Reflections on the Chesapeake Bay

Many people have asked us ‘What is the best part of your Chesapeake trip?’ To which we reply, ‘the journey’. Each town, river or creek we have entered has had its own special charm. And the people we have met in passing have enriched our travels greatly.

We love anchoring out in quiet coves and creeks. Unfortunately, due to the excessive heat, we have only been able to do this about four times. The boat is too hot to be able to sleep without air conditioning and to run aircon without being alongside we must run the generator. This is noisy. So, that was a disappointment.

Most days, with the extreme and atypical hot temperatures, weather alerts were sent to us forecasting thunderstorms. This again, made us reevaluate where we needed to be each afternoon – tucked up and safe. The shallow waters can be very nasty with high winds. For this reason we missed out on seeing some of the coves we had originally planned to visit.

I have observed the way of life on the eastern shores and Tangier Island is more laid back than on the western shore. Life revolves around the water. It is the lifeblood. May the waterman style of life never disappear. It has a richness and time-honored cadence.

Our trip to Washington with the Turners was a highlight. We saw more of the “hidden delights” of the Capital than in previous trips. A trip of discovery made all the more enjoyable with good friends.

Before we hit the waters of Chesapeake Bay we were warned by quite a few people that we would be sailing in a high density boating area – doubly so being the summer break. We have been amazed at the lack of sailing vessels. Most days we would be lucky to encounter 10 or so watercraft (watermen excepted). Off Annapolis we saw 7 bulk carriers at anchor waiting to dock in Baltimore. The only day we encountered boats in any density was on arrival at St Michaels. Guess when we were warned we were thinking of boat density similar to Saturday afternoon races on Sydney Harbour. Now that is boat density!

But never have we had a send-off like this one from Baltimore! We were the only boat sailing on the harbour. And we lapped it up!

Lighthouses galore and the bay is richer for having them. They come in all shapes and sizes and colours. Not all are working or in good order, but when you glimpse one it evokes a bygone era.

The insects of Chesapeake are truly horrible bugs. They all have fangs which delight in finding uncovered skin. Kill one and three take its place. They are stealth buggers – you don’t know they are on you until the pain explodes.

Crepe Myrtle in all its white, red, lilac and pink blossom glory is everywhere. I thought Magnolias were an image of the south, but Crepe Myrtle is quite literally everywhere, and at the time of our visit, in colourful bloom.

Many places on the Chesapeake are famous for something:

  • George Washington born / died / resigned / elected / visited here
  • Deltaville is the Gateway of the Chesapeake and Boating Capital of the Chesapeake Bay
  • Tangier Island is the Soft-Crab Capital of the World
  • Crisfield is the Seafood Capital of the World
  • St Michaels and Oxford are famous for James Michener writing Chesapeake
  • St Marys and Annapolis both claim to be the first capital of Maryland, with Annapolis also the first capital of USA (for nine months)

Perhaps the most note-worthy has been the towns themselves. All have been quaint and picture-perfect. The manicured lawns and well preserved homes with tree-lined streets, present life in a bygone era. The architecture is unique and sublime. Here, there is a stateliness and charm not found in modern cities. Most have been colonial towns, created in the 17th Century. All have known the effects of Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Battlefields are near or bombardments from ships were endured. History is alive.

Oh, the places we’ve gone, the sights we’ve seen, the people we’ve met…

In brief, some statistics of our trip from Isle of Hope, Georgia to Pleasure Cove, Maryland (Chesapeake):

  • Distance travelled this voyage from Savannah, Georgia to Pleasure Cove Marina, Bodkin Creek – 1032.1 miles
  • Loop distance overall – 2616.2 miles (almost halfway of the usual loop route)

On a personal note:

  • Crab is a staple on the bay and very tasty. But I am almost ‘crabbed’ out. Too much of a good thing… And we hate crab pots!
  • I have surprised myself with a new set of skills – varnishing woodwork and painting the deck. Mind you – where was that in the fine print when I signed up for this adventure?

Now Bushranger is winterised and awaits recommissioning next April when the adventure will continue. We are homeward bound.

Such is Life!

And so to the Coffee Quest

My quest for good coffee in the USA is ongoing. Each state, each city, each town we visit I live in hope of a good cup of coffee.

Now don’t get me wrong – I am not a coffee snob. I simply like a ‘Flat White”, nothing special, nothing with syrup or whipped cream or half and half, or chocolate…

The closest I have been to my “Flat White” was tasted in the Naval Academy at Annapolis. So close and yet so far!

And coffee needs to be savoured. One needs to drink it out of a china cup with saucer, sitting awhile and possibly chatting with good friends. The coffee shop should have ambiance conducive to relaxing and enjoying the moment. Comfy deep chairs and delicate pastries to agonize over, with staff who are professional and friendly. These coffee shops are few and far between in the USA, at least in the southern states.

I have, however, had fun in my search for the elusive coffee shop and Flat White.

With our friends, Gregg and Carol Turner, we sought out coffee stops whilst en route to Washington DC from the Rappahannock River. For value for money, Gregg wins with his Mocha Coffee at Java Jacks Caffe in Tappahannock.

In Urbana, we visited the old time diner cum pharmacy cum gift store. It was a hoot, but the coffee did not live up to the promise.

In Montross we lucked upon the Art of Coffee, with an eclectic range of clothing, jewellery and artwork. We could have stayed here a lot longer, but the menfolk wanted to push on.

And we ‘stumbled’ upon the Front Porch Coffee House in Kilmarnock. This almost ticked all the boxes!

And for stunning surrounds we could not beat The Tides Inn in Irvington. I was so relaxed in the moment, I forgot to take a photo!

And of course, when one is in Fredericksburg, one has to go to Goolrick’s established 1867, if not for the coffee, then for the gelato. Their sundae is to die for!

Good times were had by all in our quest for coffee. Roll on future quests.

Such is Life!


Baltimore was a place I was quite iffy about. Frankly, I did not mind if we skipped it all together. I had read a little about it. It seemed like just an industrial city with a shipbuilding history. Could take it or leave it.

Well, people… I’ll take it! What a surprise! From the moment we sailed up the Patapsco River, and under the Francis Scott Key Bridge, past Fort Caroll and Fort McHenry, the skyline of Baltimore is expansive and stunning. The city is attractive and the harbour has been revitalized.

Historic buildings have been re-purposed, leaving in place the interesting 18th century architecture.

In the Fells District, cobbled stone roads with embedded railroad tracks add to the shipbuilding history of the area.

A waterfront promenade runs 7.5 miles connecting districts. Ongoing building projects are everywhere.

Baltimore has a friendly vibe with plenty to see and do.

We went to the observation floor of the Trade Tower to see the most stunning 360 degree views of the city.

The waterfront is connected via footbridges, cycleways and paths, and water taxis.

There are many museums and historic ships berthed alongside.

Interesting nooks and crannies everywhere from murals to sculptures to public Adirondack chairs to outdoor theatres to amazing outdoor eateries and bars.

The food here is sensational, international and we agree with people who have said the food is outstanding. (Not so in other places!)

Mark chose well when he chose Harbor East Marina, right smack bang halfway between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point. We took great delight in walking and discovering the delights of Baltimore.

I should never pre-judge!

Oh, and we painted half of the deck before breakfast!

Such is Life!


Yahoody! Today the rains came and we finally had a day in the 20sC /70sF instead of the high temperatures we have experienced for 80+ days (not including the days we spent in Quebec). Such relief in the coolness!

Yesterday, we set sail early hoping to beat the worst of the high temperatures and thunderstorms which were forecast. We sailed by the Hooper Island lighthouse, which is now relocated to the Chesapeake Bay Museum in St Michaels.

En route we passed another derelict brick lighthouse, standing sentinel just outside the main channel as we left Miles River and entering the bay.

The watermen were out early, pulling up their crab pots in the shallows.

As we passed the iconic Thomas Point lighthouse, located near the mouth of the Severn River and the port of Annapolis, we were soon dancing with the big ships. All were lined up waiting to land in Baltimore, a mere 30 miles away.

We also danced with the little sailing dinghies as we meandered up the Severn.

Annapolis: a jewel of a city. It is home to some very serious watercraft – all shapes, all sizes, all speeds. The money floating on the harbour is outrageously extravagant. “Ego Alley” – town dock, is located at the foot of Main Street, so called for captains wanting to show off their boats.

Annapolis is also home to an amazing amount of American history. It is the capital of Maryland. It is home to the Naval Academy. It is the resting place of the John Paul Jones who is the ‘father’ of the American navy, as well as the resting place of Senator John McCain. It is where General George Washington resigned from the army and became the first President. It is the home of three of the signees of the Declaration of Independence. It is the place where the Star Spangled Banner was written. And the history goes on…

It is also a visually pleasing city, small and built with old streets radiating downhill from either Church Circle or State Circle. We walked the narrow brick roads up and down, discovering architectural delights with every turn. The Main Street is like walking Main Street Disneyland. Everything is perfect: flowers abound; gold trimmed signage displayed; shopfronts brimming with ambiance and merchandise. There are still the requisite t-shirt and souvenir shops, but in the main, the shops carry an eclectic array of quality art and clothes. The restaurants are numerous.

We undertook the tour of the Naval Academy: a wonderful experience. We saw some of the facilities 4,400 midshipmen experience in their four years being trained to be first class leaders. The sheer size of the academy, the parade ground (yard), the number of sporting facilities, the attention to the history and customs of the navy, as well as their study schedule were awe inspiring. We toured historic buildings, the museum, the chapel and the crypt of John Paul Jones, who is much revered.

Annapolis is truly beautiful, more so with the cooler temperatures.

I have crossed off another item from my Bucket List.

Such is Life!

St Michaels, MD

So, we thought Oxford was hot! Nah – today St Micheals is hovering around 41C / 110F.

Yesterday was a cool 37C / 102F.

As we sailed out into the bay, the only thing that stirred was the wake of our boat.

On our port side, we passed another abandoned lighthouse, tilting to the north.

To starboard we passed Poplar Island where we noticed earthworks were underway to build up their sea wall.

As we sailed closer to St Michaels, the big expensive boats with clueless drivers raced to overtake us. There are some seriously large ego heads and courtesy deficient drivers out there. We were waked badly, even though Mark had radioed to ask them to do a slow pass.

St Michaels! It is a charming colonial town which has historic homes dating back to the Revolutionary War and unique shops all within easy walking distance. The picturesque streets are perfect for strolling along. There are hidden gems around each corner from cannons used in the defence of the town in the Revolutionary War, to the quaintest of homes, to the kaleidoscope of colourful gardens, in the maze of narrow streets. This town is where James Michener did research for Chesapeake, 40 years ago.

It was too hot to explore by the time we arrived yesterday (12.30pm) so a little siesta and pool time was in order. Today is a whole new day, albeit hotter. We played it smart… we asked to be dropped off at a point in town for exploration by foot.

We did some serious shopping at Simpatico – an Italian gourmet outlet. We crisscrossed the main street, stopping for coffee in an incredibly old inn, then made our way to the Crab Claw for lunch, (popping in and out of shops en route). No prizes for guessing what we had for lunch. After an icecream stop, we again asked for a pick up from the marina.

We started the self-guided walking tour, but then decided to just enjoy our surroundings.

Such is Life!


Yesterday we left Solomons early to beat the heat. We didn’t. The heat and humidity hung over us like a wet blanket. The sailing part was easy. But when the wind decided to drop, oh my it was hot!

Heading north we sailed past the Point Cove lighthouse. It is on land so we could only see it from afar. It also has lighthouse keepers accommodation which can be rented out for holidays. Close by is a huge LPG container port.

Further along the west coast of the Chesapeake the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Station stealthily came into view. I thought at first it was a submarine base (in the James Bond style) but Mark assured me subs would need deeper water. So, after searching Google Maps, which did not have the nuclear station image (that’s where stealth comes in), I asked Siri, and Viola! We discovered it!

There seems to be more large shipping around in the northern part of the Chesapeake. Bulk carriers and container ships ‘whizzed’ past, but surprisingly did not create wakes to rock our boat.

Oxford is a cute little town tucked away on the Choptank River. The homes look like they belong on a movie set. We rode our bikes all over the town – bearing in mind it is little and the heat was abominable. Oxford is on a spit of land, surrounded three sides by water. Every three to four blocks and you have waterviews. A very pretty place with late 19th century architecture.

We rode past the Robert Morris Inn, where James A Michener had his morning coffee and wrote part of his novel, Chesapeake. We both read Chesapeake when we were first married – may have to revisit it, now that we have spent a bit of time in the bay.

And of course, the important stop was the Scottish Highlands Creamery for that well earned icecream. It cooled my core temperature. And yes, it was good.

The heat got to us. All we could think about was a swim back at the marina. So off we pedaled. Stowed the bikes. And hit the pool. Didn’t surface again for a couple of hours. Gotta love marinas with pools. Marinas with swimming pools are now part of our selection criteria.

Such is Life!

Solomons Island, (Day 2)

Another day at Solomons. No thunderstorms. No reprieve from the heat. But we visited the most amazing museum: the Calvert Marine Museum (and it was mostly indoors).

We started with a walk through the Calvert Cliffs and fossil finds.

Wove our way through the discovery tanks of sea life.

Saw where the otters play indoors.

Happened upon the Drum Point Lighthouse. We climbed small circular stairs to the light. Spied the living quarters of the keepers.

Mark checked out the outside splash toilet.

All in all, a thoroughly great exhibit. It was moved from its site on the Patuxent River to the museum for all to enjoy.

We then explored the wooden boats that make Chesapeake unique: skiffs, bugeyes, pungies, skipjacks, canoes and all types of watermen boats.

From there we ventured inside again to see exhibits and the history of the Chesapeake. It was really fascinating and very educational. One of the best museums we have visited.

Then on to Westmarine (Whitworths equivalent) to spend money followed by grocery shopping. We were very thankful the marina dropped us off and picked us up at the various venues. Way too hot to walk.

After putting all the groceries away we headed off for the pool and a few drinks to rehydrate. We ended up sitting in the pool for three hours whilst drinking and talking with lovely people. As a result, we became prunified!

I tell you, this retirement life is hard yakka! We didn’t even have time for our afternoon siesta.

Such if Life!

Solomons Island on the Patuxent River

After a lovely evening spent in our little cove on Smith Creek, we set sail down the Potomac, past treacherous fish traps and camouflaged crab pots. We were Solomons Island bound.

We had no wind and calm seas. Even with our forward motion we created no wind to alleviate the heavy, languid air. Even with our eisenglass windows open it was hot. Time to start the air conditioning on the flybridge. Fan deployed. Wet scarf deployed. Still no relief. Finally had to resort to the wet t-shirt, but with no air swirling, still no relief.

It was a hard slog, today. 5 hours of unrelenting heat, hovering around 38C. To amuse ourselves, we observed and investigated a float overboard. We made sure there were no bodies floating in the water.

We then sailed close to the “Point No Point” lighthouse. Yes, that is really its name. Dolphins were aplenty. Wished we could join them!

We now reside at the Solomons Island Yacht Club, where we are blasting our aircon full bore. The people in the yacht club have been delightful and very welcoming, especially around Happy Hour. Nowhere is far from where we are tethered.

We also enjoy the regular flyovers of Hornets, helicopters and P3 Orions and other navy planes. Directly across the river is the Naval Air Station Patuxent River. It is the home to US Naval Test Pilot School, Atlantic Test Range, Naval Air Systems Command and is a centre for test and evaluation and systems acquisitions for naval aviation. Yahoody!

We were going to cross the Chesapeake tomorrow to explore Oxford, but there has been a weather warning issued for the region. High heat (higher than today) and thunderstorms are forecast. Think we will stay put for a few days and rehydrate. And get blasted by naval jets!

Such is Life!

St Marys River, Maryland

Sunday was another glorious day of sailing across the Chesapeake. Fair winds and calm seas, although the decks were too hot to go barefoot! Nary another sailor in sight. However, a dolphin or two were spied, as well as a baby stingray ‘flapping’ its wings as it hurriedly crossed our bow.

At last we saw a lonely lighthouse, instead of only red and green channel markers. And at the mouth of the Potomac lies a rusted hulk. The navy used it as target practice. Now it sits forlorn in its watery gravesite.

After 6 hours of sailing, we dropped the hook in Horseshoe Bend on the St Marys River, a tributary 9 miles from the mouth of the Potomac.

St Marys City was the original capital of Maryland way back in 1634 but lost out to Annapolis shortly afterwards. It is now an historical site with reconstructed buildings.

St Marys College is intricately woven into the tapestry, providing life to an almost ghost town.

We tied up to the college’s waterfront and explored the grounds of the small but first-rate college. It is one of only two Public Honours Colleges in the USA and is ranked 6th best liberal arts college in the nation. Staff to student ration is 10 to 1 and all students must complete an Honours Degree. Not a bad place to come to study.

We also explored the grounds of the Episcopal Church and graveyard, which are situated over some of the most spectacular water views, right down to the Potomac.

The Historic City has original and reconstructed buildings.

There is an ongoing archeological site, unearthing new discoveries. We were fortunate to strike up a conversation with the coordinator who showed us the dig site and a piece of Native Indian pottery found that morning. We were unable to visit the museum, as it is Monday and nothing is open in the USA on Mondays! (We have found that out a number of times!)

After a pleasant sojourn we cast off to search for another verdant cove, this time in Smith Creek – a smaller tributary of the Potomac closer to its mouth. We avoided fish traps (vertical sticks in the water with nets attached below the surface) and the ubiquitous crab pots, by a zigzag approach, thankfully well marked.

We found the sought after verdant cove and dropped the anchor. We are surrounded on three sides by foliage dipping into the water. There is an oppressive stillness to the air, one which promotes a siesta. Once duly completed, Mark donned togs and goggles for a quick dip to clean the water speed impeller. Alas, to no avail, as the murky water prevented seeing the impeller. Still, he proved there were no alligators and no sharks on the north side of the Potomac!

So tonight, we will swing on the hook in very pretty surrounds, possibly with the aircon on!

Such is Life!

A Word from the Masthead

Hi there. Ever since that newcomer, Dinghy, wrote on this site months ago I have held my tongue. But I have stewed long enough. I am an original crew member, occupy one of the most dangerous and precarious positions onboard Bushranger, keep everyone safe in times of need but get bugger all recognition. Enough! Let me spin my story (only those who really know will get that one).

I am RADAR. I sit at the masthead above the ordinary occupations of the boat, on lookout. Mostly I just get to enjoy the view. It is when things get troublesome that the skipper turns to me. You see, I can “see” through stuff that the crew cannot.

Take the time we were on the Tennessee-Tombigbee leaving an anchorage, first of five boats. Visibility was less than 30 metres but with my eyes probing forward Bushranger forged ahead and led the five down river. Some may say they were gullible. I know what I could see and kept them safe. And what about those hours in Georgia, me probing, the siren sounding warnings as we weaved through the marshes?

I also recall that “incident” approaching Elizabeth City as a line squall approached. Dunno what the skipper was thinking when he called me to spin up. His view was as good as mine. Rain, mate. Lots of rain. Blinding rain, mate. Probably some wind, too. Nearly knocked me off my perch, it did.

Despite this stellar service, I am mostly forgotten. Take those low bridges for example. There is much conversation that wafts up to me from the fly bridge. “Hmm, says 21 ft but looks to be more” might the skipper say approaching a rusty H beam. I’m looking. I don’t need a haircut. I call a warning to the masthead light and we duck down just to shave through.

Overall though, my position on board represents my role in life. I sit above the melee, I am here when needed, I look down on that upstart Dinghy and can tell you a thing or two about Anchor who may soon put pen to paper. It will be a dour tale. Anchor is a bit of a stick in the mud.

 Such is Life!