Thursday, May 31, 2012

St. Michaels, MD to Cape May, NJ

Well, I’m still a week behind, but at least I now have narrative and pictures caught up!  So on to our very fun visits to St. Michaels, MD and Cape May, NJ.

The morning after Steve and Jeanne left us in Annapolis, we headed across the Bay to the pretty little town of St. Michaels on Maryland’s eastern shore. We visited there 20-plus years ago when we lived in Philly, but didn’t remember much.  I imagine the locals feel that it has become far too built up and crowded (and on summer weekends, I understand you don’t want to go near the place), but we found it to be very charming. Lots of nice shops, good restaurants and lovely old homes, some from the 1600s. There was also a Saturday farmer’s market in the park next to the marina where we were able to buy the BEST strawberries and tomatoes we’ve had in years!

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When we arrived at St. Michaels Marina, I was surprised to see that the young man who came out to help us at the fuel dock was a dead ringer for Britain's Prince Harry. And all those Union Jacks flying on the dock – coincidence?  Hmmm.  I tried to get a picture of him all weekend but couldn’t do it without embarrassing both him and me.  So you’ll just have to trust me on this one – Prince Harry’s long-lost twin is handling dock lines and pumping fuel at St. Michaels Marina!  Here we are docked at St. Michaels:


St. Michaels was a great place to get out our little folding bikes and go for a ride.We visited the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, which is an 18 acre campus on the harbor that does an excellent job of telling the story of the Bay and the people who have worked and played there for hundreds of years.

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The picture above is Hooper Strait lighthouse at the museum, one of the few remaining “screwpile” lighthouses of the Chesapeake.  Fascinating to learn about the incredibly hard lives of the lighthouse keepers.  Most of the lighthouses now are automated.

One of the few mistakes we made in St. Michaels was eating at the famous Crab Claw restaurant on a Saturday afternoon.  Long lines, slow service, good crab but not exceptional.. There’s good crab everywhere here!  But it’s an institution so we did it.


We had some problems with an alternator/regulator that kept us in port an extra day.  A couple of local experts named Dink and T-Bone fixed us up and sent us on our way.  But we had a great time here and will plan to return next year.  Visitors, sign up for this one!

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While in St. Michaels, we were happy to greet Looper friends Stephen and Charlotte on Jackets II, whom we had re-met in Norfolk (having met them first last year at the Spring Rendezvous).  We agreed that we would cruise together to our next stop, Rock Hall, MD. This trip took us through the tricky Kent Narrows, with an every-half-hour bridge opening and very fast currents.  We both made it through with no problems.

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We had a short overnight stop in Rock Hall and then saw a weather window to make it the next day all the way through the rest of the northern Chesapeake, through the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, and down the often very rough Delaware Bay to Cape May, New Jersey. If we could do that all in one day, we’d be happy campers for sure.

We were fascinated by the increased numbers of blue herons we saw in the northern Chesapeake. They were everywhere, flying faster than our boat and resting on top of channel markers.


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The ospreys continued to be with us this far north, also, and they, too, like the channel markers. I fear we will soon be moving out of osprey territory, and I will miss their calls that have been ever-present with us along the Chesapeake.


At the north end of the Chesapeake we entered the C & D Canal, which links the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays.  It’s a lovely body of water that reminds us of our familiar river boating – land on both sides!

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Lots of birds along the canal, including bald eagles, more blue herons, and the highest osprey nest ever!  Not good pics ,but they’re there!




Finally we entered the dreaded Delaware Bay and found it to be, well, like glass.  Brilliant move, deciding to go all the way to Cape May in one day!  Especially when we later learned that the next day the C & D Canal was partially closed due to fog and the Delaware Bay was rough and uncomfortable. We are quickly learning that understanding the weather is the biggest determinant of pleasurable or awful cruising.

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At the south end of Delaware Bay we entered the Cape May Canal, which connects Delaware Bay to the Atlantic Ocean via Cape May harbor. I had been looking forward to returning to Cape May since last fall, when we hurried through here on our way south to the Chesapeake. Cape May is one of the very best birding spots on the east coast, and we were arriving here during the spring migration. The abundance of birds began appearing as soon as we entered the canal.

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More blue herons. They must be drawn to our boat!



The canal is a short but pretty waterway:


We docked at the South Jersey Marina, tucked into the far back part of the harbor.  Very nice place, extremely helpful crew, and an easy bike ride into the historic part of Cape May. Here are some of the little floating houses across from our dock.



Craig enjoying scallops that night that had been brought in by the boats above.  We walked over to the restaurant adjacent to the fishing boats.


Cape May is a charming Victorian town that is undeniably touristy but pretty and fun nonetheless. The whole town is on the National Historic Register (sound familiar, Glendalians?) It is famous for its “painted lady” houses.  Many are former mansions that have long since been converted to inns. Great place to ride our little bikes (Which are great attention grabbers, by the way.  Everyone wants to know what they are and how they work!)

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We took a longer bike ride out to the Cape May Point State Park to see the lighthouse and look for migrating shore birds.  It was a great day, fun to get off the boat and have a bit of a change of pace. I also was successful seeing two new-to-me birds, both threatened species: the tiny Least Tern and its relative, the very large Black Skimmer.  It’s always a great day when I see new birds!  The area was also populated with loads of very tame rabbits.

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We enjoyed our stay in Cape May very much, but were beginning to feel a bit trapped by the rough and/or foggy weather out on the ocean.  The coast of New Jersey doesn’t have many good inlets to get off the ocean – very strong currents – so our hope was to make it from Cape May all the way to Sandy Hook, on the south end of New York harbor, in one shot. It’s a long haul, 130 miles, but with our fast trawler, we can do it – weather permitting. And eventually we did do it, but that will be the next post.

Here is a sample of the fog in the mornings.  Picture on the left is the afternoon we arrived.  Picture on the right is one of the mornings we had hoped to leave.

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So – next post will cover our trip up the coast and how we became members of the Loopers-in-the-Fog, Class of 2012!

1 comment:

  1. Great pics Barbara! I would love to paint some of these. Love the boats and the houses.