Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, and Sullivan's Island, SC

White Pepper was able to spend three weeks in Charleston, SC this fall. This year we stayed at the Charleston Harbor Marina and Resort on the Cooper River in Mount Pleasant, SC . Hurricane Mathew caused extensive damage in Charleston Harbor. Our favorite—the city marina-- was booked up and the Maritime Center was totally destroyed. We were lucky and pleased to find a slip at the Charleston Harbor Marina.

The marina provides a free shuttle into Charleston. Mostly we avoided the amazing restaurants of Charleston except for a raid on Pearlz for oysters. We did check out the famous Jestine's for lunch. We made several trips to the farmer's market every Saturday in downtown Charleston. We became familiar with Mt. Pleasant, which is a thriving community just over the bridge from Charleston. Mt. Pleasant is the home of a large military museum that includes the preserved aircraft carrier, Yorktown. In addition they sponsor numerous activities such as the Mac and Cheese Festival which we declined due to expense. Later we did attend the SC BBQ Throwdown contest. We were able to sample Carolina barbeque which is vinegar based and so alien to Texas taste.

Perhaps our best tourist excursion was to Sullivan's Island. Sullivan's Island is the northern shoulder of Charleston Harbor and site of Fort Moultrie. Fort Moultrie was a Revolutionary War fort made of palm logs and sand berms. It is long gone but was succeeded by a long series of forts that defended our coast until after WWII. Jan and I had an interesting morning exploring Sullivan's Island and the fort.

 Jan hard at work at the Farmer's Market

 Historical cannon display.  This is a Rodman 10"

 Charleston Harbor is a busy place. Two container ships frame Fort Sumter in the background.

The Civil War aspect of Fort Moutrie which never fired a shot. The blue flag is that of the Carolina Militia.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hampton, VA to Charleston, SC

White Pepper joined the great migration south on Oct. 23rd leaving our many new friends at Custom House Marina on the Hampton River. One friends, Steve Papkey, tagged along as guide and crew for the first part of the journey. This was our second south bound trip; the other trip being in 2010.

It was a brisk, cool, and sunny trip across Hampton Roads. By noon we had cleared the familiar Hospital Point in Portsmith, VA and dodged the freighter Zim New York. By 1pm we arrived at the Gilmerton Lift Bridge. While waiting we all reminisced about past problems dealing with this tricky bridge. An hour later we arrived at the Great Bridge Lock. After clearing the lock White Pepper pulled over and docked for the rest of day at the free dock provided by the city of Great Bridge.

 The Zim New York

 The naval hospital at Hospital Point, Portsmith

 The always tricky Gilmerton Lift Bridge

The single lock at Great Bridge

The next day was an easy and pleasant motor down the Virginia Cut to Coinjock, VA where we docked at the Midway Marina. Midway Marina is obviously in transition and suffers by comparison with the Coinjock Marina and Restaurant across the way. However, it was fine for our purposes. Jan and I spent the evening at Steve and Val's home nearby and had a lovely meal alongside their canal.

 There is a lot of industry at Great Bridge

Jan, Val and Steve

On Oct. 25th we were actually able to sail across the Albemarle Sound with a brisk tail wind. We entered the Alligator River about 1430, cleared the Alligator River Bridge at 1500, and finally anchored at the base of the Alligator River. The wind had died to nothing by this time. The anchorage was crowded and the sunset particularly lovely.

Base of the Alligator River

On the 26th White Pepper anchored in a new spot—Campbell Creek off of Goose Creek at mile marker 154.5. The next day we waved at our old friend, Oriental, NC as we motored on to Morehead City. We docked at Morehead City Yacht Basin. Joe and Sherry from Narsilion stopped by for dinner at a local restaurant. We had planned on staying at Morehead City for several days. However, after a walk around the next morning we decided to make good use of the good weather. After a long motor that included dodging some nasty shoaling in the ICW, White Pepper arrived at the Camp LeJeune anchorage also known as Mile Hammock Bay. It too was very crowded. I counted 20 boated anchored and were lucky to get a spot.

 Great place to eat
                                             The boardwalk at Morehead City, NC

Mile Hammock Bay at Camp Lejeune, NC

Saturday Oct. 29th was an aggravating day. There were delays at the bridges including an absolute mob scene at the Wrightsville Swing Bridge. This was followed by an aggravation at Carolina Beach which is the subject of a separate blog post.
Mob scene on a Sat. afternoon at Wrightville Beach

Having waited for an excellent weather window, White Pepper followed a familiar route from the 2010 trip by sailing down the Cape Fear River and out into the Atlantic. The weather was excellent. After the sliver of a moon set, the night became so dark and clear that the star, Sirius, actually cast a glittering star shine across the water. I only wish a camera could have captured the moment. Dawn brought the jetties of Charleston. White Pepper docked at the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina at 1015.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Carolina Beach, NC -- "a redneck's Wrightsville Beach"

White Pepper stumbled onto Carolina Beach by accident. Luckily making the 2 pm (once only hourly) opening at Wrightsville Beach Swing Bridge, we decided to carry on instead of the traditional choice of anchoring at Wrightsville Beach. Our goal was Southport, NC. Later, the short, albeit beautiful, late October day and a contrary current put paid to that plan. What else?

Mob Scene on ICW after crowded opening at Wrightsville Bridge 2 pm

Carolina Beach is 20 miles south of Wrightsville Beach and only one mile off of the magenta line that marks the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway). However, it is never mentioned in the litany of stops on the great migration South. One of our experienced friends, Cindy, had casually said there was a “cute” mooring field at Carolina Beach. There was a 3 line entry in the Skipper Bob cruising guide mentioning a mooring field at Carolina Beach. Rather than making for Southport in the dark, I pulled over at mile marker 285. We were amazed at the congestion. There were boats, docks, marinas and condos solidly for a mile and a half on each side of a well marked channel. And we had never heard of this place! By and by White Pepper found the mooring field. It was full (long story); but we ended up at a private marina—Mona Black Marina.

 Carolina Beach looking north

Carolina Beach Boardwalk

Basing at the marina was a blessing as Jan and I were able to explore the town of Carolina Beach and meet the people. Everyone was extraordinarily friendly even by the standards of a tourist town. One local at the marina described Carolina Beach as a “redneck's Wrightsville Beach.” Somehow the description seemed to fit as the town exudes a rough and tumble beach beauty. The beach is, indeed, beautiful. The town stretches linearly along the beach as do most North Carolina beach towns. However, it does seem to have rough and tawdry edges. All of the locals that we spoke to were quite pleased to live here and especially praised the activities available during the summer—carnivals, fireworks and bands.
Jan at beach bar on the boardwalk

White Pepper spent 4 days at the Mona Black Marina waiting for weather window to jump to Charleston. Light provisions were available with a bit of walking. We felt the time was well spent and can recommend Carolina Beach as a good stop on the journey up and down the ICW.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Last Days of Summer

White Pepper's idyllic summer cruise of the Chesapeake is drawing to a close. For the final two weeks of summer we visited Onancock on the eastern shore of Virginal and Deltaville on the western shore before returning to the Customs House Marina in Hampton, VA.

Onancock was the site of White Pepper's last stop on the 2008 cruise of the Chesapeake. It has changed little. We anchored only a few feet from the spot where we had anchored in 2008. The dock has been rebuilt and improved. The marvelous old hardware store at the foot of Market street is now a furniture gallery which is a shame. All of the other quaint shops, boutiques and restaurant seem unchanged.
Our spot on Onancock Creek

What made this year's visit special was the courtesy of Ron and Linda from m/v Escape. We had met Ron and Linda two years ago in the Bahamas. They live only one creek south of Onancock Creek and graciously showed us around with there car. The high light of the day was a trip to Chincoteague and the Assateague National Seashore. For the past 300 years Chincoteague and Assateague Islands has been to home to a herd of wild ponies. Apparently they escaped from early settlers and have thrived in the marshy wilderness ever since. Over the years these have become quite famous. Once a year in June some of the ponies are rounded up and swum across the inlet to be auctioned off. The event draws visitors from all over the nation. We were lucky to be able to see several dozen of the ponies grazing in small bands on a beautiful afternoon. We also had some quality time at the Assateague beach. This beach is the only sandy beach on the Atlantic side of the Delmarva peninsula. Then it was back to Onancock for a well deserved beer at the Irish pub, the Blarney Stone.
 Ponies (You should click on the picture to enlarge)
 More ponies (again need to click)

Jan, Ron, and Linda on Assateague Beach

White Pepper's return to Deltaville was bittersweet. She spent two years here from 2008 to 2010. While walking and bicycling about the town Jan and I were reminded of how much time and interest we had invested in those years. Also it was sad to see Deltaville even more sleepy than ever. Several of the restaurants have closed or operate on reduced schedule. There are now more marine canvas shops (4) in operation than restaurants (3). West Marine has gone from two large stores to one medium size store. Most upsetting was Deltaville Boatyard where White Pepper was stored for two winters and underwent extensive work. The yard was for sale and only a shadow of the bustling place we remembered.

Deltaville Boatyard and Marina on Jackson Creek

To break up the trip from Deltaville to Hampton White Pepper stopped again in Mobjac Bay. This time we chose the Severn River to anchor. There are two Severn Rivers in the Chesapeake Bay. This is the one that does not include the Naval Academy. It is scenic and rural. There are no marinas near by. We spent a placid night and left for Hampton the next morning.

Back in Hampton White Pepper was warmly welcomed by old friends at the Customs House Marina. Also waiting to welcome us was tropical storm Hermine which paid a surprise visit. The marina is well up the Hampton River. We were not bothered by wind or waves. However, the storm surge was quite impressive. The weather service forecast a 6 foot surge. Fortunately, the storm passed offshore during low tide. By the time of the next high tide there was probably only 3 or 4 feet of surge on top of the 4 foot lunar tide. As you can see the water was well over the docks.

Over the Labor Day Weekend Karl struggled to do White Pepper's 500 hour/ two year engine overhaul—oil, coolant, filters, belt, etc. Then Tuesday it is off to Texas for a visit while White Pepper remains in Hampton.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Back Door into St. Micheal's

St. Micheal's, MD is likely the top tourist attraction on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It hosts a maritime museum that is really worth visiting as well as numerous shops, restaurants and cottages catering to the tourist trade. White Pepper visited twice during her 2008 tour of the Chesapeake Bay. However, I was always frustrated by the shallow, crowded, and exposed anchorage available to the cruising yacht. This option was all that was there was for the cruiser entering via the Miles River, the front door. This year after reading and re reading an old cruising guide “Cruising the Chesapeake by William H. Shellenberg I was determined to try to visit St. Micheal's by the back door—San Domingo Creek.

After leaving the Chester River White Pepper sailed down the Chesapeake, past Annapolis, entered the Choptank River and then motored into Broad Creek. Broad Creek is indeed broad, maybe several miles wide but quickly narrows. Then there was a jog west into Edge Creek and finally a wide turn into San Domingo Creek. San Domingo is very shallow and the navigable water is quite narrow. White Pepper did not read the most current cruising guide—Active Captain—until after the fact and ran aground near green day marker #3. Using the dingy Habanero as a tug boat we got off before the tide went down too far. We finally were able to continue up the creek and drop anchor in 6 feet of water only a quarter of a mile south of St. Michael's town dock.

The next morning we took Habanero up to the town dock at the foot of W. Chew Street. After walking 3 blocks we came to Talbot St.-- the main drag. All of St. Michael's was open to us while White Pepper lay at a secure and uncrowded anchorage. On a literary note Michner was reported to have rented a cottage on one of the creeks behind St. Michael's while he wrote his classic Chesapeake. Jan and I had great fun trying to pick out which house he rented. Michner would attended numerous cocktail parties thrown in his honor and soak up hundreds of local hoary old legends that become the meat of his historical fiction.

We did not visit the museum having toured it twice previously. We did visit the Eastern Shore brewery which served up some great craft beer. There was a winery next door, but on that day it was just too hot to drink wine. Beer was much better. We tasted and bought some infused Balsamic vinegar and high end olive oil at Olivins where “tasting is believing”. We had lunch at Awful Arthur's and then the next day at Blackthorn's Irish Pub. We viewed the old waterfront and the old homes. We shopped at the local store. It featured a great butcher shop and really cheap rum. White Pepper was quite pleased with her two days at St. Micheal's.

Leaving San Domingo Creek presented a dilemma. High tides were in the afternoon, but a storm was coming in the evening. Eventually, White Pepper chose to transit San Domingo Creek at high tide passing the problematic green #3 with 9 feet of water. We settled in the slightly less protected Edge Creek in 12 feet of water. Earlier in the day the storm was forecast to be mild, but by 9 pm 70 knot winds were being reported on the Bay. By 10:30 pm we were experiencing probably 45 knot winds and 2 foot waves. Regrettably, I had the Bruce style anchor down instead of the trusty Rocna anchor. We started dragging. After dragging about 1000 feet into deeper water I went out to the cockpit and motored into the wind until the storm passed. The Bruce anchor quickly reset, and White Pepper spent the rest of the night quietly. At 4 am watermen began to swarm into Edge Creek. There were dozens of them motoring about crabbing. I spent the next 2 hours until dawn using the running lights, the fore-deck light and the strobe light to warn off boats that came too close. Please note that all of these moves are illegal, but justified under the Florida Prudential Rule. All in all it was a long night. However, after a brief nap White Pepper was off to Solomon's by 10 am.

 Remarkable driftwood sculpture at local art shop

 Replica of the shallot boat that John Smith used to explore the Chesapeake Bay in 1609.

 Another ancient church.  There was a church on this site since 1670.

A quiet evening on San Domingo Creek

Chestertown, Maryland

White Pepper started up the Chester River almost on a lark just wanting to see what was happening in the wide empty space opposite Baltimore on the Chesapeake Bay. Also we had had one enthusiastic endorsement from friend, Drena of Journey. We bypassed the very popular Rock Hall, MD which guards the northern mouth of the Chester River and Kent Narrows which watches over the southern part of the entrance. Cruising up the river White Pepper passed numerous obviously prosperous farms. There were many duck blinds. We saw few residences and almost no crab pots which is remarkable for the Chesapeake.

During the passage White Pepper did not see another cruising yacht and only a few local runabouts. The river must have been much busier 300 years ago when Chestertown was the port of entry for the upper Eastern Shore and much of Delaware. Chestertown was a bustling seaport by 1690 and well into the 18th century. When we arrived at Chestertown after about 30 nautical mile trip we chose to anchor in the river. There was only one other visiting yacht anchored nearby. The next morning Jan and I dingy-ed into the Chestertown Marina. It is frankly semi dilapidated. However, the dock master, JR, is so friendly and accommodating that the decay is easy to overlook. He informed us that the city has purchased the marina and is applying for grants to refurbish it.

The town itself was a delight and well worth the trip. Chestertown has managed to preserve all of the charms of the 18th century while added a few tasty treats for today. Whole blocks of houses date back to the 18th century. Regrettably the old wharves are long gone. It is a college town being home to Washington College, founded in 1790, and now a part of the Univ. of Maryland system.

While we were visiting we attended a great farmers market. There was local produce in abundance. We even saw wares from a local mushroom farm.

In town we explored a musty old book shop, the kind that has no longer exists in urban settings. These wonderful places have fallen by the wayside due to Amazon and Barnes and Noble. We ate lunch and bought bread daily at the Ever Grain Bread Company. However, the highlight of one lovely Saturday afternoon was an hour or so spent at the Chestertown Wine and Cheese shop sampling cheeses and drinking rose wine.

On Sunday morning White Pepper visited the ancient Episcopal Church, St Paul's. It has been a church since the 15th century. In 1790 the church held the first meeting of the newly reorganized American Episcopal Church. The current building was built in the 1860s. At the coffee hour afterwards we were thoroughly charmed by the gracious locals.

So it was with reluctance that White Pepper hauled up the anchor and headed down river that Sunday afternoon. We anchored back at the head of the Chester River off of Queenstown Creek. We were clobbered that evening by one of the infamous Chesapeake Bay thunder storms, but no damage came from the episode.

 Great Farmer's Market

 St. Pauls

 One of many charming old houses.

 The Customs House from Colonial Days

The Chester River.  Jan and I were taken by this family of geese.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pub Crawl at Fells Point, Baltimore, MD

Fells Point is a bohemian neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland near the Inner Harbor. Fells Point has existed for hundreds of years, mostly as a ship building area and center of shipping for Baltimore. It was also the home of Alexander Poe. He is revered in this city. The city of Baltimore has done a wonderful job of preserving the character of the neighborhood. At the turn of the 20th century there where nearly 100 taverns catering to the needs of the seaman of the era. The ships are gone, but, thankfully, many of the taverns remain. After a day spent touring Fort Henry White Pepper embarked on a pub crawl of Fells Point. 

The Horse You Came in On Saloon

We had a beer each at “The Admiral's Cup”. “Alexander's Pub”, “Dog Watch”, and the famous “The Horse You Rode In On”. These were only 4 pubs of dozens available. Each had good points, but “The Horse” as the locals call it deserves especial mention. It is one of the oldest taverns in the USA going back to the 1700s. It claims to have operated during prohibition. The poet, Poe, was said to have had his last drink at The Horse. He was found dying and incoherent on a Baltimore street the next morning. White Pepper was humbled to host a Nati Bo beer to Edgar Alexander Poe in the The Horse You Rode In On. (Nati Bo is the national beer of Baltimore. It is not available in most of the rest of the country. It tastes like the old Schlitz beer.)

After all that beer, food was needed. White Pepper headed half a block away down Thames Street to “Bertha's Muscles.” Bertha imports fresh muscles from Cape Cod this time of year and later buys local product. These were fresh, plump, and tasty sea food treats. Our previous exposure to muscles was Wal Mart frozen muscles. Indeed, I am sure most of our restaurant meals that featured muscles were also recycled from Wal Mart. These fresh muscles were so much better as to be almost a different species.

Did I mention Fort McHenry? White Pepper took the water taxi from Fells Point to Fort McHenry which is famous of its defense of Baltimore in the war of 1812. Frances Scott Key penned the “The Stars Spangled Banner” after that battle. Our visit was very impressive. At the visitors center there is a recorded presentation which tells the story of Key and the battle. At the end of the movie there is a stirring rendition of “The Stars Spangled Banner.” Then the screen parts to reveal the huge 15 starred flag waving over the fort. The moment was quite emotional and the most patriotic moment of my life. There probably was not a dry American eye in the room. Foreigner visitors were likely puzzled.

 Not a dry eye in the room

Very stirring view, note the 15 stars

The fort has quite a history beyond its immortal moment in 1814. It served as an important Civil War fort and then became an immense rehabilitation hospital after WWI. It is now a national park.

White Pepper had docked at Inner Harbor Marina—East. This place is the most logical dockage for the cruising sailor visiting Baltimore. It is expensive but is within walking distance of Fells Point, the exclusive Inner Harbor district, Little Italy, and restored docks of the inner harbor including the National Aquarium. The Camden Yards baseball park is within walking distance. One block from the water front in the Inner Harbor district is the remarkable Katyn memorial statue. The statue is an artistic and emotional appeal to Polish nationalism. It recalled ancient Polish themes from the Middle Ages as well as the tragic event in the Katyn forest in WW II. The Poles were a prominent immigrant group and left quite a mark on Baltimore. I was moved by the statue even though I do not have any Polish heritage that I know of.
Katyn Memorial

White Pepper spent all of one day at the National Aquarium. The ticket price is eye watering but worthwhile. There are many rare fish on display as well at fine displays of familiar fish. The multi level display called the Atlantic Reef is amazing. We went though twice. There is display of aquatic life from Australia and another one of the Amazon tidal basin. However, my favorite exhibit was of the tropical rain forest. The display was huge, very tall, hot and humid with tree top displays of amazing creatures including the golden maned tamuri. The golden maned tamuri is one of the rarest creatures on earth, and we were able to see two.
Our National Aquarium
Two of the last few Golden Maned Tamuri

We did walk into Little Italy to have a great rustic Italian dinner at a small restaurant, “Ammeci's”. It was one of dozens in the district with every taste accommodated from high Italian fine dining to the more common. Our other dinning experience was in the Inner Harbor district at Nando's Peri-Peri. The restaurant serves chicken Portuguese-African style in a cafeteria setting. It was easily the best chicken I have ever had.

Although White Pepper dined very well on the low side, extremely fine dinning is available in Baltimore. We did not see any of 'The Wired' or Black Lives Matter style of violence that Baltimore is notorious for. I am sure it is out there, but we did not venture more than 4 blocks away from the waterfront. Finally, with some regret but a a great deal of satisfaction White Pepper cleared away for the Chester River on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Frog Mortar Creek, MD

White Pepper spent several days visiting friends, Pamela and Frank, at the Chesapeake Yachting Center. Frank owns the excellent Chesapeake Yachting Center which is a marina at the very head of the Frog Mortar Creek. Frog Mortar Creek is a tributary of the Middle River which is located in the northern reaches of the western shores of the Chesapeake Bay. It is just south of the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. This area is not for the transient and cruising sailor, but we were visiting old friends from the halcyon days at Port Lucaya, Bahamas.

No, I do not know where the name Frog Mortar Creek comes from. But if you are visiting this area do not be put off by the charts. There is 7 foot depth all the way to the very end of the creek even though NOAA charts show 3 feet.

I was stuck by how many boats line the shores of Middle River and its numerous tributaries of which Frog Mortar is only one. Most of the boats are power boats, large and small; however, there are a fair number of traditional sailing yachts. Most of the owners seem to hail from southern Pennsylvania and the rest from Baltimore.

We had a delightful time catching up and visiting. There is a Wal Mart just outside the yard. White Pepper has always said that 'to cruise the East Coast is to know Wal Mart'. White Pepper had the best crab cake ever so far at a local restaurant, “By the Dock” in Middle River, MD. Two days were spent soaking in the pool riding out a local heat wave. Eventually, White Pepper had to say good bye and head for Baltimore, the Inner Harbor.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Washington Channel, Washington DC

The Washington Channel is a remarkable body of water at the head of sailboat navigation on the Potomac River. It lies along the waterfront of SW Washington DC. It is well marked and easy to access. The anchorage is about two miles long, 1/3 mile wide and about 15 deep. Fort McNair with the National War College guards the western entrance.
National War College

The East Potomac Park comprised the eastern shore of the anchorage. An amazing open air fish market, Captain White's lies to the north while I-395 thunders overhead. The Tidal Pool is continuous with the Washington Channel but is closed to traffic. The Washington Monument is clearly visible to the north. Most importantly it lies only 10 long blocks from the Washington Mall. Buses and Metro access is available for those who do not walk.

Few cruisers seem to come this way. It is at the end of a 110 n. mile run up the Potomac River. Most of the trip is by motor as breeze is a problem on the Potomac. White Pepper was the only boat to arrive in the week we were there. To be fair we were there in July when it is blisteringly hot.

Massive changes are about along the Washington Channel. The Wharf Corporation plans to remake the entire waterfront. No less than 6 cranes are busy all day erecting huge buildings.
Massive Construction

The Capitol Yacht Club and Gangplank Yacht Club will be consumed in the building. The docks are being completely reworked. Anchoring will be banned in the channel and 8 new mooring balls have been installed just this month, July 2016. Holding in the channel has been reported as poor. Thus White Pepper was pleased to be on one of these new mooring balls when on our second night a powerful thunder storm blew through. The wind was swirling about 40 knots and hail as large as golf balls rained down. Locals said it was the worst thunder storm in a long time.
White Pepper on a mooring ball. Washington Monument in background.

We visited family, who live in the area. We renewed acquaintance with old cruising friends, JR and Drena from Journey, who have temporarily swallowed the hook and live nearby.

However, the principal charm of this anchorage is its close proximity to the Washington Mall. The mall is in my opinion the best tourist attraction in this country and it is all completely free. One day we did all of the main monuments—Jefferson, FDR, MLK, Korean War, Lincoln, WWI, WWII, John Paul Jones and waved at the Washington Monument. Another entire day was spent at the Aerospace Museum. The next day we spent avoiding the ferocious heat viewing the National Gallery of Art. Jan and I could only see one quarter of one of the two buildings in one entire day. We spent the last day with the kids at the International Spy Museum which is a commercial, but very fun, experience.

I do have one snarky comment about the Aerospace Museum—that is that the artifacts of the old space race, such as the Gemini capsule, are starting to show signs of age. Then I realize that all of this was over 45-50 years ago. Very upsetting. Remarkably the paintings in the National Galley some of which are over 800 years old look quite fresh and new. I wonder if they have not been restored somewhere along the line. It was amazing to see some of the most famous paintings in history right there in our national gallery.

Finally after a week White Pepper was driven off the mooring ball by the relentless heat. Hopefully, it will be cooler on the Chesapeake Bay. However, Jan pointed out on our last day, that one week on our mooring ball was cheaper than one night at any Washington DC hotel. And since we took most of our meals on the boat, the cost of our Washington DC visit was almost negligible.

Potomac River

The Potomac River is widely hailed as a cruising ground; however, few yachts seem to visit. White Pepper saw few cruisers during her visit of July 2016, although to be fair it was blisteringly hot that week. Indeed we were virtually alone on the trip to and from Washington DC and saw no one else arrive during our week in DC. The trip from the Chesapeake to Washington, DC is about 110 nautical miles but well worth the effort.

Locals seem to divide the Potomac at the 301 bridge just north of Dahlgren, VA . The US highway 301 bridge is the only bridge spanning the Potomac until DC itself. This opinion seems reasonable. South of the 301 the river is wide, currents are mild, the river is salty with numerous jelly fish in the summer. South of the bridge, the country side is bucolic, the homes are river retreats and fishing camps. There are numerous creeks and inlets to shelter the cruiser. North of the 301 the river narrows and the current picks up. The water is mostly brackish with few jelly fish. The dwellings assume mansion size. Also history appears—Fort Belvior, Mount Vernon, Fort Washington, Quantico. More importantly to the cruising sailor there are no anchorages past Dahlgren (Upper Machodoc Creek) until Washington DC.

White Pepper chose to break up the trip upstream beyond the 301 bridge with a stop at Belmont Bay Marina in Woodbridge, VA on the Occoquan River. Belmont Bay is a fine marina but does charge $2/ft.

White Pepper favored the Virginia side going upstream with a stop at Kingscote Creek off of the Coan River. This is near the so called town of Lewisetta . The town consists of literally one broken down general store, two streets of modest homes and one general use chapel. White Pepper could not even buy a beer but was able to procure two delicious Popsicles.
Tongue in cheek at Lewisetta General Store

The next stop was Dahlgren on the Upper Machodoc Creek. Dahlgren is the home of the Naval Firing Range which actually fires live rounds down the Potomac on occasion. White Pepper stumbled into on of these firing sessions and had to be politely escorted off to the side of the Potomac much to the embarrassment of her captain, who could scarcely believe that such practices were still in place in 2016. Regardless the Upper Machodoc Creek is a lovely and straight forward anchorage.
Local racer going out for Thursday race. Dahlgren Naval station in background

Just be sure to check the Dahlgren Range firing schedule either online or by phone before venturing nearby. The next day found
White Pepper picking her way carefully up the narrow and shallow Occoquan River to the Belmont Bay Marina which is carved out of a hillside near Woodbridge, VA. There is no anchorage in Belmont Bay or on the Occoquan River. At Belmont Bay Marina Jan and I had a delightful rendezvous with children Kristi, Layla, Pat and Richard all of whom live nearby. After three days it was off to Washington DC and the Washington Channel which is posted in another blog post.

After an eventful and thoroughly enjoyable week moored in the Washington Channel White Pepper started back downstream. Catching the ebb tide we clocked 8 plus knots downstream. This is not as hard as it sounds because a reasonably fast yacht can actually ride the ebb tide downstream. The ebb and flood are slow moving standing waves which can be rode much as a surfer rides his waves. Anyway we were able to cover 65 nautical miles in less than 10 hours to arrive back at Upper Machodoc Creek. Jan had taken the precaution of calling Dahlgren range control to assure there would be no firing when we arrived or left the next day. On the way downstream we favored the Maryland side of the Potomac. Our last stop of Smith Creek. Smith Creek is deep, well protected, and quite convenient to the Chesapeake Bay. It is near the lovely St. Mary's River which was the subject of a long blog post in 2008. From Smith Creek it will be on Solomon's.

Smith Creek

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tangier Island is a Cemetary

Tangier Island is a cemetery. Tangier Island is many things—a 250 year history treasury, a Godly respite from modernity, a disappearing wetlands testimony to “climate change”, a last bastion of the Chesapeake “waterman”, and I could go on. But the island is also a cemetery! I am sure that there are more graves and gravestones on the island than people. This fact should not be a surprise since Tangier has been inhabited by Europeans since 1680s. Also the current population is declining and maybe now numbers about 600 or less.

Tangier is a small, flat island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. There are about 800 acres of land exposed above the water line. Only 89 acres are dry enough to support habitation. When John Smith discovered the island and named it in 1608 there were about 2000 acres above ground. It is estimated that the island loses about 9 acres of area each year to erosion.

White Pepper has always heard about Tangier Island and desired a visit. We set out for the Island from Mobjac Bay in a surprise July norther. It was quite a bash to weather. The boat performed magnificently, the crew less so; and Aphrodite, cat, was miserably sick. There is no anchorage at Tangier. The only marina, Park's Marina, is primitive to say the least. Mr. Park is a marvelous specimen at age 92, but frankly the boating world has changed since 1976 when the marina was built.

Regardless, Tangier Island is worth all of the hassle to get there and dock.

However, White Pepper's overwhelming first impression was of the cemeteries which are everywhere. They surround the beautiful Methodist Church, they are in the parsonage, they are in lots all about the town, but most of all they are in people's yards. Most of the headstones carry the name Pruitt, followed by Crockett, Park and a few Dise. I am very sensitive to keeping relatives close by, but the custom of family plots in the front yard is fairly unique to White Pepper's voyages.

I conclude with a display of these cemeteries. Baring immense human intervention all of these will be underwater within a few centuries.