This is part II in our Inside the Chesapeake Bay Loop journey. Part I covered our departure from Annapolis, with stops in Oxford and Solomons, MD.
Wonderful Company in Reedville
Departing Solomons Island, we cruised slowly past the smokestack that is a monument to the menhaden plant that originally stood on the property owned by Omega Protein.
Fandango headed up Cockrell Creek to Buzzard Point Marina. It is very quiet and secluded compared to marinas in the Middle Bay, which is a pleasant change with only a few namesake buzzards flying overhead. The owner came out to greet us at the gas dock as we took on 82 gallons at $4.25/gal, got a pump out, and filled up every cooler we had with ice. Turns out the ice machine produces enough for a fleet of fishing boats. The ice was literally flowing underneath the door onto the dock.
We hosed down Fandango from the increasing salinity in the Bay and headed to the showers. They were a little rustic, but clean, painted, and empty of any other slip holders. Back onboard, we called our Reedville friends Lee and Ted Ellett to tell them cocktail hour would be starting soon and to meet us at the marina. We were close to their home on Whay’s Creek and expected them in short order. Since we came by boat and they only had a short drive, you think in terms of minutes not hours. As self-sufficient and experienced boaters, we didn’t hesitate to start happy hour without them and enjoyed our time together while not underway or cleaning. Well, two hours later they showed up all smiles and apologetic for being late. Turns out Ted, a premier aviation attorney, was working to get a family out of Afghanistan before the Taliban captured them. No explanation necessary for being late.
Once the Elletts arrived, we enjoyed the warm and wonderful company of our dear friends while serving them rum drinks, wine, and delicious crawfish salad and smoked bluefish appetizers in the cockpit on a warm, sunny, late afternoon. After catching up on our children, Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB) activities, our mutual friends the Hayes, and the boat trip down the Bay, we got in their car and drove to their home for a delicious dinner. It had been a long time since my wife and I enjoyed Ted and Lee’s company since they moved from Alexandria to Reedville, and we made the most of it with plenty of laughs and stories into the night. Ted escorted us down to his dock after dinner where he showed us his pride and joy oyster cages and a new fish light that attracted several large rockfish circling and jumping under the dock.
They drove us back to Fandango after we declined a bedroom in their home for the pleasure of our floating bed. We hope it is not too long before we see them in Annapolis.
The World-Famous Tides Inn
On September 28, after a leisurely morning, we departed Reedville for The Tides Inn off the Rappahannock River. The seas were modest, one to two feet from the north, so it was a comfortable trip down the Bay with little or no traffic on this leg of the trip (remarkable only for boaters in the Annapolis and Middle Bay). We rounded Windmill Point and headed upriver underneath the 11,237-foot long White Stone or Rappahannock River Bridge. A little over a mile past the bridge to the north is Carters Creek and home port of the world-famous Tides Inn and one of our personal favorite destinations. We last visited The Tides 11 years earlier for our 30th wedding anniversary. It was hot as Hades at that time (over 100 degrees). But we very fondly remember having a couple’s massage in the spa and on our return to Fandango finding a complementary bottle of iced champagne from the general manager.
We put on our swimsuits and headed to one of the most beautiful pool settings on the Bay. It is a large pool surrounded by tall pine trees with a beach and the creek to the south. The water was not heated, but it didn’t stop me from diving in and swimming as fast as possible for several laps to get warmed up. The Snack Bar Restaurant at the pool was doing a healthy business of serving drinks and tasty appetizers. Tides staff lit one of the fire pits on the beach for a young couple who had purchased s’mores and long sticks to enjoy a treat before dinner.
We strolled on the beach back to Fandango and decided an appetizer would be nice before dinner, so we called the restaurant and ordered a dozen fried oysters. The “best oysters ever” were not easily shared as forks and fingers plunged into the plate of golden-brown treasures of the Bay. Dinner was briefly delayed for a major torrential downpour that caught some boaters enjoying cocktails off-guard. We had all the canvas up well before the storm hit and enjoyed the only rain and lightning show we had the entire trip. After an early dinner, we took a stroll on the Tides’ boardwalk that is nearing completion around the water’s edge of the property. It is quite nice and provides a scenic and romantic view of the creek and property in relative privacy.
The next morning, we got up and had a delicious breakfast in The Tides dining room overlooking the creek and manicured grounds. We thanked the staff and headed out to the front desk and asked to get some golf clubs and balls to use on the nine-hole, par three golf course on the property. To be honest, we like golf, but it doesn’t like us. Fortunately, two of the nine holes were under repair. Since golf is free, seven holes was fine. We had not played in years, and we didn’t let our lack of skill keep us from enjoying the walk, the grounds, and finding our ball in the hole after numerous strokes. No score was kept.
We departed The Tides Inn after our round of golf with the intention of getting fuel for the trip down the Bay to Yorktown, VA. The seas were one to two feet from the north and it was near low tide, so we did not have a lot of depth in the channel entering Windmill Point Marina. We pulled up to the gas dock and were tying up when a pick-up truck pulled up and a guy got out and asked if we wanted fuel?
“Bear” told us we were lucky that he happened to drive by. He said he was the general manager, and the marina and resort were closed for the season. While fueling, Bear started telling us stories that we enjoyed. He said he was heading to Breckinridge, CO, to be a ski instructor for the winter. In 2022 he planned to sail his Hunter 45 to St. Helena Island in the South Atlantic Ocean to work. Knowing a little about this very remote island (Napoléon Bonaparte’s place of exile after the Battle of Waterloo), I thought, “Boy, this guy really wants to get away!” We were very thankful to Bear and wished him well after taking on a much needed 72 gallons before heading south for our trip to Yorktown.
Once out of the Rappahannock River the seas were getting rough as we rounded Stingray Point light and headed south.
Setting a Course for the York River
Thankfully, the seas that eventually built to three to four feet were on our stern as we set a course for the York River. Our 1999 Formula 34PC has a racing tradition and the transmission levers are separate from the throttles. This works exceptionally well when you must power up or back off as you ride up waves or come off the top, as we were doing for several hours. With sunny skies and surfing waves down the Bay, it could be considered a nice sleigh ride, but not so by the Admiral who hunkered down below on the cabin sole on a bed of cushions.
Entering the York River from the north you will find it protected by a long shoal to the southeast. The wave heights diminished after passing the shoal, and we followed the buoys up the river to Wormley Creek to the south. We received a warm greeting from Heather who had fuel duty. We took on 63 gallons which reflected a nice fuel savings after having seas push the stern for hours.
During the trip, our VHF antenna’s stainless-steel base cracked and broke. We asked the marina staff to check it out and see if they could order a new base and install it (before we departed the next morning). We showered at the very nice bathhouse facilities by the swimming pool. There was not a soul on the docks while we were there, which made it all the more peaceful.
We let our friends in Williamsburg, Suzie and Gary Brown, know we had arrived “in their neck of the woods.” We have been friends for 40 years going back to when he was selling hotel rooms and I was in the association meeting planning business. It seems we have not been able to see each other much except on Facebook. They picked us up and drove us to their lovely Cape Cod home in Ford’s Colony. At dinner we caught up on decades of missing years and laughs. It is hard not to laugh around Gary who has so many stories to tell from his hotel days that easily could be the basis for a comedy rivaling “Animal House” or “Caddyshack.”
At 8 a.m. the next morning, September 30, we were treated to the sound of revelry floating across the water from the nearby USCG Training Center Yorktown. It brought back memories of our homeport in Annapolis and the pride we have when hearing revelry coming from the U.S. Naval Academy grounds. Right on the dot, Ryan showed up with the VHF base and installed it on the radar arch in short order. We gave him a tip in recognition of his fine service. The bill was about half of what it would have cost in Annapolis.
By Paul "Bo" Bollinger
If you missed it, catch up on Inside the Chesapeake Bay Loop Part I. And stay tuned for the third and final part in PropTalk's August issue.