Sunday, September 30, 2018

September 2018: From Annapolis to Baltimore

Our Track from DC to Annapolis to Baltimore
The weather on the morning of Sunday, 23-September, was just as predicted – absolutely lousy: rain showers with temps in the low 60’s and a north wind.  It felt a bit raw for us.  We donned our rain gear, untied from the mooring ball and got underway around 0930.  In spite of the poor weather the river and bay were packed with small sailing vessels and a fair number of power vessels, requiring a few detours from the planned route and an occasional evasive maneuver until we were north of the Bay Bridge.

There were a few areas where we also had to dodge floating debris, not too surprising given the recent high tides and coastal flooding, but we managed to avoid the big stuff (including a very large truck tire…still mounted on its steel wheel rim…that was different.)  The blah weather persisted all day, so we handled helm duties from the pilot house except for the two short spells on the fly bridge during the departure from the Annapolis mooring field (when Chelle got quite wet) and the arrival in Baltimore (when Rick did also).  
A Shot from the Pilot House as We Neared Baltimore...Rainy, Cool, Limited
Visibility -- Downtown Baltimore is Just Beyond the Bridge,
But We Could Not See It.

But it all went without any drama and by 1330 we were “tucked in” at a cozy slip at Harbor East Marina in Baltimore.  Given the persistent rain we did not bother with giving Ghost Rider her needed wash down – that could wait until the next day.

On Monday, 24-September we awoke to the same but expected dreary weather, and went about our business as usual, donning rain gear again and giving the boat and the dinghy their much-needed soapy baths.  After topping off the water tanks we also retrieved numerous packages from the marina office that had been delivered over the past two weeks as part of our periodic re-provisioning / re-supply process.  By early afternoon we were done with boat business and ready to get into town.

For the most part the rain was intermittent and light, so it was fairly tolerable if a bit damp.  Rick found a barber shop to get a long overdue haircut and to run a few other errands while Chelle grabbed a few groceries at the local Whole Foods store.
Steve Zimmerman Doing His Best to Teach Us About Vessel Electrical
Circuits and How to Test Them with a Multimeter

Next up was the main reason we had come to Baltimore in the first place.  Some of the attractions of the Trawler Fest event are the courses that are offered.  On Tuesday, 25-September, and Wednesday, 26-September, Rick attended the two day “Diesel Seminar”.  While that would have been a better idea two or three years ago, it was still quite a valuable educational experience.  Taught by a pair of recognized industry experts – Nigel Calder and Steve Zimmerman – the two days are loaded with useful information, from theory of diesel architecture and operations, to practical hands-on maintenance experiences.  A considerable amount of time was spent on electrical systems and troubleshooting, not just the mechanicals, as that tends to be the focal point in real world diesel engine fault resolution. 

NaviGator, a Nordhavn 47, Up for Sale at Trawler Fest
Tuesday evening was a fun social night for us.  Our friend and trusted broker, Jeff Merrill, was in town to partake in the Trawler Fest in-the-water boat show, so we joined him, his wife Pam, and owners of the Nordhavn 47, NaviGator, Mike and Patsy, for the evening.  We started with a happy hour aboard Ghost Rider, migrated to nearby Taco Fiesta for a casual dinner, and then concluded with a tour of NaviGator back at Harbor East Marina.

On Wednesday Chelle attended the “Admirals Round Table” session at Trawler Fest – it was rather entry-level based on her cruising experience but nonetheless she still picked up a couple of tips.  By that evening we were both already worn out and we called it an early night.

Thursday, 27-September started with rain and stayed that way all day and through the evening hours.  We didn’t have any seminars scheduled so it made a good day to tend to some boat chores.  A new package of water maker prefilters had arrived so Rick got a new one installed.  We had never updated the firmware on our Fusion stereo system so we got that done as well.  Based on a tip that Rick had picked up from Nigel Calder, he also moved the house battery bank’s temperature sensor to a more effective location on the batteries.  But the big job was removing the generator’s stainless exhaust elbow to see how much carbon had built up inside of it and at the exit point of the heat exchanger; we had run the genset quite a bit over the two months since replacing that elbow and this would be a good indicator of how effectively we were keeping it loaded: the interiors looked pretty good and only a small amount of sooty material was noted (which Rick cleaned off….getting most of it all over himself in the process.)
Ghost Rider's Slip at Harbor East Marina in Baltimore

In spite of the rainy gloom we enjoyed another fun social evening, this time with Charlie & Missy Hodge (who live nearby and own the Nordhavn 50, Ophelia) and Michael & Tracy Woodring (who were at another nearby marina with their Nordhavn 46, Chicory) .  We had a relaxing happy hour aboard Ghost Rider and then walked to one of Charlie’s favorite nearby restaurants, Ouza Bay.  Rick had the Spiced Cobia (fantastic) and Chelle enjoyed a very tasty (and pricey) filet mignon.  Charlie had picked a great spot and we highly recommend this place.

The weather finally broke the morning of Friday, 29-September, dawning a little cool but mostly clear with light winds.  It was a most welcome change.  We had arranged for a diver nearly a week ago as we were well overdue for bottom and running gear inspection and cleaning.  “Dave the Diver” showed up right on time at 0830 and got to work – it was bottom cleaning by braille, as the local waters were loaded with sediment and muddy runoff from all the recent rains, allowing underwater visibility of only six inches. 
A View of Harbor East Marina and Nearby Baltimore from
Ghost Rider's Fly Bridge

A short time later our good friend Jeff Merrill visited us again aboard Ghost Rider, this time carrying his bags of camera gear.  We were due to change out one of the main engine’s Racor fuel filters and Jeff has asked if he could video that procedure to use as one of the (many) training and “how-to” clips.  Chelle helped him with setting up the gear and manned the camera, which probably took longer than Rick needed to actually change the filter, but it all seemed to go well.

That afternoon we attended our last Trawler Fest seminar of the week, this time a two hour “round table” session with a panel of noted industry experts, including Jeff, but also: Bruce Kessler (who practically invented voyaging in power boats, and has logged more ocean miles than nearly anyone on the planet, including circumnavigations); Steve Zimmerman (boat yard guru and cruiser); Eric Kunz (Furuno’s head tech and an experienced cruiser); Chris Parker (noted weather router and experienced cruiser); plus several other highly experienced experts, who also had logged many miles at sea.  It was a fun and instructional Q&A forum. 

A Slew of Very Nice Boats Lined Up for Viewing at Trawler Fest
Rick’s question to the panel was “what is the one spare part or piece of equipment that you didn’t bring on a voyage and regretted you hadn’t?”  Kessler’s answer, perhaps only partially tongue-in-cheek, was: “It seemed to be whatever I needed most on each voyage.”  But in their careers of fielding pleas for help from seagoing clients the surprisingly common answer from several of the panel members was the multimeter.  (We carry two.)

We concluded the day with a brief walk down the Trawler Fest dock where all the “for sale” boats were moored; we got some ideas of which boats we would spend more time on the next day, but mostly just enjoyed the warm late afternoon sunshine and pleasantly warm breeze.

Saturday, 29-September, was another gorgeous morning, with mid-morning temps in the low 70’s, low humidity, light winds and sunny skies.  We had slept in a bit and then spent some time mission planning our routes for the coming week and loading those into the ship’s navigation equipment.  After Chelle made a brief provisioning run to the Harris Teeter grocery store (via e-bike) we headed into town to shop for some stainless steel hardware.
Chelle & Our Two Electric Scooters Outside the Ace Hardware Store

Our goal was to find a very, very small stainless steel bolt and nut that had sheared off from one of the boat’s windshield wiper arms.  There was an Ace hardware store about two miles away, but rather than walk or cop an Uber ride we tried out the locally popular (and sometimes controversial) “Bird” and "Lime" scooters.  (LINK.) 

Basically the things are electric skateboards with a handlebar-mounted throttle and brake controls, and after using a smartphone app to unlock and pay a nominal fee, you can buzz along at about 15 MPH anywhere in the city.  Riding on sidewalks, bike paths and streets are all allowed, although that’s part of the controversy.  But we got to and from the hardware store rather quickly and took a tour of the Baltimore harbor waterfront on the way back to the boat.  Our take on them is that the suspension is awful going over cobblestones, but they are a fun and quick way to get around....and could be dangerous if reasonable caution is not exercised around pedestrians and automobile traffic.
Rick on His "Lime" Scooter; Chelle Used a "Bird" Model

Once we returned to the marina and implemented the quick wiper arm repair we headed over to the adjacent docks to view some of the Trawler Fest vessels.  We toured a couple that seemed interesting, but mostly just out of mild curiosity, and perhaps with an eye to the future and the “next boat” – once we were done with trawler voyaging.  We also stopped by N47 NaviGator to say “hi and bye” to Jeff, Mike and Patsy, since we would be departing the next morning.

That evening we hosted a tour of our own onboard Ghost Rider when we came across a young(er) couple who wanted to tour a Nordhavn 50 – apparently they had decided this was the trawler model they wanted when they retired and were focused on finding one.  That’s not an easy task as there aren’t that many in total, and currently none are on the market.  But we enjoyed answering their questions and apparently confirming their choice of vessel. 

After that we completed our final departure preparations….engine room and lazarette pre-flights, emptying the trash, filling the water tanks, removing the covers from the pilot house windows, stowing the water hose and Chelle’s e-bike, and sending out our standard float plan email.  We were looking forward to the next morning and departing Baltimore.
Jeff, Rick and Mike Onboard Mike's N47, NaviGator

Saturday, September 22, 2018

September 2018: From DC to Annapolis

Fort Washington Sits on the East Bank of the Potomac
Just a Few Miles South of the DC Area
We departed National Harbor just before 0900 on Saturday, 15-September, and pointed Ghost Rider south down the Potomac River.  The weather was a rerun of the previous week’s humid gloominess, with air temperature at the 70F mark and a northeast breeze of about 8 knots.  Up on the fly bridge it felt a bit chilly and we both wore light jackets for most of the day. 

By early afternoon the winds had clocked around to the east giving us an apparent wind speed near 20 knots on some headings, along with a healthy wind chop at times.  It wasn’t a particularly relaxing cruise as constant vigilance was required to avoid all the flotsam floating in the river – mostly tree branches but there was the occasional entire tree as well.  In the northern half of the river the water was the color of chocolate milk, although once we got below Quantico we saw less debris and the water color was more its normal greenish-brown.  We saw only four or five boats the entire day.
Some of the Big Homes (Estates) on the West (Virginia) Side
of the Potomac River

Towards the end of the day’s sortie we encountered some light rain showers and the strong easterly breeze also provided some increased two-to-three foot chop.  We chugged 60 nautical miles down the Potomac and then turned north into the Wicomico River around 1630 as the rain stopped.  A couple miles upstream from there we dropped the hook just off the eastern shoreline in 15 feet of water, let out 150 feet of chain and got a good anchor set on the first try.

Temps had warmed slightly to around 80, and we actually got an occasional glimpse of blue sky and a hint of sun in the early evening.  We ran on batteries/inverter for a few hours, but cranked up the generator and closed up the boat before we retired as rain was likely overnight.

Our Anchorage on the Wicomico River Looking to the West....There
Would Be No Sunset Glamour Shot On This Leg
The weather forecast for Sunday, 16-September wasn’t stellar – NWS was calling for a 70% chance of thunderstorms and stout winds from the east.  We weren’t buying into the TRW predictions, and regardless this was still going to be the best window for making the next marina before the remnants of Florence reached us.  So we yanked the anchor around 0915 and got back underway, heading down the Potomac and back into Chesapeake Bay.

The prognosticators definitely got the wind prediction right….we had 15 to 20 knots out of the east and the mouth of the Potomac was an absolute mess with an outgoing current bashing into the bay’s wind-driven waves.  We saw three to four footers for a while and took a lot of spray, some of it up to the fly bridge.  Conditions improved when we finally turned north and put the short interval square waves on the beam, letting the stabilizers smooth it out somewhat.  But it was still lumpy and rolly, and a day to steer from the comfort of the pilot house for most of the sortie.
Zahniser's Yachting Center is Big and Busy -- Good Service Yard, Too.
You Can Also See How High the Water Has Been Getting Here.

Around mid-day Rick pulled a bona fide bone-head move after completing an engine room check.  As he was sizing a socket to be used later for motor mount tightening he dropped the ratchet wrench and, per Murphy’s Law, one end found the positive stud on the #2 alternator and the other end found a ground via the engine block.  That made for a very unhealthy short circuit and a fairly spectacular shower of sparks.  Pyrotechnics can be fun, but not in the engine room.  And as one would expect, the output of that alternator promptly went to zero.  The #1 alternator picked up the load and kept the batteries charged, but that did not soften Rick’s curse words any.

A while later we were getting concerned with the remaining alternator’s operating temperature – it was working hard as a solo act – so we cranked up the generator for the last few hours of the leg and let it handle the charging duties until we got into port.  Having the A/C available didn’t hurt either, as we had closed most doors and hatches to keep the spray from the bay out of the boat's interior.
Ghost Rider Tied Up to Zahniser's T-Head

Around 1600 we departed the Chesapeake Bay and turned up the Patuxent River, and by 1630 we entered the protected channel for Solomons Island and Zahniser’s Marina.  It was good to get into the lee of a protected shoreline, and while it involved a bit of a zig-zag maneuver to reach our assigned t-head dock and avoid a shoal area, it all went smoothly.  We got Ghost Rider tied up, hooked up and washed down in short order.  The skies has mostly cleared by this point – no thunderstorms anywhere in sight the entire day – although we knew the weather would turn nasty again soon enough as Florence made its northeast turn.

Before we called it a day Rick went down to the engine room to troubleshoot the alternator issue; thankfully the solution turned out to be simple, replacing a blown Class-T 300 amp fuse with an on-hand spare.  Yay! 
The Class-T 300 Amp Fuse for the #2 Alternator....Always Carry Spares
The early morning weather on Monday, 17-September actually wasn’t too bad….high scattered clouds and some sun peeking through; but that did not last long.  By early afternoon the radar display was getting messy….the low pressure system that had been Hurricane Florence had made its northeast turn and was dragging plenty of precipitation with it. 

We had pretty much planned on that and just tinkering with the boat while waiting out the weather, so we got to work…..topping off the water tanks but also addressing a list of routine preventive maintenance items that were due.  The boat’s bottom and running gear were due for a cleaning, but we could not find a diver in the short term, so that got deferred – we would readdress at Annapolis or Baltimore.  (And as it turns out, Zahniser's doesn't allow bottom cleaning, only running gear can be serviced there....supposedly because it's a "clean marina."  Odd.)  We cleaned A/C filters, checked motor mounts and thruster apparatus and scrubbed some ugly rain stains on the exterior.  Rick also called out an A/C technician to take a look at the pilot house A/C compressor – it had been intermittently misbehaving over the past two weeks. The diagnosis was a thermal breaker trip resulting from an internal compressor malfunction – likely requiring a replacement of the entire unit.  Given its age the process of finding such a thing was going to take a while.
The Remnants of Florence Made Their Way Into Our Area as Predicted

That evening – in between rain showers – we walked over to the marina’s restaurant, The Dry Dock, for a late dinner.  Service and food there were excellent; we can highly recommend their beef tenderloin and the baked crab & scallop dishes.  The single malt scotch, which goes with everything, wasn’t bad either.

We weren’t expecting any kind of weather break for Tuesday, 18-September, but we got a little lucky, with the last rain bands of Florence holding off until late afternoon and early evening.  So we were able to walk the mile or so to the local maritime museum to enjoy a tour of their historic lighthouse (LINK) and stroll through the informative displays depicting the long seafaring history of this area.  Boat building has also been in the bloodlines here for a long time, and we were fortunate to get an impromptu tour of the Patuxent Small Craft Guild.  The small wooden vessels they restore and build there are works of love, art and skill.
The Drum Point Lighthouse.  It Was in Service from the 1880's Until 1962 and Was Originally Located in the
Middle of the Patuxent River.  It Was Rescued and Relocated to this Museum Location in 1975.  The Two
Story Cottage Structure Above the Screw Piles and Below the Lens at One Time Housed a Family of Five.
The Calvert Marine Museum on Solomons Island Documents This Area's Long History.  Its Modernization Started
With the Outbreak of World War II....When It Became a Strategic Training Ground for the U.S. Military,
Especially As Regards the Critical Capability for Landing Amphibious Forces and Establishing Beachheads.
Touring the Patuxent Small Craft Guild.  The Art of Wooden Boat Building & Restoration is a Passion Here.
Afterwards we grabbed a late lunch at the nearby Angler’s Seafood Bar & Grill, where Rick discovered their crab sandwich is made with a whole softshell blue crab…which can still be a bit crunchy despite its name.  Chelle stuck with the calamari.  By the time we walked our way back to the boat the rain had kicked in again, but only for a few hours.  Just after sunset the rain stopped and the skies began to clear.  Florence was finally gone.

For the first time in ten days we had the pleasure of waking to a fair weather morning on Wednesday, 19-September…winds were light and had clocked around to the north, with clear and sunny skies and temps in the lower 70’s.  It was a welcome change and the forecast looked good for the next few days.  Around 0930 we untied Ghost Rider from Zahniser’s dock and negotiated the tight quarters to get back into the channel and back out into the Pax River.  Our destination was Annapolis.
Departing the Solomons Island Inlet

Shortly thereafter we were out in Chesapeake Bay and motoring north.  It didn’t take long for the winds to pick up to around 15 knots and we found ourselves punching into two foot waves at one second intervals, with the occasional three footer….the proverbial washboard ride.  But the sunny skies and pleasant temps made it quite bearable. 

We had another Nordhavn sighting along the way, passing N40 Uno Mas as she was making her way south, and had a pleasant chat with them on the VHF.  By early afternoon the winds dropped to below white cap velocities and the seas calmed considerably.  Overall it was a decent ride up the bay to the Severn River, where around 1500 we turned Ghost Rider to the northwest.  A short while later we approached the Annapolis entry channel and there was a lot of boat traffic to negotiate…we weren’t the only ones enjoying the overdue good weather, even if it was mid-week.  The vast majority were sailing vessels (of all sizes and hull forms) and that situation required considerable jinking and throttle work to maintain safe clearance.
A View from Annapolis Harbor Back Towards the Entry Channel
We Had Just Negotiated....They Don't Call This the "Sailing Capital of
the U.S." for Nothing.

Finally, with Chelle at the fly bridge helm, we got past most of the traffic and around a small craft sailing regatta and into the Annapolis harbor.  She nosed us up to a mooring ball and Rick grabbed its pennant with a boat hook, ran two bow lines through it, and by 1540 we were securely tied off.  Shortly thereafter we completed our postflight checklists, cranked up the genset and A/C, and lowered the dinghy.

While Rick tended to squaring away the boat (and himself) for the evening, Chelle took the tender to explore the area.  Her scouting report confirmed what we had heard previously….a plethora of dinghy docks surrounding the harbor area, numerous restaurants, bars and taverns nearby, along with a couple of museums and of course the U.S. Naval Academy.  Another couple in their tender stopped by that evening to introduce themselves – they were also moored nearby in their Hatteras and coincidentally also called Legacy Harbor in Fort Myers their home port. We planned a get together.

Given the pleasant temperatures and dry forecast we shut down the generator and slept comfortably with the boat open to the night breeze.
Looking Southeast from Our Mooring Ball Across the Harbor
Looking Northwest from Our Mooring Ball....Some of the Naval Academy Facilities, in This Case
the Visitor's Center and Lejeune Hall
Our plan to sleep a little late the morning of Thursday, 20-September got interrupted by construction noises at the nearby Naval Academy – it appeared they were adding on to their athletic facilities.  But it was still quite pleasant if a little cloudy.  After troubleshooting a generator start issue (as in it wouldn’t even crank, but somehow mysteriously fixed itself 10 minutes later) we jumped in the tender and went ashore.
Looking Up Main Street in Downtown Annapolis

First we walked up historic Main Street, a one-way and brick-paved avenue loaded with landmarks, shops, pubs and restaurants, all with a charmingly uniform architecture reminiscent of colonial days.  From there we hoofed it a bit further to the visitor’s center and hopped their 1 ½ hour trolley tour, a great way to put all the interesting sites into a broader context and see a great deal in a short amount of time. 

We got to see much of old town Annapolis, as well as Eastport just across Spa Creek, a side trip that got more interesting when they started closing down roads due to high tide water incursion from the bay, including the only bridge that goes back to Annapolis.  At one point Rick got off the trolley and moved the traffic cones off to the side of the road so we could continue; the police were not amused.  (What little water we saw on the road was only a few inches deep.) On the walk back to the harbor we stopped at O’Brien’s Oyster bar for a drink and some of their hot crab dip – some of the best we’ve ever had.
That's the US Naval Academy Campus on the Other Side of the
Severn River....Shot Taken from the World War II Memorial

We went back to the boat to take a short break, and then around 1730 dinghied over to visit with Jim and Joanne aboard their 53 Hatteras, Ocean Spirit.  They are now full time live-aboards and it was fun to hear their boat stories and see how they’ve renovated their vintage 1971 vessel.  It was a beautiful evening so around sunset we took our tenders to shore to enjoy dinner at Pusser’s Caribbean Grille on their outdoor deck.

Both we and the forecasters got surprised by the weather the morning of Friday, 21-September….instead of sunny and dry we saw overcast and light rain.  Although that didn’t stop Chelle from taking the tender to shore for her daily walking exercise.  But by early afternoon the showers had moved on, so under cloudy skies we dinghied back to shore and walked over to the U.S. Naval Academy’s visitor center to sign up for their afternoon guided tour.  Bottom line: this is a couple of hours well spent.
Bancroft Hall, the Largest Single Dormitory Structure in the World,
Houses 4,500 Midshipman at the US Naval Academy.

Our tour guide (Diane) was extremely informative and knowledgeable, amiably relaying not just many interesting facts, but also conveying a very real and believable picture of life as a midshipman at the Naval Academy.  Enrollment at the USNA hovers around 4,500 annually, and like the other military academies, their applicant qualification criteria and acceptance rate properly define a warrior elite.  The institution was founded in 1845 with the mission of developing the best naval officers in the world, and largely has succeeded at that.  The campus is expansive, covering 340 acres and packed with uniformly immaculately kept granite buildings, built in a Beaux Arts architecture, all very precise and symmetrical.  The largest of those is Bancroft Hall, which is the (only) dormitory where all 4,500 midshipmen live during their undergraduate tenure here.
The Crypt of John Paul Jones Below the USNA Chapel

Of special note is the Naval Academy Chapel, a beautiful domed structure that hosts multi-denomination services, but also is home to the crypt of John Paul Jones, generally accepted as the “Father of the American Navy” based on his daring and successful naval exploits during the Revolutionary War.  (When asked during one battle to surrender, his infamous reply was “I have not yet begun to fight”….which, to the Brit’s dismay, turned out to be quite accurate – they got waxed.)

By the time our USNA tour concluded we were tired and hungry….we walked a mile or so back down Main Street to the waterfront for a very late lunch at The Middleton Tavern, a famous pub initially established in 1750 and patronized by the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin…and now, us.  We returned to the boat around 1700, and found once again the generator refused to start.  Nuts.  
The Middleton Tavern....Good Food, Drinks....and History

Rick messed with various troubleshooting activities, taking voltage readings at numerous wiring junctions, loosening and re-tightening those along the way, eventually stumbling across a blade connector on the starter solenoid (not documented in any of the wiring diagrams we studied) that seemed to provide the solution – disconnecting then reconnecting it resulted in a generator start.  We were not at all certain that was the final fix, but for now we were content that we were able to recharge the batteries and call it a done day.

That evening on the mooring ball was a bit rolly…we had swells invading the harbor and variable winds that caused continuous swinging and a lot of bobbing going on – we could have used a flopper-stopper this night.  Nonetheless, the constant movement was gentle and after shutting down the generator with a full charge back into the batts, we slept quite well in the unsettled conditions.
Ghost Rider on Her Mooring Ball in Annapolis Harbor
The U.S. Naval Academy Swimming Facility....It's Not a Requirement to be Able to Swim to Enter the Academy,
But It IS a Requirement to Graduate.  You Can Imagine the Drills Conducted Here.

This is "Captain's Row" at the Naval Academy....On-Campus Housing That is Reserved for Faculty & Staff,
Occupants Must be at the Rank of Navy Captain or Higher to Be Billeted Here.
This is "Dahlgren Hall" at the US Naval Academy,,,,That is an Early Wright Brothers Biplane Hanging
From the Rafters, the First Flown by a US Naval Aviator.
The morning of Saturday, 22-September dawned dry with a broken cloud cover, temps and humidity in the mid-70’s and a very light easterly breeze.  The bouncy waters had settled down and the genset fired up on the first crank, so we were off to a good start.  A cold front was close by and would be moving in overnight, likely bringing rain showers and cooler temperatures with it, but by late morning the clouds were dissipating and for now it was quite pleasant.

We planned to depart the next morning for Baltimore so Rick spent some time on our usual preflight tasks and also gave the water maker a workout.  (That turned out to be unwise….the raw water filter fouled fast enough to verify that this is a harbor in which you don’t want to swim.)  Chelle took the tender into town for her daily walking exercise and to run a few errands, but otherwise is was a lazy final day in Annapolis. 

A few more pics from the Naval Academy tour are below. Next stop is Baltimore and the Trawler Fest gathering there.
The Front of the Navy Chapel...This Stained Glass is Tiffany.
Another Shot of the Chapel (Right Side)
The Entrance to Memorial Hall
Inside Memorial Hall is This Tribute....Every Midshipman That Has
Been KIA is Honored and Listed in the Case at the Base of the Plaque.
By Saturday Evening the Annapolis Mooring Field Was Fairly Full....the Maximum
Allowable Boat Length Here is 55 Feet.

Friday, September 14, 2018

September 2018: Hanging Out Around DC

The National Harbor Waterfront District is Dotted with Numerous Statues.
Here: Churchill, FDR & Rosie the Riveter
Just as with the prior day, the weather on Sunday, 09-September, was exactly as predicted….which is to say pretty crappy.  Rain chances had been pegged near 100% with temps in the 60’s and a stout 15 MPH breeze from the east, and that’s pretty much what we got.  Perhaps eventually we would start pining for the sunny and hot days of the previous weeks, but for now we were content to cool off.

Rick spent the day onboard and dry – loading routes into the ship’s PC, backing up that computer, checking weather forecasts (all ugly), repairing a sagging ceiling panel, and catching up with the MLB pennant races and some boring NFL games. Chelle, not capable of sitting still for very long, braved the raw weather and scouted out the local water taxi tours to Alexandria and DC proper.
Another Interesting Sculpture at National Harbor.  This One, Called
"The Awakening", is Not Supposed to be Under Water.

By the time sunset arrived the only real concern was the rising water level (the predicted vs. actual tide level showed us at +3.5 feet above the norm) especially in relation to the marina dock’s power junction box – that thing has been mounted way too close to the nominal water line; and the cumulative rainfall, resultant runoff and tidal swings might put that box under water.  There was some debate as whether the marina would need to cut power because of that.  It would not be a huge deal for us since we could just power up the generator and keep systems running, and the main thing was the floating docks here could withstand another six or seven feet before their pilings would succumb to high water.  The approaching hurricane might test that, although it wasn’t likely, so for now we were good.

While it rained a bit more overnight, the morning of Monday, 10-September started dry if quite grey with a low overcast – we could hear the aircraft on final to Reagan National but we couldn’t see them.  We tended to some minor storm preps (stowing deck items, topping off water tanks), enjoyed a relaxed brunch on board, and then hosted a brief visit from some friends of Chelle who coincidentally were attending a convention at the Gaylord Resort just east of the marina.
View of the US Capitol Building from Mid-Mall.  Rumor Has It In Ancient
Times Intelligent Discourse & Lawmaking Used to Occur Here.

We spent the rest of the day being tourists.  While we had wanted to take the water taxi into DC, that fleet had been sidelined by the inordinately high water levels, putting some of their moorings at risk.  So instead we engaged Uber for a ride into town to visit the National Mall.  There we indulged in admiring some of the capitol’s more famous monuments. Yes, we had both visited them some years ago, but this seemed a good time to reacquaint ourselves with a few of the most influential figures in our country’s history (Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln) and recall what leadership and statesmanship used to look like.
The 555' Tall Washington Monument Honors the First U.S. President....Completed in
1888, at the Time It Was the World's Tallest Structure. It Is Currently Closed for Renovations.
The Lincoln Memorial, Dedicated in 1922, Honors Our Country's 16th President, Who Faced the Daunting
Task of Preserving the Union via a Devastating Civil War.
Inside the Memorial is the Imposing -- 19 Feet High -- Sculpture of President Lincoln.
The Front of the Jefferson Memorial Honors the Third President of the U.S.  It Was Not Completed Until 1943
During the FDR Administration.  The 19 Foot High Bronze Statue Inside Wasn't Added Until 1947.
We also took considerable time to tour the adjacent World War II and Vietnam Veterans Memorials, also located there on the National Mall and newly erected since our last visit here.  While those conflicts are at opposite ends of a spectrum, we have close personal connections to both and the motivations of the individuals involved in them; and are pleased the equal sacrifices have been recognized and mostly appreciated.
The World War II Memorial with the Lincoln Memorial in the Background.  It Was Originally Funded During the
Clinton Administration But Not Completed & Dedicated Until the Bush Presidency in 2004.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Consists of Two Polished Black Granite Walls, Each at 247 Feet Long, and
Which Are Inscribed with the Names of  the 58,318 Who Perished in That Conflict.
 As centrally located those monuments are, that still involved a lot of walking; by mid-afternoon we were tired and hungry so we detoured over to GW University and the kitschy “&Pizza” for some flatbread pizza for lunch.  After that break Rick insisted we make one more stop before retreating to the boat – and of course that was at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  The Smithsonian complex (aka the “nation’s attic”) has numerous museums across a wide and eclectic spectrum of historical interests, but having visited all of them previously the one that draws us back is Air & Space.  The technology, daring, dedication to service and just plain sexiness of what is displayed there is worth repeat visits for us.  And the photo opps are fabulous.
A Douglass DC-3 Hangs in the Main Lobby

Rick and His Dad Used To Spend Days Browsing & Discussing All the Displays
in the National Air & Space Museum.
As we tired eventually we had to cop an Uber ride back to the boat and our recliners. The rain continued to hold off during the evening and, while keeping a wary eye on the progression and path of Hurricane Florence, we concluded a busy day by enjoying another peaceful evening aboard Ghost Rider.

National Harbor Doesn't Lack for Interesting Restaurants
On Tuesday, 11-September, we slept in and were greeted by another grey, dreary day and occasional sprinkles.  The forecasts for Hurricane Florence had not changed much, still estimated to make landfall near the border of South and North Carolina as a Category 3 storm….although the probability cone still extended as far south as Charleston and as far north as Norfolk.  Wind and rain impacts would span a much broader area.  Our plan remained the same: stay here. 

The afternoon was mostly dry, so Chelle launched her e-bike and made a grocery run inland to Aldi’s.  Rick took a stroll around the Harbor area to visit a couple of stores, hit the ATM and grab a lobster roll for lunch at nearby Mason’s.  But otherwise it was a lazy lay-back-and-wait period for us.

Weather-wise the morning of Wednesday, 12-September, looked like the previous four mornings – grey and misty.  Temperatures, however, were finally rising into the low 80’s, making the humid air less appealing.  We took care of a few routine boat chores in the morning (cleaning sea strainers) and continued to monitor the progress of Hurricane Florence.  It wasn’t looking good for the Carolinas but the local outlook was improving a bit as a result.
A Rare Glimpse of Mostly Clear Sky Above Ghost Rider
at National Harbor Marina

By mid-afternoon a strange yellow ball appeared in the sky, which we later recognized as the sun.  So around 1500 we walked to the nearby Pier House to check out their happy hour cocktails and appetizers (all good).  Surprisingly the weather had remained good all afternoon – we could see cumulonimbus clouds surrounding us but we seemed to be in the quiet center for the time being.  It was a pleasant change that we appreciated and enjoyed.

By the time Thursday, 13-Setember dawned the sun had performed is disappearing act again as the low, grey overcast returned.  Florence had reduced in strength ever so slightly to a Category 2 hurricane, but was still tracking relentlessly towards the Carolinas (and in doing so, staying away from us.)  Rick handled some more routine boat maintenance items in the morning, but in the afternoon we went back to being tourists.
Street View of Old Alexandria, Virginia

River waters had receded enough to allow the water taxis to resume normal operations, so we hopped on one for the short cruise over to old Alexandria on the opposite river bank.  We strolled historic King Street for a while and then used the free trolley to ride to the west end of the avenue to tour the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.  Initially proposed back in the 1850’s construction didn’t actually begin on this imposing structure until the 1920’s and was completed in 1932. While Freemasonry is usually miscast and misunderstood, and Washington’s degree of involvement is debatable, one of the main reasons the Masons wanted this structure was to preserve the many forms of authentic Washington memorabilia in their possession (having experienced several lodge fires previously where much of it had been lost.)  It does that much well.
The George Washington Masonic National Memorial

We concluded our brief visit to Alexandria with happy hour drinks at Bugsy’s bar, and then hopped the river taxi back to National Harbor for dinner at Rosa Mexicana….good food, excellent salsa and Margaritas.

Late that night we took another check on Florence as it approached North Carolina.  It had degraded as far as wind speed – down to a Category 1 storm – but was still going to produce prodigious surge and rainfall.  Our friends Mike and Mari had evacuated from River Dunes but had left their Nordhavn 47, Mari Mi, at the marina and were hoping for the best.  Ron and Mercedes had their N47, Moonrise, tied up as best they could manage just outside of Charleston, hoping the storm would stay just to their north.  Paul and DeeDee down in Edisto were all boarded up and hopeful that the current forecast track would just miss them, too.  It was a tense time and not a particularly restful night.

As of 13-Sep the Tropical Atlantic Was a Complete Mess & the Carolinas Were Getting Hammered
Friday, 14-September, looked like all the previous mornings here at National Harbor, overcast with occasional mist, with temps hovering in the 70’s and humidity to match.  More of the blah.  Florence had finally made landfall in North Carolina near Wilmington and slowed to a ponderous crawl; while winds had decreased considerably to a low-end Category 1 storm the thing was in the process of dumping a year’s worth of rain in the span of a few days.

In studying the local weather forecast it appeared that we had about a 2 day window of relatively benign conditions starting the next day, so we made plans to sortie back down river towards the Chesapeake Bay.  The general idea was to reach Solomons Island in the Patuxent River by Sunday night before the weather turned ugly again.  This time it would be from the remnants of Florence as it finally turned to the northeast, but probably only for a couple days.
The Red Line Shows Our Intended Path from DC, Down River to the Chesapeake, then to Solomons
and Annapolis, and Finally Into Baltimore for Trawler Fest
 Our basic longer term plan still remained the same – to be in Baltimore on or around 23-September to attend some Trawler Fest classes the week of 24-September.  Here in the DC area we were only about a 30 minute Uber ride away from Baltimore.  But it would take us several days to boat our way back down the Potomac, into Chesapeake Bay, make stops at Solomons and Annapolis, and finally chug up to Baltimore.  This would be akin to driving from Fort Worth to Dallas….by way of Chicago.  Sometimes such is trawler life.

Rick busied himself with departure preps – loading routes, updating the GRIB file and Active Captain database, preflighting the engine room and lazarette – plus some minor boat cleaning chores.  We also topped off water tanks again and placed a slew of online supply orders to be delivered to us in Baltimore.  Chelle went for a spin on her e-bike, eventually ending up on the other side of the river to get a rusted brake cable replaced at a bike shop over there, then also grabbed a few more groceries at Whole Foods (Rick did not ask why.)  

We stowed the bike and hoses back aboard, and by happy hour we had everything ready for Ghost Rider to sortie the next morning.
More Statues at National Harbor....This One Marilyn Monroe
And One of Louie Armstrong
And Rick Pretending to be a Statue