In 1608, Captain John Smith, an English solider, explorer, colonial governor, Admiral of New England, and author (quite the busy guy), set out in a 30’ skiff with 14 crew to map the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, claim land, find food for the fledging colonies, trade with the natives and find passage to the Pacific Ocean (I guess he wasn’t too successful in the last one). After running aground and enduring an encounter with a stingray which almost took his life, he set out a second time about a month later. Reaching the far north end of the bay, he completed the exploration trip and later drew an elaborate and remarkably accurate map of the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding rivers. How did he do that in 1608? Incredible. His journal notes that his crew encountered many native tribes (said to number at least 50,000). He also documented the amazing variety and quantity of fish and wildlife and reported it was a pristine area for the English to settle.
For our exploration of the bay (not as adventurous as Captain Smith’s journey), after departing Yorktown, Virginia we stayed in marinas in the towns of Deltaville, Urbanna and a small town called Heathsville, all on the lower west coast of the bay and we were also “on the hook” (anchored out) for several nights in the surrounding area. Urbanna was a great stop as everything was within walking distance from the marina, including a grocery store, liquor store, coffee house, and several restaurants. Urbanna (which I nicknamed “Urbanana”) holds an annual Oyster Festival the first weekend in November, where the town swells from a population of 500 to 50,000 people over the two days. We enjoyed the best oysters we’ve had to date – harvested right in front of the town. So very yummy! We also enjoyed smoked meats with North Carolina BBQ sauce and scrumptious peach cobbler and bread pudding. I think my pants are getting tighter. Oh oh…
We are attempting to make a trip across the bay to the eastern shore to visit Tangier and Smith Islands. Due to rising water levels, the locals don’t expect these islands, especially Tangier, to last more than a few years. The residents make a living by crabbing and Smith Island is famous for their multi-layered cakes. Google “Smith Island Bakery” and you’ll see why! We are hoping for a good weather window the end of next week. Right now, it’s just a bit too windy to make a crossing on the bay – which would be about 40 nautical miles in potentially rough seas.
Update: Since writing the above blog (and not posting it yet – Bad Brenda), we decided to forgo our run to Tangier and Smith Islands and instead anchored in a beautiful location near St. Mary’s City which is on the north side of the Potomac River, just inside its mouth. Through anchorage reviews, we found Enzo’s Bakery in the nearby historic village which has partly reconstructed the original settlement. We enjoyed scrumptious chocolate croissants, decadent chocolate chunk brownies, and I have a loaf of freshly made sourdough bread in my freezer to enjoy in the near future. Remember the comment about my pants getting tighter, hum, I wonder why.
We are now in what’s considered the “middle bay” and will report on our upcoming adventures in Part II of Chesapeake Bay. Thanks for following along on our adventure.
Loving the looper life,
Dave, Brenda, and Murphy