Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall in the Chesapeake

Not only is it officially Fall given we've passed the autumnal equinox but the weather down here in the Chesapeake Bay has taken a decided turn for the worse as a serious cold front has moved through. For the past week or so we've noticed leaves on the trees just starting to turn and yesterday in town not only did we see leaves actually falling but all the store fronts were sporting Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations - back up, where did summer go???

The temperatures have taken a precipitous drop - we had to wear sweatshirts yesterday and we've closed up most of the windows on the boat - even the cats are snuggling together in their fur coats - a true sign of the coming Fall.

But Autumn in the Chesapeake can also be beautiful - when the sun decides to show itself that is!! We had a nice steam over from Cambridge the other day although we did start out in sweatshirts, but by the time we hit our anchorage in Long Haul Creek it was pretty nice out. We passed some really funky fishing nets out in the Bay on our trip - what was so weird is that they were right out in the middle of the Bay directly in our path???
Fishing Net in the Bay
Once we pulled into our anchorage we were treated to quite a show from the spectacular blue herons - for one of the most graceful birds in flight it has the worlds most god-awful voice - how can any sound that ugly come from a bird that beautiful?? Guess it's just one of God's numerous ironies here on earth. We sat topsides with our traditional we've made it to another anchorage beer and watched as several blue herons glided across the water and perched themselves in the tops of the trees - now how they balance on the very tippy top branches is beyond me - I would have thought they were too heavy and normally we see these magniuficent creatures on a fallen tree limb much closer to the water. But not these two guys - think they were showing off for us!!

The next day we awoke to rain and cold but it wore off by early afternoon into a splendid day for exploring. We dropped the dink and headed around the spit into St. Michaels which is a very quaint, old town off the Miles River. You are greeted at the entrance to the harbor by the Hooper Strait Lighthouse, one of only three remaining screwpile lighthouses in America.
Hooper Strait Lighthouse
The lighthouse used to sit close to 40 miles south of its current location at the mouth of Tangier Sound . Coming in to the dinghy dock near the Crab Claw restaurant we were greeted by a whole group of ducks who frequent the docks and surrounding puddles!!

There are several historic houses that welcome you to the town that have overlooked the St. Michaels waterfront for well over a hundred years and have been preserved by the maritime museum.
Historic Waterfront Houses
We primarily walked the main drag of Talbot Street in search of cool bars - we found several but none that knocked our socks off or could be ranked even in our top ten - although Foxy's Bar did show some potential (though admittedly nowhere near as much as its namesake down on Jost Van Dyke but then again what could??)
It was good to see the town doesn't take itself too seriously as we passed the Broken Rudder Doggie Bar (without stopping in even).

Back on the boat for a quiet dinner and an early night since the farmers market in town was bright and early the next morning. We hopped in the dink for the trip into St. Michaels - you have to go out Long Haul Creek and into the Miles River for a little while which is normally no issue - yesterday morning it was pretty choppy given the increasing winds so it was a little wet (worse for Doug since he was on the side of the dinghy taking the waves!) While the farmers market wasn't a big deal especially compared to some we've been to, there was some great corn and lettuces so we filled our backpack!!
Farmers Market
Afterwards we took advantage of the morning sun to wander around the historic residential sections of town. St. Michaels is a really cute town with tons of houses of all architectural designs dating well back into the 1800's - what ties them all together are their wonderful colors (even white houses are trimmed in shades of red or green or blue), flowering landscapes and door knockers in the shapes of crabs, turtles and dolphins.
Turtle Door Knocker

We walked through St. Mary's Square where the St. Michaels museum is housed,
St. Michaels Museum
through gardens filled with cannons

and past a magnificent church.

Past the winery (which we didn't stop into on this trip - it was still only 10:00 in the morning not that it's not noon somewhere, but....), we wandered by a very large brick house where one part of the house was built in the 1780s and the rest of it in the 1860s - you could actually see the dividing line in the brick - very kewl!
House Built in Two Different Centuries
What was once a working port full of oyster tonging skiffs, crab boats and commercial sailing boats evolved into a tourist destination for people on the western shores. St. Michaels was also where Frederick Douglas lived as a slave from 1833-1836 - while there he taught himself to read and write and secretly set up schools to teach other blacks to read, escaping to the north to become an ardent abolitionist - Douglas later returned in 1877 as US Marshal for the District of Columbia.

Sorry - bloggus interruptus. We got a small break in the weather (it has been raining for about 18 hours!) so decided to do a quick boogie for Rock Hall - this afternoon's forecast doesn't look great but it sure looks better than the next two days which are calling for gusts up to 30 knots. All was smooth steaming until we got out into the wind and waves of the Eastern Bay (of course) and then we lost the starboard engine...and then a couple minutes later we lost the port engine!!!! Where's our buddy boat???? After that initial thought Doug started troubleshooting down in the engine room and had it narrowed down to a fuel issue but couldn't quite figure out what would have killed both engines - he switched to a different diesel tank - nothing!!! The manifold was OK because we could get the generator started. We called Haven Harbor to talk to one of their mechanics - oops it's Sunday and no one was in... Doug called Bob on September Song to see if he had any ideas - he did but we still couldn't get the engines going so we dropped the anchor in the middle of the Bay to at least slow us down - it's tough to set an anchor without engines but it helped steady us into the waves a little. We finally called Sea Tow and spoke with a Captain Dave - he went through some troubleshooting over the phone with Doug and told him to try one thing before he came out to tow us in - Doug went down into the engine room, pulled the primary fuel filters off the engines, filled them up with fuel to displace the air that had gotten in the filters and lo and behold, he finally got the engines started!!! Seems that somehow, the fuel tank we were using had allowed air into the fuel lines, something I'm told diesel engines don't like. Once we switched tanks and got the air out of the fuel system, the engines started and ran fine.

After letting them run for a little while, we skeedaddled for Rock Hall - the tough decision was knowing that the engines could conk out again at any minute did we brave Kent Narrows which is very shallow and as you'd expect from the name narrow, has a ton of current and we needed a bridge opened or did we go the longer route out into the Bay where we would be in deeper water without much current and we can go under the tall Bay Bridge??? After a gut check we figured we'd try Kent Narrows since it saved us 2 hours and we just wanted to get to Haven Harbor Marina where we knew we could get someone to look at the port tank and dip tube (which is what we narrowed the problem down to be - lots of air had gotten into the line we think)!!! Don't you love the "royal we"??? I find myself using it all the time when in fact it was Doug, Bob and Captain Dave who collectively troubleshot the problem - I just helped drop the anchor and kept the boat kitties out of the engine room!! In fact they were very brave and slept through most of the uproar!!

Well we made it through Kent Narrows (which really, really deserves its name - I think I had a couple inches on either side of the boat through the bridge!!) but the good thing was our "delay" in the Bay caused us to hit the Narrows at high tide so there wasn't too much current and we had plenty of water - oh and did I say the engines didn't quit on us!!!! The rest of the trip up the Chester River and into the Haven was uneventful and we are currently docked in the same slip we had when we were here for two weeks with September Song (they aren't in their slip though.....bummer).

Yesterday afternoon after a much needed coldie on the flybridge we ambled over to the Harbor Shack for all day happy hour - did you really have any doubt?? Steve our friendly bartender welcomed us back with several Coors Light and some BBQ wings - we feel like Norm on Cheers!! This morning the worker bees descended on Gypsies bright and early - Hank is in the engine room and Randy is re-installing our watermaker. After all the problems with the watermaker that we have had, Spectra couldn't find anything wrong when they took it all apart but they supposedly put in a new membrane and tested it for 48 hours and claim it works great. Unfortunately we are in the Chesapeake so can't test it easily ourselves so we'll just have to wait and see - Doug and I aren't too happy with them because we know that when we get to a place like the Bahamas where we really need the watermaker and something goes wrong again, we'll be too far from someone to fix it - UGH!!!! But nothing we can do I guess.....

We're not sure how long we'll be here in Rock Hall but I would guess at least a couple days especially with the weather. The wind is howling through the Haven here which causes the halyards on the several sailboats to whip against their masts causing quite a racket - but in a good way - at least you know you're on the water and short of going over and sinking the snailbots there's not much we can do!! Depending on when we leave, we'll head down and across the Bay to Annapolis where our musician friend Scott Kirby is playing on Oct. 2nd - we plan on surprising him - we're like bad pennies that keep turning up!! Should be fun.....

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