A Travellerspoint blog

Oxford, MD

rain 59 °F

We got underway from Solomons at about 0730 on Friday, having watched a steady stream of private and charter fishing boats leave before us. Without exaggeration, each boat carried more than a dozen rod and reel combinations, some having at least 20, maybe more. Each rod was festooned with at least one yellow wiggly looking thing, that being followed by a bright balloon of yellow and gold streamers that could have served as pom-poms for most adolescent cheerleaders. It created a very festive atmosphere, it not being obvious whether the boats were going fishing or were in a procession for a "Blessing of the Fleet." We never saw a priest or any holy water so we guessed that they were fishing.

As we cleared into the Bay an hour later that became obvious. The boats were thick on the water, dancing water bugs gliding about in a curious and complex pavane. We were under sail, headed north, right into the floating mass. It's a close call as to who may have had the right of way. We were under sail, and that usually trumps in most circumstances. However, some of the larger boats had deployed floating paravanes to stream fishing lines to the side. There was a case to be made for those boats having limited maneuvering, causing us to yield to them. Most boats, however, were being powered by a toxic mix of diesel, beer and testosterone, men on the hunt, and they really didn't much give a damn about yielding anything to any stinkin' sailboat.

In the middle of the boat cluster, a near disaster struck. We avoided the problem but the crew did not respond well, at all. We finally cleared the bulk of boats and then headed up the Choptank River, into the wind and waves, a deadly dull, tedious and tiring slog. We finally hit the Tred Avon River and after a few miles on that water arrived at the marina.

Over the weekend it was time for some work attention to be directed to the boat, it being time for the 100 hour cycle of boat, not engine, maintenance. On Saturday I decided to start with the last item on the list. The sacrificial zinc was about 4 months old and I was not sure that we needed a new one but I was sure that I needed to look at the old one. Neither the air nor the water was very warm that day, so we hauled out the wet suit. Getting into one of those things is about like dressing up in a straight jacket except the arms are a little shorter. Being a skinny, scrawny guy, I have a natural flotation index of about: zero. It is amazing how much buoyancy the suit adds in the water. I cannot get below the boat wearing the wet suit without the weight belt, so that went on too, the only time that Carol and I are nearly the same in weight. Fins, mask and snorkel completed the ensemble. It was a good thing that I decided to check; the zinc had maybe one more week before it completely disintegrated and fell off the shaft. The real problem was visibility. Even with my mask the propeller's radius away, 8-in., I could not see the 3/16-in. hex head bolt. The water was some revolting combination of colors in the triangle of yellow, green and brown. Regardless, using the brail method of feeling about, the old one came off and the new one went on and we're good for another few months. On Sunday we did the rest of the list, finding no other issues needing attention.

Oxford is a stunningly pretty little town. The marina at which we stayed is at the tip of the strand, the strand literally being a thin strip of land surrounded by water. The houses facing the street that ran along the strand all have an unimpeded view of the Tred Avon River, there being no houses on the other side of the street. Most of the houses backed up against marinas and boatyards.

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The main street was delightful. There were no Gilded Age mansions to be seen. All of the houses were old, clapboards predominating with some painted cedar shakes, probably spanning about 25 years on either side of a century. They may have started as rather modest two story single family homes on typical city lots: not very wide, but pretty deep. Over time most seem to have morphed into small housing complexes. By looking at roof lines it seems that every house had a least one addition built onto the rear of the house, most looked like two. All the trees were hardwoods save for an occasion renegade pine. What struck me was that the main street could have as easily been in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts or upstate New York.

This inn, the Robert Morris Inn, is at the intersection of the two main streets and Carol says that some small part of it dates to the 1780's; the third floor is not one of those parts.

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The town dates to 1683 and water has always been a part of its history. With all the boatyards and marinas there is also a boat builder/ marine architect, a purveyor of high end wooden boats, a rare thing today. And, maybe a trend starting here, another clock.

Posted by sailziveli 15:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

New Plan! Solomons, MD

sunny 63 °F

Tuesday morning in Colonial Beach looked pretty much like a replay of Monday morning .... a good day to stay dry and warm inside the boat, tied to the dock. But, we had seen the best that Colonial Beach had to offer and it was time to be quit with that place. It wasn't exactly raining .... the droplets were too small; it wasn't exactly foggy .... the droplets were too big. A Goldilocks water vapor day, it was just perfect for wearing Gore-Tex, invented by Al Gore who also invented the internet, invented global warming and, in his spare time as VP, re-invented our Government.

I checked visibility which, at the dock, seemed OK. When we cleared the short, shallow channel into the Potomac we could see no more than a 1/4-mi. Radar on, running lights on, fog horn on deck, we cautiously crept along. After about 1/2-hr. things cleared up well enough to make normal speed and except for a few incidents we had good visibility the whole way. The sun was supposed to make a brief appearance in the early afternoon; el sol demurred and it was cloudy, rainy, and dank the whole way. We had to open the side panels in order to see and that made the cockpit uncomfortably cool.

Carol spent the entire morning changing her clothes; it was like a game of Whack-a-Mole. We were keeping the companionway closed on the optimistic hope that the engine might warm the cabin .... a little. She would stick her head out the companionway to ask if I needed anything: "No, Carol." Whack! Her head disappeared and in a flurry of flying apparel she molted layers with green uncovering blue. Up she popped again. "Are you OK?" "Yes, Carol." Whack! Down she went to reemerge five minutes later, chameleon like, this time in red. "Do you need me topside?" "No, Carol." Whack! And so it went until she had exhausted her inexhaustible supply of warm clothing finding the perfect combination of warmth and color to match??? Well, I'm a regular guy and partially color blind so I really don't know what she matched, but she did look good.

We had planned to go directly to Oxford, MD. But Carol, who selected the places to visit along the Chesapeake Bay, decided that she wanted to go to Solomons, MD and thence to Oxford. I though that this could work out better. So, there was a flurry of activity before 0900 to make route plans, identify way points and to create them and to select an anchorage for the night. There were two possibilities. One a roadstead anchorage in the lee of Point Lookout on the river's northern side; the other an obscure cove on the southern shore that I found on Active Captain. Given the possibility of uncomfortable winds during the night we opted for the more sheltered anchorage. It added several miles to the trip to Solomons but it was probably the right choice since we moved and bounced around a lot even with the better shelter. The movement kept Carol awake and kept me up looking at our position during the night to see if the anchor was holding. I was concerned because I had shortened the chain's scope from the normal 5:1 down to 4:1 to restrict the swing radius into the surrounding shallow areas. The anchor held like it was welded to the bottom; I'm starting to feel more confident about our main anchor's holding in these waters.

After the anchor was set the crew had a lively evening: eat dinner, put on more warm clothes. Go to bed, put on more warm blankets. Really, it was much more exciting than it sounds.

We woke up Wednesday morning to a cool but not frigid boat. It was 55o in the cockpit and 62o in the cabin, tolerable but far from ideal for the cryophobic captain. The trip was only a little more than 30 nm so we were in no particular hurry to get underway. "No hurry" means the anchor was aweigh before 0730. The cove where we stayed was unusual: either good water or no water. Since the surrounding depths were so shallow there were many crab pots in the channel, that being the only deep water. Usually, this is a major PAIN! In this instance, not so much as the crab pots provided a clear demarcation of the channel. Not sure where to go? Follow the crab pots just like grains of rice.... but try not to foul the prop.

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It took about an hour to get back to the main channel of the Potomac. There was plenty of wind so when we hit the channel the sails went up and the motor went off. It was a simple sailing plan: make a long reach down the river and out into the Bay then make a single tack back toward the Patuxent River. It was working, too. We were sailing hard, probably too hard. My theory is that if we're going to sail, it is better to sail fast than to sail slow. As I'm sure I've related many times ..... with full sail at 10~15-knots our boat sails well and handles well; with full sail at 15~20 knots our boat sails well but is a challenge to handle; above 20-knots with full sail .... impossible. We were in the second mode today with a little less than all sail out and it was still a lot of work. Carol was having trouble moving about the cockpit and managing lines with a 20o heel while the boat was bouncing over and through the waves. I was working overtime trying to keep the boat on course and right with the wind; one spoke of helm-over position became two then three. I think that we both felt our ages a little bit today but we did go fast and it did feel good for the several hours that it lasted.

It lasted until we were hailed on VHF 16 by USN Target Range Ship 302. There is a clearly marked USN target area on the chart and we were on course to sail close by, but not into that area and the USN wanted to talk to the sailboat NE of Point No Point i.e. S/V Ziveli, us! Usually, being in the area, no hay problema; today, hay una grande problema and all boats were required to stay 3.5 nm from the target area. This required that we take in the sails, motor east into the wind until we hit shallow water, more crab pots, and sundry markers on the other side of the Bay, about a 2-hr. digression. But, what's a little sacrifice on the altar of national security.

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So, a little after 1500 we moored at Solomons, MD, a fairly easy area to navigate and we had a fairly easy approach to the dock. This area seems a little like Oriental, NC in that it is probably a close call whether the town has more people or more boats.

We've been monitoring the weather forecasts for several places, home, Chicago, wherever we are and the next few stops along the way. Frequently it has been warmer at our house, 3,300-ft. above sea level than here on the waters of the Chesapeake. Our next planned stop, Oxford, MD, on the eastern side of the Bay, has consistently had the coolest forecasts. No obvious reason for that, it just is. Whenever Carol talks to folks at the next stop, or two, all comment on how cool this Spring has been. When the sun is out, the days have generally been comfortable; no sun .... not so good.

Carol and I walked about on Thursday morning, a trip which included, of course, a West Marine store. They did not have what I wanted but Carol, as always, found something to buy that was mission critical. By accident we passed the Calvert County Marine Museum and saw this wonderfully reconstructed and restored lighthouse that once guarded the entrance to the Patuxent River, some two or three miles away, from the 1880's into the 1960's. It seems a good example of the genre of lighthouses that I have seen depicted in drawings and paintings. The height above the platform is about the same height above the water as the structure once stood. Light keeper would have been an attractive job for about two or three days without HD TV, the internet, etc. If these things still stood they would probably make great vacation destinations like the stilt houses in the South Pacific or the tree houses in Central America.

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Solomons, MD is a pretty little town. My first choice for "Church of the Day" (actually Church of the Trip, so far) is the Episcopal Church, enough, almost, to induce me to attend and to cure me of my heathen ways. Carol, being a good Christian woman of the Episcopal faith, needs no such inducements. Second place goes to the Methodist Church, John Wesley notwithstanding. It's easy to identify which is which: Methodists would never allow such a sinful color as red on a church front. The clock is an emotional favorite bringing to mind the Carson, Pirie Scott store on State Street in Chicago and the CD Peacock store on the same side of the same street both of which have clocks, respectively with four faces and two faces. The clock is beautiful but seems anomalous as a defining landmark for this place.

Tomorrow we are off for Oxford, MD, a short trip of 30 or so nm.

Posted by sailziveli 19:08 Archived in USA Tagged churches boats boating chesapeake Comments (0)

Colonial Beach

rain 57 °F

We stayed in WDC for one week. First, to let the earth's axis tilt a little closer to the sun, hoping for warmth. We got the tilt but not much in the way of warmth. Second to visit the city. Our visit to the city was like a smorgasbord of appetizers; we were able to absorb small bites of many things but there was not much time for anything in depth, no entrees. After seven days I could not have walked another mile nor could I have stood for another hour in any museum or exhibit. It felt good to just sit down in the hand crafted boat chair and to drive the boat, enjoying the warm sun and the panoramic tableau served up by the river.

Most major cities were founded with access to water; in the interior they are on rivers, many at the confluence of two rivers. I was reminded that WDC has this trait when we were exiting the Washington Channel. We were at the point where the Anacostia joins the Potomac, just putting along, staying in the channel, when we were hailed by a barge and tug, the barge being bigger than our house, that was coming down the Anacostia River and wanted us out of the way. We moved! It was hard to believe that I had not seen that colossal chunk of moving metal, but I didn't. The tug was pushing the barge at a pretty good rate and after an hour or so it was not in our field of vision. Other than the tug/barge combo, the 60 odd miles of river were quite empty, only one sailboat headed to WDC and several small fishing boats.

I had rather planned a later start on Friday, knowing that there was no way to make the transit from WDC to Colonial Beach in a single day. The leisurely morning plan changed when Carol decided to open the companionway flooding the cabin with cold air. Given the choice between cold and miserable in the cabin and cold and miserable underway, we pulled away from the dock before 0700. We must have caught the tide just right because we were making monsterly good time. By 1400 we had hit the anchorage area I had thought that we would reach by 1800. A quick look at the charts and we decided to go another two hours to Colonial Beach. We needed diesel fuel and propane, having exhausted one of the LPG tanks that morning. We covered at least 65 nm in less than 10 hours, something that I had thought impossible in our boat.

Sailboaters in inland waters always worry about vertical clearance. Our boat needs about 52-ft. plus a little more for the flexible VHF antenna. Just above Quantico, VA there is a power station with high tension lines that span the river. If hitting a fixed object and damaging the mast is concerning, the idea of the mast engaging power lines is truly terrifying. I can read a chart well enough. After two passages beneath the power lines, done two different ways, I am not sure that we did it right either time. The charts, chart plotter, cruising guides and Active Captain all showed information that was not visible on the water. Obviously, no problems .... enough clearance. I've made navigation mistakes but this is the only instance that I can remember of not knowing how to navigate an area.

The first 50 miles of the Potomac entails well more than 100 miles of coastline. In all of those miles there is only one town actually on the water: Colonial Beach. The town has history as does much of the land in this area: it was founded in 1650. Like many such towns, it had its day but that day is long since past. We caught this sunset the first night there, probably the only sunset picture from the boat over hardwood trees. An unusual one seeing the sun despite all the cloud cover.

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This marina is at the very tip of the isthmus and town is a pretty good hike away so we rented a golf cart for the grand tour. Colonial Beach actually does have a beach, reputed to be the largest around and a feature that was the town's attraction in days past. For all of the age of the town and its Victorian history, there are only two old houses left standing. The yellow one pictured was once owned by Alexander Graham Bell; it is now a bed & breakfast. The area got hit badly by a hurricane in the 1930's so that probably accounts for the paucity. It seems to be a somewhat reluctant tourist town now, having a Steamboat casino whose only connection to the water is a paddle wheel painted on the front facade.

Saturday was an easy day, get a few boat chores done and take the rest of the day off. The marina wasn't very crowded but during the afternoon things picked up. Some boats were down from Washington, DC; some may have come up the river from Deltaville or other places a few motoring miles from here. By evening it was generally full. There is a restaurant at this marina, not unusual, a feature of many marinas, usually a bar that also sells some food.

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This is a real restaurant with very good seafood earning Carol's seafood imprimatur. It seems that the plan is motor to Colonial Beach on Saturday, eat at the restaurant, then stay the night at the marina. Chairs appeared on the dock; dogs wandered about as beers were opened; people joined into clusters to share stories about boats and sundry. Early Sunday morning the boats started leaving with time scheduled to secure things in the home ports; by noon the last one had departed. Not a bad plan. The marina is also unusual in that it has two sets of slips with canvas "covers," protection for larger boats in the 40~60-ft. range.

I am tired of marinas; the convenience is nice showers, laundry, and, most importantly, power to run the heat pump. But, enough, already. The last couple of nights in WDC I didn't turn on the heat at night so that I could track the temperature differential inside the boat and outside. The statistically not significant answer is about 6o~7o warmer inside than outside. With overnight temps in the mid-50's this can work; temps into the 40's, not ever. The forecast is always throwing in a low ball number that makes me worry about freezing my skinny butt off. We even looked at a more powerful Honda generator, one to run the 16k BTU heat pump, but there was no possible match between physical size, weight and power output. So, marinas it will be until whenever the weather starts acting like Spring.

Monday broke ugly: cold and rainy, windy and gray, the perfect day not to be underway. So, we stayed put in Colonial Beach, where we stayed warm and we stayed dry. Tuesday, if the weather looks good, we will start a two day run down the Potomac and then across the Bay to Oxford, MD where we plan to stay through a cold weekend.... in a marina!

Posted by sailziveli 18:00 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating chesapeake Comments (0)

Washington, DC

all seasons in one day 76 °F

Two factual corrections to: Up the Potomac (1) The airport I mentioned on the banks of the Potomac River is Ronald Reagan Washington National, not Dulles. Should have known that! (2) When Washington was President the seat of government was Philadelphia, not Washington DC. He had no reason, as I had mused, to travel by boat between WDC and Mt. Vernon; he died in 1799 before the Capitol was moved in 1800. Did know that; got it wrong anyway!

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After a pleasant Friday, we woke up Saturday morning to a cold boat, not having needed to turn on the heat on Friday. One flick of a circuit breaker cured that problem. Carol let me pick what we wanted to do on Saturday so I picked the zoo, a place we had once visited when our son was still in the 3d grade. The day was clear and sunny, but quite cool, uncomfortable in the wind, very nice out of the wind.

Zoos have changed a lot over the years since we first visited them in the 50's. Those were the days of observation, looking at the beasties; today everything seems to be about conservation, an easy enough position to defend with the current rate of species extinction. The exhibit managers, formerly called zoo keepers, have become so clever in designing the display habitats, creating such natural spaces for the animals that half the time it was impossible to find the animal, a colossal game of Where's Waldo?, the elephants being an obvious exception; it's hard to make an elephant disappear unless you're in Las Vegas watching Siegfried & Roy. But it really didn't matter, the animals became ancillary to the to the day. The grounds of the zoo were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead; the nexus with our home is that he also did the grounds for the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. It was simply enough to walk around on a sunny day with trees and flowers blooming; the seemingly empty displays with reluctant, reclusive animals in hiding just added to the natural effect. It was a wonderful, interesting and delightful day and place to walk and to enjoy, which we did.

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There are those who will say that our current president is the rock star in WDC. Not so! The real rock star in this city is Tian Tian. He draws a crowd in a way that most politicians could only envy and everybody likes him. It's an interesting analysis: two pandas, being served and cared for by dozens of humans at an expense of many millions of dollars each year, and all because Nixon went to China. Even the most committed Nixon haters have to acknowledge this legacy. The pandas don't do very much; they just seem to sit around while munching bamboo, but they do look cute and cuddly while doing that. The zoo was interesting beyond that. We mostly hang out with older folks when cruising, most boaters being of an age. At home our county has an older demographic, many young people moving away to find work. It must have been Bring Your Kids to the Zoo Saturday; at the zoo it seemed as if every woman between the ages of 20 and 35, of which there were many, was pushing a stroller, carrying an infant or trying to herd her children. It was different and refreshing to see that much youth on display. Carol, at 67, being well outside that age range only had to herd me, not so hard to do now that I've lost a step or two. No bougainvillea, so Carol with dogwoods.

My favorite zoo picture of this year and any year: Flamingos Rock!!!

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There were a couple of must visit places, first and foremost the World War II Memorial. Both of our fathers fought in and survived the Pacific theater; I had two uncles who fought in Europe. A visit seemed a good way to honor all of their contributions and memories. The exhibit itself was under repair, no water, no fountains, which was unfortunate. The memorial itself did not much inspire. The stars, however, added some gravitas; each star, there are 4,048 of them, represented 100 American lives lost in that conflict. There are lots of memorials, monuments and statues in this city. Some have a natural majesty, e.g. the Lincoln memorial; most don't, each in some way an Ozymandias. The only thing that I have ever seen that has gripped my heart is a national cemetery, row after row of white markers, each an individual story but those stories subsumed into the greater story of national sacrifice and collective achievement to make this country whole and to keep it free.

The other must see place for us was the Holocaust Museum. The day and time that we chose was also when a host of school field trips were also scheduled. Crowded and inconvenient, but few places are more educational and it was good to see so many students there. I had read about the Shtetl of Eishyshok exhibit. That exhibit and the shoes were very evocative to me. It's encouraging that the two busiest places we have been were the Lincoln Memorial and the Holocaust Museum; the priorities seem right.

What has been unsettling, to me anyway, is the level of security we have encountered. To get into the Holocaust Museum, there were x-ray machines to check backpacks and bags; metal detectors and guys with wands; and a dozen armed security personnel, all at the entrance, none in the interior of the museum. The National Archive was almost the same way, except the armed folks were more distributed. I realize that it has only been a week since Boston and that the Holocaust Museum has a definite nexus with Israel and the Middle East's problems, but it just seemed like a lot.

Carol, with some ineffable 6th food sense, chose a marina that is about 100 yards from the Washington sea food market, one of the oldest in continuous operation in the country. It's not a Tsukiji, but they not only sell the raw seafood, there are also several places that cook it. This past Sunday the traffic at the place was intense, many more cars than room for them. The place is much larger than this picture conveys.

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The National Archive was a good visit. I had probably known, but forgotten, that the US Constitution is written on 4 pieces of parchment. Throw in the Declaration of Independence and the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, and there are six separate pages. Add the Magna Carta and there are seven pages that literally changed the world, all written in English.

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We also visited the National Gallery of Art. There the security appeared to be much lower. The 2d floor, where most of the paintings are, was just magnificent. There is a rotunda with huge black marble columns; the rotunda dome was reminiscent of the Pantheon; under the dome was a stylized fountain. The galleries seemed to go on forever, a warren of art in which it was easy to get lost, physically as well as in the senses. I had no idea that we had so many pieces of art by so many European greats as well as the American art of folks like Gilbert Sullivan, which I particularly enjoyed. This was a place I would visit again just to be in the building.

Turns out that I was right about the cherry blossoms, but missed the larger point. The peak of the blossom cycle this year was early April, which we missed, as we had thought that we would. But, there are several types of cherry trees here: the Yoshino, which is the most prevalent type, produces a single white blossom, like we saw in Norfolk. The Kwanzan blooms two weeks later, producing a pinkish flower with double blossoms. The Kwanzan trees were what we saw coming into the Washington Channel. There are many fewer of these trees than of the Yoshino but the flowers are quite remarkable.

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More museums, more neat stuff. There is so much that is so interesting that after a while the mind gets overloaded and the senses rebel... just too much to take in. Went to the Museum of Natural History and, surprising to say, Cabela's and Bass Pro do game presentation about as well as does the museum. Washington DC has many large things to command attention, but there are many small delights. Today, just walking from one place to another we saw a sign for a "Sculpture Garden" sandwiched between two large museums. Having nothing better to do we entered, found a nice European style restaurant for lunch, and then sat by a marvelous, large fountain and watched little kids feeding the ducks. My favorite sculpture? Sometimes I cannot see the trees for all the bowls inside them. This tree will not create that problem.

Friday we will leave WDC with the intention, once again, of staying in Colonial Beach, VA. It should be two easy days to get there, arriving Saturday. The stop in Washington has been a nice interlude. We have not interacted with the boat in any way other than as a hotel room... no maintenance, no cleaning, no worrying about boat stuff. We will have to do fuel and water before we leave, but that's all.

Posted by sailziveli 19:35 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Up the Potomac

There are channel entrances to the east and the west of Tangier Island. When I first studied the charts it seemed necessary to enter and exit from the east side. The entering part was OK, but exiting to the east added about 25 nm to the mouth of the Potomac River. Mr. Parks said that there was enough water for the boat in the western channel so we tried it, on the half tide, and everything went well. Of course, then the 45 nm trip for the day was only 20 nm and at 1000 we found ourselves where we thought to be at 1700.

I ran some numbers, using the old reliable circular slide rule for the first time in many years. The decision was fairly easy: we had planned to stay at Colonial Beach on Thursday so we would change the reservations to Tuesday and would complete the transit by 1600. Carol called the marina early and, the poor darlings, they only work from 9 am to 5 pm, almost unheard of, most marinas opening at 8 am and the rest at 7 am. Oh, and by the way, 9 am to 5 pm does not include the 9 am to 5 pm on Tuesdays. We didn't want to anchor out, thinking that it would be cooler than it turned out to be. So, we ended up at a place across the river called Cobb Island, in Maryland. There was enough water, by inches at low tide, to float the boat; the marina has all of the grace and charm of an abandoned FEMA trailer park in the lower 9th ward of N.O. But it had power to keep me warm and a restaurant with fresh crab to keep Carol fully nourished so it's OK. One thing struck me on the way in was the number of pairs of ospreys here. Just about every day mark has a nest with two birds. Caught the morning sun across the river.

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This is our first time on a true river; many bodies of water called rivers along the coastal plains are not. It's about 100 nm from the river's mouth to WDC. The mouth of the river is 9~10 nm wide, and for the first 50 miles, or so, the river is several miles wide. The river narrows about 50 miles inland and at that point there is a bridge, the only one until WDC. We saw this: literally a lighthouse, something about which I had never read or ever seen. It is on St. Clement's Island, about 30~35 nm up the river, on the Maryland side.

Carol has been lusting after fresh crab meat; I find the prospect less engaging for practical reasons. There cannot be crab cakes without crab traps to catch the little buggers; there cannot be crap traps without buoys to mark the traps' positions; we cannot traverse the bay or river without doing the sailboat slalom to avoid all of the above at the risk of fouling the propeller. Been there, done that! No encores are necessary. Mostly crab traps are in fairly shallow water, rarely in water much more than 20-ft. deep. Crossing the bay we found some that were in more than 50-ft.

The Chesapeake Bay has an incredible amount of navigation markers; swing a cat by its tail and you'll hit three or four. Some tell you where you are; most are to tell you where to go; the rest where not to go. The thing that is different here is that the physical locations of many of these markers are also a named way points on the charts. If the GPS ever indicates that the distance to a way point is 0.00 nm, we're probably going to be dealing with fractured fiberglass and bailing out the boat. We had a Close Encounter of the Buoy Kind on the way to Cape Charles. If the hull hadn't been so clean, we would have removed some barnacles.

In south Florida and over into the Bahamas the VHF traffic on channel 16 was constant. At one point we heard sequential USCG broadcasts from Key West, Miami and Jacksonville, FL. With all of the personal watercraft down there the cross talk was annoying, folks not understanding that the channel is a hailing frequency, not a cell phone. Here, not at all. Maybe one USCG broadcast a day; no local chatter. This is good, but at times I become concerned that the radio may not be working because it is so quiet. Speaking of cell phones, our Verizon coverage has been surprisingly poor. The only time on the whole trip that we had five bars on the iPhone was in Cape Charles, the marina being 200 yards from the tower. Most of the time, though, we have had LTE coverage which is pretty quick. Our early conclusion about the iPhone is that it is, in fact, a very smart phone, but not a very great phone. We have an old, heavy duty Motorola phone that Carol has preferred using; it just works better with weaker signals.

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I took a picture of this sea gull, figuring that at almost full life size on the computer screen I would have an easy time making the ID. Not! My best guess is that it is, maybe, a Herring Gull, the most common along the eastern seaboard. These gulls have a distinctive mark on their bills which this bird has cleverly hidden in its pose. Anyway, I liked the picture, a good contrast between the water and the bird.

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We cannot arrive in WDC before Friday, mid day, so we laid over a day at Cobb Island to do chores: clean the boat, defrost the fridge, a couple of minor repairs. Part of the rationale for stopping a day was rain and thunderstorms, predicted to start at 1 pm on Wednesday. At 2 pm, still sunny and in the 70's. Of course when the going gets tough, the tough ...... take a nap? Carol is not handling the stress of being 67 very well.

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Got up Thursday morning to the weather that we had expected to see on Wednesday, the weather we laid over a day to avoid. Blowing hard, low sky, intermittent rain showers. Checked the weather forecast ..... clearing by noon and sunny. So, who do you believe? Your own eyes or the weatherman? We decided to give it a shot, assuming that, somehow, we could get the boat off the dock with a heavy wind hitting us broadside. We didn't wreck the dock (no one would have noticed) and didn't wreck the boat, but we would not have gotten any style points from the judging panel. We hit the bridge, where the river narrows, about 1000. Narrow for the Potomac is a relative word; it went from several miles wide to 1~2 miles wide, not exactly close quarters. Then, a miracle happened: the skies cleared as predicted, it got warmer and sunny. The last/best anchoring spots are about 25 miles from WDC, so we picked a spot, maybe 2 miles north of Quantico, VA, and put out the hook. Not a great spot, too narrow, and, with the wind from the east, the boat swung too close to the shallow water behind it. But the holding was OK and we're not for moving. There was enough wind to turn on the wind generator, which seems to work fine.

I love to look at sailboats and, when we're at a dock, I always walk about to look at the boats and I've noticed two things about sailboats in the Chesapeake area. First is that more than half the boats have whisker poles, a device to improve down wind runs with foresails and spinnakers. These are not so common in the cruising community; I've only seen two cruising boats with poles deployed. Second is that the CQR anchor (letters to mimic the word: secure) is almost the sole anchor on the bows of boats. We had one and abandoned it in favor of the Manson Supreme, a choice I have never regretted. But, when I see so many "votes" against my decision I wonder if there is some critical information that I have missed, or whether it's just a case of blind, mindless group-think. The point of this is that our anchor worked wonderfully in the soft mud of the river, a bottom that is reminiscent of South Carolina's "pluff mud, but without the needless drama of naming rights. Anchoring out was a check list item, something that we needed to do to get comfortable with it again.

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Friday broke rainy and windy with thundershowers in the forecast. We got underway early to try to beat the worst of the weather. The river has its ways with boats; there is a tidal current, even 80~100 miles from the bay; there is a river current that is, at some points, eroding the shore line. Most of the spots we saw were on the Maryland side, a small state getting even smaller. I don't have any sense, yet, for how to plan for these effects in the distance, rate, time equation. Throw in the wind and it gets confusing. Even unplanned we made good time against whatever current there is and with both high and low tides.

On Thursday, I thought that I saw an eagle. It was low over the water, hunting, so I never got to see the underside; but the body was dark with a bright white head and tail; I gave it an 80% confidence rating. On Friday, just below Mt. Vernon we saw one on a buoy, no question, no doubt, a 100% confidence rating and an exciting thing to see. I was almost ready with the camera when a small boat went by and spooked the bird. Maybe on the return trip .....

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We saw this house along the way. It kind of reminded me our our house, both houses being set back from the water about the same distance. I have to admit that Panther Branch must yield to the Potomac River in terms of scope and scale. Modest though it may be in width, it need concede nothing to the Potomac when it comes to the natural beauty of the place. Most of our time on the boat has been spent in Florida and the Bahamas, the trees there being pointless iterations of pines and palms with some shrubbery added. The anchorage last night was about as close as we'll ever get to anchoring in Panther Branch; it was surrounded by hardwood trees, oaks, maples, etc. just like home. Most of the homes we saw lining the river were older, having a quiet stateliness about them even when they were very large. They are, I suppose, are a testament to the fact that not many people have ever gone broke contracting to do work for the US government.

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When I was researching the trip I found that Mt. Vernon was along the Virginia side of the river. I didn't know if it would be visible from the water. At green marker "71" there it was, plain to see. The General chose well, a beautiful location maybe 15 miles south of the capital, but that was a fair distance to travel back then. My guess is that he may have made the trip by water since the house is on the other side of the river from the Capital. On the way back, we may try to find a spot to anchor nearby so that we can dinghy to site for a visit. Looking at the two house pictures, what would happen if there were a law prohibiting any house being larger than Washington's at Mt. Vernon.

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This I had never heard or read about, Ft. Washington, on the Maryland side. It was built to protect the city. Completed in 1809, it was abandoned during the War of 1812, allowing the British to raze the Capital; it may not have protected very much but it looks great from the water. The old yellow house is hard to see but it looks like it might have been the commandant's residence.

The trip was hardly pedestrian but when we cleared the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge, it almost took my breath away. There, not two miles distant, were the Washington Monument to the left and the Dome of the Capital Building to the right, the dome, seemingly lit from above, dominating the horizon. The marina Carol picked is close in to the city; we're not quite moored in the Reflecting Pool, but we're pretty close, less than 3/4-mile from the Washington Monument itself. Way Cool! There are cherry trees in blossom .... saw some on the way in; pictures to follow, I hope. I have never flown into or out of Dulles Airport. As we came up the river from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, the airport was on the left side of the river, tight along the river's western bank. And, just upstream from there was the bridge which the Air Florida flight hit that winter day. It was so easy to see and to understand when viewed from the water. With the winds today the planes were coming in low over that same bridge to land; taking off they headed straight south along the axis of the river.

We have no set plans for the visit, not even how long to stay. There's lots to do, it's all touristy, and it's all great. The critical component seems to be Carol's appointment to get her hair done, red now being mixed with visible gray. There is one night next week forecast to be in the 30's so that will, surely, figure into our plans.

Posted by sailziveli 14:27 Comments (0)

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