Sailing to St Michaels

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Thu 18 Nov 2010 23:55
38:47.224N 76:13.171W Thursday night

We're moored up alongside the Maritime Museum in the town of St Michaels on the East Shore of the Chesapeake after having a great day on the water to get here.

We left our Baltimore marina at about 10am after breakfast and a Starbucks coffee - taking advantage of the big city until the last possible moment. The wind died away to nothing as we left the harbour but it was good to see that our boat speed has increased again to the same as when we left Southampton. This may have something to do with our newly anti-fouled hull but I think it has much more to do with the new bump-stops fitted to the folding propellor. These keep the blades balanced and make the prop much more efficient - or, at least, that's my theory.

Anyway, we left the industrial docks around Baltimore, dodging a succession of ugly car transport ships until we were out into the wider bay again. Then it was under the double-span of the Bay Bridge and past Annapolis. I'd been reading about the British Naval squadron patrolling the bay in the war of 1812 against the USA. It was strange to think that they would sail up and down in the same place as we were with the same view of Annapolis but with the Americans on both shores trying to shoot at them and sneak up with barges and fire ships. It was a pointless war, even by the standard of most colonial era wars, and just resulted in destruction and animosity although the Baltimore citizens took great delight in sending Privateers out against British merchant shipping all the way from Nova Scotia down to the Caribbean.

As we motored along, we chatted through some procedures for abandoning ship and also for man overboard, hopefully we'll not need them but it was good to plan. Just then, the wind piped up and we were able to sail along at a fine clip. As we got to the turning point for St Michaels, the channel got very narrow between shoal areas on either side. It's so similar to home but without the tides uncovering the mud flats every 12 hours. From there on, the navigation was interesting and we were determined to sail the whole way in so we were constantly trimming the sails and gybing.

As we got nearer, the low, tree-lined islands with tortuous creeks between looked increasingly like Chichester Harbour at high tide. Viewed from the sea, St Michaels has a small church spire sticking above the houses and a tiny, shallow harbour lined with marinas and wharves. We thought about staying at a marina but then spotted the dock alongside the Maritime Museum so took that option as it's usually quieter and our mooring money goes to a good cause. Some locals offered to take our lines but, thankfully, they'd got bored and wandered off by the time we were rigged up with fender-boards etc. It's so much easier with just Andrea and Kali. Anyway, we got alongside without incident and went for a wander around.

The museum has a collection of local vessels moored up. They're mostly very wide, flat-bottomed sailing craft used for oyster dredging and carrying cargo around the bay. They're so wide that they don't seem to need much ballast and can carry huge gaff-rigged sails. Some of them are still undergoing restoration but they mostly look quite tidy. The same can't be said for the vessel in the shed next to Saxon Blue. She's another local boat, built in the 1950s and now being comprehensively rebuilt. Every single piece of wood is as rotten as a pear. I'm glad that there's somebody with the enthusiasm to take on such a project but it would make me despair just to think about the work involved in saving her. In fact, you couldn't save her, just make a very accurate replica.

We've had our tea now. A wonderful omelette and rice cooked by Kali and described by Andrea as the best meal she's had for ages. Funny how we prefer something a bit simpler and healthier than the restaurants can provide. It's pitch dark outside and totally still, quiet and beautiful. The lights of the town are reflected in the water and the moon is floating above it all. A total contrast to big city Baltimore but the best of it is that we're still at home.


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