Aboard the Panda Bear

We drove down to Crisfield, MD on Sunday morning to spend some time with our friends Larry and Flora aboard their 36′ Manatee, the Panda Bear.

The drive itself was pretty uneventful, if arduous at 497 miles. Well, the fact that the air conditioning in the Solara badly needs to be recharged was a bit of an issue. It never got unbearable, but we did drive the last 75 miles or so with the windows open.


Larry was hosing off the boat when we arrived at the marina. The Panda Bear is a sort of houseboat, designed for livability and cruising. It has no side decks, making the entire width, maybe 14′, available as cabin space. To go on the forward deck, you have to climb up the ladder and pass over the cabin. It comfortably sleeps 4 and, by rearranging the bridge area, it would sleep 6.


Captain Larry is just getting used to the boat himself, as they have only finally gotten it into the water in the last week or so after extensive refitting and repairs. They are transitioning from a sailboat and this is quite a bit different. As Flora and Larry have spent the majority of the last 30 years afloat and will practically live aboard the Panda Bear, getting familiar with all the equipment is pretty important.

We had a few beers on Sunday afternoon and went to dinner at the Crisfield Crabhouse and Grill where I, of course, got some fried chicken. Mmmmm, that was mediocre!

This whole area was badly hit by the recession. I was told by a local that the impressive condo complex next door had been quickly bought up for $500K per unit in 2007. This year, one was resold for $130K while others are being rented out to “Section 8s”. In any event, the Food Lion and the Crabhouse were the only places open on Sunday evening.

L&F have a queen size bed in their stateroom, and Betty and I shared the (now) typical sofa conversion in the main cabin. Very roomy and comfy, though. I do remember lying there and listening to the dozens of loud, distinct and repetitive bangs, gurgles and creaks that one hears on a tied up boat and thinking that, because they were so much louder than on the Skookum Lady, how will I ever get to sleep?

Next thing I remember is Betty waking me with “It’s eight o’clock. I’m going up for a shower.” So I have to assume that all these noises were eventually drowned out by the air conditioning.

Did I mention there was air conditioning? It was nice.

We got under way and headed west out of Crisfield to Solomons Island, about 40 miles across Chesapeake Bay. The boat runs most efficiently at around 5-6 knots which will use about a gallon of diesel per hour.


The ride was fun, sitting in the cabin with Captain Larry and finding that he had much of the same gear as Steve does on the Skookum Lady, even the same obsolete Loran equipment that neither use and both expect to replace. Like Steve, Larry has his own preferred navigation software but uses it on an iPad, not a laptop like Steve.


Betty and Flora are having a lot of fun, probably complaining about me and Larry, and I am really happy to have B on board. She missed out on the “sail” up the coast on the Skookum Lady and I’m glad she gets to be here with me this time.

It was in the 90s today, although a nice breeze blew most of the way across the bay. Enroute, we passed under the flight path of Patuxent Naval Air Station and got to watch some F-18s do some touch and goes right over the boat. We also saw a C-130 land along with what I swear was an F-20 Tigershark. I will have to research that.


A swan caging Pringles next to the dock.

After about seven hours pleasantly underway, we tied up with no problem at the marina and had some sandwiches on board. Later, we will catch the Bruins game at the marina clubhouse.

God, I hope they win.

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