Monday, September 26, 2016

A Busy Visit to Washington

We arrived at Gangplank Marina, Washington, DC early evening on Wednesday 9/14 and were greeted by buddy boats Greek's Folly and Short Vacation. How fun is that to barely get lines tied and be invited to join in on docktails! It's always fun to catch up with friends and is even better to be a few days behind so they can tell us where to go and how to get there. So armed with all their knowlege I worked out a tourist plan.
We started with the Holocaust Museum and learned lots of history about Hitler and the atrocities associated with his power trip. That museum is well thought out so it was an interesting 3+ hours. We also learned about the Wright brothers and space travel history at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum during the afternoon.
This is the original plane that flew for a few minutes at a time to make aviation history.

This is tired Al in front of the Smithsonian Castle where the visitor center is located.
Then Thursday night we were invited to dine on Short Vacation as Pam (Short) and Tom (the Greek) 
combined their culinary talents to make a delicious shrimp linguini. Tom owned a restaurant during 
his working years so is a real chef and Pam is an excellent cook! It so happened that the date was September 15 which marked our one year of looping anniversary so we had friends to toast to our accomplishment! 
Friday we had a personal tour of the Capitol set up through Rep Diane Black from our home district.

Cool pic that Al captured through a glass ceiling that our young intern guided us to find.
So looking down on the empty House of Representatives and seeing how many seats are there, helps one understand why congress can't get anything done! There are just to many opinions in that room at one time! 

I have high regard for the accomplishments of Helen Keller! So many statues in the Capitol!

We both think Abe Licoln was a great leader and Al's nick name with his family is Abe. Part of our Friday touring included a stop at the Library of Congress to view the ornate decor and tons of incredible books but no pictures were taken. 
Saturday was a really long day starting with festivities and this parade for a Latin American celebration that we passed on the way to the International Spy Museum.  That museum was fun and had loads of spy tools like tiny cameras and hidden guns. From there we hiked to the National Archives to view the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. The room is very dim to protect the documents so we couldn't take pictures. Once more, we learned the history behind the documents that we likely learned eons ago and promptly forgot after the history class ended!  We were feeling pretty numb to reading any more history so we hiked some more to Union Station to board an open air bus that tours the monuments at night to view the spectacular lighting effects. We walked 25,000 steps that day per Al's phone so sitting on a bus was a relief!  

This is the Washington Monument backlit with the sun setting. 

This is as close to the front of the White House as a tourist can get. 

Martin Luther King looks as mighty as he was in real life and his monument is very moving. 

Then we had a special treat looking out from the Lincoln Memorial at the Capitol next to the Washinton Monument with the full moon rising above the Capitol! 

Mr. Lincoln looks mighty impressive looking down on the tourists. 

Then we took a few more shots of the moon rising over the Capitol. 

This is the statue at the Viet Nam Memorial. The wall was not lit so we went back on Sunday to view it in daylight to pay our respects to so many troops lost during that nasty war. 

And of course you all know this famous statue of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima by 5 Marines and one Navy Combat Corpsman. 

Our last stop was at the back of the White House. This photo was taken at about 9:30pm at the end of our 12 hour tour day and we still had to walk back to the Marina another 1.8 miles!!  We were exhausted but way more history smart than we were several days prior!! 
We stayed one more day in DC taking it slow on Sunday and spending the afternoon biking to see some monuments in day light and traveling to Georgetown for a beer in a college town.  Al wanted to be able to say he visited the school that has been the basketball rival of his Alma Mater, Syracuse University! But alas we only made it to the town, not the campus which we learned was a bit further than we wanted to bike. 
So a special note to explain why this blog is posted so late. We left DC on Monday after a long walk in the rain (we have to get our walk in) and cruised back to the Mattawoman anchorage.  Knowing that the next day, Tuesday would be a long run down the Potomac and that the weather was predicted to be calm, we chose to anchor near the entrance to the creek where we had minimal protection from the wind. But what we didn't bargain for was a fast boat flying by us in the morning apparently in a rush to get started with fishing.  So just after my glass was filled with orange juice (by Captain Al) our boat was badly "waked" rocking us sideways with enough force to knock my glass over and spill juice all over the keyboard to my IPad!  Juice was everywhere and a mess to clean up and ended the life of my keyboard.  Thankfully the IPad was in a different spot away from the disaster area. I can't figure out how to complete a blog without a keyboard!  So I ordered a new one as soon as I could and now am happily typing on it! 
Sunset over the Chesapeake viewed from the mouth of Mattawoman Creek. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Cruising up the Potomac River

After a very tiring day for Al on Thursday, we finally departed Crisfield on Friday 9/9/16 to cross the Chesapeake Bay to reach the mouth of the Potomac.  Because Al worked so hard in a cramped space, we have fresh oil and filters for the engines and the generator and a new fresh water pump installed so we are in good working order!  Al was stiff and felt a bit achy on the way across the Bay but chalked it up to hard work.  But as we gently rocked on anchor that night in Smith Creek which is just off the Potomac, he realized he had a fever and felt pretty awful.  So Saturday was a rest day with Al feeling totally miserable all day and I enjoyed the lovely anchorage we had chosen.
Sunset on Friday night in Smith Creek was another beautiful sight.

Saturday I did enjoy time to read but also got a few chores done.  When I signed up for this trip, I knew of some of my duties. But who would have thunk that I'd be doing line laundry!  Yup, these are my newly cleaned and softened (fabric softener soak!) lines. We do a lot of line handling and it is actually more difficult to deal with stiff and grimy lines.  So one of the tricks learned from other boaters is to periodically soak the lines in fresh water with fabric softener.  Note how neatly I have set them out to dry.  Al was too miserable to see my handiwork! I also accomplished finalizing communication with DirectTV to change our service address to one near NYC so now we can get the local channels anywhere we go via a big New York statellite!  It has been a hassle for us for months. Al woke up on Sunday morning feeling ready to move along so we cruised another 30 miles into Breton Bay to visit Leonardtown, another port town established in the early 1700's.  

This sunset was observed on Sunday night 9/11 from our anchorage in Breton Bay.  We walked the town twice so we could enjoy the local restaurants for Sunday late lunch and Monday breakfast!  Gotta take advantage of these cool towns.  Then on we cruised another 30 miles into Port Tobacco River for just a stop over. 
And of course a sunset!  This was a wide open anchorage, no protection from wind but no wind to bother us and the temperatures were dropping nicely at night for cool sleeping conditions with windows open and nature sounds to lull us to sleep.  Then onward we cruised further north to another  anchorage up Mattawoman Creek where we passed a peninsula with danger signs but no clear reason for them.  Lots of Navy locations are along here and there were odd containers that the next day blew into fire after a siren warned everyone away.    
We headed out of our anchorage past this plume of smoke, clueless as to what was burning.  While at this anchorage, we found a nearby County Park to enjoy a wooded walk and while communing with nature, I received an exciting text that my only niece is pregnant just to make me a Great Aunt!  Isn't that exciting! Way to go Becky and Jackson!!!  Then on we went on the last leg of the journey to Washington, DC, stopping at Mt. Vernon on the way. 

This is us entering the channel dug along shallow water to allow boats to access Mt. Vernon by water. 
The front of the mansion as we approached it from a road climbing up from the river. 

The back porch of the mansion that over looks the Potomac. 

George and his family greet visitors as they enter the ticket office and visitor center.  We really enjoyed walking all around the plantation and touring the mansion and surrounding buildings.  But the educational center taught us all the history we learned and quickly forgot in High School!  

George had a spectacular view of the Potomac! 
So on Wednesday, 9/14/16 we caught sight of the skyline of Washington, DC the center of our government and the focal point of the history we have been learning along this journey.  Now we turn into city folks and tourists.

Friday, September 9, 2016

We Learned to Catch Crabs!

Our scheduled time at Somers Cove Marina was a week to get a better daily rate since we were there over a major holiday weekend when the rates are raised.  So we made the best of it and after the Crab Festival, we did boat chores and took a side trip by rental car to Asseteague Island where the ponies live and Chincoteague Island where they have an annual pony swim.  If it wasn't for the horrible biting flies and mosquitos, exploring these two areas would have been fun!  We drove to the visitors center to learn about the ponies that likely were brought over by Europeans and then eventually became wild.  They are protected in very large fenced in areas on the island in marshy areas to keep them away from people, cars and vegetation that the state wants to save from these hungry little guys.
They have a beautiful display of nature depicting quilts that I thoroughly enjoyed!  We drove to a walking path and along the drive we could see the swish of tails in the far off distance but alas, we left binoculars on the boat.  We took a very buggy walk to an observation area and again could only see the swish of tails and small bodies that we guessed had to be ponies.  After being bitten like crazy we got out of there and never saw another sign of a pony! Oh well!  But we did get to walk on the beach of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and then did a slow drive on the nature road to see mostly birds we have seen from the boat!

Nice nearly empty beach is always a highlight for us!  We did enjoy some fun docktail times with our friends until they all left on Wednesday.
Poor Al had major chores including replacing the fresh water pump (a very necessary part of our boat) and completing oil changes on the engines and generator.  So we added on another day at the Marina and had a special treat.  The Dockmaster who took very good care of us all week has Thurdsay off and likes to go out crabbing.  He offered to take us with him last evening so we learned everything about crabbing.

Tom has a long line with short lines hanging from it at about 2ft intervals called a trot line and he had the short lines baited with small pieces of chicken necks. (Note, some crabbers prefer to use bull lips because they are cheap and tough so last a long time!)  The line is attached to chains at each end and the chains are attached to flat anchors.  He marked each line end with floats.  Then he slowly let out all the line and we waited for the crabs to come.  Beginning at one end, Tom picked up the line with a boat hook and placed it on a roller attached to his boat.  He slowly drove along the line and as it raised up onto the roller, we could see crabs dangling from the necks.  The Dip net is used to catch the crabs as they fall off the chicken necks when they see sunlight. Interesting to know, that Tom can reuse the baited trot line several times until the necks are too rotten for crabs to eat! 

The one crab in the bucket with red claws is a female called a Sally or She-crab. Even crabs like to have their nails done!! The blue clawed crabs are males or Jimmies.  The one flipped over has a white belly meaning that is a newer shell so it just molted and won't have much meat yet to fill the shell.  These types are labeled #2 and are bought by crab companies for "lump crab" because the meat is easy to slide out of the larger shell. 

You can see the roller and Al expertly keeps his net under the line waiting for a crab to drop.

Then he dumps the crab into the bucket.  

Later Tom measures each crab from the point spine on each side and if they are 5 1/4 inches wide or more, they are keepers.  The Sally's are put back into the bay because only commercial fishermen can keep those to limit how many females are harvested. The other small ones are also put back in the water. 

That dip net is heavy so it is best to rest it against the boat to keep it steady to avoid loosing a crab.

I had to put my whole body into it to stay steady and not miss a catch! 

Note the serious face, praying each time that the crab would not fall on my feet! 

We filled this bushel basket by the end of about 2 hours of fun work!   We caught one "doubler" which is a male holding a small female, called a Sook, whose shell was ready to molt.  Once the outer shell is gone, the soft shell is her covering and she is ready to mate.  The male will hold her until her shell is hard again and she, along with the pockets of sperm she has gained will migrate to the more salty mouth of the Chesapeake to eventually spawn as many as 2 million eggs!  It is thought that once she releases the group of eggs called a sponge, she will die within months.  Males can continue to molt and grow once they reach sexual maturity as long as us crabbers don't catch them first!  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Fun Week With a Storm and a Rodeo!

A week ago today we left our anchorage and were pleased to start out with a nice breeze and a following sea so the waves were pushing us along.  We crossed the Chesapeake to reach the Eastern shore to the town of Crisfield which they call "The Crab Capitol".  By Thursday the storm heading to Florida was named Hermine and did reach the Gulf coast as a full blown (pun intended) hurricane.  Our destination marina, Somers Cove is in a protected area and is recognized as a safe harbor for boats to duck into during storms, so it turned out to be a good choice for us to stay for a week that included a storm traveling North East, in our direction.  So our travel day deteriorated into a more windy and slightly rainy day causing a bit of sea sickness for me.  I now stock Ginger Snaps which help a bit to settle the stomach! The winds continued and the air cooled considerably on Friday and on Saturday the wind and rain came as predicted, causing us to have an "in boat" day most of the day and night.  It meant the Crab Festival festivities set for Saturday were cancelled but thankfully the storm moved on and Sunday the show was on.  So going back to arriving last Thursday, we happily docked amidst our looper friends on Corkscrew, Sum Escape (new friends for us), Sandrobber, and Act III.  We also made brand new friends aboard Barbara Ann, folks who live near Washington and still work so have only done part of the loop so far.

Our view across the cove of the carnival and stadium seating for the Crab Festival.  All is calm before the storm! On Thurday afternoon the dock master invited some of the guys to go out crabbing with him and they came back with a bushel of crabs.  Al opted to not go and used the time to work on our lines to secure us before the weather turned more serious.  But we did get to enjoy watching them dig in and eat their catch on Thursday night.

A new appreciation was formed for the people who pick crab for a living and also for the cost of buying a pound of picked lump crab.  Those nice plump lumps in crab cakes are difficult to pick out of the shell! Friday was a day to check out the town of Crisfield and reprovision. Then Friday night we enjoyed a singing competition and a stroll around the carnival grounds.
This beautiful red sky did not mean sailors delight as in the little rhyme that we all say while watching a sunset.  Instead it meant the clouds were rolling in and the rain began during the night. But the storm did move on leaving puddles and very high tides and allowed some of the events of the festival to be enjoyed on Sunday.  The first event was the crab picking contest.
These women are pros at this and have made a living picking crabs!  They had 15 mins to fill the tin pans sitting in their laps.  The winner (second from the left) picked slightly more than 2lbs.

The next event was the Governor's Crab race.  Each state is invited to participate by either sending a crab from their area or buying a local crab and naming it for the race.  
The winner was down the ramp before many of the crabs ever left their little stalls at the top! Following this was practice for the main event, the boat docking competition, referred to as a boat docking rodeo.  The captains have to fly into the cove, make a sharp turn, back into a slip and lasso four pilings with their lines. 
The boats are lined up before the event begins. You can see the red canvas over our dingy at the bottom of the picture which shows you just how close we were to the event. I took several videos and tried to post them on this blog but they can't be viewed.  If you go to UTube you can likely find someone else's video of this type of event.  It was a blast to watch and I am sorry I can't share it in the  blog and it happened so quickly each time, I didn't get any action shots!  This Labor Day festival stands as the highlight of our time on the Chesapeake this summer!