Familiar Places and Friendly Faces!

Coinjock, NC (Friday, 5/19)
Each morning the sun is coming up earlier and earlier, and today was no exception. Denise used it to her advantage to get in a run along a two-lane highway. Since there were no sidewalks and the shoulder of the roadway had mostly high grass, she did not feel safe venturing too far in either direction. Once she got in 3 miles she called it quits and was still back before most of the other boaters were up.

As soon as Mark was up, we began calling the North Landing Bridge to get a status on the repairs; now scheduled to begin at 8:00 am when the workers were due to show up. We were hopeful, but also concerned that we might be stuck here another night. Eventually, the bridge must have taken their phone off the hook as all the boaters trying to transit this waterway (north-bound and south-bound) kept calling.  Mark even called the Coast Guard to see if they could get us an update on the repairs, and they did call him back later when it did finally open.  Also, the owner of Coinjock (Louis) had promised an update at 11:30 am, and they were still reporting that it could be as late as 7:00 pm before it was opened.  We had made a decision that if we did not get notice by early afternoon, it would be too late to get through the bridges, the lock, and then on to Hampton in one day.

In the meantime, we worked (blog, catalog pictures, emails, client work) and watched the boats who had Friday night reservations pour in.  Several boats did leave in anticipation of the bridge being fixed, and so they took the risk and cruised the 30 miles north.  Finally, around 2:30 we got notice that the bridge was fixed and was back open.  But by the time we could make it up there and get through the Great Bridge and Lock it would be after 6 pm, and we still had to stop and get fuel just outside of Norfolk. That would put us into Hampton sometime around 8:30 pm and near dark, and we did not want to do that. So we agreed to stay put one more night in Coinjock and once again there were boats rafted up to each other, and others who were turned away.

Because of these close quarters, we got to socialize with the people from Miami in the boat behind us, and also with the new Looper boat that was rafted to them.  We ended up having cocktails together, and eventually we all went to dinner at the restaurant as a group (11 in total).  This was a challenge for the restaurant, but the people who run and work in Coinjock are so great and they worked quickly to makeshift an area for us in the bar that enabled us all to sit together (or nearby).  It was fun and we enjoyed sharing our mutual boating stories.  We also talked about the impending rain storms that had alluded us so far.  The clouds were building and we feared we were going to get wet.  Even the local band that had set up on the patio (near the docks) had set up a tent to play under in case it rained.  But the weather held off – moving all around us and never affecting our fun.

We knew the next morning there would be a mass exodus of all the boats heading north, so we schemed with our dock mates about how best to leave. We agreed to a 7:00 am departure and the order of boats to be untied and then called it a night.

Hampton, VA (Saturday, 5/20)
As was predicted, boats began leaving Coinjock as early as 5:30 with the sailboats being the earliest to depart.  We were up early and by 6:15 several of the bigger power boats were leaving and our dock neighbors behind us were up and readying their boats for departure.  By 6:30 looper friends Dick & Sandi Averitt (“Amazing Grace”) pulled away first as our dinghies were too close together for us to leave.  But we followed immediately thereafter and then “Salty Lady” who was on the inside of “Amazing Grace”.  As a reminder, here is what it looked like from our boat:

Rafted behind us

From there it was a madhouse as boats were departing off the dock and others were trying to navigate the narrow channel to head north. At the same time the boats from Midway Marina were doing the same, although there were far fewer boats there.  It was a bit nerve racking, but eventually it got sorted out and we made our way to the Currituck Sound.  Here we were able to pass many of the slower boats and all the sailboats.

In no time at all we came up to the North Landing Bridge; the one that was the cause of our delay in Coinjock.  Once again, there were a parade of boats that were waiting the half-hour opening, but we all got through without issue.

The North Landing Bridge

Shortly thereafter we cruised up to the Great Bridge and the Great Bridge Lock.  The bridge only opens on the hour, and coordinates the opening with the Great Bridge Lock.  Unfortunately, due to the traffic between the North Bridge and the Great Bridge we just missed the hour opening and had to “motor in place” for 50 minutes. This had us reminiscing of the 4-hr waits along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers locks from our Loop adventure.

Waiting on the Great Bridge Opening

Norma Jean – Handmade boat – waiting on The Great Bridge bridge

Eventually, we got into and out of the Great Bridge Lock, and made our way north.

The Great Bridge Lock

Leaving the Great Bridge Lock

We stopped at Top Rack Marina to fill up with diesel fuel as they are the cheapest around.  From there we cruised through Norfolk and passed the navy yard and the numerous ports where maintenance takes place on many of the ships used by the US forces.  The weather was not great, but it was a little windy and Denise was worried about going out onto the Chesapeake Bay to get to Hampton.  However, we were able to cruise the choppy waters without issue.  The scariest part was coming so close to a container ship when we needed to make a left turn into the channel to take us to downtown Hampton.

Passing container ship near Norfolk

We chose this marina as it is close to both our (twin) nieces Christen and Shannon, and their families.  We were looking forward to spending time with them over the weekend.

Once in the channel we negotiated our way around an inbound sail boat, and motored our way to the Hampton Public Piers were we had slip reservations. We tied up our boat, checked in with the Dockmaster and grabbed showers.

IO at Hampton Public Piers

Shortly thereafter, Christen arrived with her two adorable sons (Colten & Cooper) who got the biggest kick out of our boat.  They enjoyed playing “Captain and Navigator” and were thrilled that we had a big bed to sleep on.

Captain Colton and First Mate Cooper

Christen, Cooper & Colton

Colton & Cooper on IO

Then we went with Christen and the boys to a family event; Shannon’s sister-in-law Courtney, was celebrating her 40th birthday and there was a bar-b-que party in her honor.   The venue was at the Whitehouse Cove Marina where Shannon’s husband (Shawn)’s dad plays with his band.  They are really great and we were looking forward to having fun with the extended family.  When we arrived the bar-b-que was going, the food plentiful and the band was already in full gear.  We got to see Shannon, Shawn and their girls Harper & Macie as well.  The kids danced and played corn row, while the adults talked, drank wine, and even danced a little.  Even though it was cold and blustery, it didn’t stop us all from having a good time.

Mr. Edward’s Band

Harper, Macie, Cooper & Friends

Shortly after we arrived, we noticed a boat that was very familiar to us; “YOLO” was a Looper and we had met them in 2015 when we were all at Baie Fine (Ontario) anchorage together. Their boat was the one whose guest was the concert cellist and serenaded the entire anchorage that night. We later had dinner with them when in Meldrum Bay, just before returning to the USA.  So, of course when we saw there was activity on their boat, we had to go over and say hello.  They were totally surprised and we had a wonderful, but short visit aboard their boat.  We talked of our respective cruising plans and agreed to stay in touch.

When we returned to the party it was time to leave, so Christen took us back to the boat and we agreed to connect sometime on Sunday. It was late and we were beat; it had been a very long day packed with lots of adventure.

 Hampton, VA (Sunday 5/21) – Mark’s Birthday
Today we started the day a little later than usual, and took an Uber cab to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church for mass.  We believe this was the same church we visited when we attended Christen and Chris’s wedding here in 2009.

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church

After church, Shannon, Harper and Macie met us back at the boat and took us to a local donut shop (“Glazed Donuts”) for some breakfast.

Morning with the girls

Shannon & Denise

Glazed Doughnuts

She then took us to Wal-Mart to pick up a few items and groceries and back to the boat.  We made plans for a family dinner later that night at their house in Poquoson, only 15 minutes away.  We were in communication with Christen and she and the boys would be joining us, but unfortunately, Chris was not back from his guys fishing trip and we would miss him this trip.

After we returned from our time with Shannon and the girls, Mark washed the boat while Denise worked on cataloging pictures and began the makings of this latest blog posting.  During that time we were entertained by the young sailors from the Hampton Yacht Club who were out practicing on their Optimist sailboats. We never tire of watching these young children learn the art of sail trim and moving their lightweight vessels through the water.

Optimist Sailors

Shannon came and picked us up and took us to her house (which we had never seen), and we were shortly joined by Christen & the boys. The guys grilled up some steaks and we had roasted potatoes, salad, bread and some wine.  Since it was Mark’s birthday, we also celebrated with some ice cream (no cake) and birthday wishes!

Christen & Denise

Shawn & Mark

Mark’s Birthday Celebration

But the best part of this weekend was watching the four cousins all play together, and spending great conversation and time with these very wonderful people.  We miss them so much and cannot wait to see them in July at the family reunion…..and hopefully again in October when we come back down the Chesapeake. Christen and the boys took us back to our boat since it was on their way home, and we hugged goodbye. NEVER is there enough time with the ones you love!

Here are some more pictures from the Hampton area:

Hampton Public PIers- Veggie Garden

Crown Plaza adjacent to Public Piers – Stayed here for both twins weddings

Colonial Beach, VA (Monday, 5/22)
Today was going to be our longest day yet on the Chesapeake and Denise (who gets seasick easily) was a little concerned. But even though we woke to cloudy skies, the wind was not bad and it was mostly behind us as we headed north. Therefore, we had a pretty smooth cruise out of Hampton and for the majority of the time on the Bay.

Leaving Hampton Public Piers

We passed the Wolf Trap Lighthouse (abandoned – and still for sale), and saw a few fishing boats and pleasure craft, but nothing that exciting.

Wolf Trap Light (abandoned)

The wind eventually died down almost completely and the Bay was pretty calm.  It was then that we experienced the most thrilling sight we have ever seen on the water.  Heading south, we were approached by an entire school of bottlenose dolphin, swimming in a line and jumping out of the water.  There must have been hundreds of them and it all happened so fast, that we barely had time to grab a camera and snap a few pictures.  These did not come out well, but we were so excited we never thought to slow the boat down to get some great shots. It truly was an amazing experience and one neither of us has ever seen in all our years of boating. Even more amazing is that it is not common to see these beautiful creatures on the Chesapeake Bay.  It truly was a “once in a lifetime” experience.

Dolphins on the Chesapeake

After that, passing the Smith Lighthouse and turning to head up the Potomac was anti-climactic.

Smith Point Lighthouse

We settled into the calmest waters we have ever seen on such a large body of water. It was pancake flat and as a result we were making great time.  Originally planning to go to St. Mary’s anchorage for the night, we decided to continue further up the Potomac. We passed St. Clements Island State Park (Maryland side) that is known for being the site of the first Catholic Mass. They have a cross and small chapel to mark the spot, and while it does have limited dockage for daytime tie up, there is no power and not an option for us to spend the night.

It is 90 miles from the Chesapeake Bay to Washington DC, therefore any improvement on time would make for a shorter cruising day tomorrow.  We had identified a few places to stop (which there are not a lot), and decided if we could make it to Colonial Beach, we could always anchor there. However, we got lucky.  We called the Boathouse Marina while in route, and there was some uncertainty that they would be able to take us. However, we called again once entering the harbor and they had moved another boat to enable us to tie to the end dock.

Entering Colonial Beach Harbor

Assisting with the lines was a Looper couple Derek & Lori Gamradt (“Donna Mae”), who was the boat that was moved into another slip to allow us to come in for the night.

Once we settled the boat we learned about the situation at the marina.  We checked in with the owner Bob Bowman, and he told us how the marina had been hit by a tornado about 4 weeks previously, and they were still doing cleanup and repairs.  They were putting in all new floating docks on the south side, and they had already repaired the fixed docks where we were tied up.  However, the warehouse/dry storage windows were still blown out, and a dock that had its roof torn off was still in disrepair.  Plus there was a mess of debris still on the shoreline up to the marina office.  As a result of the construction, there was limited transient slips, but we got in.  The other thing we got lucky about is that the marina is usually closed on Monday, but since Bob lives on his boat in the marina, he was willing to let us dock there for one night.

IO at The Boathouse Marina

The marina office is an interesting place.  It is filled with the usual marine supplies necessary for emergencies, but it is also an eclectic collection of things representing Bob’s interests. In addition to several pictures and models of his wooden boats, an old GULF sign, and other such paraphernalia, there are several old Evinrude boat engines.

Evinrude Engines

Bob Bowman -Owner

When we returned to the boat, we invited Derek & Lori over for happy hour.  We discussed the marina situation and our mutual plans to go to Washington DC.  They told us of a great restaurant to eat at in town, and that should use the marina golf cart to go there.  However, Bob informed us that on Monday, nearly everything in town in closed, but we were still welcome to use the golf cart and explore the town.

Derek & Lori Gamradt (“Donna Mae”)

We decided to eat dinner on the boat as we had some leftovers that needed to be eaten and we didn’t want to waste time going out.  After dinner, we took the golf cart and explored the waterfront along the Potomac, as well as some of the houses in the area.  Here are some pictures from our adventure:

Potomac River from Colonial Beach

Boathouse Marina Golf Cart

House along the River

Colonial Beach on the Potomac

Beach house on the Potomac

Riverboat Casino on the Potomac

Colonial Beach Municipal Pier

Mural on condos in town

Renovations on Riverview Inn

St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church

The Boathouse Marina

Boat damaged by storm

There is not much to this town, which definitely caters to the weekenders and summer crowds who love the water.  Apparently during the weekends there are so many people on boats, paddle boards, and Jet Skis that it makes the marina a bit uncomfortable until sunset.  However, we were there during the week, and it isn’t quite summer yet so there was no one on the water and it was very calm.

We had traveled over 120 miles today – making it one of the longest days on the water this trip.  By the time we returned from our outing we were really tired and it was dark. That meant it was time for pajamas and some much needed rest.

Beautiful sky over harbor

 Alexandria, VA (Tuesday 5/23)
Because we made such great progress yesterday, we knew that today would be shorter, and it was.  We left Colonial Beach and it was still pretty calm, allowing us to cruise in comfort up the Potomac.

Colonial Beach from Potomac

We passed the Dahlgren Naval Weapons Station where they do target practice right in the Potomac. You actually have to listen for warnings so you stay out of their range when they are doing their “exercises”.  They have a patrol boat that keeps guard of the area and naturally, we were of interest to them.  But once we got past the security zone and under the Harry Nice Bridge we were no longer of concern and they turned away from us.  There were so few boats on the water they must have been bored and we added some excitement to their day.

Patrol Boat near Dahlgren NWS

Harry W. Nice Bridge

It’s a long way up the Potomac but there is some very lovely scenery.  There are really big homes on the Eastern shore, and lots of forest and parks on the Maryland side. Technically, the entire Potomac is in Maryland up until the mainland shoreline, and then (at low tide) you cross into Virginia.

House on Potomac

We cruised north past Mt Vernon (home of George Washington) on the VA side, and then National Harbor on the Maryland side.  National Harbor is a very popular marina and shopping/entertainment complex that many Loopers and cruisers stay at because there is much to do and see.  However, it is still far from downtown Washington DC, and we wanted to also go to Alexandria.  So we bypassed this attraction and went under the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge to Alexandria.

Mt. Vernon

National harbor

Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge

We had reservations for the night at Old Dominion Boat Club (ODBC), right in the heart of old town, and next door to the city docks.  We considered staying at the city docks, but they are not secured and with reciprocity through our MTOA membership we were able to get into Old Dominion which is very secure.  The only downside was that we were on an end-tie right on the Potomac River and would periodically get a little wave action, despite it being a no-wake zone.  However, we also were in the flight path of the planes landing at Washington Reagan National Airport, but they were still high enough that it didn’t bother us.


Flightpath of Washington Reagan Natl Airport

After securing the boat and checking in with the yacht club, we went back to the boat for happy hour.  Here we were entertained by a group of rowers on the river while we plotted where to go for dinner.

Afternoon rowers

Setting out on foot we explored some of the areas in downtown Alexandria as it threatened to rain.

Old Town Alexandria

We settled in on an Italian place called Il Porto Ristorante on Kings Street and had a pretty good meal.  The place filled up fast and we were lucky to get in, especially without reservations.

Il Porto Ristorante

Escargot at Il Porto Ristorante

After dinner we wanted to walk around town more, but it had started to drizzle and it was yucky weather. Fortunately for us, we stumbled on the free trolley that runs all through old town.  This was great as we were able to ride it and see some of the area that we would have missed as it would have been too far for us to walk in the rain.  After the trolley ride we found an expensive ice cream shop near the boat, indulged in a single scoop each, and went back ODBC for the night.  This is a very neat community near DC and should not be missed if your travels take you there.

Washington, D.C. (Wednesday, 5/24)
All night it rained off and on, and the weather service had issued a flood advisory for the areas near us.  When Denise got up to go for a morning walk, she was unable to go very far. Most of ODBC was under water, including the finger piers off our dock and the entire patio area near the club.  It was high tide and our boat sat almost 3 feet above the dock making it difficult to get off.

High Tide at ODBC

HIgh floods at Old Dominion

ODBC Clubhouse

Eventually the tide began to recede and by the time Mark was up we were able to walk up to the club and check out.  We enjoyed our stay here, but wanted to get into Washington DC and see some sights before it was too late.

We left ODBC at 9:30 a.m. and headed north up the Potomac.

Washington Ntl – R. Reagan Airport

National War College at Ft. McNair

Approaching Marina

Approaching Capital Yacht Club

It was a short 5-mile cruise up to Capital Yacht Club where we pulled into a slip that overlooked the new pier being constructed, and the massive redevelopment effort known as The Wharf on the waterfront.  Due to the redevelopment, a new yacht club was also being built but is not yet completed.  So they relocated to an old motel that also serves as the construction offices for the redevelopment office.  It was a big of a walk through the construction zone to get to the office, restrooms and laundry facilities, as well as the exit to go sightseeing. But we didn’t care as it was incredibly convenient to what we wanted to see and they were offering a special discount rate (by DC standards) on dockage during the construction project.

IO at Capital Yacht Club

New City Pier at The Wharf

The Wharf Construction Project

After checking in with the marina office and getting the lay of the land, we headed out on our adventure.  The first order of business was to grab some lunch before playing tourist in our nation’s capital.  We met a couple of guys who were working the Wharf project and they suggested a place on the water that was just south of our marina (Cantina Marina Cafe). Since they were headed there we decided to join them and we were glad we did. The food was good and the service was fast, which is what we wanted.

Lunch at Cantina Marina Club

After lunch we walked to the Metro station at L’Enfant Plaza and took it to the Capital stop so we could go explore parts of DC that we have not yet visited.  Having been here numerous times before we have already seen all the monuments, the White House, the Capitol, the National Archives, the Spy Museum, the Arboretum, the Spy Museum and most of the Smithsonian Museums. But we have never seen the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress, both of which are located east of the Capital.

We arrived at the Supreme Court in time to hear the 1:00 lecture in the only courtroom – exactly where arguments are heard in front of this court.  We learned of the history of the Supreme Court and its building, and found it to be a spectacularly beautiful place.  The beautiful marble and the largeness of the ceilings and hallways really do reflect the greatness of this governmental body.  We could not imagine working in a place that was so grand and beautiful

US Supreme Court

Ceiling inside US Supreme Court

From there we went to visit The Florida House; a state embassy and the only one of its kind in DC. Although they were preparing for an evening event with the Florida Farm Bureau (i.e. Lobby), they were very gracious and gave us a tour of the facility that includes many pieces of beautiful artwork by Floridians. The house is open to all (those from Florida and those “wanna-be” Floridians) and they greet you with a cup of FL orange juice.  We didn’t stay long as we didn’t want to interfere with their planned event, but we were able to learn a little bit about the place.  If you would like to learn more about the Florida House click here.

The Florida House

Florida House Signage

We then walked to the (main) Library of Congress Building and discovered that the SC was nothing compared to this place.  This is truly one of the most beautiful buildings in all of DC.  The paintings on the ceilings and walls are masterpieces and rich with color and meaning.  We were fortunate in that they had just opened the viewing area into the main library where people were actually doing research (you need permission to do this) and we got to see only a small portion of the vast resources in the LOC.  Several of the other rooms in the library are now filled with museum exhibits and took some time to look through them, but we were still most interested in the architecture and painting in this beautiful place.  There are several other adjoining buildings that make up the LOC, but as we were running out time (and energy) we opted to save them for another visit.  It was time to be thinking of where and what to eat for dinner.

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Hall Ceiling in Library of Congress

We got back on the Metro and took it to the Federal Triangle stop and headed towards Pennsylvania Ave.  We had decided to go see how Trump had transformed the old Post Office building into Trump International Hotel and see if we could get a before-dinner drink at the hotel lobby bar. It took us awhile to figure out where the main entrance was (not on Pennsylvania Ave), and in the process got someone to take our picture.

Trump International Hotel – Old Post Office

At Trump International Hotel

Once we found the main entrance (at 11th St) we went inside to look around and get a drink at the lobby bar.  We were immediately welcomed and saw that this truly is a first-class place.  The lobby is very open and aesthetically pretty; full of glass and mirrors. There is a very attentive staff waiting to make your visit exceptional and we were escorted to a table in the lounge area. Our waiter appeared right away and brought us water and bar menus that contained drinks and appetizers that ranged in price from the very affordable to astronomically ludicrous. However, prices for the normal drinks were actually in the same price range as our local bars in Winter Park.  We ordered drinks and when they came they were accompanied by a complementary nut tray that was delicious and refilled without asking.  We socialized for a while with the couple from California who sat at the table next to us, then we finished our drinks and left.  We were impressed and glad we stopped in.  Now we looked for an affordable place to have dinner as the nut tray was just a teaser.  If you get to DC it is worth stopping in to see how they have transformed this historical building.

Inside Trump Hotel

Inside Trump Hotel

Inside Trump Hotel

Wine and Nut Tray – Tump Hotel

A short walk away and across the street was “Elephant & Castle” – a place we had been to during our last DC visit, so we decided to go there for dinner.  From there we walked across the Mall and took in some of the sights, and then all the way back to the marina – easily making our 10,000 steps today.

Washington, D.C. (Thursday, 5/25)
We had a limited amount of time to play tourist today as we had to be back to the boat for Denise to have a conference call at 3:00 pm.  Since it has been at least 20 years since we had been, we opted for the Smithsonian Air & Space museum.

Air & Space Museum

Air & Space Museum

It had expanded considerably since our last visit, and many of the things that used to be in this museum had been moved out to the Udvar-Hazy Center at the National Air and Space Museum near Dulles.  Even so, there is much to see here and we spent about 3.5 hours here.  Unfortunately, the IMAX movie we wanted to see was not playing and the timing on the others would not work in our schedule.  The other unfortunate thing was that the place was packed with high school kids on field trips coming from all over the USA. While we saw many of the same during yesterday’s touring, having so many all in one place was a bit too much.  At 2:15 we had had enough and headed back to the boat.

In the meantime we were in communication with our friend Teresea Stiner, who is the twin sister to one of Denise’s running buddies.  Although she works in DC and lives in Arlington, she has run with the group during her visits to the Orlando as well as met a bunch of us runners who came to DC a few years ago for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler: she is no stranger.

So we made plans for an after-dinner rendezvous at her home in Arlington, VA.  This gave us time to get some work done and eat a quick dinner on board the boat.  Afterwards, we took an UBER cab to Teresa’s where we had some wine and cheese and great conversation. We learned about her job at the Department of Energy and her role in the organization, and we got to meet her dog Scout – who Denise fell in love with right away.  Time seem to fly and before long we needed to leave. Teresa took us back to our boat and we gave her a grand tour of our “tiny house” on the water, before saying good bye. Of course we forgot to take any pictures with her….ugh!

Here are some other pictures from our stay in DC:

Popcorn vendors everywhere – What’s up with this?

Countdown clock

Morning on The Wharf

Solomons, MD (Friday, 5/26)
We knew it was going to be a long day to go all the way down the Potomac, into the Chesapeake Bay and then on to Solomons Island, MD.  So we got up early and left the dock by 7:00 a.m., heading south down the Potomac.

Leaving Capital Yacht Club

Leaving DC – skyline

About 45 minutes after we got under way we turned up into Occoquan River and stopped at Belmont Bay Harbor marina to take on some fuel. As all fuel is expensive in this area we only took on 50 gallons, which was just enough to get us to Solomons Island where it would be a lot cheaper and we will fill up the tank again.  It only took about 15 minutes to put the fuel on, then we were back under way. However, this community intrigued us and we said that it might be a nice stopping point should we come back up the Potomac in the future.

Belmont Bay – Fuel stop

Although it was windier then when we cruised up the River, it was still a beautiful day and we got to really enjoy the sights along the way. We passed Fort Washington and Mount Vernon early in day, and then we passed Ft Belvoir and onward to Quantico; home of the FBI training facility and a marine base.

VA House on Potomac

Fort Washington

Mount Vernon

We cruised under the Henry Rice Bridge again and passed Dahlgren Naval Weapons Station, but this time there was no patrol boat to be found. By 11:00 am we were cruising past Colonial Beach and eventually passing St. Clements Island and St. Mary’s Inlet.

Church on St. Clements Island State Park

Shortly thereafter we entered onto the Chesapeake Bay and made our way North.  The wind had picked up and was out of the West, so we hugged the coast in order to minimize the wave action on the boat.  Things were a big choppy, but it only took a little more than an hour before we entered the Patuxent River.  We cruised up river and through the Back Creek Inlet and then made our way over to Calvert Marina for fuel where we filled our tank. Once that was done we only had to motor about 500 yards over to Zahniser’s Marina where we pulled into our assigned slip.  It was just before 3:00 p.m. and we had cruised 120 nm.  We were happy to be in a place as nice as Zahniser’s and Solomon’s Island.

Zahniser’s Yachting Center

Mark does such a good job backing Island Office into tight quarters, and today was no exception. The owner of a Sabre (“About Time”) two slips away from where we docked was in awe of his talents and couldn’t wait to come over and talk with him as soon as we had settled the boat. “Per” (pronounced “pair”) is from Denmark and was struggling with a few things about the performance of his boat.  Mark spent a little time talking to him and then came back to the boat so we could have a well-deserved happy hour drink before getting showers and dinner.

Here in Solomons there are many restaurants and all have pretty good food. However, we were too tired to venture far so we chose to eat at the restaurant on the property, called the “Dry Dock”. Afterwards we went back to the boat to relax and watch a little bit of TV (via internet streaming) before exhaustion took hold and we crashed for the night.

The Dry Dock Restaurant – Showers & Laundry below

Solomons, MD (Saturday, 5/27)
Despite a good night’s sleep, Denise woke up and went for a run, but struggled to get in only 3. 5 miles. This was due to the fact that there is not a lot of area to run unless you go to the main highway, and she wasn’t up for that. Instead she headed out to the eastern end of town where the University of Maryland has their Center for Environmental Science and houses the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. This is the oldest publicly supported marine laboratory on the East Coast and overlooks a spectacular inlet directly across from the Pax Naval Air Station.  You can learn more about the CBL here.

Here are some pictures from her run:


Pax River from Waterfront

Chesapeake Biological Laboratory dock

Chesapeake Biological Labs

On her return run back through town, Denise learned of a 5k/10k race that was to be held that day, and was tempted to join in for the fun of it.  However, there was not enough time to get back to marina, grab money and get back to the start before the gun went off.

Today was boat maintenance and chore day, so as soon as Mark was up and Denise was back from running, the work began. Denise washed, dried and folded 5 loads of laundry, including sheets and towels.  This required remaking the bed and constantly walking back and forth to the laundry facility in the middle of the marina complex.  When that was done, she cleaned the entire inside of the boat.  In the meantime, Mark scrubbed the salt off the outside of the boat and dealt with a few boat maintenance and repair issues.  During this time Per (“About Time”) came by with more questions for Mark, so he went to his boat and assisted him with orientation of how the Garmin electronics all worked.

Mark also made friends with Bruce Buckheit, owner of a sailboat (“Shenanigans”) who was tied up to the dock adjacent to the stern of our boat.  Although Bruce lives in Maryland now, he is originally from Sag Harbor, NY was getting the boat ready to take it there for the summer.  He assisted Mark with one of the repairs (rocker switch on the electric head) and offered us great information on where to stay once we got to the Sag Harbor area of Long Island.

Eventually, we finished our chores but not before realizing that the entire day was almost done and we were tired. It was time to quit and have our requisite happy hour. It was also during that time that Denise wanted to go walk the docks in search of some (soon to be) new friends who were supposed to be in our marina.

While in DC, Denise had been in touch (via Facebook) with an old high school classmate (Jim Paul) who lives in Orlando, but just so happened to be in Annapolis at the same time.  He had been on a boat owned by his brother and sister-in-law, and it just so happened to be a Fleming 55’.  Jim had already left the boat, but he told Denise that they were in Solomons and they were at the same marina.  So Denise wanted to see if we could find them and make a connection, not knowing if they would even be on the boat if we did.  As luck would have it they were, so we knocked on the boat and made our introductions. Mark and Jenay Paul (“Ravello”) were as friendly as can be, and Jim had already told them to expect us. Come to find out, Mark Paul graduated in the same high school class as Claire (Denise’s sister) and knew the last (maiden) name.  We talked until it was almost dark, when finally the bugs were getting to us and we needed to think about dinner and showers. We agreed to get together sometime the next day and share more information.

We had already decided on pizza for dinner and had already solicited input from the marina office about a local joint, only to discover that Papa Johns was the best place for delivery.  So we put in the order and it took no time for it to show up, making us the envy of others on the dock.

Solomons, MD (Sunday, 5/28)
Since we were busy with chores we were unable to attend mass on Saturday night. So we got up and attended Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church for 8:30 am mass.  We like this church and remembered it from our visit 2 years ago, only this time we could walk the .5 miles to it, not needing a beater loaner car to get there.

After mass we were able to get the marina shuttle (van) to Weir’s grocery store and pick up a few things Mark would need for the week.  There was another couple whom we had met in Hampton when their boat was two slips over from ours, but we cannot remember their names and they had no boat card to share with us.

We returned to the boat in time for a quick lunch, and then we were visited by Jenay & Mark Paul who wanted to learn more about our cruising, and to share more information about each other.  Mark’s (and Jim’s) mom had died only within the last two years, and they had to close the Winter Park house he grew up in. Up until then, they had visited there frequently, and loved the area as well. Today, they live in Dallas and spend 2 weeks a month during this time of year cruising the Chesapeake on their boat, then fly back to Dallas and work for 2 weeks. It’s a great life and you can do this when you are self-employed (he is) and “empty-nesters” like they are.  Because of this, they were able to give us a lot of suggestions that were “must see” places on the Bay, and we have made a note to try and see some of them on the way back home in the fall. Of course we talked about boats and other things non-nautical, and before long they had to leave; they were leaving to go to another community up the Pax River. They were supposed to be off the docks by noon, but had stretched it to well past that because of our conversations. We agreed to stay in touch and try to reconnect with them when we come back down the Chesapeake in the fall.

Mark & Jenay Paul (“Ravello”)

The rest of the afternoon Denise cataloged pictures and wrote some of the blog, albeit she was way behind by now.  For dinner we made chicken parmesan sliders and a Caesar salad, all of which was washed down with our happy hour cocktails, naturally!

Solomons, MD (Monday, 5/29) – Memorial Day
Today was a day in tribute to those who lost their lives in defense of freedom everywhere.  Denise started the day with another run, but managed to get in 4.5 miles this time as she learned of a few new routes to increase the mileage.

Here are some more pictures of Solomon’s from her run:

Solomons Visitor Center

Foggy morning on Chesapeake

House facing the Pax River

Running path looking towards town

Mark got to sleep in and then did a few more boat chores while Denise worked on the blog.

Polishing the davitts

Shortly after lunch we were visited by old friends from Jacksonville, who now live in Maryland and with the magic of Facebook were able to reconnect.  We knew Dave Kyser from our sailing days with North Florida Cruising Club (NFCC) where he was the commodore, and a yacht broker. He sold his yacht brokerage business and had re-enlisted in the Navy (reserves) after 911 and subsequently went to work for a contractor at Jax Naval Air Station. When that contract expired he got a job with another contractor and moved to Maryland.  In the meantime he met and married his wife Ana, and they are raising a teenage boy who is soon to graduate high school. Eventually, they hope to be able to relocate back to Florida as they miss it terribly.

Dave & Ana Kyser

We literally spent all afternoon getting caught up on each other’s lives, and sharing boating stories.  They had some really great ones to tell, especially about the weather; they lost two boats due to hurricanes and know of people in their community who were killed by a sudden freaky windstorm on the Potomac. When we hear this, you can only be grateful for the many miles of safe passage we have have had so far.

Memorial Day

After they left we got right to work on dinner; hamburgers on the grill. Since we cannot grill on the docks at this marina, we took our portable gas grill to where the marina charcoal ones are, and Mark cooked up a great burger.  After dinner and cleanup we prepared for the week ahead; Denise was going to leave for a few days to work, and Mark had stuff to do for his clients, albeit remotely.

Here are some other pictures of Zahniser’s:

Marina Shuttle

Marina Office

Solomons, MD (Tuesday, 5/30 – Thursday 6/1)
Denise had to fly to Ohio to visit her client there, and while gone Mark did a few boat chores, and took advantage of the rental car (both days) to run some errands. He found a Chick-fil-a and had lunch there, and then ate some bar-b-que from Boomerangs, a local place near the marina. You can tell he was “batcheloring” it. And then of course two of the days he spent 3 hours (each) in the car driving to and from Washington Ronald Reagan airport to ferry Denise.

On Thursday’s pick up, we chose to stay in the area (Alexandria) and have dinner near the Airport to let some of the traffic die down before trying to head back to the boat. We went to Myron Dixon’s Pitmaster Bar-b-que; a place that we had heard about before and was featured on FoxNews Saturday show this past weekend.  It was delicious and filling so we brought home some of it for leftovers.  Finally, we arrived back in time to unpack the suitcase and prepare the boat for tomorrow’s departure from Solomons.


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