From: (Bryant Vann)
Subject: You MAY be from the "Western Shore" and not even know it
Date: October 9, 1999

An old friend of mine loved to sail, but his wife hated it.  He used to say he had an audible 
inclinometer -- the more the sailboat heeled, the louder she squealed.  In any case her 
aversion prevented him from ever owning a sailboat (shoulda bought a trawler!) -- reducing 
him to bumming rides on other folks' boats, including mine.  One weekend he managed to 
talk his way onto a log canoe as crew at one of the many races held around the Chesapeake 
Bay's Eastern Shore in the summer.  (For those who may not be familiar with these 
awesome sailboats, they have HUGE masts, HUGE sails, NO ballast, and practically NO 
beam (some are even made out of logs).  They are balanced ENTIRELY by the crew (the 
masts have to be removed when the crew leaves or they will TURN OVER!) clinging 
desparately to hiking boards which stick WAAY out over the side (maybe eight to ten feet).  

Log Canoe hiking boards
When the boat tacks, the crew must carefully time their descent from the end of the boards to the boat -- then DISCONNECT the boards from the old windward side and slide the boards across, reattach them to the NEW windward side, and clamber out to the end before the boat capsizes as it turns -- something that can happen with great speed. If you EVER get a chance to see one of these races, DO IT! You won't believe your eyes! Not to mention the fact that the helmsperson sits on a little "boomkin" off the stern and when the boat is going REALLY fast, he's UNDER WATER up to his armpits. Like I said, AWESOME!
Log Canoes racing
Since a sailboat has to END the race with same number (and names) of crew she STARTED with, the skipper has to register the crew with the race committee before the starting gun. During this process my friend was asked his name and where he was from. The name part was easy, but when he tried to tell the skipper where he was from, he started with the name of the town (whereupon the skipper scowled unknowingly), Then he said it was just north of Washington, DC -- again a scowl. After several more attempts -- each met with a scowl -- the skipper grunted, jotted down a couple of words on the registration card and walked away to turn the card in. Rather somewhat puzzled, my friend walked over to the race committee and asked to see the card. There, written in as his address, were simply the words, "Western Shore." The moral of this story is that if you live west of the Chesapeake, as most of us do, and you're cruising in this area (the eastern side) and somebody asks you where you're from, spare them the long explanations -- just "Western Shore" will suffice. To Eastern Shore folks, that says it all... Yesterday we met the creator of the bumper sticker, "I hate the State of Maryland. I'm from the Eastern Shore." (Looking at a map, MOST folks would say that the Eastern Shore IS part of Maryland!) It turned out the author was the proprietor of the produce stand I mentioned recently -- the one with the honor system. Why were we back? Well in our excitement at finding a HUGE jar of watermelon rind pickles there the other day, we put the money in his box and managed somehow to leave WITHOUT our pickles. Today we went back to get them. No problem, he said, sometimes folks don't have exact change and leave an IOU, returning later to pay up. I think this was the first time someone had paid, left their purchase, and later returned to get their stuff! While we were there, the owner, posing as a hitchhiker who had just been bitten by Rio (this is true -- I mean, the part about posing), watched as a man drove up, picked out two baskets of tomatoes, and discovered he didn't have the right change for the honor-system box -- just a ten $ bill. The owner, still posing as a hitchhiker, said he figured the man would just have to buy $10 worth. When the man threatened to leave an IOU for his "purchase," the Admiral flinched and identified the owner -- who was rather upset at having to open the store JUST to make change! Speaking of bicycles on board your boat, one of the neat things about the Eastern Shore is that the land is almost completely FLAT, making biking pretty easy. In addition, there are lots of country lanes and MOST of the well traveled highways have wide bike lanes on BOTH sides, making it pretty safe as well. Of course, if you're the truly adventuresome types, you think it great sport to ride off down any direction down any road just to see where it goes. WE like a tad more structure in our "adventures," so finding suitable maps was in order. Occasionally we'd find a real estate office with a good (free) local map. Then I hit upon the idea of checking out the U. S. Dept. of the Interior, Geological Survey maps. Sure enough, the 30 x 60 minute topographic series (1:100,000 scale) is (almost) ideal. This series covers all of the land around the Bay, shows contours every 10 meters (to avoid the really hilly stuff), has almost every road except maybe driveways, shows enough shorline detail to correlate with your NOAA charts, folds up nicely to fit into your pocket, and shows lots of land features, including town are area names. The "almost" refers to the fact that although the highway numbers are shown, the other roads aren't named, but usually the layout of the intersections are enough to find where you are. Best of all each map covers a pretty big area (30 nm x 60 *cosine (lattitude) nm), and the cost is less than $5 each (I think they're still only $3 each, but please don't hold me to that. Sorry I don't have phone numbers, but there are Geological Survey Map Sales Offices in both Reston, VA, and Denver, CO. The catalog (ask for both VA and MD versions) showing which maps show what areas are free. The Bay north of the James River is covered by: Dover, Seaford, Washington East, Baltimore, Leonardtown, Tappahannock, and Williamsburg. If you're ever in Oxford (definitely on the Eastern Shore) and decide you can live no longer without a bike (regular or folding), stop by the Oxford Mews bike shop in the middle of town (actually that shop and the market ARE the middle of town) -- just don't try using your credit card, they don't take them -- just cash and checks. Several years ago a friend on a Cheoy Lee 65' trawler said he had just tried to buy two folding models there. He had little cash with him (no ATM in Oxford until two years ago!) and no checks either -- left them back on his boat (on the WESTERN SHORE to make matters worse). The lady running the shop said, "No problem. Just take the bikes with you and MAIL us the check." Hey, we're talking close to $1,000 here! My friend said he was EXTREMELY nervous all the way back to get his check and mail it -- he just didn't want the lady worrying about her money! I later asked the lady if they ever had anybody skip out on them. Well, only once in over twenty years, she said! OK, for all who asked (again, nearly one) whether Rio has his own bike or has to run along beside, the answer is neither -- he rides in a basket on the front -- another nice feature of a micro-dog! We just folded a towel in the bottom so his feet don't fall through. He didn't like it at first (he LOVES it now) and tried to jump out a couple of times. Then I tied him to a VERY short leash to the handle bars -- just long enough so he could move around, but not so long he could jump. He doesn't really need it now, but we keep him attached anyway -- just in case -- kinda like a seat belt. BTW, these are really neat baskets -- a bracket slips on the front of the bike and the basket just slips into the bracket -- quick and easy on and off! They even have their own handle so you can take them shopping with you and re-attach them to the bike when you come back. Where did we get the baskets? Why, the Oxford Mews bike shop. Where else? Oh jeez.. The neighborhood has just gone to pot. Here it is a holiday weekend, and there's a SAILBOAT anchored a half mile away! At least he hasn't spotted Top Secret cove... One more Bay story and I'll let you go -- at least, for now. I promise. A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a friend (who lives in Galesville -- on the Western Shore -- and keeps his sailboat in the same marina we do there) about neat places to boat. He mentioned several in the Caribbean, and we agreed on some, though the crowds are a real problem most places, except maybe during hurricane season. (Cruisers in "the islands" are either on vacation or retired so they're ALWAYS out on the water, whereas in the Bay, we see VERY few cruisers except on the weekends.) Then I mentioned that we always found it hard to leave the Chesapeake -- in over 20 years here there are SO many places we haven't been to yet and so many we enjoy returning to year after year. This, coupled with the geography that makes this area SO hard to be hit by land-falling hurricanes (though we DO get a "brush" from time to time) and a mud bottom that makes running aground an embarrassment, but not a disaster, may keep us here forever. After agreeing that chartering in far-off places seemed like the best solution (rather than going on your own bottom, so to speak), he asked if I'd seen the big ketch that had been anchored off the Galesville town dock all summer. I said I had, and I had wondered what "their story" was. My friend said it belonged to a couple of UK folks who had spent a year going through "the islands" and had gotten tired of the crowds and decided to come north this summer to see the Chesapeake which they had heard so much about. They got as far as Galesville and decided that it just couldn't get ANY better than that! Apparently they have no plans to leave. And they STILL haven't seen the EASTERN Shore! - Bryant PS. Thanks to all who've sent us feedback on these cruising ramblins...