Archive for July, 2010

Plan D

July 18, 2010

Thanks to our non-working engine during our week’s vacation, Halcyon ended up being a floating hotel room tied to the dock. We found ourselves with plenty of time to explore Rock Hall. All was still good despite our disappointment.

We had our bikes so we took advantage of the good weather and biked around town. ALL around town. Some days the only thing that kept me going was John’s promise of ice cream from Durding’s Store on Main Street. During that week I learned that perhaps encouraging him to buy an iPhone may have been a mistake.

The area around Rock Hall consists of gentle hills that look worse than they really are even for someone like me who doesn’t ride a bike all that often. I should. I don’t. I digress. Rock Hall is one of those towns where you see more on foot or on a bike than you do in a car, even if the speed limit is mostly 25 mph. During the week leading up to the fireworks over the 4th of July weekend, the town had its best face on. As we biked we saw homeowners along the parade route putting out their flags, making sure lawns were trimmed and cars were washed. A t-shirt company in town had all its doors open to the beautiful weather while the employees printed t-shirts for the expected visitors. Norman Rockwell couldn’t have asked for a better town to depict in his paintings.

One day we biked through town away from the Bay and down a back road that ended at what I now know is Herringtown Creek. Only a few houses sat on the banks of the creek and each had a private dock. What I noticed first was the silence. The water was still and we heard nothing but the occasional buzz of an insect and the splash of a fish. I walked to the bottom of the public boat ramp and soaked up the tranquil scene. I thought I saw a bald eagle land in one of the dead trees that stood in a clearing on the other side of the creek. The Bay has quite a bald eagle population these days so it isn’t unusual to see them. I turned around to see if John saw the eagle but he was occupied with his iPhone. I dropped down onto the grass to rest and watch the dragonflies. Behind me, still standing, John informed me that down river was a marina and the road behind us was public even though it was gravel. Important information gleaned from the iPhone and Google Maps. In the sky I watched two A-10 Thunderbolt (Warthog) jets doing their daily flyover. I turned around and John was tapping on the phone planning our next destination. The Warthogs flew over and away.

The next day, thanks to the iPhone, John located another road he wanted to explore. Again we headed through town but this time we turned south down Route 445 and then onto a road that led back to the Bay. The first house we passed was a lovely old Victorian being restored. Continuing we rode through a wooded area and I remember thinking that the green colors of the woods were extremely deep and fascinating. It reminded John of riding a bike around Yorktown, VA when he was at the Coast Guard station for training.

When we emerged from the woods the road ended not ten feet from the water. We had the spot to ourselves. I got off my bike and walked down to the water. Lining both sides of the road were tall reeds. A small fishing boat was anchored about 50 feet away. Towards the middle of the Bay sailboats traveled towards Rock Hall to the north and Knapps Narrows to the south on the channel that we should have been on. I turned back to John and mentioned that it made a perfect picture and that I regretted not bringing my camera. Of course, he was looking at his phone but he looked up long enough to give the scene a quick glance and offer to snap a picture with the iPhone’s camera. He was ready to leave having located the next road to explore. “According to Google Maps we go in this direction…”

The next road turned out to be a private drive.  While John poked at his iPhone wondering what happened, I pointed my bike towards town and headed to Durding’s for a root beer float.

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Plans A, B, C, and D

July 5, 2010

John contemplating a new engine.

John and I took the week off before the 4th of July weekend. During one of the snow storms that kept me home last winter I spent enjoyable hours researching, planning and plotting on the chart towns on the Bay to visit during the week. I began with an overly aggressive series of sails that included a different town each night. By spring I came to my senses and narrowed it down to two or three towns to visit within the week ending at our home marina in Rock Hall, MD for the fireworks on the 3rd. On the drive down to the boat we once again changed our plans and decided to play it by ear by starting out exploring the bottom of the Patapsco River as we are planning our sail club’s bridge to bridge race in the fall.

We drove down to Rock Hall on Monday evening because the weekend was just too hot and there was no wind. Tuesday morning we did our pre-underway preparations which included checking the oil. All was well. We planned to sail south from our marina at the entrance to Swan Creek to green can 1 where we would turn west and head off for adventure. Normally we turn at green can 3 but a few weeks ago our slip neighbor, who draws less than our 5’3”, touched bottom after turning.

We left the slip at high tide. The wind seemed perfect to get us there (wherever there was) fast and the sky was cloudless. I was at the helm while John released the lines. It was windy and as soon as the bow cleared the slip the wind grabbed hold of it and I had a little bit of a struggle getting us in the right direction but we made it out with no damage to our boat, the pilings or anyone else’s boat. Once into the fairway everything sounded good and Halcyon smoothly glided out of the marina. As soon as I cleared the fuel dock and turned into the channel the engine started sounding off. I started losing headway into the channel, wind waves crashed into the bow adding to the drama. A few minutes later after belching out thick grey smoke the engine stopped. During that few minutes John ran down to the engine compartment and pulled out the dipstick on which he discovered runny grey oil. We drifted (quickly in that wind) towards the docks outside of the marina, set the anchor with about 20 feet to spare before crashing into the docks and called Boat US.

Before Halcyon was launched this season I upgraded our towing package to “unlimited” not realizing that our first tow would be from right outside our marina! In about 45 minutes the tow boat arrived from Baltimore, took us in a side two and guided us back into our slip. The tow boat operator was professional and gave clear instructions for tying the lines and weighing the anchor while both boats were tied together. Because of the narrow fairway to our slip trying to get back in under sail was out of the question. We are not that experienced nor are we prepared to buy any of the Island Packets and other 40 foot plus boats we pass on our way to our slip.

Once tied in our slip we made arrangements to have the engine looked at by the marina. We weren’t sailing any time soon. Later that afternoon the mechanic drained the oil. That evening John researched new engines. On Wednesday the mechanic added new oil and started the engine with the seacock closed just long enough to see if the engine would turn over. The engine started so he didn’t think it would need either a total rebuild or that we would have to buy a new engine. He told us that it could be anything but that he thought the gasket blew causing the raw water to mix with the oil so he would start there.   Since he couldn’t get to the gasket until after the holiday we re-grouped and worked out Plan D (another post).