Our time spent with friends is always too short, but we convinced our friends Edwin and Silvia to come along with us on our trip from their house on the Wye River to Chestertown. Their son dropped off their car so they could get back home, and the weather couldn't have cooperated more. The trip down the Wye was just as spectacular as the trip upriver. Our only challenge for the day would be transiting Kent Narrows. The channel out the north end is well known for its shallow spots, being narrow and constantly moving. As we approached the drawbridge in the narrows, we called the bridgetender to let him know we needed an opening. He decided he didn't need to open on time, and boats on both side waited until he was good and ready. Fortunately, we made the bridge at slack water so we didn't have to deal with the strong currents that can make waiting for the bridge interesting. Once we finally did get through, we would have to negotiate the channel on the other side.
There is a shoal just on the north side of the bridge that is marked by a special purpose buoy. Other than that spot, the depths in the Narrows are pretty good with marinas and restaurants on both sides. Once past the marinas, etc., the channel makes a turn to the east and then to the west. At red marker 8, the depths dropped to 6.9 feet. We were at high tide. From red 8, we took a direct course to green 5 then green 3, which is a relocated floating buoy. Using this approach, other than at red 8, we saw 10 to 12 feet of water throughout. It's important to stay in the channel and not let the currents carry you into the shallows. Once clear of the last set of markers, we set a course to take us up the Chester River.
The mouth of the Chester River is wide, and if the wind is out of a westerly or southerly component, a pretty good chop can build up. This day had light winds, and our trip up the river was comfortable and pleasant. It's about 25 miles up river to Chestertown, which was our destination. The Chester is just as stunning as the Wye River, maybe more so since there is much less development. There are the ever present commercial crabbers running their trot lines back and forth, up and down the river. There is also a lot more recreational traffic on the Chester than the Wye. For the first 10 miles or so, we had the current with us, and then the tide switched, slowing us down considerably. This was important since we had reservations at Chestertown Marina and they closed promptly at 5:00 PM. The chartplotter put our ETA at 4:58 PM, so we were cutting it close.
At 4:00 PM, we began calling the marina to let them know we were arriving near 5:00 PM. They didn't answer the phone and had already told us they didn't have a working VHF radio. We continued calling for the next hour with no answer and began to get concerned that we would not have a place to dock for the night. We had to get our guests ashore, rain and thunderstorms were possible for the afternoon, we had plans for dinner and the reversing currents in the Chester River are pretty strong for anchoring. It was really annoying that we couldn't get the marina on the phone. Other than that, it was a great trip. We finally reached the marina a few minutes after 5:00 PM and found someone working on their boat at the fuel dock. We asked them if there was anyone in the office and they finally got someone on the dock for us. We settled into a slip for the night and went to dinner with our friends.
Chestertown Marina is an interesting place. The marina has been purchased by the town and they have spent nothing to refurbish or repair the place other than replace a few dock boards. What makes it more interesting is that several of the docks and a good amount of the restaurant parking lot are under water every day at high tide. If you happen to be unlucky enough to be tied to one of those docks, you will have to wade through the water to get ashore. The docks are very, very slippery when wet from constantly being under water, so caution is required. The restrooms are just okay and kept clean, but there is one toilet, one hand sink and one shower. If someone is already in there, you have to wait. This is the only marina in town so they have a captive audience and seem to know it. The rates are $ 1.75 for weekdays and $2.00 per foot for weekends. Electric is extra. In our opinion, this is very expensive for the poor conditions of the marina. After two days, we were asked to move to the town dock with no power or water because a group of boats were coming in and most of the slips in the marina are too shallow for cruising boats. The town dock was offered at half price since we had paid full price for 2 weekdays.
Chestertown still maintains its colonial charm. This is Susan's home town (the home pictured to left is where her mother was born) and we were here for a few days so that she could reconnect with relatives, friends and former classmates. We arrived on a Friday afternoon and wanted to visit the weekly Farmers Market held in the park each Saturday during April through October. The Market offers fruits, vegetables, baked goods and even grass fed beef from local farms. There are also arts and crafts from local artisans and merchants. It had been raining on this Saturday so the turnout wasn't great, but it was still good. The downtown area offers a variety of restaurants, boutiques, a small pharmacy and shops. Walks along the side streets offer a glimpse of the homes dating back to the 1700s, all beautifully maintained and restored. There is a small convenience store a few blocks from the waterfront. Unfortunately any serious shopping for groceries, etc. needs to be done well out of town and will require transportation. Several festivals are held in town every year and the Annual Tea Party Festival is a don't miss with reenactments, complete with ship boardings and cannon fire. Despite the drawbacks of the marina, we completely enjoyed our stay and Susan connected with many childhood friends and classmates. Too soon it was time to head back down river to our next destination.
Susan and I are both long time sailors with tens of thousands of miles under our keels spanning the US east and west coast, Bahamas, Caribbean, Central Atlantic, and US Gulf Coast. We have been freelance writers for major boating publications, including Bluewater Sailing, Soundings Magazine, Sail Magazine, Southern Boating, Lats and Atts, MarinaLife Magazine, Nor' Easter, Good Old Boat, Living Aboard Magazine and a host of internet sites. We have spent over 17 years living aboard and cruising our Mariner 40 ketch, Sea Trek. In the not to distant past, we sold her and after much soul searching decided a change in lifestyle and scenery was in order so the search was on for a new boat. We knew a trawler was in our future and after doing a lot of research and looking at a lot of boats we found a very well cared for 1980 Marine Trader 34. We have named her Beach House for Susan's love of the beach and the hopes that the view from our new house will always be pleasant. Our plans are to continue our lifestyle and to change our cruising grounds a bit and visit those inland lakes and rivers we never could with our sailboat.