Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Fort Cobb State Park

Just off one of the coves in the southeast part of the lake is an island
that is just covered with birds---seagulls, cormorants, pelicans, Canada
geese and more.
The weather last night had huffed and puffed, but this morning wasn’t bad.  The temperature had only dropped to 48, and while the wet pavement belied an earlier shower, what we had now was a fog ceiling that had dropped almost to the ground.  Sky and water were colored lead grey, and there was every hint of more rain to come.  The wind was at least calm.  While I waited to see which way the weather was going to go, we took time for eggs, bacon, and toast for breakfast. If we couldn’t do anything else, we could eat.

Wave on wave of geese filled the sky.
I was re-reading a sailing classic called “Princess” by Joe Richards.  Princess was a traditional full-keel, gaff-rigged Friendship sloop designed by Wilbur A. Morse of Friendship, Maine, in 1880.  Morse built them until 1910, but they have a cult following that has continued their construction to this day in both wood and glass, and an active Friendship Sloop Society keeps them alive.  Richards had found a neglected 25-foot “Princess,” and after a significant refit on her, he decided to put his career in New York as a commercial artist on hold, liquidate his worldly possessions, and head off on a quest to find a patch of ground on some Caribbean island.  He was 31 years old.  The year was 1940.  As he headed south, he was to discover only a few days into his trip that the world had decided to go to war.  By the time he reached Florida, Joe and Princess would both be swallowed by World War II.

The beautiful and historic Friendship Sloop during their annual
gathering at Friendship, Maine.
I met Joe quite by accident many years later.  I was driving east from Leipsic, Delaware, toward the coast when I saw this boat sitting in someone’s front yard.  I knew instantly that it was a Friendship Sloop.  I did a U-turn, went back, and pulled into the drive.  As I walked around its stern on the way to the front door of the house, the transom declared her to be Princess.  I walked up and knocked at the door.  When the elderly man answered, I asked, almost unable to believe my own words, “Are you Joe Richards?”  He said he was, and invited me in.  What an unbelievable thrill to meet a stranger who I already felt like I knew and had a bond with through his book.  He made tea, set out some cake, and we sat and talked boats and adventures for four hours.  As I said my goodbye and thanked him for his hospitality, he told me to bring my book by so he could autograph it for me.  I never did.  Go figure.  And now Joe and Princess are both long gone.  I think of him every once in a while, and it was during one of these times that I went back to my office and pulled “Princess” down off the shelf again to relive the experience.
After reading a bit further, we had an early lunch.  Jean heated clam chowder while I got Ibi off the truck, onto its dolly, and loaded.  The sky refused to allow the sun to even lighten the sky, so I threw my foulweather gear in the stern just in case.  I was underway by noon.  The air was still light, and I paddled south toward the dam and Sunset Cove.  I wasn’t making miles, but spent a lot of time trying to get a few photographs.  After I turned back north, the sky finally cleared to reveal the sun and a beautiful, blue fall day.  With ‘V’ after ‘V’ of Canada geese flying overhead and the fall colors, I could easily have been mistaken in thinking I was back on the Chesapeake.  If only that was true. 
This is a very special state park.  Fort Cobb State Park is open all year.  Even during the winter, RV sites have running water and electricity.  Unlike most parks that seem more and more intent on eliminating primitive camping, Cove Drive goes out of the north end of the park and follows the shoreline for two miles from Caddo Hill to a dead-end at a locked service gate.  Every hundred yards or so is a nicely isolated campground right on the shore of the lake.  Each has room for parking, a concrete picnic table, a pole for hanging a lantern or tarp, and there are three enclosed pit toilets within easy walking distance.  There are trash dumpsters every few sites, but there are always some people that seem to have trouble finding them even though they sit right on the edge of the drive.  Most of the sites are single camp locations, but there are also a few with room and provisions for two or even three sites provided for in a group camp.  Camping is $14 per nite, winter or summer.  Best of all, the shoreline undulates continuously like teeth of a very large saw blade.  Unless the wind is out of the southwest, there are sites to provide for smooth water and easy shore launching.  If the wind is southwest, Eagle’s Nest campground on the west shore of the lake, also open all year, is a good option from its protected cove in Farmer’s Slough.  Please protect your right to camp by being a clean camper that carries out all that is carried in, and properly disposing of trash.  Thanks.

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