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by Dan and Jan Ahart
We left our anchorage at Cobbs Creek and headed for Deltaville Marina at 0800 on July 16, 2000. Another thunderstorm arrived just after our arrival, but this one was small and didn't last long or drench us too badly. Our original plan was to stay only one night at the marina, but we were pleasantly surprised to find some friends we had met, during our visit to Elizabeth City. Plus our friends from Florida, who had a car, were kind enough to provide transportation, so we purchased groceries and hardware that we needed. After a very pleasant visit, we left on the 18th.
Our next stop was the Great Wicomco River, about 30 miles North. The winds were kind and we were able to sail the entire distance, without help from the engines. The first night we anchored off Sandy Point, in a very pleasant cove or bight as it was called there. On the 19th, we motored into Reedville and tied up at the Crazy Crab restaurant. Our guidebook told us that propane was available at the restaurant/fuel pier. However, this was not the case, so we bought a little diesel fuel and filled our water tanks. We were about to leave when a couple walked up and started to talk to us. They were from the panhandle of Florida and lived not far from where some of our friends live. We were about to conclude the conversation and leave, when the proprietor of the restaurant walked up and offered the use of his truck if we wanted to go get our propane tanks exchanged. That sounded like a winner, so we borrowed the truck. When we got back, we figured we ought to buy lunch at the restaurant, and while we were eating a couple came over to talk to us. They were also cruisers and were from the Pirates Cove area of Alabama. Incredibly, we knew two of their neighbors. Well, that settled it; we stayed two more nights in the area and visited with those nice people.
The weather looked good for a sail North, so we left the Great Wicomco at 0800 on the 21st and arrived at Solomons, on the Patuxent River at 1700. We anchored off the Zahniser's Sailing Center among a few other sailboats and spent a nice cool evening. However, the next morning, which was Saturday, we were awakened at 0600 by loud voices drifting across the water from Zahniser's. Sailboats were gathering for the start of a regatta. Boats continued to accumulate for about an hour. We didn't know what class they were, but most appeared to be in the 30-foot range and each had a crew of at least six people. At least thirty boats were eventually tied or rafted up around the piers. Alas, there was no wind, so most of the crewmembers took naps wherever they could find space on their boats. We did likewise. At noon, the regatta must have been called off, because that's when the party started. A tent, including a band and food provided by caterers had been set up on the grounds for the conclusion of the regatta. Had the regatta taken place, the conclusion would have been about noon anyway and they were all there safe and sound, so - party time. The music wasn't bad, lots of 50s rock and roll. It must have been a senior regatta. But it was free for us at anchor, so we just rolled with the flow and enjoyed. Actually, the music was great.
The next night, we had a new experience. We had been watching TV and when we went on deck to bring in the satellite receiver, a 35-foot sailboat was just about to touch us. No one was aboard and the anchor had dragged. The boat slowly drifted to our starboard side. Kind of eerie. We put out fenders (pads) between the boats and lashed the newcomer to us. About an hour later the owners returned in their dinghy and apologetically thanked us for preventing their boat from grounding on the nearby shore. Instead of re-anchoring, they took the boat into the marina and tied up for the night.
During our one week stay in Solomons, we experienced rain every day, but we still managed to get the essentials done, mainly sightseeing and grocery buying. The maritime museum was most interesting, with several boats on display, a decommissioned lighthouse, replete with furnishings, a wonderful exhibit on the native sturgeon and processing of caviar, which is now a defunct industry due to over fishing and the slow (20+ year) maturation of sturgeon. The museum also included many artifacts from early settlers, shipbuilding and military activities in the area. One of the local beaches was used as a practice area in preparation for the Normandy invasion during World War II. The pictures on display that were taken during the exercises, looked very much like similar pictures of the actual invasion, sans casualties.
We left Solomons on July 28th and sailed East across the Chesapeake to the Choptank River, which led us to the Tred Avon River and the town of Oxford. We visited the town for one full day. It is very old and very quaint. A ferry service was first established to provide transportation across the Tred Avon River between Oxford and Bellevue in 1683. Ferry service is still available today. Many homes date from the 1700s. Interestingly, it is still a small town surrounded by cornfields. It seems amazing to us that communities this close to the nation's capital are so rural. On the 30th we departed for Dun Cove, some 25 miles West off the Choptank River where we would spend the night enroute to Annapolis. Alas, we stopped short of Annapolis the next day because of high winds and thunderstorms in the area. We took refuge in the West River, on the West side of the Chesapeake, just 25 miles South of Annapolis. Finally, on August 1st we reached Annapolis and anchored about 100 yards off the Naval Academy seawall.
Like most of this area, Annapolis is very historic, with many buildings still in use that date from the mid 1700s. It is also the state capitol and the sailing center of Maryland. There must be several thousand sailboats moored in marinas in and around the immediate area. Each Fall, the largest floating boat show in the U.S. is held in Annapolis and there are weekly sailboat races during the summer. But, by far the greatest attraction for tourists is the Naval Academy, which was established in 1845. With a few exceptions, the public is invited to wander the campus, which is extremely impressive. During the academic year, 4,000 midshipmen are on campus, all of whom are housed in one dormitory, called Bancroft Hall. The incoming freshmen, or "Plebes" were on campus for their six-week orientation session before start of the fall semester. This group numbered about 1,200 students, who awoke us each morning at 0530 as they participated in very loud and energetic calisthenics. There is a very impressive visitors center, which includes a great deal of information about the academy and it's many famous graduates including Alan Shepard and Jimmy Carter. There are many impressive buildings such as the indoor swimming center, the indoor track and field building and the athletic center, which includes displays of sporting awards won by students including Roger Staubach's Heisman trophy. But the two most impressive buildings are the chapel and the museum. The chapel was constructed between 1904 and 1906 and is absolutely stunning inside. And in the vault below, is the crypt and sarcophagus containing the body of John Paul Jones.
He was a Scotsman, the son of a poor gardener, who was apprenticed on a merchant ship at the age of 12 and became a ship captain at 21. Having no love for the British, he volunteered his services to the rebellious Americans on December 7, 1775. He was 28 at the time. His services were accepted and he quickly rose from lieutenant to captain of his own ship, which he used to great advantage in capturing and or sinking several English ships. By 1777, he was quite famous and the French, who were assisting the American Revolution, gave Jones command of a ship, which he named the Bonhomme Richard. During a daring raid off the English coast, his ship was badly damaged and was sinking in a fight with the English ship Serapis. The captain of the Serapis yelled across to Jones asking if he was ready to surrender. That is when Jones uttered his most famous statement, "I have not yet begun to fight." Jones maneuvered his sinking ship close enough to the Serapis to tie the two together with grappling lines, boarded the Serapis, subdued the British, and took command of the Serapis. This action as well as the 49 other ships captured under his command, led to many medals and awards received from the Americans and the French. After the American Revolution, Jones, ever the mercenary, served in the Russian Navy as a Rear Admiral. He died in Paris in 1792 at the age of 45. The location of his grave was recorded, but over the years apartment buildings had been built on the ground. When, in 1906, America expressed interest in returning his body to the United States, the French government, after considerable research, found his coffin and exhumed it from under an apartment building. The body had been buried immersed in alcohol within a lead coffin.
The museum contains an incredible amount of historical artifacts,
including the table and tablecloth used when the Japanese documents
of surrender were signed aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo harbor.
The table stands on some of the teak decking from the Missouri.
Interestingly, the table was "borrowed" from the enlisted men's mess
aboard the Missouri. While we were in Annapolis, we were fortunate
to hear the Navy Band perform a concert of show tunes at the city
pier. The musicians and vocalists were outstanding. Two nights later,
we heard the Navy Band Jazz ensemble perform. They were equally impressive.
Since we were in Annapolis several days, we experienced one of their
famous sailboat races, which starts out in the bay, but finishes up
river past where we were anchored. It is quite an experience to have
hundreds of boats sailing past only inches away. A few were rather
exhilaratingly close! We left Annapolis on August 4th and headed
for Baltimore. Stay tuned.