The exit of the C&D canal is hard to notice, as it slowly widens into the upper branches of the Chesapeake Bay. The gentle sailing in the bay was an enjoyable change from the rough passage we had just weathered around the Jersey coast and in the Delaware Bay. This would be our home for the next few weeks as we continued to move south and wait for a good weather window to cross to the Caribbean. Shielded from the open ocean, we didn’t need to seek out good harbors anymore, we could just pull off to the side nearly anywhere and drop anchor. We did this for the first night in Still Bay, MD.
The next day we took a shortcut away from the main channels, saw few other boats, and by the afternoon passed through the industrial expanse around Baltimore. Many factories, processing plants, and cargo ships lined the wharves. Eventually we made our way downtown. Based on our lack of company, it seems to be a little known fact that there is an officially sanctioned, though small, anchorage area right in the middle of Baltimore’s attractive Inner Harbor. With confirmation from the harbor master, we settled down right in front of the National Aquarium, just alongside a WWII submarine (which constantly called out “Dive, Dive! Ooga! Ooga!”), and not far from the USS Constellation (which shot off an amazingly loud signal cannon).
Despite the noisy historic ships, I found our stay in Baltimore to be surprisingly pleasant. The location was excellent, there were numerous pick-up and drop-off points for heading ashore, shower and laundry facilities were provided in a nearby marine center, and convenient free buses (the Charm City Circulator) that allowed us to get around. It was a good place for us to stay a while patching up Koukla. My biggest accomplishment was seizing the mast hoops to the proper height on the foremast. While working on this, a novelty pirate ship circled around, and one of the pirates cried out “looking good, matey!”
Worth mention is the American Visionary Art Museum that Danica and I visited, just one block from the marine center. This is a museum dedicated to “outsider artists,” eccentric if not outright institutionalized people with no formal training, driven to create by their own whims rather that for sale or display. All was strange, most memorable was a ship model made of toothpicks, a full-scale person made of electric wire, and a room-sized piece including Astroturf, a flashing UFO, and antlered polar bear heads on toilets pulling a sleigh.
While in Baltimore we were happy to have two of our college friends from Philadelphia come down for a visit, and we all went to see Fort McHenry. This is the site where “the flagged still waved” following a night of British shelling in the War of 1812, inspiring the national anthem. The highlight of the visit was taking down the flag at the fort (a reproduction), which they corral the visitors in helping with since it is of massive historically accurate proportions (30’ x 42’). They must have decided that folding it into a triangle would be too complicated for the unskilled help, so they just had us shove it into a big duffel bag. We managed to even mess that up by getting it tangled around the handle.
Another nice thing about the Baltimore was the proximity to Washington D.C., easily reachable by commuter train. On separate days, four of Koukla’s crew decided to make the trip there to see the sights. With a frenzied amount of walking, Danica and I visited sites all over the National Mall. To avoid a boring you with a list of every monument and museum, here’s a summary of memories that stick out in my mind:
- The Museum of American History, which it turns out is about the history of everyday American life, including the pop-culture “American Treasures” collection, but also transportation, machines, food habits, and more.
- Seeing a fox chase down and catch a squirrel on the national mall
- Viewing senate in session. Only 3 senators were present and read out unrelated statements (a brochure about the senate explained this is normal)
- Tasty American Indian food at the Museum of the American Indian
- The 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence Memorial. This is less well known than most of the memorials, but is in a really nice spot on a island in a big pond, surrounded by trees with fall foliage (also it was less crowded)
- The Washington Monument covered in scaffolding to repair the 2011 earthquake damage
- The mineral and animal skeleton collections at the Museum of Natural History
And with our exhausting whirlwind tour of the capitol finished, we boarded the train to return to the boat. Surrounded by commuters returning from their jobs, we strongly felt the oddness of our wandering waterbound lifestyle. And in a few more days we picked up anchor to continue our course down the Chesapeake Bay.