Sept 21: From St. Michael’s, we headed to the Wye River, about two hours away. It LOOKED a lot closer than that, but the route was very winding and called for slower speeds and at least two pairs of eyes – but it was well worth it. The Wye is what we had envisioned the wilder side of the Chesapeake to be. Quiet, beautiful, unspoiled. We dropped anchor in the Wye East River in a pretty cove called Wye Heights.
Anxious to try out our crabbing skills, we “MacGyver’d” a net from leftover bug screen material and an unbent (extra) fly swatter. Between Kathleen’s “crack” sewing skills (yeah, right) and Neil’s judicious use of hose clamps, we thought we were all set, and dropped baited lines off the stern. We got a few nibbles and slowly reeled them in, but were unable to seal the deal – just kept missing with the net as the crabs scurried away.
The next morning dawned calm and cool, with a misting of fog – perfect for the first official day of Fall. After that burned off, we had a bluebird sky day with calm water – perfect for another shot at crabbing. We launched the dinghy, intent on having steamed crab for dinner. Although we exerted tremendous effort (see pictures), we once again could not net the crabs. After several hours of “diligent work”, we went back to the boat and settled for a chicken dinner (Kathleen had wisely taken it out of the freezer on the “off chance” that we were less than successful in our endeavours…).
Bright and early the following morning, Neil discovered that only crab lining was allowed on Wednesdays, no professional boatmen – and this was a Wednesday! We ventured up to the local marina (and this is very local…). Neil bought some more chicken necks and we rented one of their crab nets, larger and sturdier than our homebuilt one. We were assured that there had been tons of crabs “just a couple of weeks ago” in shallow waters, and with our luck in at least catching the crabs eating off of our lines, we went out with renewed spirits.
At our second spot we had our first luck. Kathleen caught a beautiful big Maryland blue crab. “Do you want to hold it up for a picture?” Neil asked. Kathleen privately thought him crazy, and declined. He then bravely picked it up from behind while Kathleen snapped pictures – apparently one too many as the crab was able to bend his claw around to Neil’s thumb and draw blood. We went back to the boat to bandage the wound, one crab in the bucket.
Over the course of the day, we succeeded in catching four more crabs. Kathleen has a difficult time not anthropomorphizing almost any animal, and was beginning to feel sorry for them, even the one that had clipped Neil. However, when the last caught crab was dumped into the bucket with one other crab, they started fighting – ending rather abruptly when the first crab ripped off the claw and arm of the second. It didn’t phase either crustacean. They went back to being dinner for Kathleen after that.
After a google search for steamed Maryland blue crab recipes, Kathleen got a boil going on the stove and the instant pot while Neil humanely dispatched the crabs (again, thank you google). We had a true feast that evening, up on the boat deck, a nice bottle of wine and a million dollar view. Absolutely perfect end to a fantastic day. And now, we knew we wouldn’t starve – once we buy a good net, that is.
Sept 24: We left the anchorage to one closer to the entrance to the Wye for the night. It was cloudy, cool and rainy, so not much to do, but did have a crab salad from the last two crabs for a snack.
We left the Wye on the 25th and headed to the Tred Avon River. The six hour run was again very calm, with our greatest challenge being “let’s play dodging the crab pots”.
The Tred has a long history – apparently the original name of the river was (possibly) Thread Haven, as all types of threads and lines were made and sold here. It hosts Oxford, a wonderful colonial town that was once a trading hub for the Chesapeake. We anchored in the Trippe Creek off of the Tred Avon.
After lowering the dinghy the next day (we’re getting rather proficient at this), we cruised up to Easton, about five miles away. Along the ride, we saw the house we had visited with Kerry when we were in St. Michael’s – different view from the water, but just as beautiful.
There were many professional waterman out crabbing, and we once again admired the hard work they do. We had intended to dock our dinghy at Easton and walk into town to a grocery store, but there was not a dinghy dock in sight. While we were buy some gas for the dinghy, we asked if there was any area where we could tie up for a few hours and got no help whatsoever. This was definitely a waterman’s dock, not meant for tourists like us. So we ventured back out and went to Oxford, where there was a free dinghy dock at the end of Market Street.
We had a fun time walking around, shopping at a very small market in the town, and discovering the Scottish Highland Creamery where Neil indulged in the first ice cream since God knows when. We walked passed the Hinckley Yacht Yard where several of their magnificent yachts were on display and the Cutts and Case Shipyard, a historical yard that still repairs and builds wooden yachts. Both showed beautiful craftsmanship and it was so much fun to wander around.
We came back the next day to do a walking tour. Every town we hit, it seems, is a part of our fascinating American history. We’ve come to the conclusion that Michener truly did take bits and pieces of stories from these towns to create his fictional place in Chesapeake. We love history and being here brings it to life, making the struggles and the mistakes, as well as successes and unlikely wins all the more relevant in today’s world.
We could definitely tell that the weather was changing, as we no longer used air conditioning at all and have added an extra blanket to the bed at night. Maryland was made for Autumn. The crisp smell of sharp skies, the sun still warming during the day, leaves seemingly bursting overnight into arrays of fall colors. It’s quieter now too as there are fewer boaters on the water. We wear socks nearly every day, and Neil has even been spotted a time or two wearing jeans (something he has steadfastly not done since January). Enjoying a hot cup of coffee or tea in the brisk morning and while watching spectacular sunsets remind us once again why we decided to make this move to this life. And we still have no regrets, whatsoever.