130 Annapolis, MD to Beaufort, SC

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Rows of pilings appeared overnight in what had been the first row of the Annapolis mooring field. Small runabouts, working as tugboats pushed long sections of floating docks to meet up with the pilings. Closer in, the end Ego Alley was already packed with sailboats separated only by fenders, and an occasional section of floating dock placed as a sales platform. From our elevated spot on top of the Marriott parking deck we watched the scene unfold. Ashore, fencing went up to define the show boundary. Part of the sidewalk around Ego Alley shifted to boardwalk in the street to make room for exhibit tents shoehorned into the narrow space between water and road. Inside the fence long lines of tents were being set up. In one glance completed tents gave way to tents just going up, which gave way to men placing canvas, then frames being spotted waiting for canvas. On the water boat movement stopped for a few minutes as floating dock sections were put in place to bridge Ego Alley. A center dock was floated into place to allow more boats to hide the open water in the wider portion of the fairway. Workers showed up with carpeting and covered dock sections just before others erected tents and set up racks for sales brochures. Hours disappeared as we watched fascinated by the pace and coordination on this first day of work. Assembly started on Monday and the show opened on Thursday. Staging, of course, had begun weeks earlier.

Ashore contractors worked busily to restore shops flooded out by hurricane Isabel just two weeks earlier. When we’d first arrived many shops were a jumble of drywall being removed, bare floors and everywhere fans attempting to dry interiors. Now as the start of the boat shows deadline approached the pace had quicken.

The Chesapeake took on a small town feel as we met up with friends on an almost daily basis. For two people are used to spending weeks alone together it was quite a change. The prior entry 129a Friends on the Chesapeake for our unique encounters with our many friends and a graphic showing the where places mentioned are located.

 Buy Boat at Tangier Island

Buy Boat at Tangier Island

We had just finished securing Odyssey to a dock on Tangier Island when we noticed the line of watermen forming in the island’s small harbor. They waited their turn to pull alongside the buy boat tied to the face dock just up from our slip. Each in turn came alongside and offloaded their crab-filled bushel baskets to the larger boat. An hour later the buy boat now made the long run over to the mainland.

Ralph and Steph on Sea Jay arrived. For the next week or so we enjoyed each others company and explored with them the unique spots along the Eastern Shore they’d discovered and like enough to return again with us. We had a great time sharing our impressions and swapping stories with them.

Typical house on Tangier Island. Golf cart and graves in front yard

Golf cart and graves in front yard on Tangier

Tangier Island is a unique place that appealed to us for reasons that are difficult to describe. The island is mainly marsh with town squeezed onto the few higher ridges running through the town. High ground on Tangier is a relative term. The dry land is only three feet above the Chesapeake Bay. Lots are small, and homes nicely kept but nothing special. Streets are narrow and feel even narrower since each house has a low fence to keep traffic—that’s people walking, riding bikes, motor scooters or golf carts off the grass, flowers and graves in the front yards. Because the water table is only three feet down all the graves on the island are partially above ground in stone vaults. Lack of land on the island and people’s desire to be buried on the island on which they spent their lives evolved into burying in front and back yards.

Our guided tour of the island aboard a golf cart took only 20 minutes to cover the entire island. Because of bad weather no tour boats came to the island on the day we arrived so restaurants and gift shops didn’t open. The 700 residents are closely bound to the water. Many kids learn to operate a boat before they learn to ride a bike. We stayed a second day partially because of weather but mainly to just enjoy the unique feel of the community.

I stood on the rub rail and stretched back with one foot to reach the dock. Both hands had a firm grasp around the lifeline and the spring line needed to pull us along side in the wind. Oops! My foot slipped off the rub rail, and I found myself hanging from the lifeline between Odyssey and the dock we were being blown away from as we attempted to come along side at Onancock. At least I was bare footed and only got the cuffs of my Levis and feet wet as I sorted out how to get back aboard or get another few inches to reach the ladder just out of my stretched leg’s reach. With all that, my mind was calculating if I could hold on with one hand long enough to throw my glasses and wallet on the deck before straining finger muscles gave up and dropped me into the water. Another boater saw my fate and arrived to pull on the one line we had ashore. That brought my toes within reach of the ladder. Excitement over it became routine to get the remaining lines ashore and Odyssey secured.

Sea Jay just around a bend on the Pocomoke River

Sea Jay just around a bend on the Pocomoke River

How can one refuse when a gracious lady in a Cadillac pulls over and offers not only to take us to the grocery store, but also drive us back to Odyssey after? Betty not only provided transportation, but also took a few extra minutes to give us a tour of Pocomoke City. Pocomoke City is just starting to recover its former charm evident in the tired old homes waiting for more people to undertake restoration. Sadly downtown still suffers from Wal-Mart coming to town.

We explored with Ralph and Steph and then did our best to speed their eventual conversion to a trawler. On a perfect fall day the four of us took Odyssey under the sailboat-blocking bridge further up the Pocomoke River to Snow Hill for lunch. Looking at a map it seemed strange being only six miles from the Atlantic, but over thirty miles upstream from the Chesapeake.

It was time to say our good byes to Ralph and Steph . The next day weather was changing and if we didn’t move, we’d be spending a few more days in Pocomoke City waiting for a nasty front to pass before comfortably crossing the Chesapeake.

At 4 AM we slipped our lines and started our first experience at running a river at night. Our up bound passage had been a beautiful trip up a deep, bendy cyprus lined river at the height of fall. Down bound trees melted together into a black featureless wall. With no visual cues for distance the river edge was difficult to judge. Electronics provided our breadcrumb trail, but the narrow confines of the river coupled with the delay in the electronic for updating position made steering difficult. We soon had our million-candle power spotlight lighting up one shore, and it got a bit easier. With 20 miles of river ahead of us we felt a bit better. Just before first light things got interesting. A huge spot of light from the opposite direction lit up the river bend we were approaching. A quick call on channel 13 confirmed we were meeting the tug North Pike with a barge full of sand on its nose. We tucked tight up against shore on the inside of the bend and watched the North Pike pass.

One of our more bumpy Chesapeake crossings brought us to the Rappahannock River just before the weather got really lousy. We stopped in Urbanna for a day and then headed over to explore the Corrotoman River. A quiet cove looked wonderful, and we dropped anchor. It was then we realized the boat docked nearby was Miss Claire a boat we’d seen before and had met the owners briefly. From our vantage point we couldn’t see the house and didn’t feel it would be right to climb the hill and knock. That all changed the next morning when the Bob signaled by air horn and invited us over. He and Rose were wonderful hosts, and we spent the morning enjoying their company.

We anchored off the Tides resort and took the dinghy ashore for a wonderful leisurely breakfast. Walking off breakfast we found a small art fair in progress next to the museum. A wonderful white, wooden egret statue now graces our salon shelf.

Urbanna’s Oyster Festival is very popular. We checked with the marina regarding a dock. Our $40 dock the day before was now going for $125/day with a two-day minimum. We passed and slid under the bridge where we found a great anchorage. From there a short dinghy ride brought us to the heart of the festival. We had a ball walking around and munching typical fair food.

The calendar had moved into November, and we reluctantly started heading south. We were starting our 12th run of the ICW. Our passage south on now the very familiar ICW was quiet and lazy. In Hampton we had our great canvas lady add extra Sumbrella and a PVC pipe to the bottom of our canvas cockpit opening. The change provides a much better weather seal. We stopped for a few days and relaxed in Coinjock as we watched boats heading south. Our favorite anchorage on Waccamaw River was too tempting to pass. We tucked up a creek and into a wilderness anchorage to enjoy the quiet. Cyprus leaves falling and turtles jockeying for position on a log close by became the day’s events. We lingered for four days. Further south we explored Steamboat Creek adding a new anchorage to places we’ve explored. It was surprising to find huge homes off of some of the remote creeks in an area we thought was mainly marsh. Beaufort, SC drew us on. It was time to meet Ammy Boo and get more provisions.

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