Monday, July 31, 2017

The Eastern Shore

Blossom at anchor in Glebe Bay

I’m afraid I’ve fallen a bit behind in the blog! This is from our last visit on Blossom in mid-July.  We returned to Annapolis after spending the 4th of July weekend in Upstate, NY, where I grew up. We had a wonderful time with family and friends and squeezed so much in to our visit, it was wonderful!

We’re getting into the routine of coming and going from Blossom. Our first day back we pull out the bikes, ride to the grocery store to provision and then clean the decks. It’s amazing how dirty a boat gets just sitting there without daily swabbings…

The weather was cooperative so we headed out the next day with the intention of visiting two anchorages to the south of us. We rounded the corner below Annapolis and went to Glebe Bay off of London Towne. Capt. George had told us there were a couple restaurants in the area and that it was scenic and well protected and we found this was very true! After a short, 2-hour cruise, we set the anchor and put Petal in the water.

A gorgeous ride to dinner

That evening we went over to Liberty Marina and then walked to Yellowfin Steakhouse for a lovely dinner.

The weather forecast took a bit of a turn that evening and we ended up staying put for the next 24 hours, cozy on the boat as a series of rainstorms passed through. It was wonderful! The temperature dropped into the mid-70s and we were able to open the boat up (as rain allowed) as well as enjoy the cockpit with no bugs. There was no point going to our next destination if we were boat-bound so we relaxed into a “rainy Sunday” frame of mind. I was able to pour over some of our renovation plans and actually got a lot done.

My view as we weigh anchor ;p

We had decided to return to the marina for a day or two over the weekend so we pulled anchor and set out around noon on Friday. That morning we spent our time glued to the radio, listening to a boating drama unfurl just north of us. A small express cruiser came onto the radio with an alarm blaring in the background as he called for assistance. He didn’t know what the alarm was (Martin expected high bilge pump because of it's ferocity), only that the engines wouldn’t start and they were drifting towards the shallows and there was a tanker nearby. As details emerged it got more and more dire-sounding – children aboard, bilge light on... Then engines working but boat is now listing, eek! It took a couple of hours to resolve but ended with the Coast Guard escorting the limping boat back to their marina. The Coast Guard are so fabulous – I couldn’t imagine boating without them - guardians of the water. Thank you!!

We enjoyed a 24-hour visit back in our marina.  We spent a wonderful evening with another Nordy couple who are docked there, Tina and Braun. I’m so happy we were able to see them before they headed out for more adventures. I say it all the time, but the fellow boaters we meet are extraordinary and truly make the boating lifestyle the joy that it is!

Blossom anchored off Oxford (2 photos cause she's looking pretty)

The next day we got up and as it was only 75 and cloudy (the best!!). We managed to get a game of pickle ball in before heading out. It was a busy day on the bay and we had a 4-hour cruise to our destination - Oxford, MD. We had plotted a big anchor circle on our charts in the perfect location and were bummed to find a big 100-footer anchored smack-dab in our hopeful spot. (Great minds… and all that!) There was plenty of room, however, and we anchored a bit south of them.

We dropped Petal and headed into town for dinner. Oxford is one of the oldest towns in Maryland, established in 1683.

Robert Morris Inn


Dinner at the Robert Morris Inn was fantastic (I can’t get enough of the Chesapeake crab cakes) and then we splurged and had dessert at the Scottish Highland Creamery. This little shop is ranked “Top 5 in US” on Trip Advisor and Top 10 Frozen Dessert Retailers in US. After a half hour wait in line (reminiscent of our wait for ice cream at Leopold’s in Savannah), I had a scoop of Girl Scout Samoas ice cream. Yup, it Was all that!

Oldest Privately-Operated Ferry Service in the US, also established in 1683

Our second day on the Tred Avon River we decided to explore. We took off in the morning and headed into Town Creek to see what the main drag was like. From across the way we noticed a Nordy – (we know our own!) and decided to investigate. And so we met Alan & Debbie aboard their beautiful boat. We had a lovely talk with them and realized afterwards that we’d both been in the Solomon’s at the same time.

Alan & Debbie's gorgeous Nordy

All along the way we saw eagles, osprey and gorgeous mansions decorating the shore. I have to admit, I’m on the lookout for “E9”.  I followed this eaglet’s start from his birth in January to his fledging in the spring in Fort Myers, FL. They said many young eagles from FL head to the Chesapeake to begin their adulthood. I enjoy the fantasy that E9 has flown above hunting for fish or carrion as we’ve passed by 😊

Views at anchor off Cambridge

We loved our time anchored off Oxford. The anchorage worked well for us though I can see other boats not enjoying the weekends there. It’s a conga line of power boats buzzing by with their wakes. With our heavy weight and a flopper line out we managed just fine though.

Blossom anchored outside of Cambridge, MD

Monday morning we were up early with the crabbers who were heading out to work. We pulled in the flopper and headed south to Cambridge, MD. There was little info on anchoring here but either side of the inlet looked like it would work on the charts, especially as the wind was coming from the SW and that’s the only direction the anchorage affords some protection from. We were a bit shocked that Cambridge looked so big! Many of the towns we’ve seen have been tiny, making Cambridge seem more of an urban area. It’s still a small town with a population of just over 12,000. There was a fair amount of (water) traffic going in and out of town and we were glad to be there on a Monday. I imagine it would have been just as "wakey" as Oxford had been on a weekend.

Cambridge by boat

We tendered in and tied up at the public dock/wall. It seems to be mostly a working town with lots of crab boats filling the harbor. After walking through town we had a drink and early dinner at Snappers. 

The next day we went out to explore in Petal again. We stopped by the Hyatt Marina/Resort just down the river to check it out. We can just fit in there with our 6’8” draft and it looks like a nice place to go if you want a vacation – 3 swimming pools (one covered), water toys, golf, bars and a restaurant.

Then we headed up river. The Choptank is a huge river that goes miles and miles to the east. We ran on plane for hours and covered over 35 miles. It’s amazing how wild and unpopulated the eastern shore is. We saw dozens of osprey (many with babies in their nests), swallows and miles and miles of green. Interspersed throughout the green were huge mansions/estates along the shoreline.

The wind picked up substantially on our way back to Blossom and we found ourselves in very lumpy conditions. We’ve now a coined a term for such dinghy rides – "Three B" ride. Pardon the language, it stands for Boob, Ball n’ Back Busting Ride. (It ended up with a 4th "B" the next day when we both had trouble getting out bed.)  It was a bit uncomfortable for both of us ;/

My chariot awaits me

Cambridge at sunset

Zombie apocalypse by paddle boards?

That evening we were having a glass of wine on the fly bridge when we noticed little dots slowly approaching from town. Binoculars showed a line of people creeping towards us on paddle boards. We both immediately thought "zombies". I think we're both a bit twisted or maybe we were just out of sorts from our ThreeB experience earlier that day.  In the end they veered off and ultimately proved to be an innocent group of tourists enjoying a sunset paddle.

We returned to our marina next to pick up my Mom who came by for a few days :) We cruised over to St Michael's to show her our new favorite place in the Bay.

Mom on the fly bridge

Gorgeous views, anchored outside St Michael’s

We had a wonderful time anchored off St. Michael's. The anchorage was crazy busy when we arrived (on a Saturday).  It’s such a wonderful town and this time we enjoyed an amazing Afternoon Tea at the Inn at Perry Cabin.  Alan & Debbie were anchored there as well and we got to say hi to them again!

Enjoying a ride to town in Petal

Blossom at St Michael's

There were many more boats anchored here this time

Blossom as seen from the grounds at the Inn

Evening clouds building back at the marina

And so we wrapped up a great few weeks on the boat. Then it was time to head back to our land home where work is really coming along on our yard and garage/apartment.

Boat Business: It was a slow time for working on the boat.

  • Petal. Running along the Choptank River gave a good indication of our range on Petal. We weren’t sure how far we’d be going so we packed our spare 5-gallon gas jug. We ran about 35 miles on plane in lumpy seas and used just a bit over half a tank of gas. Not bad!
  • Flopper Stoppers. Putting out 1 flopper was adequate for even the rolly anchorages we were in. We prefer 1 flopper if we can get away with it because deploying the starboard flopper creates a walking hazard along the starboard walkway. One of us has an amazing ability to smack [his] head on things so using the port side only saves a bit of pain 😊
  • Master Bath Window. This window just happens to be at chest height – not terribly convenient if you’re showering in a marina… We’ve covered it with a more opaque, decorative window film but after 3 years it was looking ragged. Martin replaced it and it’s back to looking pretty. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Visiting St Michael’s, MD

Heading out of the marina

We had a fantastic time aboard Blossom this trip and were able to do a bit of exploring as well. We returned to the boat on Sunday and spent a couple of days provisioning, settling in and exploring the Annapolis area in the dinghy.  This included going into “ego alley” in downtown Annapolis to provision with wine, beer and ginger beer - there’s a great wine shop right next to the dock. They told us that in the future we can call ahead and they’ll meet us at the dinghy dock with our stash – talk about convenient!

While heading into town, we noticed a Nordy 55 on a mooring ball. We stopped by to say hi and were thrilled to realize it was a couple we’d met almost 3 years ago in Ft. Lauderdale. We had a great time chatting and hope to get together with them later this summer when they pass through Annapolis again.

The weather was looking great so we headed out to St. Michael’s for a long weekend. It was a little breezy in the marina when we left and we were shocked to realize it was actually blowing over 17 knots once we got into the channel. It was nice confirmation that the marina is incredibly well protected. (This was reinforced again when we learned that conditions Monday when a storm blew through were down-right tumultuous in the mooring fields in Annapolis Harbor yet we experienced only moderate winds in the marina.)

St Michael's

As we turned the corner and approached town, we were surprised to the see dozens of Union Jack flags flying in the harbor. I did a little research and learned that St Michael’s is an historic shipbuilding town known as “the town that fooled the British” for duping British troops in the Battle of St Michael’s. Martin got a kick out of that! Now it’s a tourist town filled with restaurants, bars, a large maritime museum and dozens of wonderful Mom & Pop shops. We’ve been told numerous times that we had to visit St Michael’s and now we understand why!

Beer Can Race

We anchored outside the entrance to St. Michael’s and enjoyed the surroundings. We were the only boat in the anchorage and it was very sleepy and calm. We were thrilled to see that we had a prime location to watch the Wednesday Night Beer Can sailboat races that evening. We sat up on the fly bridge and enjoyed the show. After taking some sailing lessons this spring, I really enjoyed watching because I understood the tactics and what was happening quite a bit more!

View of Blossom from the harbor, only a few sailboats on moorings

Then we learned that there was an Antique Boat Show and Art Show happening over the weekend – perfect timing! We spent a day walking around town, enjoying the little shops and restaurants. The next day the festivities started and we were so happy we’d put out both our flopper stoppers! Friday morning transformed the sleepy town into party town as folks came in and the docks and anchorage filled up.

Many more boats at anchor, including one with alternate transportation on board

A close-up of the 150ft boat with it's helicopter on the back deck

On Friday we went into town again to enjoy the show. I found an adorable octopus necklace set on sea glass that I had to buy! As we wandered around, we met a couple manning one of the art booths who happened to be from St Pete and are members of the Yacht Club. We’re looking forward to seeing them again this fall. Then as we were eating lunch I got a surprise text from a couple we’d met last winter, Julie and Randy – they were in St Michael’s on their sail boat and saw that we were there as well. We met up them for drinks that evening. The back story is that we’d met them at a restaurant one evening when we were out with my cousin Kayleigh in Charleston, SC. We’d try to hook up again but our schedules kept conflicting. How fun that we finally got together over a year later in the Chesapeake 😊

Calm evening

After being out in town, we were en route back to Blossom and decided to check out the Miles River. The sun was setting and it was dead calm. We enjoyed the tranquil river and scouted a couple possible future anchorages with our depth sounder.

Our fairway

Blossom at her dock

We’d planned to stay at anchor through the weekend but the weather was due to get very windy with a major thunder storm on Monday so we headed in a bit early. It turned out to be a good move as Julie and Randy confirmed that Sunday was a very lumpy day on the bay. And, of course, being back in the marina meant we got to play pickleball and get a few errands done.

We ended our time at the marina sharing a wonderful evening with Julie and Randy.  And then it was time to head back to St Pete where renovation work is in full swing!

Boat Business: 

This is the first time we've ever left Blossom with the AC running and we're not thrilled to do so. But temperatures are supposed to be quite high and we felt it the better option. Leaving her without AC (but with a dehumidifier running) would mean letting her internal temp could get very high. This would necessitate emptying the fridge & freezer (far too hot for these appliances) and possibly losing dry stores as well. This just isn't practical as we'll be coming and going every few weeks this summer. 

To mitigate our anxiety, Martin has the Maritron system is set up with alarms to notify us if she looses power or if the bilge pump goes off.  It's also programmed to text us twice a day, every day, so we know that it is in fact up and running.  We also have asked for a marina employee to come aboard every few days to check major systems and make sure all is okay.

For those who don't know - this is an issue because when the AC is on, the raw water pump is running. This is the largest pump on the boat and should something go wrong, the worst case scenario is chilling - the boat could sink. Of course this is a worst case scenario...but this is why we've tried to do what we can...

A few maintenance tasks completed:
  • Replaced the Racor filter on the fuel transfer pump
  • Polished the stainless fittings on the flopper lines
  • Replaced the seagull filter in the galley
  • Replaced our soft shackle - which we use to attach or snubber to our anchor chain - which gave out after a few years of excellent service
  • Trim an errant metal spike on the crane cable. Much blood has been spilled...
  • Add a bit of water to the AC line. We have a very small, illusive leak we've yet to track down.
  • Gave the boat a proper wash inside and out
  • Replaced dimmer control unit for overhead lights in master head
  • Replaced fan timer control in VIP head with a prettier one

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Moving up the Chesapeake

After almost 2 weeks at home we returned to Blossom ready to head north. We took on over 1500 gallons of diesel, provisioned for fresh food, and were ready to head out in a couple of days. We enjoyed our last 2 days at AYB watching the steady flow of northbound boats.

The procession

One of the passing boats heading north

Some of their passengers have been hanging around a long time 😊

We had a calm cruise up to Norfolk passing through 1 lock and under 2 bridges we needed to open for us. We planned to leave early to avoid the rush as boats depart the southern marina, Coinjock, first thing in the morning and head north.  As it turns out, we dodged a bit of a bullet by doing so. We made the 9 am opening of Great Bridge with several other boats, (we weren’t quite early enough!). The next bridge we needed opening was two bridges next to each other. A bascule railway bridge and a lift highway bridge. We had to wait for about 15 minutes as the railway bridge was taking forever to open. Boats were beginning to call on the radio to question if there was a problem. Then once we got tied up at Waterside we heard the “securite” on the radio – the bridge was broken in the down position. We were so happy that we’d left early that morning!  We were the last group of boats to get through before it broke and it was stuck in the down position for three days! This meant there was no northbound traffic and an empty marina all weekend. It was obvious the floodgates had opened on Saturday night as boat after boat checked in to Waterside.

Blossom at the dock

Norfolk’s mascot, the mermaid. Painted versions are all over the city

Female cadets in training

We had a primo location on the docks at Waterside, in the middle of the action, right in front of the newly opened Waterside District. Apparently, this building was an abandoned warehouse for years. It’s hard to imagine that now – as part of a revitalization effort, it’s now filled with restaurants and bars with games and live music. We tried twice to eat dinner there but seating was 1.5-2 hours out. Yikes! Outside there are bocce ball courts and paddle tennis. There was live music Thursday – Sunday nights and it was very festive place to be.  Our prime location meant that Blossom got lots of attention. We had to wait to leave the boat a couple of times to avoid photo bombing peoples’ selfies. Blossom is a popular girl!

Waterside District

Festivities at "The Largest Office Party in the World" celebration included a hula hoop musical chairs type game

Hard to see but there are bocce courts and table tennis

The weather wasn’t our friend on this visit. Our first evening at Waterside we found ourselves enjoying cocktails on the fly bridge. One minute we were enjoying the scene below, and within 10 minutes we were hiding behind the helm chairs from large pea-sized hailstones that were raining down horizontally into the fly bridge. It was chaos! Folks running and screaming across the waterfront. It put quite the damper on the evening. The storm ushered in unsettled weather for next week or so.

One of the highlights of time in Norfolk was meeting up with some friends who we’d met last year in the Bahamas. We just caught sight of their arrival while we were out for walk. We enjoyed a great meal at an Irish pub and got caught up with Laust, and his crew.

L’Adagio arriving

Although we hadn’t intended on staying more than a few nights at Waterfront, we ended up staying for a week. We had 4 days of rain and lightning storms with shifting winds and decided we’d rather get a weekly rate at the marina than poke our way north through raining anchorages and winds.

Being in town for a bit gave us the opportunity to do some exploring. We visited the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio and the Chrysler Museum of Art. The museum was delightful and we were greeted with live music and couples dancing tango in the entry hall! We enjoyed the visiting Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit and their permanent glass exhibit. All this and entry to the museum is free (requesting voluntary donations of course)!

This glass chess set was on display but we couldn’t find a tag to explain it. Jews v. Catholics on a chess board and the Catholics look a bit maniacal!

Quirky glass chess game

We also visited Nauticus, a marine themes science center and museum. The highlight of Nauticus for us was getting to tour the Battleship Wisconsin. She first set sail in 1944 and was decommissioned in 1991. If you go to Norfolk you really must see the Wisconsin!

View of the Wisconsin from her fore deck

View of Norfolk from the deck of the Wisconsin

Once the weather improved slightly, we left to anchor out for an evening in the Piankatank River where we’d anchored before on our first trip through the Chesapeake aboard Blossom. It was a windy, gray day, Martin was quite sick with a cold and I managed to get sea sick. The highlight of our cruise was when Aircraft Carrier 78 - the  USS Gerald R. Ford - called to pass us just as the channel narrowed. They wanted us to stay at least 500 yards from the ship which meant coming very close to a shallow bar. Martin ran as far to port as he was comfortable and they requested that we move over more. Martin said he wasn’t comfortable doing so (!) and they seemed nonplussed. They politely told us that was fine but they’d place their navy patrol boat between us and the carrier for the pass. What a site! I don’t think I want to know how many weapons were trained on us but we certainly got some cool photos!

Aircraft Carrier 78 heading out

She's passing us

Armed boat keeping an eye on us!

That night Martin took some niquil and I tried taking some Bonine (thinking that if I took some at night and then 1 in the morning, maybe I wouldn’t be so dang tired from the meds during the day.) That evening a storm blew through which we were expecting. However, neither of us woke up! I always wake up with any wind/rain/noise. That night however, we experienced a gust that registered above our anemometer setting (50 kts) and then broke our anemometer – and we slept through it all. Thankfully we have a kick-butt anchor and had put out extra rode in an area with good holding…

We had thought to anchor out near Solomon’s Island the following day as the winds were due to clock around and be quite gusty again. With more storms on the way and anticipating crowded anchorages over the start of Memorial Day Weekend, we made a last minute call and ended up going in to dock at Zahniser’s Marina. It’s a really friendly marina and an easy walk to downtown. We spent 2 lovely days there while Martin continued to fight his cold.

Martin enjoying an evening walk into town

A bird on almost every post

Monday, we headed out and up to our new home port, just around the corner from Annapolis.  We finally had some really perfect weather!

Early morning departure to beat the afternoon thunderstorms

Osprey on a red marker - the storm was coming

It’s a super protected, key-hole marina. Knowing that we’d be leaving Blossom for weeks at a time over the summer, we chose this marina because of it was so protected and because it came so highly recommended by a friend who’s very fastidious. He had spent a couple of summers there on the boat he captains. Low and behold, as we enter the marina, there was our friend George waving to us. We had no idea he’s be there and were thrilled to see him!

We have the best seat at the bar :)

Blossom at the wall. She fills the space in!

A somewhat narrow fairway

We had a wonderful time at the marina. The marina is part of a gated community boasting a lovely restaurant, bar, 2 swimming pools and 4 tennis courts. It’s a short Lyft ride or 4 mile bike ride into Annapolis.

Even though we were only there for a few days, we packed in quite a bit of fun. I’ve become a bit addicted to a game called “pickle ball” and we were so happy to find the tennis courts at the marina. Even after I caught Martins cold, with both of us under the weather we still managed to get in 3 games 😊  Laust was once again nearby and we were able to connect with him again meet his beautiful wife. We caught up with George and met the wonderful folks that he captain’s for.  One evening, George and a friend sat down with us and pointed out several deep-draft anchorages and fun towns/tiki bars to visit around the bay. We aren’t going to have nearly enough time this summer to explore such a vast and interesting area!

Time flew by and suddenly it was time to head home to Florida to take care of some renovation business see how things are going. We’ll only be in Florida for a week before we’re back to Blossom and can start exploring!

Boat Business:  there are still a few outstanding items but several tasks were completed this visit:
  • Mesh window covers. Martin fixed the broken snaps on our window screens and added a few more for good measure. Originally we gave suction cups a go, hoping to not have to put too many snaps in. It was a great idea but not very practical in windy conditions. He fixed the few that had broken last season and then decided to add a few more so we’d feel more secure about leaving them on when we’re gone from the boat for a while.
  • Wavenet. We got both units back in Norfolk but only one was working. We managed to ship and get back the other in Annapolis so we ended our stay having 2 working units once again.
  • Air handler filters. We had run out of spares and had a ton sent while we were gone. Martin finished replacing them.
  • Satellite TV. We had to replace the hard drive in satellite receiver for the guest room tv as it died over the winter.
  • Kitchen sink. I had an unfortunate experience with fibrous veggies in the kitchen sink/garbage disposal. Thankfully, George is well equipped and lent us a kitchen plunger (I hadn’t known these existed before this incident). Blossom now boasts her own little plunger and the sink is flowing once again.  (How cute is this little gadget?)
  • Anemometer. Martin installed our third (in as many years) Maretron anemometer. Poor design perhaps?