Thursday, August 6, 2009

Washington to Cape May

Capital Capital

Whilst anchored in the Washington Channel we chose the Capital Yacht Club as our dinghy dock. Founded in 1842 it was worth the $15 a day to park our dinghy safely behind a locked gate. The fee secures a key to the dock, and the Club House with facilities such as showers (good), laundry, garbage disposal, internet, television and free soft drinks at the bar when there is no bar man, which after a hot walk home with the temperatures in the 80s is a much needed treat. Also, 10% off Jenny’s, the Asian Fusion restaurant upstairs. Kelvin and Manny the dock masters allowed us to keep our bicycles in the underground garage. On Saturday mornings for $5 there is an excellent breakfast from 8.30.

The Gangplank marina, next door charges, $10 dinghy for parking. Alternatively the Poseidon dock below Whites Seafood is free but not entirely secure.

Walking from the Capital Yacht Club dinghy dock L’Enfant Plaza (the Metro, shopping mall, post office and cafes) is ten minutes away. The Smithonian Castle and the Mall are fifteen minutes. Safeways which is best visited during the day is twenty minutes.

One small step for man …

On 19th July, the 40th Anniversary of the first moon landing, the family Rodriguez headed for the Air and Space Museum where thankfully our new friend Nancy and her sons from Liberty had saved us a place at the front of a long line outside. (Galvanising the Seraphim boys early in the morning is a task.) However, when the doors opened we did well in the stampede and the Smithsonian’s disorganised queuing system, finding ourselves ahead of our outside line position.

The Event? Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 astronauts and Alan Bean of Apollo 12 were signing their books. It was fast, furious and momentous. Aldrin (Magnificent Desolation) even ten minutes into the signing was a grinch, still sore he was number two on the moon, he hustled us along. Michael Collins (Carrying the Fire) and Alan Bean (Painting Apollo) were charming even taking the time to shake hands. A Smithonian grandee admonished me for seating my children on the book signing table. This was a one off and I was going to plant my children where I wanted. All the boys swore they would never wash the hands which shook with the history makers.

It was a kick to be in a city where history was literally being made everyday, five blocks from the boat, reported in newspapers, radio and television, worldwide. Judge Sonya Sotomayor was grinding through her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The first Latino to be voted onto the Supreme Court. And a woman.
Although it is generally agreed that President Obama’s honeymoon is over, the bride (unlike others) is not yet ready for the attic. The President, five blocks from us, was pushing for a huge healthcare reform.

Monuments and Natural History

In between the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and American History Museum we bicycled around the Monuments.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is a peaceful walk through a series of outdoor “rooms” with waterfalls, sculptures and FDR‘s famous words, e.g. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself“. Then on around the lake to the other Memorials including the one to the Korean War. My father fought in Korea as a young man, it was a haunting experience imagining the fear of ambush as the soldiers emerged from the jungle.

I had been to the Vietnam Monument in my early twenties. In the cold winter light there was almost no one around. I was deeply moved.Now years later, on a hot Sunday, crowds of people slowly moved past the wall on which are inscribed the hundreds of names of those who died in a foreign field. I could only read one small section. The grief emanating from the Memorial was palpable. As a mother of two boys it was too painful. Choked up I turned away and took comfort in my family as we bicycled along the Mall to the White House.

Of all the scores of Washington DC centric films, I love “The American President“ in which President Michael Douglas falls for feisty lobbyist Annette Benning. The film spawned Aaron Sorkin’s series “The West Wing“. By chance I have dozens of episodes on board. Whilst anchored in the Washington Channel I watched two of my favourite episodes.

Down Under

When the stress and stickiness were at their height and on a day when we were sleep deprived and were screaming at the boys for crazy-ing on the pontoon, the new stroller started to slip off the side of the dinghy. Handles, wheels, odd edges … none snagged. Inches from John’s outstretched hand it tipped over, slowly, inch by grasp less inch into the Potomac’s greasier waters. To add insult to sinking it sent up bubbles. The air turned blue.

But, Pete and Raewyn on Saliander, our new friends from New Zealand saved our new stroller. After scoping around with his nifty grapple, Pete fished it out.

Elaine Campbell a school friend of mine, made our stay in Washington DC extra special entertaining us at their lovely home. It was a deliciously easy way to do the laundry (!) and connect with friends. A relaxed day of hot tub, first load of washing, swimming pool, second load of washing, hot tub, third load and dryer, swimming pool rounded off by a yumious supper. Some days it’s a treat to indulge in non-competitive laundry where no one else is hogging the machines, and, dream, briefly, if only we could have a huge fridge which opens outwards and stays cold.

Their evening on Seraphim was a jolly riot with the meal simplified by advantage of the excellent seafood dishes sold on the pier near the anchorage.

The Campbells also lent us a car which facilitated an epic shop and an another Space Museum, the Steven F Udvar-Hazy Centre, near Dulles Airport.

Elaine’s husband Preston Campbell’s ground breaking work researching Cystic Fibrosis means the cure is on the horizon. Although he insists it is a team effort I have no doubt that without his dedication and inspiration the cure would still be a long ways off.

Must See Em

While John and the boys hung out in the Sculpture Garden next door to the National Museum of Art I spun around the massive gallery checking my favourites - Monet, Constable (Salisbury Cathedral), Degas, Rodin and the eclectic shop.

Still plenty to see, the Zoo, National Cathedral and Georgetown, but with time against us and museum-ed out the Seraphim’s headed back down the Potomac to the Chesapeake Bay, know as “The Bay” by locals.

Thunderstorms are rolling through regularly. The local weather channel on the VHF radio warns us that a clear, sunny day with blue skies is about to turn into a black sky, lightening and horizontal rain. With winds up to 40 miles an hour, our Sunday afternoon in St Mary’s City spun into a maelstrom in fifteen minutes. Fortunately as the first drops fell we secured ourselves to the dock belonging to the Sailing Academy.

Solomons Island

Friends who have been with us since September 03 may remember that this is where we experienced our first hurricane, Isabel. If intrigued everyone else can read our account in the archives.

On arrival we motored up Back Creek and bowed to D Dock in what was Hospitality Harbour where we came through the hurricane.

In Washington DC there were helicopters. In Solomons Island there is the Patuxent River Naval Air Warfare Centre. The US Navy at play, all day, in the air.

With serious weather forecast we took a buoy for $30 a night at ZAHNISERS known as Zs by the locals. This included the dinghy dock, use of the pool (essential with the heat in the upper 80s, and humidity in the 90s), swings and see-saw, laundry and showers (good).

After a cooling swim we headed for a commemorative Chinese at the China Harbour Restaurant. In 2003 during a lull in the hurricane John had dashed off for a take out. It was an odd nostalgia for a time of fear, high stress and chicken chow mein.

Bill and Greg were the ace team at the Hospitality Harbour who saw us safely through Isabel . Six years on Bill’s niece Katie is the lifeguard at Zahnisers. An evening of wine and reminiscence was spent with Bill and Kay overlooking St Mary’s River.

It’s a five minute walk from the Solomons Harbour Marina dock ($2) to posh grocery shop Woodburns which stocks a wide range of produce, including Lapsang Souchong tea, last found in the English Tea House, Epcot, Florida. The post office and West Marine are close by. Solomon’s is a good place for fixing things. On both visits John was industrious.

Local buses make it an easy ride to Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, JC Penny, RadioShack - all usual mall suspects. Travelling on community buses can introduce the rider to some colourful characters but on our buses everyone had taken either too much or too little of their kind of medication.

The Calvert Maritime Museum is well worth a visit. An impressive expansion since 03. The boys loved the Otters and the Discovery Room with the sailing boat.

Provisioned and fixed up with new life lines by the workshop at Zahnisers and West Marined from bow to stern, we headed for Annapolis which not surprisingly on the first weekend in August was chocka so we stopped in Mill Creek off Whitehall Bay where the yahoos water-ski.

I’ve always wanted to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge, well, the William Lane Jr bridges did for now. Through the C and D (Chesapeake and Delaware Canal), down the Delaware River (uuuuugly) to Cape May and the Atlantic Ocean. Good to be back. The Chesapeake was charming but becoming claustrophobic. We needed to go down to the sea again.

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