September 2009 MD - VA - NC
September was an exciting month of adventure. Our historical horizons have been broadened by enjoyable visits to many museums in VA and MD. Probably the biggest highlight...or at least "equal to" the re-learning of our colonial heritage, was the week spent at a trawler owners' rendezvous.We left you in Solomons at the end of August. Annapolis was our first stop for September and a real treat! I've always had an affinity for the military...and had I been born 30 years later...! When I hear of someone getting an appointment to the USNA I think, "isn't that a great honor!" but not till this visit did I realize how great. We spent half a day on a tour and the next day Bill struck out on his own for a historic walking excursion. I went back to the academy to see and learn more. Those kids are the creme de la creme!!! Their parents must implant very lofty goals in their children from a very early age. 12,000 apply and 1200 are accepted each year!!! With their eyes set on an appointment, even in middle and high school they must surpass their peers not only in academics but also in leadership. As midshipmen, they must excel in some area of athletics in addition to continuing in their leadership roles and as excellent students. We have friends, Mary Beth and Jim, whose son is in his 4th year there and he just completed an Ironman triathlon. Every minute of the day is scheduled and how he had time to train and stay abreast of everything else is amazing. We saw a mock-up of a dorm room that is shared by 2 and is it ever spartan! Parents drop off their student with the clothes on his/her back and everything they need is issued. Our guide, as well as our friends who are parents of a midshipmen, shadowed a student for a day and none of the 3 of them made it past lunch. There are no elevators so it's up and down stairs all day long; standing in the hot sun in formation for lunch...I am still in awe at what they do for 4 years and 4 summers. Each time I saw a mid I wanted to hug his/her neck and tell them how incredible they are!!! If we'd had time the 3rd day I'd probably have gone back again to see more. Seeing their regimen and stellar performance, made me feel that a college degree from Any University, USA, pales in comparison to an undergraduate degree from a military academy of this caliber. When I see wayward children making the headlines, I think of these exemplary young people who live a disciplined life of which most folks aren't even aware.
Most trawler owners are prior sail boaters--about the same speed but different means of propulsion! We weren't sailors although I had a small sail boat once upon a time but could never figure out which way the wind was blowing so figured sailing was not for me. Because we've had little exposure to the sailing community, we'd never seen a sail boat race. They occur weekly in Annapolis and, knowing this, we had a mooring close to the expected action. What a sight that was!!! There were probably 100 boats racing and as they made the turn into the mooring field, the spinnakers, in myriads of colors, were unfurled. Some of the boats appeared to miss other boats only by inches.
Between 2 old buildings is the location of an open-air theater in Annapolis and we were fortunate to see one of the final performances of the season, Copa Cabana. What a wonderful evening and perfect venue. In the seating area, the ground was covered in stones and our chairs were the stackable resin variety. Quite an unusual flavor.
Downtown Inner Harbor Baltimore was our next much anticipated stop. Neither of us had been there so we had high expectations that were more than fulfilled. We spent Labor Day weekend there where we celebrated Bill's 1st retirement anniversary--pretty apropos, I thought. Before he retired he was so concerned that he'd be bored, after working in industry for 43 years. I've not noticed any thumb-twiddling nor signs of boredom. The first day there, Bill took 2 naps sandwiched in between sight seeing bike rides, a visit to the old steam plant that houses Barnes and Noble and various other sights that friends had recommended. The National Aquarium consumed more than half a day. What an amazing display of engineering, marine biology, technology---you name it!!! The 4-D IMAX was especially fun---the 4th dimension were puffs of air, sprays of water, pokes in the back--all timed with exciting and suspenseful elements of the 3-D film.
Downtown Baltimore Inner Harbor (L) Inner Harbor Marina-Federal Hill in background (R)
After leaving Baltimore, we crossed the Chesapeake Bay with St. Michaels as our next destination. We love that little historic fishing town. Visiting museums is a penchant of ours but we've probably been to more museums this month than we have in our entire lives!!! The Bay area is so historic but we're beginning to suffer from historical and museum overload. Almost all of the windows in St. Michaels' old homes were adorned with lace curtains and candles that were lighted at dusk, accenting their quaintness and giving them an old-fashioned charm.
As soon as we entered this very old and ornate Episcopal church, I felt a reverent "hush". As if from nowhere, a man who said he went to another church down the street, walked in the side door, sat at the glossy mirrored-finish baby grand and began playing and singing, in his rich voice, gospel songs from his African-American heritage. That was a serendipity for sure!!!
Traveling south to Crisfield, MD, we claimed the slip that would be ours for 8 days for the Marine Trawler Owners Association (MTOA) rendezvous. We were just one of 74 trawlers who'd gathered there for a week of learning and fun. The most exciting aspect for me was a Hands-on-the-Wheel course for women. I was in a group of 5 women with one saintly man who not only volunteered his time but also his boat to teach us how to dock side-to, bow-in, and stern-in. We all succeeded and without damage to his boat. That merely whetted my appetite so the next day a very experienced couple took Bill and me out on our boat. Robin worked with me at the fly bridge helm while Jim was on the deck with Bill, the lines, and fenders. Far more women drive their boats than I'd have ever guessed...but it makes perfect sense. Those water-sodden lines are very heavy to say nothing of the fenders that are as big as Bill's thigh. Once they tip the water, aided by wind, current, and boat velocity, they can easily get away from a woman who is not a brute! I can tell you that bringing this twin engine 42' boat in is far easier than the single engine 27' SeaRay that we had. Obviously, I'm quite pleased with myself!!! The men who handle lines and fenders on their boats tell Bill it should be an ego trip for him that his wife is up there backing a 20 ton boat into the slip. Robin and Jim were absolutely wonderful and we both soaked up everything they had to say.
To avoid rough seas, we tucked into a hidey-hole for 3 nights with only nature surrounding us---none of the conventions of cultured society within sight nor earshot. It's difficult to be productive in this environment so I took a book up to the fly bridge and was immediately distracted by tiny marsh birds swarming up out of the grass flying en mass in erratic directions. The refrain of the lapping water against the hull; the whisper of the wind singing through the marsh grass...I closed my book, reclined my chair, and nodded off to that lullaby.
One of the delights of our laid-back bohemian life style is--if we want to linger another day, we can; however, a hindrance for potential guests is---- we know where we're going to be but not when. Cruising life is so dependent, more on the weather than on our whims. And just so you'll know----everyday during our devotionals, without fail, we give thanks for our health and abilities to live this life-style. We never take a single day for granted. One of us posed the question to the other last week, "If we had to give up cruising and living aboard, where, on land, would you want to live?" We came up without an answer. We've loved so many places we've visited but because we're still in the honeymoon phase of this care-free life, neither of us can imagine having to pick an area nor having to resume living in a house and in one place all the time. After being in one place for a period of time, we get the itch to get on the move again. My mother used to tell me I had the heart of a gypsy!
Here in Manteo, we're docked along the board walk, and the endless procession of people almost equals that along the New River, Ft. Lauderdale, except these vacationers are eager to ask questions. It isn't annoying but really amusing because it's deja vu from our questioning of others years ago. It's really fun to talk to them---because we ask questions, too. We were asked when will this journey end and we answered, "when the undertaker comes to removed our lifeless bodies off our boat." One couple kept poking their heads in the door from the dock so we invited them inside. "Can you cook in here?" "Oh-h!! You even have mirrors!" "Wow! You have 2 full bathrooms!" "Look at all the storage!" "How do you get on the internet?" "What if you get caught in a storm?" is the most common query. We tell them about XM satellite weather on our chart plotter, http://www.passageweather.com/, etc. We've been referred to as "homeless". We aren't homeless---just "houseless". The question that had me rolling on the floor after I pointed out our hanging lockers was, "Oh, my deah!!! Wheah do you hang your formal weah?" Told her we were wearing it---this is as formal as we get!!! Probably the facet of this Sea Urchin life style that they find most amazing would be a tie between, "this is all the living space your have?" and "you mean you really go grocery shopping on your bicycles...?"
We love this little town of Manteo. We were here by car once but nothing about it now reminds us of then. The Historical Park and Museum just across the bridge is incredible. Someone said it would take about 2 hours. We spent more than twice that and could go back again. I am not a shopper and consider going into malls and little stores total torture but Manteo has the neatest little boutiques in which we've both enjoyed lingering...and actually departed their portals with shopping bags in tow--very much out of character for either of us.
The air is getting crisp (we had the heat on last night) but we are headed south. Neither of us does cold so we're en route to warmer climes where "the orange and palm trees sway". We aren't quite there yet---are only as far as the Outer Banks of North Carolina, but we're making tracks---averaging 9.9 miles a day!Roanoke Marshes Light, Manteo, NC
See you next month!
Bill, Laura, and our old Bailey Dawg Manteo Waterfront Marina, NC