Friday, June 15, 2012

Annapolis, MD - Way Cool! Part 2

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rain was the dominate feature of the weather picture. There were overnight thunderstorms with some hefty winds and it was pretty bouncy. It had gotten to the point where we wanted to get off of the boat and onto some solid ground for a change. We called the water taxi over to take us ashore and were surprised to see that there was some flooding on some streets down at the water’s edge.

First order of business was lunch. And in Annapolis that means going to Chick and Ruth’s Deli on Main Street. This is what I guess is a very typical New York style deli in a very narrow building with cramped booths and tables and it was crowded for good reason. The food was very good and the vibe was fun. There was a booth near ours that was roped off reserving it for the Governor – a perk of the job. Funny thing was there was no sign or anything on it saying so, but everyone just kind of knew it.

After a few stops in a few of the stores on Main Street (We both got great new hats.) we walked over to the visitors entrance to the United States Naval Academy. After going through a security check point we went to the visitors center which is right on the harbor where we could see Why Knot getting bumped around by the waves that were coming in.

The academy is a beautiful campus with an interesting mix of old, European style buildings – not so much of the Federal style architecture like we saw in Washington – and more modern buildings, all blending together very well. And of course the color blue was everywhere. The buildings were all a light shade of granite. After watching the twelve minute introductory film and going through the large gift store we signed up for a guided tour of the campus. Our tour guide was a friendly man named Gene and we got an exclusive tour as the rain kept others away. But we had our jackets and our new hats so we were game to go.
Dahlgren Hall, US Naval Academy
Dahlgren Hall, US Naval Academy

John Paul Jones Sarcophagus
We walked all around the campus and Gene filled us in on many of the important and fascinating history and facts of the Academy. We first visited Dahlgren Hall which used to be the armory but was now used as the general gathering place. It is big, tall and long structure and it kind of reminded me of a blimp or airship hanger. Dahlgren Hall is also the mess for the middies, and I think that it has been used for a lot of different things during its lifetime. You could even see where the boards for a hockey rink were impressed on the floor. One interesting feature of the hall was a very large (40 feet long maybe.) of a fully rigged sailing vessel. Gene told us that in the olden days this was on the main floor and it was used to teach all about how a tall mast sailing ship is rigged and controlled. We also went into the massive dormitory building that houses all of the 4000+ midshipmen at the academy as well as the Superintendent’s office and a hall commemorating graduates that fell in the line of duty. The architecture was staggeringly beautiful. From there we went to the Naval Academy Chapel with its high ceiling and rotunda - again a beautiful building. Then after leaving the chapel through a side door and going down into another side door we entered a large round very ornate room which contained the sarcophagus of John Paul Jones, America’s first naval hero. (Look him up in Wikipedia. Very interesting story.) We ended up at the Academy’s museum. The first floor was a history of the US Navy from it’s inception to today. It is very well put together and informative. The second floor is entirely devoted to the world’s largest collection of wooden ship models that, in the old days of sailing ships, were made in conjunction with the building of a vessel as sort of a press proof, duplicating the details down the their most minute level. But that will have to wait for tomorrow. It was getting late. Time to head back to the boat.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The weather was much nicer Wednesday with clear sunny skies but still with some winds. It was a perfect day to continue our exploration of Annapolis.

First stop was the Maryland State House just a few blocks from the waterfront. It was built back in 1772 and is the oldest continuously used state house in the US. The legislature was not in session so we were able to sneak a peak in the Senate and House chambers. But the real point of interest was the old Senate chambers which was where George Washington announced his retirement from the Continental Army to the Continental Congress in session, which as a quirk of history, gives this building the distinction of actually being the capital of our new country for about 10 months. This was also the location where the Treaty of Paris was signed. The Treaty of Paris was the actual document signed between the US and Great Britain that formally ended hostilities, told King George to stop bugging us, and to allow us to talk without that silly accent. As it turns out the British kept on giving us a load of trouble leading to the War of 1812, and women style swoon at any foreign chap that says, “Cheerio!” with the slightest inflection. But we did get Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Top Gear and Doctor Who. So, let the babes swoon. Fair swap.

After lunch we went back to the Naval Academy Museum to visit the second floor containing all of the ship models mentioned earlier. Now, I do not generally give myself too easily to hyperbole and exaggeration (The only times that I do are when I am talking or writing.) but the ship model museum was incredible. There were several dozen of these things all displayed in the context of the development of shipbuilding technology of the Royal Navy. (With only few exceptions the models were British.) Some of these models dated back to the 17th century. And the level of detail was astounding. There was a video of an arthroscope being used to rummage around inside one of these models and to see the level of craftsmanship and detail was a wonder to behold. This exhibit is not to be missed.

As I said the weather was nice and sunny but very comfortable. We had a waterside late lunch / early dinner and enjoyed the view of the harbor.

Earlier in the day a full size sailing ship came into the harbor named “Bounty”. It was the ship used to film the movie back in 1961. On our way back to the water taxi we walked up along the boat and checked it out. Awesome!

Back on our boat we got a real treat. Every Wednesday evening there is a sailboat race out of the harbor, out into the bay going around a distant lighthouse and back into the harbor to a finish line at a bridge, which by the way is not tall enough for a sailboat to pass under. We sat on our sundeck as the one hundred or so boats all sailed out to the starting area just outside the harbor in the Severn River. The cannon blasted from the director’s boat and off they went out of sight into Chesapeake Bay to the light house. After about 45 minutes we started seeing the sails of all the boats coming back in. And they were moving fast! The wind was blowing directly into the harbor from the north so almost all of them deployed their spinnaker sails as they turned to come into the harbor. We were up on our fly bridge by now taking in the scene. Now, the channel of the harbor is a bit too narrow for so many boats to pass all together so many of them came racing in through our mooring field weaving in and out of all the tied up boats there, including us. It was funny and nerve racking all at the same time. There seemed to be so little room and so great a number of boats. We didn’t see any collisions but there were a lot of close calls. Oh, sailors! What a bunch of nuts.

Thursday, 6/14/2012

This was to be our getaway day to head up north. But alas the winds were again not in our favor. The seas aren’t too bad but the winds were in the 10 to 15 knot range with some gusts higher, coming directly from the north and northeast. These would be headwinds and would really slow us down and could chop things up out in the bay. Checking the long range forecast we could see that on Saturday the 16th the winds are to drop significantly which would be to our advantage. So unless something changes in the meantime we will stay a longer.

We did head back onto shore and into town for a short while and headed uptown, so to speak, onto West Street to see what was there was to see. We found a wonderful used book store and we started poking around. Lisa found me a great book on boat maneuvering, herself a book on the civil war strategies and a sort of civil war almanac, and I found a biography of Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the US. (Remember him?).

We got back to the boat and called for the mobile pump out boat to pay us a visit which it did a bit later. Otherwise we just hung out.

Friday, June 15, 2012

We called for the water taxi and hopped on board. But this time instead of going straight to the city center water front we went to the east side of the harbor known as Eastport. It is much more residential but style charming. Our goal was to visit a company really just to be able to say we did. Weems and Plath, Inc. is probably the world’s largest producers of high quality navigation tools and gadgets for not only marine navigation but also air and even space navigation, but mostly marine. Lt. Cdr. Philip Van Horn Weems, USN, and a Naval Academy graduate was probably the world’s leading expert in and innovator of marine navigation. He invented many of tools that navigators have used for decades and he was an absolute nut about the subject. He literally wrote the modern text on the subject that is still used throughout the world about how to get from point A to point B on a boat. When he exhausted his grey matter on that he turned his attention to modernizing air navigation. Charles Lindbergh was one of his pupils and used an especially designed instrument by Weems on his flight across the Atlantic. Then, if that wasn’t enough, when the space age started coming into existence he turned his mega-mind to figuring out how to practically navigate through space. His history is very interesting. The “Plath” in Weems and Plath is the name of a German company that made high quality sextants for marine navigation. The combined companies have a lovely but modest facility in Eastport. We paid them a visit and looked at their showroom of tools and Lisa’s eyes got really large. She loves this kind of stuff. I found my way to a display case with some of the personal navigation gear that Weems used himself as well as some mementos from his brilliant career. One of these was an original handwritten note from Charles Lindbergh thanking Weem’s for his teachings and personal assistance in his historic flight. The visit to Weems and Plath headquarters was a small but very interesting stop.

There are many loopers out there; all of whom have their own agendas and timetables and I get that and I understand that. To each their own. But there is one thing I kind of don’t get and that is the loopers whose entire goal is to get around the Great Loop in the shortest amount of time. I know that there may be work or financial considerations but there are those who do the whole thing in as little as eighteen weeks. There is a promotional cruise of the Great Loop at this time by the folks of the Beniteau boatworks called “The Greatest Loop”. They just started their cruise shortly before Memorial Day and they are going to finish in September. WHY SO FAST? Here are some of the reasons why I think this is kind of wrong thinking. 1) They've got to go very fast which is a waste of fuel. (I read an article about them today (June 16) and they were jumping for joy that they had a fuel consumption rate of “only 16 gallons per hour”. Huh?) 2) Weather conditions must really be disregarded. (In this same article on their first day they got clobbered in the Chesapeake Bay from Norfolk to Annapolis.) and 3) It misses the point of why this is such a beautiful experience in the first place. And that is to see beautiful things and to be stimulated by the awesomeness of every detail, big and small. Things like the fun of exploring places like we have here in Annapolis, taking side trips like to Washington DC and exploring the Potomac River, stopping by Weems and Plath, enjoying the ever changing scenery, and most important spending time with new friends along the way. I know why Beniteau is doing what they are doing, namely using the Great Loop as a display of their engineering and products. But it is, in my opinion, not “the greatest loop”.  It totally contradicts the entire idea behind doing the Loop.

That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. 

We walked back to the town center to the bookstore mentioned above. Lisa had seen a book about the naval engagements of the war of 1812 that she wanted to go back and get, but alas we were not able to find it this time. Strolling back towards the waterfront we walked back to the Naval Academy again. I wanted to speak to one of the tour guides with some questions that I had conjured up. And at this our time on shore in Annapolis, Maryland was now over and we returned to our boat for a nap and to think about our departure tomorrow on up to the Sassasfras River and then to Delaware City.

We truly loved our time here in Annapolis. For a boater it has it all. Good facilities, convenience, beauty, charm, history and a really cool vibe that just plain can’t be beat. On one of our water taxi trips we were talking to the boat’s skipper and chatting-up doing the Great Loop. He asked us of all the places where we have been so far where would we like to go back to. Both Lisa and I both pointed down indicating that that would be right here, in Annapolis. Furthermore we both have found the entire Chesapeake Bay to be fascinating. You could very easily spend an entire summer here. There are plenty of things to see and do. For a boater it is a wonderful place. Too bad the crew of the Beniteau boat missed it all.

Doing the Great Loop is not a race. It is an adventure. 

One last thing…I am the Quacker God!