Ted had scheduled a trip in July to see his family in Oklahoma while we were at York River, and he left from Richmond Airport a few days after we arrived. I was still down with pneumonia, but had visited a clinic and got some strong meds to sort me out. So the week Ted was away, I was either on the couch in the air-conditioning, or by the pool under an umbrella. I was so unwell I could only just get into the pool and sit for a while in the shallow end to cool off. Swimming or anything else was impossible.
By the time Ted returned I was on the mend. Unfortunately the air-conditioning had sucked up one of the hundreds of jellyfish floating around the docks each day, so for 24 hours I had no aircon on the boat. Luckily the temperatures had fallen slightly, out of the nineties, but it was still uncomfortable and I was happy when the diver turned up to go under the boat and clean it out.
In early August I had agreed to do my annual tenure with my old company AMP in NZ, where I worked before we left. I cover for the lady who replaced me, working remotely to support their meetings. So each evening I would go down to the office in our guest stateroom, log on to the AMP network in Auckland, and go to work. With the time difference between US East Coast and NZ, I was able to turn meeting notes around in a day, and it was fun to plug back into what was happening back at my old firm.
During this time, we moved north from York River, stopping a night at our favourite anchorage on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. We had a nice trip north, a beautiful night at anchor, and continued on the next day with a flat Chesapeake Bay up to Herrington Harbour North, which had been recommended to us by our friends Mel and Bob on N57 Istaboa.
We tied up to the long face dock, and settled in for another month, plugged into aircon, with a pool, restaurant and gorgeous grounds all on site. The next morning there was a guided kayak tour so we launched our kayaks and paddled along with them. It was fascinating going up the river with a park ranger and water environmentalist who pointed out birds, foliage and other points of interest.
During our time there the marina hosted a music evening with beer and wine, an open boat day with two new catamarans – also with food and beverages, a full breakfast party by the pool, and a Labor weekend dinner. There were other events too that we didn’t attend.
As this was to be our northernmost destination with the boat this year, we contacted our lovely friends Mark and Megan Reardon, who we had met last year while anchored off Lewes in Delaware. They had issued an open invitation to visit them at their home in Wilmington, so we picked up a rental car, secured Southern Star and drove the 120 miles north, arriving late afternoon.
Sometimes you meet friends who you can spend time with, part ways, and not reconnect for months or even years, yet immediately fall into a comfortable and easy relationship. Such is the case for us with Mark and Megan, who welcomed us with their usual warm and generous hospitality. We spent a lovely weekend with them, exploring Wilmington and the surrounding area.
We spent Friday in Philadelphia, where neither Ted nor I had been. Driving there was a challenge, but we eventually found a park and walked around the city. Unfortunately it was raining, but we ducked into the Museum of the American Revolution for a couple of hours which was fascinating, then found a great pub for lunch, before queuing to see the Liberty Bell. As it was Friday, we decided to avoid rush hour and get away mid afternoon, back to Wilmington where after drinks, Mark drove us to a waterfront restaurant for dinner.
Their house is located on the edge of a beautiful park along part of the Brandywine River and the next morning we took a long and very scenic walk through there – the weather was gorgeous, not too hot, and it was a magical day. That evening we headed off to an early pizza dinner, then across the Pennsylvania state line to Longwood Gardens and another lovely walk through one of the many parks in the area established by the Dupont family. As dusk fell we sat down on a grassy area and listened to Motown music while coloured fountains played. We walked 20,000 steps that day.
After breakfast the next morning we headed back to Southern Star. Herrington Harbour South is a lovely marina with great facilities including a nice pool with a tiki bar which serves the most incredible Bloody Marys – a generous helping of your choice of vodka, tomato juice, lemon, three olives on a stick, a gherkin, a stick of mozzarella cheese and a slice of crispy bacon. Didn’t need dinner after one of those.
There is also a small gym and it was great to take advantage of that in the heat of the day, as it was airconditioned. It is a huge marina with lovely walking tracks and barbeques set in the grounds. We would take steaks or chicken up to grill, have a drink in the shade and look out over the boats to our boat on the end dock. The restaurant on site had good happy hour deals each day, and there were lots of marine services on site, which Ted writes about in a separate posting.
A few days later, we drove to a Park and Ride facility at New Carrollton, and jumped on the metro into Washington DC. Although this was my fourth visit to Washington, I’d never toured the US Capitol Building, and we had booked a tour to do this. It was fantastic, starting with a short film about the Constitution and how the US democratic process had evolved. Then we were allocated to a tour guide who walked and talked us through the various parts of the building. Finally, we presented photo ID and gained passes to access the US Senate chamber. As this was August, the Senate was in recess, but they held something called a Pro Forma meeting which meant that a Senator must be present to call the Senate to order, and then adjourn it. This is required by the Constitution, as neither the Senate nor the house of Representatives can adjourn for more than three days at a time. So we sat while Marco Rubio banged a gavel to open and close the session. Very cool.
We then walked a few blocks to meet my dear friend Walda Roseman for lunch at an Irish pub. We had last seen her two years previously, but Walda is ageless, and was waiting for us when we arrived. Time with her is always interesting, lively, and much too brief.
After lunch, we took the Metro down to the waterfront where we had taken Southern Star two years ago. It was still being regenerated, and we couldn’t work out where our dock had been. We sat on the waterfront for a while, then retraced our steps to the Metro station, and back to pick up the car and drive home. So much easier and cheaper than driving into DC and trying to find parking.
On Friday of that week, our good friend Gordon was due to arrive from NZ, via Houston. We had suggested that he pick up a cab and meet us at a Metro station close to the airport, as we weren’t keen to drive into DC late on a Friday night. We attended the Labor Weekend dinner at the marina, then drove out to meet him. Unfortunately his plane was late, and then the driver couldn’t find us, but eventually we connected, and got back to the boat for very late cocktails.
Luckily, Gordon is a seasoned campaigner, and was up for a big day the following day. We drove into Annapolis, about 30 minutes away, parked up, and wandered into the village to have breakfast at Chick and Ruths Deli. We had hoped to get there by 9am to hear the staff recite the pledge of allegiance, which happens every morning, but after the late night before, we didn’t make it. We toured the Naval Academy, walking through the grounds and then across the river to the Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, as we had tickets for the opening game of their football season.
We took our seats and watched as the cadets from the Academy paraded into the stadium in their dress whites, all in formation having marched through Annapolis from the Academy, and stood to attention for the National Anthem. Then two fighter jets flew low and loud across the stadium, and a parachuter dropped out of a plane above, flying a huge US flag, and landed at the half way line on the field. Gordon turned to me and said “I’ve already had my $40 worth and the game hasn’t even started”. I agreed. It is the kind of thing the US does so well. The game turned out to be a whitewash, which might have been boring, except that every time the Navy team scored, all the new cadets ran onto the field into the end zone and did pushups to correspond to the total points Navy had scored. As the final score was 45-7, the cadets did a lot of pushups that day. However it was so hot that we left the game after half time, and walked back into the village for an early meal and several cool beers before heading back to the boat.
We love having Gordon on the boat – he is a very easy guest, and we have great conversations with him, plus he helps us focus on certain things and provides a different perspective which we both value. Sadly he was only with us for a few days, and on his last full day we decided to return to Annapolis, as he wanted to buy some golf shirts at the Navy store. We also bought t shirts, and then we found an all you can eat buffet – something else the US does better than anyone else. Gordon left from Washington and we drove into the airport, dropping him kerbside and immediately getting tangled in afternoon traffic around DC. We dropped off our rental car a couple of days later, as it was time to move on.
It was a day trip down from Herrington to Solomons Island in Maryland where we tied up at Washburns Boatyard. We were there two years ago, and were due for a haulout and routine work on Southern Star. She was lifted on the Tuesday and we checked into a hotel across the river from the boatyard. Instead of hiring a car, we used our dinghy to commute each day. The one week haulout turned into two weeks and we were glad to get back in the water although we had another month at Washburns getting further work done – refer Ted’s separate blog which details everything we did to improve Southern Star
When we arrived at Washburns we spotted Selene 58 Sabbatical tucked into her covered slip, and we reconnected with James and Darlene who we had last seen in Washington two years ago. We had dinner and saw them a number times during our two months there. Bart and Julia on N55 Vamos were at a neighbouring marina, and we caught up with them before they left, and again a few weeks later when they passed back through. We had last seen them at West End in the Bahamas in June.
We also made new friends. Our first night at Washburns was a Sunday, and the opening game of the NE Patriots season. We tried to get the game on our tv onboard but failed. I saw a trawler at another marina which was flying four Patriots flags, and almost walked over and knocked on the boat, figuring they’d be watching the game. The next morning I put on my Tom Brady t shirt and went to visit them. We became immediate friends with Stephanie and Bob on September Song, who are fanatical Patriots supporters. The next weekend, they scoped out a sports bar and together with Bryan and Sheri on an Offshore 60, also from NE, we went over there for the afternoon game. We watched three Patriots games there with Stephanie and Bob, and were sad when they moved on. Bryan and Sheri tied up behind us at Washburns for a few days to have some work finished on their boat before they also moved on.
One day while at Washburns Ted received a call from an old friend from his chartering days in the Virgin Islands – thirty years ago. He was in the area and wanted to stop by. It was fun to see Ted and …. Swapping photos and chatting away after so many years.
This is the nature of the life we lead. We are on the move and find ourselves somewhere we can reconnect with old friends from our respective former lives. We offer a permanent vacation option for friends and family from within the US and overseas. And we make new friends and may spend a lot of time with them over a short period, before we part and go separate ways. Sometimes we meet up again, later in the season, or in a year, or in two years, or sometimes we never see them again. But we share a commonality in the life we have chosen, the challenges and special experiences we all share as boat owners and cruisers. There is always a thrill when we pull into a marina or anchorage somewhere, look over and see a familiar boat, and reconnect with good friends.