Crossing Back To The West Side And The Potomac

Preparing dinner!

July 16th

As soon as the post office opened in Onancock today we were there to send off our passports to get visas for a trip we are doing in October.  We couldn’t do this before we left home as the visas are only valid for 90 days and doing it then then would have been too early. Afterwards we walked to Ker Place, a mansion and grounds preserved by the Eastern Virginia Historical Society. The house itself was not open on a Monday but we were able to walk around the gardens and the large fishing canoe that they are restoring.

Ker PLace

We returned to Sonas, lifted the dinghy, and headed back to the Chesapeake Bay and towards Tangier Island. As we went down the river we saw some beautiful houses with even more beautiful views!

Onancock houses
Onancock houses
Onancock houses

Tangier Island is from a time past. Rather than us trying to describe it clicko HERE to read about the history of the island and the threat to its future.

We ran at 1400 RPM and around six knots as it was only 17 miles from Onancock. We also wanted to get there at a minimum of a rising mid-tide as the channel is quite shallow. We pulled into the eastern channel around 1:15 and slowly passed the watermen “shantytown” on stilts, with crabbers unloading their catch.

Tangier watermen town

We tried calling Parks Marina multiple time to no avail. We like to call early enough that Sian had time to get the lines and fenders ready on the correct side. We didn’t get an answer until we were right on top of the marina. Then he answered and told us he was in the house and would be right out. Mr. Parks, about 80 years old, soon appeared. He then spoke animatedly into his handheld radio but we heard nothing. Paul signaled that he wasn’t coming through so we then shouted at each other, enough to work out that we were taking the T-head. We also needed to tie the bow to a pile out in front of the bulkhead. Since we had not been made aware of the tie-up we had no line ready and Sian scrambled to get a loop made and the line around the pile. It took a while but we were soon tied and double tied to the bulkhead.

Paul paid Mr. Parks in cash – $70 ($30 per night for the boat and $5 per night for the power)! This is a pretty inexpensive place!

After ensuring ourselves that Sonas was well secured we started to head into town. On the dock we met John, an Englishman from Norfolk – the one in England. He lives over in Crisfield but comes to the island to help out once a week. He gave us an overview and then told us that there was a crab festival in Crisfield on Wednesday that we would enjoy.

We walked up the main street of Tangier and read the many historical signs. We visited their small but very well done museum, and called into a couple of little one room stores. We bought a postcard and a Christmas ornament. Everyone we met along the way were happy to chat.

We had been given a recommendation to try the stuffed flounder at the Fisherman’s Corner restaurant. Walking past just after four we saw that it closed at six. So we stopped in to ask is that meant last food orders at six, or out the door at six. They told us, because the ferries had not brought many tourists over today, they were just about to close! We also discovered that the island is dry, so no beer or wine with dinner! The only other restaurant right across the corner already had a closed sign up!

So we planned on eating on board this evening. We then watched as a neatly dressed couple left their  boat, which was tied up beside us, and headed into town looking like they were off to dinner! So Paul took a walk in and found the other restaurant now open. He went in and found that they were serving until nine. We got cleaned up and off we went to Lorraine’s for dinner. There we bumped into another John, from Leister in England this time, who we had previously  spoke with over in Onancock. He was cruising around alone in his cuddy cabin boat. He had his food delivered to our table and joined us for dinner.

July 17th

Plan was to spend a very relaxing day here at Tangier Island. We walked the marsh side of the island past some splendid houses, but also past some very low lying areas of the island where both the houses and the golf carts needed to be stored on elevations because the high tides came in across the properties. Even the school playing field was tidal!

Tidal baseball field
Ramps to keep the carts out of the tide
Garden ornaments

We visited the lovely Methodist Church, wondered at the gravestones that people had in their front yards (because they needed to be buried in elevated areas that would not be flooded), waved and chatted to everyone we passed.

Tangier Methodist Church

We went in to Fisherman’s Corner for lunch – Crab Cake salad and Crab bites no less! Then back to Sonas for some light maintenance . We then spent a relaxing afternoon reading on board. During the afternoon a Kady Krogen 52, Kay Dee Anna, came down the channel. Knowing the challenge they would have contact Mr. Parks, Paul turned in the radio and we helped them connect with Mr. Parks – which included Paul shouting to him and Sian telling him that he wasn’t on the right channel on his handheld VHF radio. We got onto the dock and helped them tie up.

Also during the afternoon some sail boats crewed by boy scouts came in looking to tie up. They hung about off the marina trying to raise Mr. Parks. At one stage one of the sailboats ran aground over by the crab shacks and had to be towed off by some watermen. They eventually gave up and went off somewhere else.

July 18th

We planned to leave today after breakfast. We noticed a golf cart with some scouts on board watching us. When we started the engines they came up and asked if we needed some help. They were waiting to move into our spot on the dock. Which we were getting ready to go the folks on Kay Dee Anna told us that Mr Parks had a bad fall off the little scooter that he rides up and down the dock. His foot had been in a cast and his hands bandaged up and he was likely going back to the mainland with his daughter. He had earlier told us that he had just recovered from a broken hip bone. We suspect that the old marina will not be around much longer.

We headed back out into Tangier Sound and followed the chart heading towards Crisfield. Suddenly we were running out of water, not indicated on the chart. There was a shoal off to our port which we suspected had spread. So we headed further away from the shoal and the depth improved.

We ran along the outside of a number of crab pot lines, eventually having to nip between a line of pots to make the Chrisfield channel. We backed into slip G3 at the Somers Cove Marina. After checking in we walked past the thousands of people attending the crab and clam bake. We decided at $50 a head, we wouldn’t go there for lunch. We walked up Main Street and noticed a lot of the building were empty, and those that did contain a business were not in great condition. The overall impression we got is that this is a town in serious decline. Even the marina, with 450 slips, was only about 20% occupied. We finally stopped off at Capn. Tyler’s Crab House and had a nice, what else, CRAB CAKE lunch!


Returning to Sonas we did some small chores and then spent the afternoon and evening relaxing on the back deck. There were a couple of transient boaters in the slips around us and we chatted to one owner who owned a boat dealership.

July 19th

Paul went up to the main dock to drop off some recycling and while he was away a gentleman from a nearly boat knocked on Sonas and asked if he was around. He told Sian that he knew Paul from the Trawler Forum. So when Paul got back he went over to his boat and Ted and he had a good chin-wag! We then cast off and went over to the fuel dock to pump out our holding tank. We have a holding tank monitor and it had just gone to two thirds full. We had another week to go until our next marina in DC, so we decided to pump out today rather than take the risk of it filling up.

We then headed out and across Kedges Channel towards the mouth of the Potomac River. We passed the rusted out remains of the Hannibal, which was scuttled on a sand bar near Smith Island and is used for firing practice by US Air Force jets and helicopters.

Target ship Hannibal

We entered the Potomac and turned into St Mary’s River, going all the way up to anchor off the Historic City of St Mary’s along with a half dozen other boats. Once the capital of Maryland before it was moved to Annapolis, it is now a historic site with some restored buildings and a lot of archeological sites. St Mary’s College is also there, and there were a number of school racing dinghies practicing with their coach when we got to the anchorage. When we looked up the college on the Web we found that they do a concert series and the next one is tomorrow night. We were planning on heading out tomorrow but decided to stay and attend the concert.

Historic St Mary’s anchorage
St Mary’s anchorage sunset

Our dinghy had a leak. We first noticed this in the Abacos earlier in the year and had put up with it by pumping it up on a daily basis. We decided it was time to find the leak and fix it. We raised the dinghy and turned it in the boat deck so we could wipe the hypalon tubes with soapy water. The resultant bubbles told us where the leak was – and it was a long scratch along the bottom of one tube – probably from a Bahamian Beach! We cut pieces of hypalon repair patches to match the scratch and put on two layers of glue. We will know within 24 hours if we have fixed the issue. [Update: no, still leaking. We will have to have another go at fixing this later].

July 20th

By the time we got up this morning the majority of the other boats had left the anchorage. We got going on some more boat chores. Paul tightened some head bolts, got the transfer pump primed and transferred fuel, and cleaned out the forward bilge. Sian cleaned windows, and added vinegar to all of the shower and AC drains to keep them clear. Then she made the boat smell delicious by baking a loaf of bread!

Sian doing some maintenance on the master cabin AC!

After chores we lounged on the back deck reading until it was time to launch the dinghy and go to the concert. We got to the College green and bought some dinner from one of the numerous food trucks. The concert was billed as classical music with Dancing Under The Stars. Unfortunately the bright sun was setting right behind the stage and it was hard to see unless you had something to shade your eyes. After about twenty minutes of sitting on our blanket with the orchestra playing pieces of Swan Lake,  we decided this was not our cup of tea, so headed back to Sonas.

July 21st

The forecast called for serious gale-force winds and rain all day today beginning late morning. So we were off the anchorage shortly after seven.

Since we arrived on the Chesapeake we find that every time we lift the anchor it brings up loads of mud, which ends up covering the deck. Sian now lays out a hose and cleans the chain and anchor as it comes up.

Muddy foredeck

We retraced our path back to the Potomac and turned northwest past Piney Point and towards Breton Bay. Not one other vessel of any size passed us, and none appeared on the radar. We followed the bay north to Leonardtown and anchored close by the high banks there which would give us solid protection against any wind. We laid down plenty of chain and added the snubber.

It did rain all day and into the night, sometimes very heavily, however we felt nothing of the wind due to our protected spot. The forecast had called for potentially over two inches of rain today. We took the time to do a couple of small boat chores, of which there always seems to be plenty! We watched a movie – Sweet Home Alabama and read as the rain hammered down.

July 22nd

We woke to calm winds and blue sky, but with another nasty weather forecast for this afternoon. We got underway quickly and headed out to the Potomac. We again headed north toward Tobacco River and our next anchorage. Suddenly we were in the middle of a debris field, with hundreds of pieces of wood, some a decent size. We slowed down and navigated our way through it.

Debris field

We went under the Route 301 bridge and headed for Tobacco River on the Maryland side of the Potomac. As we approached the mouth of the river we saw that the anchorage was exposed to the Southeast – and that was where the wind was coming from. So we quickly looked at the charts and saw a potential good anchorage just ahead on the Virginia side, behind Mathais Point Neck. During the trip we also saw some houses up on the high banks, with some innovative ways of getting to their boat docks.

Personal lift to the boat dock

We pulled in there as far as we could before we reached the huge crab pot field. As we were anchoring we listened as a boat  just ahead of us on the river put out a Securite call on the VHF warning all boaters that there was another significant debris field at his location “with pieces of wood large enough to damage a boat!”

After getting the anchor down we used the Internet to find that counties up river had over five inches of rain yesterday with flash flooding, and flooded roads. Clearly the debris fields were the result of that movement of water into the river.

We re-scanned for TV channels on our digital antennae and watched the last couple of hours of the British Open golf. Thunder storms continued to roll through for the rest of the day, and a warning came over the radio advising people to stay indoors in St George and Charles Counties on the Maryland side of the river, but we were snug in our anchorage.

Potomac Beauty and the Beast


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