Mid-Shore Maritime: It Was the Best of Times and the Wurst of Times

Cruising season on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay has begun and one of our agents joined owners of Ranger Tugs and Cutwater boats for their 8th annual gathering, this one with an Octoberfest theme. The nearly 40 vessels traveled to the Hyatt River Marsh Marina in Cambridge, Maryland and a few enthusiasts came by land.

The rendezvous launched eight years ago when Ranger Tug owners and avid cruisers John and Tracey Garcia joined forces with our local Ranger Tug / Cutwater yacht broker, Pocket Yacht Company in Grasonville. The enthusiasm of volunteer owners and the commitment of the fine team at Pocket Yacht, make this an annual can’t miss event for many avid boaters.

In addition to good food and good fun, the Ranger Tug and Cutwater manufactures come to the event and spend their days with the owners answering questions and troubleshooting. They made a low key presentation which started with the question, “well, what do you want to know?”

Most of the vessels have state-of-the-art Garmin navigation technology on board. This year, Garmin sent people to the rendezvous where they lead a very well attended discussion about what these amazing boxes can do.

Easton residents win best dressed…Rich and Alice Merrill

Talbot County had strong representation. Indeed, the best dressed award went to Easton’s own Rich and Alice Merrill who have been to multiple rendezvouses in their Ranger Tug, Bay Ranger.

These vessels are built in Washington State for open ocean cruising, so a June nor’easter didn’t deter the group from having an enjoyable Saturday night dinner before setting off in 15 to 30 knot winds on Sunday….well, reportedly, some took advantage of a deal to stay one more night and leave Monday morning with calmer winds.

Sunset at Marsh River Marina

Just goes to show that our boats provide a common denominator bringing a widely diverse group together for just plain fun, which is why the group is now calling this the “best Wurst rendezvous ever!”

The challenge of taking the group shot

Links for more information.

River Marsh Marina

Pocket Yacht Company


By the Byways – Crisfield

The southernmost place on the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byways map is Crisfield, Maryland [insert Maryland state Scenic Byways website.  A visit from Easton takes you 87 miles along the Scenic Byway and there are a number of interesting stops along the way. On this day, direct to Crisfield was the plan with a few decades having passed since the last visit.

One is immediately struck by the contrasts. Fast food places with long established seafood diners along the route…no longer the train track, but highway 413 about as straight as the rail. The route ending at the decades-old pier with a skyline that now shows condominiums next to the fresh seafood delivery trucks.


A fascinating history has not made the struggle in the present any easier. However, a determined community offers its visitor a number of enjoyable sites, tours, meals and activities.

Located on Tangier Sound, Crisfield was originally a small fishing village, Annemessex Neck. As Europeans colonized the area, it was renamed Somers Cove. The active fishing village grew and reportedly, in 1804 there were over 100 buildings in the area, making it one of the largest places on the Delmarva Peninsula.  The growth continued as the town became known as Crisfield for the man who decided to bring the Pennsylvania Railroad to the fishing village in 1866. The fishing village grew to become known as the “Seafood Capital of the World.”

Crisfield would grow to about 25,000 people in 1904 making it the second largest city in Maryland after Baltimore. And, seafood from Crisfield was being shipped throughout the country.

Decades later, as the health of the Chesapeake Bay declined, the way of life for the watermen became more difficult. Then, in 1976 the railroad shut down.

Today, with not quite 3,000 residents, Crisfield remains a tourist location and jump off point to Smith Island and Tangier Island. There are seafood restaurants and beautiful camping areas and of course an historic marina. There is even an airstrip for the adventuresome pilots.


TripAdvisor provides interesting options for visitors to consider 

This southernmost point of Chesapeake Country delivers on its promise as scenic, especially when viewed through the lens of its rich history.

By the Byways: Easton to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

If you take no other intentional tour along the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byways, find time for a visit to The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge just south of Cambridge. Less than 30 miles fr

om the center of Easton, the visit offers an experience not easily matched. In fact, the refuge has been referred to as the “Everglades of the North,” and is called one of the “Last Great Places” by the Nature Conservancy.

Before being declared a wildlife refuge, the marshland along the Blackwater River was managed as a fur farm. Then, in 1933, The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge was established as a waterfowl sanctuary for birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway.

While the area is large, visitors can experience the heart of the Refuge by going to the entrance at Wildlife Drive. Click here for the map.

Here is a scene captured one quiet morning near the entrance to Wildlife Drive….just to provide a feeling for the natural beauty of the area…

Along Wildlife Drive, you will see wildlife…sometimes when you least expect it, so go slow! The drive is a four and a half mile paved road that winds along freshwater ponds, through woods, past fields, and adjacent to marshes. You enjoy it best by pulling off and just watching the wildlife.

On one recent cold morning, a Blue Heron stood still for more than one photographer…

One of the most remarkable sites involves the American bald eagles. Blackwater is home to the largest breeding population of American bald eagles on the East Coast, north of Florida. And, they are sited frequently while just driving through the Refuge.

Of course, there are numerous areas to hike and get off the road for even better looks at the waterfowl and wildlife. If you visit once, you will most likely come back throughout the year for brand new experiences.

For more information, click here for the Blackwater brochure:

By the Byways…..Cambridge to Taylors Island

Known for hunting, fishing and crabbing, Taylors Island claims a population of fewer than 200 people who live just 16 miles southwest of Cambridge, Maryland. Turning onto one of the side trips of the Chesapeake Country’s Scenic Byway from Highway 50, state route 16 takes travelers all the way to a bridge over Slaughter Creek and onto the island. Today’s bridge completed in 1999 replaced the wooden bridge from 1856. Prior to that, a ferry connected the island to the mainland.

On the island side of the bridge, you are greeted by an historical marker and a worthy stop to read about the history of The Battle of the Ice Mound, the last battle in the war of 1812 in the Chesapeake Bay. The event occurred on February 7, 1850 and a captured cannon is located on the site.

Reportedly, the island was originally called “Taylor’s Folly” in 1662 when the Taylors took ownership of 400 acres of land on the island. A short (but, perhaps dated) history of the island is found on the Taylors Island Facebook page.

“Taylor’s Island is about six miles long, lying parallel with Chesapeake Bay, on the western border of the county, and separated from the mainland by Slaughter Creek, and from Hooper’s Island by Punch Island Creek.

Colonists from St. Mary’s and Calvert Counties settled on this island ten years before the County of Dorchester was laid out. Thomas Taylor, after whom the island was named, Raymond Staplefort, Francis Armstrong and John Taylor, were among the early settlers, who cleared the land of timber and made fine farms there.

The cultivation of tobacco and corn was the principal employment and the chief products raised for support of the people during the first century of the colony. From the year 1700, timber and lumber trade increased for the next 150 years to the extent of a profitable industry. Soon thereafter catching oysters for sale in city markets rapidly became a paying business and is still a trade of much activity. The revenue derived from oysters has added valuable and attractive improvements to this section of the county.

On the island are three fine churches, large stores, canneries, and fine dwellings, the homes of well-to-do and cultured people.”

Traveling around the island brings beautiful panoramic views of a charming, wooded and quiet place.

There are beautiful churches on the island. Below is the Chapel of Ease Old Trinity Episcopal Church which dates to around 1707.

While there are clearly roads less traveled…

….you can round a point and come upon views of the Bay complete with snow geese!


Finally, either on the way to Taylors Island our on the way out, don’t miss a stop at the Woolford Country Store for a breakfast or lunch. 

Like so many of the miles of Scenic Byway, a trip to Taylors Island connects us all with a bit of the past as these small communities build their future.

By the Byways: Chestertown to the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge

Following a recent column on our Scenic Byways throughout Chesapeake Country, we sent a Spy or two out to take a closer look. Here is the first field report out along the Scenic Byways…

Field Report: Chestertown to the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge.

Travel to Chestertown. Enjoy the historic and attractive downtown shops as you head to Route 20 going south. The trip to the National Wildlife Refuge takes about 30 minutes as you drive through farm country out of Chestertown.

Just 7 miles past Rock Hall, the road leads the traveler onto Eastern Neck Island over an old wooden bridge.

Sitting between the Chester River and the Chesapeake Bay, the 2,285-acre island is a refuge managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and it is a major feeding and resting place for migrating and wintering waterfowl. You can also see the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel and the southern bald eagle

Entering from the north, most of the island is accessible by car. And, there are plenty of places to walk as well with nearly 6 miles of trails, roads and boardwalks.

If you want to bring a kayak, there is an entire tour around the island that starts at Bogles Wharf which is marked by road signs. The Chester River Steamboat Company built the original Bogles Wharf in 1867 and it operated until around 1910. You will want to stop at the Visitor Center and pick-up a full guide of the water tour around the island.

Upon leaving the island, two white geese seemed to bid us farewell as we passed back over the wooden bridge and worked our way north to more of the Scenic Byway.

Returning north past Rock Hall towards Chestertown one comes across The Inn at Huntington Creek. With much to do in the area, the Inn looks to be an ideal place to spend a night or two. In addition to what the Inn offers, Rock Hall is a fine place to enjoy crab and seafood. 

If you have a favorite Scenic Byway, share by clicking above for the Comments section and the Spies will do the rest!




Spy Food: A Very Special Squeeze

It catches your eye. Lemons from Sorrento, Italy at $6.99 a pound. The lemons are large and juicy. The color is beautiful, but the color doesn’t increase the cost. Weighing it at a bit over 8 ounces produces an eye popping price when compared to the offering at a local supermarket selling their lemons for 79 cents each.

Still, standing in the Piazza Italian Market and discussing the quality of these lemons with the proprietor, Emily Chandler, the desire to buy and try this unique experience is strong. After all, if you traveled to Sorrento, how would you bring a few of these beautiful lemons back into the country.

This is a lemon where every part of it deserves to be used! So, while preparing dinner, a twist of lemon from the Bella Vita lemon provided an exquisite experience at cocktail time, building confidence in the wisdom of making the investment in a lemon from Italy.

In fact, it was so good that I tried, as suggested in an online story, just enjoying the fruit by itself. Amazingly good!

We enjoyed some lemon juice on our meal and confidence was high with regard to the real lemon expert in the family….my wife.

I explained just how remarkable this experience really was, dining while enjoying this Italian lemon. So, the question was popped….what did she think. “Well,” says she, “it tastes like a lemon.”

High praise, I suppose, from someone who likes fresh lemon juice on most things…and, after all, it really should taste like a lemon.

Like so many things in life, the total experience is what’s important. I’ve never taken so much time focusing a dinner on a lemon….come to think of it, I’ve never written about a lemon.

Go to Piazza. You decide!

And, here is a bit of information found while doing research…something else that’s new…researching lemons!

Growing the perfect lemon is a process Italians take great pride in and celebrate. The process of growing lemons requires an attentive and nurturing caretaker and a warm, subtropical climate. As a lemon tree begins to blossom, a fragrant sweet smell is released. This aroma is captured in the form of lemon essential oils, which are often used for perfume making, as well as adding fragrance to soaps and lotions. As lemons continue to grow and ripen on the tree, they become sweeter. A lemon so sweet and full of flavor, it is often enjoyed plain with just a pinch of salt on top! But it’s not just the juice that is prized — Italians enjoy every part of the lemon, including the peel and rind.

Spy Wine Notes: Piazza Tasting Finale

Piazza Italian Market founder Emily Chandler introduced the final wine tasting event of the year saying we would be “touring” Umbria.As with each of the enjoyable wine tasting events this year, Emily and her team beautifully prepared food with each of the three wines tasted.

The full house at Piazza started with a white wine made from the Grechetto grape by the Antonelli winery .

This wine described by the maker as opening with elegance to the nose: fresh, fruity and floral with notes of citrus, peach, almond and hawthorn blossom, was paired with a simple but delicious bowl of red potatoes and tuna.

The selection of reds involved another offering from the Antonelli winery – Montefalco Rosso. This blend contains 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, 15% Montepulciano. Described by the maker as being ruby red in color. Olfactory impact is intense and fruity, with hints of cherry and wild berries. To the palate this wine is dry, balanced and well structured. The freshness provided by the Sangiovese gives it an excellent drinkability. It was paired with a tasty bruschetta.

And, the final wine – Perticaia’s Montefalco Sagrantino – was made 100% from the Sagrantino grape.

This wine is described as being very full and persistent, tannic with an agreeable touch of bitterness.

Piazza paired this wine with a salumi selection fairly representing the fine offerings available everyday in the market.

As with all other tastings at Piazza, the guests were given the chance to purchase the wines for home consumption along with meats and cheeses. The evening brought a great year of tastings to an enjoyable conclusion….and, we can’t wait to see what comes next in 2019.

Spy Wine Notes: Virginia Wine on the Eastern Shore

It is reported that nearly 400 years ago the first colonial legislative assembly in Virginia passed an act requiring all Virginia households to plant 10 vines for grapes. Undoubtedly, since then the quality of wine from Virginia has been subject to debate.

Well, this past weekend at the Talbot Country Club Wine Dinner, there was no debate about the quality of very enjoyable wine from the Boxwood Winery in Middleburg, Virginia. Four exceptional wines from Boxwood were tasted, paired with exquisite offerings from the Club’s Sous Chef.

The evening was made all the more remarkable with a lively discourse on the wines, the winery, Middleburg and even a new California wine project, all from Rachel Martin. Boxwood, a family owned winery, is run by Rachel and her brother, Sean Martin.

In addition to the winery in Middleburg, Rachel launched her own wine project along the California coastline in San Luis Obispo. From this winery, the assembled wine tasters enjoyed a 2016 Chardonnay that was exceptional.

The Boxwood Vineyard wines demonstrated just how high the bar is now placed when in comes to Virginia wines. And the offering from Oceano suggests we will hear a lot more from this new winery.

The evening was the final one of the wine tasting series for the season offered by the Talbot Country Club and it was an exciting way to conclude the successful wine tasting dinners offered to members.


Academy Art Museum Craft Show Opens for the Public Today; Preview Event Produces Artist Awards

The 21st Annual Academy Art Museum Craft Show opened its doors at 10 AM today and will do the same Sunday at the Museum and the Waterfowl Building where 70 artists have their work on display. As Craft Show Chairman Craig Fuller explains, “come join us where you have an opportunity to view and purchase fine craft, meet inspired artists and support the mission of the Academy Art Museum.”

Best body of work, Fong Choo

The Craft Show Preview Event, held Friday evening, saw over two hundred Museum patrons and sponsors get an early look at the show. The Craft Show Committee offered all who participated something new, the Dazzled Choice Awards. All attendees were giving the chance to vote on their favorite artists. These choices along with the judge’s choices from the evening, and even an online Choice Award, are all part of the program for Saturday.

The Spy learned the results early and shares it now….

As determined by the Craft Show judge:

For Best Body of Work: Fong Choo
For Best Booth Design (a tie): Amanda Hagerman and Stephen Zeh
For Best Individual Items: Todd Reed, Craft Show Visionary Artist

And, for the Dazzled Choice Award (a tie); Holly Anne Mitchell and Todd Reed
For the Dazzled Online Choice Award: Sara Thompson

The Craft Show stays open until 6 PM on Saturday and 4 PM on Sunday. Artists are on hand to visit with attendees. The Dazzled Online auction (at bit.ly/Dazzled-Online) remains open for bidding until 8 PM, Tuesday, October 23rd…and, new items are being added. Each award winner has one or more items in the Auction!

For more information about the Craft Show and winners, click on the links below:

Academy Art Museum Craft Show: bit.ly/Dazzled-Online
Fong Choo: http://fongchoo.com
Amanda Hagerman: http://www.amandahagermanjewelry.com
Stephen Zeh: http://www.stephenzeh.com
Todd Reed: https://toddreed.com
Holly Anne Mitchell: https://www.newspaperjewelry.com

Sailing: Sailors in a Storm this Weekend

Tred Avon Yacht Club Sends Sailors into the Storm

Of course, into the weather is exactly where they wanted to be after light winds over prior weekend events.

The Hammond Memorial Regatta is one of TAYC’s biggest events of the year and foul weather was not going to interfere with the competition. Beginning in front of the Tred Avon Yacht Club in Oxford, the race from the Tred Avon River to Poplar Island includes Alberg 30s, Catalina 27s, PHRF, Multi-Hulls, Beach Cats, and J boats.

Spy Agent 7  followed the Naval Academy competitors into the Choptank and produced a short slide show to share the experience.

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