Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Last Cruise of the Autumn, Part I

The boss who hired me, mentioned in "Getting Started," has retired. My new boss takes his job seriously. At the same time, he totally "gets" that we're more interested in living a rounded life than in building a career. So I didn't think that I was taking too big a risk when I told him that my work was totally caught up, and I'd like to take advantage of what could be the last good weather of the season to take a week off and go sailing. Sure enough, he agreed.
Thus we found ourselves last Thursday loading the boat with provisions and, joined by good friend and sailing mentor David, taking off on a rollicking sail with the wind behind us, headed for Rock Hall. We smugly looked at traffic jams on the Bay Bridge as we breezed by under the bridge, and before we knew it, we were carefully following the buoys to avoid Swan Point Bar, the sand bar that shelters the harbor. We had two options for spending the night. We could drop anchor somewhere up Swan Creek, which would give us a quiet night surrounded by undeveloped land, marsh grasses and natural beauty. The price to be paid for this was that it was going to be a cold night if we couldn't plug into shore power to run our heater; and a long trip to get into town. The second option was to pay to stay at a marina within easy walking distance of town, with floating docks and plug-ins. Because of the predicted chilly temperatures and our curiousity about the town, we chose option "b."
Cruising has a much slower pace than other forms of being a tourist, and perhaps we are entertained by simpler things. We had a leisurely breakfast aboard, then strolled into town on a perfect October day. Town was quiet as most of the summer people were gone, what remained was at the same time more authentic, and a fantasy of what 1950s small town America was like. We had time to walk past the schoolyard where kids were playing soccer. We wandered into the drug store and sat at the soda fountain for malted milk shakes. We had time to learn the mystery of the low doorknobs on the old buildings in town. They were at the "right" height when the town was built, with macadam roads, but as time went by street level rose as the roads and sidewalks were built up and paved with concrete around the antique buildings.

low doorknobs

Fortified with our sugar buzz, we walked back to the marina and took the dinghy for a tour of the harbor. We saw boats of every kind, but the highlight of the tour was watching the watermen come in to unload their catch. We'd heard so much about the declining industry that we'd expected the watermen to be grizzled old salts, but most of these men were young and fit. Not so surprising in retrospect - as we watched, we realized just how physical a lifestyle theirs is.
Next day there was no wind for sailing, so we took the dinghy again for a tour of Swan Creek. We went out of the harbor and around the point and into the creek. At first the creek didn't look like much, but every time we thought we were approaching the end, we went around another bend and more intricate little twists and turns, grasses and coves, were revealed. Like the Energizer Bunny, it went on and on and on and on. At the end of two hours, our backs were tired and we were chilly and ready for lunch, and we hadn't seen all of it - just enough to put on our list to come back when the nights are warmer.

"catch of the day" being offloaded

David had especially wanted to visit Baltimore, so that was our next destination. (To be continued in next post)

sunset from our marina slip at Rock Hall Landing marina

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