Feb 2014: Go North Young Man

Go North, Young Man… to Chesapeake City…

Click here for this PropTalk online-edition (February 2014)

PropTalk Cover, Feb 2014

PropTalk Cover, Feb 2014

Feb 2014's TOC, with the destination story on Page-34

Feb 2014’s TOC, with the destination story on Page-34

Go North, young man  Similar to the Disney movie Cars’ main theme about a sleepy town steeply holding onto its heyday along US Route 66 despite being completely bypassed in place and time by modern bustle, the town of Chesapeake City, Maryland, is one of those places along the Intracoastal that shouldn’t be passed through, but rather your destination.  Greeley and Grinnell’s infamous “Go West, young man” coins from the 19th-century couldn’t be any more appropriate for describing why a course should be plotted to this northern-most point of the Chesapeake Bay today.  A rather ambitious naming of this place back in the 1830’s during creation of the Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) Canal, the current 600-or-so residents of Chesapeake City apparently all work together to remind visitors of a simpler time, despite the occasional behemoth container ship silently cutting a swath through the middle of town, going seemingly unnoticed by most locals.  Although modernized, visitors quickly recognize how important this tiny section of land once was for all of us on the Chesapeake today.  The Augustine Herman Highway (Route 213) bridge at 39.529N, 75.814W now marks the center of Bohemia, replacing the uprooted century old drawbridge which once connected both halves of Chesapeake City, damaged by a freighter accident in 1942.  While updated and likely visible from every square inch of this small divided town, the unobstructed roadway now clears even the tallest canal ships as this nearly-vertical bridge seems to force most automobiles to completely bypass all of this town’s businesses and history.  Fortunately for us, that is exactly what makes this place a haven to boaters who are not distracted by modern glam, but instead are interested in the history of our area.  Plot a course  Our family took a few days off during the summer of 2013 to just get away from the haste probably everyone in the DC-area feels.  There wasn’t a real plan, there wasn’t a real destination.  This was merely to forget about work for a while as we focused on downtime.  No itineraries and plenty of available time made us think “Baltimore;” quite-possibly the easiest place on the ‘Bay to do everything, or do nothing.  We knew we wanted to take in an Orioles’ game at Camden Yards (as anyone with a boat must do), but we also knew Baltimore mustn’t be our final destination; we needed to put a few (hundred) more miles under the keel before we returned to the daily race.  So, without a plan or any fellow-boaters’ prior recommendations, we searched other places that fit within our available time.  I remembered once thinking that the C&D Canal Museum in Chesapeake City should be a place to stop at on our Intracoastal passages.  In hindsight, one of my bigger mistakes was thinking of this museum as just a waypoint rather than a destination.  It turned out, plotting a course for this town turned into something more of a go-to than a get-away, and was probably one of our better voyages of the year (if not ever).  No better stable  Knowing our 800-or-so horses would be thirsty and in need of a rest after the voyage north from Baltimore, I contacted the Chesapeake Inn and Marina a few days in advance of our voyage to find out if there were any transient slips available for a night or two.  Located practically next door to the C&D Canal Museum, I figured they might be a good marina to minimize the need for any ground transportation during our stay.  Luckily, Dock Master Andy had some available berths plus a straight-forward reservation process; one problem solved.  After watching the Orioles get spanked by the Astros on an otherwise spectacular evening, we spent the night aboard our cruiser tied up to one of the docks along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor wall.  By morning, the previous night’s weather turned decidedly foul while we headed out of the harbor into an obvious approaching storm.  We decided to make the journey to Chesapeake City anyway, as seas grew heavier with our bow headed directly into the eye of something most sane people would avoid.  Three to six footers and flat-out rain at the northern-end of the ‘Bay laid-down a little as we turned eastward into the mouth of the C&D; not because the storm was letting up, but because the protected water of the canal makes for some truly smooth cruising.  Three nautical miles of flat water later, the highway bridge over the C&D gleaned like a lighthouse to signal we’d arrived; the skies eerily cleared as we passed under the bridge like a welcome mat from a higher authority.  A quick hail to the Chesapeake Inn proved we couldn’t have been any more fortunate in selection of destinations, as Andy was there on the docks to greet us and lend assistance.  Finally shutting-down, we visitors felt at home from the first moment our lines touched the cleats of their floating docks.  The Chesapeake Inn was so much more than a simple marina with shore power and water on the docks like a transient would expect, she turned out to be something closer to a resort, boasting a couple restaurants and a couple bars with indoor and outdoor seating.  The ships’ store had a really nice gift shop inside, located within steps of their own ice cream bar.  Her transient showers were clean and comfortable; large enough for a family to prepare together for the next day of boating, or recover from the current one.  As if her terrific food and drink wasn’t enough, it was the pleasant and completely accommodating staff of the Chesapeake Inn that made our stay complete.  Continuously improving  Every time we thought “this is perfect” during our stay, we realized our journey was still evolving.  Initially thought to be the destination, the Inn became more of a command-post from where to visit all points of this town.  We woke early the morning following our arrival and walked a few short blocks away from the marina compound, arriving into a town time almost forgot.  First en-route to a restaurant known to the locals for breakfast, I noted at-least two antique shops on every block we strolled.  Walking through the door of the Bohemia Café, we quickly realized why the locals come here to eat; the food and service was reminiscent of diners I chose to frequent back home as a kid; places I’d continue to visit if only they existed in the modernized chain-restaurant world we live today.  A place where tips are earned, not simply expected.  However, nostalgia and great food wasn’t our purpose for choosing Chesapeake City, the C&D Canal Museum was.  Leaving the café, we stopped by our boat to grab a camera as we walked only a short distance to the museum.  Operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers, the entire grounds of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Museum is like a step back in time, a historic testament to the early days of water travel in our region.  While there were workers milling about, this shore-side museum is a self-guided look and feel to what once was; the complete history of how a series of creeks became a locked canal, eventually becoming a 14-mile sea-level lockless   water passage between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays that shaved over 300-miles of northern travel out of Baltimore’s harbor.  This noteworthy pump-house still displays mechanical boiler systems over a century old plus part of the original cypress bucket wheel used to lift 20,000 gallons of water per minute fourteen feet from the Back River up to the working-level of the locked canal.  There’s nothing cooler than old marine stuff!  Finally leaving the Chesapeake Inn and C&D Canal Museum in our prop-wash, Schaefer’s Canal House was a good place for refueling and provisioning.  Located directly across from the Inn on the canal’s north-shore and in the shadow of the Chesapeake City bridge, Schaefer’s is a perfect stop-over location for journeys east or west along the C&D… which is precisely where our tracks marked.  We headed east in the canal to play briefly in Delaware Bay, on a stunningly beautiful summer day that forced us to pull down all canvas for the trip.  So butter-smooth was the canal that afternoon, we wished for skis and a long tow-rope to enjoy our wake which simultaneously crashed on both shores, as the summer breeze created by those 800-horses more than made up for the rapidly decreasing fuel gauges.  Once Delaware Bay was touched, our reversed course passed back through the C&D Canal a final time as we plotted our path home.  Like a scene from the old Twilight Zone series and equally as eerie as our arrival, the weather turned sour the moment we passed west of Chesapeake City; practically willing us to stay a little longer.  Drawing nearer the end, our journey south through the Chesapeake Bay was mostly uneventful that afternoon and evening, affording us plenty of time to reminisce the past few days’ adventures as we made mental plans to return to the smallest “city” we’ve ever visited.

PropTalk destination story from February 2014, heading north to Chesapeake City, MD

PropTalk's 2014 Credits

PropTalk’s 2014 Credits

A few of the photos not published in the PropTalk article below…

 

Tied-up comfortably in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor (BIH), the center of all aquatic activity!

Tied-up comfortably in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor (BIH), the center of all aquatic activity!

Camden Yards should be on everyone’s bucket list; always a great time and walking distance from BIH

Camden Yards should be on everyone’s bucket list; always a great time and walking distance from BIH

Camden Yards should be on everyone’s bucket list; always a great time and walking distance from BIH

Camden Yards should be on everyone’s bucket list; always a great time and walking distance from BIH

Not something you want to see while underway, the rain was so heavy it occluded our radar

Not something you want to see while underway, the rain was so heavy it occluded our radar

A look at Schaefer’s Canal House, hiding in the shadows of the Chesapeake City Bridge.

A look at Schaefer’s Canal House, hiding in the shadows of the Chesapeake City Bridge.

An evening view of the Chesapeake Inn’s outdoor restaurant and tiki-bar seating. Staff was racing to drop table umbrellas for the approaching storm…

An evening view of the Chesapeake Inn’s outdoor restaurant and tiki-bar seating. Staff was racing to drop table umbrellas for the approaching storm…

Red skies at night…

Red skies at night…

…brought a spectacular delight by sunrise

…brought a spectacular delight by sunrise

The Chesapeake City Bridge; Schaefer’s Canal House is north (right), Chesapeake Inn is south (left)

The Chesapeake City Bridge; Schaefer’s Canal House is north (right), Chesapeake Inn is south (left)

A view of the Inn before heading out of town…

A view of the Inn before heading out of town…

Eating lunch at Chesapeake Inn, the Admiral and First Mate get refreshed after the cruise.

Eating lunch at Chesapeake Inn, the Admiral and First Mate get refreshed after the cruise.

Welcome to Chesapeake Inn’s Tiki Bar, waterfront food and drink overlooking the canal.

Welcome to Chesapeake Inn’s Tiki Bar, waterfront food and drink overlooking the canal.

Welcome to Chesapeake Inn’s Tiki Bar, waterfront food and drink overlooking the canal.

Welcome to Chesapeake Inn’s Tiki Bar, waterfront food and drink overlooking the canal.

Schaefer’s was the half-way point of our trip, so the journey’s expenses weren’t all that bad, considering!

Schaefer’s was the half-way point of our trip, so the journey’s expenses weren’t all that bad, considering!

The C&D Canal Museum is a great place to spend a few hours looking at maritime history.

The C&D Canal Museum is a great place to spend a few hours looking at maritime history.

A must-visit museum along the Intracoastal.

A must-visit museum along the Intracoastal.

Preparing to leave port, the beautiful weather forced us to drop all her canvas for the trip!

Preparing to leave port, the beautiful weather forced us to drop all her canvas for the trip!

Headed east from Chesapeake City, the Admiral at the helm.

Headed east from Chesapeake City, the Admiral at the helm.

Some of the bridges crossing Delaware waters of the C&D canal.

Some of the bridges crossing Delaware waters of the C&D canal.

A historic draw-bridge on the Delaware side of the canal, hoisted well above shipping traffic.

A historic draw-bridge over the canal, hoisted well above shipping traffic.

A historic draw-bridge over the canal, hoisted well above shipping traffic.

A few more of the bridges spanning the C&D Canal.

A few more of the bridges spanning the C&D Canal.

Heading home, early gloom turned to calm seas as the Chesapeake put out the sun.

Heading home, early gloom turned to calm seas as the Chesapeake put out the sun.

Click here for this PropTalk online-edition (February 2014)

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