Amazingly, Mr Rocna offered little resistance to becoming dislodged after being so nice and cozy in mud for a week. We returned to the marina just up the South River. Our repaired sails got dropped off, we filled our water tanks then headed across the Bay to beautiful and sophisticated St. Michaels. Our cruising guide offers this description, “…is a comfortable mix of city-sophisticated and country-friendly. Upscale shops, world-class restaurants and retired national movers and shakers rub shoulders with gun shops, local watering holes and boat carpenters.” Personally, I was going for the shops, the grocery and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Plus, if my sis-in-law Kerry says it’s worth a visit, then it’s got to be good.
Names worth noting who were connected to St Michaels (named for the Episcopal parish established there in 1677) are Frederick Douglass and James Michener. After escaping on a Baltimore-bound ship in the 1830s, Frederick Douglass became an abolitionist activist and lecturer, later the U.S. representative in Haiti. Generations later, writer James Michener called St Michaels home while researching and writing his historic novel, Chesapeake. The area also boasts trendsetters in boat design and is well-known for log canoes that were first built in the late 1800s as shallow-draft oyster boats. They gradually evolved into slim-lined wooden sailboats you can see racing around the nearby Miles River.
We arrived for a very late lunch at the Crab Claw then walked to Talbot St; oh which way to turn? Shops to the left and right! We chose left to see what we could see. Gorgeous fall and Halloween decorations everywhere, seats for the weary at every shop, friendly and helpful clerks and not too crowded thanks to the time of year; what’s not to love?
Grabbed a few fresh provisions at the- love the name- Acme grocery and a Red Box movie. Arrived back at the anchorage to find many more boats anchored; no surprise as the winds were to be calm, calm.
The next morning we dinghied in to the well-kept, good-sized dinghy dock that lies in between the Crab Claw and the tour boat Patriot. We met the folks on s/v Sanderling, Rhode Island cruisers slowly south-bound; they had noticed our CT registration number. I had to laugh when they told us they’d tried to meet Harmony II near Annapolis; you mean the Harmony II we know from Deep River Marina? Yes, one and the same. They left at least a week before us and we’d been wondering where they were. Got that answer unexpectedly.
First stop was the multi-building-exhibit Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, an 18-acre waterfront complex with a boat builder’s shed, restored Chesapeake workboats and pleasure craft and the rescued Hooper Straits Lighthouse.
Thursday we headed down, around and up the Tred Avon River to Oxford, one of the oldest towns in Maryland. Officially founded in 1683; in that year it was named as a seaport and laid out as a town. Oxford and a new town called Anne Arundel (now Annapolis) were the only ports of entry in all of Maryland at that time. Until the American Revolution, Oxford was an international shipping center surrounded by wealthy tobacco plantations.
After the war Oxford businesses went bankrupt as wheat replaced tobacco as a cash crop. After the Civil War, Oxford was revitalized with the completion of the railroad in 1871 and improved canning and packing methods opened national markets for oysters from the Bay’s bountiful beds.
As you know, good times don’t last and by the early 1900s the oyster beds were stripped, the packing houses closed and railway and steamships slowly disappeared. Sleepy town Oxford, inhabited mainly by watermen who still worked the waters of the Tred Avon sat waiting for the next cycle of its life. Any surprise that today the dial has turned to “tourism and leisure activities”? We loved Oxford’s quiet charm with lovely homes lining the main street (Morris Street- N & S) instead of a plethora of shops.
We spent a solid 30 minutes trying to find our way to the main drag and/or a place open for lunch. Off season many eateries are either only open for dinner or only open weekends. The street in the photo below, we ended up there twice. Got out to Schooners only to find them not open, but we did learn that the place Russ really wanted to find- was indeed open.
We enjoyed a delicious, leisurely lunch on the street-facing narrow porch of the Inn. The Inn was built prior to 1710 by ships’ carpenters with wooden pegged paneling, ship nails and hand hewn beams. An English trading company bought the house in 1730 for Robert Morris who represented the firm’s shipping business in Oxford.
The inn has been enlarged several times since its first use as a private home. The original flooring is Georgia white pine, the tavern’s slate floor came from Vermont and four of the guest rooms have fireplaces built of brick made in England and used as ballast in the early sailing days. (now we use bottles of wine!)