After a brief hiatus for the trip to France, we resume our travels on America’s Great Loop. Heading north up the Chesapeake Bay, we stop in small coastal towns and one big town very familiar to us – Annapolis – where we have some honored guests fort a night.
May 26 - 28, 2022
After a busy couple days of errands and prep, we were excited to continue our trek north on The Great Loop. Our original plan to leave on 5/27 required a typical weather adjustment and we always prefer to move earlier than planned rather than get behind. So we headed out of Little Creek Marina on a gray, misty morning. There was a bit of a chop and intermittent rain, so not the ideal cruising conditions but not bad. With the price of diesel so high, we are even more aware of our speed and fuel consumption. But decided it was worth it to kick it in the butt for the first bit until we got clear of the mouth of the Chesapeake the swells rolling in from offshore.
As we moved up the bay, we noted on our navigation screens a cluster of boats just sitting to the east, which show up as green triangles. It indeed appeared there was a party happening to which we had not been invited. As we got closer, we began seeing the shadows of large vessels eerily emerging out of the mist/haze and realized they were all commercial cargo vessels at anchor, awaiting their turn to go up to Baltimore or into Norfolk to load/unload cargo. We counted at least 25. Just another reminder of the role the Chesapeake Bay plays in commerce, past and present. Also a reminder of the incredible amount of stuff that comes into the US from afar.
Urbanna is a small town about 15 nm up the wide Rappahannock River. It’s far enough out of the way that a lot of Loopers don’t add the extra 2 hours each way, but we are really glad we did. It quickly became one of our favorite stops of the past year. We were staying at Urbanna Boatyard and Marina, affectionately called URBBY by the locals. Great marina. Andy the new owner met us at the dock, and seeing the submarine in our logo mentioned that he had been Navy also. Turns out he and Dave had a mutual acquaintance who was a submariner. Andy and his wife Amy had recently acquired the marina just two months ago, and it’s a really nice marina by many standards.
Urbanna’s was founded as one of the first twenty port towns created by England in 1680 through which trade was controlled. Trade being tobacco, of course, which was actually used as currency by Urbanna farmers and colonists. The visitor center/museum is the only remaining warehouse/general store in the entire country from these original ports. The road in front of it gently slopes down all the way to the water and is the actual ramp used to roll the packed barrels of tobacco (called hogsheads – beats me why) down to the waiting ships for export back to England.
In further Urbanna history, there is an original John Mitchell Map in the museum. I had never heard of John Mitchell or his map, but I am now educated as to its importance. Trained as a physician in England, he practiced in Urbanna in the mid-1700s and had a side gig studying the local botany. When the physician thing didn’t work out for some reason, he returned to England where he was more successful as a botanist garden consultant to the rich. Then Ben Franklin tells some British poobah about him, who then tracks him down and says, “Hey, since you lived over in the Virginia Colony, how about drawing a map of all the colonies?” Apparently just living in Urbanna made him the most qualified guy in England for this job. So his third career as a cartographer is launched and the John Mitchell Map is created; it is surprisingly accurate. This map later gets used to define territory for the Treaty of Paris and lots of other land disputes, including a fishing boundaries dispute with Canada in the 1980s. (Note to Canada: you really need to get better lawyers if the other side is using a 250 year old map and you lose…) One of the original wall-sized maps can be
We biked and scootered (bootered? I just made up that word and gonna use it from here on out) all around the town, enjoying the simple but well-kept homes, many that had some remnants of the colonial past, churches, and stumbled upon a delightful little pocket park that went right down to the river. The small Main Street had several boutiques, restaurants, a cakery (which did not disappoint), and a coffee shop that of course we had to patronize not only for our usual cappuccino and afternoon treat but because it was called Where The Sidewalk Ends (it actually is located where the downtown sidewalk stops) and I’m a big Shel Silverstein fan. One place showcased local artists, sold antiques and used books in the back, had Local Watermens Exhibit in the way back, and the sole retailer in town of $10 pashmina scarves. The proprietor was a lovely woman who also happened to be the Mayor. Her children’s book section had a near-complete first edition of The Bobsey twins as well as many other series, setting my bibliophile heart flutter.
We hit an inevitable milestone – Roxy fell in the water. Astute long-term followers will recall she fell in the St. Johns River while getting on the dinghy. That one she had her life jacket on and was moving from boat to dinghy so was inherently risky. But here in Urbanna it was more inexplicable. We were out for our morning walk and along the seawall of the marina looking at the docked boats. She was dragging a bit behind, sniffing at the grass. We heard a splash, Dave felt a tug on the leash, and we turned to see the leash running over the seawall. Neither of us saw how or why she actually fell in. The good news is that she floats and seems to know how to swim when in this predicament, and Dave was able to reach down the two feet to her scruff while lying on his belly over the seawall but couldn’t quite get a hand underneath her to pull her up. So I was holding onto his feet to keep him from falling in also as he scooped her up and then squirmed his way back enough to deposit her on the grass. If the marina has security cameras I suspect we will be making a guerst appearance on the Dog Walking Fail YouTube channel soon. As for Roxy, after a few shakes and a couple rolls in the grass, she seemed non-plusse I think she was more upset with the bath she received when we got back to the boat.
May 29 - 30
Sunrise start for what was going to be our longest distance traveled in a single day – 90+ miles. In another first, I actually drove the boat off the dock. I’ve been wanting to do more maneuvering, but with just the two of us Dave can’t be at the helm teaching me if he’s out working the lines. But this was such great conditions with plenty of room that he was able to do the teaching the night before and so at the helm was I as the sun came up! It was fun and I look forward to doing it more.
Since we spent several weeks cruising the Chesapeake Bay last summer, we were beating feet – er, fins? – to get north, hence the long distance day. Conditions were great, and we were able to get up to max cruising speed a good part of the way, arriving in the Deale area in about 8 hours. Deale is a big boating town, and since it was the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and a beautiful day on the water at that, we spent the last hour as we approached the marina dodging all kinds of small craft. Almost all were very courteous and smaller, more maneuverable so really no close calls, but all the wakes from every different direction made for some chop and Dave had to be quite attentive to all the moving targets involved.
As I said, Deale is a big boating town with lots of marinas and boatyards – and really not much else. We were staying at Shipwright Harbor Marina on the furthermost T-Head, giving us a front-row seat to the impromptu boat parade going on in and out of the harbor on the holiday weekend. And what a boat parade it was! Big boats, small boats, power and sail boats, overloaded boats, a wide variety of music blaring from boats. We actually enjoyed just sitting and watching – it was great entertainment.
We did go for a booter ride on Memorial Day. Not the most bike friendly as there were no shoulders on most of the two-lane roads, but a nice ride. We happened across an outdoor Memorial Day service at a church just after it had ended, and the boy scouts taking down the canopies and seats were quite reminiscent of our volunteer days at the Stillwater Vet Memorial. We then returned to watch more boat parade and finally a late afternoon swim in the really nice marina pool.
May 31 - June 1
Short run to Annapolis, and Dan and Fab were at the marina watching as we pulled in at noon. We were familiar with this marina, having stayed here last summer. They had flown from France after the celebration there to have a second celebration or family and friends in Maryland. Now they were going to spend a couple days with us on the boat.
After a personal tour of USNA, we wandered through downtown Annapolis and found a place to have dinner. The next morning, we took the dinghy out for a spin and a quick swim for Fab in the Chesapeake Bay. We took advantage of the marina pool to cool off, then they took us for a grocery run. After an early dinner on the boat, we had to say goodbye. They have one more day left in the States and then they return to their regular lives in Australia.
When we depart Annapolis and head north, we will be entering ‘uncharted waters’ for us on The Loop. We will continue up the Chesapeake, and then down Delaware Bay. We’ve got a lot of new places to visit, things to see, and people to meet. And we need to figure out how to keep Roxy from falling in.
Pops’ Stats Corner*
- Tot days covered this blog: 7
- Travel days: 3
- Miles traveled: 196.7 sm (171 nm)
- Tot Roxy dunkings: 2
*’Pops’ is what the family called Dave’s dad. He had an amazing mind for any kind of statistic, earning him the nickname Numbers from the Stillwater high school coaches for whom he kept team stats. This regular feature of the blog is named in his honor.