The gods conspired against visiting Millers Island by boat, but the ol' land yacht was up to the task.

by Ann Levelle

My husband John and I have wanted to visit Baltimore's Millers Island for some time. Unfortunately, the wind gods have been dead set against it. Last summer, reports of waterspouts at the mouth of the Patapsco River killed our plans. Last weekend, violent thunderstorms forced us into the Magothy on Friday night, and we were thwarted Saturday by 20- to 30-knot winds on our nose.

So who am I to fight nature? On Sunday we drove the ol' land yacht to Millers Island (actually a peninsula at the mouth of the Back River) and parked at Bill's Boats. The first thing I noticed was the giant red and white tower just outside Bill's rock breakwater. A range light for a shipping lane, it also marks the narrow channel that splits Millers Island from Pleasure Island and Hart-Miller Island. We had wondered whether this channel would be deep enough for our four-foot draft, but a local slipholder assured us it was at least five feet deep and we saw a sailboat like ours slide through unscathed. (I guess the wind gods didn't have it in for that guy.) To get to Bill's Boats from the Bay, hang a left out of the channel and follow the private green marks "1" and "3" into the marina.

The view from the marina's new floating docks (complete with shiny new electric pedestals, fire extinguishers and ring buoys at every few slips) is wonderful. Not only is the range light a nice piece of scenery, but you can watch the goings-on of picnickers on Pleasure Island. And back on Millers Island, the water-front is lined with lovely new homes resembling those of the Outer Banks; a contrast to homes on the inner part of the peninsula, which look like they'd fit into any other nice Baltimore suburb.

Millers Island was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Isabel; Bill's Boats lost two buildings (including a 2,500-square-foot workshop) and had significant damage to some of its piers. Bill's three new floating piers are now as sturdy as ever, though, as is the fixed pier that features about ten lift-slips.

On land, in addition to rack storage for 90 boats, the marina has a launch ramp, a small patch of manicured lawn (complete with palm trees) at the foot of the piers, a small cement-brick building with two heads, (new showers are under construction) and the marina's office, housed in a temporary trailer. Plans are in the works for a dock bar and a building for a ship's store.

We grabbed some sodas from the machines (there's also an ice machine) and drank them at picnic tables in the cul-de-sac while we listened to lively tunes emanating from the Dock of the Bay restaurant next door. Then we strolled around Millers Island. Only a few blocks wide, and maybe 10 blocks long, it's a quiet neighborhood. We found another restaurant, the Islander Inn, and marveled that both restaurants here boast a $1 per crab night.

Ours would've been the only sailboat at Bill's, but as we walked the docks, the smiles and friendly conversation made us realize that we would've been welcome just the same. After one last look at the serene view we got back into the car. It wasn't quite the way I'd planned to visit, but it was pleasant just the same. Perhaps if the wind gods and I ever reconcile, I'll visit again.

Bill's Boats, Inc.
Millers Island, Md.
410-477-5137
Fuel: none
Power: 30 and 50 amp, $5 and $10
Depth: 6'
Dockage: $1.50/ft
Pump-out: $5

[08.06 issue]