Recollections Part 4 - Rock Hall's Original Sunset Cruise Meets the First and Only Mate!
The next few years brought many unexpected changes. I grew tired of the crowds, the traffic and the parking problems in Annapolis. So, in 1998, I decided to move the boat and business from Annapolis to Rock Hall on the Eastern Shore. Not long after that, my second wife decided to elope with my friend. The shock of the divorce was devastating and the depression lasted several hours. I realized it was time to put plan B into action. Plan B was a multi-phase recovery program. First, I would rent a storage garage, and then I would move myself and what little I could aboard the Blue Crab - keep my teaching job and sail during the weekends and summers. I could re-activate my social life and begin my own journey of self-discovery. Living and working in Rock Hall during the summer and in Philadelphia while teaching school in the winter, I could fully discover the best of both worlds.
I found my niche at Watermans Crabhouse, the bustling waterfront restaurant, located on the southeast side of Rock Hall Harbor. Surrounded by floating docks and a large outside deck overlooking the water, it has all the characteristics and ambiance one might expect from a genuine Chesapeake crab house. Because of the excellent food, the live music and the spectacular view, it is here that nearly every visitor to Rock Hall will ultimately end up. The restaurant sits at the end of Sharp St. directly across the pier from Rock Hall Landing Marina, a meticulously maintained boater’s haven, a few blocks from Main St. - A perfect location for Blue Crab Chesapeake Charters.
I figured that if I could make it in Annapolis, I could make it in Rock Hall. And sure enough, business began to pick up as soon as I put up my sign. I placed brochures in the restaurants, shops and bed and breakfasts. And remarkably, in just a few years, Rock Hall’s “original” sunset cruise became quite an attraction in Kent County. I have met many fascinating people right on the dock in Rock Hall. Some have become my best friends, some have become a big part of this adventure, and one in particular, has become the most essential part of the dream itself.
Daily sunset cruises quickly became and continue to be our most popular offering. Imagine a group of three couples who have most often never met, sailing away from the dock, a little unsure of exactly what to expect. There’s usually a small group of envious spectators standing on the dock watching as we back out of the slip. Island music fills the air as we ease out of the channel and into the bay. The couples sit back on the topside cushions, sipping their complimentary beverages. They slip into relaxing conversations as we raise the sails, cut the engine and escape for an hour and a half, into Paradise. When the sun finally falls below the distant horizon on the western shore, six new friends return to the dock, usually under sail, with a whole new perspective of life. It’s party time. On weekends, the harbor is rocking with live music from the waterfront restaurants. I would usually head straight to Waterman's Dock Bar, hoping to get a crab cake before the kitchen closes. Over the years, I have carefully disciplined myself to abide by my own self-imposed rule, “No cruise… no crab cake”
One August night in 2004, after typical sunset cruise, I brushed past an attractive young woman talking to someone on her cell phone on the dock outside the bar. I glanced back at her and asked her if she was having a good time. She looked at me, smiling, and replied that she was having a great time. I continued past and met up with my friends for a crab cake.
I saw the same woman later at the opposite end of the deck, talking to some local people. I didn’t notice a significant other so I casually approached her and began a friendly chat. She shared that she lived in Baltimore, which immediately led to a lively exchange of our favorite places. She explained she had seen Rock Hall on the map and had some strange desire to check it out. She ventured over by herself and was staying in a bed and breakfast for the night. Our conversation continued and I knew right away that she was a class act. I did not feel as though I was trying to “pick her up”. After all, I was in the business of entertaining such visitors anyway, and I found myself enjoying her company and conversation.
At this point, I should interject that there has been no scarcity of women in my life who have presented themselves with the intention of “learning to sail”, “working as a mate”, or in some other way, seducing me into giving them a free boat ride. I have learned to sense such motives early, and even though I have occasionally allowed myself to be taken in to satisfy certain motives of my own, there was no chance this was the case that evening. I believed her when she said she had never sailed, and that she might like to give it a try. She had even picked up a brochure from the Swan Point Inn, hoping to arrange a sail the next morning. She was surprised to learn that I was the captain that she would have called. Before we said goodnight, I invited her to join us on our 1:00 PM sail the next day, no charge. “By the way”, I called out as she was walking away, “What’s your name?” She turned and smiled, “Suzanne”
I admit, I was quite surprised to find Suzanne standing at the dock as I pulled the Jeep up to the crab house the next day. I did not think she would show. She looked adorable, clad in an outfit that truly revealed her conscious effort to dress appropriately for the occasion – her first time on a sailboat. Her long, striking curls were pulled back into a meticulous bundle, unveiling the graceful lines of her face that I only partially recognized from the night before. She was beautiful! I helped her along as she stumbled up the steps and onto the boat. I don’t remember much about the cruise other than the bright sunshine, a delightful breeze and Suzanne’s company. I do recall feeling a bit disappointed that she was planning to leave after the cruise. So, I invited her to join me for lunch. Apparently relaxed, she confided that she was not in any hurry so we spent the rest of the day together.
After just a few short hours, I was beginning to feel like I had known Suzanne for a long time. I almost felt like I was in my own company, completely at ease as we sat next to each other on the lounge chairs by the pool. I had no overwhelming desire to “get lucky”, to attempt to seduce her or to make romantic gestures. I was simply content to share her company. I encouraged her to stay another night and assured her that she could either stay at the house or on the boat. It had been a wonderful day.
After dinner and a few drinks, Suzanne and I decided to go back to the boat to watch a movie, a perfect scenario for a conquest. However, we just talked, watched the movie, and at the end, I fixed her a berth for the night. I was happy to see her sleeping comfortably in the main salon as I climbed forward into the V-berth. Before she left the next morning, she gave me a hug, her phone number and thanked me for everything. Although I’d be hard pressed to convince the usual suspicious mind that “nothing” happened that night, the truth is, more than “something” happened. (To be Continued).