|Tom Lohre's Sailing Trip on the Chesapeake and Paintings Done There
June 20th to 29th 1997
We arrived at the "Defiant" on a hot and muggy Friday night. Our single masted 26 foot "Pearson" sailboat was berthed on a small dock with a steep wooden staircase traveling a good 75 feet up to the mainland. We were at Cool Springs Cove on the Magothy River near Baltimore. This finger of water was a tucked away corner of the world. Part marsh part eroding hillside the area looked like Popeye's hideaway. Small docks and crafts lined the edge of the small shallow cove about the size of a football field.
The crew was three. Our Captain was George DuBose. Supreme lord and commander, he had his own brand of captainship. Never held back by equipment he would be at easy in a difficult situation with the engine stalled. He is a natural bully who what with his sturdy bulk made for a tough task master. Captain always knew where we were and for the most part made it look easy. He never took a note and rarely looked at the charts preferring to keep it all in his head. The information needed fed there by keeping a eye on what was out there.
That night under candle light and the buzzing of mosquitoes the crew decided to go South to Tangier Island and then work our way back to Annapolis ending the trip in Baltimore. We plugged in the Tangier Waypoint #66 N "2" Red Can 27288 41906.1 in the LORAN, a electronic device that receives position signals, Gibson Island, our home, Waypoint #65 "Baltimore Light" fl 2.5 sec 52ft 5M 27605 42765 and saw that it was 74 miles.
With high hopes we set out to no wind and a whining motor to our first destination, Tilgman Island on the Eastern Shore, Way Point #68 27540.01 42530.05 and landed at 6:30pm. The Eastern Shore is a large island between the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays. We made the harbor at night. It was a far away marina. The many fingers of land that make there way into the Bay predicts that it will be a long haul to any town. The next morning we hiked a quarter mile up the road to the Michener's breakfast room at Harrison's restaurant and became punchy about our waitress. She seemed preoccupied with something. The local chatter and history of the island noticed on the walls of the restaurant/bar cemented the fact that the locals hung there.
With the blue blazing heat attacking us we left Tilgman Island and traveled right across the entrance to the major river of the Eastern Shore the Choptank River named after the Indians that lived there during the 15 and 1600's. Legend by Michener was that there was a huge island at the mouth of the Choptank River that got washed away in the 1700's. Michener tells the stories of the local records. The area was populated by very different kinds of people, landed European gentlemen, runaway slaves and indentured servants, English criminals who worked for their passage to the New World instead of being incarcerated in England.
With nothing happening at sea our next stop was Solomon's Island across the Bay and South a little, Way Point #67 at Drum Point 27468.01 42225.04. We arrived way to early and immediately left the steaming island for the cooler 90 degree weather off shore. The wind became South so we put up the large forward sail called the Genoa while motoring at a 162 degrees heading using the autopilot "Otto." Otto is a nifty device that is no bigger than a big stick and hooks between the tiller and the cockpit and hold a course by a built in compass and a connection to the battery. Later we became completely under sail going close hauled with the wind from the SE at 15 kts and a heading of 110 degrees for about two hours until the setting sun calmed the wind and we resumed motoring. We passed by a anchored hulk of a freighter used for bombing practice while we heard a god awful noise from the military base.
We arrived at Tangier at 10:10pm. The island is a flat 4 x 1.5 miles of 80% marsh with about 700-750 residents with 1/3 named Crockett who settled the island in 1686. The navigation lights are very close to the island and after getting past the first set of markers you have to make a hard right turn into the cut through or you run aground. The British stationed 1,000 troops on the island during the revolutionary war as well as the headquarter the British Fleet there in 1814. The island has the flare of a loyalists retreat similar to the Bahamas or Canada. Meals at the local Chesapeake House are served at large tables Amish style with all the food in bowls or serving plates. Milton Parks owned the marina we docked at. He usually sent a boy around to pick up the dock fee but this time he waived it. Milton grew up in the latter part of the depression and made mention that he had no shoes when he was a kid. Today he is moving his family to this end of the island by building a home right along the waterfront. Just always back is a bridge that crosses the Middle Ridge and West Ridge.
A curious thing about Tangiers is the recipes you can buy on the walk into town. Just on shore there is a petit home with a chain link fence. A old hunched over lady with a bonnet lives there and all along the fence are plastic cups with rolled up pieces of paper. On top of each cup is a label with the name of the recipe contained in the rolls. There are about one hundred! They are 25 cents apiece. It seems that the old lady also supplies maps to the island in a box just before you reach the fence. The map itself looks like it was scrawled with a very small pen and has all the qualities of a treasure map. There is no indication of the shore line just a few streets and tightly written descriptions of what is along the streets. If all this was not enough for one person, she also has many cats and on the way home after taking a brief tour of the island using her map we saw a Rotwieller in her yard very roughly playing with a small kitten. I saw the kitten fly through the air and was horrified as were on looking neighbors with the treatment of the cat. The two teenage girls who lived next door were yelling at the dog to stop "eating" the little kitten. I do hope the kitten survived.
The next morning I staked out a spot and painted the island replete with town, foot bridge, dead riser and marsh. The painting is mostly sky and water with the little island neatly tucked into the thin middle section of the canvas. There is a person walking across the foot bridge and one large "deadrise" work boat in the harbor named, "Judie Moodie" after my wife's nick name. The clouds were layered and the water was mostly smooth with a little high lights placed on the rather dark water. Off in the distance is the entrance to the cut trough. All night and day you find ships passing to and from the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays.
Our ship was the "Defiant" a twenty year old Pearson 26 foot single masted sail boat. Inside the small cabin there is a head "bathroom" tucked between the v-berth in the bow and the cabin. A small sink and map table are to the left and right respectively as you come into the cabin. The ship holds five but the Captain always sleeps outside on the cockpit benches so there is really room for a cramped six. Inside the main cabin, a dining table folds down for two to sleep and in the v-berth bow two more can sleep. In the main cabin a long side bench sleeps one and has a canvas side that attaches above on the hand holds to make a cradle keeping you in while the boat is heeled over 45 degrees or more! We finally discovered that the main drink cooler could fit under the table and that made all the difference for room in the mini salon. The foodstuff cooler was kept under the step coming into the cabin. For hot food we heated up soup on a butane burner. The crew would retire to the cabin disgruntled and worn and after heating up a can of soup and enjoying would emerge refreshed and seaworthy again.
Back on Tangier I finished painting by 1pm and we enjoyed a crab lunch in the cooler part of one of the many restaurants that vie for your attention lining the waterfront. Crab is served in three basic ways. As a round 3 inch by 1 inch fried cake, a soft shelled crab fried and boiled hard shell. The fried soft shell has the appearance of eating a large bug quite whole. Fully satiated we set off for Solomon's and Drum Pt Light Way Point #67 27302.6 41938.6 arriving there at 8:40pm after having the motor going and the sails up most of the way. We arrived there in the cool and had enough time to enjoy a full meal at the local watering hole of the marina.
In the morning we woke up to a sunny day. The crew had spotted a lighthouse that was part of a museum as we came in and I decided that it would make a good painting. The lighthouse had been in the Bay but now was moved to a small cove. Off to the left was a shed with many small boats in it and I placed one, a "gig" that was hung from the ceiling at a obtuse angle at sea in the painting having it turned side ways by the waves in the foreground with a man inside. The painting had a lot of sky and water with just a little more detail than the previous painting. The lighthouse named Drum Pt. was one of 49 in the Bay by 1900. Of the two thousand or so manned lighthouses in the US at the turn of the century Drum point was rated 248th because of its elaborate Fresnel lens. Viewers of the painting called it the Thomas Pt. lighthouse because that lighthouse is still out in the Bay. I learned that the last lighthouse keeper of Drum Pt. had one leg and had a normal staircase put in to the water instead of a ladder.
Monty the new guy on the boat brought me a fantastic sandwich for lunch and after completing the painting at 2pm in the blazing sun we set out for what would be Rose Haven, 31 miles from Solomon's. With no wind, a burning sun, a case of cool drinks and a Rose Haven Way Point of #75 27523.9 42416.1 "1" fl G 2.5 sec 15ft 5M we arrived at 7:40pm having dinner at the local bar. I got laundry duty, finally washing what appeared to be the only clothes we had since we more or less wore the same skimpy things everyday. We got into a philosophical discussion that night and I summed it all up by saying that God is the benevolent thing that makes life out of earth. Earth has the spirit of life that expresses itself to replicate. Death and decay is Earth preparing to become life. Monty our green horn said that we get old too soon and smart to late. We settled down to sleep with the whining water treatment plant motor disturbing the otherwise tranquil evening. We never failed to stay at marinas with pools but this last stop we neither swam or painted since the scenery was lacking and we just forgot where the pool was.
From Rose Haven we set off to what would be Rock Hall, 23 miles, Way Point #76 27585. 42820. The current was against us on our way North so we decided to cut inside and go through Kent Island Narrows. The current nominal on the way to the narrows became swift as we sat at the draw bridge. The motor puttered to a stop but as fate would have it we had the craft in optimum position for such trials and tribulations. As we came out the other end we witnessed a beautiful variegated cloud filled sunset and landed at Rock Hall just after dusk, enjoying a sumptuous dinner of cooked hard shell crabs. I ate a lot of ten dollar shells. I heard from a local boy that a bushel of twenty good size craps went for $70.
Monty was the novice on board but you would not know it. He was the consummate New Yorker. If it wasn't for Monty, things would just be accepted for being the way they are. The novice on board having been the road manager for the Ramones, the punk rock band, for twenty years made sure that we always stayed at a marina with a swimming pool. As soon as our destination was decided he would poor through the travel guide comparing the various amenities. The green seaman started his navigational abilities by keeping our position on the charts. In short order he knew where we were at any moment. In fact at a very important part of a night landing at Tangiers he and I overruled the Captain because we both knew where we were.
But alas poor Monty was bitten by bugs all the trip. He still had the marks of bites from several days before. The crew made a joke of his bug problem because the newspaper made mention of a bacteria, Pfiesteria piscicida, in the water that was giving fish and fishermen lesions and loss of memory in and around the Pocomoke River. The bacteria allegedly comes from the chicken shit leached into the water from the vast chicken farms on the Eastern Shore. We did see a few dead fish in the water they were all pretty good size stripped bass. Did they have memory loss?
We left at 9:03am for Magothy River and Cool Springs Cove where the "Defiant" called home. Just off land we were able to make way for awhile under sail. Monty, last on the totem pole, was leaving and we arrived at 12:01pm after a red hot day at sea which meant for a beastly inferno ashore. The jelly fish that spawn every year in the Bay had not started so we enjoyed the only swim in the Bay of the trip.
I started my third painting in the stifling heat, cooling off with the three or so hoses connected together that snaked their way down from the house. Just as you would have it, it started raining like hell. I had a little umbrella holding off the monsoon, finally giving up for a little bit and later moving my painting rig inside our hosts home atop the cliff. I finished off the painting watching the weather channel in a rec-room downstairs the duplex. Mrs. Cullens would sit upstairs and watch the same channel that Mr. Cullens was watching downstairs all the while commenting on what was happing on TV. The painting ended up being the "Defiant" sailing into Cool Spring Cove. In the distance was one of the many millionaire rows of stately homes and their docks. In the middle ground was the sailboat and a small finger of land marking the beginning of Cool Springs Cove. The foreground was water with a large divided play of dark and light water. Three men were in the cockpit representing the crew.
Shortly after finishing the painting George and I set off for Annapolis in the rain, arriving there just in time to make the rounds of the city dock, stepping off for two coffee lattés to go. Every boat under way makes the trip up the little canal to the water cul-de-sac that makes up the municipal dock slowly turning around and making their way out. A seemingly endless stream of muscle boats meander around the turn barely keeping their massive cylinders revolving. After making our own turn around we set anchor at 9pm just off the Naval Academy. Using the LORAN anchor watch which would notify us if we drifted more than 1 foot.
The next morning we got a good berth on the Municipal dock and immediately worked on the ship. The hand lines were whipped. The stays that hold the mast straight were given there white plastic covers and various line ends were melted with a flame to keep them from unraveling. Even the sails needed a little stitching. The depth finder and battery connections were revamped and all the systems were up and running. The engine was given a cleaning and a small part was discovered worn and for about $1.25 it really helped performance. The craft was now ship shape.
I set up my paint stand and embarked on what was to be my most complicated painting of my trip. All the town was crammed in with the Chapel Dome of the Naval Academy. The only thing not included was the State Capital Steeple. The Municipal harbor was in the foreground and the "Defiant" was the only craft there except for six or so rubber tenders which was the way it was that early morning.
The first mate was myself, Tom. A veteran of many sailing adventures. It was on the "Defiant" that I got back my sea legs. After living several years in the bowls of New York City I had buried most of what I had learned from growing up on the Ohio River and my offshore sailing experiences with my Father.
Our new crew members, a couple of love birds preparing for their wedding, arrived and we spent the day and night site seeing and partying along the famed boardwalk where we had a ring side seat. The next day we motored to Baltimore and on the way in we passed by a buoy that was named "Francis Scott Key." It took me a little while to understand that that was where Francis spend the night watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry about a mile or so away. It was in the dawns early light that he composed the words to the "Star Spangled Banner." Later on shore we ate dinner in Baltimore's' Little Italy section of town and on the way there we passed by the home where they made the flag. I imagined that the flag they made was just like any other flag maybe a little bit bigger than usual but just a regular flag. But then I was reading a article in the paper about the flag. It was four stories long, 40 feet! and about 25 feet high. It has been on display publicly and it will need to be installed in a case to protect it from the future.
I had a dream about the return sailing trip to East Hampton that was to start Thursday night, Fourth of July Weekend. It is about 245 miles and most of it has to be motored because the winds are not always favorable. My dream took place it a makeshift way, it seemed like a trip to Hawaii. I had a little flying platform about the size of a toy dune buggy that you could stand on. It was powered by a gas motor. Then I was riding a bus and could not get all my stuff off the bus in the time of one stop so had to unload it over two stops and then leave it in hopes that it was not stolen. The sailing itself took place on big waves. It was the "Defiant." We were out on a huge body of water that seemed to have Polynesian ports of call! We will sail around the world someday and my dream was a premonition.