Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Decorations

It's true. There isn't much to write about this time of year when it comes to boating in Maryland. Doug and I winterized the water sysem last weekend. As much as I'm sure you want step-by-step instructions and photographs, I'm going to provide something a little more interesting.

Like many waterfront areas, Baltimore hosts a Parade of Lighted Boats each year. Some people decorate their house. Some people decorate their boat. Some people probably decorate both.

Some decorations are simple. Some are amazing! And some boats have music and dancing.

One day, Doug and I hope to enter our own boat into the parade. This year we were simply spectators in the large crowd:
I apologize for not arriving early enough to have a prime picture taking spot. Here are some of the boats from this year's parade:
I also found a few boats decorated for the season in our marina:
 Happy Holidays Everyone!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Scenes from Sandy

Hurricane Sandy was kind to us - we never lost power at the house. More importantly - the boat is in one piece. We walked down to the marina around 3pm Monday before the worst of the storm. We had added extra lines and everything still looked secure so we trudged back home, hunkered down for the night, and kept an eye on things through the marina website. Granted, we wouldn't have been able to do anything if we saw issues on the webcam - we just wanted to know what was going on - perhaps we just wanted to be prepared for what we would see Tuesday morning.

Here are some scenes from our walk this morning:
This is the gate to our pier. We are on a floating dock. The dock is normally 3-4 feet lower than the brick promenade. The high tide and storm surge is nothing like Hurricane Isabel but still impressive.
The marina was prepared and secured the dock carts.
Downed lightpost.
The wildlife is back.
A bit of water in this well-secured dinghy.
This dinghy didn't fare as well.
Luv'n Life III is floating and doing well. We took down the strata and isinglass and used the cockpit cover for the storm.
It's crazy that I can almost touch the top of the pylons.
This bridge is normally a few feet above the waterline. (Sorry for the blurry spots. It was still raining when I took the photo.)
This is one block from our house. On a positive note - the houses don't appear to be damaged.
They were predicting 8 foot waves in the Chesapeake Bay. 8 FOOT WAVES! I'm seeing scary footage from Ocean City and Annapolis. Friends in Middle River have posted images of their flooded dock. I'm feeling very grateful for my good luck and my heart goes out to those in New York City right now.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Annual Clam Bake

This past weekend Almost Home organized an annual clam bake at Fairlee Creek. Doug and I left Friday evening in order to make the most of our (potentially last) weekend on the water. There was much discussion about how we all love the many seasons of Fairlee Creek. There's the wild and crazy summer days and nights. Those are the days when anything can happen - bathing suits may come off, bands will play, and boats may collide. This weekend was the other side of Fairlee. This was the quiet, restful, and natural side of Fairlee. (Okay, okay, when bathing suits come off that is also "natural" or should I say "au natural.")

This is the time of year when you can easily get an anchorage spot at the beach. Check out the first image on this post to see how busy the beach can get during the summer. Since we were the first to arrive, we set both a bow and stern anchor. Hint: Use the stern anchor line as a tow rope for pulling the dinghy back and forth to shore.
The beach was clean and ready for us:
Friends were anchored in another part of the creek and we were able to visit with them for awhile. Then we had the pleasant surprise of friends we hadn't seen in a while.
Don't you love how their son gets to ride in the dinghy as it's being lowered into the water?
We built a bonfire for the five of us and spend the evening catching up on the summer's stories.

Doesn't this look like a perfect way to spend an evening?
The next morning, we scoured the beach for more driftwood. It was a cool morning and it felt more like a fall beach day in New England. I'm sure there have been a few bonfires already this year because the beach was picked through:
But, you never know what sort of "treasures" you may find along the way:
We were successful in starting a good pile:
And then we put the kids to work once they arrived:
The kids also built their own mini-bonfire. They built it in a clearing that wasn't visible from the "adult bonfire." Obviously, that wasn't safe (and a little too "Lord of the Flies"), so the parents made them move it to another part of the beach.

We had six boats and a yummy feast. If you are interested in how a clam bake works, check out my post from last year.

On a final note, who says the water around Baltimore is dead? Just look at what happens to a ladder left in the water around the marina:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Annapolis and Football

Mea culpa, this post is a week late. We traveled to Annapolis on Sunday, September 16 for an overnight trip. What's that you say? An overnight on a Sunday? Yes, four of us took Monday off so we could spend the evening in Annapolis after watching the Ravens/Eagles Game at Pusser's.

There were a couple interesting sailboat sightings this particular trip:
We normally see children being towed in these mini-sailboats. This was a group of adults. What were they up to?
Am I missing something? This is a sailboat, right? Why is she paddling?
We also saw two sailboats with bow thrusters. Let me just say that again - sailboats with bow thrusters. One of them docked right next to us and he still struggled to get into the slip. We've all had our horror docking stories but aren't bow thrusters supposed to be a huge help? And is this a new craze for sailboats?

We all know that the Ravens lost the football game -- boo. Pusser's, however, did not fail to entertain. We met a very nice couple with a 40-foot Cruisers and talked with them for a long while. They told us a story about some guys jumping on a stranger's boat in Ego Alley just to take a picture. Um, excuse me, is it okay if I walk into your living room to take a picture? No? That's what I thought.

A short while after that story, some Annapolis friends drove to meet us and enjoyed ice cream on the bow of our boat (while we were still at Pusser's). The Cruisers couple leaned over and said, "You know there's a bunch of people on your boat, right?" "Oh, yes, they are friends of ours," I replied. I love how boat people look out for each other.

Check out these big boats in town:
"Fighting Irish"
We spend time in Stan and Joe's Saloon and Galway Bay before snagging pizza at Mangia. Not surprisingly, the city was pretty quiet that Sunday evening but we had a fantastic time.

Upon returning to Baltimore, we weren't ready to leave the outdoor boating lifestyle. So, off we went to Woody's Rum Bar for lunch. Try the fish tacos - they are delish.

That's all for now. I promise to be more prompt in posting our next trip.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day and a National Treasure

Labor Day - the unofficial end of summer. School is back in session, the days are markedly shorter, the weather starts to cool, and every boater I know makes every effort to take advantage of the long weekend. This particular Labor Day weekend was hampered by the threat of bad weather. While it seemed that fewer boats were out, the weather didn't stop us. We left Friday evening and spent the night docked at a friend's shore house on Seneca Creek. We had the best of both worlds - an evening on the boat and a real shower in the morning. Thank you Nancy, Tom, and Linda for your hospitality.

Saturday was the start of our raft up in Sue Creek. Five boats visited at different times during the day and three boats spent the night. But the real treat of the day was this guy:
We are very lucky to have bald eagles that nest on the Bay. We've seen them in both Fairlee and Sue Creeks. I apologize that the picture is little blurry; I had to zoom in a bit to have an effective photo on the blog.

We had a severe thunderstorm warning but the storm skirted around us. All in all, a pleasant day and evening.

Three more boats joined the group for Sunday evening. A wind storm picked up late afternoon and the raft up in front of us broke loose.
They were originally facing toward us.
At first it seemed like they were more interested in grilling their dinner than fixing the problem. Their bow anchors were still holding so our boats weren't in danger. After assessing the situation, they were really smart. They slowly broke off into singles or doubles and then reset their anchors at a different spot.
I don't believe I've ever seen two connected boats connect to another raft up before. But it worked. Good for them.

There was one small problem with the wind storm. When it hit, our stern anchor was the only one holding a group of five boats. As soon as the other group broke loose, we added two more stern anchors in order to secure our group. As has been proven before, Sue Creek takes a strong hold of anchors. When the time came to go home, we pulled our dinghy out towards our anchor and tried to pull it up. Normally we can just get straight above the anchor and pull it up with a small amount of effort - no luck that day. It looked like we were going to have to use our boat to pull it loose again. We left the dinghy attached to the anchor line, got a ride back in another dinghy, and broke free from the raft up. To the "dismay" of the rest of our friends, this anchor retrieval was not as "entertaining" as the weekend before July 4th. It came right up and we were on our way.

One last story to tell - I had another first on the boat. I captained the boat as we pulled up to the fuel dock. Not only was I at the helm but there wasn't a dockhand in sight. It was just the two of us. With good coaching from Doug, it was a complete success. I'm continuing to learn.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Just Desserts 2012, Cruise Ship Drama?, and Remnants of a Fire

One of our boating friends plans a dessert weekend every year. Every boat brings a dessert to share and we gorge ourselves on sugar (of course, there is some other food). This year we had the gathering at Good Ol' Fairlee Creek. We arrived a little later than normal on Saturday and Fairlee was already hopping.
This is the line of boats waiting to pull in.
The weather was a little cool for August so I never got in the water. No worries. With so many boats there was always someone to talk to.

After dinner, the desserts came out. Silly me, I forgot to take a picture of the spread (maybe I was too excited about the treats?). We made Bananas Foster to share. Yes, you can make this delectable dessert on a boat. Here's the trick: Put a pan on your grill. Melt butter. Add brown sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Slice up bananas into the mixture. Add banana liquer. Cook a couple minutes. Add 151 rum and carefully light on fire. Wait until the fire goes out and pour over ice cream.

There was apple pie, rum balls, pineapple upside down cupcakes, Berger cookies...

I had a couple boating firsts on Sunday. Five boats from the middle of our raft up left early afternoon on Sunday. We were the only boat on one side so we pulled off to let them loose. I captained the boat as we rafted back up with our friends. (Normally, I'm the one handling the lines as Doug does captaining duties.) It wasn't pretty, but I successfully got our boat next to the raft up without any damage. I just need more practice.

I also captained the boat as we left Fairlee Creek. The entrance to Fairlee can be tricky. The sandbar seems to constantly change, the current can be swift, and there are always people watching. It was drizzling on Sunday so many boats had already left by the time we headed for home and the current didn't look to rough. All the conditions were right for my first attempt. Another happy success!

With ended up with two more adventures on Sunday. A Carnival cruise ship was leaving port as we were entering Baltimore.
This is a pretty regular sight so we didn't think anything of it until this boat came flying towards us.
It's a little freaky to be approached by a boat with a man on the bow with a very large gun. We figured we would be boarded but they simply told us to stay a certain distance from the cruise ship and then sped off to talk to the boat behind us. Phew!

It appears that there WAS something special about this cruise ship. Has there been a recent threat against cruise ships? Or was someone very important on this particular ship?
I know it's just an illusion from this vantage point but I'm still amazed that they fit under the Key Bridge.
When we got back to our marina we had a surprising sight.
I'm not sure how we didn't notice the burnt dock as we were leaving on Saturday, but a boat caught fire on a few slips down from ours on Wednesday night (articles here and here). We've heard through other boaters that the fire may have been started by a faulty power strip. Or, it had something to do with work they were doing on the boat. Either way, I'm glad no one was hurt and all other boats were saved. Just imagine what could happen with a fire and that much fuel.

As always, just another adventurous day in paradise.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Kids and Kayaks

I must first apologize for not posting anything recently. Remember those shiny new outboards? Well, they needed to be serviced after 20 hours of use and that just happened to fall in the middle of boating season. We were out of the water for a couple of weeks.
We took my niece (age 12) and nephew (age 15) on an overnight trip this past Saturday and Sunday. We anchored in Sue Creek - site of the infamous derecho storm - with a few other boats. No storms this time. Just good ole fun in the sun. But what do a 12 and 15-year-old do on a boat for 24 hours? Adults relish the relaxation time. We float in the water with a beer in hand and not a care in the world. Teenagers need to do stuff. So, when they weren't busy texting their friends, they were using the inflatable kayak or our friend's paddle board.
We bought the kayak years ago. It served as our dinghy before we bought a zodiac. It's a Sea Eagle and it is rated for white water. When it's deflated it is a nice compact roll that we are able to store under the seats. The oars come apart into two pieces for easy storage. And it blows up relatively quickly. Poor Doug, I had gone downstairs to get the camera Sunday morning to take a picture of the kayak for the blog. I had failed to tell Doug what I was doing and he pulled the kayak out of the water to deflate it for the ride home. It was mostly deflated when I came back up top but he kindly re-inflated it for me.

The wind picked up on the ride home Sunday. I estimate that the waves were 4-5 feet. We felt like we were in a trawler because we couldn't go over 8 knots for about an hour. We still got wet when the bow went right into a wave. But we made it home safely and we are ready for our next adventure.

Monday, July 9, 2012

We Have You Surrounded

Oh, Fairlee Creek. You never cease to amaze me. We have seen our fair share of drifting boats, beached sailboats, beached powerboats, water gun fights and upside down sailboats, but this weekend may have topped them all.

Doug and I and two friends ventured to Fairlee Creek (Mears Great Oak Landing) this past weekend for their Saturday fireworks display. As usual, we got there early and set our anchors. Has anyone else noticed that having both a bow and a stern anchor seems to be the norm now? I'm fine with it. It should make everyone more secure in their spot.

The marina had bouys out marking a safety distance for the evening display:
Everything started off nice and calm. We swam, we visited Jellyfish Joel's for frozen concoctions, and we watched the Creek quickly fill up with boats. There was also a smart businessman offering ice, ice cream, and trash collection:
We were next to a boat that was having a good time with their slide and advertising a wet t-shirt contest.

Unfortunately, for many people, the fun stopped around 7pm. Here is a quick rundown of the events with my best estimation of time. Pictures can be found at the bottom of the list of events.
  • 7pm - The boat next to us (Bodacious) breaks free from both of its anchors. No one on the boat seems to notice.
  • Bodacious starts drifting in the current towards a raft-up of 6-7 boats. The people on those boats notice the issue and start yelling over to the captain to catch his attention.
  • The captain of the Bodacious attempts evasive action but it is too late.
  • Crunch! Anchor lines are cut and there is a tangle of boats. Unkind words are exchanged between people on all boats involved. We learned later that the captain of Bodacious claimed to have more boating experience than anyone else there. We all make mistakes, but if you have so much experience why did this happen?
  • DNR and the Coast Guard show up to supervise the detangling.
  • 8-8:30pm - All boats are detangled. It appears that there is minimal damage to all boats involved. Bodacious sets up anchor again in their original spot. The Natural Resource Police pull up to Bodacious and the captain gets off to talk to them.
  • 9:15pm - The fireworks start.
  • In the middle of the fireworks display, Bodacious pulls up their anchor. Everyone assumes they are going to leave the area. Instead, they hang out in the channel for the rest of the show. Again, we assume they will leave as soon as the entry/exit to Fairlee Creek is reopened after the fireworks.
  • 9:30pm - The fireworks end and Bodacious returns to their anchorage spot. No one is happy to see them return. I'm starting to get nervous because I'm not sure I can sleep with this boat next to us. Our anchors seem secure and it is much too late to try to reset.
  • Another boat pulls up to Bodacious to take passengers to shore. This is when it gets interesting.
  • Three Coast Guard boats immediately surround Bodacious. "We have you surrounded!" They instruct everyone on the "taxi" boat to get back onto Bodacious.
  • 10pm - Three Coast Guardmen board Bodacious and do a full count of passengers and search of the boat.
  • 10:30pm - Three more Coast Guardmen board Bodacious. One of them has a large rifle.
  • 11pm - All Coast Guard leave Bodacious. Passengers start disembarking in groups
  • 12 midnight - Only four people are left on Bodacious. They pull up anchor and move further back into the creek.
Starting to drift.
Crunch #1.
In the clear?
Coming in for another hit.
Crunch #2.
Crunch #3. The people on the water had joined the party from another boat and decided it was time to leave.
The captain is on the Natural Resources Police boat, however, the NRP boat is still in gear and almost causes Bodacious to hit another boat.
Doug takes the zodiac to help the raft-up reset their anchors.
So, here are my questions: Was the captain ticketed for something? I really hope so. I know that we all make mistakes but when you cause a car accident you receive a ticket. Why did the Coast Guard wait until after the fireworks (at least an hour after the incident) to board the boat? Were they waiting for back-up? Or did they finally board for another reason?

After all the drama, we were able to enjoy the rest of the evening and returned to Baltimore on Sunday. As an added bonus, the sunset and the fireworks were absolutely amazing! The fireworks were huge and were going off right over us. Great show Fairlee!