Saturday, September 13, 2014

'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave

Today is the 200th anniversary of the raising of the Star Spangled Banner over Fort McHenry -- the flag that, today, resides at the Smithsonian museum.  The very flag which inspired the lyrics to what is now our national anthem, a line from which is today's post title.

Vector (left) and Blossom (right) together in Rock Hall.

We are docked at the free town dock in Rock Hall, Maryland (map), across Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore.  Fort McHenry is just twenty miles from here, and, of course, we can't get near the place.  For one thing, every marina and mooring field from the Inner Harbor to the mouth of the Patapsco has been booked for months.  For another, the Blue Angels have been practicing and performing daily over the main section of the river since our arrival in the area Thursday, and the harbor has been closed to navigation from 10:00-18:00 daily.  Every Coast Guard cutter and harbor patrol boat in a fifty-mile radius has converged on the city; tonight we should see the rockets' red glare from the fireworks.

It has been amusing to listen to pleasure boaters and tug skippers alike pleading with the coasties to get to their berths.  And there are apparently a fair number of boaters who haven't a clue that they need to get out of the way of historic square-rigged Coast Guard cutters bearing down on them.  The radio has been squawking non-stop since Thursday.

The Reedy Point Bridge heralds our arrival at the C&D Canal.

Wednesday we got under way at the start of the ebb in the C&D Canal and had a very pleasant and scenic cruise through this historic waterway.  The C&D effectively makes the entire Delmarva Peninsula an island, reachable only by way of several bridges.  The graceful Reedy Point bridge welcomed us to the canal, while the modern but unimaginatively named C&D Canal Bridge sees more highway traffic.

The ultra-modern C&D Canal Bridge.

Summit North marina, in Bear, our hailing port.

We passed our official hailing port of Bear, Delaware, which is otherwise landlocked but has a single marina on the canal.  And we passed the quaint town of Chesapeake, Maryland, where we had originally intended to stop for the night.  With two knots of current behind us and numerous reports of significant shoaling both in the entrance channel and at the docks, we opted to play it safe and continue on.

The town of Chesapeake, at the foot of the Summit Bridge.

Having made that decision, we decided to ride the ebb as far as we could, which brought us to a beautiful anchorage known as Still Pond, off the Chesapeake south of the Sassafras River.  It was a lovely and quiet spot, but we had no cell coverage at all there, let alone Internet access.

The Turkey Point Light, where Elk Creek meets the Chesapeake Bay.

Thursday we again weighed anchor mid-day at the start of the ebb and came here, where we knew there was a free dock with access to provisions and services.  As with much of the eastern shore, there are lots of shallows, and we had less than eight feet of water at the entrance, although we arrived at low tide.

Even though their boat draws nearly a full foot more than Vector, our friends Martin and Steph decided they would take a shot at getting in here to meet up with us, and they arrived at high tide yesterday.  Winds had shifted from south to north in between our arrivals, and so they really did not have any more water than we did, and we'll both have to leave on a high tide to get out of the harbor.

There are two restaurants right here by the free dock, along with a well-stocked bait, tackle, and general store.  This latter establishment had the beer we like, and I ran in to stock up right after we tied up.  I learned they were running a fishing tournament here today, and they asked if we would both squeeze down to the eastern end of the bulkhead, which we did.

It's been great catching up with them and finally seeing their boat complete and in cruising trim.  They have a training skipper with them, and the five of us have enjoyed a few meals together already.  We've also walked around the quaint little town, about a mile walk, twice.  The town has a few restaurants, a grocery, a Walgreens, Dollar General, and even a small West Marine.

I had high hopes of finding some hose and other items at the West Marine for some imminent repairs, but no such luck.  Our raw water pump is leaking at the seal, so I will be installing our spare.  Of much greater concern is that the coolant pump is also leaking at the seal, an eight-hour replacement project involving tearing apart half the cooling system, to get at the $1,900 pump that is out of stock at the manufacturer.  The support folks gave me some workarounds to try until we can source a pump.

This evening we will have a final restaurant meal somewhere in town.  Tomorrow we plan to shove off at high tide and head up the Chester River to anchor for a few nights.   It is likely we will once again be without Internet access, but I will try to post if I can.  We'll move over to the western side of the bay after the Star Spangled 200th chaos has subsided, and we are due in the inner harbor around the 20th, in advance of Trawler Fest.

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