The Chesapeake Bay is 195 miles long and 30 miles across at its widest point. Its main basin covers 3,200 square miles and laps 8,000 miles of shoreline. Given its size and many rivers, creeks, coves, islands and peninsulas, the Chesapeake is a boating paradise begging to be explored.
If part-time mariners had up to a week to spend voyaging on the Chesapeake this summer, where might they decide to go? Which destinations should be considered when planning a cruise on the largest estuary in North America?
What follows is a brief log of possibilities for the northern, central and southern regions of Maryland. For navigation, recreational boaters should find the Maryland Cruising Guide sufficient. This booklet, available at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) gift shop and online at www.md.nautical.com/mdcg.htm, contains charts, a distance table, an index of places and emergency-assistance information.
Northern Waters and
Of the 278 species sighted, more than 90 are waterbirds. The island functions much like an avian convention center and is truly jammed at the peaks of the migratory seasons, when 10,000 shorebirds and 50,000 waterfowl may be present.
The landmass of the island is being greatly expanded by dredged material deposited on the eastern side. The south end of the containment area is already filled and will be fully converted to a bird sanctuary this year. When this new area will be open to the public is uncertain, however birds will be welcome right away.
Havre de Grace has ample accommodations for overnight stays at the City Yacht Basin and private marinas. Restaurants, shops and museums are within easy walking distance, and a long waterfront promenade affords a fine view of the Bay. While you are there be sure to visit the Concord Point lighthouse. Built in 1827, it marks the northernmost point of the Chesapeake.
Rogues Harbor, DNR's marina at Elk Neck State Park, is two miles up the Elk. Essentials such as snacks, ice, bait, restrooms, gasoline and a pumpout facility are available. Boaters can also anchor at the park's beach just above the marina to swim.
A few miles farther but on the south side is the Bohemia River, a pretty place to take a dip and spend a lazy afternoon. Anchor out, enjoy the area's pastoral beauty, and spend the night on the sleepy Bohemia.
Central Waters and Destinations
Rivers on the Western Shore
If the popular Severn River strikes you as too crowded for summer cruising, the South River is an accommodating alternative. Squatting in its mouth is the Thomas Point lighthouse, the last active, cottage-style screwpile on the Chesapeake.
These distinctive lighthouses-wooden structures, usually hexagonal or octagonal, perched on a web of iron piles screwed into soft bottoms-were once common on the Bay. Be sure to take a close look at this very utilitarian invention that has undeniable visual and architectural appeal.
The South River, deep and long, has an abundance of inlets and several marinas. Dock at historic Londontown to tour the William Brown House and experience what life was like in the colonial era.
On the Eastern Shore:
The next day, cruise up the Chester for a lunch stopover. At Chestertown, tie up at a marina or anchor out for an overnight. Eighteenth-century homes front the tree-lined streets, and walking through the town is like exploring a living museum. An eclectic mix of shops and restaurants await you on Cross and High Streets.
Eastern Bay and Wye Island NRMA
For boaters who would rather catch glimpses of flying and four-legged wildlife, DNR's 2,800-acre Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area (NRMA) is a short cruise eastward. Located on the Wye River and the Wye East River, there are numerous tranquil places to anchor for the night.
The NRMA encourages boaters to come ashore to explore the island and its habitat which provides a home for the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel. Bald eagles, ducks, wading and woodland birds live here, and beginning in August, an assortment of migratory waterfowl arrives to spend the winter.
If civilization in the form of a charming town is what you desire, St. Michaels is just five miles up the Miles River. The town has long been a popular boating destination. Pick up a walking-tour brochure to help find your way around, and be sure to see the Hooper Straight lighthouse, an octagonal screwpile relocated to the grounds of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
Southern Waters and Destinations
Solomons on the Patuxent
Visit the Calvert Marine Museum to tour the Drum Point lighthouse, a screwpile moved from its original site two miles away, and to see its exhibits on Chesapeake workboats and the oyster-canning industry. Part of Solomons is built on piles of discarded oyster shells.
A cruise up the Patuxent retraces the route taken by the British in 1814 to attack and burn Washington, D.C. Island Creek and Battle Creek are two quiet, peaceful spots for anchoring overnight. The latter leads into Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, the country's northernmost stand of bald cypress.
History on the Lower Potomac
Exhibits at the living-history museum, called Historic St. Mary's City, tell the story of those early times. Fifteen miles upriver is St. Clement's Island, a state park and the actual site where the English settlers disembarked after their long and arduous trip across the Atlantic aboard the Ark and the Dove.
Tangier Sound and Janes Island
One attraction of Tangier Sound is the abundant wildlife flourishing on its surrounding islands and marshlands, most of which are pristine and protected. Janes Island State Park, just north of Crisfield, encompasses 2,900 acres of this kind of habitat. The park offers camping and rents canoes and kayaks for exploring its 30 miles of water trails, which wind through the saltmarsh island. The park's marina, right up the Little Annemessex River, has 25 boat slips available to campers.
Another attraction of Tangier Sound is its fishing. Along its islands during the first and last hours of the day, striped bass swarm into the shallows to feed near the marsh grass. Pull in, cast lures near the grass, and enjoy a tasty rockfish for dinner.
Off Island Point, a corner of Janes Island, and west of buoy 8 is a place called "The Puppy Hole." You'll recognize it for the number of boats anchored there. On the bottom, perhaps 70 feet down, are caught spot, croaker, sea trout, blues, flounder and even red drum, the ideal choice when making blackened fish.
Long ago, Greek sailors prayed to Poseidon for a safe voyage. They believed he bestowed calm seas when in good spirits and caused earthquakes and shipwrecks when he was not. Taking precautions still makes sense, so when voyaging on the Chesapeake this summer, pay close attention to the weather, know your boat's limitations, have life jackets aboard, and follow all other practices of a prudent and modern mariner.
When all that
stuff's out of the way, sit back, relax and most importantly - enjoy. Here's
betting that won't be very difficult to do...