Patuxent River > Great Wicomico River
Trip Start Jul 21, 2001
45Trip End Apr 22, 2002
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Strong north winds combined with an outgoing tide gave us the fastest continuous 5 hours of sail we have ever experienced - 8.6 knots. This was with a reefed main and genny. In fact at one point, we went down to only a handkerchief of a foresail because Margaret said, "We shouldn't be going this fast, something's going to break." Well nothing broke; we had a great sail and finally anchored in the Solomon Island's on the Patuxent River. We motored up Black Creek and stayed for the next two days awaiting good winds to continue south.
There is an air force base across the river and throughout each day, jet fighter planes would fly past accompanied by a thundering roar of their jets.
After the first night in the main anchorage, we moved a little farther upriver and anchored in the open area off the Holiday Inn docks. We rowed our dingy across to their docks and walked to the small shopping mall close by. The next day, I rowed down river to the Calvert Marine Museum which "explores marine history, prehistory, and estuarine biology in addition to chronicling local history".
The exhibit I found most interesting was one on the horseshoe crab. The guide gave me a personal history of the crab which is really not a crab at all but a member of the spider species. The most important part of the crab as far as human use is concerned is its shell which is periodically shed. The shell is collected commercially and used as a base compound to promote healing of burn victims. It is also used as in creating the foundation base for women's cosmetics. The blood of the horseshoe crab is also used for the testing of new antibiotics.
"The chitin from horseshoe crabs is used in the manufacturing of chitin-coated filament for suturing and chitin-coated wound dressing for burn victims. Since the mid-1950s, medical researchers have known that chitin-coated suture material reduces healing time by 35 to 50 percent."
Winds weren't great but they did allow us to motor sail south. Unfortunately the tide turned against us and the winds changed to directly on our nose. Then we were hailed by a navy patrol boat. We had seen boats ahead of us in the distance heading towards the western shore of the Bay and thought they were just going to one of the rivers so we had continued on the course I had set in the GPS. This would have been fine except that we were told that the air force would be practicing bombing runs directly in the path we were about to take and would we please follow everyone else. Turning 90's degrees to starboard we of course did as we were told. If I had the radio on for the previous hour, we would have heard this command given to the other boats but not expecting anything like this and not having any friends to converse with, we had not been in the habit of listening to the radio's chatter. The result was a number of additional miles and although we kept a close eye out for them, we never did see any planes doing "bombing runs".
Ten hours later we finally entered Cockrell Creek on the Great Wicomico River. We motored up the river and anchored off the town docks of the community of Reedville. This is a fishing village where huge 100 foot boats go out and fish MENHADEN. In 1912, Reedville was the center, and the richest town in an area which had 15 large menhaden factories with 60 ships supplying them. Today there is one factory in Reedville. You are probably asking yourself the same question we had "What in the world is this fish good for??? Our cruising guide describes the following:
"Menhaden, also known as pogies, alewives, and bunkers, are part of the herring family, first introduced to the colonists by the Indians. They had learned that planting menhaden along with corn produced a much greater crop yield. Today, menhaden and its by-products are used in soap, stains, varnish, linoleum, paint, high-protein animal feed, lipstick, nail polish, costume jewelry and ceramics." As kids would say in Canada - Cool, eh!