We have been working non-stop lately (read that David) trying to get as many projects and as much boat work done as possible before we head back to Las Vegas at the end of the month. There's the alternator project and varnishing and installing new batteries and … the list goes on and on. My anti-all-work-and-no-play philosophy kicked in and I convinced the captain that a weekend in Solomons Island, Maryland would be a fine diversion. After nearly 35 years together, my coaxing methods are well honed. With a $9.99/day weekend rental from Enterprise, we set off before the break of day on Saturday. We wanted to make the most of the daylight hours once we got to Solomons and it's about a 3.5 hour ride/200+ miles ride away. Road trip!
It really didn't matter much because although the forecast called for “partly cloudy”, it turned out to be foggy, misty and raw … none of which dampened our spirits in the least.
Solomons Island, Maryland is located at the mouth of the Patuxent River just off Chesapeake Bay. Apparently part of a land grant dating back to 1680 when it was known as Bourne's Island, it's also been known as Somervell's Island and Sandy Island until it was purchased in 1865 by Isaac Solomon who renamed it … you guessed it … Solomons Island. Solomon built and operated an oyster packing plant here for many years, one of the main industries of the island until the oyster beds were depleted. Today the island is best known for recreational boating, charter fishing and tourism.
Part of the reason for our visit was to explore the possibility of finding Nine of Cups a temporary home in the Chesapeake for the coming year. We had originally thought we'd head to maritime Canada this summer, but family commitments will preclude us from spending much time there. So instead, we're rethinking the possibility of spending more time exploring the Chesapeake and its many rivers, tributaries and unique ports. There's so much to see and we've seen so little of it. Having a home base for Cups will allow us to come and go as we please. Plus we'll have a nice place for folks to visit if they're so inclined.
The island is only about 1-1/2 miles long, so we parked the car at our hotel and walked from marina to marina, taking in the town as we went. We ventured to several marinas, four of which were of interest. No decisions have been made yet, but Solomons Yachting Center is a likely candidate.
One benefit of walking all over the island was checking out what it might hold in store for us if we decide to keep Cups here. There's the “world famous Tiki Bar” which surprised us with its life-size Easter Island moai. Unfortunately, it was closed for the season until mid-April.
The two-lane main street is lined with shops and restaurants and a very pleasant boardwalk runs along the shores of the Patuxent River. The damp, overcast day scared away all the tourists and we pretty much had the places to ourselves.
There's a gem of a museum in town – the Calvert Marine Museum. Once the business of marina exploration was complete, we couldn't resist a visit.
The museum is modern, well-laid out and very informative. The highlight for us was the tour of the Drum Point Lighthouse which was decommissioned in 1962 and saved from extinction when it was moved to the museum back in 1975. It's not your usual tower lighthouse, but rather a “screwpile” lighthouse, a style unique to the Chesapeake Bay.
We stopped at the small craft shed where the local small craft guild work on traditional wooden boats.
There's a wooden marsh walk and a live river otter exhibit. Watching the otters was fascinating and the otter tank was quite popular with the little ones. There's even a live webcam of the otters which is pretty cool.
Inside, the varied exhibits explore the history, geography, fauna, flora and industry of the Chesapeake Bay area … and so much more. We wandered through at a leisurely pace, each caught up in our own interests. David spent time learning about this area's involvement in the War of 1812. I enjoyed learning about fossils and the flora and fauna of the area. The seahorses caught my attention.
We enjoy discovering something new when we visit a museum. For instance, we learned the differences between a skate and ray (the tail tells it all at a glance). We observed a skate nursery and finally identified the weird natural objects we'd seen on many beaches as skate egg sacs (and some sharks, too), aka mermaid's purses. That's another of the differences between the two – rays have live births vs. the eggs of the skate.
We learned that a “bugeye” is a type of distinctive sailboat developed in the Chesapeake Bay for oyster dredging. There's a sculptured plaque illustrating a bugeye located along the river walk, a monument to fishermen and watermen who have died plying their trade in the Bay.
Who would have expected (or given it any thought to it at all) that it was Benjamin Lewis who first invented and patented the crab pot?
All and all, we had a great day, walked our dogs off (16,000 steps!!!) and retired to our hotel room exhausted, but satisfied. Sunday dawned dark, grey and dismal with a forecast of heavy rain and thunderstorms. Ah, well … so much better than snow.
Will Nine of Cups end up here in the Solomons? We're not sure yet, but you'll be among the first to know.