Sunday, June 20, 2010

From Washington DC to Herrington Harbor North Marina, MD

James really enjoys the Captain's spot!
 We decided to use the full weekend when our kids and their friends had off to move the boat from the Capital Yacht Club in Washington DC to Herrington Harbor North Marina in Deale, MD - Scott Free's home for the summer. This meant traveling overnight on Friday down the Potomoc! We set off in high spirits at 6:30 PM with James, Morgen, Sean and Piper on board.
We ate dinner and watched the shore lines and passing boats until dark. I took the first watch although Sean and Piper stayed up and kept me company. They took  the second watch, followed by James and Morgen, and lastly by Scott. Then the progression continued.
Sean and Morgen enjoyed some sunbathing
 It's pretty scary at night motoring down the narrow channel. We had some close calls with unlighted buoys! It's hard to figure out the lights at times, especially around the bridges. It took two people. One really focused on the computer showing our position on the chart and the helmsmen watching carefully for traffic and navigation lights.
But we had great success - no bumps in the night! The next morning we were in the wide area of the river and it was much easier. We had beautiful clear weather with not a lot of wind.
Out of the river we headed up the Chesapeake Bay on the west side. Before we turned into our destination for that night, Solomon's Harbor, Sean came up with a brilliant idea.
Scott and Piper 
"Why don't we put the sails up?" He had noticed that other boats seemed to be having a lot of fun. It just meant going a different direction (from where we were headed).
So we put them up and took off across the Bay. Lovely! We had a fun time playing in the waves until the thought of finding an anchorage for the night (and enjoying a sundowner or two) sounded appealing.
Solomon's was very crowded as always and our first anchoring spot didn't look as nice after the current changed. We reanchored later and spent a peaceful night. Mollie joined us in a rental car for dinner and the evening. Before that though, we took down the kyack and the kids took turns exploring in it and the dinghy

Piper and Mollie made a cozy bed in the cockpit! We had never slept so many people on the boat before. But everyone slept pretty well, especially after a big dinner and an overnight sail the night before.
Lovely brick walks and landscaped grounds at Herrington Harbor North
The next morning we didn't rush. It was almost 11 AM before we started out the channel. We filled up the fuel tanks at a relatively cheap spot. Mollie and Piper had to leave us to drive the car around to our next destination.
The plan was to meet Morgen's dad near Herrington Harbor so that she could spend the rest of the day and evening with him and her sister. It was Father's Day. We almost missed him as we got such a late start. And we stopped to go swimming off the boat to cool off. That was a lot of fun! But we did manage to connect up and transfer her in the dinghy.
It was late coming up the narrow channel and almost low tide. We managed fine until we got halfway into our slip. And then we stopped, stuck in the mud. We managed to pull the boat over far enough to jump on and off with some difficulty.
Mollie and Piper met us and we said our goodbyes quickly as Sean and James needed to join them and drive back to Washington. Thoughtful Piper had bought us a new toaster! What a sweetheart!
Next morning at high tide we moved over to the slip way for the haulout and the next day they moved us on to the hard. "Scott Free" will stay here until we return in September. Till then, fare well!

A beautiful marsh has been incorporated into the landscaping around the marina.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Our First Full Days in Washington D.C.

We tied up at the Capital Yacht Club in Washington at 12 Noon on Friday. They have a combination of floating and fixed docks. Most slips are permanently assigned to long term guests. They have only a few transient berths. We were assigned to a space temporarily vacated by someone on a few weeks vacation cruising. So all of the people on our dock were residents and working in Washington. Everyone was so friendly and interesting.

Not long after docking we talked to our second son James about that night's plans. We were going to meet his girlfriend Morgen and her parents that evening. I suggested they come over to the boat for dinner and as soon as I hung up, realized we had a LOT to do before they arrived. Naturally the boat was not clean and there wasn't much in the refrigerator so it was a busy afternoon cleaning, shopping and then cooking. Luckily the excellent supermarket is only a few blocks away and I'm as good as Rachel Ray with quick but tasty meals (I couldn't talk like she does doing it though!).

James and Morgen arrived at 6:30 and her parents a bit later. It was a lovely evening and we enjoyed getting to know Morgen, Chris and Carl. I'd met Morgen in January but Scott was in Trinidad then. Days are really hot in Washington but the evenings are very pleasant. Our air conditioning units, both of them, are broken so we really felt the heat in the middle of the day. Everyone else in the Marina lives below decks, even in the evening. They were amazed to see us in the cockpit!

The next day was a full and busy one. We left the boat at 6:45 AM to meet our third and last son Sean and his friends Piper and Molly in Georgetown at the Lawyers Have Heart 10 kilometer race. That's Sean with us, then in the line up to start (in grey Tshirt), next looking at the course from the starting line after the start, then first Sean almost at the finish and Piper and Molly finishing together and last the three runners after the finish. They all did very well. Sean came in 51st. with an average of 6 minute 13 second a mile and Piper and Molly finished in under an hour, just over a 9 minute average.

Everyone was starved so we took the Metro up to the Eastern Market Bakery and stuffed ourselves with fabulous bread and breakfast specialties. Scott's showing off the bread basket here (we had several of them!). The nearby Eastern Market is a combination of farmer's market and antique & craft show. We strolled around looking at everything and buying a few vegetables. Scott bought a painting for his brother Brent. Washington is such a lively young place! We are so impressed with the residential areas around the Capital. The homes and gardens are really nice, even in the less expensive areas.

Showers were more than in order at this point so we returned to the kids' apartment and waited while they cleaned up. Three of them share a small town house not far away from the Market. Today was the World Cup Soccer Match between the U.S. and England. Piper was varsity soccer goalie at Amherst so they were all excited about the game. We too are more aware of soccer than most Americans as we spend a good deal of time in the Caribbean and South America! Washington was crowded with fans. Dupont Circle was a mass of people jockeying for seats in front of the huge outdoor screens set up for the match. We finally found a bar with standing room and then even some seats. James managed to find us in the crowd. Everywhere was packed! But our seats had difficult views and were apart so at the half time we raced back to their apartment in ONE taxi (there were four of us in the back) and watched the rest of the game comfortably in their living room. Of course it was an exciting game and we pulled off a tie, amazing many Europeans we're sure.

AND there was more to do this Saturday! This was Gay Pride weekend and the parade was this very evening. So somehow we managed to pull ourselves out of the comfortable seats and return to Dupont Circle to watch the parade. And it was lots of fun! Every D.C. politician and candidate was there along with an amazing variety of groups (that's AARP in one shot), bands and individuals. The floats were wild - our favorites were the Cowboys (several shots) and a local gym's which featured a wild group going acrobatics and exercises of all kinds. Thousands of people marched and many more thousands lined the streets along the parade. Many of the buildings were decorated with rainbow flags and banners. It was great! We were glad we came but exhaustion hit on the subway back to the boat and we collapsed in bed.

We had been living a very sheltered existence on the boat compared to this. We've entered the fast zone now!

Happily for us Sunday was a a little quieter and less hectic day for us, although still plenty busy. After an early breakfast we took a long walk around the reflecting pool to FDR's wonderful monument and the Jefferson Memorial. We had never been to the former and really loved the quiet outdoor rooms with great quotes from both he and Elanor throughout their lives. The water elements and landscaping really fit the site and we liked both statues. We'd been to the Jefferson Memorial but years ago and were struck by how apt his writings were to today, especially regarding change being necessary for growth, even with the Constitution.

Right next to the Yacht Club are a number of seafood stalls/restaurants - all take out, cooked and uncooked. We vowed to get back there for a meal. But not today, Sean and his friends, Molly, Piper and Will were coming for lunch and a cruise on the river. As the time for them to appear grew closer storm clouds appeared. The weather prediction was possible thunder storms so we changed the plan to staying at the dock.

Happily after our big lunch the sky brightened and the kids took out our dinghy for a spin on the river. It was another hot day so it was a relief to buzz around. (Molly had left to catch a plane - that's her in the pretty dress below).

Next was a birthday dinner out for Morgen with both James and she, her parents and her sister Clare and boyfriend Bill. Sean also joined us. The fashionable Lebanese restaurant they took us to was wonderful - a tapas middle eastern place. Everything we ordered was great. We all shared the dishes family style.

Afterwards we drove back to James and Morgen's new apartment, not far from Sean's. It's in a very nice neighborhood with a beautiful nearby park and a little yard in front with a table and two chairs. The old town house has been renovated and their apartment has a two story living room with a fireplace and kitchen on the first floor and the bedroom on the second. They just moved in the week before! Carl had made a delicious birthday cake and that's Morgen blowing out the candles!

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.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

St. Mary's City, Maryland

We're in the Chesapeake and even more amazing finally going up the Potomac River to Washington DC. Yesterday June 6 we left Deltaville at 7 AM in choppy seas and directly into the wind. Turning around Smith Point (that's the light house shown here) was a great relief as both wind and seas died down as we crossed the mouth of the Potomac and promptly left it to sail up the St. Mary's River to anchor for the night.
The banks of the river boast some beautiful homes with lawns down to the water. We turned a corner and perfect protected Horseshoe Bend harbor welcomed us after a long day. The view from our boat is so lovely. The waterfront has a huge handsome boat house named after the donor Teddy Turner IV, a gracious home, huge brick College buildings, a white historic church, gardens and an old cemetary. Several shots show this lovely spot below and to the right.
Quickly after anchoring we went ashore to take a walk and explore. The historic recreation of the city of St. Mary's was not open on Monday so we decided right then and there to spend two nights here and have a day to really explore this beautiful "museum" and the lovely St. Mary's University. That's Scott Free at anchor below right.
It was such a quiet evening and cold. Since the northern front moved through the heat is gone. We are wearing our fleeces and sleeping with a blanket! It's rather nice really!
Next morning after our long hours of coffee (I with my book or Killer Sudoku and Scott on the computer - great WIFI right off a college campus) and breakfast, we were off for a day learning American history. St. Mary's was the first capital of Maryland Colony, founded in 1634 by the brother of Lord Baltimore. These were Catholics who were no longer comfortable in England and their charter is the first to guarantee Religious freedom in the Americas. It flourished until the capital was moved to Annapolis and then it faded away, built over or destroyed. The Catholic ownership of Maryland also perished along with the right to religious freedom in a revolution to install Protestant leadership.
It was reconstructed and opened as a National Historic Landmark and museum. It is one of America's best preserved archaeological sites. Digs were ongoing in several places still. And it is a beautiful spot! Situated on high bluffs overlooking the river which almost circles the area.
The museum shares this spot with St. Mary's University, a public honors college, and a historic Episcopalian Church and rectory. It's hard to believe that this sleepy quiet spot is host to the largest yacht race in the Eastern U.S. in August - 300 to 400 boats sail overnight from Annapolis. This is followed by a famous party! Right now only one other boat shares our perfect anchorage!
We left our dinghy at the boathouse. The staff there are very nice. It is usually quiet but a group of local kids came down for an hour in the afternoon of swimming and boating. In the morning a solitary sculler came out with his coach along in a small motor boat. The campus is really beautiful with gracious older brick buildings and newer but very well integrated facilities, all surrounded by gardens and lawns.
Our tickets for the museum were $8 for seniors. This is a lot like Plymouth Plantation or Williamsburg - bigger than the former, smaller than the latter. It has a staff that interpret the history or pose as colonists.
We enjoyed some of the presentations for the school kids - the staff really involve the children in the presentations. That's the Colonial printer shown here using two children to print a poster on the antique press.
They have a reconstructed ship called the "Dove" after one of the two ships that originally brought the first Europeans and a typical Indian village of that time. This is very well done and it is interesting that unlike the other settlements, the colonists used the Indian dwellings for their first months until there own homes were contructed.
Lunch was a big treat. The college cafeteria is open to the public and for only $7.25 each it was an all you could eat buffet. Nice! We took advantage of this as most sailors will. The food was good and it was a lovely spot. That's the eating hall above.
There are five miles of walking trails around the property. We walked all of it, seeing the Tobacco Plantation, first Inn, Printer office and the diggings. By 3:30 PM we were exhausted. But it was a great time. We hope more cruisers will come up here!!! Tomorrow we're continuing up the Potomac. It's 90 miles still to Washington so we'll spend two more nights on the trip and be in our capital by Friday.