07 November 2011

Escape to St. Michaels!

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
Well...we're still at Hartge's, or back, rather.  They just couldn't get everything done by Friday, though they did try.  We would have settled up with them and left anyway, but one of the things they didn't finish was installing our new multifunction unit.  So, we agreed to give them one more day--today.

The thought of spending the weekend here was too depressing to even contemplate, so we decided to fire up our engines and our $10 chart plotter app from Navionics and head across the Chesapeake to stay at the St. Michaels Marina in the town of St. Michaels, both of which we highly recommend.

We'd set our departure time at 12:00 and were just about on time when Jane started the engines...or tried to.  The starboard engine would crank but not fire and sounded its fire alarm while in the "start" position.  The port engine fired, at least but sounded its fire alarm until turned off.   We didn't have a clue as to what was going on and were now seriously bummed.  The thought of being cold and stuck in a boatyard in a town with nothing else to do but drink for another two days without even the consolation of progress being made nearly made us crawl back into bed for the weekend.  But Jane found some well of determination that I couldn't summon and got out our engine maintenance and repair books and attempted to diagnose the problem.  The handy thing about having two engines is that when one doesn't work, you can always look at the other one to see what its doing differently.  That didn't fix the problem in this case, but we did find the "kill" levers, onto which the previous owners, Steve and Rene', had very cleverly tied lines.  Their placement in the engine compartments (especially the one on port) makes it nearly impossible to pull them, the moreso, I would imagine, when engine runaway has put one in a state of panic.  The lines tied to them and led aft, makes this emergency maneuver a snap.  It turns out that when the fire marshall came to check and certify our fire suppression system, he must have done something to the switches, because the only way we could get them to work was to switch them from "normal" to "override."  This possibly means that even in the case of a engine room fire they will not alarm, but that, we quickly agreed, was an issue for Monday when we returned to Hartge's.  Better to risk it all than to end it all, we say.  All we cared about at that moment was that we'd lost an hour and a half and would barely make it before sundown.  So, off we went.

So far, I'm quite proud to say, we have managed to dock and undock without bumping our boat.  And we get better at line handling each time.  We have not yet, however, figured out the secret to avoiding crab pot fields and we had to contend with quite an obstacle course at several points along the way.  Otherwise, the passage was numbing but uneventful.  51 degrees with 18-33 knot winds and two foot seas.  We didn't even think of raising the sails; someday we'll be good enough and brave enough to do so, but not yet.  Besides, all we wanted was as pleasant a journey as possible, our inability to feel our faces or extremities notwithstanding.  Our last hour or so was somewhat improved when we turned down the Miles River, the wind was abeam of us and we were partially protected from it.

As we approached the marina, with the sun barely above the treetops, Jane hailed the harbormaster to announce our arrival and we heard our name used for the first time, "more JOY everywhere, let me be the first to welcome you to St. Michaels Marina."  It's a small thing, really, one I'm sure we'll soon pay no mind to, but hearing our name called back to us for the first time was one of those microevents that snaps us into the realization that we're really doing this.  As I am beginning to suspect will be the norm of our lives, our small moment of joy was quickly replaced by a less blissful one when we couldn't follow the harbormaster's directions to find our slip number, mostly owing to the fact that he kept telling us to go behind a Sea Ray and we had no idea what kind of boat that was.  Finally, he had to send the line handler to stand at the head of slip and wave at us.  That, we understood.  And after a few additional embarrassing moments of uselessly tossing wads of line to him, we were set.  Jane did an admirable job of steering us in and, as luck would have it, we docked on the same side as we are at the boat yard, so I didn't even have to move the fenders and fenderboard over.

Once set, the first thing we realized was how mortifyingly dirty our boat was compared to the other boats at the marina.  (It was even more painful when the guy in the slip next to ours was scrubbing down a boat that one could already have performed surgery on.)  In retrospect, we perhaps should have scrubbed the deck before we left, but it was 42 degrees and felt like 38, so on second thought, no freakin' way.

Sadly, we weren't going to get much time in St. Michaels.  In order to get back to Hartge's by dusk, we'd have to leave at 12:00 and, of course, this was the weekend that we lost an hour of daylight on the evening end.  On top of that, we had some "chores" to attend to.  With the first reliable wi-fi connection since moving onto the boat, we needed to download a slew of tv shows that we want to keep up with.  And, then there's always provisioning to do.  I was completely out of beer.  And we needed something warm to put on our heads; the next couple hundred miles are going to be chilly ones.  Additionally, we (mostly I) have decided we miss coffee too much.  So we bought coffee and half and half (we know there won't always be half and half).  Alas, we couldn't find a coffee pot to buy, so we are still to be deprived for a little while.  Saturday night, then, was dinner and downloading.  Sunday, we had breakfast at the Carpenter St. Saloon--awesome--and a 58 minute tour of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

Section of old Tilghman Island drawbridge at the
entrance to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
We learned a bit about boatbuilding, got a small bit of insight into the other end of the oyster business (I'm pretty familiar with the eating end), and saw Fredrick Douglass' sister's house.

It was from St. Michael's that Fredrick Douglass made his first--ultimately unsuccessful--attempt at escaping slavery.  It's always interesting to us when we arrive at some hitherto previously known bit of the world from a new direction: Jane and I have each had occasion to encounter Douglass' life.

The Museum is currently featuring an photography exhibit called "A Rising Tide" that gives visitors a glimpse of life on the Chesapeake, past and present and relates the stories of how lives are being impacted by the effects of climate change.

At the end of the exhibit, an interactive display invites those who have been impacted to share their comments and stories on post-it notes, such as this.

Style, comfort, and a souvenir of your visit all in one.
Who could ask for anything more?
All too soon we had to head back to the boat, cast off and motor back to the yacht yard.  With 5-10 knot winds, we were feeling brave enough to raise the sails and then we discovered that while making repairs and upgrading some of the things on our boat, the techincians have caused other things to stop working.  Along with our cabin and cockpit lights, our wind indicator no longer functions and we're just not salty enough yet to use our faces to detect the wind, or whatever it is that seasoned sailors use.  And perhaps it was all for the best.  With our new fabulous headgear, we were finally (almost) comfortable and we deserved an unfrought passage.

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