St. Michaels Marina
It is dark Friday night when I finally roll into St. Michaels. Much later than usual. Too late to get a campsite or set up a tent, which I didn’t bring anyway. I’ll have to unhitch the boat and find a place to park, sleeping in the car with the gear. Later. First order of business is some food and beer while the restaurants are still open.
There’s a place we favor on the docks by the marina, the St. Michael’s Crab & Steakhouse. It’s at the end of a road, tucked back in a neighborhood off the beaten path, dog friendly (very), with tables outside. Not as touristy as others, mostly locals and regulars, and the food is good. Crossing the road to the bar I see there is water coming up through the storm drains. Not unusual right on the waterfront. I pull out the phone to check the tide schedule, though, and it’s not close to high yet. Four more hours of rising water still to come. Wow, this could get interesting.
The waitress says, yeah, we had to bring people in the back door at lunch. Water was all the way up the street. I say it is coming again, and surely just as high. She is surprised, hadn’t realized there are two high tides every day. Must not be a local girl.
From the table on the deck I can see lights shimmering off the water. By the time the oysters arrive it has already crept from the drains, crossed the road, and is tickling tires of rental bikes in a rack. When the main course arrives (broiled Rockfish, stuffed with Deviled Crab) it laps at the steps and is inching its way up the ramp. You can hear gurgling on the brick cobblestones, and wavelets lap against the planters. People are talking and eating and drinking, and the water keeps rising. The bike tires are now covered, and I notice the waterline of the boats are now level with the docks they’re tied to.
A guy in a sport coat and shiny Italian loafers, no socks, stands next to me taking pictures. His shirt is open and we wears a gold watch. Says he’s from New Jersey, his first time here. His friends inside don’t believe it’s flooding, so he’s taking photos to prove it. I tell him the tide is still coming in, and will for several hours. He finds this news exciting, and goes in to tell his friends, who don’t bother to come look.
I’m thinking I’m glad I parked on higher ground.
The restaurant is surrounded by water. The waitress gives me directions to find the service entrance out the back, past the ice machines and the dishwashers on smoke break. They sit on buckets and watch the water rising. New customers, trying to come in, stand at the water’s edge up the street, confused. The docks are now underwater, and boats are floating higher than the trucks parked next to them. Weird. I wade to the car and back the trailer up the street to turn around.
Back at the museum, things are getting interesting there, too. The yard where boats were set out on the grass for display and judging in the morning is now a small harbor. Kayaks are floating and the wind is blowing them around in circles. Some have bunched up against the oyster shed like reeds, or a flock of ducks. I can hear singing coming from the Steamboat Building. I take off my shoes and socks, roll up my pants, and wade across. A pram is nosing its way deeper into the shrubbery.
Inside are familiar faces and several new ones. Guitars and penny whistles, bottles of whiskey, practical shoes. People used to wet feet and water going where it wants. It has the feeling of people happily marooned on an island made by the weather, and making the most of it, the same feeling I had with these guys in the galley of a schooner late one night in Baltimore, while the wind and a cold rain howled outside.
Among the new faces are two interesting guys down from DC, their first time at the festival. They’re avid Melonheads, and turns out we’ve corresponded through email over the past year or so.
A certain bottle of whisky is making the rounds, one that seems to have been distilled directly from a very smoky fire. Not sure if it’s actually making the music and singing better, or if we just think it is. It turns into a very long night. We won’t see some of the new guys again until late the next day, well past lunch time.
Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival