After waiting impatiently in Annapolis for 4 days, our new remote control for the anchor winch finally arrived. I had told Vinni that it would only take about ½ hour to install and then we could sail – but I don’t think she really believed me.
To be on the safe side, I ordered two complete kits – The first one crapped out after about 2 years and if the second one does the same, I want to be able to just replace it. They only cost $16 dollars – so the investment isn’t large.
I picked up the package at the Dockmaster office and guess what? One half hour later, I asked Vinni to press the button and test the system – we were rewarded with the rumble of chain going out.
Off we went to Oxford. Now you’ve seen some of the pictures from the Chesapeake small towns showing wonderful old houses that are in perfect condition. Towns that are described as “picture perfect”. Well Oxford is “picture perfect”, as a matter of fact it is described as “white picket fence picture perfect”. This town simply doesn’t have any building that are not old and completely restored. In contrast to many of the other towns, Oxford doesn’t get that many tourists so it is a truly laid back little town.
The Cutter boatyard is here. Cutter specializes in wooden boats. Building them and especially restoring them. They have several fantastic boats in their main building and they are easy-going about visitors. We asked and were told, “sure, just wander around as you please and look. Take your time and enjoy it.” Doesn’t get much friendlier than that.
Unfortunately, it started to rain as we wandered about town.
And it rained, and it rained and it rained. Actually, it poured down, the old expression, “it rained cats and dogs” was appropriate here. We got wet and then we got wetter.
Finally back at the boat, we dried off and had lunch and waited out the day, sailing again the next morning. We used the engine most of the way, setting the genua a couple of times, but there simply wasn’t enough wind. We were heading for St. Mary’s, the first Capitol of Maryland and now the site of a small college.
St. Mary’s is about 6miles up a small river and lies in Horseshoe bend where we dropped anchor along with a boat from New Zealand and an American ketch. Otherwise nothing. The pilot book noted that the college was here, historic St. Mary’s was here and nothing else. No shopping possibilities (we didn’t need anything). Nada.
The college has a very active sailing program complete with a fine marina and lots of small racing boats. We tied up at their dinghy dock and were welcomed by their (student) dockmaster who told us that “historic St. Mary’s” is up the hill and the 1400 student college is on the other side of the road.
We didn’t feel the need to see the college, but did want to see historic St. Mary’s. We thought that there still was a town here, but there isn’t. None of the original buildings from the mid 1600’s remain, those that are there, are reconstructions. But it was still interesting, lots of signs with historical items telling how the town was laid out and especially about Garrad Van Schweringer, a rather enterprising Dutchman who seemed to have owned practically everything worth owning in town.
We walked around a lot and the next morning we left early. There aren’t a lot of good anchor spots on the Potomac, especially when you have a 7.5 foot keel. So you need to pick your spots. Our next spot was Cobb Island, small inlet behind a island where there supposedly was room for a couple of boats. When we got there, we realized that the space was extremely tight, but a little further up the river, there was a big bend with lots of water and a small island where we could anchor up for night.
Just as fast as we could, we sailed up behind the island and dropped the hook. A wonderful anchorage, but little did we know that we would end up having our anchor and our anchor techniques tested fully later on that evening and night.
We had dinner and the wind picked up. Hey – no problem – in Mantus we trust. But the wind kept picking up and soon, despite hiding in the lee shelter of an island, we were getting really tough chop and Capri was bouncing around like a ping pong ball.
Hmmmmm. I’m lucky and have not experienced getting seasick, but the chop was horrible and I could feel myself getting a little queasy. Still the winds and the chop got heavier and I was wondering if we were going to be able to get to sleep.
We were both very happy that we had found shelter behind that small island – otherwise this would have been a crap night. Finally, along about 10 p.m., the wind died down and shortly thereafter the chop settled and Capri started lying lazily in the water. Sleep came easily and we could repeat our oft noted motto, “In Mantus we trust”.
We were 60 some nm from Washington and despite leaving early the next morning, we had a foul tide, that is to say – the tidal stream and the current on the Potomac were against us, so we could only make 4.5 knots, meaning Washington was going to be out of reach for us unless we were interested I arriving in the middle of the night – which we certainly weren’t.
As we passed Quantico, we noticed that there was a small marina – the pilot book said it only served Department of Defense personnel. Quantico is, of course, home to both the US Marines (this is the base that is home for the sixth Marine helicopter squadron that flies the President around in their choppers) and also home for the FBI. So we weren’t going to be able to spend the night in the marina – but just to the north side of it, there was a small cove with deep water. All along Quantico base, there are white buoys noting that it is military property and “do not approach”. But there were no such signs or buoys by the marina.
We tried calling the marina on the VHF, but no answer. We tried again, still no answer. After the third time with no answer, we looked at each other and said, “hell, they can only shoot us”, although it would be more likely that they would send a RIB boat out with a squad of marines armed to the teeth to shoo us away.
As we approach the marina to sail by, our VHF suddenly crackled and a voice came on “Unknown sailboat approaching Quantico marina, unknown sailboat approaching Quantico marina, come in please”. Well we were the only sailboat around, not to mention unknown to them so we were pretty sure it was us. I grabbed the mike and answered figuring we were going to be told to get the hell out of there.
They asked what our intentions were and when I explained that we were on our way to Washington, but weren’t going to make it because of approaching darkness and wanted to anchor up for the night outside of the marina, they got very friendly.
“No problem, go right ahead – best place is just north of the marina, right by that little red marker buoy”. So we dropped the hook there and let out 60 meters of chain, since the water was 10 meters deep. The marina came back on the VHF and noted that there was a small dinghy dock that we were welcome to use if we wanted to go up into town. We didn’t since our dinghy was hauled up out of the water and we were too lazy to splash it just to go into Quantico.
I have to say that we seem to end up right alongside a lot of US military bases. The Coast Guard in Charleston South Carolina, The Coast Guard in Cape May, New Jersey, the US Naval Academy in Annapolis and now Quantico. Vinni and I have gotten used to hearing the Star – Spangled Banner every morning. Vinni now recognizes the song, even though she doesn’t know the lyrics (who does? Well, I do, but I’m strange in that sense – most Americans don’t know the lyrics).
We left very early so we missed the national anthem in Quantico, and late that afternoon, we picked up a mooring ball in Washington Channel, a block or so from the National Mall, the Washington Monument and all those other memorials there.
It, of course is raining today (what else?), so we might put off going exploring until tomorrow.
More about Washington in our next post.