Saturday, September 8, 2018

September 2018: Chesapeake & The Potomac

Ghost Rider Comfortably Hanging on Her Hook at
Horseshoe Bend in the St. Mary's River
We had our usual laid back morning on Monday, 03-September.  The anchor had stayed where we had dropped it and it looked to be another warm and sunny day ahead.  We got through our normal checks in the pilot house and engine room in short order, and performed a quick weather check – the tropics were heating up again but locally things looked good for the next several days.  It was time to launch the tender and explore.

Just as we were getting to launch the dinghy we received a visit (via their own dinghy), from Don and Debra McCarty, who happened to be out for a spin and recognized a fellow Nordhavn.  They own N55, Mondai Nai, (Japanese for ‘no problem’) and live in the general area but were exercising their Nordy with some local gunkholing.  We had a nice if brief visit, and decided we would reconnect that evening for a happy hour event.
St. Mary's College Boasts a Fine Marina Facility for a
Modest Student Population

Early that afternoon we launched our tender and after verifying its systems, we headed out on an expeditionary run in the local waterways.  First stop was nearby St. Mary’s College and township.  We walked the small but picturesque liberal arts campus for about an hour, learning some interesting historical lessons along the way.  St. Mary’s was originally settled in the early 1600’s (the first colony in Maryland) and eventually became the first capitol of Maryland until that was moved to Annapolis in 1695.  The college was founded in 1840 and remains viable and vibrant today; although its total enrollment stands at only 1,800 students, last year it was ranked as the sixth best "Public Liberal Arts College" in the U.S.  It certainly has an enviable private marina with all sorts of watercraft available to its students, many of whom were enjoying watersports on this very hot Labor Day holiday.
A Replica of an Early Settelement Built on the St. Mary's College Campus

When the still air and heat got to us we headed back to the dinghy to get some artificial wind going.  Chelle piloted us down river back towards the south and along the west side of the St. Mary’s River and then into one of the westerly channels to explore a small marina and potential restaurant.  After that we headed back towards the boat, but this time up the eastern shore of the river, past the USCG station and back to Ghost Rider.

We got cleaned up and then took the tender upriver a short way to find Mondai Nai’s anchorage spot and joined Don and Debra for an enjoyable happy hour, swapping boat stories and learning more about mutual friends.  We retired to Ghost Rider just after sunset for dinner aboard, celebrated our 24th anniversary and called it a night.
A Shot of Mondai Nai as We Approach in Our Dinghy

Tuesday, 04-September, was another lazy day.  It was already hot by the time we arose, with nearly calm conditions and mostly clear skies.  The anchor and its snubber continued to hold firm.  We worked on the next couple of routes for the boat’s Nobeltec navigation computer and got those uploaded in preparation for tomorrow’s departure.  But during that process Rick discovered the Windows 10 OS on the ship’s PC was trying to upgrade itself to the next rev of the OS.  That’s generally a bad idea while you’re underway (especially on a slow cellular Internet connection) as you risk bricking the computer; we always have the Furuno MFDs as backup, but it’s a lot more convenient to plot and load everything via the Nobeltec PC and let the Furuno units get it from there.

Another Nice Sunset at Horsehoe Bend, St. Mary's River, MD
It took Rick a while to figure out how to interrupt the annoying Microsoft big brother process and then disable that upgrade service (again - we had gone through this once before a couple months ago.)  But he finally got it blocked.  In the interim Chelle took the dinghy for another excursion up and down the St. Mary’s River, checking out a couple of marinas and a restaurant at the far south end nearer the Potomac.  Unfortunately the local eateries were closed on Tuesdays, so we had to nix the dinner-via-tender plans, and instead enjoyed dinner on the boat, and a late happy hour on the fly bridge in dead calm conditions.

As We Cruised Down the St. Mary's River Towards the Potomac
We Passed The Maryland Dove from St. Mary's City As She Headed South
It was time for us to get moving again, so on the morning of Wednesday, 05-September we pulled up the anchor around 1000, headed back down the St. Mary’s River and then out into the Potomac.  We pointed Ghost Rider northwest up the big river, with the eventual objective of visiting the Washington DC area.  But today’s target was an intermediate anchorage about halfway to DC around an area called Fairview Beach, on the southern shore of the Potomac.

Overall it was about a 7 ½ hour cruise, under clear skies with temps in the 90’s once again and not much breeze (again.)  The river was flat as glass and nearly devoid of traffic.  We arrived at our planned anchorage area just before 1730, set the hook on the first try in about 10 feet of water, and settled in for a quiet evening.  There's isn't much around here.
Passing Quantico Marine Base Enroute DC....That's a V-22 Osprey
on Final Approach Trying to Figure Out How to Land.

We got underway the next morning (Thursday, 06-September) around 1030 and continued chugging northwards on the wide Potomac River.  Weather and water conditions were identical to the previous day (hot, calm) and we only had a short cruise of 35 NM to reach National Harbor Marina near Washington, DC.  We had a pushing current most of the way, motoring 8 to 9 knots at a loping 1400 RPM the entire way; during our daily WOT we even cracked the 11 knot barrier.  Once again there wasn't much to see in this area.  However, we did pass by the Quantico Marine base where Rick got a kick out of watching a V-22 Osprey (LINK) trying to decide if it was a helicopter or a real airplane as it did some touch-and-go’s on the riverside runway.  We also noted that the further north we went, the bigger the occasional home was….more like expensive estates perched on bluffs.
Not a Lot to See Along the Northern Potomac, But There Are Some
Nice Estate Homes in the Area.

We entered the marina basin around 1445, maneuvered Ghost Rider stern-in to her assigned slip (thrusters really helped today in the current), and got tucked in.  The boat as well as the dinghy got a much needed hosing down after several days at anchor.  While Rick tended to some post-flight items Chelle went out for a walk in the heat of the afternoon….and pretty much got exhausted and lost trying to find a shortcut back to the marina.  Uber saved her day.

The National Harbor Marina Has Nice Floating Docks But Also a
180 Foot Ferris Wheel and an Outdoor Theater
We took a break that evening to tour the marina and adjacent facilities; more on those later, but as nice as Waterside was back in Norfolk, this place makes that look like a slum.  In addition to scores of restaurants, condos, stores and shops, they also boast a 180 foot tall Ferris wheel and their own big-screen outdoor theater.  Mostly, though, we were just looking for an eatery to grab dinner, and we found The Walrus Oyster and Ale House, where the seafood was quite good and the sangrias came in 50 ounce glasses.

We (well, at least Rick) slept in the morning of Friday, 07-September, which started just as sunny, hot and humid as the previous several days.  We had several routine boat maintenance items we wanted to get accomplished, so after a light breakfast we went to work on that stuff.  Wheelhouse had apprised us that annual davit (boat crane) maintenance was due, so Rick took care of that, plus some routine stuff on the dinghy – checking oil, battery, and adding fuel. 
Ghost Rider in Her Slip at National Harbor With the Capital Wheel in
the Background; It's Gondolas Are Fully Enclosed and Air Conditioned.

Additionally we spent time cleaning the horizontal surfaces of the boat’s exterior with “boat soap” – not something we typically like to do even though we use a very gelcoat-friendly mild detergent, but even with that it tends to remove wax. Nonetheless it was time to muscle away some embedded dirt and stains that had accumulated since we had the boat detailed back in February in Fort Myers, so we scrubbed and hosed.  Then Rick kept finding new things that needed attention (weathered hatch latches for the most part) and by the time all that was done it was late afternoon and weather was moving in.  The predicted cold front was arriving and with it thunder and lightning.  We lowered the big antennae, covered the fly bridge and stayed dry and comfy in the salon for the evening.

Oh Joy, Five Tropical Storms Pinballing Around the Atlantic
We awoke on Saturday, 08-September, to the predicted weather – overcast, cooler (70’s) with rain in the area but not overhead for the moment.  Chelle headed off to a yoga class while Rick studied the weather – mainly the Atlantic tropics, where storms were lining up like they were on a busy assembly line.  For the time being we appeared to be in a good place, being 140 miles from the nearest shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean; that said the NHC still seemed pretty clueless about Hurricane Florence’s track, and model guidance was literally all over the map.  For now we were staying right here as we didn’t trust the predicted tracks of the other two or three systems stacking up behind that one.
A Pic from the Apogee of the Ferris Wheel....You Can Just Make Out
the Washington Monument in the Distance
On her way back from the yoga session Chelle picked up brunch to go…eggs Benedict and French toast.  After Rick finished his morning projects we got cleaned up and got off the boat to do some local area touring.  First stop was the big Ferris wheel at the end of the marina pier where Rick overcame his fear of heights (yes, seems a bit strange for a pilot) and we went for six revolutions up to the 180 foot pinnacle.

The Brass Tap is a Happening Place With Lots of Brews

After that we went for a long stroll around the National Harbor township; luckily we had the umbrella handy as the low overcast proved to contain copious amounts of rain.  We were OK with that as the temps stayed in the 70’s and we were more than ready for a break from the weeks of summer heat.  During one particularly stout shower we ducked into The Brass Tap sports bar which boasts hundreds of brews (Rick liked the hoppy Heavy Seas “Loose Cannon” IPA as well as the baked cheesy bread.)  The rain wasn’t letting up much, so we retreated to the boat and enjoyed another quiet evening dockside.
Another Shot of National Harbor's Outdoor Theater....the Yoga Classes Are Held in the Same Locale
and Broadcast on the Big Screen.
A Shot of Ghost Rider's Slip From the Ferris Wheel

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