35 Hampton, VA to Washington, DC


The cold, windy, rainy weather held us for four days at Hampton. We made good use of our time. The IMAX Theater was showing Everest. Ruth had just finished Into Thin Air and I’m reading it. We watched the film and agreed that we didn’t want to get into a sport where there was a high probability that you wouldn’t come back with all your body parts, or could be left in a crevasse because you died.

As we poked around town, we found the Cushion and Canvas shop. After a morning’s discussion and an afternoon of measuring, we have new settee cushions and a new mattress for our berth on order. We’ll pick them up this fall when we again head south on the ICW.

The local TV channel did a feature on the marina. They talked about all the boat holed up because of the weather and how much money we boaters were contributing to the town. After our purchases, they were right on.

After 3 days the weather forecast promised improving conditions and 4 boats headed out to brave the north winds on the Chesapeake. It was still cold and gloomy. We elected to sleep in. Later that morning we listened as some of the other boaters contacted the adventurous boats to check on conditions. All of the boats were coming back because it was uncomfortable on the bay. Waves were on the nose running 6 feet.

The day did improve and we spent considerable time installing a track for the whisker pole fitting on the front of the mast. I also climbed the mast (we have a rope ladder that fits in the mainsail track) and repaired the wind direction indicator that got bent by a low tree in the Dismal Swamp Canal. It was nice to get those projects completed. As if on cue, West Marine called and indicated the first pole shipped to the wrong location couldn’t be found. They are shipping a second pole while they search for the first one.

In a day, the weather went from 50’s to 80’s. The wind died and the bay went flat. We began a leisurely motor up the bay. Our destination is Washington DC, but we’re in no hurry to get there. Anchored out one night at a Deltaville. We had anchored there on the way down. This time we went ashore to explore. Found the local library and asked if they had Internet access. They did if I was a member of the library. I explained we were off a boat and just passing through. They explained that if I filled out the form, they would sign me up. I now have a Deltaville, VA library membership and searched the net for some boat information I wanted to track down.

To go to Washington, you go 105 miles up the Potomac River. For us at our more relaxed mode of traveling that’s at least 3 days from where it meets Chesapeake Bay. First evening on the Potomac, we headed up one of the side rivers, The Glebe and found a very quiet anchorage. Mainly wilderness with an osprey nest near the edge of the water on a pole. We could hear the chick and see the parents bringing food. We like the anchorage and stayed for a day, just relaxing and reading in the summer heat.

Taking on fuel at Colonial Beach, we liked the looks of the town and stayed the night at the dock. We found a sleepy summer town that would wake up and change character with the Memorial Day weekend. For us, that day, it looked like a stage that had been set to look like the 1940’s and 50’s and was waiting for the actors to come and start the summer play. We spent the hot, lazy afternoon walking the streets admiring flower gardens, smelling roses and enjoying a town that seemed to be a step back in time.

As we again started up the river, a Navy patrol boat approached and indicated we’d have to divert south a couple of miles, cross the river, and then head north hugging the Maryland shore. He explained the firing range was ‘hot’ and 76-mm shells were being fired. The shells landed in the river, but were not live, so the splash, which we didn’t see, was small. Just as he finished his explanation we could hear the thunder of the guns off in the distance. I was tempted to suggest they practice on the weekends and use jet skies as their target.

Just below Washington is Mount Vernon. We poked in, took our time working our way into the dock since we weren’t sure of the water depths and tied up at the dock. Then it was a fun 4 hours exploring the estate and mansion. We were surprised at the number of people there, and this was the week before Memorial Day. Looked like the place would really get packed during the summer.

Just before Washington there is a lift bridge across the Potomac that carries part of the beltway around Washington. Clearance is 50 feet closed. Tranquility has a 53.5-foot mast. Because of heavy traffic, they only allow bridge openings between midnight and 5 AM. We called and arranged for a 4:55 AM opening and then poked off into a side area and anchored for the night. We were amazed at the level of traffic noise. Normally our anchorages are quiet at night. Here, close to the beltway there was major traffic noise.

Early in the dark of the next morning we raised the anchor and threaded our way back to the channel. Took some work since we were working visually without navigation marks on a one mile run along a curving course in darkness to find our way back to the channel. There was enough light from the sky glow from Washington to provide some light so we could see shore. That faint light combined with following our breadcrumb trail display on the GPS’s plotting feature allowed us to find our way back to the channel without problems.

We called the bridge and got through early at 4:30 AM. Picking navigation marks and lights out on the dark river against the lights of the city was a challenge. We worked our way slowly up the river for over an hour picking out the few buoys with lights from the masking effect of city lights. Just at the gray light of dawn, we pulled into the channel where the marina is located. Directly ahead was the Washington Monument. Off to our right we could see the Capitol dome. We called the marina night watchman and got our slip assignment. Once Tranquility was secure, we went back to bed for a catnap until a more reasonable hour. We’ve signed up to stay at least a week in Washington.


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