Friday, May 29, 2009

May 29 - Washinton DC

May 19, 20 – Oriental
On Tuesday there was school in the morning again. It was still really windy, but Seahawk had spent their two legal days on the free dock, so they left around noon. We pulled in behind them and took their spot. We had another nice walk in Oriental, and Dave started working on the teak.
On Wednesday, the water started leaving the harbour, and the boat on the deeper side of the free dock left, so we moved around to the other side of the dock. It was another quiet day of school, with the added excitement of finally picking a puppy! After much debate, we’ve decided on a black lab pup from Holly Farms, in Belcherville Mass. His Dad is a very well behaved black lab called Oliver, and his Mom is white lab named Sky, and she loves to play frisbee. He was born May 6. We will be able to go meet him on June 13 when we are up in Connecticut, and we will be able to take him home on July 4. We have named him "Boom", and his call name will be "Holly Farm Highlander". While we know we can never replace Rudder, it will be nice to have a dog again. We couldn’t imagine being home without one.

May 21 – Oriental to Alligator River mile 104
We left Oriental at 6:00 after a nice break. We motored up the Neuse River and we were impressed as "Bird" kept up or passed all the other sailboats. We debated back and forth as to whether or not we should go out to Ocracoke… we had pretty good weather to get out there, it would be a really neat place to see… we spent five days in Oriental and we should get moving… we weren’t sure if we would be able to sail all the way there… the Pamlico can get pretty rough… In the end we decided to skip Ocracoke and we pressed on through the Alligator Pungo Canal and anchored at the top of the Alligator river around 5:30. The anchorage was very calm and we had an uneventful evening.

May 22 – Alligator River to Elizabeth City – mile 51
We left at 6:00 again. It was really beautiful pulling out of the anchorage. The sun was rising and making all the trees silver in the mist. We motored down the Alligator River, and pulled into the Alligator River marina around 10:00 to fill up with fuel. We were on our way again fairly quickly. It was a nice little marina and we could see why lots of people recommend it as a good place to stop. We got to Elizabeth City around 2:30 and tied along side a face dock, rather than trying to struggle in the slips like we had in the fall. After we got settled we went over to the Museum of the Abermarle where Dave and Kristen briefly visited in the fall. It is a great museum and it’s free! They have 4 large exhibits representing different periods of history in the region. They had some artifacts that had been retrieved from the wreck of Queen Anne’s Revenge, the ship sailed by Blackbeard the Pirate and sunk in near Ocrakoke. There were also two small very old building that had been moved from their original locations and rebuilt in the museum – one was a house, and the other was a smokehouse. Kristen had fun finding all the answers for the scavenger hunt. When we finished the exhibits the kids went to play in the play room, where there were lots of period clothes, a puppet theatre, kitchen utensils and other things to play with. After we dragged them away from there, we walked around town, looking for a place to go out for supper. Nothing really caught our eye, so we ordered pizza instead. While we waited for the pizza, the girls played soccer on the field right by the boat, Dave took the bikes off the boat, and I went for a bike ride and rented a movie "Hotel for Dogs". The movie was fun and the girls enjoyed it.

May 23 – Elizabeth City to South Mills Lock – Mile 32
We lazed around in the morning. We wandered around the farmer’s market that was set up on the field right by the boat. I called the grocery store for a ride, and went to the grocery store to get some provisions for our trip up the Chesapeake. When I got back, Dave rode the bike up to get the laundry done and to return the movie. I took the girls back to the play room at the museum. After lunch, we went to Port Discovery, a little science center about a block away from the boat. It had some neat things to do, but it would have been more fun if someone had walked us through the experiments. It was a little hard to figure stuff out on our own. By the time we were done there, the wind was picking up and blowing us onto the face dock. We decided to leave Elizabeth City and pulled away from the dock around 2:00. It was a lovely day on the river that leads to the Dismal Swamp – there were lots of people out enjoying the water, wake boarding and water skiing. We got to the lock at South Mills around 5:00. We thought maybe there would be a place to tie up there, but there wasn’t, so we anchored in the river. We saw a huge brown water snake sunning itself on a tree stump near where we were going to anchor. They aren’t poisonous, but it sure was big! A park ranger we talked to thought maybe it was a pregnant female and that was why it was sooo large. After we anchored, "Varuna", a Contessa 26 sailboat passed us and went up an old barge canal to anchor. Varuna has an exciting history as she circumnavigated the world in the late 80’s, sailed by 18 year old Tanya Aebi. We remember reading about her back when we started sailing. Sure enough it is the same boat, and the folks that own her now are the fourth owner since Tanya. They are heading back up to their home in Maine after taking her south for the winter.

May 24 – South Mills Lock to Dismal Swamp Visitors Center – Mile 28
We were up around 7:00 and had breakfast before we pulled up the anchor a little after 8:00. We locked through at South Mills with 3 other sailboats and 2 trawlers. We were through the lock and bridge around 9:30. We puttered down the Dismal Swamp with other boats until we got to the Visitors Center four miles from the lock. When we got there the wall was full with a sailboat and the two trawlers. Varuna was rafted to the other sailboat. The trawlers were only planning to stay for about 30 minutes, so we rafted up to Varuna. After the trawlers left, we moved back onto the wall, and then Varuna left too. It was a lovely day, so we decided to borrow bicycles from the visitor’s center so we could all cycle back to South Mills. We had a great bike ride through the woods along the paved path that runs beside the Dismal Swamp Canal. By the time we got to South Mills, clouds had gathered all around, and the heavens opened up. It poured with rain. We hid out under the canopy of a gas station convenience store until the worst of it was over, and then we biked down to look at the boats locking through. There was so many boats that they filled the lock the first time, and had to lock through a second group. The first group of boats had to wait between the lock and the bridge for the second group to be locked through before the bridge was opened. While they were waiting, the heavens opened again – with even more rain than the first time. We hurried back to the gas station to wait for it to stop. We waited and waited, and worried about the boat because we hadn’t closed any hatches. We decided that when they closed the bridge again we would set off even if the rain hadn’t stopped. Fortunately, by the time the bridge was closed, the rain had stopped and we set off back for the visitor’s center. We only rode a short way before the pavement was dry… apparently it was an isolated rainstorm! As we got closer to the boat it did start to rain a bit, but Dave was able to get the boat closed up before it got wet down below. We beat all the boats that locked through back to the visitors center – even the trawlers. Five boats stopped and tied up, so we had a boat rafted on the outside of us. After lunch we decided to go over to other side of the canal where the little interpretative center is. The rain had stopped so we left the hatches open again. Just as we went in the center, the rain began to pour down again. It was way too wet to go back to the boat, so we figured we’d just have to make the best of it. After the rain tapered down a bit, the girls and I walked the boardwalk and then the short walk through the woods. Dave went back to the boat. Even though our neighbours had closed the main hatches when they saw the rain start the boat was soaked. There was a huge puddle on our bed in the aft cabin that had run down and under the mattress. The mattress was really wet, as was the bedding and the pillow. We got that all mopped up and stood the mattress on end with the fan blowing on it to help dry it and we thought we were done. They Dave started to put the lunch dishes away, only to find that the kitchen drawers were full of water too… So he cleaned that up… Then when he finished that and turned around, he found more water… Finally, we thought we had it all cleaned up and we had supper. We slept in the main cabin.

May 24 – Visitors Center to Deep Creek to Norfolk
We left the visitor’s center around 8:00 after draining all the water out of the dinghy and putting it up on the davits. We motored along the canal down to Deep Creek for the 11:00 opening, but there was a Southbound boat, so we had to wait. We tied up on the wall in Deep Creek and went across the street to the grocery store and got bread and milk, and to the auto parts store to get some oil. We were back in plenty of time to go through the bridge when it opened at 11:30. We went through the bridge and tied up on the wall between the bridge and the lock, so we could go back to the park we had enjoyed so much in the fall. We BBQ’d hot dogs for lunch, and then went for a walk in the woods and along the marsh. We put our bed back together as it was dry now, and when the 1:30 opening for the lock came, we were ready to go on to Norfolk. We locked through with 3 other sailboats and 4 trawlers. At 2:30 we were on our way, down the narrow twisty river. It was full of jet skis and people on wake boards. I was at the helm as we came to a corner and there was a ski boat stopped mid channel. I thought I would take him to starboard, and as I came around the corner we slowed to a stop in the mud. Dave took the helm and backed us off, but it was pretty stressful with five of the other boats from the lock behind us and all the ski boats around. We arrived in Norfolk around 4:30 and pulled into Waterside marina. We thought it would be a good idea to do laundry and get all the towels and sheets clean and dry. We went for supper at Joe’s Crab Shack, and when we were there, guess what? It started to rain again. I went back to the boat just to double check that it was all closed up and to get rain jackets.

May 25 – Norfolk to Mill Creek, Great Wicomico
We headed out at 6:00, planning a long day to the mouth of the Potomac. The day started off quietly enough with calm seas and no wind, and the forecast was only for 10-15 SE. When we were leaving Norfolk, we were told to keep 500yds away from a submarine being escorted into Norfolk - If we didn',t they had authorization to use "deadly force" to keep us away -- they didn't have to ask us twice! By lunch time we had 20 knots of wind right on our beam and the seas were getting larger and larger. We decided that it didn’t make sense to try to go to a new anchorage if we’d been dealing with this kind of weather for 6 hours, so we altered course a bit to the protected anchorage we had stayed at in the fall off the Great Wicomico. It was a long afternoon. The waves were large and close together and they would tip the boat from side to side, as well as wash over the cabin and into the cockpit. It probably would have been fine if it had been a lovely sunny day, but things always seem more ominous when it is cloudy and overcast. We were really happy to turn west at 4:00 and get the wind and waves behind us. The anchorage was lovely and calm – barely a breath of wind! We made hot chocolate and played cards until supper and then we went to bed early.

May 26 – Mill Creek to Tobacco River, Potomac
We left around 7:30 in the thick fog. We inched our way out with the radar on, and were relieved to find that the seas from yesterday were gone. We motored our way through the fog and turned up the Potomac River. We were lucky that we didn’t have a lot of current against us and we traveled all day without much effect from the current at all. The fog lifted later in the afternoon, and it turned into a lovely, hot day. After looking and looking in the Cruising Guide at options for places to stay tonight, we finally decided to push on about 50 miles up the Potomac to the Tobacco River. It made for a pretty long day, about 65 (nautical) miles, and we dropped the anchor around 6:00. The anchorage was wide open, but the wind was calm and there weren’t any other boats around. It is pretty here. There are steep red and yellow cliffs that lead down to the water, and they are covered in lush green trees. Sporadically, there are huge, older homes that look really spectacular from the water. There are lots of crab pots here where we are anchored so we had to be careful coming in that we didn’t get tangled in one.

May 27 – Tobacco River to Washington DC
We were on our way before 5:30 this morning, trying to stay ahead of the current flowing up the river. We were lucky and had a nice boost from the current most of the morning. Once again it was really, really foggy when we left, but the fog was gone by around 8:00. It turned into a beautiful sunny day, but then it got humid, and by the time evening rolled around there were thunder showers. Coming up the river to Washington was similar to going through New York – very noisy! There were airplanes taking off over our heads, lots of helicopters flying around, and Harrier aircraft buzzing overhead. We were tied up at the Capital Yacht Club a few minutes after 1:00 – a lot earlier than the late afternoon we were expecting! The staff at the yacht club are really friendly and helpful. The yacht club is wonderfully located about a 10 or 15 minute walk from Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian Museums. After we got settled we left the boat around 3:00 and went for a walk up to the Natural History Museum. We spent 2 hours there and still barely touched the exhibits. We bought tickets to go and see "Night at the Smithsonian", the sequel to "Night at the Museum" at the IMAX theatre there tomorrow.
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