37 Washington, DC to C&D Canal

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For as much as we enjoyed Washington, we were glad to be leaving. It was nice to be away from the congestion, noise and pace of the city. It was even nicer to be away from the confines of a dock and back out on the water. As we glided down the Potomac we enjoyed the open water, sparsely populated shore and the quiet of the river. We were on the move again and liking traveling without the rush of vehicle traffic close by.

Our first night at anchor was a sharp contrast to Washington. We poked up a river, then a creek and finally tucked into a small cove. Trees were about 30 yards off our stern. The remainder of the cove had a finger of beach with fields and trees. On one side of the cove entrance, there was a small dock leading to a house hidden from our view. The quiet was incredible. The only disturbance was from a blue heron along the shore, which would occasionally squawk his displeasure at us being in his cove. The evening became absolutely still. We could have stayed without having put the anchor down.

We enjoyed the cove so much we decided to ‘stay home’ the next day and enjoy the scenery. We spent the day lazing in the cockpit reading watching the birds and changing light on the shore. It was the perfect way to decompress from the pressure of the city and rest our bodies still weary from all our Washington exploring.

We moved on, finding St Mary’s City. It’s a living history museum with people taking the roles of citizens from the 1600’s. It made for an enjoyable way to learn about the times.

We moved slowly on, finding yet another creek and cove to anchor. Again we had the seclusion of a cove big enough for one boat. Civilization however was just a long dinghy ride away. Ruth took advantage of a bright cool day and gave Tranquility’s sides a much needed waxing. For me, it was the messy job of cleaning the holding tank vent, which requires disassembly of the aft cabin berth to reach. We felt quite proud of all our efforts and celebrated by taking the dinghy to a very small cozy restaurant for an outstanding dinner.

The wind was on the nose. We could either power into it, hugging the west shore for some protection from waves, or sail, beating across Chesapeake Bay and then tacking back as we headed north to Solomons. We elected to sail and took off in the 10-20 knot winds. It was the first time we’d sailed since crossing the Gulf from the Abacos back in March. The memorable 33 hour ride had been a beautiful broad reach, a perfect sail. We discovered we were out of practice for going to weather. Tranquility was hard over, sailing briskly. White water was up on deck. Occasionally heavy spray hit the dodger and every now and then the lee rail was underwater. We discovered we were out of practice for working the boat with an angle of heel and holding the wheel with some weather helm. We’d underestimated the wind, so down below a number of objects left on shelves bounced to the cabin sole to reminding us to prepare better when beating to weather. Six hours later we were tied up at Zahniers Marina and straighten out the cabin. We are still trying to solve the mystery about where some of the water we found in the cabin leaked in.

We’d been at Solomons in the fall. It was fun to see what the community looked like in the full bloom of summer. You could tell the community was going upscale. The local grocery store was remodeling adding a huge section of gourmet foods, and a delli featuring prepared foods.

We were itchy to be away from docks, so after a night we left and anchored out in Mill Creek, still in the Solomons. Weather closed in bringing over an inch of rain. On the second day, with overcast skies we walked a couple of miles for exercise. Found another market, picked up a few things and headed back. Along the way, a man stopped and offered us a ride. Turned out, he was a boat owner in addition to owning 3 Saturn dealerships. We sat for awhile in the warmth of his Blazer swapping stories while watching Tranquility and the dinghy out the Blazer’s front window. We rode the dinghy back out to Tranquility, arriving just in time to miss more rain.

The Coast Guard and ospreys seem to have a cooperative relationship going. Every fixed daymark in the water has an osprey nest. Looks like the Coast Guard gave up on trying to keep the nests off and has designed the daymarks to accept the osprey’s messy bundle of sticks while still serving the intended daymark function. Makes for interesting osprey viewing as we pass close to some of the narrower channel marks.

Crossing the bay on a damp foggy day, we pulled into Oxford and the Eastern Shore of the bay. Expecting a tourist town, we were not prepared for the impact of Oxford. As we approached by water there was a pleasant view of old homes from the 1800’s. A small ferryboat pulled into its dock in a park like setting among the homes. There were numerous boat yards/marinas tucked up a creek around the corner that gave the town a very nautical flavor. As we began to explore, we were taken with the red brick sidewalks rising and falling like waves; pushed not by wind, but by tree roots. When you first looked at many of the homes, they appeared as nice two story large homes with lots of character built by the well to do in the early 1800’s. However as you glanced back along the sides, many of the houses had 2 or 3 additions more than tripling the size.

We walked down Main Street expecting it to be jammed with tourist shops. Instead we found one very old but charming inn, a tiny market, a restaurant only open on weekends, but closed this weekend because of the shower and bike store/specialty food store. There were a few other shops, but most sported signs listing limited hours. The rest of Main Street was filled with beautiful homes. We spent an afternoon wandering around town admiring the charming atmosphere of Oxford. Scattered around town were a few other restaurants, many only open on weekends. Ruth added Oxford to our list of places we should live if we ever retire from living aboard.

We moved up along the Eastern Shore sampling anchorages. We found it tough to choose. All had nice muddy bottoms for good holding. The shores were tree lined giving protection from the wind and a nice view. I finally pointed out to Ruth that she had stated at each of the last 3 anchorages we’d been in that she’d commented that this was the best anchorage so far.

We sailed north past the Annapolis area on a Sunday. We were still working along the Eastern Shore so Annapolis was across 5-miles of bay. We now appreciate why they call Annapolis the sailing capital of North America. Our view in all directions had sails on the water. It was quite a sight, and we were glad we saw it from a distance. It was a perfect sailing day and we made the most of it enjoying the ride on a close reach. One good sailing day wipes out all thought of having just a powerboat.

As we swung at anchor this evening, a deer came down to the water’s edge. A great blue heron waded along shore stalking dinner. Overhead a juvenile osprey that appeared had just learned to fly and was circling and calling in an excited voice. We speculated it was yelling, I’m flying. I’m flying. Below sitting on a fish trap stake, the parent osprey watched and called back encouragement. Two mallard ducks spotted us eating and came over to beg for food. We ignored them until the female, evidently not used to being ignored, flew up and landed on the deck just below where Ruth was sitting. Ruth was startled and not pleased and told the mallard so. The mallards left in a hurry to mooch off of some other boat.

Tomorrow we leave the Chesapeake, crossing over to Delaware Bay via the C&D Canal. Emotions are mixed. We could easily spend the summer just poking around in the nooks and crannies of the Chesapeake. We’ve talked about doing just that a number of times as we looked at cruising guides and charts and realized how much we still have to explore. However the lure of cruising up the Atlantic coast to Maine and all the great cruising people have told us about in Maine draws us on.

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