I landed at BWI Friday afternoon and called for the GO shuttle. The van driver was really quiet at first but when we hit traffic, he opened up. As we left the main highways and then the residential roads, he wondered out loud if he should trust his GPS. We found the sign to Camp Letts and headed down a narrow, winding road into the woods. The pavement ended and we continued down a dirt road. Finally we saw a sign that said, “Only one more mile.” He laughed at that and asked if I was sure I wanted to go on. I did. Phil called and said, “We are in the big brown building.” The driver said, in his Filipino accent, “But miss, there is no buildings!” I had to give him an extra tip when we finally arrived at the Gam.
What’s a Gam?
I remember my grandfather saying my grandmother Elinor had the nicest looking gams in all of Connecticut. I think he was referring to her lovely legs. A gam, according to the Seven Seas Cruising Association, is a gathering of cruisers for the sharing of knowledge, experience, and friendship. On the old whaling ships, when two ships came within sight of one another, they would heave-to and exchange greetings and news over their rails.
I was introduced as the newest “cruiser” (I had been a cruiser for an hour) and as such, most of the seminars were a little advanced for me. The weather seminar, no pun intended, was way over my head.
Other seminars covered sailing concepts (how to trim your sails), how to find “a-buck-a-foot” marinas on the Intracoastal Waterway, and all the best guides for the trip south, thanks to Dan and Jaye Lunsford, our boating buddies.
It was explained to me that a cruiser was not a weekend sailor who went out in a sailboat for a couple of hours on a perfect Saturday afternoon, but one who lived on his sailboat and traveled from place to place, good weather and bad, a part of a community of people who have left the work-a-day world to live on the water. It is a simple, beautiful kind of life, dependent on wind and weather; a life where brilliant sunsets and morning fogs are more significant than meeting the next deadline.
There were more than 200 cruisers at the gam, all members of the SSCA. After a buffet dinner, we heard a keynote speech by Beth Leonard, who talked about her trip around the world on an aluminum-hulled sailboat. The trip took her and her companion through the southern ocean, an unforgiving environment for the most skilled sailor. It took them around the bottom of South America and up the coast of Chile. She said that after the trip was over, she realized it had re-defined who she was. She had become, simply, a sailor and a writer.
We had a quiet Sunday anchored out on the Rhode River, where we did a few boat chores like replacing the flag halyards and tying a second line on Catnip. You might remember how that little dinghy likes to escape. We made sure everything was stowed, the groceries organized and put away, and the ship was ready for sailing. We also met up with friends for a bon voyage rum, courtesy of Jody, a fellow cruiser.
Monday morning, we got up early and left before our two companion boats, Cinderella and Seneca. We are a little slower so we assumed they would pass us along the way. The day was brilliant and the bay was calm. We didn’t have much wind, and what we had changed direction often. It was a perfect seven-hour cruise, all motoring, down to Solomon’s Island, MD. Only once did a BHS (Big Honking Ship) set up a wake that sent our boats rocking and rolling. If you haven’t seen them, you can’t imagine how huge these container ships are.
Tonight, we are rafted up with Cinderella, our friends and companions for our trip south. It’s the second anchorage of the night, since we were kicked out of the first by a police officer who thought we were obstructing boat traffic (we weren’t) or too close to the middle of the channel. It’s a better place here. It is a secluded cove in Mill Creek, and it’s quiet on the water as the sun goes down. Now we can hear crickets and night herons in the nearby woods. We are sipping rum drinks and Phil is setting our course for tomorrow as I write this. It’s amazing how quickly this has become my life. So, I wonder, what will I be after this trip south on the ICW? I hope I will be a cruiser, and a blogger. And of course, a gammer.