Dick and Gayl's Cruising Adventures

Chesapeake Bay South End

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This section has two pages.  The link to Page 2 is at the bottom of this page.
Monday, May 9  Old Point Comfort to Onancock, Virginia
66.6 miles
What a Difference a Day Makes
We woke to a wake wildly rocking our boat at 5:45 am.  When we left the anchorage at 7 am, we were the eighth of eleven boats there to leave.
We enjoyed smooth waters, sunshine, and light winds all the way to Onancock, on Chesapeake Bay's Eastern Shore.  Our greatest concern throughout the day was avoiding crab traps.  Even ten miles out from shore, we would suddenly find ourselves in a field of colorful floats, forcing us to dodge about like a pinball.  We really hate the black and deep green floats, because you can be almost upon them before you see them.  The danger is, of course, that a rudder or propeller could snag the line from the trap to the float, and if it wrapped around the propeller shaft the line could stop the engine and/or damage the transmission -- a BIG problem.


We followed a narrow serpentine channel up Onancock Creek to get to Onancock Wharf.  The shore is lined with beautiful homes old and new, and has many sandy coves and points, some marshland, and mature trees.  Ospreys perch on nests built atop many of the channel markers.  The area is very picturesque -- we could have taken pictures around each twist and turn.

Onanacock welcoming party

When we docked at the wharf, we had an audience of town elders hanging out on a bench with a front  row view of the marina face dock.  They welcomed us and told us that Onancock means "land of fog," the town has 1500 residents, and is the second oldest community in Virginia. They suggested places we should see while in town, and one man even offered to drive us to a good breakfast spot the next morning.
We rode our bikes around town and out several miles to the grocery store.  There wasn't a condo complex or chain hotel to be seen -- just lots of well-maintained vintage homes in town and out in the countryside, most with lovely landscaping, well-tended gardens (iris and lilacs in bloom here now), and fresh paint.  There was one gothic mansion with an overgrown front yard that perfectly matched the setting of a Nancy Drew mystery, but it was a glaring exception to the standards of the town. 
The downtown area runs along one street for six blocks, and it seems vital, although it is clear we are here ahead of their season, so many places had limited hours.
We were charmed.
A Few Last Words About Virginia
As we head north, we will be leaving Virginia, and we haven't yet talked about the state symbols. The state bird is the cardinal, called the Virginia Nightingale in the 18th century.  The state tree and state flower are the dogwood. The state dog is the American Fox Hound.  George Washington imported fox hounds to Virginia for hunting, and all American Fox Hounds are descendents of his dogs.
The state has a history of tobacco as a major cash crop, and the people of the state seem to wish to ensure the future success of the tobacco industry by personally consuming more cigarettes per capita than people in any other state.  We don't have statistics on this -- just personal observations of prevalence of smoking and of cigarette butts strewn about public places.
Finally, the state song is Carry Me Back To Old Virginny, which has lyrics that are so offensive that it is hard to believe the state still chooses to honor it:
Carry me back to old Virginny--
There's where the cotton and the corn and 'tatoes grow,
There's where the birds warble sweet in springtime,
There's where the old darky's heart am long to go.
There's where I labored so hard for old massa,
Day after day in the field of yellow corn.
No place on earth do I love more sincerely
Than old Virginny, the state where I was born.
(written by James Bland)
Tuesday, May 10, 2005  Onancock, VA to Crisfield, MD 
"Seafood Capital of the Eastern United States"
28.2 miles
Crisfield is just a short way north of Onancock on the Eastern Shore, but it is in a different state, and a different state of mind.  The narrow channel to the marina passes a condo building so close to the water's edge you could pass a jar of Grey Poupon from the flybridge to someone standing on their second floor balcony.  (Remember, no condos in Onancock.)  The Crisfield Marina has 450 slips vs. Onancock's 17.  Where Onancock seemed relaxed and residential, Crisfield is clearly a working town -- the main street has three hardware stores side-by-side, and Jordan's Confectioners proclaims "We cater to watermen."  That means even though they call themselves a confectioner, they don't sell fudge or salt water taffy, and certainly not espresso drinks.
We decided to eat lunch at Jordan's, and found their sign to be accurate.  All the customers except us were watermen, and we could scarcely understand a word they said as they had a group conversation spanning all the tables in the back of the smoky restaurant.  It was a cross-cultural immersion experience.
Dick also explored the marine hardware store, in search of parts for our exotic electric "designer toilet," which seemed to be losing its flushing power.  Although the proprietor did not have the parts, after calling four suppliers, he found one in New York City who had the parts in stock and could express them to him overnight.
Before Dick started dissembling the toilet, we rode our bikes over to Janes Island State Park.  The park has five or six kayak and canoe trails, but we were too late in the day Tuesday to rent a kayak, and too early in the season for the staff to be sure that anyone would show up to rent kayaks the next day.   We did a little birding by bicycle, until we spotted a couple crabbing on the park dock.
We went over to watch them and learn their technique.  They tied about 14 feet of twine to a chicken back and put a weight on it.  They threw the chicken back out in the water, left it for 10 minutes, then slowly pulled it in.  When the chicken back got near the surface, they put a net beneath it to catch a crab, if one was holding onto the chicken.  Then they removed the crab with kitchen tongs, held it from the back so it couldn't pinch, and measured to be sure it was at least five inches wide.  They had caught 22 legal size crabs so far that  day.  The trick is to crab on an incoming tide, they said.  They gave us an extra measuring tool, and Dick is eager to buy a net and weight so he can try his hand at crabbing off the boat.
When we got back to the marina, Southern Comfort was there.  We greeted our Looping friends Stan and Nancy, who we haven't seen since Beaufort, NC.  We decided to get together over crabs for dinner.  It was our lucky day -- the Tuesday night special at Side Street, the best place in town for crabs, is a dozen crabs for $9.95.
We each got a dozen crabs, the server gave us a great lesson on crab picking, with some fancy mallet and knife techniques, and we spent the next couple hours laboring over our crabs and catching up on all the adventures we have had since last we saw each other.

Click here to continue to Page 2 -- Tangier Island and Lottsburg