103 Washington, D.C. to Coinjock, NC

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A standing ovation greeted Jean Stapleton as she took her one-woman show bows for “Eleanor: Her Secret Journey”. Outside flushed with the joy of a good performance we threaded our way through the mini traffic jam caused by the sold out performance and crossed the street to the marina entrance. It was wonderful having a theater a five-minute walk from Odyssey.

A chance meeting at Mackinaw City two years earlier led to e-mail exchanges and finally a meeting again in Washington. Birute and Bill came for a visit after their trawler charter in Baltimore and visit to the Annapolis Boat Show. Our long day of walking the sites of Washington should have made for early bedtime, but instead we talked until late in the evening enjoying each other’s company. Reluctantly the next morning they headed back to Michigan to continue their countdown until retirement and living aboard.

House barges in Washington, D.C.

Gangplank Marina tucked us into the far end of the marina among the live aboard boats. Actually many are house barges since they do not have motors and are moved by tugs when the need arises. Ruth is now lobbying (a Washington specialty) for a house barge so we can spend the entire winter enjoying Washington. One house barge directly across the fairway has big airy windows and a small sailboat tied off its end. Ruth figures we’d be comfortable all winter in something like that. Odyssey, with its catamaran hull would have cold floors if we stayed aboard through the coldest part of the winter and would be extremely difficult to keep warm. Maybe one year we’ll experiment.

Linda and Steve came for a long weekend visit. We made the most of the days hitting high spots of Washington attractions. Sunday we decided to settle our ongoing verbal disagreement about Great Falls, a rocky waterfall and gorge area, about 20 miles up the Potomac River. From our descriptions of the area it didn’t seem like we’d seen the same falls. The mystery was revealed when we visited both sides and confirmed the views looked very different. Linda and Steve had visited the west shore; we’d seen the east side. Too late we realized we shouldn’t have driven out of Washington on Marine Marathon Sunday. Every route we tried attempting to reenter Washington was blocked and the traffic jams surpassed even the huge mess Washington normally has because of all the new road closings. Not knowing the city, we developed traveling in circles into a fine art as we searched for a way back.

The impact of terrorism hit us in a small way. The post office serving the marina handled the anthrax letter sent to the Capitol and was closed for decontamination. Mail delivery stopped temporarily and letters we were expecting took two weeks to arrive.

Martha and Guido own Trieste a sister ship to Odyssey. After many e-mails we’d finally met in the best way possible a month earlier when Guido eased Trieste alongside to raft off Odyssey in Galesville. We spent time comparing boats and swapping stories. Now the setting was very different. They’d endured the mind numbing Washington rush hour to drive in and take us to a lovely Spanish restaurant favored by many embassy row diplomats. Over an excellent dinner we continued to discover those subtle fits in interests and personalities that grow friendships.

Sunrise touching just the Washington Monument’s top turned it a brilliant golden hue, the lone color accent to the misty grays of our early departure from Washington. We had the Potomac to ourselves as we headed downstream enjoying fall colors along the shore. Deciding to treat ourselves to dinner out we pulled into Coles Point Plantation along the Northern Neck of Virginia near the mouth of the Potomac. Contrast from Washington was total. Once our engines stopped only the breeze stirring dry leaves and birds in the distance broke the silence. Having spent a month with traffic noise and general city noise (not to mention airport noise and a constant passage of helicopters at tree top level) as our constant companion, the quiet was startling and absolutely wonderful. Movement caught our eye as we walked a woodland trail late in the afternoon, two wild turkeys moved off into the underbrush after allowing us a quick glimpse. The next morning we walked quiet country roads, but had the marina mood spoiled as earth moving equipment started work to expand the facility for a major condo project. Reluctantly we moved on to find a quieter setting.

A few minutes travel took us to the South Yeocomico River and Olverson’s Lodge Creek Marina. It’s a quiet, comfortable very hospitable marina in the middle of the country. We sat swapping stories with Fred the owner and enjoyed his company. Because of forecasted high winds we settled in for a few days stay. Being the only transient boat in the marina meant the courtesy car was our personal car according to Fred. Exploring the Northern Neck, the gentle rolling countryside with its mix of homes, farmland and woodlots in full fall color grabbed our hearts. Far from cities, we couldn’t pick up NPR on the radio. Local stations were very down home; one read the list of kids from each elementary grade voted as outstanding for the week by their teachers. We’ll stop again in the spring and explore ashore some more.

On the backside of a cold front we headed for Norfolk. During our layover we considered a number of destination alternatives and had added routing for all into the GPS. Once we decided, a few key clicks would activate waypoints for the destination. Nearing Norfolk, Ruth said: “What do you think about Smithfield?” That took a moment to register. Smithfield wasn’t a destination we’d considered during our planning sessions. Fast, rough navigation work indicated it was doable before dark, and we decided in mid- route to go for it. Ah yes, our plans are subject to change. Leaving the Chesapeake at Hampton Roads we headed up the James River past Newport News with its huge shipyard. A turn to the west at the Pagan River headed us directly into the setting sun. All we could see was the orange ball just above the trees and it’s shimmering orange carpet rolling down the waterway directly into our eyes. Waypoints helped, but we navigated more by depth sounder readings and squinting to figure out where the river was going. Just at dusk we made it into the marina.

Breakfast at the Twins Restaurant ranked as one of our worst. However, the charm of the town with some homes built in the 1750’s more than made up for our lousy breakfast. A dinghy ride gave us a feel for the marsh area around town and then during a late afternoon walk we stopped to talk with a gentleman putting the finishing touches on an outstanding oil painting of the landscape we walked.

NOAA forecasted 25-knot winds for the day. It was dead calm when we got up. 10 minutes later our wind gauge registered 9 knots in rising wind, as we made ready to cast off. For a moment we debated about staying and wait for better weather. Then we decided getting some higher wind practice would be good. The full force of the 20-knot winds caught us as we entered the James River from the shelter of the tree-lined Pagan River and we started our bumpy ride toward Norfolk. Ruth said: “Go left.” Then said it again more insistently as Odyssey continued surfing straight for a crab trap float. Then she shouted: “Go left!” Finally recovering from my shock of Odyssey not responding to the helm and equally frustrated I shouted back: “I am left!” The wheel was hard over but Odyssey didn’t turn. As we lost the wave our rudders took effect, and Odyssey went left avoiding the float and its prop fouling line below. Unfortunately we didn’t get another opportunity to sort out surf handling before we reached the shelter of the ICW.

Marinas at Coinjock are nothing more than long boardwalks running along the shore. They stretch for about a half-mile along both sides of the narrow ICW. Low fuel prices make them a popular stopping spot. We pulled in and took on fuel then decided to stay a few days and watch the passing show of boats heading south.

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