havre de Grace, Maryland, in the mouth of the Susquehanna River.  We met up with the Sheppards at the town docks and celebrated the Captain's 63rd birthday on Aug. 11, with rack of lamb and blueberry pie.

We liked Havre de Grace a lot.  Not only was it a cute little waterside town, there were a lot less jellyfish in the water because the water is less salty in the northern part of the bay and the jellyfish like the salt water.  I guess I have not mentioned the jellyfish problem up to this point but it was a factor all summer.  The problem is that all of our water intake pumps suck up the jellyfish which clogs the intakes and chokes off the water supply to the pumps, which makes the pumps stop working on the air conditioning and the refrigerator....not good!  Air conditioning is a major necessity in the summer in the Chesapeake.  It is hot and humid and you can't swim because of the jellyfish.  So there you have it. 

Havre de Grace (meaning harbor of grace and pronounced Haver dee Grayce) was the site of a French troop encampment during the Revolutionary War.  As you will recall, the French helped colonial America win its independence and Lafayette was a great friend of George Washington.  Lafayette arrived in 1785 by water and called it like he saw it.  Havre de Grace also proved to be a good place for us to base while we rented a car with the Sheppards and explored the countryside in northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania.  We visited Hershey, PA, which is the company town established by Milton Hershey.  What started out to be a chocolate factory that provided housing, schooling and medical facilities for the workers is now something like Disneyland.  They still make candy there, and give away samples, but there is now a theme park, a water park, a major concert venue and a zoo.  We took the educational tour and the free candy and headed north and east to catch the Amish countryside.  Another field trip took us to Frederick, Maryland, a really lovely old town with an active artists' community, historic covered bridges in the surrounding countryside, and a close proximity to the Civil War  battlefield, Antietem.  Another day we drove north and east to New Jersey and visited Cape May.  We had seen this lovely little seaside community on our way north in 2006 from the water.  This time we saw it on the ground.  Even though it was a rather rainy and blustery day in this Atlantic seacoast town, it was completely full of tourists.  We drove around to see the Victorian architecture for which it is famous.  Big, old elegant Victorian Inns, next to new hotels (not so elegant) look out over the sand dunes to the Atlantic.  After lunch we took the ferry to Lewes, Deleware, and drove north through farm country and many small towns on the eastern shore to Georgetown, and thus back to Havre de Grace.

On Aug. 22, we bade farewell to Why Knot once again as we headed to the Sassafras River back on the eastern shore.  Georgetown, MD, is in the Sassafras River and jellyfish are not.  In Georgetown we met up with some Loopers.  Judy and John Gill on Two J's V.  They live in Hatboro, PA, (2 hours away) but dock their boat in Georgetown.  They were very hospitable and on Sunday Judy took us and another Looper crew shopping.  That was really nice because the stores were pretty far from the anchorage.  The other crew were Clark and Cindy from C's Joy.  They are from Oklahoma and just beginning the Great Loop and planning to do the northern part next year.  They invited us for Gumbay Smash that evening.  Yup, another yummy rum drink with its roots in the Caribbean that will sneak up on you if you have too many. 

We spent a week in Georgetown and then started moving south on the eastern shore.  We stopped at Great Oak Landing Marina in Fairlee Creek.  After a harrowing approach through a narrow entrance channel with very little water under us, we tied up in what was advertised to be a full service marina.  They had evidently had a bad summer and closed down the pool, restaurant and bar.  However, they had not lowered their rates!  We left the next day.  Another couple, eager for a full service restaurant, went whizzing by in their dingy.  Ten minutes later they too were disappointed and were on their way back to their boat when they stopped to introduce themselves.  Sue and Mike on the sailboat Just Now are old friends of Estee Edwards.  When they left Colorado last year to go cruising on the east coast and the islands, Estee said "Look for my friends on Lionheart.  They are from Long Beach and they are out cruising too."  This demonstrates the small world of cruisers.  We were delighted to meet them and hooked up the next night for dinner at our next stop in Swan Creek, in Rock Hall, MD.  They are headed to the eastern Caribbean, sailing south to South America.  While in Rock Hall we also saw our friends the Ohlsens on Sea Fox.  We met them in Lake Michigan last year.

We spent Labor Day weekend anchored in Long Haul Creek right in front of the St. Michales Yacht Club.  It was a lovely anchorage, allowing us to visit St. Michales by dingy instead of paying those big dock fees.  It was also a quiet place as compared to the very busy town docks on this holiday weekend.  The big thing in this part of the world is Maryland blue crabs.  We decided we needed to sample this delicacy again, at the cost of $30/doz (small).  They were boiled and served with mallets on a piece of white paper.  A lot of work to eat but well worth the effort.  On Saturday of Labor Day weekend, USC played their first football game of the season against Idaho (Idaho???!!!)  Since the game was not televised on DirecTV, we could not watch it.  Ahhh, we said, as we found NICTV which promised to broadcast the SC games via computer, life is good.  Well, it is not broadcast visually during the actual game.  So, what you get is a diagram of the Coliseum and the field, and a marker moving on the field to represent the play, and an announcer calling the play-by-play, only the play being shown at any given time is about 2 play ago.  It's like watching the radio in time delay.  It was not a satisfying experience and we cancelled the service the next day.  However, the game was satisfying since the Trojans won.

After Labor Day, the rivers and Bay were empty of boats except on weekends so we had no traffic leaving the eastern shore and returning to the Baltimore area on the western shore.  We stayed at Anchor Bay Marina in Bear Creek, which is off the Patapsco River, about 8 miles from the Baltimore town docks.  This little marina and boatyard is only about 5 miles from Baltimore but it is situated on a small creek and yet seems to be far from the busy city.  There is a little restaurant which has live entertainment most nights.  Since we were there to have Lionheart hauled out for bottom cleaning, we were not charged for dockage.  Our friends on Long Haul were there, so we had friends to play with and we got our errands done once again in Rockville, MD.  We have spent a total of 2 months in this general area (including our time in WDC which is about an hour away) and really can find our way around, so it's a great place to visit when we have "stuff" to do off the boat. 

On Sept. 11, (a day of infamy) which was a grey, drizzly, humid day, we headed south.  We anchored that night in the Smith River.  The next day we made our way south to the Patuxent River and 5 miles NW to St. Leonard Creek, the home of Vera's White Sands Marina and Resort.  This is a legendary place in the area as it was established in the 1940's by a Hollywood actress, Vera (no last name is mentioned), who served as hostess until her death 2 years ago.  She was well known for good times at her place.  Now it is a nice place in a lovely location but nothing legendary happened while we were there except a great game of Farkle on Long Haul.  Farkle is a dice game that has eclipsed Mexican Train as the saloon game of choice with some cruisers.  The Captain and I still play our evening game of cribbage almost daily.  I must be honest and report that the Captain has won 3 months out of the last 4, but who's keeping track???

Sept. 15, the date of the USC/Nebraska game found us anchored in Solomons, MD, planning to dingy ashore to the nearby sports bar to watch the game.  Alas, the weather Gods made this impractical due to high winds.  So, I called Rich for game updates.  As you can tell, it is a challenge again this year for us to follow the Trojans' football season, which at that point had them #1 in the nation.  By Monday, the 16th, the winds abated and we made a south-east crossing to Tangier Island.  Tangier Island is about 8 miles west of the eastern shore of Virginia.  Tangier has been home to watermen and their families since the 1600s.  Today the homes are still situated on narrow lanes.  Transportation is by golf cart, or shank's mare, as my Mom used to say.  Most of the inhabitants are descended from 3 or 4 families. Everybody knows everybody else and where they might be at any given time.  We stayed at Milton Parks' dock which is right in front of his house.  The Parks are one of the original families.  From Lionheart's flying bridge we could see the entire island, and, you could see Lionheart from many points on the island.  We noted this as we were given a personal tour of the island by Milton in his golf cart.  We ate dinner at Hilda Crockett's Chesapeake House.  It was a family style affair with homemade crab cakes (delicious), clam fritters, corn pudding, homemade rolls, ham, green beans and pound cake.  It's been the same for years and you have to get there by 5:00 PM to get served.  The main industry is the catching of Maryland Blue Crabs and preserving them in sorting shacks until they shed their shells and become soft shelled crabs.  Then they are shipped to Crisfield, MD, and on to east coast restaurants.  Crabbing is done in specialized wooden boats that are essentially the same as they were 200 years ago.  This was a wonderful stop on our summer cruise and a uniquely Chesapeake experience.  We hated to leave the island so we decided to return with our friends Merv and Nancy Humes when they arrived from their cross-country drive from Sacramento, CA, to Fishing Bay, MD.

We met the Humes at the dock on Vancouver Island in 1999.  We had some good times cruising in Canada and Merv helped us bring Lionheart down the coast of Baja to Cabo San Lucas in 2005.  We had not seen them since 2005, so we had a grand reunion when they met us in Fishing Bay, which is in the Piankatank River on the western shore of Maryland, on Sept. 20.  Like the Edwards, we kept in touch as they traveled across the USA and zeroed in on Lionheart via cell phone and their Lexus on-board GPS.  After reminiscing and catching up on our lives, we left the next day to take them to Tangier Island.  We had a great crossing and they enjoyed the beautiful day cruising on the Chesapeake.  When we were docking around 1:00 in front of Milton Park's house, a near disaster struck Lionheart.  As we approached the dock in shallow water, we went softly aground.  When the Captain tried to back up and turn, we lost the starboard engine.  We did not hit anything, so disaster was averted, but a serious inquest had to be held immediately to determine the cause of this problem.  The Captain determined that the transmission control cable had broken.  The engine could be put in gear manually (in the engine room) but was inoperable from the pilot house.  A Parks son tried to order the necessary part that afternoon but could not get the company in Norfolk, VA, to deliver.  Not to worry, we now had 2 Captains on board (Merv had a Ocean Alexander 50 in Canada) so tricky maneuvers could be accomplished with one man at the wheel and the other in the engine room, to get Lionheart back to the western shore where the part could be obtained.  Thus, we went forward with our plans to show the Humes the island.  We relaxed with a golf cart tour of the island, dinner at Hilda's, and an evening of Mexican Train.  The next day we left Tangier Island, a little piece of the history of the Chesapeake Bay, and traveled back to the Piankatank River.  On Monday, Sept. 24, the Humes drove us into Norfolk to pick up the part we needed.  We stopped in Yorktown for lunch and returned to the boat.  The 2 Captains, working together, installed the 36 foot cable before dinner.  Now, be advised, this was not an easy job.  They had to "thread" the new cable through the boat from pilot house to starboard engine.  It ran through the closets in the master stateroom and through the engine room, requiring bodily contortion on the part of the installers.  But, it worked!  Thank you, Merv.  The next day the Humes left us to continue their land tour.  The day after that we headed south again, arriving at Hampton, VA, on Friday, Sept. 28.  We docked at the town dock in Hampton which afforded us bike access to the grocery store and a sports bar (right on the dock) to watch the USC game against UW on Sept. 29.  The Trojans won, but not by the margin forecast.....and we began to worry about the team's real promise as opposed to the huge hype going into the season.  But life is good and we finished September by moving down to Norfolk on Oct. 1.  This officially ended our Chesapeake Bay adventure and placed us at Mile #1 on the Intracoastal Waterway; well positioned for our trip south to the Bahamas for the winter.

As I read over this cruise report, I am astounded at how long it turned out to be.  After all, we did not travel very many miles during our summer on the Chesapeake (a mere 1,072 out of the 15, 330 miles since we left Long Beach), but it was a trip of discovery of the early settlement of our nation and the rich history of this particular waterway.  I found it incredibly interesting and informative.  I think it wasn't just a need for more land that led the pioneers was bugs, humidity, and maybe jellyfish!  Anyway, I hope you enjoy my rendition of Summer 2007 aboard Lionheart, completing Year II of The Big Adventure.  Look for a report of our fall adventures in the next edition.  Also, I will try to publish a map of the area so that all the river and town names can be associated with a spot on the planet, although it seems that Google Earth may have made maps irrelevant!

Currently the Cruising Van Gemerts are at the dock in Charleston, SC.  We are looking forward to Thanksgiving in Williamsburg, VA, and spending the holidays in California.  Look for the next cruising report in early 2008.  Happy Holidays to all and a strong wish for Peace on Earth.