Issue: April 2002
A Boat, a Beach, a Blizzard

Sheltered Tilghman Creek at the mouth of the Miles River has an alluring beach, but you gotta pick your weather.

 

     Just a quick overnighter, we thought as we pushed our trawler Escort off from our home dock on Oak Creek. We’d take our neighbors on a little jaunt down the Miles River to Tilghman Creek, drop the hook and toast the joys of the cruising life. After a night on the bunks, we’d linger over breakfast, maybe do some beachcombing on Rich Neck’s fabulous beach, then tootle back home. It was early April, a chilly but sunny afternoon. Who needs the Weather Channel for such a trip on such a day?

     Who indeed. Our breezy but heretofore pleasant clime deteriorated in no time. We had motored well beyond St. Michaels harbor when a powerful squall thumped us a good one. Out of the blue (literally) came 40-knot gusts that roiled up the river and gave us a ride that would have been the envy of Disney World engineers had they been aboard. As a matter of fact, those same engineers might have learned a new trick or two. Fortunately, our sturdy trawler put her shoulder to the waves and barrelled on through the Sturm und Drang without complaint. Rain came down in thick sheets, we rocked, we rolled, and guess what? No one wanted dinner. We just wanted a quiet gunkhole we could duck into-and we wanted it quick.

     Fortunately, that’s where we were headed-and in fact, we were almost there. Tilghman Creek wends its way prettily past farms and fields and reforested thickets of white pine. It’s about as sheltered as sheltered gets, tucked up inside Rich Neck, the long finger of land that turns into Tilghman Point and marks the entrance to the Miles River. People cruising Eastern Bay duck in there a lot because it lies roughly midway between Kent Narrows and Tilghman Island. It’s also a great before-or-after spot for a day cruise to St. Michaels, when the charm of swinging with the crowd off the Crab Claw has lost its luster. And it’s as pretty an anchorage as any you’ll find, even when there aren’t three-foot rollers chasing you in. Easy to get into, too, if you use common sense-stay to the middle as you enter and then follow the daymarkers.

     A few houses ring the shoreline, outposts of Claiborne, the village that once welcomed the ferry from Romancoke on its Eastern Bay side and the train from Easton on its land side. (Unfortunately, you really can’t get to Claiborne from here. It hugs the Eastern Bay shoreline around the old ferry terminus, which is now a public fishing pier and launch ramp. The town itself offers no amenities, just nice people.) But what’s really spectacular about this little gunkhole is the long sandy beach that lines Rich Neck before you get into the creek itself. This is what has drawn us back time and again, and we had looked forward to dinghying ashore and kicking up a little sand. Now waves were thundering ashore like raging stallions, kicking up spray and taking bites out of the soft clay embankment. So much for beachcombing.

     We picked our way into the shelter of the creek and dropped anchor in a good 10 feet of water in the cove that curls to starboard just above the channel markers. On other visits, we’ve been brazen enough to simply anchor off the Rich Neck beach in the lee of the neck; we’ve also nosed all the way to the head of the creek (it thins out to about eight feet) and anchored off the old railway at Cockey’s Wharf, where the local workboat fleet hangs out. This time, although the heavy wind and rain had finally ceased, as played out as a two-year-old on the cusp of a tantrum, there was still an edge to the breeze and darkness was coming on. Since we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the scenery in the lowering dusk, we decided to be prudent and take the more spacious “first” anchorage. It occurred to us that we would be glad of the swing room. A trawler gives the wind a lot to work with, after all, and we had no reason to think that the weather was finished with us yet.

     Our stomachs mollified by the flatter surface of the creek, we ultimately had a lovely dinner, played parlor games and went to bed. All was well-until we woke up. Yes, the night had gotten colder; we’d noticed that in the wee hours as we’d scrunched deeper into our bunks. And the wind had picked up significantly. But it wasn’t until we opened our eyes that we faced the grim reality of the weather front that had moved in. Actually, we didn’t see a thing-the air was thick with snow, beating down as furiously as any rain squall. Our world was a winter wonderland, and the swirling snow rendered us as blind as a downeaster heading through a Grand Banks fog. Still, we could be grateful-there we were, barely moving a muscle in that tiny cove. (Now there’s a good anchorage for you!) We had our leisurely breakfast and dreamed of a white Easter. So much for our trip to the beach. Maybe there’s something to the Weather Channel after all.