Out of the Chesapeake

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Mon 5 Jul 2010 23:16
Annapolis was a quick pit stop for engine spares and to change the oil in both engines, last carried out in George Town, Great Exuma. How time flies as we are now one thousand nautical miles north of that tropical location. Yet it's far warmer here than it ever was in George Town, with the last few days having been oppressive with temperatures into the high 90's with very high humidity. The NOAA radio all hazards stations on the VHF WX wavebands have been issuing warnings about the dangers of heat, advising listeners to drink lots of water, which we are doing, keeping an eye on elderly neighbours of which we have a few close by on their own boats and stay in air conditioned rooms - no air conditioning for us but many of our elderly neighbours enjoy this luxury!  Lastly, keep pets in air conditioned rooms - well lucky dogs and cats - that's what we say!  Meanwhile we're just melting trying to stay cool with a spray bottle filled with cold water letting nature's own evaporation process take effect with our electrical fans running all night. But it will all probably end in torrential storms with thunder and lightening as usual.
Always in the way and blocking the view of the high street in Annapolis                    The town lift bridge - we are usually going beneath these when they are opening
It was here that we started to attract small quantities of ducks for some reason we couldn't fathom. They just wouldn't leave us alone and in the early hours of the second night Nikki woke up to say there had been a noise in the cockpit which needed the Skippers investigation skills. There was nothing amiss but just as the search was ending a muffled 'quack' was heard from the aft end of the boat as the guilty ones paddled off into the distance. The next morning we discovered our dinghy was covered in ghastly duck guano and copious amounts of duck down although unfortunately not enough to stuff a pillow but goodness knows what they had been up to during the night. Had 'Grubby' our onboard rubber duck (that joined us in the Bahamas) invited them over for the night for some duck fun ? - we  certainly hope not! 
We departed Annapolis dodging through the small fleet of naval training boats about the size of a pocket minesweeper performing various manoeuvres in the bay diligently using all the correct sound signals. While the trainee officers on one boat were absorbed in these goings-on we could see some regular crew members sunning themselves aft of the bridge behind the smokestack - very naughty!
Approaching the impressive Lane Memorial bridges which span the Chesapeake Bay north of Annapolis. Commercial shipping passes under the main span en route to Baltimore
From here we were in new territory passing under the impressive Bay Bridges just to the north linking one side of the Chesapeake with the other. Our next overnight destination of Rock Hall harbour proved too near to our start point for the day so we continued to Fairlee Creek - a good choice as there was a storm predicted that evening - well lots of storms actually so we wanted plenty of swinging room and good holding which it had. It also had a tricky switch-back shallow entrance which we managed to successfully negotiate. Once through the narrow entrance the creek was large with loads of space to anchor. We chose a spot and no sooner had we set the hook we were surrounded by ducks again! They just wouldn't leave, having approached the boat in a bread-seeking pincer movement.
Tricky entrance to Fairlee Creek with shallows both sides              The locals have made their own Caribbean beach by the entrance        Storm clouds gathering in the heat of the afternoon
A short while later storm number one arrived with the nearest lightening about 2 miles northeast of us but still a loud enough bang and crash to make us jump. The ducks just quacked. Later storm number two could be seen this time to the south. This was an impressive spectacle with almost continuous cloud to cloud lightening with the odd fork to ground. Overhead we had a near full moon in a clear patch of sky which made the spectacle even more enthralling especially as we knew we would not be hit directly with this one. Phil enjoyed a last evening swim in the 80 degree waters of the Chesapeake as we would be transiting the C&D Canal (Chesapeake & Delaware) which links the two bays and is used by large ships moving between Philadelphia on the Delaware to Baltimore on the Chesapeake. Leaving the next morning the ducks were still around the boat and could be seen paddling after us until finally our ground speed exceeded 'duck-Mach 1' and they fell behind. It was obviously too hot for them to bother flying after us especially as a 12 hour overnight vigil had produced nothing edible from our beleaguered bread supplies. Once again 'Grubby' was under suspicion, was interrogated, but just squeaked when put under pressure.
Our stop the following evening was half way along the canal at Chesapeake City in a small anchorage basin with marina facilities and a public dock 200ft long which transients (that's us) can use at no cost. Perfect! Arriving with a 3 knot flood pushing us we entered the creek and promptly went aground on a sand bar. No great problem as the tide was flooding but we had no idea which way to drive the boat off the bank as there were buoys marked 'Keep Out' which covered the area where the approach to the free dock was and the deeper water seemed to be. Fortunately the marina hand on duty nearby shouted over some instructions and the boat came easily off the bank into slightly deeper water. The free dock was plastered with signs saying 'No Docking' which our aide explained was because of the forthcoming weekend festivities celebrating the opening of the canal back in 1829. Presumably they didn't want any riff-raff taking up space on such a special occasion.
Viewing platform looking along the C&D canal looking west           View over the anchorage basin in Chesapeake City          The blue and white 'building' is an ocean going ship transiting the canal
One power boat already parked in the marina with a load of drunken idiots onboard was enough to persuade us that we could have a very disturbed nights sleep. We refused the proffered berth nearby (it was $2.50 per foot per night which was also a consideration) and anchored as far down the end of the creek as we could possibly get and spent a relatively peaceful night in the oppressive heat. We did go ashore as we were short on bread for some strange reason but were too late for the bakery. The town (not a city as we know them to be in the UK) had some beautifully preserved Victorian buildings which were sadly overshadowed by the high rise bridge spanning the canal just yards away.
   Not a view everybody would welcome from their bedroom window!                          The C&D Canal can just be seen at the end of this row of pretty houses
The annual festivities at Chesapeake City to celebrate the canal opening are well known and mentioned in our pilot book with the warning that 'if you just happen to be passing Chesapeake City in the last weekend in June then don't say we didn't warn you!'  indicating that the festivities were probably quite vibrant. We heeded the warning as the type of boats and their owners already turning up for the event weren't the sort we would gravitate towards for our own enjoyment. In any case the wind was likely to be good for a rapid transit of the Delaware Bay the following day.
                                            Last view of the C&D Canal with the interesting twin bridge road bridges creating a good photo opportunity as we steam towards the Delaware Bay