Saturday morning the 17th of May we took our time getting underway as the winds were supposed to calm down a bit in the afternoon. We had a big breakfast aboard, and took cool showers (not much hot water in the rustic marina bathhouse). We got underway about 11:00 a.m., winding our way through the narrow channel to get out to the Chesapeake.
Once out in the big bay, we turned to the northeast, with 3 to 4 foot waves at our bow. By 1:30 the winds had calmed down, making for a more comfortable ride. The sun was shining, although the temp was only about 70 degrees. A little confusion ensued at a couple of points with ship traffic, and restricted and prohibited areas marked on the chart.
Solomons Island, about 10 miles up the Patuxent River was our destination that day, and we were surprised to find available mooring balls up Back Creek in Zahniser’s field. We picked up a ball and registered over the phone. There were a couple nearby Looper’s whom we chatted with. Since it was a weekend, many pleasure boats were out, and Darrell and Ruth from Nova Scotia who we met in Deltaville, pulled in before sunset and got secured to a ball. Live music could be heard in the distance. We grilled and played backgammon on the back deck, and chatted with folks on neighboring boats and bypassing dinghies.
The morning dawned sunny and clear, and we decided to take advantage of the loaner bicycles the marina offered. We pedaled to the Riverwalk area, and did the remainder of our exploration on foot. Solomons Island was founded in the late 1700’s, and is known for its oyster harvesting. We toured the John C. Lore Oyster House, where the process of cleaning, shucking, and canning the oysters took place. In the early 1800’s there were so many oysters in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries that all the water was filtered and cleaned by them in only 3 days. Now, because of the dramatic decline, it takes the remaining oysters a month to filter all the water in the Bay.
We found a tiki bar (imagine that), and enjoyed one of their famous drinks out in the alley, which was covered in beach sand, palm trees, lawn chairs, and umbrellas. We pedaled back to the marina, and had a cocktail at the pool bar which had just opened for the season the previous day. After dinner, Jim took me to the dock (via dinghy of course) so I could take a shower. That was an amazing shower – better than my own private bathroom at home!
Monday the 19th we got an early start because we had to stop for pump-out and water at the dock. The current was surprisingly strong, and we had difficulty getting into the dock. Third time’s the charm! Underway again, back down the Patuxent past the Naval Air Station, we saw their blimp flying overhead. Five ships were anchored where the Patuxent and the Chesapeake meet, and it’s a little disconcerting. Jim turned on the AIS on his cell phone, which shows all ships in the area, their names, destination, and speed and direction if they are en route.
Once again, the Chesapeake was a little choppy, but calmed down later in the afternoon. We stayed clear of the main shipping channel, and navigated our way up the Severn River to the city of Annapolis, MD. Again we got secured to a mooring ball in the City Marina’s field.
Annapolis was a hubbub of activity. We took the dinghy up the “alley”, lined with boats and restaurants, to the dinghy dock at the very end. The Plebes (freshmen) from Annapolis Naval Academy had graduated, and were all out on the town in their dress whites. We meandered along old brick tree-lined streets, passed many quaint shops, colonial homes, and the State House, the first Capitol of the U.S., and the longest continually used government building. The grounds were well manicured with lush landscaping, and made one stop to think about our nation’s beginning years.
Mallards had taken over the dinghy upon our return, and they were obviously not shy. It took a bit to shoo them away. Back at the boat we grilled burgers, watched the boats passing by, and saw Ruth and Darrell again on a mooring ball nearby, and made plans to have lunch in town with them the following day.
The next morning was overcast. We dinghied back up the “Alley” to the dinghy dock and met up with Ruth and Darrell. We walked to a little Irish place and had a great lunch and a couple of beers/wines. Afterward, they came aboard and we enjoyed the Blue Angels performance overhead, their company and conversation.
About 8:30 Wed morning, we left the mooring field under cloud cover and threat of rain. We went under the 3.7 mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge. We made good time, as the tidal current was in our favor, but both Racor filters plugged, so we had to shut down and change both of them. We were cruising up the Elk River, at the very northeastern tip of the Chesapeake when we spotted the Harbour North Boat Yard, so radioed and were directed into the shallow channel to the fuel dock. Shortly afterward, we motored to the Travel Lift, and mechanic Mike King emptied all the fuel from the port tank.
We had dinner at the Sunset Cafe – surprisingly tasty food for such a small little joint. The owner of the Boat Yard is the main chef and creates his own menus and recipes. We spent the night in the sling of the Travel Lift and watched the finale of American Idol.
Early Thursday morning Mike showed up with McDonald’s breakfast, and the main engine filters were all changed. They pulled the boat out of the water, and Jim replaced the zinc on the bow thruster, and examined the bottom, the prop, and the keel. Everything looked pretty good, until Jim found a fuel leak coming from the injector pump. So that got taken out and sent off to an outside guy to have new seals installed.
We borrowed a van and drove all over in search of a laundromat. We finally found one in Elkton, after driving around in circles. Siri was no help on the iPhone. But the countryside was beautiful, very green with rolling hills, woods, and horse farms.
Four loads of laundry done, we headed back to the marina and put everything away and had dinner aboard. Then a walk through the muddy yard to the Sunset Cafe for a couple of drinks and games of pool. The place is aptly named, for the sunset that evening was spectacular – the rain clouds bringing out many colors and reflections in the calm water. That night, in the sling again, we fell asleep to the sounds of a bilge pump running every 15 seconds on a neighboring boat.
The next morning our boat was moved to blocks in the yard, as they needed the travel lift for another job. I rode in the front berth, which was a little eerie. I got a shower in, not the greatest facilities, but better than nothing. Mike re-installed the fuel injector pump, and everything seemed to be running smoothly. Then back on the Travel Lift to the sling for our final night there. We split an order of seafood lasagna at the Sunset Cafe, and a piece of the best Key Lime pie I think I’ve ever tasted, and said our goodbyes to the regulars.
We left early after making sure the engine was warmed up and running smoothly. We entered the C&D Canal, and refueled at Schaefer’s Marina in Chesapeake City, after waiting for them to open. We shoved off, going under the Chesapeake City Bridge.
Just out of the no-wake zone, the engine started to rev up on its own. Jim went down below to check things out. Oil and fuel were spewing out from the main engine, and we were blowing smoke. We were able to shut down, and despite anchoring being prohibited in the 14-mile canal, we did so.
Luckily were off to the side enough, as soon after a ship approached. Jim quickly radioed them to let them know our position and our predicament. We called US Tow Boat, and got towed into Summit North Marina, about half way through the canal.
We have someone lined up to look at our problem, but being a long holiday weekend, we have gotten very slow service.The weather is beautiful, and we made it to Delaware, but we are both beginning to wonder if this old boat is worth sinking more money into. Our hope is that this stop will be our last in a series of ‘working’ stops, and that things will finally be operating the way they should once and for all. It has definitely been a memorable Memorial Day weekend.