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FROM THE LOG #3

August 26 - October 17, 2002
On the Potomac to Washington DC.

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Our journey on the Potomac

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After 5 weeks of hard labor, preparing the ship for yet an other season, we were finally ready to depart from Deltaville Yachtyard on the 29th of September. Almost every year we have winced over the expenses involved with the yearly haul-out. Every time we have justified this with: well, this year we did some major investments, which greatly increase the value and seaworthiness of the vessel, next time will be much cheaper. And this year was no exception. We decided to replace all standing rigging (except for the masts of course). All shrouds, stays, terminals, plates et cetera were replaced with new. Not that there was anything wrong with the old ones – as far as we knew. But they were more than 10 years old and we were possibly heading towards The Pacific Ocean before long. When and where would be our next opportunity to have quality work done? The riggers we employed talked us into replacing everything. “Stainless steel gets tired”. Anyway, we now carry with us a truck load of old, but apparently healthy, Norseman terminals for wire sizes 6 mm to 10 mm. If you need some and see us anchored close by, do not hesitat to make a bid!

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Scorpio on the Hard
Malla washing the sprayhood

Our first anchorage was at Sandy Point, near the mouth of Great Wicomico River. Before that we passed one of our favorite anchorages in the Chesapeake, Mill Creek on the south side of the entrance. On the north shore is Reedville, an other familiar spot. There we weathered a coupled days of strong northerly winds last autumn.

Next day we continued the motoring (as usual on the US east coast becaue of the lack of wind) up the Potomac River. The temperature was well above 30 °C. Our second anchorage was at St. Clements Island on the northern shore of the river, therefore Maryland. The border to Virginia follows the midstream.

St. Clements Island was inhabited by some of the first settlers almost 400 years ago, but little of that is obvious today. According to the cruising guide book it spanned 400 acres at the time. Today it is roughly 40! In the course of time a farm and several buildings were established along with a lighthouse and even a small hotel. Today all evidence of buildings have been erased. But when you approach, a huge white stone cross stands dramatically against the skyline. It was erected in the 1930’s to celebrate the 300 years since the colonialists’ first landing, presenting a reminder of colonial history.

The following day it was motoring again, what else, except for a quarter of an hour when we tried to sail. We passed the Harry W. Nice Bridge connecting Virginia with Maryland accross the Potomac and followed the river upstream. We encountered surprisingly little signs of life. All the way from the mouth of the Potomac up to the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge, during three days, we saw only a hand full of motor boats and just two sailing vessels. Almost at the heart of Americas capital!

Mattawoman Creek was our third anchorage. I love these indian names, which are plentiful around The Chesapeake. It is always interesting to guess how they should be prononced. And always when I think I have gotten the grasp of how to do it, I’m proven wrong. So also this time: it is supposed to be (in american “phonetics”): MAT-uh-WOE-mun). We were now only 20 miles south of Washington D.C., but for the feel of wilderness, we could as well have been somewhere in Alaska.

A short 20-mile trip took us to Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge. Because of the heavy traffic the bridge opens only at night, between 12 and 5 – and only once a night! Call the bridge tender at least 12 hours before you plan to go through. We anchored in Smoot’s Cove half a mile down stream awaiting next morning’s opening, which was agreed to take place at 4:50. We now had company: s/y Sea Fever of Basel. Aboard were Hans and, of special interest to us, Marjatta. She had left Finland 35 years ago and was eager to practice her mother's tongue.

Next morning we went through the bridge and continued up river in the dark . The channel buoys are not all lit, but the weather was calm and clear and we used a spotlight to identify the markers. As always in a strange large harbor the surrounding city lights guaranteed an exciting experience. It was still dark when we dropped the hook outside Capital Yacht Club in Washington Channel east of East Potomac Park – in the middle of the Capital of the U.S.A.

We were well received at the yacht club. For 10 dollars a day we could park our dinghy at the dock behind locked gats and the keys gave us access to all their facilities: showers, kitchen, laundromat, internet PC, club room, bar etc.

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At the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial
At the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial

The following week we toured the parks and all its impressive and touching memorials and vent to several of the museums around The Mall. The large parks are a perfect place for jogging exercises and never have we seen so many runners of all ages before. This is also the only place in America, were we have found it easy and safe to use the bikes.

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Henrik joins the unemployed of the Great Depression
Lincoln Memorial

Our stay in Washington DC was extended by a few days because we waited for a package to be delivered by mail. One day, when we tried to start the fridge for it’s one hour daily run, we discovered that it did not work. The problem this time was a broken down circulation water pump. This pump was less than a year old, installed at Beaufort, N.C. (Remember the Freezer Blues? Note, here is planned to be a hyperlink to a story, but it is under construction) The shipment was delayed, however, and we decided to leave without the pump and asked the people at CYC to forward it to an address in Norfolk, where we expected to pass through within 2 weeks. We installed a reserve pump temporarily. It was less efficient and not particularly suitable for this purpose, but with water temperatures below 20°C it would well do the job for a while.

The first night of our return down stream of the Potomac the weather was calm and  we anchored south of an area called Tayloe Neck on the chart, just outside the channel behind a red marker where we found a deep enough spot, free from the ubiquitous crab pot floats. The second night we vent in to the Shannon Branch of the Yeocomico River, a well sheltered place. During our 10 days stay in WDC the weather had changed considerably. It had started with temperatures well above 30°C and humidity around 100% but now the night lows were less than 10°C and day highs below 20°C. We also got a lot of rainfall.

For the last miles of the Potomac and further south to the mouth of the Great Wicomico we had our first really good bit of sailing in a long time. The skies were gray and the day gloomy, but we enjoyed the going, first on a close reach in 20-25 knots from the NE and then, from Smith Point light a run. The sailing traffic was surprisingly dense. During the day we counted around 30 sailing vessels, all but one heading south. The snowbirds were moving!

The weather forecast warned for an approaching storm, and we decided to seek refuge in the familiar Mill Creek. When we entered this wonderful, sheltered creek we were alone, save for the boats tied to the few docks, but during the following two hours 10 more boats arrived and dropped their anchors. A year ago we were the only transient boat in this creek. But there had been no threat from weather then.

We stayed in Mill Crek for two nights before we returned south to Deltaville, this time anchoring in Fishing Bay on the Piankatank River side (south) of the town.

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