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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The astonishing Amish

Not far from Havre de Grace, where Bandit is moored, is Pennsylvania Dutch Country, home to the intriguing Amish people.  Persecuted in their native Switzerland the Amish emigrated to the US in the early 1800s.  Lancaster County in Pennsylvania has become one of the largest Amish communities in the US.  Given it was only an hour’s drive from the marina, which kindly let us use their “loaner” car – we visited.  Wanting to avoid the hugely touristy Amish areas around Lancaster itself we took to the rural back roads and it was beautiful country.  Gently rolling green hills dotted with gorgeous trees just starting to turn colour while the main crop was corn with tobacco second.   Much of it is farmed by Amish people.


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We stumbled across some astonishing sights, none more so than the young Amish lad drilling a field using six heavy horses abreast.  Neither of us had seen this before – we’d seen work horses in tandem pairs but never six abreast.   A magnificent sight.  Further up the road we passed an Amish man with a horse drawn cart load of tobacco.  We had to take this shot through the car window so it’s a bit fuzzy.  Amish resent having their photos taken so we had to be a little subtle about it.  We saw lots of Amish women toiling in the fields in the hot sun but really couldn’t stop to photograph them – it was a bit too obvious.  All our pix were taken with a long lens and despite that, we got some glares.



The Amish houses are easy to spot – they’re the ones with the distinctive blue, white, grey and black laundry hanging out on old fashioned washing lines.  Every house seemed to have plenty.


While every Amish community is slightly different in general Amish people shun modern technology and mains electricity and live a very simple life centered around family and farm.  Given the average couple have seven children it’s easy to see why they are one of the world’s fastest growing population.  In-breeding (they are only allowed to marry from within) has caused genetic problems and Amish are prone to dwarfism.  Amish people dress plainly, hence their nickname “The Plain People” and women are covered from head to toe – they even wear thick socks and boots to cover their ankles (and it’s stinking hot and humid over here right now!).  Men wear black trousers, braces, wide brimmed hats but appeared to wear short sleeves.  They have some interesting facial growth and hairstyles.


The Amish avoid mixing with non Amish and run their own schools with teaching done by a young woman from within their community.  Sadly, the Amish do not believe that educating past age 13/14 is necessary to equip children for an Amish life – past that age they presumably embark on a life of manual labour and marriage.


Driving around the rural back roads of Pennsylvania, one thing was obvious – the Amish keep their properties absolutely immaculate.  Many had intensive cropping fields (corn, peas and tobacco) with cattle kept indoors in large barns.  It was an interesting glimpse into an alternative lifestyle.  On the way back to Havre de Grace we passed through the lush green horse country of north Baltimore.  It was truly beautiful with some fairly magnificent properties.  Sightseeing over it was back to work on Bandit!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

New York to Chesapeake

We couldn’t resist one more trip to New York and, as we probably won’t return, we treated ourselves to a night at a hotel to really soak up this amazing city.  It was well worth it.  We spent our time wandering the streets, window shopping, having long coffees and lunches and people watching.  New York is fantastic in providing endless seats, tables and park benches for doing just that…and so we did…taking lots of photos of course.




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Then it was time to head back to Port Washington, where we’d left Bandit on a mooring, and start heading south for Chesapeake Bay.  As we headed out we noticed an eye catching boat sailing by - another Moody 46 except she was blue and cutter rigged.  We chatted on VHF and discovered she’d been badly damaged in last year’s Hurricane Sandy and was sporting a brand new paint jobWe often get “boat envy” so it was nice to know we were envying our own boat!


It was a fascinating trip back down the East River.  Currents through the aptly named Hell’s Gate can run at seven knots so it’s essential to have current with you.  It was a glorious day and Manhattan looked fantastic from the water.


We had a particularly unpleasant two day bash to windward down the New Jersey coast but then a nice sail up the Delaware River.  It was a busy week preparing Bandit for hauling in the charming town of Havre de Grace, at the head of the Chesapeake.  Few foreign boats make it this far so we’ve been a bit of a novelty with dozens of curious, hospitable and friendly people stopping by to talk and issue drinks and dinner invitations.  Havre de Grace is a fascinating place with some quirky houses – we’ve enjoyed walking every evening.




After separate trips to New Zealand (David) and English (Brenda) we’ll be back in Havre de Grace to take Bandit to Annapolis for the Annapolis Sailboat Show in October.