Thursday, July 16, 2009

Magnificent Men in their flying machines

We are anchored a few blocks from the White House in the Washington DC channel. It is administered by the Washington Harbour Patrol with whom we checked in on VHF 17.
Two anchors and an all round anchor light are required but we can stay free for up to two weeks. (Extensions are also possible.)

It’s an activity filled anchorage what with the planes flying into Ronald Regan National Airport on the other side of the river and helicopters passing overhead all day and night, shuttling Senators and Generals to and from the White House.

The chopper pilots seem to play chicken with the masts.
Certainly we feel the vibrations if not the downdraft.

If there are three or more in formation it’s the President.
Three? The eeny meeny, miney, mo theory of guess which one he is in. Their shifting formation is known as the Presidential shell game.

On the evening of July 14th at 11. 55pm, just after we had watched the movie “In the Shadow of the Moon“, Ron Howards’ fascinating and moving documentary giving voice to the lunar astronauts, three helicopters flew over Seraphim. One peeled off over the White House, the 44th President of the United States, POTUS, was going home having thrown the ceremonial first pitch at the All Stars Baseball game in St Louis.

15th July 18.02pm Space Shuttle Endeavour finally launched after over a month of delayed flights.
16th July 2009 9.32am is the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch. The mission during which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to walk on the Moon. John hopes to meet Buzz at a Smithsonian book signing on the 19th.

And talking of pilots here is a picture taken in November 08 when we flew home from Mallorca. I felt the Easyjet pilots were too young to tie their shoes laces let alone fly but we made it to Luton safely where our boys had a picture with the flyboys. Jack is holding a compass given as a leaving gift from a friend in Palma hoping to guide his return. Seeing the Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz in the Smithsonian, I was reminded that if I tap the heels of my pink Jaime Mascaro stilettos they’ll take me back to Palma.

Tomorrow we continue our sojourns around the six Smithonian museums and the Monuments of Washington DC.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

4th July

The 4th of July, America’s big day of celebrating Independence from George III’s England was coming up. On Greta and Garry’s dock we chewed on where to spend it. New York? Too much of a stretch. Washington DC? Too crowded. Historic Yorktown? Maybe. In the end with an ishy plan for Annapolis we set sail.

Out of Norfolk, we passed the US warships on the dock. Finally out in open water, we sailed and sailed for the hell of it. Yeehah! We needed some “where ever” time-out after the manic point-to-point of the ICW. We explored the Chesapeake Bay, “gunk holing“ just because we could. No schedule, no miles to make, bliss. Where would the wind take us? Tangiers on the east shore? Looked like a good idea. Then the wind died. So it was west under the iron wind to the Rappahannock River. Perhaps Irvington? Been there. Armed with Greta’s brochures, we chose Urbanna, sixteen miles up the Rappahannock on the south side. Rappahannock River means, in Native American, “rapidly rising and falling waters”. (I wondered what their word for “no-see-ums feasting” might have been?)

The Urbanna Creek enterance is three miles beyond Towles Point. Jetties and town houses line the channel which is 7 to 8 feet deep but keep to the centre as it shoals. Once past Bailey Point the anchorage, with good holding in six feet, opens out.

The small town of Urbanna, meaning “City of Anne” (Queen Anne) was established in 1680.

Once a centre for tobacco trading it boasts several Queen Anne homes, old to you and me. The town provides a free dinghy dock, and the supermarket was in walking distance which made it a good place to provision. There were no museums to “do“, nothing to do apart from go to the Community swimming pool.

With temperatures in the high 80s and with the wind scoops keeping us cool we spent time on the boat catching up with school, yacht brokerage and admin . In the afternoon it was time for a dip.

At the top of the climb from the dock, en route to the pool, we stopped at the Soda Fountain at Marshalls Drug Store for freshly squeezed lemonade and limeade, truly thirst quenching. Chatting to my neighbour around the Soda counter, old timer James smiled, remembering nothing has changed at the Fountain in and out of fifty years. He hi-fived our little James and headed off. A local agreed “I always know I’ll meet someone I know here”.

At $3 each, the Community Pool was great value and a good way to meet the locals such as Wendy, seen here 4th from left, one of the volunteers who runs the pool. Born and raised in Urbanna, she is now raising her own in small town America, the best place to do it.
A few days later Wendy, who works in the advertising section of the local paper The Southside Sentinel, arranged for journalist Larry to interview and take pictures of the Seraphim crew.
Read the article here.

That evening our swim was cut short for the Urbanna Barracudas versus the River Rats swimming regatta. As we arrived, the Barracudas were carefully penning “Eat my bubbles”, on team mates backs.

Scores of youngsters competed. With keen supporters rootin‘ and hollerin‘ from their garden chairs and the metal bleachers. The Barracudas, (who only lose against Deltaville) swam to a 351 to 151 victory over the Rats.

And dodgy segue of the day, whilst on the subject of swimming champions, I forgot to mention the many Mermaid sculptures around Norfolk which began as a regeneration project. It’s the same sculpture painted many different ways sponsored by local companies. Have a look at

Stars, stripes and bangs

Well our 4th July was full of American Independent exuberance. It was as Americana as it could be.

Our anchorage neighbours in Urbanna, Ken and Vicki aboard Luna Loco, invited the Seraphims to join their family for the Boat Parade on the 3rd.

Hearing we intended to spend the 4th in Deltaville, Ken and Vicki kindly invited us to be guests at their yacht club, Stingray Point Marina just outside Deltaville. At the crack of dawn the next day we motored down the Rappahannock River. Having a slip would make setting up the bicycles a cinch.

Jack pedalled hard on a 2 mile trip to town where we joined the Centenary celebrations for the establishment of Deltaville. The small town parade was all we could have wished for.

The Seraphim crew lunched and watched the Deltaville Heritage Parade at the Coffee Creations cafe. Miss Ashley Crittenden (below centre left) who helps run the place has taken part in the parade many times, once singing all the way, holding a torch as the Statue of Liberty.

The boys also met Miss Ashley Figg, one of the other employees of Coffee Creations, otherwise know as the Oyster Queen. (

Ashley C explained that “Miss Oyster Festival” was chosen from contestants who proposed the best community project. In her year Ashley C had visited all the old folks in her area. This year her sister is painting recycling bins to be placed around Deltaville. Ashley was shocked when I quipped “nothing to do with swimsuits then”. Bit too un-politically correct for this generation.

Fire trucks, clowns and men in Fezzes squashed into small cars and go carts spun around the parade. Different hand signals meant they sped off on another new series of loops and squeals . They were the Shriners, who raise huge amounts for hospitals to help disadvantaged children.

In the evening we were dazzled by three firework displays immediately in front of us and several across the Rappahannock River. New friends from Stingray Point Marina, Warren and Barbara, invited us to supper at their mobile home park where the boys swam in another pool and played in another playground, and then, made their first Smoors over an open camp fire. (Melted marshmallows between chocolate and crackers, or when I was a Girl Guide, melted marshmallows sandwiched between chocolate digestives with songs around the fire)

Luna Loco‘s kind invitation to stay at Stingray Point was complimented by the welcome we were given by the other boat owners. The swimming pool and club room where the boys could play with space to spare was a super bonus.

Somehow we found ourselves one week into July.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A look back at the Caribbean

Now that we have completed the 2,500 mile trip
from the Caribbean to the Chesapeake Bay,
here is a look back at some of our Caribbean highlights.

Super-yacht racing in Antigua.
Trimaran "Region Guadaloupe" won
with sustained speeds of over 20 knots.

Drinking the legendary Espresso Martinis
in the Skulduggery Bar, Antigua

In the Thunderball Cave, Bahamas

With the Seawalk kids, St Maarten

In the Trafalgar Falls, Dominica, with
the kids from Seawalk and
Double Helix.

Our friends Molinari, living the dream
cruising the Bahama Banks

With the iguanas on Allens Cay, Bahamas

Jack's tidal beach which re-appeared
every 6 hours behind the boat.

Barracuda, Bahamas

Blackpoint, Bahamas. A typical store.
This village was one of the friendliest
in the whole Bahamian chain

Jack and James, Georgetown Bahamas

A Box fish swimming just under
the surface off Conception Island

Sunset over the Caribbean

St Thomas, US Virgin Islands

James in Anagada, BVI and all the boat kids in Martinique

Two amazing sights. One is the airport at St Maarten
and the other is the Maltese Falcon one of the world's
largest private yachts. Seen here in the BVI

Local child in Dominica

Steel band at the Shirley Heights Jump up
in Antigua

Our wonderful waitress, Kendra, in Dominica

Seacat, THE tour guide in Dominica

Seraphim cruising the BVI