Our Impromptu

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May 31 - June 10, 2010: From Annapolis throughout the Chesapeake Bay

May 31

It was time to say good-bye. Mary Lou came to us to say good-bye as she needed to do more food shopping for their next set of overnight guests. They wanted to take a short sail, have dinner and come back the next day. We were still busy with getting Impromptu ready - putting the dinghy behind Impromptu for proper towing - with our new towing hooks - filling the water tank, taking the electro-chord off.

Then, Dietmar came to say good-bye. But before, he gave us some ideas on where to go, what anchorages are especially nice, etc., etc. We chattet for a little while longer. After those very nice and comfortable days, it was sad to go but we were also full of anticipation of the new area and anchorages we would see. By 1015 we had left the dock and were on our way.

Our first trip took about 50nm and got us into Solomon Island. What was particularly striking to me was the enormous number of osprey nests - on many large buoys, on pilings (no platforms). It was a feast for the eye, and they all seemed to be sitting on eggs or flying overhead for food - always noticeable because of their distinct call. I was in heaven. I absolutely admire these birds - though Juergen pointed out that they are hunters and kill small birds and eat lots of fish. O well, that is nature... We had problems with the holding ground in one area and so we settled for the next little bay up river. We found a good spot, the anchor was set firmly. We would have a very quiet night.

While sitting in the cockpit for our usual cocktails and nibbles, jet skiers came racing by time and again despite the 6 mile speed limit posted everywhere. We questioned the intelligence of these overweight adults who obviously needed to be admired as they came closer to Impromptu hoping for our attention. Thank God, as the sun ws getting lower and it seemed to be dinner time, all this nonsense stopped and it was the quiet night we had hoped for.

June 1

We got up early as we wanted to have time in St. Mary (another roughly 40nm trip) to see the college campus which Dietmar had recommended as very beautiful. The weather forecast included small craft warning due to winds of 15+ knots with gusts to 25+ and a high chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. We were on our way but still in fairly protected waters when we decided to take the bimini off. We did not want to risk a tear. In addition, one can see the sails better for proper setting without it. So we quickly slowed town, moved the boom out of the way to move the stainless steel frame with the bimini forward (in front of the dodger), folded it and put the cover on. We would certainly not need it in the next one or two days as the weather forecast for both (or even three) days was the same.

We then set sail and actually sailed almost the entire way except 4-5 nm where the wind was exactly on our nose. It was wonderful. Given that the Chesapeake Bay is so shallow in many spots, we really had not done a lot of sailing so far - this was a treat, and we had to reef as the gusts made it rather uncomfortable - and inefficient - otherwise. It became a comfortable ride, not too fast due to the reefs in the sails, but still.

As opposed to the area around Annapolis where there were so many boats and ships that one could barely use the autopilot, further South it became a lot less crowded - we noticed that already the day before when we went to the Salomon Island area. We did, however, meet a boat "Deep Blue" who just returned from Portugal. For some reason he had called us to warn us of an uncomfortable chop in the Potomac delta (he had called it thePotomac Ocean) and, for yet some other reason (we could not figure out what nationality he was - until we later realized he did not fly a nationallity flag at all) I asked where he was coming from. The boat was quite a bit smaller than ours - looked beautiful under sail and clearly was a long distance boat as it had an especially designed high and hard dodger - something one only sees on long distance boats. He mentioned that they were having a big party that night. We then told him of our trip to Europe, and of our party in Cuxhaven in July 2005. We then wished each other good-bye. Since I had taken two pictures of Deep Blue under sail, something one does not easily get of one's own boat, I will have to figure out how to find the owner. Maybe, Dietmar or Miles can help???

We rounded Point Lookout, carefully watched for the buoys to protect us from the shallows. Navigation was fun just because of some obstacles one definitely needed to avoid. We soon sailed up the St. Mary's River, a little disappointed at first about all the military structures on shore. They soon were replaced by beautiful private homes and meticulously manicured properties - a delight to see. While the St. Mary River is very wide in many places, its beautiful shoreline reminded us somewhat of the Connecticut River - except the St. Mary River had no traffic, letting us sail almost all the way up into Horseshoe Bay, our destination anchorage.

We had a late lunch in the cockpit after ensuring that the anchor was set solidly, played a few games of Backgammon when Juergen readied the dinghy so we could go see the college. Many of its buildings are visible from the water, including also the yacht basins for small day sailers. I suddenly saw heavy rain on the other side of Horseshoe Bay. I warned Juergen that we would get bad weather and that he should not work on the dinghy any longer when we already felt the first raindrops. Before we knew it, it was pouring cats and dogs. While we took our pillows in and had closed all the hatches, we sat in the cockpit and watched as the lightning and thunder approached. It was quite some sight - and a huge amount of rain. We did not mind so much as we had taken on a lot of salt water over the bow on today's trip. This way, it would get washed off and I could wipe it all clean and dry later.

By the time the rain stopped, it was already almost 1730. Still, we needed to mail some letters and tied up the dinghy in one of the two boat basins, asked for instructions to the next mailbox and then took a walk around the campus. It is a gorgeous setting with beautiful low brick buildings, manicured lawns, a little chapel, a cemetary with lots of very old grave stones. Of course, from the bluff that most of the campus lies on, one has a beautiful view "down river" but also over Horseshoe Bay. See for yourself in our Gallery.

Dietmar, Mary Lou and, we assume, their guests, took a car ride to St. Michael's because of the weather forecast and the fact that the guests and Mary Lou (and Winston) do not have good sea legs. Dietmar sounded happy about the trip even though it had not been taken on Romany Life. He was happy to hear about our trip and the fact that we truly like this anchorage (his favorite) very much. We talked about our next day's plans which he discouraged. So, most likely, we will go to what we presently consider to be our most Southern point in the Chesapeake - at least on this trip - the Great Wicomico River. This anchorage is also about 36-40 nm away from here. We are hoping for another chance to sail rather than motor. Right now, at 0615, it is almost wind still, the sun is trying to burn the clouds away and the fog that is lying over the Western shore of Horseshow Bay.

June 2

We had called Tom and Cathie Dunn, a couple we had met in the Bahamas and then, later on, in Charleston in 2007 on our way back home from the Bahamas. We had met up with them at the Annapolis boat show about three years ago, i.e., the same year we had met in May but not seen them since. And our communication with them is generally very sporadic and by email. They had sailed Florida and the Bahamas this winter while we spent the month of March with Dietmar on Romany Life, as you know. They usually take the winters off for sailing in the Bahamas and then work summers buying homes, moving in, fixing them up to sell them again. Well, we are trying to get together with them - they would need to drive though because they are at the Southern tip of the Chesapeake Bay, too far South for us to go by boat (since we want to go up on the Estern shore of the Delaware peninsula and not take the straight ocean route back home. There are still lots of places we want to visit, including St. Michael's - but by boat, not by car). Whether or not this will work is not certain yet. We will talk to them again later today. They had offered to drive up to the Great Wicomico River claiming that it would take them about an hour to an hour and a half by car to get there.

Juergen wanted to ensure that our anchor light was fixed so before the sun set in St. Mary's on the day we decided to stay and just spend time on the boat, I cranked him up the mast yet again. He exchanged the LED light of our tricolor light on top of the mast with the broken anchor light. He also tried to fix our wind instrument. The problem though, the replacement fell down onto the deck and into the water. Thus, other than trying to tighten the connections, there was not much he could do. At least our anchor light was shining brightly into the night, just in time for the coast guard boats to arrive for some practice docking, man overboard manoevre, etc. It was yet another quiet night.

June 3

We left St. Mary's for the Great Wicomico River around 0800 and made good time despite the 36nm distance. Unfortunately, the entire trip was made under engine power as there was no wind. We approached Horn Harbor and decided to anchor just South of the entrance to this hurricane hole, too shallow for us to enter, and too tiny. Tim mentioned that outside the river entrance, towards the large bridge, there was a marina and restaurant. Juergen checked it out by dinghy and came back all excited that we would take a dock and could thus easily meet up with Cathie and Tom who were on their way.

Well, entering the marina was another story. First Juergen misunderstood on which side of the osprey nest we were supposed to enter. Then, the wind pushed us towards the pilings perpendicular to the dock space. It was quite a manoevre to get Impromptu back into the right position to finally make it through the pilings. Of course, some of our lines were too long. This required that I tied two lines together in a hurry to ensure that we were nicely centered and away from the dock and the pilings. We were barely settled when Cathie and Tom arrived. We sat in the cockpit and chatted for a while, catching up on three years that we had not seen each other. We walked over to the restaurant for an early dinner. The seafood was wonderful, the wine ok, and the conversation lively. Suddenly I realized that it was pouring and our aft cabin hatch stood wide open. I apologized for getting up from dinner and ran to the boat to close the hatch and put all the cockpit cushions away. Of course, by the time I was back on my seat at the dinner table, I was soaking wet and freezing (the air conditioning was running at high in the restaurant). We finished our food, had some coffee and walked back to Impromptu. The rain had stopped but it ws a lot cooler than it had been all day. At my request we went down below and talked for a little longer.

I suddenly was dead tired, having gotten up at 0500 AND having had too much to drink (a rum punch on Impromptu and then we had two bottles of wine which were mostly consumed by us). I fell asleep quickly but woke up just two hours later.

June 4

By 0500 I again was wide awake and got up to take pictures of the osprey and hoped to get a glimpse of the bald eagles the marina owner had mentioned yesterday. It was still too dark for photography but the scene slowly started lighting from the rising sun - beautiful. The half-moon ws visible high up in the sky and would be there for another few hours before setting.

Walking back to Impromptu around 0630 I heard a pump going on our boat. When I went down below, I saw that pour Juergen was fighting with our aft head which for some reason had overflowed into the shower drainage area. He could not stop it by any means and so, we decided that the only way not to pollute the harbor was to depart immediately. Taking six lines of took no time at all - funny how that works given the endless time it took to put them up yesterday. Within less than five minutes we were underway. I steered while Juergen continued cleaning the mess. It was plain awful. We still have no idea what happened, why and how, but we know that we have a serious issue which will need attention. In the meantime, we can use the "guest head" instead of ours and hope that it will not break before we get back home to Milford. A good thing, too that we will be traveling to Europe for two weeks so MBWs will have ample time to fix the problem (we hope).

We debated whether or not to continue to the anchorage scheduled for a visit after the Solomon Island anchorage scheduled for today because we had left before 0700, but even though we would arrive quite early, we decided that it was time for a round of Backgammon, lunch, and lazying around. After all, we still have sufficient time for all the other anchorages targeted for the rest of the trip before heading back North. The one thing I truly miss is internet access. We could have gotten that at Horn Harbor Marina - but you know the story... So, now I am hoping for St. Michael's for WIFI access so I can finally upload all the images, the logbook, and the corrected pages of earlier trips.

We had made the 44.6 nm in less than seven hours and should not need more than that for tomorrow's trip to Oxford. Yes, they do have an Oxford in Maryland... It is written up as an attractive historic little town with lots to see. We will report about that either tomorrow or the day thereafter. We found a nicer anchorage this time than on our first visit here, much more serene and a little further away from the channel. Another sailboat came but anchored across from us in another little bay. Later, a small motor boat arrived, anchored next to us but we think their anchor was dragging as it moved further and further away from us. In the morning, they were gone.

June 5

we had a pretty miserable night as it was way too hot and humit. Around 0230 Juergen suggested to turn the airconditioning on (which only works in our main cabin) and to sleep in the main cabin. This, unfortunately, also meant that the generator needed to be turned on. It was VERY noisy - and got way too cold for my taste. I took my blanket and pillow and quietly moved back to the aft cabin. Only an hour or more later, Juergen called for me - since he could not find me in the cockpit or the main cabin. By 0530 / 0600 I finally fell asleep - not deeply but deep enough to get up around 0730.

After our weekend pancake breakfast and a few rounds of Backgammon, we lifted the anchor and drove out the Patuxent River towards Oxford. There was a two hour window during which we actually could sail unaided by engine power. What a treat. Unfortunately, our speed eventually dropped to 2.5 / 2.3 knots, and we decided to turn the engine back on. By 1500, we were anchored outside Oxford harbor. The guidebook mentioned an anchorage inside, that is way too tight and has bad holding ground. We opted to stay out and take the dinghy to town - whatever there is as a town. We saw lots of very beautiful old homes, nicely maintained, with well landscaped gardens. There was a boatyard with "Foto" a famous maritime photographer's boat and lots of other historic paraphernalia, a gallery (closed already as we had waited for a thunderstorm before leaving Impromptu unattended - the thunderstorm never came - so we were too late for any of the stores). We found a post office. At least I could finally mail some cards I had written. On the way back to our dinghy which we had tied up at a yacht club, I went into the Romert Morris Inn to ask whether there was a place we could buy ice (for our drinks). The lady did not know of any near-by but offered to give us ice. She had no containers but eventually, we agreed that the plastic bags that the new pillows for the inn had been purchased in, would just do fine. She promptly came back with abbout 4-5 pounds of ice. She also invited us to come for brunch tomorrow, which we might do.

Back at the boat, we immediately made our usual rum punch - it was round 1800 after all. It is still hot and humid. We are listening to Amy Winehouse, a CD Philipp and Julian had given me for my 60th birthday. There is nobody we could possibly bother with this. Juergen fell asleep. I am updating our travel log, will upload new pictures and hope to be able to upload the website. It seems that we might have WIFI access. Let's hope so.

June 6

As we had discussed, we went to the Robert Morris Inn for brunch, really more breakfast. Before, we did one load of laundry and let the second one run while we were away. It was too breezy to leave the laundry hang on our lifelines unattended. So, we deposited everything down below with theintent of hanging it after our return. It was a delightful breakfast. My two eggs sunny side up with hickory smoked bacon were too much for me to finish, but Juergen managed his eggs Benedict with crab meat, Spinach and bacon well. We had lots of coffee, orange juice, water and enjoyed sitting in the small front yard watching people arrive for Sunday brunch. The new part owner, Mark..., still chef at the Inn at Perry Cabin, in St. Michael's, but soon to be chef only at the Robert Morris Inn in Oxford, came by to introduce himself. He worked in Baden Baden for four years and traveled throughout Germany including Hamburg and Berlin. We congratulated him on his new venture and wished him luck. We had earlier discussed between ourselves that we should have had our "Maine event" in Oxford instead as we truly loved the Inn. Still, in the end, we think that the Maine location offered more for everyone's taste. Who knows. Maybe, the next family get together will be held here???

We went back to the boat. Our second load of laundry was just finished, and all was hung ourside to dry. We played Backgammon watching that nothing flew away. Then, around 12 noon, we finally readied Impromptu for our trip to St. Michael's. The weather forecast included some thunderstorms and small craft advisory, nothing for us to worry about. The wind ended upbeing quite strong - we think around 35-40 knots, and while the lightning spared us, we were caught in some heavy rain. To make matters worse, when I input a waypoint into our GPS I mistyped and caused us to get too far off course. We hit bottom - very softly, but in very sudden very shallow water. Juergen got us off promptly, and we finally noticed my mistake and corrected it. We felt that some of the buoys were not exactly any more where our charts put them. So we mostly visually navigated and watched what other boats were doing. In the end, shortly before 1900, we were finally anchored in the side part of the St. Michael's harbor. It is shallow but very beautiful here, and there are just a handful of boats that all seem to be here for longer periods of time.

We had our meanwhile routine rum punch and watched the threatening clouds pass by. The rain had finally dissipated but the wind was much colder and the air a lot less humid than it had been in the past few days.

June 7

We had our usual breakfast and round of Backgammon games, and I already did the navigation to Annapolis, our next stop before heading out to see the main harbor, walk around town, do some shopping (I am still looking for new shorts that fit!!!, some post cards to send to all our god children and children of nieces, nephews and my brother's). We also wanted to have crab lunch at the Crab Claw, a restaurant right on the water ,that came highly recommended by another sailor we had met in Annapolis the last time we were there. Well, we were lucky. We found a little gift for Marie, found a pair of white shorts for me (they fit!!!), bought twelve post cards, the respective stamps and took all to Impromptu after a short harbor tour. The museum right next to our anchorage has sheds where old skipjacks are being refurbished, including their large wooden masts, and there is lots to see about oystering and crabbing on the Chesapeake from days gone by. We will visit the museum this afternoon still, if I can get Juergen to take me there - again. I will need to get to town because I want to mail the post cards before they remain on Impromptu, forgotten.

We went back to the Crab Claw for an interesting and delicious lunch of our first blue crab, to be eaten out of the shell. Boy, if you think to eat lobster out of the shell is hard work, try blue crab. We decided, that it was good to have tried once, but we were quite happy when we were done. The next time, it is crab meat or crab cake or so. Still, we had fun. I even took some pictures of the craft and found the huge vat in which the restaurant boils them on our way out the door. See for yourselves in our gallery.

We will sail up to Annapolis tomorrow.Iit should not take longer than about four hours as it is virtually just across the bay. We have not decided on how long to stay this time, but I am sure we will not stay longer than till Saturday and then go back to Chesapeake City etc., etc. Most likely, this time, we will stop in Cape May and for that matter pass Atlantic City for a straight shot to Sandy Hook. It will be a long day, but if we leave early in the morning, we should still arrive during daylight, assuming the weather is halfway decent. We will keep you posted.

June 8

It was another beautiful day. We had breakfast then played some Backgammon because we needed to wait until about 1000 when the museum would open. It was a wonderful albeit short visit. We saw a lot and learned a lot about the operation of this museum as it is also a workshop in which historic boats are being restored. The workshop also has an apprenticeship program that teaches "apprentices" on weekends how to build certain historic designed boats. If it were not so far away from New York, I would be tempted to attend such a workshop, just for the fun of it and to learn something new. The wooden structures looked fantastic, sturdy and really beautiful, and the boats are extremely light. The one we specifically talked about weighed only 75 lbs, that is about 50 or more pounds less than our dinghy without engine.

It started breezing up. We went back to Impromptu and lifted the anchor. Getting out of the shallow bay was not easy though visibility was a lot better than the evening when we arrived. Juergen's chart plotter did not see any satellites. Thank God, I had input all the waypoints and we found our way throughout deep water. Once we were around the North Eastern tip of Tilghman Island, we could finally set sail without using our engine. Bliss - short-lived since, once we reached Bloody Point, the wind was on our nose again. Juergen had a rather strong but undefinable pain around his abdomen. He looked white as a sheet, and I was very worried that we would have to take him to the hospital once in Annapolis. Thank God, the pain seemed to subside after a short rest.

We reached Back Creek and Bert Jabin's Yacht Yard around 1530 and, with the help of Keith, one of the owners, and Dietmar, who came running, Juergen docked the boat perfectly, having entered backwards to have an easier time departing on Thursday.

Another mishap happened: As the dockllines were all tied up, Juergen tried to get off the boat to greet Keith and Dietmar. His right foot slipped so that he hit the dock with his left foot. It made a huge noise and we all could tell that Juergen was in terrible pain. We put ice on his foot immediately and Dietmar even went to his boat to get a proper icepack. We have those, too, except ours are still in storage. We had totally forgotten to bring our big medicine chest back to the boat for the season.

We had our usual rum drinks around 1700 after I had checked in at the marina. Then, Dietmar drove me to the super market to get some fresh lettuce, berries, mushrooms, and icecream. Dinner was a four course affair this time, starting with whole wheat pasta and a wonderful artichoke sauce I had purchased from Linda of the Villa Gourmet in Milford, then we had a salad of mixed greens, fennel and chicoree. Our main course was veal "Rouladen" with mushrooms and red cabbage, and dessert was berries and icecream. We talked for a long time until Dietmar was tired and left for Romany Life. Juergen went to bed while I quickly cleaned up. I was too awake to go to bed. Thank God for the need to anser some emails (to Mary Lou and Juli and to check the stock market - a mistake...).

People returned to their boats late and made a lot of noise. I don't think Juergen heard it, but I could not sleep and was somewhat annoyed at the lack of consideration. By 0400 I must have fallen asleep to wake back up around 0530/0600.

We had pancake breakfast which we had promised Dietmar before our return here and talked again for a long time. Now, the "guys" are fixing (or trying to) our wind instrument, and Juergen is waiting for Keith to get a pump out. We want to avoid at all cost to have another overflow issue (you may remember what happened to us in the past few days...). We are planning on departing tomorrow. Most likely, our first stop will be Chesapeake City again. We do like this little basin and the view from there towards the town and the bridge crossing the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal. Weather permitting, we will then continue on Friday towards Cape May, and from there, we will have to take an early start to get all the way to Sandy Hook on Saturday. This will be an about 100 nm trip. We are excited to get back, but we are also very sad to leave this beautiful area. We already know that we will come back here - whether next year or the year thereafter, who knows - but the Chesapeake needs more exploring on our part. This year, we have just gotten a taste. Now, we are a little more familiar with all the shallow areas and will try to spend more time in the same and other places we have not seen to date.

But we also have lots of great things to look forward to, a dinner with Dr. Koenigstein, Alexander, Christa's son, who recently graduated from UPenn Vet school, with Trish who is presently visiting her mom in New York, getting together with Luise, Sid, Claudia, Ruben, William and hopefully, Peter, before flying to Croatia to meet up with the German Thieme contingent, including Heinz and Ursula Lindner. Not to forget our week of travel through the Bretagne before visiting with Pascale and Wolfgang for an overnighter. And then, there is sailing in our own waters, meeting up with sailing friends but also Jean and Bert, etc., etc. Hopefully, I will get some photography events into my schedule to improve upon my skills, learn more, get exposed and just have fun. Maybe, I can even find a workshop with a little travel, i.e., an immersion course. We will see. My dream is and has been to take a "Nikon sponsored Mentor Series trip". Who knows whether I will manage this year to actually take one or whether I will have to wait for another year to start.