October 6 - Harness Creek, South River, Maryland
Yesterday I learned these things from Larry Berlin, a Yanmar dealer who did a presentation as part of the Annapolis Boat Show: (1) change your transmission oil whenever you change your engine oil, (2) oil is burned by every engine, so if your oil level isn't dropping, you're probably not running the engine hard enough to evaporate the water that condenses into the oil, and (3) we should use Volvo oil filters because they are designed for higher oil pressure that may force dirt through the Fram filters everyone uses. The presentation was all of the boat show that we got to see, because it turned out we had arrived a day early. Yesterday was "VIP Day," with lots of people attending, except that the price was $30/person instead of $16 for adults and $8 for children. So instead of the show, after the diesel seminar we went to the excellent Annapolis Playground where Laura spent three hours having fun.

It was a rough night anchored off the Naval Academy. The winds were supposed to be from the northeast, which in theory would have afforded some protection, but instead they were east to southeast, which brought lots of swell right on top of us. In the morning it seemed that we were a lot closer to a catamaran than we had been previously, and sure enough, it became apparent that we were slowly dragging backwards; apparently the 45 lb. Delta on its 100 feet of chain had lost its grip as the wind changed directions. We pulled it up and motored through Back Creek, where I'd seen a spot the other day, but naturally it had been claimed by this point. We made one try at anchoring in a tight spot next to Island Time where a boat had just left, but didn't get a good set and decided to move on. With a gale warning in effect, the winds were forecast to be gusting to forty knots overnight and being jammed into a tight creek surrounded by boats that cost a lot more than our own was not a recipe for a good night's sleep. I realize now that we could have easily motored up the Severn River and found shelter, but instead we headed out into the Bay, where it was blowing 25-30 knots with three foot seas. This was the first time on the Chesapeake when we saw no other boats out on the water.

Within the hour we had gone into the South River and headed up Harness Creek, where we anchored just outside what the guidebook says is a famous hurricane hole. An abandoned sailboat lies beached inside the hole, testifying that perhaps this hole is not infallible (but it probably would be if you tied off to the shore). It's quite calm here, but we can hear the wind in the trees and imagine what it must be like off the Naval Academy. I took this opportunity to change the oil in the engine and transmission and to troubleshoot the hour meter, which is working fine when connected independently. Apparently the problem is in the wiring from the ignition switch.

October 9 - Solomon's Island, Maryland
Saturday was rainy, with the wind still gusting through the trees high over our secure anchorage, so we stayed put in Harness Creek, emerging only after the weather had turned sunny and beautiful again on Sunday. Out on the Bay, the southward migration had begun, with at least a dozen sails visible at all times, all heading the same direction.

Forty miles later we refueled at Solomons (28 gallons) then anchored up Back Creek to meet our old caving friend from Tennessee, Otis Farmer, and his girlfriend Kimiko. I picked them up at the Holiday Inn dinghy dock and we all went out for a short sail on the Chesapeake before returning for a fine fast food dinner at Roy Rogers. Although the crab cake platter we had in July was no longer on the menu, we got stuffed on baked potatoes and other side dishes.

Morning came and it was time for a trip to the grocery store. Solomons has it all: a good dinghy dock ($2/day at the Holiday Inn) with a good grocery store, post office, and West Marine just a quick walk away. Around Noon, our supplies replenished, we motored off towards the Bay, turned right at the Potomac, and anchored for the night just off the town of St. Marys, a reconstructed 17th century town.

Kimiko, Laura, Otis
Photo: It was great fun to see Otis and meet Kimiko. For some reason, this photo reminds of how I always used to try to spread the rumor that Otis was actually Randy Travis.

October 11 - Mattawoman Creek on the Potomac River, Maryland
The Potomac is a pretty river, rural over most of its length, without all the traffic of the Chesapeake. In fact, I was going to start calling it "lonely river" today until we finally saw one or two other boats and even one barge.

We spent last night anchored in a very calm Port Tobacco River, nicely isolated from the world and well sheltered from the light southerly winds. At this point we were about fifty miles from Washington and I pondered going the full distance...but despite trying three different phone numbers I could not get anyone to tell me whether we would be able to get through the Wilson bridge five miles south of the city. After 25 miles we anchored at Mattawoman Creek, which turned out to be a good choice. We took the dinghy in to Smallwood State Park, which was mostly deserted but an interesting place with campgrounds, hiking trails, and historic buildings. We were most interested, of course, in the "Recycled Tire Playground," which we had all to ourselves.

Bridge at Smallwood State Park playground moth
Photos: (1) This impressive bridge connects the marina area to the campground at Smallwood State Park. (2) Doctor Laura comforted this injured moth and indeed the insect seemed calmer afterwards. Earlier Laura had been unhappy that I had thrown a sick bumblebee overboard. There is no greater gift than compassion.

October 12 - Washington DC
The hardest part about getting a sailboat to Washington is the Woodrow Wilson bridge about five miles downstream. For years cruisers had to wait until between midnight and 5:00 AM for the bridge to open, but a new bridge now nearing completion has improved the situation considerably. When the bridge is finished in a year or so, anyone needing less than seventy feet of clearance won't need an opening. When we arrived today, the only problem was the construction barges blocking the channel; the old bridge span has been removed. I'd called various phone numbers and finally been told that after 5:30 PM, the channel would be opened, so there was no rush to get there sooner...unless you believed that they might let us through earlier. With nothing else on the agenda, we motored twenty miles upstream while the current was still with us to the bridge, where we were told that it might be a two to four hour wait. Fortunately there is a good spot to anchor and wait, although the holding in the spot we chose was pretty poor. The wind was forecast to be NW 15-20, but had been southwest all day, so we waited.

At 5:30 PM, as predicted, the channel was opened and we powered upstream against the current. I noticed the airport had changed the direction of takeoffs and landing, and soon after the wind was blowing NW 20-25; the cold front had finally arrived. We got up in the channel near the Capital Yacht Club and things calmed down. We're sitting here now on two anchors with the wind still blowing, but we're well protected from wave action and this is actually quite a good anchorage. We share it with about a half dozen other boats, including Living Well, not far from the Jefferson Memorial (although we can't see it from here).

Although it's going to be getting a lot colder, we plan to be here about a week.

View from DC anchorage
Photo: The view from the DC anchorage. You can't see the scandals from here, but you know they are out there.

October 14 - Washington DC
Our first night in DC was a blast, not just because the wind was howling but because Steve from Living Well stopped by to invite us to a party on the Pajaro Jai (The Enchanted Bird), a 92 foot ketch from the Darien Rain Forest in Panama. The wooden boat was built in Panama, hand carved and crafted, a floating work of art. Funded and captained by a software developer from Westport, Connecticut named Jim Bruton, they are sailing the world to share their ideas for "policies and projects that create self-sufficiency and vigor, not poverty and dependence for future generations." The native music, dancing, and just seeing the ship and meeting some of its builders made for an incredible first night in the city.

Pajaro Jai crew
Photo: The crew and a couple of friends gathered in the "ballroom" of the Pajaro Jai. Jim Brunton is in the blue jacket.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, just a twenty minute walk from the anchorage. For $15/day we are using the dinghy dock at the Capital Yacht Club, which also gives us access to the club's facilities. This morning we took advantage of a breakfast at the Club, then went on what Steve and Gloria call the "dead president's tour." We hit the Jefferson Memorial, FDR, and Lincoln, not to mention the World War II, Korean, and Vietnam War memorials. I think my favorite was the Roosevelt Memorial, a series of five "outdoor rooms" with waterfalls, quotes, and sculptures.

Our final stop was the giant Einstein statue in front of the National Academies of Sciences, but in one of life's weird juxtapositions we got caught in a police dragnet on Constitution Avenue, waiting to cross the street until a heavily-armed motorcade of four dozen vehicles surrounding a single black limo came through. Minutes after paying tribute to Einstein, we were seeing George W. Bush drive by...yep, it was him...matter and anti-matter were colliding, the spacetime continuum collapsing around us. Then we got caught again in the conflagration when we tried to see the White House, because W was about to take off in his helicopter and that apparently had to be done without anyone watching. We did get there in time to see the snipers still in position on the roof of the White House, but I suspect there might be snipers there all the time, now.

Jefferson Memorial Washington Monument Korean War Memorial
Photos: (1) None of us had ever been to the Jefferson Memorial before. (2) On the other hand, everyone's seen the Washington Monument. (3) The Korean War Memorial has a ghostly wall with etched images reflecting the statues of the soliders and tourists in front of it.

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