Chesapeake Bay Voyage: Fairlee Landing to Kent Island

The Chesapeake Bay Voyage is a series of kayak trips, with the goal of paddling the entire length of the bay from north to south. It is taking place over several weekends during the warm seasons of 2014.

Day 4 (Sat 5/3/2014): Fairlee Landing to Rock Hall (15.9 miles)

Our leader Dave called for an earlier start this trip, and everyone obeyed the complex shuttle plan to have kayaks and cars where they needed to be for those who were only paddling one day or both. Peter and I got to Little Creek Landing on Kent Island early enough to walk through the Crab Alley boatyards, and talk to some locals about several wooden boats that were clearly deteriorating. In some instances they knew the owners, who’d been stalling on restoration projects for many years, and in almost every case the boats could be bought for a minimal price. You know how it goes though… after you buy the boat, you open up the hold and pour money into it, victim to the romantic idea that you’ll bring it back to its former glory. We passed on acquiring any of them, but simultaneously we were saddened by a bonfire consuming scrap wood — the traditional Eastern Shore way of getting rid of old boats.

The group, with new participants, gathers and loads up.

The group, with new participants, gathers and loads up.

The group met at Fairlee Landing, a larger gathering this time because Laura, Paula, and Sue wanted to join us paddling into Tolchester. Laura suggested we take a peek into Mendinhall Lake, a serene body of water where birds often take shelter behind the sandbar and phragmites. One by one the kayakers drifted into the pond, stretched, and paused to enjoy its peacefulness. Peeling ourselves away, we passed Laura’s cottage up on the bluff not quite visible from the water, and she pointed out the private beach where she’d found red sea glass that was later made into a pendant. Finally we took a lunch break on the public Tolchester Beach.

Suzanne and Paula in Mendinhall Lake

Suzanne and Paula in Mendinhall Lake

On the move again, we cruised into Rock Hall, the small town looking especially scenic with its blue water tower under bluebird skies. We took a quick break on the public beach there, which offered a sheltered landing behind a jetty.

Rock Hall was looking especially scenic today

Rock Hall was looking especially scenic today

Only a couple more miles past town, we ended our paddle on the beach at Bayshore Campground. The proprietors had gone out of their way to save us a spot on the grass for our kayaks, and provide a golf cart for transporting gear to the tent sites at the opposite end of the property. I was delighted to learn that, instead of being shuffled to the back row as I’d been in the past, tent campers were now given prime space on the waterfront thanks to newly leased land next door. A little concerned about a party of bachelorettes at the far end, we clustered our tents close to the office and bath house, where we cooked dinner and relaxed.  From here we could see Eastern Neck NWR just south of us, the Bay Bridge off in the distance, and even familiar landmarks near my house on the western shore.

Tent sites on prime waterfront property, wow!

Tent sites on prime waterfront property, wow!

Peter and I took a short stroll exploring the area, and were prompted to turn back at the sight of rain clouds over the Chesapeake. One of the isolated showers passed over us just as we finished our dinner, but it wasn’t enough rain to drive us indoors. We enjoyed a spectacular sunset, discussed our strategy for the next day’s paddle, and went to sleep early.

Brandon Shores power plant silhouetted by sunset

Sunset, rain, and Brandon Shores power plant


Day 5 (Sun 5/4/2014): Rock Hall to Kent Narrows (9.5 miles)

Sunday’s forecast sounded a bit ominous due to predicted winds, with gusts up to 30 knots. With much discussion, the group agreed to make an assessment early in the morning, and if conditions warranted, launch no later than 8:00 AM. Most of us had no more than a one-liner from a weather radio to go on, but Jay’s vast marine experience (and perhaps other sources of information) convinced us the front wouldn’t hit until late afternoon.  If we got out early enough, we might actually complete our itinerary or at least get across the Chester River before the winds became prohibitive.

Only six of us had stuck around for Sunday’s paddle, and we were all up at dawn without anyone needing a kick at their tent door. I took a hot shower to clear my head, and shared some quick eggs and bacon with Peter.  The campground manager personally delivered a golf cart for gear transport, and inquired about our stay — we were happy to report the bachelorette party hadn’t gone late or disturbed anyone’s sleep. With some efficient packing, our boats were off the beach by 8:00 as hoped and conditions looked better than I’d expected.

As is common with any group concerned about weather conditions, there was ongoing discussion about how to maximize our progress while minimizing risks.  The strategy we agreed on was to stay on the western shore past Eastern Neck NWR and make a beeline for Kent Narrows, which was the straightest and therefore most efficient route to take.  Winds came more from the south than west, which worked in our favor, and didn’t really start gusting until we were almost at the narrows.  Jay’s predictions had been correct, and our tactics got us most of the way to our destination.

Someone who manages the Chesapeake Exploration Center had given us permission to land on the museum property at the police boat ramps. She greeted us warmly and took a group picture before we commandeered a picnic table to rest up and have lunch.  Our conversation turned to whether or not we would complete our trip to Crab Alley.  Winds had started to whip up more severely, and some of us were already pretty tired.  Paragraphs could be written on how we arrived at our decision to forego any more paddling that day.  What I care most to remember is that everyone was democratic and diplomatic, and in retrospect all agreed it was the right call.  We met a kind gentleman and fellow kayaker in the parking lot who gave three of us a ride back to Little Creek Landing to retrieve our cars, reverse the shuttle, and go home.  I salvaged the rest of my afternoon with a great 2-hour recovery nap, and did some errands and unpacking.  A really enjoyable half day of paddling is better than none at all!


Chip, part of the Chesapeake Bay Voyage crew

Link to more photos

Link to Google map of Chesapeake Bay Voyage series

Link to Dave’s Spot tracks


~ by pasadenagina on May 5, 2014.

One Response to “Chesapeake Bay Voyage: Fairlee Landing to Kent Island”

  1. Nice trip report Gina. You reminded me, I have to let Megan (at Bayshore campground) know how much we appreciated her hospitality; the lending of the golf cart, the prime tent location, and the spaciousness of the area we occupied.

    Next stop: Crab Alley, Tilghman Island, and Ragged Point! See you at the end of May.

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