Friday, June 18, 2010

Up the Potomac to Washington DC

We left St. Mary's after a leisurely breakfast. It was only 35 miles to the Colonial Beach Marina where we decided to go after checking the weather. There are very few anchorages or Marinas on the way up the Potomac that are deep enough for us. One anchorage was across from Colonial Beach but was exposed in south through west winds. We were supposed to be having gusty weather from the SW so we chose the marina. The channel was well marked and had just enough water for us. The very nice dockmaster Bruce met us and helped us tie up.
Like Bel Haven this is a sleepy little town that development and time seem to have forgotten. Mostly small cottages with a few larger Victorians line the river front and the harbor). The downtown is neat and pretty empty. Doc's Motel didn't have a car in the parking lot. The beach is wide and well maintained but didn't contain a soul. We assume this changes on the weekends!
We took long walks both that afternoon and again the next morning. I was fascinated by some of the kitschy sights of this sweet town (see the happy fishing couple and lighthouse set up in this front lawn tableau top left). The Happy Clam provided take out soft shell crabs for Scott and shrimp for me. We saved them to cook for the next night as the restaurant in the marina was well recommended and it was good. We had the fisherman's platter - big, tasty and of course, fried. We saved our baked potatoes as we had no room for them!
The military has Danger Zones on the river in several places which they use for testing munitions. We called them in the morning and checked when we could safely proceed. So at 11 AM we were off again. This time it was calm and so we were headed for Mattawoman Creek 40 miles away. Much to my dismay we could hear munitions going off as we passed through the "Danger Zone", but not at us happily.
Beautiful homes line the sides of the river and it's a lovely trip. The channel is deep and well marked. Once we left it however it shallows quickly. The narrow channel up the creek was tricky but our electronc chart were spot on so we followed it.
The creek looked so peaceful and lovely. We anchored fairly close to the center several miles up and had a great dinner. The peace ended quickly however as the high tech fishing boats began racing up and down - until the sun set. The first one the next morning passed by at 5:30 AM and at 7 AM a policeman in a motor boat approached to tell us we were in the channel. The boat had shifted around 180 degrees during the night and he was right. Happily our plans to leave in a half hour solved the problem. The coves he pointed out as "better" alternatives had less than six feet of water so if we stayed here again, we'd put out a second anchor.
More beautiful homes lined the river as we drew closer to Washington. Suddenly one stately home looked familiar - George Washington's Mt. Vernon. As you can see from the close up, hundreds of people crowded the lawn over looking the river. As we took in this sight we were startled by a long loud horn. A sightseeing boat was heading towards us. I steered the boat to the edge of the channel thinking to leave him lots of room but he continued to blow his horn. Suddenly we realized that we were in the entrance to the side channel leading to Mt. Vernon and quickly dashed to the other side of the river. Woops!
Next we admired the historic and very renovated waterfront of Alexandria, Virginia. New condo townhouses lined the banks looking authentic and the downtown has a fun mix of the old and new. We decided to visit here later in our stay as it is accessible by Metro. The last section of the channel into Washington was quite narrow and tricky. We hit bottom once when we strayed too far off the center line. And now ahead we could see the Washington Monument in the distance and soon our goal, the Capital Yacht Club right near the mall.
During my visit to Washington in January I visited the club and talked to the Dockmaster. Since then we'd been in touch with him and the General Manager by email updating them on our arrival plans. They changed so many times due to unexpected delays on the journey up that they couldn't promise us a spot in advance. But when we approached the club they were very welcoming and had a spot for us. Steve, the General Manager, met us and helped us settle in. We ended up having a long delightful talk and we feel he has become a good friend. Unfortunately we were weeks later than we planned and could only stay for a week. It's worth a much longer visit! More on our stay there in our next blog entry.

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