Saturday, October 4, 2014

St. Michaels

Today was the big day. We only had one fixed date for this trip and this was it. We were going to St. Michaels to attend the Mid Atlantic Small Craft Festival. We set the clock (then slept in a little anyway), had a quick breakfast, and headed out. Then we promptly got lost in downtown Easton. The map showed Hiway 331 doing a straight shot through Easton to join up with 33 for St. Michaels. Once we got into Easton all highway signs disappeared and none of the streets went straight through. We were down to steering by compass: head in the general direction and see what comes up.

We finally found the road to St. Michaels and we were on our way. We arrived at the Maritime Museum (where the Festival is held) shortly after opening time and the parking lot was filling up fast. There were cars and tents (and some RVs) all over the place on the grass. We found a suitable parking place next to a beautiful boat. We looked around and spotted a better spot occupied by a convertible. Maybe he would move later (he is still there).

This festival is a showcase for a wide variety of small boats: kayaks, canoes, rowing boats, small sailboats, and unique or specialized boats. Most of them are hand built, often by the owners. There were a couple of hundred of them.

Many were on land, some afloat, and some afloat on land --- there was an unusually high tide.

We had to cross an improvised bridge to get to the rest of the museum.

Many of the boats were sailing, and there were several classes racing, though that was at the far end of the harbor.

The emphasis of the Small Craft Festival is on small; and unusual is okay too.

The boats were all at their best, and most were beautiful. Festival-goers can vote for their choice for best in show. This was definitely our choice, though I'm not sure where to vote or if the voting is already closed.

We treated ourselves to dinner at the Crab Claw restaurant, probably the best restaurant of the trip. Afterward we attended a lecture on the Water Tribe Everglades Challenge.

The Water Tribe is a bunch of extreme boat people, and the Everglades Challenge is a gruelling and sometime dangerous race from St. Petersburg to Key Largo, around and sometime through the Everglades. It is run by kayaks, canoes, sailboats, or just about any boat propelled by hand or sail. (There is a special class for experimental boats such as solar-powered though I don't think they have had any yet.) Competitors can take any route they choose, but have to sign in at three checkpoints along the way. There is a Le Mans start on the beach and whatever you use to get the boat into the water you have to carry with you all the way. The competitors take an average of about three days to complete a course that park rangers estimate most people will take ten to do. There is about a 70% completion rate. It is definitely not for the inexperienced or faint of heart. It was an appropriate subject for the festival because it is raced in boats similar to the boats shown.

In the course of the question and answer period, the speaker (who paddles a kayak in the event) convinced us that we should be using Greenland style paddles, which have a long, narrow blade that looks like it wouldn't be able to move anything but is actually quite efficient and very easy on the shoulders (of which we both have sore ones).

So that was our day. It was fascinating to a boat-nut like Gene, and Jean, who is getting an education about boating, enjoyed it, too. A little more festival tomorrow, then on to Tilghman Island.

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