Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nine Days of Family Fun

Deale, MD to Slaughter Creek.

My favorite wetland kayaking destination, this trip the goal was to introduce my wife to the quiet maze that is The Broads of Slaughter Creek. Part of the Taylor's Island Wildlife Refuge, it combines with the Blackwater refuge to form one of the largest natural areas on the east coast, and certainly one of the largest contiguous marshes. I've posted more on the area here.

James Island, leaving Slaughter Creek. Numerous immature eagles roosting.

We used the tender to tow our kayaks deep into the maze. My wife was first to spot the circling bald eagles (3 at one sighting!) and later, a periwinkle fight (sort of like Battleship, waged over the top of a small humacks from kayaks) between me and my daughter. I think the bald eagles were the highlight.

A quiet night on the hook. I've come to like the Mantus chain hook; the new plastic keeper makes it a fast one-hand operation with absolute security. In fact, I'm still using the 3-D printed prototype Mantus sent me for testing.

Slaughter Creek to Smith Island

Fishing. After several hours of unproductive trolling, I caught a nice snapper blue while I was reeling in. A nice surprise. A bit of a jolt when you are sure that you are winding in slack line... but then again, that has happened to me several times; I'm reeling in, done fishing, only to get smacked by a 20-pound rockfish when I least expect it.

Not a trophy, but in truth, the small ones taste best. Perfect size for the pan.

Eating. The highlight of Smith Island may be the crab cakes at Ruke's. No exaggeration, and without any reservation, they are the finest anywhere, including 5-star restaurants. They simply melt in your mouth, exploding with flavor. Wish I knew the secret, though I suspect minimal filler (they tend to fall apart) and very fresh crabs are key. Worth the trip, just for that.

 Not fancy, and a bit run-down on the outside, but oh my....

Kayaking. You could spend a week exploring the Smith Island complex and never see most of it. We spent 2 nights and enjoyed as what as we could, paddling different areas than those we have explored before. Swan island is nice, just north of the western entrance channel. There is also a dredge spoil island on the south side of the western entrance that is home to thousands of gulls. Goat island --just across the harbor--is filled with feral goats.

Goat Island. There are perhaps 40 on the island, always climbing trees, for instinctual reasons, we suppose.

Can't let a jetty stop you. Up and over.

Impossibly low freeboard on the flats boats. Much of the crabbing and clamming water is very thin.

 They say you should name the boat for your daughter rather than your wife, since the former is a permanent relationship, the later less certain. I'm guessing this was named for the daughter.

Found this on the beach. After a little research we determined it is a Loggerhead sea turtle rib. Though I've never seen a live one in Chesapeake or nearby coastal waters, we've found eggs and carapaces. They are threatened, but not truly rare.

Smith Island to Tangier Island.

Tacks included, perhaps 20 miles of bashing into steep chop and 20 knots winds. Tacking though 100 degrees, boat speed cycled between 8.5 knots on the flat bits and 5 knots when the beam buried in a steep set, sending green water all the way to the cockpit, averaging 6.7 knots dock-to-dock, including time spent untangling a crab pot from the rudder--hard to see those buggers in the conditions.

More fishing. I think the cats got most of the minnows.

One of our favorite places for just doing nothing, we still manage to keep busy.
  • The fishing off the dock is reasonable. A flounder, several sea bass, and some spot.
  • Crabbing. This time we focused on soft shells; harder to find, but more eating per crab. I'm not convinced they are as sweat, though.
  • Swimming. The nicest swimming beach on the Bay is the hook.
  • The Homecoming. Each summer they have a festival where family from all over returns to the island. Only inflatable "rides" (they've got to come by boat) but good music and good food.
  •  Local dining. The Fishermans' Corner is very good, and Four Brothers has a mean crab melt.
The claws aren't much of the threat when they're soft.

The Homecoming Festival sets up on the airport flight line, a short walk from the marina. The whole town is there, often more than 200 golf carts! Sure, as a visitor you are not a part of the family, but that doesn't matter. $5 admission and good music.

Tangier to Solmons Island.

Uneventful light air sailing. Caught 2 more snapper blues on the way, which added to the interest.

The Tiki Bar is the local muscle boat hang-out, worth a few minutes just for the people watching and the music. Anchor further away, though, up mill creek. Be aware of the cable area.

Solomons Island to Deale

More uneventful light air sailing. An hour was spent on the beach at Calvert Cliffs, collecting fossils and enjoying the quiet, before the hikers reach the beach.


Most of the meat in the fridge returned home with us; out catch matched our appetite, and some fish were distributed to my parents. We went out for steak that first night home, having reached our fill of seafood, at least for a time.

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