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Marine Resources 2022 Salary Survey

A world of boating in the Chesapeake Bay

by Riviera Australia 14 Jun 13:35 PDT
Greg and Christine Hill relaxing aboard their Riviera 4800 Sport Yacht, Contrails, which allows them to ‘get away from it all or get in the middle of everything' on Chesapeake Bay © Riviera Australia

The Chesapeake Bay offers itself to a boater's imagination. Twelve major rivers and more than 100,000 smaller tributaries empty into what is the third-largest estuary in the world and the largest in the US.

Situated in the mid-Atlantic, the Bay's surface area is roughly 7,200 square kilometres (4,474 miles) and boasts 18,800 kilometres (11,680 miles) of shoreline.

Much of the boating in the Chesapeake revolves around this natural environment and the 3,600 species of plants and animals the brackish waters support: fishing, crabbing, enjoying remote bays and inlets. However, the urban element also offers fascinating boating: nearly 1,800 local governments are in the Bay watershed, including towns and cities which are home to more than 18 million people. Introducing Experience Magazine to this urban boating are Greg and Christine Hill on their Riviera 4800 Sport Yacht, Contrails.

"There's a whole gamut of things to do. You can get away from it all or get in the middle of everything," says Greg. "If you want to find a cove and drop anchor and not see anything except for ducks and geese, it's here. What's also here are small historic towns with marinas to dock at, waterfront downtowns and lots going on."

You had me at crab shack

The human history of the Chesapeake Bay goes back millennia. Many existing small towns date back hundreds of years. Their lifeblood has been fishing and crabbing, for many it still is.

"They're full of small businesses, really good restaurants, shops and the festivals that go with all of this," says Greg. "We love boating here. It's 30 minutes out to a crab shack where you can tie up and get a crab cake sandwich and a beer. There's a little place north of Annapolis on the eastern shore called Rockhall, with two great crab shacks."

Rockhall's population doubles for the annual Pirates and Wenches Festival. It's become a wildly popular costume party with 20,000 people all dressed as...you guessed it. The Hills and others decorate their boats and celebrate the weekend at a buccaneer ball.

"There's downtown Baltimore by boat and its Italian and Polish neighbourhoods, which are awesome, historic places where the people are just great. Also Annapolis or at the southern end of the Bay in Norfolk there's a big naval base where you can cruise past massive ships, you're on the waterline looking up at a 20-storey-tall aircraft carrier."

Another small town the Hills enjoy visiting is Cambridge. "They have a Taste of Cambridge festival when restaurants serve everything crab for the weekend," says Christine. It's a restaurant competition for the best crab dish bragging rights.

When they're not eating crab while dressed as pirates and wenches, the Hills throw their 'sticks' onboard and head out golfing to various waterfront clubs with friends.

Forever Riviera for the Bay and beyond

Berthed in Rose Haven, Maryland, 30 miles east of Washington DC, Contrails is the Hills' third Riviera. They started with a Riviera M480 and moved to a 4400SY before finding their 'forever Riviera' in the 4800SY.

"It's the weather and the wind in the Chesapeake that make the 4800SY ideal for us. It's super capable and very comfortable," says Greg. Much of the Chesapeake Bay is shallow, with an average depth of just over six metres, making it prone to short period waves.

"The distance from the east to west shore is about 10 miles and when the wind kicks up we get a chop with a very short interval; you need a heavy boat with a good hull line and power to push through it. Other boats will be getting their noses pounded and we're just off."

Contrails' home port is a destination marina in its own right and features a well-known tiki bar and restaurant.

"We go every weekend and during the pandemic, we worked from the boat - it was a real lifesaver there!" says Christine. "The 4800SY is very comfortable and extremely well laid out. We picked out all of the fabrics and materials, it was like building a house. It's all top quality and we love the attention to detail. The bathrooms are nicer than my house! When people come aboard and look around they are stunned. The other really great thing is the entertainment space; you can have friends come and go boating with you for the weekend or if the weather isn't cooperating we'll have 20 people on board in the marina for dinner and an after-dinner party. The layout of it makes it an exceptional boat to entertain on."

Beyond the Bay, the Hills have voyaged south to the outer banks in North Carolina and north to New York City. In Contrails, they have found a luxury motor yacht that they can trust.

"Those were great trips, amazing really," recalls Christine. "The NY trip was fairly challenging actually. There was a lot of heavy fog and we were able to rely on the electronics and radar. We even had a 60-foot motor yacht tuck in behind us and ask if they could follow us as their systems weren't functioning as well as ours. On a 10-day trip like that, you're subject to the elements you get along the way and we know that this boat will handle them."

Back in the Bay, most of the boating the Hills enjoy is a short ride from home. Greg says they know the middle section of the Bay well. "Most of the weekend boating we do is two hours from home - thanks to Riviera for making their boats run fast!"

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