We spent 3 nights at anchor en route to Washington DC. The first of these was in an area called Little Choptank which had been recommended to us. It was a nice spot but we found much shallower depths than on any of our charts, and pulled up anchor in only 1.5m of water which is pretty skinny for us.
The second day we rounded the mouth of the Potomac and were followed part way by our friends Mel and Bob on Istaboa, who had a change of plans and decided to join us in DC for a few days. They pulled into a small marina just inside the mouth of the Potomac but we continued on for several miles and anchored in Breton Bay, an absolutely gorgeous anchorage. Just as the sun went down, another Nordhavn – N55 Mighty Aphrodite – pulled in and dropped their hook. Ted tried to hail them but there was no response. The next morning however, they were up at the same time as us, and pulled in alongside to say hi. They were on the way back down from DC to Solomons.
We had only just pulled out of Breton Bay when we were hailed by “Range Boat 3” who asked us our destination and advised us that the area we were transiting was “hot” with live firing underway by the Navy. We were directed to follow a different set of channel markers which took us much closer to shore, and into crab pots. As we navigated our way through we heard and saw explosions behind us, counting 5 or 6 blasts. At one stage we were hailed again by our range boat escort, requesting that we speed up “as we are waiting on you Captain”. Sure enough, another blast went off behind us. It was a very exciting and a unique Washington experience. We passed by Quantico further up the river, and anchored off a state park for the night, joined by Istaboa who picked us up in their dinghy to take their dogs for a walk on the beach.
This left us only 25 miles into Washington DC the next day, and we passed by some amazing and huge properties on the river, including Mt Vernon, before travelling through Alexandria and into DC. We saw the Washington Monument well out, and then the city came into view. Istaboa had tied up ahead of us at Gangplank Marina, but moved over to join us on B dock as they had power issues on the new dock.
We had a late lunch together, and then we were meeting our friends James and Darlene from Selene “Sabbatical”, who we had met in Solomons. They walked us round the new Wharf development which was due to open the day we planned to leave DC. We then had drinks at their condo on the waterfront, before walking to a fabulous Italian restaurant further round on the Anacostia River. We took the Metro home and got a weekly pass to help us move around the city.
Friday morning we set off with Mel and Bob and walked from the marina over to the National Mall, where we took in the famous sights of DC – Washington Monument (surrounded by flags all at half-mast for those who died in the Las Vegas shooting), the White House (surrounded by Secret Service cars and armed SS personnel in flak vests), the WWII memorial, the reflecting pool, the Lincoln Memorial (which was the only place that really felt crowded), and the Vietnam memorial and wall. All very moving and powerful, and it was strange that I (the only non US citizen of the four of us) was the only one that had visited DC before. We stopped for lunch then headed home – by the time we got back to the boat we had walked 7.5 miles and deserved a drink on Istaboa.
The next day Ted wanted new running shoes so we set off independently with our Metro pass to a shopping centre that had a couple of outlet stores. But I got us lost, one Metro stop too far and we quickly realized we were somewhere we probably didn’t want to be, so hopped back on the train and retraced our journey back one stop. We still had quite a walk to the shopping centre but eventually found it, and a new pair of shoes.
We had planned to take the streetcar back into town but there was some stoppage for both that and the buses, so we decided to walk after someone had told us it was only 8-9 blocks to Union Station. Turns out it was much more and we were both dragging our feet by the time we got to the station. We found a great diner there and had burgers and shakes. There was a lovely moment while we were sitting there listening to old 50s and 60s music. An elderly black lady came by and started dancing to “It’s in his kiss” – she was joined by another younger woman who was just passing by and the two of them were dancing and laughing together before the younger woman moved on. It was one of those moments in time when you feel so happy to be alive. Union Station is beautiful – very ornate inside the main atrium area.
We found we were close to Madame Tussauds, which was cheesy but a lot of fun. We took pictures of each other with various US presidents, George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Samuel Jackson, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Tiger Woods, Elvis, and Larry King. Again it was surprisingly uncrowded and plenty of opportunity to take photos. The only queue was to get snapped with the Obamas. No one wanted to have their photo taken with the current President…. However Ted went over to have a few words with him. By now we were tired and decided to head home, having walked another 6.8 miles by the time we got back to the boat.
The next day was a down day and we cleaned Southern Star. That evening we were picked up by new friends Dixon and Kiki Smith who we had met at Trawler fest. They had been boat shopping and attended a number of the classes that we did. He had told us he lived at the Navy Yard. As we got close, he phoned the gate and identified himself as Admiral Smith, requesting that the marine guard open the gate for us. We drove through and past the house occupied by the Chief of Naval Operations (i.e. one of the Joint Chiefs). Dixon’s house was right next door and we learned he was pretty much next in line. He works at the Pentagon running naval fleet operations and logistics. We took our glasses of wine and walked around the Navy Yard, stopping briefly for the dropping of the colors while Dixon saluted, Ted and Kiki put hands on hearts, and I stood looking up at the military buildings around us, listening to the “Last Post” completely overwhelmed by such a special experience.
We returned to their house where they served up a divine meal, perfectly cooked steak, broccoli and something Kiki called North Shore Potatoes – absolutely gorgeous. We spent the evening talking about boats and cruising – they are about 12-18 months out from pursuing their dream, and then took Uber back to the boat after another amazingly unique Washington experience.
Walking shoes back on Monday, we took the Metro to the National Geographic Museum and did the free lobby tour of the covers and history of National Geographic. Some iconic photos and insights into how long it takes a photographer to get that amazing shot. Then we hit the Museum of American History, one of the free Smithsonian museums along the National Mall. This was completely overwhelming in terms of crowds and things to see and we ended up only seeing a fraction of what was there. You could literally spend a day in each of these massive museums and still not see everything probably. We only did 3.6 miles that day but it seemed longer.
That evening we were joined by my old friend Walda Roseman, from my Inmarsat and ICO days. She is one of those inspirational and energizing women that make you wonder how she has time and energy to do everything she manages to do. She is very much a Washington insider and we had a fascinating discussion on the current administration. Ted cooked enchiladas and we had a lovely evening together catching up after almost 20 years.
Tuesday we set off again to the Metro and out to the Pentagon where we visited the 9/11 memorial – very moving. You can’t get close to the Pentagon itself, unless you have pre-arranged a tour with your Congressman 90 days in advance. But we walked around it and then headed back one stop on the train to Arlington Cemetery, where we spent several hours wandering around including seeing Kennedy’s gravesite, a memorial to Pan Am flight 103 that was bombed over Lockerbie in Scotland, and the ceremony around the Tomb of the Unknowns – very moving. On our way back to the Metro a group of horses passed us with a coffin carriage, and as we reached the road we had to wait for the funeral procession to pass us. We thought it might be someone famous but when Ted looked up funerals that day, there were dozens happening that day. It is very sobering to see all those gravestones, and again we only saw a fraction of the entire area.
We returned to the boat after a 5.6 mile day, to meet up with Ted’s old buddies from Cayman, Tom and JD. They had a great time reminiscing over a few beers and some nachos.
Our last full day in DC was my birthday and we chose to visit the Newseum, to get the photo op with the front page of the Christchurch Press dated 11 October. This museum is dedicated to the First Amendment, and has an impressive display of old newspapers (dating back to before the Great Fire of London) as well as front pages of all major US and international publications, changed daily. We loved the Kennedy exhibit, the 9/11 display, the Pulitzer winning cartoons and photographs, and the Berlin Wall. This is a fantastic museum and well worth including in any Washington itinerary.
Ted found an Italian restaurant for a late lunch and we got back to the boat just as it started to rain. We had been very lucky with Washington weather, unusually warm for the time of year. Over the course of the week there, we walked a total of 32 miles around Washington – I don’t understand why neither of us has lost any weight, especially after the biking we’d done the previous week!
So we are heading back down the Potomac and on to York River.