Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Escape from the Bog of Eternal Stench

First the good news...

We had a great Memorial Day Weekend. We left Saturday morning to anchor with friends across from Parkside Marina. My regular readers may recall that this is one of our usual haunts (see Kaleigh's Beach and Just Desserts Weekend). It's nice and calm, plus it has a sandy bottom, all of which makes it a perfect place to anchor.

The highlight for many people was our friends' new stand-up paddle board. Considering that storage space on a boat is hard to come by, it's great that this paddle board is inflatable. Almost everyone there took a turn. And, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that the girls were the first ones to paddle all the way to the marina and back. When it wasn't being used for its original purpose, people were using it as a makeshift bar. It's big enough for 6 to 8 people to stand around it and have a place to put their drinks.
It was just Doug and I on our boat Saturday night so we made ourselves a good dinner. We have figured out easy ways to have a full meal while onboard. Doug grilled a pork loin. We also opened a can of baked beans and a can of corn and put them on the grill to heat up. (Note: If you do this, take the wrapper off the can so it doesn't catch fire.) Then, to top it off, Doug put a few sprigs of thyme directly on the grill. New friends from the weekend saw all of this and decided that Doug and I "like to dine." That is completely true, but we really saw this meal as upscale camping food.
Two friends came to join us Sunday morning through Monday. This is why it was important to have the dinghy prepped for the weekend. Our friends drove to Parkside in their car and then we picked them up at the marina in our dinghy. I've also started running so Annie and I went for a 4 mile run when they arrived. Doug was a good sport as he taxied people back and forth to pick up visitors or get bags of ice. We spent years without a dinghy and had to depend on others for help - this is our way of paying back.

Boats came and went throughout the weekend but we had a core group that stayed Saturday-Monday. I believe our largest number in this raftup was 11 boats. All in all, a great weekend of swimming, sunning, and socializing.

Now the bad news...

Baltimore stinks! Literally! Blame the mahogany tide or the sewage spill a few months ago, but it looks and smells disgusting.
This is a slip in our marina. Algae, trash, dead fish, and possibly unmentionables are gathering in empty slips.
I love Baltimore. I love my marina. I have spent many nights sitting on my boat in my slip enjoying a peaceful evening. That would not have been possible this weekend. I've seen fish kills in Baltimore before but this is much worse than previous algae blooms. We were a little worried when we saw dead fish at the cut through to Hart-Miller Island. Luckily, Middle River was spared from this issue and was completely swimmable and pleasant. I really hope the water clears up before the Star-Spangled Sailabration in a few weeks. I wish the Waterfront Partnership lots of luck (and I promise to do my part) in their quest to make the Inner Harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Prepping the Dinghy

A dinghy became a requirement once we started anchoring out on the boat. We have a four person Typhoon that rides on a Hurley Davit on the swim platform. It's great for sightseeing and getting to shore (aka a bar or restaurant).
This is from last year when we left the dinghy at the dock when the boat was being serviced.
We spent some time this week getting the dinghy motor ready for the season. We bring it home to work on it because we don't want to risk spilling any oil into the water. I think Doug has rigged up quite a system for the work:
After running it for a few minutes to warm up, we poured out the old oil. I like Doug's analogy about why we heat up the oil - think about how easy it is to pour caramel when it's warm. If only oil was as tasty as caramel instead of a greasy mess. Since we were working on this after a long day in the office, we left the second stage for day two.

Somehow I got put in charge of pouring the new oil into the motor. Phew! Didn't spill.
After adding new oil (both the upper and lower units), it was time to run it again. Old trashcans full of water are perfect for this task.
We are officially ready for the season!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

St. Michaels Running Festival

Running, drinks, and sunshine - a fantastic first overnight boat trip of the season.
I'm smiling because I'm close to the finish line.

A couple of friends signed up for the half marathon in the St. Michaels First Annual Running Festival. I don't have their endurance yet (hopefully "yet" is the key word there), so I signed up for the 5K and we decided to make a weekend of it. St. Michaels is beautiful and flat, therefore, a perfect place for me to run and I'm hoping to go back for the festival next year. It was obvious that this was their first running festival - even to an inexperienced runner like me - but I think they will learn from their minor mistakes this year and have an even better event next year. I wish I could take the boat to my 10K in a few weeks.

We had a special treat at the beginning of our trip. The Lady Maryland was out sailing near the Key Bridge. My husband spent some time on this boat when he was in school so he always gets excited when he sees it.

The trip from Baltimore to St. Michaels is just under 2 hours. At least it is for us because we don't have to worry about the drawbridge schedule in Kent Narrows - I've found conflicting reports about when it opens. Some say only on the half hour and hour. Some say it can open more often if you hail the bridge operator. Anybody know which is correct? - Lucky for us we fit underneath the bridge. Even still, the few seconds under the bridge can be tricky. The current through the Narrows is strong so my advice is to be aware as you navigate under the bridge.

We normally stay at the St. Michaels Marina because it's on the town side of the water. Two of our friends and their dog were staying at the St. Michaels Harbour Inn so we reserved a slip in their marina. Our slip backed up to the hotel and our friends' room was right behind the decorative lighthouse in this photo:
St. Michaels is a small town so you can walk to restaurants, shops, and bars from just about anywhere, but I still prefer the convenience of St. Michaels Marina. However, for this particular trip, the Harbour Inn Marina was closest to the running festival - definitely a plus for the long distance runners in our group at the end of their race. And whoever owns this marina must be a fan of the ACC:
It's hard to see in this photo but those are all ACC flags.
After the races on Saturday we found a great new little restaurant. Gina's Cafe is uniquely decorated and pescatarian friendly. The tuna tacos with asian slaw were yummy. Gina also makes a mean margarita. With only five two-top tables and room for six at the bar, the place is tiny, but we all enjoyed our lunch. They've been open since December and I wish them luck.
No trip to St. Michaels is complete without a drink or two at Foxy's. The three runners in the group had only a beer or two on Friday and we were all ready for a good island drink. I don't drink many frozen concoctions but the dirty banana is perfect for a sunny day by the water.

Our tour of St. Michaels continued at the St. Michaels Winery. They have a brand new bright and airy tasting room. With over 20 wines there is something for everyone. It may sound really strange but I recommend trying their Chocolate Zinfandel (and that's coming from someone who doesn't like sweet wines).
We were very excited to discover that St. Michaels now has a brewery. The Eastern Shore Brewery is right next door to the winery. I only had a chance to try one of their beers so I guess I need to go back to St. Michaels soon.
If I haven't convinced you to visit St. Michaels yet, here are a couple more photos:
Even the dogs get their own bar.
Cold beer, crab dip, AND FLUFFY WAFFLES? What more could you want?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bans on Boat Gatherings

There has been a lot of recent talk in Maryland about safety when a group of boats gathers together. Unfortunately, it seems that a few bad eggs are causing trouble for those of us who are safe on the water. Legislation has now been passed that restricts the number of boats that can gather without a permit. It appears that most of the complaints (and reasons for the new law) are related to Bumper Bash. People get drunk, get into fights, and trespass on private property. We attended the festivities for the first time last year and had a great time (we did not get into any fights or trespass, we just enjoyed the sun). Also, Bumper Bash is not all about drunken partying. Last year, money was raised through t-shirt sales and donations for Special Olympics. Because of the new laws, Bumper Bash 2012 has officially been canceled. Many people are talking about gathering behind Dobbins Island anyway but we don't plan to attend.

Canal Days has now been drawn into the mix. If more than 100 boats gather in the Chesapeake City basin on June 30, the DNR is vowing to break up the gathering. I'm starting to wonder how far the law is going to reach?

On any given weekend there are hundreds of boats rafted up behind Hart-Miller Island or in Fairlee Creek. We raft up with friends for most of our weekend trips. Rafting up gives us an opportunity to get away from it all. There is no house work. There is no Internet (at least for those of us without Smart phones). It's just the simple joy of relaxing on the water with a group of friends. And, to be honest, the fact that it is free is a big draw. We simply can't afford to pay to visit a marina every weekend. For Independence Day 2011, we met up with friends in Sue Creek. As more and more boats entered the creek we realized it would be best to attach our raft up to the group next to us. We did this for safety and the protection of property. By being hooked together we didn't have to worry about boats slamming together. At last count, there were 32 boats rafted up together. Should we be concerned if that happens this year? Is the idea of anchoring going to be threatened by this new law?

I applaud lawmakers and the DNR for trying to keep everyone safe. I just hope it doesn't affect my enjoyment of summer on the water.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Launch Weekend

Luv'n Life III is finally in the water. We picked her up in Pasadena on Saturday morning and brought her home. I can't tell you how excited I was to see our marina from the water.
We normally get the boat in the water by mid-April. So, what took so long this year? Well, to make a very long story short, we had to replace our outdrives (no, we didn't hit something). We went from the Volvo Ocean Series to Volvo OceanX drives. Look everybody, Doug bought me something shiny! (That's for all my girlfriends who laugh because I would rather go on trips than receive jewelry.)
It was the perfect weekend for a boat launch: sunny, warm, and windless. We have spent many of our first trips wearing sweatshirts while huddled under blankets. It was fantastic to make this trip in a t-shirt and jeans. With no wind, the trip was extremely smooth. Who can complain about calm waters like this:

As my boating friends know, getting the boat back for the season isn't like buying a new car. When you buy a car, they wash it and it has that fantastic new car smell. Nope, our boat was D I R T Y. When we pulled into the slip our boat neighbor asked if she had been in a field all summer. Saturday was spent washing, cleaning, and scrubbing. By the end of the day our boat neighbor stated that she "looks like your boat again."

Sunday was spent waxing. We do consider the boat our "baby" so it actually makes sense for us to spend Mother's Day working on it. There's even proof that I assisted with the waxing process.

It's easier when the boat is out of the water but we didn't have that option this year. Instead, we spent hours trying not to get our feet in the Baltimore water. We love, love, love living in this city but the harbor water lacks a certain....ummm.....cleanliness. Read my past posts on litter and floating wetlands to learn about clean-up efforts.

Looking forward to a fabulous summer!