For those of you who like “just the facts, ma’am,” this blog entry is for you and you can skip the next one. It details our journey from Portsmouth, VA, to Baltimore, MD. For those of you who like “just the sights, ma’am,” you can skip this one and just wait for the next one, which details all the sights we saw while spending 64 days in the Chesapeake Bay, VA and MD. Or, just get a big cup of coffee, a beer, a big ol’ glass of wine, or a frosty margarita, and read both of them at once.
So, here are the “facts.” We arrived at Tidewater Yacht Harbor in Portsmouth, VA, on Thursday, May 16, 2019, after transiting the Great Dismal Swamp. Now that we were in the lower Chesapeake Bay, we slowed down our cruising schedule quite a bit. We planned to stay there for three weeks and use the boat as a cheap hotel room to explore the local historical sights. The boat turned out not to be a very good hotel room because the sensor that keeps track of the black water tank (wastewater) turned to red, as a result of sloshing quite a bit during one of our transits along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Although the tank was empty, the red light was on and, as a safety precaution, the toilet will not flush after that happens. It was a pretty crappy situation and the pump out systems in that marina were not easy to get to. During the time we were off the boat, Chip and Dayle stayed at Happy Tails, just across the Bay in Norfolk. Eventually, this was fixed via the marine equivalent of Roto Rooter, and we were able to depart on June 6, 2019.
We headed from west to east across Chesapeake Bay and arrived at Cape Charles Town Docks, Cape Charles, VA. We used a sophisticated tool called the Chesapeake Bay Operational Forecast System, which is a service provided by NOAA to view predicted winds and currents. It has a wonderful animated map that details the wind speed and direction over the next 48 hours. The arrows are in colors, ranging from dark blue, light blue, green, orange, pink, red, and black. We like to go with one of the blue shades (12 mph or less) and we think about it when it’s green (12 to 17 mph), depending on which way the wind is blowing, a southerly wind having more impact on wave heights than any other direction. If it’s orange or above, we don’t go.
The weather was favorable the next day, so we headed northerly to Tangier Island, VA. In the War of 1812, the British captured the island and used it as a staging area for the attacks on Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD. If you were an African American slave and made it to Tangier Island, you became free, since the British abolished slavery prior to this war. Many freed blacks joined the British Marines and were an integral part of the troops that burned the White House. This island, and its town, will become uninhabitable in the next 50 years as the sea level rises.
The James Parks Marina is simply one of the worst we have stayed at, with a nasty dockmaster that would not provide any assistance, other than yelling at us, while we tied up during a gusty wind, and with a dock that had a 2×3 foot triangle connecting it to the walkway and nothing else to stand on. Lenny had to slither under the bow railings to get off, and the boys did not get a long walk while we were there. We never did explore the town together, and left a day early, despite the green arrows coming from the south. There is a ferry that docks there, and that is probably the way to explore the town and the waterman’s way of life before it vanishes
We headed west back across the Bay to Solomons Island, MD, to tie up at the Solomons Yachting Center, not to be confused with the Solomons Yacht Club, which is right next door. What a pleasant location, especially after Tangier! We stayed both Saturday June 8th and Sunday June 9th to do laundry and to enjoy the on-site café and bar. It tends to be beset with wakes, even though it is in a no-wake zone, but that quieted down after sunset when all the jet skiers and speed boats went home.
On Monday June 10, 2019, we headed up the west side of the bay to Annapolis, MD, pulling into Annapolis Landing Marina in a downpour. Dusty, the dock hand, was superb in guiding us to back into a narrow slip and getting us, all hooked up to power. Uber is an excellent method for getting around and we were fortunate to find a handy wash and fold service at Bay Ridge Laundromat that was also close to West Marine, Giant Supermarket, Rocco’s Pizza, and the Annapolis Smokehouse. We stayed there for 5 days, waiting on a weather window, and headed to Anchorage Marina in Baltimore, MD, on June 15, 2019.
We had booked a month’s stay at Anchorage Marina for a couple reasons: it is a lot more economical to pay monthly rates than weekly or daily rates and we intended to use it as a cheap hotel room to explore Baltimore, MD, and Washington, DC. Louise also had an appointment at the Maryland Spine Center because of continual, sometimes debilitating, right hip and leg pain. Those of you who are of a certain age know that sometimes life revolves around doctors. These are all the things we knew before we got to the marina.
Once we arrived and settled in, we found that this marina pretty much has it all: new, wide, floating docks and new electric pedestals; an air conditioned, spacious boater’s lounge; an air conditioned laundry room, with a large folding table, and timers on the machine so you know when to come back and get your stuff out; bags of ice available 24/7 in the boater’s lounge for $1 per bag on the honor system; clean, spacious showers; a Saturday fruit and bagel brunch; Saturday evening music; and, most important, very secure access to the docks and facilities via swiper cards. Now, wait, you are saying to yourself, what about a restaurant, what about groceries? There are at least 5 restaurants just across the street. Our favorites were Nalley’s Fresh (for salads), Katana Japanese food, and the Chesapeake Wine Company, which had a varied assortment of small plates and, of course, wine. You can see Safeway from the marina, and Harris Teeter delivered to our slip. Many Uber drivers hang out at Safeway, so it was easy to catch a ride.
We stayed here until July 18, 2019. Besides sightseeing, Louise had the doctor appointment, the steroid injection in her back, and the follow up doctor appointment. Her mobility issues limited somewhat what we wanted to do. We were happy that we had seen the Orioles in spring training, because we never could make it to a game. The Phillies were not in town during this stay and, again, mobility issues led us to bypass a land trip there. We also had maintenance work done on the boat: routine service on the engine, a diver cleaned the bottom and we had the burgundy hull buffed and waxed. Chip and Dayle had an extended vacation at Pet Stay Resort during this time as well.
On the next episode of “Then Again Sails,” you will see how selective we were in what sights we saw. You’ll know more about us as you examine our choices.
Our Trip So Far
As of Thursday July 18, 2019…
- Days: 397
- Locks Passed Through: 62
- Miles Sailed: 4920
- Engine Hours: 613
- Gallons of Diesel: 2062