Issue: June 2003
The River in G

The Thursday evening concert series in St. Michaels makes for a nice night out on the boat - even if the concert doesn’t happen.


    One of the more gratifying aspects of my life is listening to music - especially at some outdoor waterfront locale, with a freshening breeze wafting across the river and the last dusting of the sunset settling over the trees. Fortunately for me, outdoor concerts abound around the Bay, but in my book nothing beats the Thursday night summer series at Muskrat Park in St. Michaels. When Clint and I received the roster of performers, which is printed well in advance, we saw that Them Eastport Oyster Boys would be coming to town. Since St. Michaels is just a toot down the river for us, we decided to take a picnic dinner onboard our runabout Cookie and idle into Muskrat Cove to listen.

    Muskrat Cove (some charts inexplicably call it Church Cove) lies between the St. Michaels Marina and Higgins Yacht Yard in St. Michaels harbor. It’s pretty shallow in there to begin with (about five feet) and gets even shallower as you edge toward shore, so taking a bigger boat is out of the question. Since Thursday nights are apt to be on the quiet side in St. Michaels, even during the summer, slips are generally available. If you wind up anchoring or berthing out of hearing distance, there’s plenty of “floor space” for listeners - just bring a blanket or a folding chair and set yourself up on the grass.

    Working stiffs that we are, Clint and I had to finish our daily grind before we could motor out of Oak Creek. Even so, we had plenty of time for a scenic detour before heading toward town. First we nosed around Long Point Island and into Hunting Creek. This had been one of our hideaways when we still sailed our Invicta yawl on the Bay. The channel is narrow but deep, and there’s plenty of good holding. Although there are more houses than there used to be, they’re tucked behind thickets of foliage and set back from the marsh that lines the water’s edge. It would still be easy enough to anchor and have the world to ourselves. We cut the motor and just slid along, savoring the quiet. The Miles River beyond was riffled by the barest of breezes, but the creek was smooth as glass. Blue herons poked around the shallows, an eagle soared high above us and in the distance we could hear the staccato beat of a woodpecker drilling for its dinner. A slash in the water ahead of us revealed a water snake aiming pellmell for shore, its body an undulating ess across the top of the water. That was enough to break the spell for Clint (he’s not a big snake fan). He pushed the starter and headed us out of there.

    The concerts start at 6:30 p.m., more or less promptly. Often we’re treated to local talent, of which there’s plenty - from bluegrass to jazz to original folk. Them Eastport Oyster Boys (namely Jeff Holland and Kevin Brooks) come from Annapolis, bringing with them a lively repertoire of original music derived from lifetimes of messing around in boats and cruising the Bay. They poke fun at all things nautical, from deck shoes to cockpit cuisine. But they also add a song here and there designed to get their listeners thinking about the way the Bay has changed over the years. And of course they get everyone clapping and singing and generally carrying on.

    We scooted past the boats anchored off Parrot Point - not many midweek - and past the folks cracking crabs on the outside deck at the Crab Claw. We steered clear of the big sight-seeing boat, the Patriot, as she gave a long pull on her horn and started to back out of her slip near the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, readying for a sunset cruise. Finally, we cut the engine and drifted toward Muskrat Park until we grounded on the silt of the cove bottom. Lots of folks had gathered on land for the concert. They crowded the picnic tables scattered in the park or lounged on the grass surrounding the Victorian gazebo that shelters the performers. Kids climbed on the pair of cannons that aim benignly into the harbor - vestiges, we’re told, of the War of 1812, when marauding English warships threatened Bay-front towns. It was a largely local crowd. The St. Michaels Community Center (which sponsors the weekly concert series with support from local businesses and the town) deliberately chose Thursday nights so residents could enjoy a show without being overwhelmed by weekenders.

    Clint popped the cork on the wine we brought. I deftly held out a pair of goblets for him to fill, and we settled down to enjoy the music. The breeze from the river freshened as the sun drifted down. We could almost hear the barreled tones of Jeff’s baritone ukulele and the twang of Kevin’s banjitar. But wait! What’s this? Concert organizer Marianne Jackson was standing at the gazebo with Kevin Brooks, and she was saying . . . No concert? Bummer! Tonight of all nights Jeff Holland’s car had conked out on the way to St. Michaels, and he was hard aground somewhere on Route 50. The show, she promised, would be rescheduled.

    Clint pushed the starter button once again, and we puttered out of the harbor. Oh, well. The night was fine for a run up the river, and in no time at all we were angling through the Miles River bridge and into the channel beyond. The evening offered up a symphony of its own as the sunset doused the trees with color and the beat of an osprey’s wings set a lazy rhythm. Them Eastport Oyster Boys would have been great fun, but this would do just as well, we were thinking as we hummed along.