AN APRIL DASH
George Barrie, Jr.
Reprinted from The
Yachting & Boating Monthly, London
- Swift pass the days that are yet to come
- Before we may bask in the Summer's sun.
- Now we but dream of those days of yore
- Which we spent along that pine-clad shore.
- Of the pleasant creeks and the snug little coves,
- The whitewashed cabins and the smells from their stove,
- The sparkling dark-blue waters of the Pay,
- On which good old Sol shines through the day.
- Of sitting on deck in the bright moonlight
- Drinking in the beauties of the soft still night.
- Of the juicy roast or the toothsome stew --
- Tarnation I could kick the cat. Couldn't you?
HERETOFORE all our cruises had been made during the summer,
but this year, Bob having been in poor health nearly all winter, we
embarked in April.
The Omoo was only partially in commission, but by
dint of much rustling we had her rigged in a little over half a day.
She is a skipjack, or deadrise, forty-six feet over all, sixteen feet
beam, three feet draft; a native of the Chesapeake; an eyesore to most
yachtsmen, but as one expressed it, "Hell for comfort and strength."
Extremely easy to handle; only a jibheaded mainsail and jib, with a
moderate sized spinnaker. A cabin house twenty-three feet by twelve
allows plenty of space below, and a cockpit seven by five is a great
comfort in bad weather, as compared with a small flush decker, where
one sits in puddles of rain or small streams from the spray. Below
decks the contrast is still greater. The companion enters into the main
cabin, which is nine feet long; forward of this, on each side of the
centerboard, are staterooms, each containing a white enamel bedstead;
then comes a large galley on the starboard side and a toilet room on
the port side. A china closet, large clothes locker, two bunks or
sofas, a swinging table, and a coal stove for heating are all in the
main cabin and yet leave considerable floor space for chairs.
Last spring the Irex had been stripped of her lead
keel and all removable fittings above and below decks. A great many of
these, such as skylights, locker doors, tanks, blocks, and ironmongery
were used on this vessel, built by Charles E. Leatherberry, in Anne
Arundel County, Maryland, during the summer of 1905.
On Saturday afternoon, March 30th, we went to the club both
loaded with many bags and packages. While Bob attended the festivities
at the launching of a friend's new boat, I loaded the ship and also did
considerable of the rigging. That night he slept ashore, being just off
the sick list, but I slept on board, under many blankets, as the fire
did not burn very well.
April Fool's Day, a fine, bright, clear morning, cold enough
to cause thin ice. Bob appeared at six, and by the time the breakfast
bell rang at the club, sails were bent, rigging completed, and all
duffle stowed. On finishing breakfast we hauled out of the basin to the
pier end and filled the tanks.
At exactly nine fifty we cast off: Wind northwest, stiff
breeze, and under all sail, with a fair tide we rattled off the
twenty-two knots to the canal in short order. A.G. accompanied us to
Delaware City, where we were to begin our canal voyage. It was a fine
run, some of the puffs were pretty heavy and the air was sharp enough
to make a dash down to the stove for a few minutes a very pleasant
interlude. At one o'clock we ran up alongside the wharf at the locks,
but on account of this being Sunday, vessels are locked in only before
nine or after five o'clock. After furling sails and straightening up
the deck we went below for lunch, then on deck for a sun bath under the
lee of the cabin house. As the coal was being burned up very rapidly we
each took a bucket and prospected; but on account of the miners' strike
black diamonds were very scarce; we, however, succeeded in getting some
coke, which mixed with our remaining coals lessened our dread of slowly
freezing to death. Just before we locked in at five o'clock our
passenger left us for home, by trolley, and we did not envy him his
cheerless ride. Promptly at five-thirty we began our journey, being
towed behind an empty barge, which, in turn, was behind one of the
canal towing company's tugs. The second lock at St. George's was
reached at six-thirty, after which came the long run to Chesapeake
City, where we tied up in the basin at nine o'clock. Turns were taken
at steering; I wrapped up in a blanket, putting a lantern underneath,
and so kept very comfortable.
THE HOT WATER SYSTEM.
A.G. IN PERSPECTIVE.
SUN BATH AT CANAL LOCK.
CLUB DOCK: BANCROFT AND CASSIDY SUPERINTENDING.
Up at five; just too late to get the tug down Back Creek,
but we nevertheless locked out at once so as to be ready when he came
back. While lying along the siding in the creek we had breakfast, and
just as we finished the tug came up with one schooner. He was not
inclined to take us down, but Bob offered him a little backsheesh, and
at seven o'clock we were getting the full benefit of his cinders.
At eight o'clock we were cast off in the Elk River; sail was
made, and with a fresh northwest wind we were at Turkey Point in an
hour, and were then truly on the Chesapeake. What a beautiful sight
just as you round the light at the mouth of Back Creek and look
straight down the dark-blue Elk, between stretches of forest-clad
hills! The trees not yet being in leaf, the aspect was not as cheerful
as it would have been a month later. I never saw more perfect coloring
than on these self-same trees in November two years before. When
halfway to Howell's Point the wind shifted to north, freshening, with
heavy puffs, and we were one hour in making the seven knots between the
A few miles farther, when off Still Pond, the wind began to
lighten and gradually kept doing so; at the same time shifting to
northeast, until at one-thirty, after passing Swan Point buoy, we set
the spinnaker. Turns were taken at lunch, and the fire below felt very
comfortable, as the air was still cool enough for plenty of clothing
Just below Swan Point we came to the first oystermen, of
whom there are thousands scattered over the Bay from here to the ocean;
this being the nearest to freshwater that the succulent bivalve is
caught. We passed through quite a fleet of canoes, two men in each.
Instead of using tongs, or shafts, they use what are commonly called
"patent tongs"; being broader than the former and operated by a rope
which draws the rakes together and then is used to hoist them; a small
spar with windlass at the foot and a monkey-gaff complete the outfit.
The operation consists of one man lowering the open tongs to the
bottom; then several jerks on the rope bring the jaws together; then
the other man turns the windlass, the tongs come up and the contents
are dumped on the culling board.
A strong ebb tide and the gentle breeze carried us down
fast, and we had a most peaceful run into Annapolis, where we anchored
well up in the harbor at four-forty-five. Soon the odor of roast beef
was wafted from the galley, and a little after six our legs were under
the mahogany. By eight-thirty our heads nodded over our storybooks; the
fire was raked down, a quantity of coal piled on, then a sniff out the
companion way, lights out, and two grunts of satisfaction as we
stretched out on those "real" beds.
Next morning dawned bright and clear with the wind still in
the northeast. Breakfast over, we went ashore to the post office and
provision stores. Three large sacks of coal were ordered from Moss's on
the city dock, and our small tender did not have much freeboard on the
return trip. A terrific struggle ensued to get the three sacks on deck,
my arms being helpless from laughter over Bob's comical remarks, and my
mirth started him laughing, and then our feeling of almost utter lack
of strength set us laughing more than ever. However, they were finally
on board and in the cockpit; two were emptied in boxes, while the third
reposed behind the rudder post.
We next visited Heller's yard, situated on the south side of
the harbor, snuggled into the trees of Eastport, where a bloody battle
was fought in early Colonial days. The peculiar click of the caulking
mallet is heard and the air is ladened with the odor of tar and copper
The owner is an obliging, goodhearted old German, who at one
time was a ship's carpenter. He came to this country shortly after the
Civil War, and the day after he landed was at work in the Annapolis
shipyard, which at that time was on the opposite shore.
During June or July his two railways are very certain to
have two vessels on each. On the larger one will be a schooner and a
small sloop, and on the smaller, two small bugeyes, or perhaps a pair
of skipjacks, one bow and the other stern on; while tied up to the
piles will be a collection of five or six other craft. Some of these
may have just come off the ways and are having rigging set up, or one
may be getting a new bowsprit, and others will be waiting for their
sails, which are being patched up by the sailmaker. On all some kind of
work is going on; to be sure, some of it is done in a leisurely and
casual sort of way, but it is consistent with the weather and the
surroundings. On one or more vessels you will see a topmast staysail
stretched out between the masts, and under it a collection of skippers
who have gathered to smoke, sleep, or yarn over the various happenings
of the last winter. There is the place to get the news from all parts
of the Bay. "Captain Dip was took by the oyster police last Ma'ch," or
"Captain Arlie's pungy, the Mary C., went ashore in the squall of last
Friday evenin' an' the're wreckin' her now." The politics of the
various localities are discussed along with the wheat crop and the
prospects of the watermelon season. If you wish information as to any
harbor or river or the Bay go to Heller's and you are sure to find
someone who can give you all the instructions you need.
On the pier is a shed for keeping ironware and tools, and
another under which small spars can be worked out, a rudder built, or
jobs of that caliber turned out. Further on is the "office" and the
storehouse combined. At the head of the large railway is another shed,
and back of it a building, in the lower part of which is the windlass
and walk around for the horse. In the second story is the sailmaker,
also by the name of Heller, a nephew of the owner of the yard. He can
patch up the most dilapidated of sails or cut out a suit for a bugeye
such as can no other man on the Bay. Sometimes his son works with him,
and once, when I wanted an awning in a hurry, his wife came over to run
the machine. His loft is a great loitering place for us, as in addition
to bits of information and history which he gives forth, there is
always a fine draft, and it is a cool place on the hottest of days;
while the various goings on in the harbor can be seen from the north
door which leads onto the atmosphere. Back of this building is a well
which has the coolest of clear, wholesome water.
At the head of the small railway is another shed, also
containing the walk around, in the upper end of which lumber is stored.
Back of this is the machine shop, where there is a band saw and
circular saw which are driven by a gasoline engine. The large cradle is
hauled out by means of a chain which runs over a sprocket wheel, while
on the small one a rope tackle is used, the hauling part being passed
four or five times around a drum and held by hand; terrible creaks and
groans issue from the shed when boats are being hauled out, and one
would think some huge animal was in the agonizing throes of death.
Next to the shed is a freshwater pond for lumber, and on the
other side of it are more sheds and small buildings.
At times some fine examples of local craft are to be seen
hauled out here, and generally those in the best condition are the
bugeyes. There are also some terrible old boxes so far gone that it is
a wonder they get from river to river. Pumping out in the evening is
the regulation. I once heard an old fellow say that he never turned in
without "sucking" the pump; and notwithstanding this, his schooner
nearly sank one night while alongside a wharf in Baltimore.
While lying there for a month fitting out the Omoo I saw
some queer happenings. One day they hauled out an old round stern
bugeye to be caulked, painted, and have a new planksheer on the port
side amidships. When the old one was taken off the timbers were found
to be gone; so the whole side, from stem to middle and from deck to a
foot below the waterline was ripped off; more timbers were put in,
where space could be found, as she was already nearly solid with them.
The rudder port came out and a new one put in, and a new rudder was
hung. She was on the ways nearly two weeks, and in the meantime a small
sloop which was on with her had dried out until she was like a picket
fence. The harbor was full of boats waiting their turn; others came in,
their skippers looked over the situation and then decided to return
home. The old man was nearly wild between being pestered by captains as
to when he could haul them out and from fear some new rotten place
would be found.
HELLER'S RAILWAY, EASTPORT.
ON THE WAITING LIST AT HELLER'S.
THE GOLDSBOROUGH HOUSE, TRED AVON RIVER.
One of the most amusing episodes was that of a small bugeye
of about forty feet on which were ten or twelve niggers. I could never
get the exact number, as several looked alike and they were never all
on deck at the same time; even at meal time you would think they must
all be there when suddenly a head would appear out of the hatch then
disappear and in a few moments another appear. Some slept in the cabin,
some in the hold, and some wrapped in a sail on deck; one fearfully wet
night I expected to see the latter pretty well bedraggled in the
morning, but they unfolded themselves apparently as dry as toast and
all in a good humor. I never heard them quarrel the whole four or five
days they were there; although the arguments were pretty lively at
times and words were flying from all directions, their principal theme
appeared to be the "cotchin' of oysters"; one evening there was a heavy
discussion on the proper pattern of tongs, another the exact location
where so and so had "cotched" eighteen bushels in one day last winter.
I gave two of them fifty cents for handling some heavy ballast, their
eyes bulged out and they were hardly able to stammer a few words of
A small sloop which lay in close to the railways started
suddenly to leak, and for over a week, the owner, who carried on
desultory fishing during the day, would take long spells at the pump
every evening, after each spell the water was a little higher than at
the end of the spell before; finally, when she was half full, he had
her hauled out and discovered that chunks of caulking were gone. The
experts say that crabs and eels if they find an end of oakum will pull
it out, and in this way a boat which lies in harbor will sometimes
suddenly commence to leak without apparent rhyme or reason.
There are many other railways on the Bay, but I doubt if any
one of them has a repair trade like Heller's. One could spend days
there, and on no two would there be the same collection of vessels.
The boss and his son were both glad to see us, and were
anxious to know how the Omoo behaved, and whether we were pleased with
It was such a beautiful day that we decided to try the walk
to Tolly Point, a distance of about four miles, so lunch was finished
and we landed at the yard once more. Across Eastport to Back Creek,
where we got an old Irishman to ferry us across, as the bridge was
entirely gone. Part of the time we followed a path, then cut across
fields, through barnyards, past nigger cabins, where packs of hounds
would set up a terrible bellowing, asking our way from each person met.
One fat colored woman wanted to know if Bay Ridge (the summer resort on
the point) would be open this year, evidently thinking that we were
prospective proprietors. Finally we found the railroad, now unused, and
we walked the ties for nearly two miles. When we did reach the point,
and stood on the high bluff overlooking the Bay, the magnificent sight
was well worth the laborious journey. The light breeze rippled the dark
blue water, while here and there were calm patches; far out in the Bay
were boats of various rigs slowly drifting along; the afternoon sun
shone brightly on their sails, while close in under the shore were
oyster canoes patiently working toward home.
Kent Island, which opposite here is the eastern shore of the
Bay, stood out very distinctly, the atmosphere being so clear that even
the strip of sand beach could be seen, forming a sharp contrast to the
dark green of the patches of woodland. For sometime we rested our tired
bodies, but the cravings of hunger at last stirred us into making an
effort to get home. The flow of conversation on the return trip was
extremely light, and the last mile or so was gone over with a silent
dogged perseverance. Finally, when the creek was reached, we sat down
at the water's edge waiting for our Irish friend to appear and ferry us
across; once on board Bob lay down for a short nap, while the duties of
the culinary department occupied my attention, but as the Frenchwoman
said, I was "friend of chair." In the evening I went ashore for a short
time to visit a friend, but such a quantity of fresh air and so much
unusual exercise made me soon return on board.
Up at five-thirty. On arising the first duty is to rake the
fire well, open the draft and shovel on more coal, then the cornbread
is mixed, put in the oven, and soon the whiffs of baking bring to Bob
the fact that he had better be stirring himself, as no breakfasts are
served in bed, and the walk of yesterday had not spoiled his appetite.
We expected the aforementioned cousin to arrive at eleven
o'clock, so the intervening time was occupied in getting provisions,
ice, etc., in order to be ready to slip out the minute of his arrival.
He hardly stepped on board before sail was being hoisted and he was
corveed for the windlass. Wind was about south, but the sun was covered
by light clouds which had blown away by the time we reached Thomas
Point Light. One long tack was made out of the harbor and well across
the Bay, so that on coming about we were able to cross Thomas Point bar
about halfway between it and the light, which is about a mile and a
half from shore. Numerous tongers were at work, both here and at Tolly
Point, these used the ordinary shaft tongs, and worked mostly in twelve
to twenty feet of water. A choice stew was commenced on the way;
nothing like fresh "vittles," the "embalmed" brand get very tiresome,
and only before getting to the shoe leather stage of starvation do we
use the latter.
A little before two o'clock we eased off our sheets for the
run up South River, heading for Duvall Creek, but on getting near the
mouth, decided we did not like the looks of it, as there were too many
signs of civilization. There we almost got aground, having run on muddy
flats and were stirring up mud and tree branches, so about we came for
a leg over to the south shore. A poor, lonely duck was seen, and
several charges of shot expended on him, but he came out unscathed. The
small anchor was let go in Lonehouse Creek at three o'clock. After sail
furling everyone piled into the longboat for a run ashore. I was landed
on the west shore, and Bob on the east shore, while A.G. stuck to the
boat for a short sail. I heard several shots from Bob, but never saw
anything worth shooting. In about an hour I returned to the beach and
saw the other two out buying oysters from a tonger; when they came for
me I eagerly inquired the results of all their firing; Bob answered
that there were three ducks in the creek that did not know when they
were dead. Oyster opening and eating was immediately begun by the two
old men, while I rove some new halyards.
Panned oysters were demanded for supper, and a kettle said
to contain sixty was given to me. The casserole was made almost red
hot, a little butter browned, then the oysters allowed to cook until
they just began to curl on the edges. Those sixty faded away like chaff
before a gale.
On trying to work out of the creek, next morning, in the
face of an almost breathless calm we got ashore on the eastern point,
but with the aid of our long oar pushed off quite easily. Breakfast was
taken while drifting down the river before a light westerly air. Lots
and lots of ducks; some big beds of them, over an acre in extent, and
although they were very wild, we peppered away at any stragglers we
managed to slip up on. Finally, A.G. got one, and it decorated the port
bowsprit shroud for several days.
At eight-thirty we were abreast of the black buoy off
Horseshoe Point, having passed through a fleet of nearly two hundred
oyster canoes off West River; several of them hailed us, recognizing
the boat, as she had been built on the shores of their river last
summer. Although there was very little breeze we slipped down past
Herring Bay so rapidly that our expectations of reaching the Patuxent
River were very high and everybody was happy; A.G. and I were busy at
odd jobs, while Bob steered. A little below Holland Point the breeze
increased, giving us a nice sail for about six miles, but just a little
above Plum Point the wind fell flat, then headed us oft; and we stood
out from shore. A sloop, a pungy, and a bugeye were piling down behind
us, and as they came nearer we could hear then rush of the water under
their lee bows, suddenly they struck the calm spot, but headed ashore
and got the true breeze again. In no time they were romping down the
coast with a good beam wind, while we slatted around making no headway
Shortly after lunch we decided to give up trying for the
Patuxent, so we turned toward the east and a course laid that would
bring us into the mouth of the Little Choptank River, the low-lying
shore being invisible through the hazy atmosphere.
Lots of loons were passed on the way across, and their weird
cry, together with the laughing cackle of a species of duck were very
much in harmony with the general tone of our surroundings, and on top
of our recent disappointment made us feel somewhat blue.
On entering the river our disappointment gradually passed
away, as we became interested in picking up the buoys and watching the
"buy boats", each surrounded by a bunch of canoes like a hen with a
flock of young chicks. These buy boats are bugeyes, or schooners, which
carry the oysters gathered by the tongers to market. The captain of one
of these vessels contracts with some commission house in Baltimore to
deliver oysters so many times a week, and makes from ten to fifteen
cents per bushel on all carried. It is very interesting to watch the
canoes gather around one of these buy boats, which declare their
calling by a basket or flag displayed at the masthead. About three
o'clock in the afternoon the tongers begin to leave the beds and sail
or row according to the weather, each to his favorite buyer. Alongside
they range. The captain stands on the deck of his vessel with a shingle
or piece of board on which to keep tally; close by, on a barrel or on
the cabin top, is a tin cash box; well-filled with notes and small
change, as all the buying is for cash. Iron half bushel baskets are
passed to the canoes to be filled, after which they are hoisted on
board by means of a fall from aloft and lowered into the hold, where a
man is stationed to empty them and stow the contents. As each canoe is
emptied and the seller has received his money, it moves out to allow
another of the cluster to take its place; some start right off for
home, and others like to linger to talk and chaff.
We ran close to one of these clusters in order to get
information as to the channel. Rounding Ragged Point we kept well off,
then headed up for the mouth of Brook's Creek. On getting near the
entrance we overhauled several oystermen, and shortening sail, followed
one in, who boarded us for a stiff glass of chill preventer after we
anchored. The air was heavy with the odor of the pine woods which lined
each shore, and here and there was a bit of marsh or a little white
cabin with a cloud of smoke issuing from the chimney. We had quite a
snug anchorage, and after our long day were glad to turn in early.
During the night there was quite a stiff breeze from the
southwest with some rain, but about six o'clock, just after we got up,
it shifted to the northwest, and by the time breakfast was over some
pretty lively puffs were coming across the creek. Once more our hopes
for the Patuxent arose, as once out of the river we would have a fair
wind down the Bay.
Two reefs were tied down in the mainsail with one in the
jib, and at eight o'clock we slipped down the creek under the latter.
Outside the mainsail was run up, and in a few minutes we were from
under the lee of Ragged Point and felt the full force of the wind after
its clear reach down the Bay, as here, instead of northwest, it was
about due north. Quite a sea rolled in and we had a splendid sail
almost to Hill's Point; when suddenly the wind increased greatly and a
heavy sea came with it. Several plunges up to the bowsprit made us
decide to turn back, so the mainsail was lowered, as later we knew we
had to gybe in order to round Ragged Point. Under jib alone we left a
wake like a paddle steamer, and Bob had his hands full at the tiller;
on rounding the point the mainsail was hoisted, and we headed for a
bugeye and skipjack which were anchored some distance below the creek
entrance, this being as close as we could point. On passing astern of
them we decided to anchor instead of trying to beat up to our previous
anchorage, so I let go the seventy-five pound anchor, but this did not
even bring her head to the wind, so quickly the hawser was run out and
made fast to the hundred and thirty pounder, this with the two hundred
feet of line (in ten feet of water) brought her up. How it blew! We
could hardly walk over the cabin top. A bugeye that had gone out with
us, turned back before we did, and not another sail was in sight.
After anchoring I went below to start a stew, but soon lost
all interest in it, as in a few minutes they called out that we were
still dragging. Slowly, very slowly indeed were we going astern. More
hawser was paid out until the whole sixty fathoms were stretched tight
as a fiddlestring straight ahead of us. This brought us up again, but
for a short time only, and once more our marks on shore kept opening
wider and wider. About noon we decided to get in the small anchor, buoy
the big one and run up the river. A.G. and I went to the windlass, what
a struggle we had! how slowly those twenty fathoms came in! Just as we
were ready to drop the five fathom shackle appeared; this gave us new
life, so that we stuck at it until the job was over, then we crawled
aft and fell exhausted on the bunks in the cabin.
For some unaccountable reason we now held and our thoughts
turned toward lunch, but after getting it ready I looked out and saw
that once more we were moving backward nearer and nearer the south
shore where we could see the spray dash up over a sand bank as each
wave broke. Hunger vanished, but mechanically I ate a little, for I
could see in my mind's eye the Omoo broadside on that beach, half full
of water and sand, with a conglomeration of fittings floating off
toward shore. I never had such a feeling of helplessness. A schooner
ran past under jib and two-reefed mainsail, lowered the latter as she
passed us, and continued up the river under jib alone. It now seemed to
lighten and the anchor once more held us, but this did not last long.
Finally, about four o'clock, we hit on the plan of sailing her up to
the anchor under the two-reefed mainsail; so the board was lowered and
the sail set.
BUY BOAT IN THE LITTLE CHOPTANK.
SCHOONER RUNNING FOR SHELTER IN THE LITTLE CHOPTANK.
APRIL 7, 1906.
OXFORD: KERR'S ISLAND FROM THE STRAND.
Back and forth we wriggled in the icy spray, getting in
twenty or thirty feet each time, until finally it was broken out, and
in a short time we had beaten up into the mouth of Brook's Creek and
anchored once more in seven feet close under a heavy bunch of pine
trees. If we had only known the capability of the boat, what a lot of
worry we would have been saved, but she was an unknown quantity to us,
as not being out of the builder's hands until very late in the previous
season, she was underway only a few times before laying up. The anchor
down and the sail furled I dove below, stirred up the fire in the cabin
and resumed operation on the stew that had been abandoned in the
morning. I have a particularly large casserole and this was filled to
the brim. It disappeared in short order as we were in the same
condition as I imagine an Arab is at sunset during the season of
After an all day tussle what a feeling of comfort comes over
one when the anchor is dropped in some snug place, to sit down in peace
and quietness to a good meal and talk over the adventures just gone
The stew disappeared as though a pack of wolves had been at
it. We were ravenous. Everybody was very loggy for the rest of the
evening, and shortly after moonrise we turned in.
April the 8th dawned heavy and gray with a light southwest
wind. Breakfasted before making a start, which was at seven-forty-five.
Beat to the black buoy to the westward of Ragged Point, and then we
were able to ease off our sheets. Decided to abandon the Patuxent and
instead go to Oxford. The reefs in the mainsail and jib had been left
in at the start until we could see how the weather would be likely to
turn out; as it became lighter we shook them out when off James Point.
Hill's Point buoy was passed at nine o'clock, and from there
up to Cook's Point we were kept in a constant state of excitement
trying to get close to small bunches of ducks which were even wilder
than those of South River. Many shells were emptied, but no blood
Cook's Point rounded, we gybed over and headed for the light
on the bar making off from Benoni Point. A.G. was set to work at the
oysters with instructions to open a hundred. He must have opened nearly
a hundred and fifty, as he declared there were one hundred in the
kettle, and we were equally sure that every third one opened went down
At twelve thirty we anchored a little above the steamboat
wharf at Oxford. The one hundred were panned and two pair of wolfish
eyes watched the Old Man deal them out. Thirty-three apiece and a toss
for the odd one! A visit to the post and telegraph offices was the next
item on the tapis. It was a beautiful afternoon, clear and sunshiny,
with a light southwest breeze. The little gardens of the houses were
beginning to wake up, several early plants were in bloom, and the peach
trees in sheltered spots were attractive with their purple blossoms.
Bees buzzed, and in the provision store a few of the usual horde of
flies had appeared.
With a sack of provender, and a big shad from a sloop, we
got back on board at three; sail was made for a run of a mile or two up
the river to Tripp's Creek, but on reaching Goldsboro's Creek we were
so entranced that we could go no farther. Sail was partially lowered,
while I went ahead in the small boat to pick out the channel, or
rather, to discover any spot with three feet or less.
If the early afternoon was beautiful, the latter part was
gorgeous. As the sun lowered, the air was coolish and the atmosphere
cleared of that haziness that accompanies a southerly wind. Toward
evening the effect of the light on the landscape was fine. After sail
furling we all sailed in the small boat up the creek to a farmhouse
where we got some eggs and a quart of milk -- so scarce on the Eastern
Shore. Coming back it was quite cool. While the Old Man tried fishing,
A.G. was sent ashore to clean the shad, and I made preparations for
dinner, of which the shad was to be the most important part. I hate the
smell of cooked fish, and in the summer time Bob is compelled to eat
his boiled crabs on deck. The shad certainly looked and tasted nice,
but the odor of it pervaded the boat for days, and I swore on the roast
beef bone that hangs in the cabin that not another fish would be cooked
on that boat.
A snug anchorage and choice beds. The usual result -- a fine
sleep and early at it.
Breakfasted very late this morning; seven-thirty! After cleaning up,
the ducker was brought alongside, mast stepped, cameras put aboard, and
we started for Tripp's Creek well wrapped up, as the wind was northeast
and somewhat raw. Had a grand little turn to windward and landed on a
pine-clad point. Wandered through the woods, picking flowers and also
some mistletoe. On the way back we passed a point well covered with
small stone, so decided to bring the Omoo there in the afternoon for
some ballast. Left our flowers on board and landed at a wharf in front
of a curious old house near where we were anchored. It was made up of
five distinct pieces, each added at a different time. Found it belonged
to a Mr. Goldsboro, from whose family the creek received its name, and
who very kindly showed us around both inside and out. A fine lot of
sheep with quite a number of lambs were scattered about the lawn, and
the suggestion of mint made our mouths water.
Immediately after lunch we sailed to the stony point and
appropriated three boat loads of stone, which gave the old packet a
better trim. Some time was consumed in storing them, then we ran down
to our previous anchorage off Oxford, as A.G. had to leave us in the
We were up before daylight on Monday. Breakfast was eaten by
lamplight, as A.G. wished to catch the train which left at
six-fifty-three, and the station was at the other end of the town, a
good mile away; fortunately he got ashore in time to catch the stage.
Heavy clouds were overhead, the wind was southeast, and a
cold rain began just after A.G. left. A reef was tied down in each
sail, and at seven-five we got under way for St. Michael's, on the
Miles River thirty-five knots away by water, and about five in a
straight line across the land. A fine run down the Choptank, and Bob,
who sat below by the stove reading, said it was like being on a steamer
or even better as there was no vibration. Once out in the Bay a gybe
was necessary for us to be able to head up for Poplar Island Narrows.
Breeze freshening, and we rolled along in good shape.
When off Low's Point, as the wind kept increasing, we
decided it would be advisable to tuck another reef in the mainsail and
we ran under jib while doing so. The operation from lowering to setting
the now two-reefed sail occupied twelve minutes, which was not bad time
considering the wet, stiff sail, and our somewhat benumbed fingers.
On rounding Tilghman's Point we came on the wind for a
six-knot beat up the Miles River to our destination. When about half
the distance had been covered heavy rain began, almost like we have in
the summer squalls, and the wind piled down a few knots harder. Going
through the narrow channel off Deep Water Point the sea was fairly
high, and on account of flood tide very steep.
At one-fifteen the large anchor was let go off Kirby's yard.
The sails were hastily stopped down, as we were both very cold and
hungry and anxious to get beside the cheerful cabin fire.
During the afternoon I went ashore for provisions and mail.
Everything very bedraggled and gloomy. How different from the afternoon
at Oxford! About five o'clock the rain stopped and the wind went down,
and the indications were that tomorrow would be a fine day.
A.G. AND R. B. (WITH FLOWERS): PALM SUNDAY.
CANOES DRYING SAILS: ST. MICHAELS.
TONGERS OFF THOMAS POINT.
SKIPJACKS IN COX CREEK.
Next morning a fog, heavy for this part of the country,
obscured the land, but in a short time patches of blue appeared
overhead. When the sun did get out the oystermen began to hoist their
sails for drying, until there was a row of almost twenty sails, and
very picturesque they looked, each canoe made fast at the bow to a
stake and stern to the wharf.
About nine o'clock I went ashore to see the Kirbys and to
try for mail at the post office. Found one of the sons in the yard, but
the others had gone over the river on some business. No luck as to
letters, so went back on board; found that the Old Man had had a very
narrow escape from buying a canoe.
Shipping Creek, a branch of Cox's Creek, which runs far up
into Kent Island, had looked inviting as we passed on previous cruises,
and as there was now a nice southwest breeze we decided to look it
over. Going out the Miles River we did not have much breeze, but once
around Tilghman's Point we had a pleasant reach of about three miles
across Eastern Bay to the mouth of Cox's Creek. Found the mouth of
Shipping Creek very wide with a small island in the middle; the chart
showed nothing like this, and Bob became very doubtful of getting in
without running aground. The wind was fair for running up Cox's Creek,
so we kept on, intending to anchor in Warehouse Creek for the night,
but we ran past it by mistake, and finally anchored a mile above.
After lunch Bob rowed over to a tonger's boat for oysters
and also for information as to the whereabouts of Warehouse Creek, as
we had become confused by the numerous coves that indent the shore. On
his returning on board we made sail and beat down the creek against a
very light air to Warehouse, where we anchored for the night.
By this time the sky was overcast and there was a slight
attempt at rain. I made sail in the small boat, took a gun and went to
a marsh to have a try for snipe, but did not raise any, even after a
good deal of walking.
A bit of woods farther up attracted me, as we were in need
of a pole for sounding; the lead line being very unhandy and clumsy for
rapid work while sailing in eight to four feet of water. Had a hard
time to find a suitable one that was long enough but not too heavy,
finally, after a good deal of search, found a small pine sapling about
twelve feet long.
Hearing the cooing of doves I started off to look for them,
but they invariably saw me first and always moved before I got within
gunshot of them. Went back on board in a slight shower and found Bob
had been opening oysters, which we had panned for tea. Just at sunset
the wind shifted to northwest, the clouds broke away and we admired
some beautiful color effects. Reading until nine, when we went on deck
for walk and to see the moonrise. What a fine night, not too cool, a
full moon shimmering on the creek, with here and there patches of
woods, and the peculiar cry of a flock of tame geese somewhere along
the shore adding a certain entrancing weirdness to the scene.
Much to our disappointment next morning dawned cloudy with a
faint northwest air instead of a bright, clear atmosphere and a good
breeze as we had expected from the apparent clearing of the night
before. However, shortly after we made sail, intending to cross the Bay
to West River. The wind at first was fair, but gradually it worked
around to the southward, compelling us to flatten in our sheets. For
awhile the sun struggled to get out, but after an hour's very faint
sunshine it became once more hidden.
While drifting down the creek I made a jackstaff and set up
the sockets for it on the transom. Several other small jobs were also
polished off before lunch. To me, making repairs or improvements, real
or imaginary, is half the pleasure of owning a boat and cruising.
Gradually we worked out of Cox's Creek into Eastern Bay, and with the
glasses we could see vessels running up and down the western shore,
their sails rounded and smooth, while we were being riled with breaths;
sometimes the mainsail would be to port and the fly would indicate the
air blowing from the same side.
About one o'clock we saw a bugeye, running down the Bay
outside of Bloody Point, carrying what appeared to be a nice breeze,
down around the black buoy which marks the bar jutting out from the
point she came, and headed up toward us, but when within a few hundred
yards her sails suddenly fell flat. What a time it took for that breeze
to reach us! Half-past two! Out we stood on the starboard tack, but
when really in the Bay the weather looked so unsettled, with every
appearance of a blow, that we decided to turn and run up to Tilghman's
Creek for the night. Bob, who had been nursing the tiller and cursing
the weather all day, went down for a nap, while I put a line on the
tiller and took my ease in a camp chair, enjoying the run up to the
mouth of Miles River. Rounding Tilghman's Point we headed up for the
creek and anchored in a snug little cove in company with three or four
skipjacks and a couple of small bugeyes. As Bob wished to walk to the
village of Claiborne in order to telephone home I rowed him ashore, and
on the way back looked over our neighbors. Sail furling and
preparations for dinner then occupied me until just at dusk when I saw
R.B. appear on the bank.
Next morning, breakfast over, we slipped out of the creek
about seven o'clock in company with some other boats. Wind northwest,
somewhat cloudy and cool, but after getting around the point the sun
came out, which caused the thermometer to rise rapidly. A fine sail we
had down Eastern Bay, one of the long remembered, much-looked-back-on
kind. Good breeze, sheets eased, bright crisp atmosphere, and dark blue
water with a few whitecaps here and there. A few hours of sailing under
conditions like these more than covered the sins of a great many like
those of yesterday.
Shortly before we reached the black buoy, near which we had
spent so much time yesterday, the breeze began to lighten, and before
long had dropped completely. An ebb tide set us down the Bay, so to
keep out of it we made short tacks along the edge of the shoal up
toward the light, but this was slow, tiresome work. For nearly three
hours we kept at it until finally the breath ceased entirely and we
lost all we had gained; but the sight of vessels far down to the
southward running up with booms winged out soothed our disappointment.
Before the breeze reached us it had become so warm that we
seized the opportunity for a sponge bath on deck, and although the
water was like ice we thoroughly enjoyed it, feeling fine afterward.
When lunch was ready we both went below, leaving her to
steer herself, and a small pocket compass on the table showed that she
held her course exactly. The tide, however, cut us down considerably,
so that we had to run off before the wind when we reached the western
Before getting up to the oyster canoes off Curtis Point I
got into the small boat and made some photographs of the Omoo, Bob
maneuvering her about. Sailed into Parish Creek, really a cove at the
mouth of West River, as we saw several buy boats anchored there and
thought perhaps one of them might be the Lula and Sadie, owned
by the builder of the Omoo. As luck would have it, the first vessel we
came up to was the one we were seeking, Captain Leatherberry came
aboard for inspection and a short sail, but the wind was very light in
the river, although there was quite a breeze out in the Bay, and lots
of bay craft were on the move. On leaving Parish Creek we ran up the
river to Cox's Creek, where we anchored; store clothes were donned for
a visit ashore to a friend, who, with his family, lives in "Tulip
Hill," a fine old colonial mansion, situated on a hill overlooking the
river. Found him superintending the running of a line of fence posts,
and Bob must needs take a hand, in order, as he said, to reduce the
waist band. At supper, which we both greatly enjoyed, he put on more
waist band by a Johnsonian tea drinking orgy, while I consumed large
quantities of a cake called Sally Lunn.
A beautiful, balmy spring morning, light southeast breeze. About
eight-thirty I went ashore to meet our friends who had promised to come
down to see the new boat, and while waiting for them enjoyed a short
ramble in a small patch of woods. At ten o'clock, after our visitors
had left, we made sail for Annapolis. Breeze very light, and on one
tack while trying to gain as much as possible we ran ashore, but on
dropping the jib pushed her head around and slid off quite easily; a
still less quantity of wind made our progress very slow as far as
Saunders Point, where a freshening breeze from the southwest pushed us
a long faster and faster. Ran close to Thomas Point, but being afraid
to try the slue through the bar off Tolly Point we went out nearly to
The Bay was very attractive this afternoon; hardly a cloud
in the sky, the water a deep blue with here and there whitecaps;
vessels beating down looked all alive and full of motion, while others
were lazily running wing-a-wing. Here and there were small sails which
had left the fleets of gaily painted oyster canoes working the bars off
each point. How the remembrance of an afternoon like this will linger
with one through after years and create such longing when sitting in
some close stuffy office.
The afternoon was half gone before we anchored in Annapolis,
not many boats in the harbor; but when we returned from a foraging
expedition found them commencing to come in rapidly, the wind had
increased to a stiff breeze and the Bay was reported very rough. In the
evening had a visit from the captain of the Lula and Sadie, who had
stopped in here on his return from Baltimore.
Next morning we were up early, and after getting in ice we
weighed anchor at eight o'clock. Wind southeast, nice breeze, somewhat
cloudy. Beat out with the fleet to Greenberry Point Light, where we
eased our sheets for our run along the shore to Sandy Point. Gradually
the wind died down and shifted to south, but when abreast of the light
it came fresh from the old quarter. Set spinnaker to port and had a
fine run to Swan Point, here the wind backed a little, which
necessitated our handing the spinnaker, but at the same time it breezed
up so much that we did not mind the loss of the extra sail. Off
Worton's Cove passed a bugeye bound down under reefed mainsail and jib
with the crew tying the points of the foresail.
Saw schooners ahead of us dropping their main peaks as they
crossed the mouth of the Sassafras River, so we lowered mainsail to tie
in reefs but kept the whole jib. Gradually gained on the schooner
ahead, and, just before anchoring at the mouth of Back Creek, passed
Found six vessels at the anchorage and five more had just
gone up the creek behind the tug. Put over the big anchor with plenty
of cable. From Annapolis to here is forty-seven knots, and we covered
the distance from up to down anchor in eight hours and a quarter. Our
intention was to stay here over Sunday, but as the weather looked
unsettled and the anchorage uncomfortable we concluded to go up with
the next tow.
At five-thirty the tug came down, picked up a pungy loaded
with wood, made a circle and picked up another "wood freighter,"
another circle and an oyster carrier caught on. Altogether he made four
circles, picking up a vessel each time. In the meantime we ran a line
to the schooner nearest us (five hundred feet went out), as we were the
outermost vessel and were afraid he might leave us. Finally came the
turn of our schooner friend to catch on, but his line parted, so
another scoop was made, but it parted again, then we loaned him a line,
but the tug looked as though he would not try again, so we cast off,
hoisted sail and went after him, but he made another turn, and lashed
the bad line fellow alongside, while we caught onto the tail end of the
string. By this time it was dark and our dinner was ready, but with so
much going on we were unable to eat it.
At seven thirty the tug reached the locks; two whistles and
all lines were cast off; this left us far down the creek some distance
below the siding, and the heavy wind blew us in among some old piles
from which we had considerable struggle to extricate ourselves; but the
tug came back for a schooner ahead of us and managing to get a line to
him we were taken to within a hundred yards of the lock, and such a
struggle we had to move her the balance of the way, as the wind kept
her hard against the wharf, and the piles were far enough apart for her
to get the curve of her side between, so that she would constantly
stick. At last we got tied up in the basin at nine o'clock, the roast
beef was given attention, and after washing up I went to look for my
loaned line, while Bob crossed over to the office to inquire as to the
time of starting of the tow in the morning; five o'clock was the
information he came back with. After stumbling over a cat's cradle of
lines I found our friend securely tied up with my line, but he begged
the use of it for the balance of the night.
The lamps were no sooner out it seemed to us than we were
awakened by the whistling of a tug, so we tumbled into our clothes, and
as it was pouring, added oilskins. On getting out on deck could not see
any tug, but as the other vessels were all on the east side of the
basin, we set to work to get next to them. A line of mud barges and a
dredge lay along the bank, and the wind which was, if anything, heavier
than the night before kept us very close to them as we dragged her
along. Then we stood around waiting for the tug, afraid to start
breakfast, because when you do, the tug comes just as you are
commencing to eat. Finally, at seven o'clock, a tug appeared in the
dock with two wood schooners. When the oystermen saw the intention was
to take the wooders also a wail of protest arose which resulted in a
deadlock. The oystermen said that with so many vessels the speed would
not be fast enough to keep the wind from blowing them on the bank. At
last we concluded to have breakfast, and after it read until about
nine-thirty. After a conference in the canal office the oystermen gave
in and all was bustle for the start; as the wind shifted to the
northwest just at this time all danger of bank-rubbing was done away
with. At St. George's much time was consumed getting us all through the
lock, and it was three o'clock before we locked out into the Delaware.
Wind was very light, but we had a favorable tide. Shook out yesterday's
reef, but in twenty minutes had to tie both in again on account of a
squall out of the northwest. It gave us a good run up the river for ten
knots, as far as Marcus Hook, where we once more shook out our reefs
and the last of the flood carried us to within a short distance of the
club. Fortunately, we were seen and the launch sent down to tow us in.
A last night on board, and next day back to shuttlelike
existence of town.
© 2000 Craig O'Donnell, editor & general factotum.
May not be reproduced without my permission. Go scan your own damn