Ragged Mountain Natural Area
postcards from the road
I have changed the way I do MASCF. I now only take a tent and a sleeping bag – no stove, no provisions. Just sailing gear, a cooler and libations. Easier. After a fitful night of sleeping among the sonorous snorers of St. Michaels (I now pack earplugs every year) at dawn one can go to the Steamboat House for cheap coffee and donuts (gratis), or walk a few pleasant blocks through the morning mist in town, and get a good coffee and omelette for a few bucks. At The Blue Crab cafe, where one is apt to meet fellows of like mind and demeanor.
On the walk back, take a shower and a stroll along the docks.
Another change made over the years is to begin sailing as soon as possible. I used to hang around the museum for all the events, which are fun, but that meant I was often late getting on the water. Now I go sailing right after breakfast and don’t come back until time for dinner. It’s wonderful sailing, with beautiful boats coming and going to make a stunning view.
Zigzag along the docks – an appreciative audience waves and takes photos. In small boats like mine the technical challenge of threading docks and the mooring field is fun, hones handy skills. Reach across the Miles River when the wind is up, break free of the crowd to take deep breaths again, the sound of wind and waves absent of human chatter.
There’s a certain logic to this. The festival has become so well attended that finding dock space is like playing musical chairs. The moment you move a boat to use it, another will slide in to take your place. Someone is always circling nearby, looking for a slip. Once you slip the lines and pull out, may as well stay out.
Around noon the fleet will embark and swarm out to you in earnest. Boats everywhere. You will have missed the instructions for the race course, but it doesn’t matter. You don’t care, primarily, and secondly the course will likely change, as is it does today. There is so little wind today at the start, the committee shrewdly at the last minute shortens the course by half. As I’ve said before, it’s not a race, it’s a parade. Prizes will be awarded, true, but not just to the fastest boats.
After the race, many who have not been on the water all day will stay out, remembering again how nice it is to be free of land. “Oh, right, this is nice.” There’s a lot of cruising in close company to admire each other’s boats. The last of the cold front that brought the rain last night drains away, the skies clear, barely enough wind left to fill a light sail.
Then dinner, always a pleasant affair with congratulations, and much giving of thanks. It’s a devout congregation. A sort of religion, the people of small hand-made boats, and a tent revival. Very Quaker. The gods are fickle, but the ministers are kind.
After dinner, Webb Chiles gave a talk this year. He does routinely what few of us would do, ever, though some might like to. Around the world alone, over and over, in a too small boat. The “monastery of the sea” he aptly calls it.
Steve sent a text saying if I arrive in time, meet at the Chesapeake Crab and Steakhouse for dinner.
There I found him, with Webb, Curt, and Tom. First order of business was to recount how each of us had come here. Tom had trailered his Pathfinder 1300 miles all the way up from the Florida Keys. Webb, of course, had sailed in Gannet most of the way around the world to get here, dodging a hurricane on the way. Steve started in Cambridge and sailed Spartina for two weeks on a circuitous route of about 300 miles. Curt started on the western shore and sailed Annie across the shipping channel in the dark from Shady Side, Maryland. I weathered DC rush hour traffic towing a boat and risked aggravating Homeland Security.
So, for all of us, the trip to St. Michaels was an adventure of trials and tribulations. Being mariners all, some of us approaching ancient, the telling of the tale is part of the package. Mine would have seemed more adventurous in other company. Except perhaps for Tom, though, all would choose their tribulations over mine.
After dinner I found Dave Gentry and pitched a tent in the dark and rain. The campsites had filled up more than I’ve seen on a Thursday. I understand they had the most people ever on the Wye Island gunk hole trip. And Kristen, the museum president, was on her way back from solo-ing in a kayak for 60 miles around Kent Island.
Friday morning was cool and breezy as a front blew out the rain. Good sailing. Took a bunch of photos of boats along the docks, then launched Caesura and spent the day on the water, returning in time for the traditional festival kickoff of steamed crabs and raw oysters.