5/15/19 to 5/21/19
After our return from our home in Phoenix to Life’s TraVails at Atlantic Yacht Basin (AYB) just south of Norfolk, it was time to continue north into the Chesapeake Bay. We left Wednesday morning, May 15, with the goal of Solomons, MD, about 127 miles 2 days later. There was the annual DeFever Rendezvous taking place over the weekend where about 100 DeFever owners would gather for educational and social events. We had only been to one other of these events in 2015, the very weekend we bought our boat. (The paperwork wasn’t even signed yet.) Over the last year, Tom helped revamped the online DeFever Forum, so we looked forward to putting names with faces of people who were active.
We pulled out of the tin shed #1 at the back of AYB at 7:15 AM to move to the front dock, upload our scooter, and make the 8:00 opening of the Great Bridge Bridge (not a typo…the name of the town was Great Bridge). We had the scooter loaded and pulled off about 7:50, first in line for the opening. No sooner had we gotten to the middle of the river, the bridge began opening. What? They never open early. Turned out there was a commercial barge southbound. Bridges open for barges irrelevant of any opening “schedule.” So…we maneuvered out of the center of the channel in time for the barge to pass us, then began our trek under the bridge northbound. No sooner had we moved back to the middle of the channel than we saw another southbound barge. This time, we hurried through the bridge and then quickly to the side again. Less than ½ mile further, we went into the Great Bridge Lock, our first lock on this Great Loop. What a hectic start after 2 weeks away from the boat!
It was a nice sunny day, with a high temp of 72°. Passing between Newport News and Norfolk, the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay was very busy. It was an industrial port with many railroad bridges, cranes, and barges as well as huge navy ships tied to docks. Once it widened, we were almost alone, though 2 other Great Loop boats passed us. They were discernible by the American Great Loop Cruisers Association (AGLCA) flags on their bow. Members doing their first Loop fly a white flag with the map of the route on it, people who have done it once (like us) fly a gold flag, and people who have done it 2 or more times earn a platinum flag. (It, unfortunately, looks like a dirty, weathered, white flag.)
This is a good time to tell you we decided while we were home in Phoenix that this time we are not going to go all the way around the Great Loop again. Paula (like many boaters) did not really enjoy the “river system” of the Loop (the Illinois, Mississippi, and Ohio Rivers below Chicago) and had been campaigning to not travel them again. They had old locks that required waits due to commercial traffic which had right of way before recreational vessels or because of mechanical delays (up to 2 hours for us on our last Loop and we heard of others who waited a whole day). Anchorages were scarce, the water was dirty and fast, often with floating logs or tree trunks, and HUGE barges abounded. On the Mississippi, the levees actually restricted visibility to mostly just the river itself.
So…our Canadian plan now is to go northeast on the St. Lawrence to Montreal, then northwest on the Ottawa River to Ottawa, then south on the Rideau to Kingston to get back to Lake Ontario. (We did not do this loop the last time.) The north coast of Lake Ontario will take us to the Trent-Severn Waterway (our favorite part and why we began a second Great Loop). We may get into the Georgian Bay but we’ll assess our time there and turn around when necessary to stay ahead of cold weather as we traverse southward back toward Florida. We still want to go to the Bahamas before we sell the boat. Did you remember Plan A was to buy the boat, do the Loop, sell the boat? Here we were 5 years later still in possession.
The Chesapeake journey began with small waves about every 3 seconds, feeling a bit like riding a rocking horse. We had a dragonfly stop by to help with the navigation. By afternoon, the ride became little by little more comfortable until the whitecaps subsided entirely. Four groups of stingrays swam by us enroute. We anchored overnight on the Piankatank River just outside Deltaville, VA after weaving our way through numerous crab pots. (We had to abandon our first spot because there were so many traps there was no room to anchor.) Tom did some small repairs (entry door lock, routed a new charging cable on the flybridge for this age of so many electronic devices, etc.) after dropping anchor.
Thursday, we traveled 65 more rolly miles up the Chesapeake Bay to Back Creek and dropped our anchor just across from Spring Cove Marina (above) where the DeFever rendezvous would begin the following day. There were a lot of marinas in the area, obviously a favorite place to keep one’s boat just off the Chesapeake. Tom lightly sanded some spots on our teak handrail while Paula followed around with the varnish. Keeping the brightwork (as it is called) shining is a constant job.
The next day was partly cloudy as we moved the 100 yards into Spring Cove Marina, which was a maze of slips going in all directions. We got assigned a slip way around back (see right), which turned out to be a blessing as we were in shaded woods and heard boats in the front were baked by the sun the next days. Fortunately, there was no current and the building blocked all the wind because we shoehorned ourselves into a slip barely wider than our 14.5’ beam. Paula took her time sterning in and 2 dockhands stood by to catch lines. It was so tight, we could only get our 12” bumpers on one side between our boat and the docks. The dockhands had to search out some 6” ones to fit on our other side!
There were many events planned for the rendezvous. The first one happened for us shortly after we arrived. Patuxent River Power Squadron Commander Kenny Perigo gave us a voluntary safety inspection. We had wanted one for the last 4 months but the opportunity had not arisen. It was much better to get one voluntarily than be boarded randomly by the Coast Guard. After passing, we were given a sticker to mount on the side of the boat. Now, if a random inspection were to place wherever we were, we could point to the sticker and say, “We were just inspected xx weeks ago” and they would likely move on.
While Kenny was still on board, who should walk by but Ramie and Ringo who we met in Jekyll Island? Ramie was taking Ringo for a walk and we had one of the nicest areas in the marina for that. She asked how long we had been there and we said less than 30 minutes. It was fun to reconnect with them. Unfortunately, Ringo was having a few problems and they were staying a week to wait for blood test results from the vet. Hopefully, he will get a clean bill of health. One of the fun things about doing the Great Loop is how you connect sporadically with friends. You might not see them for several weeks (as was the case this time), and then providentially, you’re both in the same marina or anchorage together.
In a little bit, Steve and Anna Keiser pulled into the slip next to us on their beautiful DeFever 49, Journey. They lived near Philadelphia and we enjoyed getting to know them over the weekend. They certainly were a wonderful source of information for us on the Chesapeake Bay as they had boated it for years. We texted many questions to them as we both cruised north 3 days later.
We walked the docks and met many other DeFever owners including Steve and Patti McCreary, the rendezvous chairmen. We had talked on the phone but had not met them in person. The DeFever group was very inclusive and everyone was encouraged to get to know new people. We found out half of the people attending were “first-timers,” those who had never been to a DeFever Rendezvous before. Each first timer was paired with someone who had been active and we asked to be paired with someone since we knew very few owners. As soon as we were registered, we met John and Suzie McCarthy, our first-timer hosts and they made us feel so comfortable. After the intros, everyone gathered for a potluck dinner, which was great fun.
On Saturday, educational seminars began. Sponsors had been obtained for the rendezvous and Deltaville Boatyard did 2 sessions on electrical systems. There were other boat sessions that included boat-keeping tips, refitting your vessel, vessel system Q & A, and Navigating with Today’s Technologies. There was touring information on cruising the ICW and the Chesapeake Bay and Doing the Great Loop on a DeFever.
After a group picture, we had “Lunch on a Yacht” on Saturday. Each person was assigned to a volunteer boat and we got to eat our box lunch with the McCreary’s on their beautiful 52’ Last Laugh (dinghy name, Chuckles). Our group included a couple who wanted a DeFever as soon as they sold their house in CA, a couple who had owned a DeFever for many years, and the Deltaville Boatyard owners. It was good to get to know more people in a smaller group setting.
Each afternoon, there were 3 hours called “Open Boat” where owners volunteered to open their boat for others to come aboard to see what their boat looked like. It was a wonderful way to get ideas and see how others made their DeFever “home.” We had volunteered to open Life’s TraVails on Sunday so got to walk on 8 other boats on Saturday (a few opened up to us at other odd times and vice versa when we were both open on Sunday).
Saturday evening culminated with a nice dinner at Kingfishers Restaurant about a mile away with Chief Pilot, Hank Haeseker, sharing the history of Art DeFever’s boats with wonderful pictures from the past. He had been a personal friend of Art’s. We had met Hank 6 weeks earlier when he had allowed us to stay on his dock overnight as we cruised through North Palm Beach.
Mid-morning Sunday, Tom slipped away from the meeting to meet Keith Ruse from Deltaville Boatyard who was doing voluntary engine inspections. Tom was very pleased with his analysis of our engine room with only a few minor suggestions. Hurrah!
The morning culminated with the live and silent auctions. There were wonderful gifts such as 1 or 2-night marina stays, navigational books, headsets (sometimes called “divorce savers” because they prevent couples from having to speak loudly while docking, which could be interpreted as yelling), a beautiful $8,000 captain’s chair (which went for $3,000). We won the Deltaville Boatyard haulout, wash, and 2-month storage. Deltaville was halfway between Norfolk and Annapolis, and since we planned to return south after our summer in Canada, we thought it would be a good place to be hauled out of the water, have the bottom checked and repainted, and make sure everything was in good shape. Even if we didn’t use the 2-month storage, we would get our money’s worth.
We had about 25 people walk our boat on Sunday during open boat. Our boat (at 44’) was one of the smallest and oldest (1985) at the rendezvous. We decided if we couldn’t be the prettiest, we would be the most popular, so we put stuff on our aft deck table free for the taking (we didn’t get rid of much) and had M&Ms! Several of the guys liked some of Tom’s suggestions of things he had done in the engine room, the ladies liked Paula’s quilt, and we gave one couple the contact for the reclining loveseat we had purchased.
The catered BBQ at the marina Sunday night was very good with much more fun and laughter. It was the last event for us, as we planned to leave Monday morning for Annapolis, about 45 miles north. Below are a few pictures of the Rendezvous complements of DeFever owner and photographer, John Short.
Enroute, we passed the Cove Point Lighthouse (above), followed by the Cove Point natural gas terminal. (We had to text Steve and Anna, our “Chesapeake Bay tour guides,” to find out what it was.) The Thomas Point Lighthouse was also very pretty. There were lots of crab pots and too many flies, but it was a beautiful day with small waves and a following wind. The forecast was for a high of 90° but it was very comfortable underway.
By the time we got to Annapolis around 5:00 PM, there were only 2 mooring balls (out of 40) left! We were so glad we snagged one (even though it was #13). It was the first time we had picked up a mooring ball on this boat, and though we had quite a bit of wind, Tom caught it on the first try.
We met Steve and Janice and their Shih Tzu DeeO’gee (spell “d-o-g” out loud and you’ll get the name) when they came by in their dinghy and yelled, “Hey Loopers.” They were also on a mooring ball.
We dinghied into town, docking in Ego Alley. Bet you can guess why it’s named that! As we walked Main Street, it began to rain and we ducked into Chick & Ruth’s Delly and sat at a small table next to midshipmen and later, a couple married 66 years who were greeted by staff with kisses and hugs. They also knew the gentleman at the table to their other side. After hearing about our Great Loop, the wife pressed angel coins into each of our hands, saying we needed them for protection. We later learned Chick & Ruth’s Delly was a popular Annapolis restaurant that had been a destination for state lawmakers, tourists and locals alike for 52 years. Our meals were great! When we got back to our dinghy, who should walk by but Al Kritter who we met at the DeFever Rendezvous.
We returned to our boat for our first night in a mooring field, with other boats so close if we all didn’t swing together with the wind, we might have touched. We were anxious to see the Blue Angles perform the next afternoon.