Sunday, December 19, 2010


Both Seb and I recently read James Michener’s Chesapeake so we had high romantic expectations of the Chesapeake Bay.  The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States spanning 180 nautical miles from the Susquehanna river in the north to the  Atlantic Ocean.  Chesapeake is an epic book spanning several generations, between 1583 and the Watergate scandal,  from England, France and all over North America but focusing on a few families living on the Choptank river of the Chesapeake Bay.  

We spent our time on the North Chesapeake floating from anchorage to anchorage keeping our eyes out for Chesapeake watermen, geese, crabs, oysters, large Steed mansions and Skipjack boats. Turner Creek offered us a huge marsh, beautiful (very shallow) anchorage and the odd waterman heading out for the catch.  Swan Creek was full of reeds and marshland and you could hear thousands of geese calling to each other as they headed south.  There was also a tiny 2-room waterman’s museum with photos and fishing/crabbing/oystering paraphernalia from times gone by.  St. Micheal’s was a lovely little town with charming restaurants and a good outdoor maritime museum with an old pile lighthouse, wooden skipjacks and a gallery explaining the more recent friction between the pleasure boaters and the watermen of the Chesapeake Bay.  

Finally, we anchored in the Dun Cove on the Choptank river, close to Michener’s house and on the river upon which much of the book is set.  The banks of the river were afire with a spectacular array of reds, oranges and gold autumn leaves.  We tried to enjoy the quite surroundings and some good  ‘leaf peeping’ while sitting with a drink in the cockpit but the cold drove us inside to our warm heated living room and a cup of tea. 

Pancakes and Poor Parenting

The 200 nautical mile sail from Mystic to Chesapeake City gave us a bit of a comeuppance.  Our departure, late in the afternoon, meant that we were just coming out into a rather rambunctious open sea just around dinner time.  We decided to spoil the kids a little to compensate for dragging them away from Mystic by cooking them pancakes for dinner. Bad idea. Macsen (usually a 4-pancake minimum man) ate two and Emma (never less that a 3-caker) couldn’t even finish her first one.  Neither of them were sick but both felt nauseous so we settled them into bed.  The next morning, in calmer seas, they both independently made the shocking statement that they no longer liked pancakes and were not interested in the leftovers carefully saved for them.  Bad association.  Seb and I spent the day brooding on what awful parents we were to expose our children to something so horrible that it would lead them to develop an aversion to pancakes! 

Fortunately it was a quick trip and we anchored in a tiny and shallow inlet next to Chesapeake City at the top of Chesapeake Bay late in the afternoon of November 2nd. To this day our children still do not like pancakes.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Mystic Halloween

My brother recommended that we stop in Mystic, Connecticut.  The wiggly and narrow Mystic river winds about 3 nautical miles inland before bringing you close to the town of Mystic.  At the end of the channel is an old drawbridge weighted with a huge cement block.  We decided to hole up in the Brewer’s marina outside of the bridge and take the dingy in a mile to Mystic Seaport.  

Mystic Seaport is a living history maritime museum noted both for its collection of restored wooden boats and for the re-creation of an entire 19th century seafaring village consisting of over 60 original historic buildings. Upon arrival in the village with our dingy we started chatting with a guy named Mike who was working on the restoration of the oldest whaling boat in the world, the Charles W. Morgan.  We mentioned my brother’s name (he spent a few weeks working at the Seaport a few years  ago).  Mike remembered him and this started a whole chain reaction of friendly welcome in which the director of the shipyard invited us to bring the boat in to stay on their dock in the centre of the village, we got a tour of the inside of the whale boat, met a great guy named Jeff Gold who gave us advice and shared his memories about cruising in Central America and generally were treated wonderfully.  We moved the Pjotter into the dock in the village and settled in. Mystic Seaport has become one of our favourite spots.  

The Seaport village was also an amazing place for the monkeys.  Horse and carriage rides around the sight, a barrel maker who let them roll the barrels, an electric tugboat pond and a nautical children’s museum complete with child size boats to climb on are some of the things that had them leaping out of bed every morning clamouring to get outside.  

We ended up spending a week and leaving the day after Halloween. Halloween may have started to rival Sinterklaas and Christmas as favourite annual events with Emma and Macsen.  Halloween activities started on the Saturday, October 30th with a pumpkin carving competition featuring about 200 creatively carved pumpkins by various local talents. Wandering through the old buildings in the pitch dark looking at flickering pumpkins of every shape and sort was really pretty amazing.  The following day, on the 31st, all of the houses in the village handed out candy to trick-or-treaters.  Emma and Macsen, clad again respectively as a mermaid and a cat, joined the throngs of Mystic children grinning gleefully as their candy bags got fuller and fuller.  This loot was added to their Bristol collection and I don’t think either of them has ever seen a larger pile of candy.