Sitting Still in Still Pond Bay

We continue our journey up the Chesapeake Bay with an overnight stop in Still Pond Bay. It is a quiet area with good anchorage. As usual, we dropped anchor and rafted all three boats together.

Michael wanted to drive the dinghy and I wanted to practice my beaching skills so we took the dinghy out and headed to the beach. It reminded me of home with its rocky shore and unique rock formations and greenery. The shoreline was dotted with flowers that were extremely fragrant. It was a nice stroll exploring the shoreline and getting whiffs of the flowers on the breeze.

As a finale for a nice day, a sunset tucked us in for the evening.

Saint Michaels: the Heart and Soul of the Chesapeake Bay

May 15, 2023

We’ve been zig zagging across the Chesapeake going from one town to another. There is so much to see and do, but not enough time.

Saint Michaels was next on our Must Visit list. When reviewing the Great Loop Facebook page, there was discussion on a few loopers’ anchors dragging; however, those people were on the north side of town and we were going to anchor in the southern side.

We thought to be safe, we would put out a little extra chain (or all of it). 175 feet of chain in 10 feet of water later, we were rafted up and secure. A few other looper boats joined us in the bay as well including Bama Breeze, Beach Side, Pu Hana, and eventually Fika.

The anchorage was great. The only possible issue was the number of crabbing boats cruising by. I’ve never seen this manner of crabbing. They’d drop a weighted line with little sandbag-like-bags that the crabs would grab onto. The fishermen would come by and pick up the line, catching the crabs at the surface with a net or basket. We weren’t bothered by them and it was fun to watch this method of crabbing.

Up the bay was a small dinghy dock that was a few blocks from the heart of town. The town itself is a grid pattern around a central square. The streets are lined with cute houses and shops as well as a museum and waterfront. This is one of my favorite towns so far.

What makes this town interesting, besides sharing a name with my son Michael, is its role in the War of 1812. The British was planning on attacking St. Michaels, but the town knew of this plan and hung lanterns in trees beyond the town. When the British attacked at night, they saw the lights and overshot the town. Only one cannonball hit a house and the town became known as “the town that fooled the British.”

Our first day arriving in St. Michaels, we headed to town to see a distillery and do some wine tasting. I also tried some Chesapeake Gold cheese which was delicious. The first winery, St. Michael’s Winery, had an amazing selection and I went home with some Gollywobbler Peach. I loved the taste and the name. Apparently, a Gollywobbler is a staysail set between the foremast and mainmast of a schooner.

The second winery, Bordeleau, wasn’t bad, but their tasting fee was a little on the higher side ($18 for 5 pours). Thankfully, the pours were generous, but I didn’t bring any home.

The Windon distillery made delicious Lyon Rum. We enjoyed sampling many flavors and types, but my favorite was the coconut rum.

The rest of our stay included walking, shopping, exploring, eating, and even a day of swimming in the bay. After many locals recommending Avas, we went for dinner with a bunch of other loopers. It was great getting to know more people and sharing travel tips.

Here are some photos of our exploration:

When leaving in the morning, we watched the crabbing boats slowly boat around. I was a little concerned with where their lines may rest and discovered one was caught on our anchor when we started pulling her up. A little nudge with a boat hook released it and we were on our way to our next destination. Sadly there were no crabs attached to the line.

A Birthday, Stingrays, and Mother’s Day in Solomons Island, MD

May 13, 2023

Solomons Island is surprisingly fun with so much to do. We anchored in a peaceful spot around the corner from the main town that allowed space for kayaking and a quick dinghy ride to many different areas.

The island is a major boating center located at the mouth of the Patuxent River in Maryland. It reminded me a lot of Gig Harbor with restaurants and docks along the water and a lot of small pleasure boaters zooming around.

The 13th is Steve’s birthday. We started the morning with coffee on Steve’s boat and presented him with his gifts. The day continued with dressing in Hawaiian theme clothing and Leis while taking Steve to lunch at a nice Italian restaurant. The celebrations continued with drinks at the Tiki Bar. Unfortunately, it started raining so our festivities were cut a little short with a wet dinghy ride back to the boats.

While anchored out, we also met a few other Loopers. Fika was in their dingy and came over to say hello. They have two kids a little younger than Annette and Michael. The kids all hung out for a bit while we visited.

While leaving for lunch, we noticed another dinghy in the water with Fika. They had just completed the Loop and were coming to say hello. We joined them on the water for a quick meet and greet.

May 14, 2023

It’s Mother’s Day. We pulled anchor and moved the boats to the Tiki Bar dock. The boys had projects and work to do and I wanted to see the sculpture garden. The garden was a long walk away, but Boris found a possible dock we could take the dinghy to. The kids, Tonia, and I loaded into the dinghy and headed out. Unfortunately, the dock was private and not in great shape so we had to nix that idea. Feeling bummed, we turned around, only to be surprised by a fever of sting rays swimming.

After some oohs and ahs, we went to the Calvert Marine Museum, explored their exhibits, and toured the Drum Point Lighthouse. Drum Point Lighthouse is a screw-pile cottage-type lighthouse and is only one of four remaining from forty-five that once served the Chesapeake Bay. It is complete with furnishings of the early twentieth century. It’s incredible imaging what it would have been like living in one. After our tour, we returned to the boats and we had drinks at the Tiki Bar where we met another Looper (Bama Breeze)

Below are some images of our wanderings around Solomons Island.

Crisfield, the Crab Capitol of Maryland

May 11-12, 2023

We’ve entered Maryland and the Crab Capitol of the state. Crisfield is an industrial town centered around the blue crab. Images of crabs can be spotted throughout town on buildings, wind turbines, and water towers. I found a company selling crab claws by the 3 pounds for an affordable price and feasted.

We stayed on the dock at Somers Cove Marina. The marina was nice with a courtesy shuttle, dog walk park, bike and golf cart rental, and even a slice of Smith Cake.

I wanted to visit Smith Island to get Smith Island Cake, but it wouldn’t work with the narrow, shallow channels. Instead, we ate the cake on Crisfield. The cake is the State Dessert of Maryland and traditionally consists of 8 to 10 layers of yellow cake with chocolate frosting between each layer and slathered over the whole. There are other flavor renditions of this cake.

We also met a few Loopers on the dock, but my back was still hurting so I wasn’t very social.

Lightning in Deltaville

May 8 and 9, 2023

The adventure continues up the Chesapeake Bay with our next stop in Deltaville, VA. I feasted on a Low Country Boil and we all chilled at the anchorage. The evening graced us with a lightning show that I videoed in slow motion.

The problem with anchoring out is trying to figure out how to access shore. Most of the time, we find a dinghy dock and/or pay a dock fee. I noticed that we were located next to Fishing Bay Yacht Club. They were kind enough to let us use their dock for the dingy as well as their shower facilities and picnic tables.

Matt, Steve, and I took the folding bikes to shore to run errands and provision. The ride out was fine, but the return trip was more challenging riding with fully loaded backpacks; I somehow tweaked my back and am in a bit of pain.

Walking the Historic Streets of Yorktown

May 7 and 8

We’ve deviated from the itinerary a little, but that’s ok. The itinerary was to be an idea of where we would like to be. Instead, the weather and our interests play a major role in where we actually go.

We anchored just past the mooring field, which looked like giant Holy Hand Grenades and was able to take the dinghy into town.

With our homeschool curriculum being the colonizing of our country, I wanted to take a trip to Yorktown, VA. Yorktown, established in 1691, was one of the original 13 colonies. The town included homes lining Main Street, taverns, and other little shops. These buildings have now been converted to shops and cafes. A notable house is that of Thomas Nelson, Jr., signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Another interesting part of Yorktown is that it also witnessed the last battle of the American Revolution.

Touring around the town, we enjoyed seeing the old buildings, the fortresses, and remnants of the town being a thriving tobacco port. We were also able to make use of the free trolly.

On our final day there, we took a quick trip to the beach and played in the water. There were a few jellyfish, but we were able to navigate around them.

The Mysterious Oozlefinch

May 6, 2023

We are trying to keep our traveling down to 3 hours or less a day as we make our way up the Chesapeake Bay. Our next planned stop was Deltaville, but it was 6 hours a way. Not wanting to move that long, Matt found an anchorage in Hampton which was half way. Once arriving in Hampton, we were pleasantly surprised with all that it had to offer.

Tonia discovered the area was home to Fort Monroe and Battery Irwin. We had a history lesson while climbing around the battery and walking the walls of the fort. The shoreline is also where the first documented Africans arrived in Virginia abord the White Lion. I was just teaching the kids about this in homeschool! This is also where the Confederate President Jefferson Davis was confined.

Most of the forts that we’ve come across had dried up moats and vacant buildings. This fort, however, had a moat, cars coming inside and buildings used as residences.

Next to the fort was the Battery and other historic buildings and markers.

While wandering around, we spotted an old firehouse that has been converted into an ice cream shop. We had to do some taste testing of course.

At the end of our tour of the fort, we found a post card with a picture of an Oozlefinch. It is the Mascot of the Coats Artillery and flies backwards in order to keep dust out of his eyes and is so bashful, he swallows himself when he sees someone.

We were so amused by this bird, that when Tonia discovered a brewery nearby with the same name, we had to go check it out. The brewery was family and pet friendly offering a variety of beverages including boozy sodas and slushies. it was the perfect way to end our day.

Hello Virginia!

April 4, 2023

We departed Coinjock Marina and made our way into Virginia. This is our 5th state so far and 1,000 miles traveled. The trip over was uneventful, taking us through winding marshes and tree lined rivers.

Our destination is the Atlantic Basin Boatyard in Chesapeake City, VA. We are preparing to pause the loop for one month to visit Washington D.C. and return home. This is the perfect opportunity to haul out and inspect the propeller and shafts, which will occur while we are in D.C. We tied up to the dock and enjoyed the treelined scenery. Nearby is a lift bridge and the Battle of the Great Bridge Monument, which commemorates a battle during the American Revolution.

April 5, 2023

Chesapeake City is 20 minutes (by car) from Norfolk. Obtaining a rental car, we ventured into Norfolk for some exploration. After being in 60 degree weather for the last few weeks, we were pleasantly surprised with the 85 degree day.

Our journey took us along the Cannonball Trail with our first stop at St. Paul’s Church to view a cannon ball from the Civil War embedded in the wall.

Our second stop was at the MacArthur Museum and Memorial.

Our third stop was the Taiwanese Pagoda and Asian Garden. At this point, everyone is getting a bit hot. One last stop to hit before calling it a day.

Our final stop for the day was the Chrysler Museum of Art. We got there a bit late and only had an hour to explore. The museum was very impressive and full of interactive displays. There was a great section on glass, ancient art, and the Inuit people.

April 6, 2023

There’s a glass blowing studio next to the Chrysler Museum with live demonstrations at noon. Since we missed it yesterday, I wanted to try and hit it today as well as finish exploring the Chrysler Museum.

The glass studio had a special demonstration: Grace Whiteside, who appeared on the glass competition show Blown Away, was demonstrating glass blowing by creating works for their performance they were preparing for. The demonstration took us through some basics on glass and the terms of the art, then Grace proceeded to create a bowl, then spin it into a Rondel. We really enjoyed the demonstration and later returned to the boat to start watching the Blown Away series back on the boat.

We were also able to finish touring the Chrysler Museum. We found one room where restoration artists were repairing a painting. The painting had been rolled up and squished, causing seams in the canvas.

The rest of the afternoon was wandering around the city, viewing the different districts, and meeting up with the guys, who were touring the Battleship USS Wisconsin.

While exploring, I noticed mermaid sculptures. A local bronze sculptor, Kevin Gallup, mass produced 130 mermaids which were then painted by local artists. The mermaids are scattered throughout the city and more have been added.

The Lost Colony: The History of the Mystery

March 31, 2023

We learned our lesson going into Ocracoke and left first thing in the early morning to avoid the fery. Turning on the correct navigational overlay, we set our course for Roanoke Island and the town of Manteo, NC.

Entering Manteo was a challenge due to confusing channel markers. The route was narrow and shallow, but we managed to get in. Reservations had been made at Shallowbag Bay just in time for a 50 mph windstorm. Docking was the typical stern in with two pilings to attach the bow lines (I’m getting better at these).

Not many Loopers go to the Outer Banks, but I had heard great things about them and wanted to visit Roanoke Island to add to the kids’ homeschool curriculum.

Roanoke Island is the first British Colony in North America, established in 1585. In 1587, the first child of English parents was born in the settlement (named Virginia). In the same year, Governor White, Virginia’s grandfather, has to return to England for needed supplies, but is unable to return to the colony due to attacks by the Spanish Armada. In 1590, Governor White organized a relief expedition and returned to the colony; however, the colonists nor the settlement, were to be found. The only clues are the word CROATOAN carved into the palisades and the letters CRO carved into a tree. The disappearance of the colonists is still a great mystery and many hypothesis exist. Researchers and archeologists continue to uncover the mystery of the Lost Colony.

April 1, 2023

I woke up to the giggling of children and know they’ve woken up early to play pranks for April Fools Day. Michael has hidden the French Press coffee maker (unfortunately for him, he forgets that we now go to Coda for our morning coffee) so we weren’t inconvenienced. Annette then shows me she can use magic to unlock my phone.  She did something with the settings and voice command, but it was a very clever trick. Aside from that, there were no other pranks by the kids.

The day is extremely windy, reaching steady 50 mph winds. Ensuring the boats are secured, we walk a mile to town and prepare our exploration adventure.

Our first stop is the Roanoke Island Festival Park. It’s a Living Museum with a couple of actors playing the role of colonists. The kids learned how a blacksmith makes nails and received one to take home. There was an area on the Native Americans and Michael was able to participate in covering the side of a longhouse. Finally, there was a recreated Queen Elizabeth ship that we were able to tour and experience.

The afternoon was spent exploring the downtown area. There was one store that was a repurposed bank that still has a vault incorporated into the shop. We also enjoyed wine tasting and learning about the local grape varieties including discovering information on a 400-year old grape vine known as the Mother Vine. Unfortunately we were unable to locate this vine. Despite it being windy, we had an enjoyable time exploring.

The evening was a rollercoaster ride. The wind was howling and the boats were really rocking. We were secured, but I would look through the porthole in the middle of the night and see the boats bouncing around. The next morning, I noticed that our bow lines broke the wooden cleats on the front pilings.

April 2, 2023

The morning started with a trip to a nearby Christmas shop. The shop was huge! Each room had a different theme of decorations, ranging from Star Wars to Dr. Seuss. There was an additional section dedicated to Halloween and a general store with more wine tasting and chocolates.

The kids wanted to rest and the boys wanted to work on boat projects, so Tonia, Barb, and I took an Uber to the northern point of the island to tour the Elizabethan Gardens and Fort Raleigh National park.

The Gardens were lovely despite it being early Spring. The rose garden had a rose gifted by Queen Elizabeth II from her Windsor Garden collection to commemorate America’s Bicentennial.

Fort Raleigh National Park is believed to be the actual settlement location. There’s a recreated earthen mound of the old fort built over the discovered sunken remains. The park also had a decent museum of the history of the area. Thankfully, the wind died down and we were able to enjoy the scenery without having our hair whip us in the face.

The Land of Dragons

March 26, 2023

It’s finally time to leave Beaufort. The original plan was to visit New Bern, but that requires a little backtracking. Instead, we decide to hit Oriental.

During our voyage, a storm rolled in. Lighting struck, thunder roared, and the rain was pouring. We were in a small channel with nowhere to stop. Our only course was to push through. The Coast Guard announced that the storm would pass in another 20 minutes so we kept trudging. As we approach our destination, a bolt of lightning strikes between us and Coda, so close you could feel it. Thankfully, the storm passed just as we were preparing to dock in the town of Oriental.

Oriental, NC is known as the sailing capital of North Carolina. It was settled in the 1870’s by Louis Midyette “Uncle Lou.” The United States Post Office Department established a post office and Lou was named postmaster of what was then known as Smith’s Creek. Lou’s wife Rebecca thought the town needed a better name and found the nameplate from a sunken ship “Oriental” on the beaches.

March 27, 2023

The town is small, yet quaint. There is one major road that houses small shops. The local marina has a small hotel with an unheated pool. That was a hard pass as it was already cold. No need to jump into a cold pool. There’s also a small tiki bar and restaurant nearby. We arrived a day too late and missed a dragon burning, bluegrass live music, and Shrimparoo-fest.

We strolled the streets, played at the park, entered the shops, and just enjoyed the scenery. In the evening, we had a Chinese feast in honor of the town’s name.

One thing I do enjoy are the Wisteria flowers that are in bloom. When the wind blows, you can smell them in the air. The sunrises over the water are also lovely. I’ve been able to go jogging in the morning and was fortunate to catch the sunrise.

I also love how the town embraces their name and decorates everything with dragons.