We're just back from a short cruise to the lovely little town of St Michaels, about 12 nautical miles south of our marina. Apart from wind on the nose so we had to motor all the way, it was an easy passage with all the marks clear and easy to locate. As we headed down the broad Miles River, we had plenty of time to admire the gorgeous homes and farms along both banks, all looking splendid in the sunshine. We arrived at St Michaels in the late afternoon, and headed up the channel to the front of the Inn at Perry Cabin (and by 'cabin' they mean fabulous 1816 mansion converted to a high-end hotel housing Maryland's highest rated restaurant) where we intended to anchor. It looked like a great spot, and there was one other yacht there already, but we had no success getting our anchor to hold. In fact, it came up clean, suggesting that this might be one of the few places on the Chesapeake without several feet of thick squishy grey mud on the bottom.
On the advice of the pleasant chap operating the local water taxi, we relocated to an equally nice spot just inside Town Creek. As you can see from the photo, there is a private residence on the point, just about the most idyllic spot you could imagine to live in. In the morning, the very elderly lady who lives there launched her sailing dinghy from her little jetty and went out for a spot of early fishing. Blue heron, ospreys, black-headed gulls and terns were everywhere, and fish, turtle and crabs were obviously plentiful. What a good life!
Tuesday was a perfect day so we got all ready to dinghy into town, only to confront our recalcitrant outboard motor once again. I have to confess that I have always hated outboard motors. Like lawn mowers, they are part of a conspiracy against women. They are designed to be impossible to start unless you have the biceps and wingspan of a bloke. This one starts ONCE only. And it doesn't stay started. Even Terry can't get it to start once it's done its dash. It's too big and too heavy to wrangle onto and off the dinghy easily, despite a pulley system. Seriously, I hate the thing. It's a Honda 20 - don't buy one.
OK, so now we're rowing into town, a bit sweatier and grumpier than when we started. But hey - it's an unbelievably beautiful day, with a soft summer breeze and storybook little fluffy clouds, so we got over it. St Michaels is lovely. It's been a settlement since the 17th century, but most of the homes are from around the 1860s. Older buildings include the 'cannonball house' (see photo), the only casualty of a planned British attack during the War of Independence that the townspeople managed to avert by hanging lanterns in a nearby forest, so the Poms overshot their mark by a mile or so.
St Michaels is a very pretty town that seems to have hit the right balance between presenting its best features for tourists and staying a friendly small community. The bells of Christ Church ring out the hours and quarters, along with a hymn every now and then. Leonie will be sorry to hear that you can't escape "Lord of the Dance", even by sailing to the other side of the world! The church was one of the earliest Episcopalian churches - splitters from the Church of England when things English no longer had much appeal. Obviously they're not very exclusive regarding their congregation.
St Michaels has a terrific maritime museum, including an authentically furnished 1879 lighthouse and lots of old boats undergoing restoration. Its ten exhibit buildings really capture the life of the Bay over generations. My favourites? A beautifully detailed collection of duck-hunting decoys, a replica of the boat in which John Smith first explored the Bay and paintings of some of the earliest Americas Cup yacht races.
It's definitely worth a stroll down the main street, which is lined with very cool little shops and galleries.
We cut short our stay in St Michaels owing to a storm forecast for the next day followed by Hurricane Irene making her way slowly up the east coast. Now in the process of tying down, stowing away and securing everything while we wait to see what happens. It's likely there will be some storm surge and we need to be prepared to let out our lines when the waters rise. Fortunately a boat is a good place to be as far as self-sufficiency goes - we have power, light, food, water to last for a few days if necesssary. Ten years ago this whole area was flooded by Hurricane Isabel, so it can certainly happen.
Anyway, we're all prepared and hoping for the best.
xxx Carol & Terry