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Hidden Places - 6 March, 2016

I don't tend to tell people if we find a good place to anchor.  Among the reasons for this are that I have a natural tendency not to share information
unless someone specifically asks for it (yes, I realize that this blog is a violation of that tendency and I feel it every time I write) and I don't like the
idea of being unable to go some place that I like because too many other people have "discovered" it.  There are quite a few anchorages along our
path that we enjoy and only once have we had a problem getting into one because it was too crowded.

I do not extend my position to marinas.  While an anchorage is "free", marinas are there because someone took the time to build and maintain
them.  If they are doing a good job, they should be rewarded with more business - up to the point, I suppose, that I can no longer get a spot.  Then
everyone else needs to go somewhere else.

Vero Beach Municipal Marina is something like that.  It has become such a "cruiser-friendly" place that we can't get a spot on the dock when we
need one - in fact, someone else we talked to tried to this year, could not and so has already made their reservations for next year.  When you
have people making reservations a year out, the place is too popular, in my opinion.  In the five or six months that we have spent in Vero, we have
been alongside the dock a total of two days.  

On the other hand, there is Lankford Bay Marina in Rock Hall, Maryland.  Although it is the perfect place to teach sailing in that area, being well
protected and with plenty of deep water, it is about fifteen miles by water from the bay side of Rock Hall to the Chester River side of Rock Hall.  
Most people prefer to stay on the Chesapeake Bay side, so they don't take the extra three or four hours it would require to come all the way up the
river side to Lankford Bay.  In the past, apparently, it was difficult to get into Lankford Bay in season, but now, the marina tends to be a bit empty,
particularly during the weekday periods, even in the middle of the summer.  It could use some good publicity - it is a nice place to stay and it has a
lot of good amenities.

In the middle between these two extremes in the Port Royal Landing Marina, in Port Royal, South Carolina.  It seems to have just the right number
of people keeping their boats there year-round to keep the marina staff in beer-and-skittles, while always having a few open slips for transients.  Of
course, my experiences are limited - your experience may vary (particularly if you arrive on a busy holiday weekend).

We discovered Port Royal Landing Marina by accident.  Last year, when we left Florida, we went out at Saint Augustine and sailed overnight to
Port Royal Sound.  During that trip, I discovered that one of the hydraulic lines to the oil cooler on the main engine had developed a leak and we
were losing oil into the bilge.  I cleaned it up and nursed the engine up into South Carolina.  Port Royal Landing was the first marina that we came
to along the way, so we pulled in a stayed for a week, while I ordered and received a new hydraulic hose.

While we were there, we became captivated by the place.  Rion and his staff literally will go out of their way to do things for you.  When I say
literally, I mean literally.  I have had members of the staff leave the office just to drive us down to the boat in a golf cart, rather than us having to lug
groceries in a dock cart.  Going further, the staff member actually picked up some of the groceries and helped us carry them onto the boat.

I have been in the office before opening time, because someone came in and noticed me sitting on the deck, drinking coffee.  Rather than leave
me to sit in the cool air, I was invited in to watch television and catch up on the news while they got the store open.

Rion has a three-for-two policy on transients stays.  Pay for two nights, get the third one free.  Staying longer?  Pay for five nights, get the sixth
and seventh free.  On top of this, you get free access to the marina pick-up truck, free access to the local YMCA, a ten percent off ticket to the
on-site restaurant and a discount on your transient docking for half a dozen reasons, including "I was here before."  They even give you a free jar
of honey when you check in.  If Rion did anything else, he'd be paying us to stay there.

Then, the first time we were here, Rion threw an Oyster Roast in our honor.  Of course, he didn't want to make everyone else jealous, so he told
them it was for all of the boaters at the marina - but we knew the truth.  It was an all-you-can-eat affair, catered, with oysters, hot dogs, chips and
desserts, beer, wine and other drinks - for free.  Yes.  For free, no charge, gratis.  They didn't even require that you were a wrist band or have a
ticket.  I think it was because Rion and his team knew everyone who showed up personally.

Now, I know that you are thinking that I am misinterpreting the idea that they threw this shin-dig just for Suzanne and me.  Here's the thing - we
came back this year - and they threw the same party!  Yep - oysters, hot dogs, dozens of people - the whole shebang, just because we came
back!  How great was that!

Port Royal itself is a great cruiser town.  Good laundromats, great restaurants of every price point and the ever popular Wal-Mart.  They even have
a West Marine (although it is one of the Express stores).  It is sandwiched between Beaufort, South Carolina, and Parris Island - where they make
baby Marines.  It is around the corner from both Charleston and Savannah.  It is near enough to provide service, but not so close that it loses its
"small-town charm."

So, maybe I have screwed up by telling you all of this.  Maybe the next time I come through, there will be no room at the inn and Rion will be
smoking a cigar and wearing a pinkie ring.  I really hope not.  Finding a good marina is hard work and I'd hate to have to start all over again.  
So....ignore everything I just said....oh, yeah, the gnats are really bad, too.  Stay away!!