8/29/18 – 9/2/18: We made reservations at Solomons Island for the entire Labor Day weekend, thinking that it would probably be difficult to find dockage over the last long weekend of the summer. We had heard a few good things about the place, but didn’t know what to expect. It turned out that we really didn’t like it much.
We left Cambridge on Wednesday, and anchored for a night in a little bay just up the Patuxent River from Solomons Island. The first thing we noticed were the military jets. There was a Naval Air Station right across the river from Solomons, and the jets flew pretty regularly. Luckily they quieted down at night (and also over the weekend). Early Thursday afternoon we pulled up anchor and motored into the marina. We needed diesel and a pumpout so we pulled to the fuel dock. We received no offer of assistance to do either, nor did they offer to help us with lines at our assigned slip. This was the first marina that didn’t at least offer.
After showering, we took a look to see what was around for eating options. Everything within walking distance was incredibly expensive. We certainly don’t mind paying for good food, but as we’ve said before, we’re certainly not going to pay $40 for an 8oz steak or $30 for a piece of fish. But unfortunately, that was the caliber of every restaurant within a mile or two of the marina. So, we ate on the boat. For the whole weekend. On Friday we took a walk around the island, and was also disappointed by what was there. Basically, nothing! There were several marinas, 5 or 6 overpriced restaurants, one or two gift shops, and 2 ice cream shops (one appeared to be closed, and the other only served different variations of vanilla soft-serve – cones, sundaes, etc…). But we certainly couldn’t pass up ice cream, so we each had a sundae (it was still yummy regardless)! The main part of town, which is on the mainland and just called Solomons, did have grocery stores, retail outlets, and other restaurants, but it was about 3 or 4 miles away – too far to walk. The other problem we found was there were no taxis or buses, and Uber was not very reliable. To be fair, though, we did manage to catch an Uber to the grocery store and back again!
Solomons did have a very nice museum, which we visited on Friday. One of the big attractions in the general area are the Calvert Cliffs. Starting from Solomons Island, they run for about 50 miles north along the shore of the Chesapeake. Here you can find fossils from the Miocene era, about 10-20 million years ago. Part of the museum is dedicated to the various fossils found there, as well as recreations of the various creatures they represent. Especially interesting were the life-size recreations of the megalodon (giant sharks) and the Baleen Whale! They also had aquariums filled with all the various species of crab, fish, oyster, and clams, as well as tanks with turtles, seahorses, stingrays, and skates. They even had a couple of sea otters in a large enclosure. Cute!! And, of course, no Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum would be complete without a restored lighthouse to walk through. At this museum was the Drum Point lighthouse, a screwpile lighthouse similar to what we saw in St. Michaels. This one, however, was set up with period furniture to represent what it was like to live in one these lighthouses around the turn of the 20th century (including the “outhouse”). Very cool!
On Saturday, after returning from the grocery store, we were surprised to see a HUGE boat on the outer dock (T-Head) right next to our boat. This thing made ours look like a kid’s bathtub toy. We looked it up online, and found out that “Chanticleer” was a 118 foot mega-yacht built in 1973. It’s had 3 owners, including Ogden Phipps (famous horse breeder and tennis champ), Ralph Evinrude (outboard motor creator) and his wife Frances Langford (holywood actress singer), and currently Martin Sutter (health care venture capitalist). We talked to the Captain and first mate (the only two crew manning the boat), and shared stories of where we’ve been. Interestingly enough, they’ve taken that boat across the Erie Canal and as far as the North Channel of Lake Huron. They’ve even been to some of the same places as us on our way down to here. Fun!
We are also keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Florence. We don’t really have to worry about Gordon, as that looks to be heading to the Gulf of Mexico. But Florence might be a different story. It’s still WAY too early to be concerned, but we’re well aware of her and check her progress daily. We are getting closer to the Atlantic Ocean and east coast again, and need to be keenly aware of any developments, especially since we will be travelling through there during peak hurricane season. We’ll see what happens!
Thus concluded our visit to Solomons Island. While it was mostly a disappointment, the museum was fun to see, and talking to “Chanticleer’s” crew was also interesting. But if we ever came back to cruise the Chesapeake again, we’d probably skip Solomons Island, unless it was just a quick stop over. There really wasn’t that much there to see or do!