Returning to life stateside was tough, but thanks to Kennersley Point Marina, the Clarkes’ transition back to life on land was a breeze.

by Wendy Mitman Clarke

It was fall, and change was in the air. After more than four years of sailing as a way of life, it was time for Osprey, our 45-foot sailboat, and her crew to come in for a landing. Fate—in the form of gainful employment—had determined our destination as Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and while the transition from a vagabond life on the water back to land was bound to be jarring, at least we had the Shore’s wide open sky and laid-back pace to cushion the blow. And, we had Kennersley Point Marina.

Near the junction of Island and Southeast creeks—off the Chester River about four miles downstream from Chestertown—Kennersley takes its name from the vast old farm that surrounds it. By land, you fetch the marina after driving down a lane of stately sycamore trees, surrounded on all sides by meadows and fields. It’s no less beautiful by water, although a bit trickier; Osprey draws 5.5 feet and had no problem negotiating the route at high water (slip depth is 4 to 8 feet), but the tide fall in swift-running Island Creek is 2 to 3 feet, and the channel, marked with PVC poles, leaves little room for error. Well off the beaten path, the creek possesses a wealth of natural beauty, and we routinely see bald eagles, ospreys, blue herons, kingfishers and songbirds.

Phil and Lynn Donahue bought the 10-acre property in 1994. Phil has been in the business for years; he began as a dock boy at Colonial Yacht Club on the Potomac in 1969, and went on to Tri-State Marine in Deale, Md., Backyard Boats in Shady Side, and then Solomons Yachting Center in Solomons. When Kennersley came up for sale, Phil and Lynn took the plunge, though the place was quite a wreck. There was no water or electricity in the yard, the lift was an accident waiting to happen, the pool leaked, and the tidy, attractive office that exists now, Phil says, was “a flat-roofed concrete sieve, full of mold.” But, says Lynn, “I could see it was a diamond in the rough.”.

They went to work. Using her artist’s eye and a green thumb, Lynn planted gardens and trees; the result today is truly astonishing in spring, when the place explodes into bloom, and then settles into lush greenery in summer. Phil tackled the infrastructure, bringing in water and power, rebuilding the office, widening the haul-out pit, adding a new lift (25-ton) and upgrading the workshop spaces. Today, the marina has 70 slips and can haul power and sailboats into the mid-40s in length, though this is primarily a powerboat marina.

Less tangible but no less valuable has been the Donahues’ investment in the idea of the marina as a home for boaters. With picnics, pig roasts, pool parties, camp-outs, kids’ days, and even the occasional wedding, it is a community unto itself with devoted boaters who gather every weekend in the season. “Whole families have been raised here, several generations,” Phil says. “We don’t have a whole lot of rules other than be nice and don’t make a mess.”

It would seem an unlikely place for a family of ocean travelers. But we feel part of the family, and are fortunate for it.

Kennersley Point Marina
Church Hill, Md.
Fuel: no
Depth: 4-8
Pump-out: Yes
Power: 30 and 50 amp
Repairs: Yes

[September 2013 issue]