Chesapeake City, a milestone of sorts.

It’s Tuesday morning here in Chesapeake City and everyone is waiting for the “big blow” that is expected to arrive mid day today.  For days everyone has been focused on getting to a good harbor to hole up in when today’s forecasted weather  with strong winds and gale force gusts is expected to arrive.  The little harbor here is a great spot, well protected and good holding in mud.

For me, Chesapeake City is more than that, it’s the true beginning of our trip, new life and the fulfillment of a dream that I have sought to achieve for many years.   While the beginning of the Intra Coastal Waterway is actually in Norfolk VA, for me it begins here.   The drudgery of slogging down the coast of NJ is behind us and the fun of gunk-holing and exploring is about to begin.

As my friend Keith said when he called me to check in last night, “from now on you don’t have to run long days or go outside unless you make that choice”.  We are in protected waters, meeting new friends, renewing friendships and just enjoying living aboard and cruising.

I may be repeating myself when I say that this trip is something that I have been focused on ever since we took our first summer trip aboard TAO, a 20′ Cape Cod catboat and our first boat.  When we did our first cruise, a two week run up Long Island Sound and back from Black Rock CT, I found myself feeling depressed a week into our two week trip as I realized that our time aboard was half over and that I would have to head back to work very soon.  As that very first trip aboard TAO came to and end, I said to Brenda that someday I hoped to be in a position to continue on and not to need to cut the trip short to head back to work after such a short time aboard.

I was jealous of those that I perceived as doing such a journey and devoured all sorts of books about voyaging aboard small boats.   Frankly, I really never could grasp how we would ever be able to do this before we were too old to handle the rigors of sailing long distances.  However, amazingly, here we are in Chesapeake City and doing what I have always dreamed of.

So often the phrase, “living the dream” is used to describe what we are doing now and for me that’s exactly what it is.  I have to admit that I am having a little difficulty accepting the fact that we are really on our way, but here we are and we are doing it.  “Bob, you shouldn’t be having so much fun.  Zapp, take that” as lightning strikes me down.”  Perhaps it’s the ghosts of my Puritanical heritage speaking.

So, why Chesapeake City?  Why this small town on the D&C Canal?   Why is this place so important to me?

When we found and purchased Pandora some five years ago in Annapolis, we enjoyed some sailing in the area prior to my running Pandora up to CT and as I brought her up with crew (Brenda has not traditionally done long legs with me), we stopped for a night here.  All and all, I have visited here three times, each time that I have transited the canal.

So, being here with Brenda is the realization of a dream on a number of levels.  Beyond being a sort of “gateway” to cruising, it’s also having her here with me to experience our trip every step of the way instead of arriving by car to spend part of the trip together.  It’s being fully immersed in the cruising lifestyle and spending time with others who are doing, and enjoying, the same.

Over the last several years, as I prepared Pandora, and Brenda, for this trip, we were fortunate to join a cruising group, the Seven Seas Cruising Association, SSCA.  This group, with 10,000+ members from all over the world, is comprised primarily of individuals that spend a lot of time aboard.  A good number  live full time on their boats, but many, like us, split our time between homes ashore and afloat… something that seems right to me.

I would credit members of this group, perhaps more than any other influence, in leading Brenda to say, about a year ago, “it’s time.”

If you hang out with the yacht club set, a group that I thoroughly enjoy spending time with, you will meet sailors that really like boats and being on the water.  What you will not get is a lot of couples that are willing to make a boat their home beyond their one or two week annual cruise.  Frankly, I don’t blame them at all as their boats are not really set up for cruising.  So many don’t even have dodgers or any sort of canvas over the cockpit to shelter them from the sun or rain.   When it rains they get wet.  When the sun shines, they get sunburned.   Their sailing is focused locally, in races or weekend nights on the boat and social time at the club.   It’s a great life and one that we enjoyed for years.  However, now we are into something completely different.

So, why did Brenda come to the conclusion a year ago that she would do this trip with me?  There are many factors, not the least of which is that, in general, she found that most of the women she has who cruise are “just like me.”  No dreadlocks and they care about personal hygiene, dress nicely and complain about crappy weather and bouts of seasickness as much as she does.  They have been very encouraging to her and sympathetic to her fears.  “Brenda, it will be fine.  You will love it, the Bahamas are beautiful.  Let me tell you about this wonderful place that we visited…. You are going to have a great time. It will be great fun, trust me.”

Last evening we enjoyed dinner with Rick and Julie who cruise a good part of the year aboard their SAGA 48, Altair.   Frank and Julie have been sailing together for years in a succession of boats.   Their sailing has taken them to the Bahamas, Caribbean some some eight times and, to date, a trip around the world.    When asked about seasickness, both Julie and Frank confessed that they generally feel a bit off, or worse, their first day at sea but that they get over it fairly quickly.

When asked what their plans are for this season, they said that they still aren’t sure exactly where they will be after the Caribbean.  Perhaps they will head to Panama and into the Pacific as there are some places that they want to visit again or for the first time.   I’d say that Frank and Julie are indeed “living the dream.”  They have found a way to see the world together and that’s what I am hoping to do with Brenda.  Well, at least see a little corner of the world, the Bahamas.  Well, I shouldn’t get ahead of myself on this one.  One step at a time, Bob.

While Frank and Julie are exploring the world together, others, like our friends Bob and Ginnie aboard The Abby, have taken a somewhat different approach.  They too have a boat capable of sailing wherever the wish.  When they began cruising extensively about ten years ago, they had loose plans to begin in the Bahamas for a season, move on to the Caribbean and perhaps beyond.  However, for them, they fell in love with the Bahamas and are now going back for the 8th season.   They feel no compulsion to move on as they have found their place, their world to explore and are content to split their time with summer cruises in New England and winters in the Bahamas along with a generous amount of time ashore as they spend their time ashore in their Connecticut home.

As I have often remarked, I want to do whatever I can do to help make this trip fun for us, especially for Brenda, or there won’t be a second trip.   So, how’s it going?  Perhaps you’d better ask Brenda.  However, it’s my blog and from my perspective, it’s going swimmingly, thank you.  We’ve been underway for a week now, the toughest leg, that nasty Jersey Coast run, is behind us and now it’s up to us to choose when to go and when to stay.  Yes, we have a long way to go to get to Florida where we will leave Pandora for a month while we head north to enjoy the holidays with our family, but there’s plenty of time between now and mid December, when we return home for the holidays, to enjoy our time together aboard Pandora.   For me, I am really looking forward to making the most of it with Brenda.

So, now that I have spilled my guts on the why’s of our trip, let me close with a brief bit of what.  Chesepeak City is a very tiny and quaint harbor just off of a busy commercial waterway shared by cruisers and ships alike.  Shortly after we arrived here yesterday I looked up and saw a real behemoth glide silently by.  Man, that’s a big boat.  I guess that the Breton fisherman’s prayer, “O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small” applies to some more than others. 

The town is very scenic and even has a really good knitting/weaving store.   Don’t think that I didn’t stoop to saying “Brenda, you really should visit Chesapeake City as there is a great yarn store!” as an additional lure to get here here.   Doesn’t she look like a happy knitter?A very pretty and well kept main street.  I particularly like the brick buildings.  Notice the details in this cornice. What a great building to house a gallery.  And the dominant highway bridge is always in evidence. Nice detail work on the well kept buildings.  The one on the end is a restaurant where we had dinner last night overlooking the canal with our friends.Today, in spite of the crappy weather, we hope to go for a walk and visit the canal museum which chronicles the history of the canal and area.  Besides, the town wouldn’t be here, or would we, if it weren’t for the canal.

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