From: (Bryant Vann)
Subject: You know you're a gunkholer when...
Date: August 21, 1999

From 38°17.46'/76°42.56', St. Clements Bay, Guest Point, another gorgeous cove with no 
cruising boats in sight and 75 degrees at noon:

So we decided to explore some new creeks in the lower Potomac this year...  Bear in mind 
that the marked depths in these little creeks are always subject to independent verification 
(I may have mentioned this before...).  Think about it.  NOAA's REAL job is to make charts 
that keep commercial shipping safe.  Any info you get about the out-of-channel depths in 
the 6 to 8 foot range (where we REALLY want to go) are worth about what you paid for 
them.  Probably no one knows when they were measured or how they were located -- or how 
accurately the numbers were placed on the chart.  Forget about when the chart was printed 
-- or last updated.  These numbers are probably MUCH older than that.  I suspect most 
were measured by leadline (VERY accurate) and some correction applied for the state of the 
tide (NOT so accurate, given the fact that wind affects the levels so much and tide offsets 
are so hard to come by).  Try your OWN had at locating yourself (as these surveyors did) 
within a few yards using only horizontal angles -- ESPECIALLY when the coastline contour 
accuracy is also in error and/or contains only indistinct features.  Ever wonder how those 
depth contours were drawn in?  Some are amazingly creative.  Try erasing them from your 
chart and trying your OWN hand at drawing the contours using ONLY the depth numbers 
shown on the chart.  Oh yes, the numbers shown on the charts may WELL be the ONLY 
numbers ever measured.  Fortunately most are drawn farther out inthe water than they 
should be -- for your safety, but also for the challenge of finding out how far in you CAN go 
safely.  Actually, I'm constantly amazed at how well the shallows ARE charted, considering 
the circumstances...  Of course, all this is what makes gunkholing so much fun -- collecting 
neat anchorages in what look like impossible places is a great hobby!  (Gosh, I just saw an 
osprey chasing a bald eagle -- must've stolen his breakfast!)

Well, earlier in the week we were poking into a new (to us) creek in Virginia, Nomini 
(pronounced Nom'-in-aye -- don't try to pronounce ANY of the creek or town names in these 
parts -- the Indian pronunciations are often used, even though the spellings have been 
changed significantly over the years) Creek and going REAL slow over the entrance bar 
(fortuantely Chesapeake mud is only embarrasing, not dangerous, if you stick in it).  All of a 
sudden a couple of locals (drawing a third of what we do) zoomed up on starboard and 
stopped.  After perrito bonito de Mexico Rio finally stopped barking (he's become a GREAT 
watchdog!), the skipper yelled over, "You must be lost, Cap'n!"  Thanks a lot.  I gather they 
don't get too many cruising boats in these here parts!  After exchanging a few pleasantries, 
he (and his Admiral) zoomed on up the creek and then called on the VHF.  He asked what 
our plans were and if he could give us any local knowledge.  Having by now realized that 
what appeared to be lovely anchorages on the chart were impossibly saturated with crab 
pots, I said we were looking for a spot to anchor, and then we were interested in visiting 
Robert Edward Lee's birthplace.  He answered to follow him on in, he'd show us a clear spot 
and when we were settled in, to land at his dock and they'd take us over to Stratford Hall 
(which they did)!  What great folks we've met on the Northern Neck!  What a lovely 
afternoon -- capped by  a tour of the nearby eel plant and then having them (the folks, not 
the eels) out to our boat for a tour and some fine white wine.  The only downer was that the 
Stratford Hall Board of Directors (all 50 -- one from EVERY state) refused our telephonic 
entreaties to allow Rio to come too.  Needless to say he was sorely peeved and refused to 
speak to us for the rest of the day.

Let's see...  I've mentioned several reasons in the past for why we don't see many cruising 
boats hereabouts.  Here's a NEW one -- taxes!  Virginia has a KILLER annual tax on boats, 
so NOBODY keeps big boats here (except for a few brave folks who just tear up the bills and 
toss them (the bills, not the boats).  Since the individual counties set their own rates, the 
local county in this creek holds a hearing from time to time and the county marinas (I think 
there are nearly two) always BEG the officials to lower the rate to help their business -- so 
far to no avail.

Our next stop was in Canoe Neck Creek off St. Clements Bay -- on the Maryland side of the 
river, just north of St. Clements Island where the Maryland colonists allegedly landed the 
Ark and the Dove in 1634.  Looks easy on the chart (getting in the creek, not landing the Ark 
and the Dove) -- in fact it WAS, the LAST time we were here.  However, THIS time I kicked 
up an embarrassing amount of mud -- didn't touch, though it was close -- MORE than once.  
On the way in we saw what looked like a new waterfront restaurant with a sturdy new dock, 
and we went back later so the Admiral could check it out.  The sign said Frank Morris 
Carryout (11A-10P, Thursday --> Monday, April --> Thanksgiving), but it turned out to have 
a half dozen tables, too.  The "staff" said nice things about Rio, so we came back for dinner.  
Steve (the proprietor, chef, waiter, cashier, and bottle washer -- but his mom helps him with 
a few of the house specialty dishes) not only did a great job with dinner, but provided us with 
a dose of local color to keep us in stitches.  Actually Steve shared the local color from a 
newcomers' perspective -- this is only his second season with his little restaurant.  
Hereabouts, newcomers are called "come heres," whereas natives are known as "blood."  
You are blood ONLY if there are a goodly number of tombstones in the local cemetery with 
your family name on them.  Steve has taken great pride in the fact that even as a come 
here, he has a good deal of acceptance and maybe even a little respect in such a short time.  
Since there was a good crowd on a Thursday night at his establishment and we were the 
only visitors, I'd say the locals like his cooking too!  Steve attributes his acceptance to his 
skill at drinking "Bud," his pickup truck (which makes a great rumble, but just barely 
squeezes by the notice of the sheriff), leaning on his truck to talk while holding a lighted 
cigarette close (but not TOO close) to the tank, quickly learning to say he serves 
"appetizers" at his restaurant as opposed to "hors d'oeuvres," and his ability to properly 
mumble, "Dee-dee-by-Gawd, Cap'n" (meaning "good") with the proper cadence and at 
appropriate times.  He knew he was making progress when he recently showed up at 9 AM 
at the local market to shop and a friend slapped an ice-cold Bud in his hand and said, "Talk 
to me!"  When he first came, they'd all be standing around (well, LEANING on their trucks) 
drinking Buds with ice all frozen on the top and they just reach in the warm 12-pack they 
just bought inside to give him one.

Frank Morris Carryout
I won't give it ALL away -- in case you decide to dine with Steve, but the crab cakes and soft-shell crabs are GREAT, and so are the Mozarella sticks -- and the Buds are ICE cold! We'll definitely go back -- maybe tonight if the wind dies off enough to take the dinghy in from here so the Admiral doesn't get her derriere wet (she has yet to master the "stand-up" trick you see in the islands, so only her feet get wet). Gosh, we love this trawler cruising! Dee-dee-by-Gawd, Cap'n! - Bryant Vann M/V Salty Lady, KK42 PS. Here's a photo of one of THREE abandoned homes we found along the shores of St. Clements Bay:
Abandoned home
Also, after I sent this in we took a ride to the St. Clements Island Museum -- on Colton Point -- at the entrance to St. Clements Bay. Neat little museum -- model of the old lighthouse on St. Clements Island and other goodies. Getting to it from the water isn' obvious from the cruising guides though -- not until you call and learn it's at the foot of the BIGGEST dock on the shore -- REAL easy to find. The chartlet below shows exactly where it is. Oh yeah, if you haven't explored St. Clements Island itself, land at the dock on either the north side (where you'll negotiate the heaviest coating of seagull guano we've EVER seen!) OR on the south (Potomac River) side. Just don't take your dog there -- the Peoples' Republic of Maryland won't allow it...
St. Clements Island chart