February 23, 2016

Our Own Bed & Breakfast

By Phyllis Bonfield

Granite revetment using 500-2000 lb. stone

Granite revetment using 500-2000 lb. stone

A two year effort finally paid off and we were able to build revetment for shoreline erosion control at our home on the Chesapeake Bay. But after so many years of erosion, there was damage we could not undo.  Another hurricane, like Isabel in September 2003, would be disastrous.

At some point, we knew we would have to leave our beloved home. Until that happened, we decided to get back to our original goal for moving to the Bay: an enjoyable retirement. We joked we ran a wonderful B&B, only we didn’t get paid for it.

Friends and family started coming in May for “the season.” They continued visiting through September as well as December for the Holiday season.  During the first year, having so much company was exhausting.  We had to learn “how to do it right” so we enjoyed our family and friends, but did not get overly tired.  We learned breakfast could be self-serve.  And often, the same was true for lunch.

Crabs are steamed! Get crackin'!

Crabs are steamed! Get crackin’!

The outdoor gas grill was a simple way to cook a fun, delicious meal with little time in the kitchen.  A crab feast included steamed crabs, beer, corn-on-the-cob, coleslaw and ice cream for desert. We’d spread out brown butcher paper on the outdoor table and voila, an easy feast — dinner and the evening’s entertainment all in one.

We learned to establish a few house rules. Guests were asked to strip their beds before they left and take sheets and towels (only ones they used) to the washing machine.  Often guests would get sheets from the linen closet and make their own beds.

Fun in the Sun

Fun in the Sun

Think having so much company could be expensive? You’re right. But, choose your company carefully and they pitch in. They bring delicious treats with them, go to the grocery store or treat us to a meal out.

We didn’t have to plan activities for visitors to have a good time at the Chesapeake. We had a beautiful white sand beach five minute away ready for swimming, fishing, picnicking or just relaxing in the sun.


Taking in the views from the water

We also had “little boat,” an 18-foot bowrider with a 140-horsepower engine, large enough to handle the strong tides on the Bay. Guests enjoyed breakfast, lunch and/or sunset cruises. Going out on the water to see the beautiful homes on the Bay or head up the Bay to the local seafood house on Broomes Island.

While we lived at the Chesapeake, I always said I’d learn to drive the boat. I never did. It was my partner who had “captain” duties. As a teenager, she learned to drive powerboats at her grandfather’s lake house with his mahogany Chris Craft boat.

Sharing our Chesapeake Dream with family and friends was a pleasure and a very important part of our retirement on the Bay.  In fact, it’s the people who visited us at the Chesapeake that I remember most about our time there.

The Takeaway: Trial and error taught us having a day or two between guests was a necessity. Time to be just us and relax was an important component to enjoying our guests.  No matter how close we were with the people who visited, whether they be our children, siblings or best friends, we needed time to be alone.

What unexpected lesson(s) have you learned after you retired?  Let’s start a dialogue that benefits all of us as we prepare or continue on this journey called retirement. Please provide your name and contact information, either email or phone. I will not print your name, but may need clarification or have a question. Contact me at [email protected]


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Phyllis Bonfield

About Phyllis Bonfield

Phyllis has been writing for publication since she was an editor on her high school newspaper. After graduating with a degree in journalism, she worked for more than 30 years with educational and not for profit organizations in public relations, marketing, conference planning and development. Prior to her retirement in 2004, Phyllis was the marketing & development manager for a Philadelphia-based regional library resource network. She was in charge of web development, publications, membership recruitment and conference and event planning. Phyllis also served as vice president of public relations for an association serving the financial services industry. She directed an award-winning public awareness campaign in conjunction with the American Red Cross. She was also instrumental in developing a campaign to promote business ethics in America that received front page coverage in USA Today and recognition on CNN, ABC and other national news outlets. After she retired, Phyllis waged a personal PR campaign to curb shoreline erosion at her home on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The project included organizing other shoreline homeowners and Maryland’s elected officials to take on 17 federal, state and local agencies who opposed her property receiving a building permit for revetment. After a two-year effort, she received the first permit on Maryland’s western shore to build a continuous nearshore breakwater. This project paved the way for neighbors to receive similar permits for erosion control. Phyllis has a bachelor of journalism degree from The University of Texas-Austin where she majored in advertising and public relations.