Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cruise, Day 7

We departed Turner’s Creek under power. The river was dead flat calm, and I mean as smooth as a varnished coffee table. No matter where you looked, if it was moving, it was under power. If I was paddling, it would be the weather to pray for. We turned west toward the bay, and cut inside lighted buoy “2”, crossing the bar between the buoy and the point. I couldn’t help feeling sad, or melancholic, looking back down the Sassafras for what I knew was probably to be the last time ever. Crossing the bar. How poetic. You don’t get much more depressing than that.
Soon I saw other sights that helped draw me out of my black bile. Two tonging boats were coming in from the bay and passed close to port. I tried to get a picture, but the sun was right in my eyes. Shortly after, I saw a schooner heading south across the river mouth, and anchored off Betterton was a barquentine. Then a second two-masted schooner hove into view as it cleared Grove Point. I was to learn later that they were headed for Chestertown for a tall-ship gathering with Chestertown’s local tall ship, the Santana.

As an aside, the Santana has an interesting story. If you think the United States has a peculiar habit of doing things that seem contrary to its own self-interest, like surrendering the Panama Canal or selling steel to Japan during the early stages of WWII, consider this. The original Santana, from which this was reproduced, was built in a Boston shipyard in 1767 as a private merchant schooner. Within a year it was sold to the British Navy. You know, the very people we were trying to acquire our independence from, who already had the largest navy in the world, and the ones who would shortly burn our nation’s capitol. And what was to be its duty? It was to patrol the East Coast enforcing the Townsend Act, better known as the Tea Taxes. Resistance against the Crown was becoming so intense in the Colonies that Santana was recalled to England in the fall of 1772 in fear for the safety of her crew. But time changes everything, and now a replica of a war ship is a tourist attraction for recreational daysails. But, anything done to preserve classic vessels and seamanship is all good.As I rounded Grove Point to head north, I sailed close by a front range light. Years ago we were accustomed to seeing all range lights being built on dolphins. These steel structures have a real appearance of strength and permanence.

The dolphin I‘m referring to, by the way, is not the swimming mammal. A dolphin is a cluster of pilings driven into the bottom and banded or cabled together to create a really massively strong structure. They are used for permanent structures like minor lights, of which a range light would be one, fendering to protect the corners of piers, or for barge and tug moorings. Where most people get to see dolphins are at the entrance to a ferry terminal. A series of dolphins will be set in a line to create a very strong bulkhead on both sides of the ferry slip. Since ferries are flat-bottomed, have a lot of windage, and often have to dock crossways to the current, the captain will usually lay the bow of the ferry against the dolphins to hold the bow while he torques the stern in line and then just slides into the slip.
We passed between Turkey Point and White Crystal Beach, marking the entrance into the Elk River. Thistle then sailed into Cabin John Creek, a popular spot to anchor for a swim or picnic in the summer. As we passed Ford Landing and entered the Bohemia River, a three-masted schooner motored past us headed north. This was not a classic vessel, but a 200-ft. modern yachtie rendition complete with a long clipper bow. At Ford Landing was a beautiful child’s playhouse on the shore with the manor house on the hill beyond. Nestled in the shade under a grove of trees behind the playhouse was a nicely equipped playground.

We motored along the shore of Veazey Cove, and then crossed the river to stop at Two Rivers Yacht Basin for fuel. With the light air I had been encountering, I was burning as much gas every couple days as I usually would in an entire summer. Leaving Two Rivers, we motored toward the bridge at the navigable head of the Bohemia, powered through Manor Creek anchorage, and crossed the river to anchor at Hacks Point. Once secured, I climbed into Thorn and rowed the half-mile across the river to get a picture of the manor house at the mouth of Manor Creek.

While going to the University of Delaware, I would spend long hours on the river. Seeking peace and quiet, I would carry my books down to Dad’s runabout at Hacks Point. It took just a few minutes to run out into the middle of the river, anchor, and then read the afternoon away. It was only an hour past noon, but with no plans to motor further, and no wind to sail with, I decided to anchor for the night and have a walk ashore to visit the close-knit community of Hacks Point to see how much remained from the years of my youth. This night, I’d be anchored in the river, eat dinner in the cockpit, and enjoy the sunset.

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