Gunkholing in Wonderland:
Back Door to St. Michaels
A fine place for gunkholers to find solitude and still do the town
Gunkhole adventuring is akin to sleuthing. In addition to seeking out new pleasant and remote anchorages, the explorer may discover alternate avenues to familiar places. St. Michaels, on Miles River on the Eastern Shore, is a well-known destination, but in the spirit of gunkholing, how about going in the back door?
Lovely little San Domingo Creek offers a wonderful change from the more direct and traveled routes from Kent Narrows to the north or Eastern Bay from the south. Miles River and the area around the town are frequently congested with boats during the height of the season. The back door passage avoids these problems.
Special Passwords Required
There are two requirements, two passwords to making this approach both possible and pleasant: time and dinghy. Time because no matter whether you’re cruising from the north or south, this less-direct route will add to your cruising time. The whole way is beautiful with several very good anchorages. During our first visit, we stayed in San Domingo Creek for two nights and three days, and we could have stayed longer.
Dinghy, the other critical item for this passage, is needed because the last half-mile or so to St. Michaels has an average water depth of about two feet.
There are few facilities in the area, and therefore less trafficked and more picturesque. Oxford on Tred Avon is the nearest town reachable by boat for fuel and supplies. It’s a bit out of the way, but if you’re in need, this is a good place for a detour and worth a visit on its own merits.
Ultimately you want to find your way to San Domingo Creek. The secret passage formula follows.
The C-B-E-S Passage to Pleasure
This is the time to get out your best detail charts. C is for Choptank River, which you will enter below the southern end of Tilghman Island. There are shoals extending well south, so be sure your charts are current. You enter the mouth of the river at buoy Red 10. Cook’s Point is south, to your starboard.
Power boaters coming from the North can save five miles on the trip by crossing through Knapp’s Narrows into the Choptank, but I don’t recommend it for sailboats. The mean water level is six to seven feet, but this can vary considerably, and it’s a tricky path to negotiate.
All along this passage up to Broad Creek and on to your destination, you will see lush wooded shoreline, several tributary creeks, coves for anchoring, lovely homes here and there, watermen coming and going in their workboats and varied wildlife.
To reach the B, continue northeast at about 55 degrees for roughly 3.8 miles to the flashing Green 1. This is the entrance to Broad Creek. Make course 343 degrees to Red 2, then 030 degrees to the flashing Red 4 marker off Deep Neck Point. Don’t stray to the east of this course because of shoals off the point.
Steer northeast between daymarkers Green 5 and Red 6. Then turn east to Red 2EC, and you have found E, that is Edge Creek.
You will achieve S when you spot the Green 3 to port; turn north, but not too close to the buoy. At last you are in San Domingo Creek, and the surroundings will seem even more remote and untouched except for a few homes. Stay to the center of the channel, keeping well away from markers on either side. Go at a leisurely pace, winding your way gently about two miles up to just past Red 6, where there is a cove to the right with plenty of space and depth. Or anchor in the creek where it’s deep enough for your boat.
No Need to Knock
This is a great place to spend the night (or several of them). From here, drop your dinghy, move back out to the main channel, turn right, and after about half a mile, you’ll be at the small pier on the backside of St. Michaels. You’ll see the final approach well in advance after rounding a bend in the creek. This is where some of the local workboats dock.
No need to knock or say Joe sent me. Just tie your dinghy and walk up the path to enjoy all the village has to offer.
Back door to St. Michaels this truly is, and one of the best places for gunkholers to find solitude and still do the town.