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CRUISES, MAINLY IN THE BAY
OF THE CHESAPEAKE.
R. Barrie & G. Barrie


 

THE CHESAPEAKE AGAIN
Robert Barrie

O wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
     -- Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The wind that blows
Is all that anybody knows.
     -- Henry David Thoreau.

OUR second dash to the Chesapeake did not cover quite so much of the Bay as that described in the preceding chapter, but we saw more of it in out-of-the-way places, and what we saw increased our liking for it as a cruising ground. We came back more enthusiastic about it than ever, vowing that we would go again in the fall and there and then become peaceful outlaws, cheerful hermits, Omoos, Typees, or some such people; at any rate forswear work and shore clothes, and live in old ones, and abhor money for the balance of our lives.

A charm of the Chesapeake, aside from the clear sparkling waters, the beautiful scenery, and the accompanying fat of the land, seems to be the immaterial one of association. The Bay has a history: a cheerful one of days of ease and plenty, slightly salted with war and adventure. Relics of both are yet to be found; but sad to relate, those of war and adventure are rapidly disappearing. The days seem still to be all of ease in a great many cases, and the plenty, so far as game, fish, and fowl are concerned, remains. On the banks of the River Wye we found a relic of the quintessence of luxury of colonial days in the home of the first yachtsman, at any rate, the first so far as the unofficial world is concerned in America. Opposite our club house in the Delaware River is Little Tinicum Island, which, history says, was given by the Swedish Governor Printz to the keeper of his yacht. The Maryland yachtsman was Edward Lloyd, Esquire, of Wye House; but of him anon.

To begin at the beginning of the log. We went down to the club on a June Sunday afternoon and slept the deep sleep of the free until daylight; then we got our naphtha launch and towed the ship in to the beach, where the mate and the hand scrubbed her off, while the skipper went to town for the finishing touches to the stores. On returning he found her sporting a fine new green petticoat, and alongside the pier filling tanks from the hose, the decks covered with boxes; one really innocent one being branded "Scotch Whiskey," so the whole fleet of rocking-chair skippers wanted to go with us. After bending mizzen we towed out to mooring.

Mona was improved this year for cruising purposes by removing the twenty-four-inch deep lead keel and placing ballast inside, so that she now draws only five feet four inches. She is not quite so stiff, especially as she has a ton less than before, but she is drier in a seaway, and sticks as soon as she gets to her bearings. We rigged her as a ketch, and found it a most handy and safe rig; in many ways superior to the yawl.

After breakfast, Tuesday morning, we started down with the tide, wind very light, but with our new paint slipped along pretty well until off Wilmington, where air died out completely and we had to anchor for several hours. Loafed about until about five o'clock, when the usual afternoon thunder squalls came along. As we were south of the center of it we up anchor and scudded down to Delaware City, where we anchored for the night.

Next morning we warped into the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal, but as it has already been described, we need only say that with an easterly breeze in very hot weather it is better not to go through in the middle of the day. We had up the awning, which made things pleasanter, but as the awning doesn't extend aft of the mizzen, had to expend a great deal of ingenuity rigging tiller lines that reached to the shade. The only excitement was the knocking overboard of the iron mizzen boom crotch which we fished up with a long boathook.

At Chesapeake City we fortunately came out of the lock just as the usual afternoon down trip of the tow was starting, and by quick work got a line to the last schooner. As we were going down Back Creek the thunderstorms began, and we put on oilskins and sou'westers. It was well we did, for the rain came down heavily and steadily for two hours. We anchored in the midst of rain as hard as ever I had seen in the tropics; so hard that from each scupper came a stream like from a hose. It rained off and on all night, but we had the awning tent-like over the boom, and so were quite comfortable below. We afterwards saw that the papers commented on the unusually heavy rain. Luckily for us it seemed to have rained the heavens clear, for we afterwards had fine weather.

After a swim and breakfast, Wednesday, we left the upper Elk, and beat down against tide; air very light. Off mouth of Cabin John's Creek began lunch, and after a few more boards were compelled to anchor for lack of wind. We let go in two fathoms in the cove above Wroth's Point, just opposite Turkey Point light. The bottom is hard and sticky, a fine holding ground, but very exposed; so, although it was late in the day, we took advantage of a spanking breeze that came up to run over to Havre de Grace. As we rounded Spesutie Island we noticed a bugeye following us, and as the channel on chart looked very narrow, we took in jib topsail to wait to get a lead. Much to our surprise, we had to let gaff sails flow before the bugeye was able to catch up. We held him all the way up, and felt that we were doing very well with a little rig. Anchored just above the lighthouse, and after dinner inspected one of the many scows which are used here for shooting on the Susquehanna Flats. These flats go almost dry at low water, and show about fifteen square miles of weed.

We rather liked Havre de Grace. It has some quaint buildings, but is dead except for the canning and shooting. Next day, after getting telegrams, ice, and vegetables, we ran out about noon with a light northerly air; met the southwest breeze at Sandy Point, ran over to the Eastern Shore, beat down to the Sassafras River, stood out to Howell's Point, and just as we rounded met a Philadelphia yacht, the Mull. We set our code number and she dipped her ensign. At sunset we anchored in Still Pond Harbor. After dinner we rowed up to where Still Pond Creek should be, but in the twilight could not find it. Rowed along the beach, and, as the moonlight became stronger, finally did find the gap in the beach where the creek was pouring out at the rate of several miles an hour. We rowed in and found a weird, dismal place, that looked as though it should be full of alligators; the dead trees, the croaking of the frogs, and the shadows of the moonlight had a depressing effect, and we turned and fled. The place gets its name from the fact that the water is so often still. This is probably caused by oil springs up the creek.

 




CANOE PARTY ON THE MILES RIVER.



THE ROBERT E. CENTRE AND THE GLOUCESTER, NAVAL ACADEMY.


Saturday morning was cheerful, cool, and pleasant, while a westerly breeze carried us down past Worton's Point and along the Tolchester Beach stretch to Swan Point. Here we couldn't find red buoy No.22, although the air died away and it was slack water. We looked in every direction, and finally when the breeze did come from the southwest we had to give up the job. We started off with the hopes of making Annapolis, but the flood began to make, and the best we could do was the Magothy River; commonly pronounced "Maggoty" River. The tide swept us in past Persimmon Point in fine style, and we anchored early in the mouth of Deep Creek, just north of the tide gauge. Had a ramble on shore in the afternoon, found the clearest, strongest, and most picturesque spring we had ever seen, and wished it near enough to the creek to be able to fill tanks; not that they needed it, but because we admired the spring so much. Back to the boat with plunder of chickens and milk, and after dinner sat on deck admiring the sunset and taking great interest in the big fleet of bugeyes that came in for the night. Our fifty-five-foot friend from Havre de Grace was among them.

Next morning the clanking of chain and slatting of sails awoke us about six o'clock, and as there was a fine north-northwest breeze we immediately joined the concert, and were soon slipping out with the fleet. In the Bay we found a regular fleet of schooners running wing-and-wing. Immediately after breakfast we followed suit, and were soon over the twenty miles to Bloody Point Bar light, on the south end of Kent Island; here we got the wind on the beam, set balloon staysail, and had a most glorious bit of sailing across Eastern Bay; when we got over, however, we had to pinch up, the wind came out more ahead, and the tide was strong ebb; we managed to keep the tide on the lee bow, however, and the old boat did wonders, and we were up at Tilghman's Point buoy before others who had been ahead of us. The run into St. Michael's was easy, and we anchored close to the town just before noon. While at dinner we had a visit from the ice man, who shocked us with the sad news that ice, being artificial and imported, was ninety cents per hundred.

St. Michael's is a clean, out-of-the-world place; the white oyster shell streets fringed with grass giving a look like Holland. The harbor is very cozy, and little oystermen's houses huddle close about it. There is, of course, a ship railway. It is owned by a courteous gentleman of the old school, who in a kindly way gave us much interesting information in reference to the history of the town and surrounding country. One rather amusing incident he related, told how the inhabitants, on the approach of a British expedition in 1812, fooled their cousins by darkening their houses and hanging lanterns in the treetops, and so inducing the gunners to overshoot the mark. The wily townsmen managed to beat off a landing party at dawn with the aid of a couple of guns charged with nails. There is a British cannonball on exhibition at Royal Oak, the next town back, but we could not learn if it had been shot or carried there.

St. Michael's has quite an atmosphere of the sea about it; many of its sons have had places of rank in the navy; many of the old men have been captains in the merchant service, and we were anchored opposite a house in which a navy purser had lived for forty years. The fact that the house has never been painted is a sad commentary on the ingratitude of republics.

On Monday, after provisioning, we started with the idea of circumnavigating Wye Island, having been advised that on the Wye we would find the finest scenery in Maryland, and the oldest and best houses on the Eastern Shore. We heard some discussion among the natives as to whether or not the drawbridge at the head of the island was in working order; but as the latest advices were about a month old, the sense of the meeting was that it must be by now working, so we started out past Deep Water Point with a fine breeze, past Herring Island, and were soon in the Wye.

It is a wonderfully pretty English-like river, very narrow, with trees down to the water's edge; very deep, three or four fathoms in the center, ten feet right up to the banks and no middle grounds. It seemed curious to be taking Mona up this placid stream, which so very much resembled the Upper Thames, and until we had tested the accuracy of the chart on several reaches we felt rather nervous. But the chart was faultless, indeed, the whole of the work for the Eastern Bay Section is a triumph of the chartmaker's art, and we never touched all the way up.

Just after entering the Front Wye, we saw Wye House, famous as being typical of all that was grand and gorgeous on the Eastern Shore, or indeed, of all of Colonial Maryland. The lands have been in the possession of the family for generations, in fact, seven Edward Lloyds have, in succession, been the owners, and in the zenith of their glory are said to have owned a thousand slaves. It was probably at that period that one of the Lloyds, who seems to have been a yachtsman of the first water, wrote to his London agent

"Be pleased to send me a Complete Sett of American Colours, for a Pleasure-Boat of about 60 Tons burthen. Ensign and Pennant with 15 stripes; my arms painted thereon, the Field azure, the Lion Gold; let these Colours be Full-sized. Six Brass Guns, with hammers screws, &c complete, to fix on Swivels, and to act in such manner as to give the greatest report, with the letters E. Ll. thereon; fitted to fire with Locks."

This fine old place lost two wings and a lot of furnishings by fire during the War of 1812, but is still the great show place of the country.

Swinging past Lloyd's Cove we turned sharply to port as per chart, but the river ahead looked so narrow we could hardly believe we were following the proper branch, so anchored and went ashore at a lovely place to get posted on the subject. It was Presq'ile on Wye, the home of Charles Sydney Winder, who received us in shirt sleeves and with offers of drinks, and gave us a lot of information about the Wye.

Back on board and turned the boat on her heel by backing mizzen to starboard and jib to port, and slipped up the little river with a fresh southwest breeze. It was a unique experience, and we were sorry when we arrived at the sort of crossroads formed by the junction of Skipton Creek and the two Wyes. Here we anchored and rowed up to Wye Landing, where we found chickens, ice, milk, and one of the old brick tobacco houses with barred windows, which used to act as the banks of the country.

We were told that the new drawbridge, built about a mile and a half west of the old Paca Bridge, was in order, so we up anchor in the face of a thunderstorm, and moved along under jib and mizzen; setting the awning low like a tent, so that we could keep open skylight and hatch in spite of the rain. We had a few puffs, but just as we got between the piers of the deserted bridge the wind left us, and we concluded to tie up, and did so.

 




GRANERY CREEK, WYE RIVER.



FISHERMEN'S HOUSES, ST. MICHAEL'S.


 

We were right in the old draw, and it made a snug place to pass the heavy storm that soon broke. In twenty minutes it was over and the sun shining so that the mate, although there was still a little rain, was able to go over to the other pier and photograph the ship.

 




AFTER THE SQUALL.
MONA IN THE OLD DRAWBRIDGE, WYE RIVER, 1898.

Much to our disgust, after successfully getting through the Narrows, we found the draw was hopelessly out of order, and could not be moved, so we anchored and dined in the most romantic out-of-the-way spot imaginable. The night was lovely; moon full, and we put up the riding light as a joke; it was so cool, too, that at night we each needed two blankets.

Next morning, Tuesday, we had strong northwest wind, and to our delight were able to sail out almost as well as we went in, having to pinch up only in a couple of reaches. Just at breakfast we reached the rebuilt Paca House, owned by the descendants of the signer of the Declaration of Independence, so had the second cup of coffee on deck as we passed. Saw quite a number of ducks, which seemed to be butterballs. Opposite Bruff's Island, as we were coming out of the Front Wye, we went ashore on a sandy bar, but soon slipped off into deep water. We ran over to St. Michael's again for ice and provender, and in the evening went down to Tilghman's Point, where we anchored for the night. On our run in we had seen a large turtle, fully five feet long, occasionally rising at this point, and we seemed to hear him this night; but it might have been schools of fish.

On Wednesday we made a fine run under spinnaker to Annapolis, wind southeast, and rapidly growing stronger. We did not stop at Annapolis, but ran up the Severn, through two drawbridges, to Round Bay. There we met a sand schooner, whose skipper, in reply to our hail, asking when it was ebb, said it was ebbing then. We concluded, therefore, although the wind was dead ahead, and very strong, to try to beat back, and followed the schooner down.

It was exciting work; as the banks of the Severn are quite high, the puffs from the strong southeast wind out of the gullies were vicious, and the boards were of course very short; sometimes we simply held the head sheets around the cleats. After six miles of this sort of thing we shot the draw of the railway bridge, having to luff as we did so. It then seemed that we made very poor headway for a fair tide.

The next draw works so hard that the men do not open it all the way if they can entice the unwary seaman into trying to dodge through. With the strong wind and little headway, our friend the sand schooner was seduced into trying before the draw was properly open, and luffing hard up he shot into the draw, but did not quite clear, and tore away his port quarter davit and part of his rail as he fouled the lee pier, but he got away. We were following him so closely that we were inside the piers leading into the draw before we saw that he was going to foul, and in the effort to kill Mona's headway, to avoid running into him if he should be held, we drifted against the lee one. If we had not been told the tide was ebbing we would have pushed back Mona and made another trial, but, under the impression that we had a fair tide, although a strong headwind, all hands pushed forward and out of the draw. Just as we cleared the end I noticed that the tide was still running in strong; it caught us, and threw Mona across the end of the piling, where we began to batter away at a heartbreaking rate. We soon lost part of the cap of the rail and the spreader, and if we had not had out two large cork gangway fenders we would have lost a lot more.

The sea was so bad we could not stand on deck as she thumped, and as some of the bridge timbers were rather rotten, there was soon a litter of kindling wood all over the deck. With sails let go by the run, and halyards in every sort of tangle, we looked a complete wreck, and if we had not soon got out the sixty-five pound kedge and the forty fathom of cable, I have no doubt we would soon have been pretty well broken up. Although there an hour, Mona never started a seam, but we lost most of our white paint. With the kedge we hauled off as far as we thought safe, and then dropped the large anchor and chain; as ill luck would have it this had fouled, although we were as careful as possible, and when the kedge came in we again drifted back against the bridge.

By this time we had plenty of spectators, and there happened along in a buggy one of the Naval Academy professors, who told us to set inverted ensign at half-mast, saying that one of the powerful Academy launches would come over and help us off. After enthusiastic thanks on our part he drove over towards Annapolis, stating he would send over a launch at once if one had not already started by the time he arrived. Our ensign at half-mast stood out like a tin one until sundown, but no launch came. It was the first time in eighteen years of boat sailing it had ever done so over any boat of mine, and I was delighted to haul it down when, at a second trial, with the help of the bridge tender and two other men, we got the kedge out and it held, and we were soon riding clear.

But we were still in a very dangerous position, the strong southeast wind was getting harder, and although we had both anchors down, we might drag the hundred and fifty feet between us and the bridge at any moment, and in the night that would have ended the boat, stout as she was, for we would have been too shorthanded to do anything to save her; so about eight o'clock, when the tide had turned, with the help of two bridge tenders, we got in large anchor, set the jib in stops, then the mainsail, and by a lucky sheer went on our way rejoicing. It was dark and blowing a summer gale, so we were glad to have the two extra hands as we beat down past the point and around into the harbor. The sea was high and hollow, but the boat behaved splendidly, and under the small sail plan was comfortable and worked to perfection.

All next day it blew a gale. Heller, of Eastport, made us a new spreader and repaired about ten feet of rail very successfully. We took advantage of the delay to have a new baby-jibtopsail made, and photographed, provisioned, and antiquarianized to our hearts' content. After sundown we noticed the Eastport lifeboat putting out, and soon discovered that a bay boat of about forty feet, capsized, was washing in from the Roads. The lifeboat picked up the men, and setting her stumpy little sails, made a line fast to the wreck and towed it into the harbor. That night the harbor was crowded with bugeyes. We had all been putting out chain in the extra hard gusts of the afternoon, and it looked so wicked, and there were such a lot of boats to windward of us, and such a hard seawall at the Academy grounds behind us, that we were delighted when, about midnight, a heavy cold squall came out of the northwest and made us the weather boat and under a good lee.

The wind changed with that squall and blew almost just as hard all day Friday from the northwest, but the day was cool and cloudless, so we had a delightful rest. The Flirt, little cat yawl, belonging to a friend, put out, southbound; she had tried it the morning before, but came back in a hurry, looking half-drowned.




BEFORE THE MAST, MONA.



QUARTERDECK, MONA.


By Saturday the wind had gone down, but still from northwest. We were up at daybreak, and soon making a short cut across the shoals from the lighthouse to Hackett's Point, having cantaloupes and coffee meanwhile. We were soon up to Sandy Point, and getting from under the lee, began to bowl along; cooking was hard work, and the boy came aft and said he would like to borrow the chafing dishes, as he thought he could prop them up to leeward; the Primus stove being to port and windward. One of them capsized and he got a great scare. Just then the wind suddenly died out, leaving us off Love Point Light, the north end of Kent Island, marking the entrance to Chester River on the Eastern Shore. With a feeble air we worked in and down behind Love Point about two miles, and anchored off Kent Landing, just south of the red buoy.

Kent Island is one of the oldest settled parts of the country, and on it are the ruins of the oldest church in Maryland; the Episcopal St. Paul's. We found a man who knew where the ruins were, and something about the country in addition; he was an interesting old fellow, had been a coast survey man, and in the old Palinurus. I asked if he had been in her in 1883-1884 when the survey of the Thimble Islands was made, and it turned out that he had. The Palinurus was a wonderful old tub, looked half as wide as she was long, and covered high with the greenest of old copper; I wonder if she now exists?

Driving down the road that forms a spine for the farms of the island -- there are only four that do not touch the water -- we passed through the village of Kent Island, where we photographed the shingled house, said to be the oldest on the island, inhabited by one "Weston Shoemaker Ash" a cobbler. About a mile to the southwest we came to the site of the old church; a Druid-like grove of ancient oaks on the shore of the Bay, at Broad Creek. It had been burnt down, sad to relate, and nothing remained but heaps of vitrified bricks; most of them had been taken away to build the newer church up in the village, and we plead guilty to further reducing the number by bringing away a couple. After photographing we drove back to the landing, passing on the way, a speciality of the island, some enormous geese, which were so large that, at first glance, they looked like sheep.

 




IN THE CANAL BEHIND THE SEVEN SCHOONERS.



WATERMELON BOATS IN THE LOCK AT CHESAPEAKE CITY.


As we were back early with nothing to do we had an "afternoon sail" in the Chester River; read on deck before and after dinner, and went early to bed.

Just at four o'clock next morning we made sail by moonlight, feeling very weird and spooky the while. As soon as we were under way had coffee and rye bread; the northwest wind meanwhile increasing and swinging, as it had done the day before. We laid our course north northwest from the light for buoy No.22, which we had been absolutely unable to find the week before, and as luck would have it, while we were at breakfast, the boy almost ran over it. The run up was made in pretty fair time, and we anchored off Court House Point, in the Elk River, in time to receive company and have a swim before dinner. Distance run, forty-six miles, as we went out of our way up the Sassafras to Betterton, to inquire about a cousin who was coming down in his launch.

Next morning we had a little excitement catching the tow; the tug had picked up seven schooners and started for Back Creek, she owing no intention of coming near us, so we hurriedly set staysail and mizzen, awning still up, and with the strong breeze managed to get alongside the last schooner and get a line on board. In the canal we made quite a procession, the tug taking us all right through, and we found it more comfortable than mule power. At the Delaware end we had headway enough to shoot up to the head of the line, and managed to lock out with the leaders, two fine schooners, one of which we dropped and the other got away from us off Chester. Arrived at the club house at eight in the evening: pretty good time for a little boat. 

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