Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Charm City

We are under way southbound in the Chesapeake Bay, bound for Solomons Island. That's still some eight hours away as I begin typing here at 1:30, so we will drop the hook somewhere tonight. We've thawed some lamb chops to grill for the first pleasant evening in two weeks. On our way out of Baltimore this morning we were overflown by a pair of Marine Corps presidential white-tops, I assume on a training mission.

The calm before the storm. Boats at anchor in Rock Hall harbor. Docks at right were under water later.

We had a pretty quiet stay on the bulkhead in Rock Hall. Thursday evening it was dry and not too cold, and we strolled over to the Harbor Shack for dinner on their patio. Most of Friday was the calm before the storm, but by dinner time it was cold and wet and the wind started to pick up. The weather radio had been squawking all day with dire reports of flooding along the western shore. We had a nice dinner on board, and by bed time things were wild and woolly on the bay.

Oysterman statue in Rock Hall.

Sometime during the night the winds shifted around to the south, a full half day ahead of forecast. The Rock Hall bulkhead is miserable in south winds, and the lines and fenders creaked all morning. Around 4am the sound of engines woke me up and I went upstairs to find a crabber backed up to the bulkhead in the maelstrom, loading gear. They are a hardy lot. We awoke to find ourselves pretty much pinned to the dock.

Vector on the Rock Hall bulkhead.

There was very minor flooding in Rock Hall, and the bulkhead remained above water the whole time. Images and first-hand reports from Baltimore, Annapolis, and Solomons showed numerous docks under water and significant flooding in the streets. And this is why we had chosen to be on the eastern shore for the duration. With the boat pinned to the dock I spent Saturday morning walking into town and getting a few groceries at the small market there.

Sunset from our anchorage in Rock Creek.

The wind finally let up just enough for us to get off the dock by 2pm (15-20 knots rather than the 30 knots it had been earlier in the day). We needed to get to the western shore before westerlies made the trip miserable, so we proceeded directly to the Patapsco. We made our way to a familiar anchorage in the well-protected Rock Creek (map), in Pasadena, Maryland, where we splashed the tender and headed over to Mike's for dinner.

The National KatyƄ Memorial near Little Italy.

Our reason for being in the Patapsco to begin with was the follow-up chest X-ray and echocardiogram which I had booked at Johns Hopkins. The earliest date they could give me was November 8, and we were still back in New York when I made it. The nature of having a schedule on a boat had us here more than a full week early, and I had figured we'd gunkhole around the nearby rivers (Middle, Back, and Magothy) to kill the time. But by the time we were leaving Rock Hall, it was clear that the daily highs would be in the mid-50s with lows in the 30s-40s all week. We ran the gen a bunch in Rock Creek just to keep warm.

This "bug" anchored at the mouth of a creek is one of several water-powered trash scoops around the harbor.

I had previously booked two nights at a marina in Fells Point, Baltimore, bracketing my appointments, and I called the marina to see if they could just get us in early. That way we could keep warm, and also walk to dinner without a cold dinghy ride first. There was already a boat in our slip and they were not entirely sure when it was leaving, so they asked me to call back on Wednesday.

Submarine USS Torsk in front of the National Aquarium. Bow of light ship Chesapeake at left, and Vector at far right.

And thus it was that we ended up spending four nights in Rock Creek. It was too cold to want to move anywhere else, so we just hunkered down and ran the gen about twice our normal amount. It was warm enough during the day that I was able to land the tender at Blake's Bar Harbor Marina and walk into the town of Riviera Beach, where I was able to pick up a few more groceries and replenish the beer supply. There are a couple of restaurants in town, but too long a walk for dinner.

Maryland 9/11 memorial in front of Baltimore's World Trade Center.

On Wednesday morning we learned our slip would be unavailable until the 6th. The dock had been underwater for two full days and the occupants decided to extend their visit. I booked three nights at the Inner Harbor Marina instead, a familiar stop and operated by the same outfit. We weighed anchor and had a pleasant two hour cruise up the Patapsco. We tied up in an inside slip (map) and fired up every heater on the boat. In hindsight we should have just come here two days earlier, but we were hoping not to move marinas in the middle of our stay.

One sure way to know we've lingered too long in the north -- setting up the outdoor ice rink.

With the evening temperature in the low 50s, we decided to just walk to the Rusty Scupper restaurant right at the end of the dock for dinner, where we reasoned it would be reasonably safe to dine indoors on a Wednesday night. Baltimore also has a mask mandate, which helps. But, O.M.G., this was the most expensive meal we'd had in many months, bar none. And that includes dining out in NYC and such pricey tourist locals as Sag Harbor and Bar Harbor. Once upon a time there were 17 Rusty Scuppers around the country, and, like everyone in Silicon Valley, I spent many an evening at the one in Sunnyvale. I remember them as on a par with, say, Chart House. This is the only one left, and they've gone high-zoot as a "special occasion" joint, with prices far in excess of what they were on our last visit a few years ago.

This wonderful community park was under construction the day we arrived and opened to the public literally the next day, to much fanfare. The skate park within was packed our entire stay.

We ended up spending three nights here, walking to Federal Hill a couple of times for dinner at Pub Dog Pizza and Blue Agave, both excellent. We tried to pop in to CVS for flu shots, but the wait was too long. And I spent some time during the day exploring Federal Hill and the Inner Harbor, which has become a mere shadow of what it was just a few years ago. I got a couple of projects done, including fishing wires and converting one of our corded AC lamps to hardwired DC, and replacing the Stingray on the tender that broke in NY. We took advantage of the in-slip pumpout and, as usual, Louise did all the wash while we had the power and water available.

Dockless scooters from three vendors are everywhere in Baltimore. Including this one in the harbor itself.

On Saturday afternoon the slip over in Fells Point opened up (map) and we headed over there a day early, for a change of neighborhood. We walked to Little Italy for dinner, but even as early as 5pm on Saturday almost every place was fully booked. We ended up in a very casual and funky space that becomes a disco in the evening, aptly named Italian Disco, where the DJ booth is the front half of an old Fiat, high above the entrance. The food was surprisingly good.

The DJ booth at Italian Disco. The back half of the Fiat is on the opposite wall.

The Fells Point neighborhood was definitely closer to us and more interesting than was the Federal Hill neighborhood. But most of the action, along Thames street right along the water, is outdoors at the moment and was unappealing in the cold. We did end up sampling two pubs that sort of book-ended the main row, Penny Black, closest to the dock, and Duda's a few blocks away. Both were uncrowded at the early hour we chose, and had decent pub grub.

Industrial-chic, or just too cheap to buy a faucet?

In addition to walking around the neighborhood, I put the e-bike on the ground here and ran a few errands. On Sunday I rode all the way out to the hospital to pre-scope the gigantic complex ahead of my Monday morning appointment, and on my way from there to the Safeway in Canton for provisions I meandered through the enormous Patterson Park. This is Baltimore's equivalent to Central Park in NY or Boston Common, and includes some lovely spaces that seem underutilized.

The Observation Tower, aka The Pagoda, at Patterson Park.

Monday morning I rode back out to the outpatient center at the hospital, where they took me in for my first appointment, a chest X-ray, as soon as I arrived, about a half hour early. From there I made my way through the labyrinthine passageways of the hospital to the Sheik Zayed tower for my echocardiogram. Both were, thankfully, normal. In the afternoon I rode out to the main post office, where our General Delivery package that had been addressed to Fells Point ended up (the USPS web site is notoriously inaccurate on General Delivery), then took the ferry across the harbor to our original marina to pick up our mail.

The original Johns Hopkins hospital, now an administration building surrounded by others.

Update: I started this post yesterday, under way after we exited the Patapsco. While I had hoped to finish before we dropped the hook last night, I simply ran out of time, and thus here I am typing again under way on the second half of our two day transit to Solomons. We spent the night anchored in the bay, quite literally, just off the community of Franklin Manor (map). This is the first time in all our transits that the bay itself was calm enough to do so.

Vector in the Inner Harbor, as seen from atop Federal Hill Park.

Part of the delay in wrapping up was dealing with traffic, which is always heavier in the Chesapeake than offshore. That started with minding a large cargo ship, the Desert Honour, coming up astern of us as we crossed the channel. We had passed her in her berth just before she left, then she caught up to us and passed us. She passed two inbound cruise ships, the diminutive American Constitution (whom we had seen on an earlier cruise tied up across the harbor) and the very large Carnival Legend. I learned that the pilots, after making passing arrangements on the radio and thus obviating whistle signals, nevertheless sound the horn when passing cruise ships, just for the passengers' enjoyment. The horns are sounded much later than would be required for actual communication.

ACL's Independence across the harbor, our dockmate from Savannah. The larger American Constitution also tied up here.

I also had to dodge a number of sailboats under sail. That would include the two sailboats who never read all the rules of the road, and thought they could do whatever they wanted. Those sailors never have a radio on in the cockpit, nor do they understand whistle signals. I missed them, but only because there's a lot of paperwork involved if you crush them like walnuts, and our insurance rates would go up.

Desert Honour meets Carnival Legend under the Bay Bridge.

We're now southbound for warmer climes with all due haste, although we have a very relaxed schedule and so have plenty of time to wait on weather as needed. Tonight we will be in Solomons, where Louise has a pharmacy appointment for her COVID booster and a flu shot. And we have Christmas plans with friends in Charleston, so we have nearly six weeks to travel just 700 miles or so. I also booked Thanksgiving dinner in Morehead City, but that's just a stake in the sand and not a commitment.

Sunset over Franklin Manor from our anchorage in the Chesapeake.

If the weather cooperates we can make one more hop south tomorrow before being pinned down for a couple of days. If there is a silver lining to being this late in the season, it's that the bulk of the snowbird migration is well ahead of us, and our favorite anchorages and free docks should have some room when we arrive. Also, we are enjoying the fall colors along the way.

1 comment:

  1. I remember eating a full Irish breakfast at Slainte on Fells Point, overlooking the harbor, before taking the water taxi over to Fort McHenry - part of Sam's college tours.


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