Up the Potomac

“Don’t bother going up the Potomac–there’s nothing there.”

Anchored off the sailing center at Saint Mary's College; yet another collegiate sailing spot

Anchored off the sailing center at Saint Mary’s College; yet another collegiate sailing spot from my checkered past

Not so nice: jellyfish, keeping us out of the water

Not so nice: jellyfish, keeping us out of the water

Au contraire. We were warned off the trip by everyone we met; and while it’s true that there were few marinas for a deep-draft sailboat such as ourselves, we were able to find some very nice spots to anchor on our way to D.C.

We would have skipped this particular river, if it wasn’t for the prize at the end; but we couldn’t figure out a way to spend time in Washington without having our boat. Michu’s dad has an apartment in D.C., but it’s a small space. We really wanted to see a lot of the sights, so we’d planned for a week, and the bill for a hotel would have been ugly. The cost to keep our boat: $25 a night for a mooring ball, with access to showers, laundry and a dinghy dock, four blocks from the National Mall; so, up the river we went.

No longer ships of the line: these Navy boats were poorly build in the rush of WW2, then scuttled in this bay.

No longer ships of the line: these Navy boats were poorly build in the rush of WW2, then scuttled in this bay.

The thing that’s been most surprising to us–first about the Chesapeake, and especially about the Potomac–is the amount of militarization on the waterfront.

Osprey helicopter/plane, frozen in flight

Osprey helicopter/plane, frozen in flight

Of course we know about the Pentagon, and we’ve seen the Naval Academy; but there have been more than one place on the water where we could not go because we would have been fired upon. We’re talking sink-our-boat heavy artillery practice, right in our path. We’ve heard some strange radio conversations, to be sure. We managed to skirt around one area, and pass through another before anyone was awake, but we also have to check the charts to make sure we’re not trying to anchor amidst “unexploded ordinances” or in a special exclusion zone. We’ve seen several military bases, and some crazy satellite dishes, as well. I think our family is so focused on the historical nature of the area, sometimes we don’t anticipate what is currently happening in a given space.

Working on his skills; St. Mary's River

Working on his skills; St. Mary’s River

Fish on!

Fish on!

Additional excitement from this leg of our journey: first fish. Turns out, we are all terrible at fishing–lots of room for improvement! But after many, many unsuccessful attempts, Michu and T managed to reel in a small rockfish. “Small” as in, let’s throw it back; although the fish was so stressed, we think it ended up being lunch for some gulls. Very exciting to finally be able to make the call, “fish on!”

Mount Vernon, from the water

Mount Vernon, from the water

T checks the charts

T checks the charts

We passed by Mount Vernon and Alexandria and under one stressful bridge (we knew the clearance was 78 feet, which gave us over 20 feet between the top of the mast and the cold steel of the center span, but it looked extremely low!) before heading into the Capitol Channel. This space, just south of the tidal basin, used to have a lot of room for anchoring; it’s still possible to anchor just before the police dock, but we opted instead to pick up a mooring ball at the Gangplank Marina. Time for F’s most-anticipated part of the trip: exploring D.C.

Sunset off the stern. We were so excited to be able to see the Washington Monument from the boat--until we realized that you can see the Washington Monument from pretty much everywhere.

Sunset off the stern. We were so excited to be able to see the Washington Monument from the boat–until we realized that you can see the Washington Monument from pretty much everywhere.

3 Comments on “Up the Potomac

  1. I just read your entire journey thus far and I applaud your perseverance and guts! We all miss you Michu….safe travels to you and your family and nothing but well wishes!! Denise

  2. Glad you were able to safely navigate the Potomac! It appears you will now be back in the ocean — and watching for hurricanes and tropical storms. We leave for Hilton Head 10/8, wedding is 10/9. Tom and Janice will join us in the condo we have for a week. Love to all.

    • Still in the Chesapeake for a bit; currently hiding out from some big winds up the St. Mary’s River…

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