Today, the message in my fortune cookie appropriately reads “A part of us remains wherever we have been”. Certainly this is the case for me and the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
1979 was the last time I was in Easton, MD. I was attending Calhoon MEBA Engineering School for a Lifeboatman certification required for me to ship out on my apprenticeship for the US Merchant Marine industry. As one of the two sailors in my group we sailed the school’s lifeboat and a Dickerson 40 Ketch on the Miles River and in the Eastern Bay of the Chesapeake. Revisiting this area after 35 years I was reacquainted with the uniqueness of the waters and people of the eastern shore of Maryland.
As my plans dictated, I was headed to Annapolis, Maryland for an American Sailing Association Instructor’s Qualification Clinic. I decided to head to Annapolis via the Eastern shore where a couple of my WoodenBoat School friends sail the Bay.
Oxford, Maryland and the Tred Avon river is home to oysters, blue crabs, sea nettles, and Cutts and Case Shipyard. It is also where Planet remains at safe harbor. Cutts and Case is just exactly the kind of place that a traditional wooden catboat like Planet should reside. The friendly shipyard crew specializes in the expert building and care of wooden boats.
A friend, whose tribute should be a life-size bronze statue at the entrance to town, generously entrusted me to sail his Planet. During an approaching cold front with unsettled weather, and a moderate southeast wind, I sailed Planet on the Tred Avon and Choptank Rivers from Town Creek to La Trappe Creek. La Trappe Creek was a gunkholer’s heaven and the spot for a swim I had in mind. While in the water, with putty knife in hand, it was high time to do battle with the gooseneck barnacles that had roosted on Planet’s bronze propeller. Planet is perfectly suited for the Chesapeake… shallow draft and simple to sail for a single-hander. Like a contented tomcat luxuriating on a sunny windowsill, Planet provides security and comfort.
Entering the town of Oxford from land, across from the rows of local crab fishing skiffs secured to their slips, is the Oxford Inn. The proprietors are wonderful hosts, like finding twin pearls in the same oyster. Pope’s Tavern is THE place to be for great locally prepared food and genuine conversation.
The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels provides an authentic view of working, living, and recreating on the Bay with a particular nod to the oyster industry. I especially wanted to see the log canoes and the working boat building shop.
I encourage you to take the opportunity to return to a place that you haven’t been to in a long while. You’ll find that nothing stays the same, but in the same notion, long forgotten memories may come flooding back like the timeless sea nettles that haunt the Chesapeake Bay.