Our mission -- Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enter .. OOPS, sorry, I got carried away. Let me start again.

Our mission -- Warm Waters and Great Weather: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Motor Vessel Traveling Soul. Its five-year mission: to explore strange warm waters, to seek out new forms of recreation and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Brown, Applegate or Higgins has gone before.

Monday, September 9, 2013

From Herrington Harbor On Thursday, 8 August we set out from Herrington Harbor North – our home for the past two months, or so – towards Baltimore And (are you ready for this?) We really got a chance to use our newest toy -- the brand-spankin’ new AIS system!! There were four major ships at anchor waiting to get into Baltimore Harbor and probably three or four more that passed us going into or out of harbor itself. We tracked all of them on our new AIS system. Knowing where they were, where they were headed and how fast they were going allowed us to stay out of the main shipping channel and out of their way. Yes, yes, since it was daylight we could have done the same thing before we got the AIS – but it is so much cooler now!

Baltimore The trip from Herrington North to Baltimore isn’t that far. Even at our flash-like speed of 9 knots (or 10 statute miles an hour) it only took us eight hours. We had been to Baltimore a couple of times in one of our previous boats and knew where we were (most of the time) and generally where we were going. When we got to the harbor we were to head for the huge Dominos Sugar sign and then find the Legg-Mason Building. Our marina was right in front of that. For us, the location was perfect. We were half-way between the revitalized Inner Harbor and Fells Point, a historic and touristy location with what seemed like hundreds of bars and restaurants. Moreover, we were only about a half-mile from a Whole Foods supermarket and a CVS pharmacy. And perhaps even more important, only about 300 yards from a Starbucks!!

Since we were going to be here two full days (as part of their “pay for two, get three nights special,”) we thought the best use of our time was to spend one day each at  Fells Point and the Inner Harbor. The first day, after our obligatory stop at Starbucks, we were off to see Fell’s Point. After we had walked for about an hour or so, we stopped in a building with a name like “Fells Point Information Center.” There we found Gloria, a certified guide for the city who was willing to take us on our own personalized tour for a mere $5. My lovely wife, of course, agreed, even though my dogs – which you will remember haven’t been used a lot lately – were already beginning to bark. Nevertheless, it was a very good tour and we learned, among other things,

Founded by William Fell, who was attracted by its beautiful, deep water and proximity to agriculture and thick forests, Fell's Point became a shipbuilding and commercial center. About 1763, William's son Edward Fell laid out streets and began selling plots for homes. The town grew quickly, and eventually incorporated with Baltimore Town and Jones Town in 1773 to form a new Town of Baltimore and later in 1797 became the City of Baltimore. The area grew wealthy on the tobacco, flour, and coffee trades through the 18th and 19th centuries.

Some of the first vessels commissioned for the US Navy were built in Fell's Point shipyards, including the USS Constellation in 1797. However, the area became best known for producing topsail schooners renowned for their great speed and handling. They were excellent blockade runners, and were frequently used as armed privateers. During the War of 1812, Fell's Point built and supported dozens of privateers who preyed on British shipping vessels. Thus, Baltimore became a principal target of the British during the war, which eventually led to the bombardment of Fort McHenry. (I always wondered why Baltimore was so "strategic" to the British in the War of 1812 and not the Revolution. Now I know.)

By the time the tour was over, however, it was about time for lunch. We had long ago decided that we would have lunch at a place called Bertha’s Mussels, whose specialty is … wait for it … mussels! Bertha’s Mussels is semi-famous for the bumper sticker that is white on green and says simply “Eat Bertha’s Mussels,” kind of like the sign on the building. Now, for those of you who don’t know, I can take or leave mussels, which is, in fact, a great improvement over where I used to be; I used to hate them. But Ann … well, let’s just say she absolutely loves mussels and would never pass up Bertha’s mussels.

Anyway, after a “lupper” of beer and mussels, we headed back to the boat. I think I have explained the “lupper” concept before, but in case I haven’t, “lupper” is a combination of lunch and supper – kind of like brunch is for breakfast and lunch. If we have a big lunch we know we aren’t going to be able to eat supper, so, instead of lunch we have a lupper and then we have something light for the evening meal.

The next day we went to the Inner Harbor. We had been there before, but it has become even more touristy! Where there used to be a bunch of shops, there was now a Ripley’s-Believe-it-or-Not–atorium, or whatever it’s called. Anyway, we visited some of the few shops that still exist, bought some fudge and ate lunch at “Bubba Gum’s Shrimp Company” (see what I mean by touristy?) and headed back to the boat.

Sunday we were ready to leave Baltimore. So, we shortened the lines, shut off the electric, made fast the water hoses and cranked the engines. All was good so far. Until we pulled away from the dock. It was then that the port engine failed. It wouldn’t even crank up again. I knew it was a fuel issue and was pretty sure it was air in the fuel line, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it until we re-docked. Now for those of you who don’t know, a two-engine boat will certainly operate on one engine, but it kind of throws the steering out of kilter -- like a lot. Anyway, since there was no one out on the waterway early on Sunday morning, I was able to take a couple of practice runs at the dock before I went in for real. It was a little tricky, but we managed to secure the boat to the pier.

I told you that I was pretty sure I know what was wrong. That would have been helpful had I known what to do about it. I knew I should bleed the air from the fuel line, but I really didn’t know how to do that. I had no choice but to call several repairman, but it was Sunday, and as you might guess none of them were available. So, after we made the calls, left messages various places and arranged to spend another night at the marina, we waited. And no one called back. Getting someone on Monday was almost as difficult. I had learned long ago, however, that it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, so once I found a company that thought they “might” be able to send a mechanic later in the day, I called them several times to see what time he would be at the boat. Marine Max was the company and they are interesting because they have a bunch of different offices up and down the East Coast – and I had never heard of them. Eventually the mechanic showed up and figured out immediately what needed to be done. It was, in fact, the fuel line and he suspected that it happened when they changed the fuel filters. He repaired it and we were ready to go. Before we left, however, I called the local Marine Max manager and let him know how cooperative and helpful his employees had been. Finally, on Tuesday morning we were off to Kent Island, our next stop on our whirlwind trip of the Bay.

Kent Island We went to Kent Island for several reasons. First, by going to Mears Point Marina you get access to some of the best work out facilities in any marina on the Chesapeake. They have a very good sized workout room, a great pool for swimming laps and a wonderful biking/running/walking trail. I wouldn’t be able to use all of them, but I was hoping to use some of them. Second, the Island has some of the best seafood eating/drinking establishments on the Chesapeake. And third, our friend, broker and all-around boat guru Rick Nissen runs his charter boat service out of Kent Island. If went to the marina there, he could give us a deal on a slip (he had boats on charter) and work on our boat. In short, we just had to go.

We had intended to go to Kent Island on Sunday. As you will recall, though, our port engine decided otherwise, so we ended up arriving at on Tuesday afternoon. When you add that to the fact that I had to wait for some repairmen in the early mornings and the fact that I am much lazier than I used to be, I really didn’t get in as much exercise as I had intended. I did get in some walking on the “Inter-Island Connector” and some laps at the pool. But more importantly, I got in some good eating!

We went to the Bridges Restaurant with Rick and his wife, Lynn (they seem to know all the best restaurants).  It was a great meal with equally great company. We will definitely go back again! We also went to the Redeye Dock Bar which isn’t exactly a restaurant, it is more of a place where … er … where they serve libations in various alcoholic and non-alcoholic forms. Yes, we indulged a little bit in the alcoholic form. Finally, we went to the Crab Deck with our good friends Dave and Joan Wolf and had some good ol’ fashioned Maryland Blue Crabs. MMM mmm good! There was a time – and it wasn’t that long ago – when you could have crabs whenever you wanted them. Now, they are so expensive that you almost have to wait for a special occasion. Our special occasion was that we hadn’t had them in over a year. In addition to Dave and Joan and Rick and Lynn, Ann’s friend Allie Young came to visit. Allie was Ann’s boss when we moved to the DC area in 1990 – and the two of them have been friends ever since. Ann and Allie went out for lunch somewhere I am sure (sigh) I am not sure where -- as I wasn’t invited (deeper more wistful sign!).

Anyway, in between bouts of eating, we had asked Rick to do some work on the boat. We asked him to do five things:

·         Fix our generator: We couldn’t make it work from the helm station and had to get down in the generator room to start the generator. In fact, Rick had worked on the problem while we were in West Palm and couldn’t make it work. He not only didn’t charge us for the time he spent on it, but told us we needed to get a generator specialist. In Kent Island, he got that specialist, Rudy, who solved the problem.

·         Make it so we can use our holding tank: Yuck. This turned into the project from hell and I am sure Rick’s son, Tyler, won’t soon forget us. The notion was simple. There are some “No-Discharge Zones” in the US where we are not supposed to use our new-fangled, high tech onboard waste processing gadgets. People would rather us use their decades-old, shore-based processing systems. So, we are supposed to use our holding tanks and pump out our holding tanks into marina pump-out facilities. In addressing the problem, Tyler discovered that for some time (exact period unknown) one of our toilets has not been using our new fangled stuff, but has been dumping waste into the holding tank which, in turn, has been leaking into the bilge and subsequently into the Bay. To repair it, he had to clean out the bilge and the holding tank. Yuck! Then he had to put new fittings onto every hose that went into or out of the holding tank. Double Yuck! He did it, though. And while we may not have the best system for holding waste in the area, we can use it when we need to and can comply with the law.

·         Show me how to change impellers: Impellers are devices that suck in the water used to cool the engines and the generator. They can break. Everybody on a boat like ours should know how to change impellers. I didn’t. Now that Tyler has showed me, though, I think I can. (Actually, I am working under the theory that whatever I can fix will not be required. It is the stuff that I can’t fix that will happen. Since having a bad impeller can be a VERY bad thing, I wanted to ensure that it will not happen.)

·         Help with the aft fuel tank: To be honest, I can never tell if and when there is fuel in the aft tanks. Tyler added a fuel gauge so we can now use all the fuel we have!

·        Replace the sump pump for the mid-ship shower: On a boat, the water from a shower empties into a sump. A pump in the sump pumps the water overboard. (Kinda sounds like a Dr. Seuss book, eh?) Our midship sump pump had failed some time ago. We still had one shower, of course, but anyone on the boat needing a shower had to use ours. Now, we are back to two showers.

Rick, Rudy (the generator guy) and Tyler completed all the repairs beautifully. I must admit, though, at one point while we were at anchor at St. Michael’s (our next stop) the generator wouldn’t start from the helm. I was a bit upset and sent Rick an e-mail. The next time I tried to start the generator from the helm, however, it started right up. We tried about eight times over the next few days, and on about four of them it didn’t start. What to do, what to do. Well, I figured if it worked some of the time but not others, it was probably a loose connection. I opened the generator and started fiddling with the connections where Rudy had been working. While tightening one connection I accidently moved a little nut that seemed to be loose and, glory be, the generator started. I tightened the nut and, glory be, the generator worked again!!! Gosh I am a great repairman!
I know, I know, it is a beautiful picture. But if I we published all Ann's beautiful
flower pix, we would have a billion of them!

I know, I know, while some of you might be interested in repairs, others are interested in our wanderings. While on Kent Island I discovered an interesting tidbit of history. In 1631, William Claiborne, a resident of Jamestown, founded a settlement near the southern end of the Kent Island for the purpose of trading with Native Americans and took the opportunity to name the island after his birthplace of Kent, England. By 1632 the settlement included a gristmill, courthouse, and trading station. 1632 is significant because that is the year the Crown gave to Cecil Calvert, the 2nd Lord Baltimore, a charter for Maryland that included Kent Island. Claiborne, however, continued to recognize the island as part of his home colony of Virginia. In 1635, after a number of appeals to the Crown, -- that both individuals thought they had won – a Maryland commissioner named Thomas Cornwallis swept the Chesapeake for illegal traders and captured one of Claiborne's pinnaces (a type of armed ship). Claiborne tried to recover it by force, but was defeated. These were the first naval battles in North American waters and took place on 23 April and 10 May 1635; three Virginians were killed. So, you can see, the differences between Maryland and Virginia, whether acted out on the battlefield or on the fields of "friendly" strife, are not new. There is actually more to the story, but if you want to know more, you will have to (as my mom always used to tell me) “look it up yourself!”

St. Michaels As I said, after leaving Kent Island we made the five or six hour trip to St. Michaels. One of the reasons we wanted to go to St. Michaels is that we had not anchored since last May. Since we had a lot of work done to the boat to make anchoring easier, we wanted to see how well it was going to work. The generator hiccup we already told you about. That (knock on wood) is fixed. The one issue that I can’t get a handle on is the inverter. I think I should be able to get it fully charged in the four hours, but I don’t seem to be able to. Thanks to my now-properly-installed battery monitor, I know exactly what is going on. I built several spreadsheets that show how much time it spends in “Bulk Charge” mode, how much in “Absorption” mode, and how much in “Float.” I also know that it should be spending more time in Bulk mode and that no matter what I do I can’t get it to do that. I e-mailed Xantrex and they suggested a hard re-boot on my inverter. I am going to give it a try and see what happens. But I am beginning to think that what I really need is one more battery in the inverter bank. Anyway, just about everything else is working the way we want it to. We’ll try everything out some more as we head down the ICW in a month or so.

Imagine. This is the boat in which
John Smith first explored the Chesapeake.

As far as St. Michaels is concerned, I wrote about it last year so won’t go into much detail. Like most Bay towns St. Michaels has based its economy, at various times, on agriculture, shipbuilding, seafood and tourism. It is now in the tourism phase. There is an apocryphal story told about St. Michaels. During the War of 1812, the story goes, the British were on the way to bombard the town so they could punish it and destroy it for building ships. They also wanted to destroy its shipbuilding industry. The citizens of St. Michaels knew the attack was coming and turned off all the lights in the town, and hung lanterns in the hills beyond. The purpose was to deceive the British as to the town’s actual location, and thereby save the town and its citizens. They were so successful, the story goes, that the citizens of St. Michaels have declared it to be "the town that fooled the British." I am not sure about the history, but it makes for good tourism.

One of the interesting things about St. Michaels is that it seems to have survived the Great Recession fairly well. Unlike Solomon’s Island, Cambridge, Oxford, Rock Hall and other Bayside towns, St. Michaels appears to have thrived. In fact, it seemed to me that there are more stores and shops there today than there were five years ago – something that cannot be said for the other small towns on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Oh, I almost forgot. They seem to have survived well except for one thing: they apparently don’t have a downtown Hardware store. (For the significance  of that observation, you will have to read Ann's notes below.)

In the next entry, we’ll discuss our trips to Oxford, Cambridge, St. Mary’s City and our arrival in Deltaville. Meanwhile, here is .... Ann!

This is the Grill From Hell ... it demanded a small propane bottle
-- and we, after a march from hell, delivered it.
ANN’S NOTES:   As usual Michael has pretty much summed up what we have been doing, The summers in the VA/MD area seem to be filled with lots of improvements to and repairs of Traveling Soul. The bright side is I get to visit with family and friends and having a car makes that all possible. Thank you Tim and Carrie for taking good care of the car and thank you Dave and Joan for shuttling the car back and forth from one Marina to the other. We will pay you back somehow.

When Michael said that St. Michael has a hardware store down town he was correct. So……here is the story.  Michael cannot Bar-B-Q when we are at a marina because propane, fire, possible fuel fumes and boats to not make for a very good combination. However… while we are at anchor (or “on the hook “as other cruisers call it) Michael likes to cook out on the small grill. That grill needs small bottles of propane…not usually a problem when there is a hardware store around. Well after getting direction from a local store owner who said the hardware store was about a half-mile up the road, we headed in the direction of said hardware store. The Bataan Death March comes to mind, really a short walk? It was in the low 90`s with 300% humidity and not a tree to walk under…Two or three bottles of water each and  several hours  later we had those damn bottles of propane.  We ate those steaks and really did earn that dinner. Geez…if you every see two people walking along the side of the road when you are in a boating area and you have a few minutes to spare, stop and ask them if they need a ride…just saying.

I need to wrap this up so Michael can hit the SEND button…

Not much to report on wild, just the usual Bay birds and fish…oh…we did see a large black snake when we took a walk thru the park in St. Michaels

Thanks for reading…

Traveling Soul…OUT