Exploring St. Michaels
Although we needed a respite, we’re not sit-by-the-water tourists. We love history, art and culture, so before we checked into our inn, we headed straight for the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Situated on 18 stunning waterfront acres, the 10 exhibit buildings on this campus focus on memorable stories of the bay.
You can interact with shipwrights in a working boatyard and climb to the top of the 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse. You’ll see the pots and pans, fishing gear and canned foods used by Keeper Lewis Carman in the 1880s. “My favorite breakfast in those days,” he wrote, “was fresh caught trout, bluefish, croaker or most any local fish, boiled in salted water, drained, peppered heavily, then splashed with smoking hot bacon grease.” Carman reminded me of Alex, who tried becoming a vegetarian four times, but, ambushed by the aroma of steaks on the grill, finally abandoned the quest and now often tops salads with bacon bits.
This maritime adventure gave us a hankerin’ to get out onto the brackish waters of the Chesapeake, so we were thrilled that it was only a short walk to the Patriot, a 149-seat passenger boat. During our 65-minute ride on this replica of a 1930s steamship, charismatic Capt. John Marrah shared stories about local history, including details about why people call St. Michaels “the town that fooled the British.” The slogan refers to an urban legend about the Battle of St. Michaels, which took place during the War of 1812. “Locals hung lanterns in the trees to make the British believe they were on a hill,” Marrah said. “They thought that if the British believed St. Michaels was located on a hill, they’d aim their guns too high and miss their targets, and the strategy worked.” Marrah also explained how oysters play a valuable role in filtering Chesapeake Bay water. A single oyster filters more than 30 gallons of water each day, he explained, by pumping water through its gills. This process removes pollutants, and it improves water clarity, controls algae and attracts other sea creatures.
The discussion of seafood made us hungry, and I couldn’t help but recall the dinner we were eating — a heaping, Old Bay-slathered pile of blue crabs — when Alex proposed. Luckily, The Crab Claw restaurant, with outdoor seating overlooking the scenic harbor, was steps away. After sampling crab imperial and crab cakes, we somehow saved room for dessert back on Talbot Street, the main drag of St. Michaels, which somehow feels both quaint and trendy. At Justine’s Ice Cream Parlour, we snuggled on an old-fashioned bench seat and, with two spoons, savored scoops of sweet and salty chocolate caramel pretzel — the same way we’d shared our dessert after I said yes to the big question more than two decades ago.