Getting to Baltimore wasn't an option as storms barreled down the Bay. The Magothy River proved a better bet.
by Ann Levelle
illustration by Richard C. Goertemiller
Baltimore had been calling to us for quite a while. Since my husband John and I first cruised into Annapolis eight years ago, we'd only managed to get to Baltimore by car. Sailing there, we thought, would be a grand adventure. Lots of big ships to see, skylines to admire, plus our own place to stay while we explored the big city. We picked what looked like a terrific weekend and headed out. It was hot, but not stifling, the winds were just right, and the chance of summer storms was slim. It was nothing like the last time we had attempted to go, when waterspouts near the mouth of the Patapsco River forced us to stay south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. So, after scantily provisioning the boat with water, beer and a couple of steaks and potatoes-in case some unforeseen force prevented us from eating ashore in Charm City-we cast off our lines.
We took advantage of a brisk wind and had a nice sail from the Severn River to the Bay Bridge, but soon after that, the wind gave out. Undaunted, we fired up the ol' Yanmar and passed the time by counting channel markers as we followed them up the Bay. Not long after we passed the mouth of the Magothy River-only seven green markers past the Bridge-we heard the "Voice," NOAA's emergency weather broadcast system. NOAA calls him Craig, but we call him the "Voice." His tidings are rarely less than ominous, and we can't imagine someone named Craig delivering such nasty news so often. True to form, this bit of news was nasty. "A severe thund-er-storm producing winds above thirty-five knots will pass Ba-l-ti-more's Inner Har-bor at twelve-Oh-five p.m. and con-tin-ue south-southeast reaching Bod-kin Point at twelve-thirty p.m.," said the Voice. Crap. Wouldn't you know? We were on target to reach Bodkin Point at almost the exact same time.
"Ehh, don't worry about it," said the tiny devil on my right shoulder, "you can't even see any dark clouds in that direction." "Are you kidding?" said the little angel on my left shoulder-and my husband simultaneously. They were right, of course. Why risk being caught in 35-knot winds, hail and menacing rain? We hightailed it into the Magothy and took cover behind Dobbins Island.
All was serene when we anchored, well out of reach of any predicted storms. John hopped in to clean the prop, and I took a little sun bath on the bow while we waited out the weather-which didn't drop a single bead of rain on us. After the skies to the east cleared, we headed back to the Bay, which, except for the black mass of clouds now over the Eastern Shore, was back to normal. I began to wonder if the Voice was just messing with us. It was so peaceful I couldn't imagine that a violent storm had just passed through.
We'd lost close to two hours by seeking shelter, so we were tight on time to get all the way to the Inner Harbor by dinnertime. But we were still ready to enjoy the city, so we pressed on. And this time we got farther north than we ever have on the Bay-green "15" on the Craighill Channel, a whopping two green marks past where we'd done our U-turn earlier that afternoon-when the Voice spoke up again. Another line of squalls was headed our way and would be evenworsethan the first round. The Voice recommended seeking immediate shelter, which in our case meant either getting up and around Bodkin Point and into Bodkin Creek or turning around again and laying up in the Magothy. Once again, the storm was headed directly for Bodkin Point, so we opted for the Magothy a second time. Honestly, what are the odds?
At least when we turned tail this time, we could see the black line barreling down on us. Waves popped up out of nowhere, and stinging rain started to fall before we were in the lee of Gibson Island. The Voice wasn't kidding this time.
Once again, the Magothy offered great shelter. We watched as the storm barreled down the Bay, hardly whipping up a whitecap on the river. But more storms were on the radar, and besides, now there was no way we'd reach Baltimore by dark. So we decided to stay put. We skirted past Dobbins Island, where quite a few boats had materialized since our earlier visit, and we hung a right at red "2" into Broad Creek. Soon after, we saw an enormous glass house on the east side of the creek. It was gorgeous, though I didn't envy the task of keeping all that glass clean.
Broad Creek is short, and there were already several boats anchored along the western side, but when we came to the 90-degree bend where the creek opens up to the east, there were plenty of spots still available, with depths in the 10-foot range. We steered clear of the tiny island on the north side of the creek, which is clearly marked with white Danger Shoal buoys, and found a nice spot to set our hook-just far enough away from the two sets of boats already rafted up for the evening.
We were disappointed to lose our night on the town. But our frustration wore off as the evening settled in. We had a beautiful quiet anchorage and one heck of a sunset-thanks to all those storm clouds breaking up and stirring the western sky to a vivid orange. And we had steaks and beer. So why complain? Baltimore could wait.
The Lure of the Magothy
If you've ever found yourself on the Magothy River and wondered what history lies along its shores, you can learn everything you need to know in Marianne Taylor's fascinating book,My River Speaks: The History and Lore of the Magothy River(published in 1998). Taylor covers the river's past, beginning with what we know about the Native Americans who first lived along its shores and tracing its early development by Europeans in the 1600s through the sweep of suburban communities that line its shores today.
The Magothy has its share of fact and fable, and is certainly not without controversy-take, for example, recent squabbles between river residents and the powers that be about public access to two islands and what many see as a blatant disregard for current zoning laws [see "House Yes, Gazebo No,"Channel 9, page 22]. While these issues are only slightly touched on in Taylor's book-foreshadowed may be the better term-her prose goes a long way in telling why the people who love the river are so passionate about their place on the Bay.
My River Speaks: The History and Lore of the Magothy River
by Marianne Taylor
260 pages; $29
Bay Media Inc., Arnold, Md.
(also available atwww.amazon.com)