Looking back on the way things were during “The Week That Was” in late August, it was not the best time to go off on a five-day cruise of the Upper Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. A local earthquake, Hurricane Irene and uncooperative winds all contributed to canceling my ambitious plans.
My solo 12-hour cruising passages on Chesapeake Bay are over, replaced by 8-hour jaunts that are easier on us older, oddball loners, especially those unaccustomed to having crew on board to help with steering. My old 22-foot sailboat with a small cockpit and all kinds of control lines (14 at last count) and a cramped cabin stuffed with stuff are not fit for overnight company anyway. When I was younger, of course, I made exceptions.
Those of us with older boats own the phrase "It's always something." I have used it to explain dark shadows under my eyes and additional furrows in my already furrowed brow. But hey, it's a 50-year-old sailboat, and I'm a cranky old(er) sailor. But whatever problems "my beloved" gives, without her I would be lost. She has become part of my life during the last 25 years, and the challenges she puts forth are paid back many times over in the pleasure, purpose and satisfaction she returns.
The first Scarano-built schooner named Woodwind arrived in Annapolis as a dude daysailer almost 20 years ago, followed by an identical twin sister (Woodwind II) in 1997. These graceful epoxy-covered wooden vessels with modern underbodies from the Scarano yard in Albany, N.Y., have since become fixtures on the Chesapeake. Sister schooners also work touristy ports from Key West to New England.
I follow one self-imposed “rule” in my singularly unimportant recreational life when it comes to the first cruise of the season, usually to the St. Michaels area or Oxford on Maryland’s middle Eastern Shore. It says an outbound cruise must begin under sail, and if the wind fails after two hours of trying to sail I’ll give it up to avoid hours of motoring and stay home waiting for a local breeze.
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Jack has been cruising Chesapeake Bay and writing about the region for more than 25 years. His critically acclaimed book, "Maryland's Vanishing Lives," was published by Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University Press and is now in its second printing. Before joining Soundings, Jack was a feature writer at the Washington (D.C.) Star for nearly 20 years and a senior editor at Chesapeake Bay magazine from 1995 to 1998. His monthly Bay Tripper column focuses on the Chesapeake.