At the end of Cruising the Chesapeake, Part 1, we were anchored off the beautiful college town of Saint Mary’s. After a few wonderful days exploring Saint Mary’s, we headed to the Potomac River with plans to continue all the way up to Washington DC.
Up the Potomac to Washington DC
From Saint Mary’s we headed back across the Chesapeake and turned NW to head up the Potomac River. Michelle and I spent a fair amount of time in DC when we lived up here in the 80’s and I’d always thought how fun it would be to dock at the Capital Yacht Club, step off the boat, and be right in the middle of one of the most important governmental centers in the world.
From the mouth of the river to the heart of DC is about 100 miles which I suppose we could complete in one long day, but why rush! We made the trip in 5 days, spending a night at Colonial Beach and another night at Mattawoman Creek, and then 2 nights at Mount Vernon before completing the trip on day 5.
We could easily pass on Colonial Beach, a washed up tourist town with a ratty looking casino on the banks of the river. We took a slip in the only marina that could handle our size boat and walked the 3 miles in to town, passing on the casino. Stopping in the town was enough a gamble for us, and from the sidewalk along the front of the building, you could smell the stale cigarette smoke. No thanks.
Mattawoman Creek, on the other hand, was a great find. The charts were not very clear, so we ended up anchoring just out of the flow of the river. Exploring by dinghy, we realized there is a well protected anchorage further up the creek and a short dinghy ride from the Mattawoman park. We didn’t bother to move to the better anchorage, but made note for the trip back out to the Chesapeake.
We anchored off Mount Vernon late the next day and made a plan to tour the park the following day. The grounds were beautiful and the self guided tours were well done. We especially enjoyed the museum, which surprised us by not trying to sugar coat Washington’s use of slaves. We were disappointed, however in the mansion. Because of Covid restrictions, they only allowed us on the first floor, and there was no talking inside the building, which meant that while standing outside the residence, the docent described the rooms that we would tour and then quickly walked us through.
The Capital Mall is located within a mile of the Capital Yacht Club and our electric bikes put the Capital grounds and museums within easy reach for us. Although most of the museums were shut down due to Covid, we were able to explore all the outdoor museums and of course, the Mall itself. The Spy Museum was one of the few open attractions and we were surprised how much we enjoyed the day we spent there. In fact, that experience caused us to download and watch every spy movie that we could find over the next month!
We especially enjoyed the Capital Yacht Club itself. The club includes many members who live aboard their boats and they all considered themselves to be city and marina ambassadors, stopping by daily to check on us and offer suggestions for things to do and see. We spent 2 weeks in the marina and then moved out to the very small anchorage for another week and with their permission, using the Yacht Club as our base.
Emergency Surgery on the Potomac?!
We didn’t want to leave. We had been having a great time in DC, but there were more places to see and boat projects to complete before heading south for the winter. We headed down river to Mattawoman Creek for the night and had drinks aboard Roam with friends from the Capital Yacht Club. We had planned to stay a couple more days, but I woke the next morning feeling feverish, tired, and everything hurt. Under normal conditions, I would have figured it was the flu and gone back to bed, but I thought it was Covid and so did Michelle. We picked up the anchor and started heading down river, called our friends to give them a heads up, and then started looking for a clinic that could provide a Covid test within walking/biking distance from the river. In retrospect, we should have made the 12 mile trip back up to DC, but that was backwards and we wanted to keep going forward!
Michelle got on the phone and started dialing to find someplace that we could stop and finally found a clinic in Dahlgren VA that had the rapid test and could see me the next morning. Dahlgren, a small town located on Upper Machoaloc Creek, is really just a small dimple on the side of the river. There are a couple of small marinas up the creek, but it was much to shallow for Roam, so we had to anchor off to the side of the river. We didn’t arrive until after dark and it was blowing 20-25 MPH down river, so we just pulled over, dropped the anchor and went to bed.
The next morning we awoke to a foggy calm river. As we looked around us, there were crab pots everywhere. I’m not sure how we didn’t see them the night before and I definitely don’t know how we didn’t run over pots as we came in (perhaps we did?). We dropped the dinghy and then dropped one of our electric bikes in the dinghy and Michelle and the dogs took me in to the closest boat ramp. She took the dogs for a walk and went back to the boat. I got on my bike and peddled/rode the 3 miles to the clinic, arriving just as they were opening. They administered the test and left me in an exam room. A few minutes later a nurse came in and asked if I’d also like to get tested for the flue, in case it wasn’t Covid. Sure. A few minutes later, the Doctor came in to let me know the tests showed I didn’t have Covid or the Flu. WHEW!
Doc: “So let’s see what’s wrong with you.” (A lot of questions and some poking and prodding later) “I think you have Appendicitis and you need to go to the ER to confirm.”
Me: “Right Now?”
Doc: “Yes, get in your car and drive straight to the ER, RIGHT NOW.”
Me: “First of all, Doc, I’m on my bike, so I’m not biking the 30 miles to the ER. 2nd, my wife and boat are anchored in the Potomac just off the town, and I can’t leave them there. I have to get them to a safe spot before I go in.”
Doc: “Well, I don’t know what to tell you. Your appendix could burst at any moment and then you’ll be in trouble. You could die…”
Me: “I’ll go fast and get to the ER as soon as possible…”
And so we moved out at flank speed (8.5 knots, with the current), headed to Solomons MD. Michelle arranged a slip to dock the boat and we made it out of the river and up to Solomons by 7:00 PM. I helped Michelle get the boat tied up and put away safely, called an Uber and headed to the ER. Th Doc was correct and they scheduled me for surgery the next day and I was out of the hospital a day after that and back to cruising. Because of Covid, Michelle couldn’t come visit me in the hospital, so I called when I was discharged, she rented a car and drove out to pick me up. Simple as that.
The funny thing is, I’d always heard that Appendicitis was incredibly painful. Other than a little abdominal discomfort (like gas?), I really didn’t have any pain at all. The surgery was laparoscopic, so there was almost no pain after surgery. I was lucky to have been close to a doctor/hospital, but what would we have done if we’d been in the middle of a multi-day passage offshore? A doctor friend that we talked to as we were running for Solomons told me to start taking penicillin ASAP. He said it wouldn’t reverse the appendicitis, but it could possibly slow down the process. This is why we try to keep a well stocked medical kit aboard. You just never know.
On to Cambridge, MD
We left Solomons in a pretty dense fog, headed for Cambridge on the Eastern Shore. When we arrived, we planned to anchor up the river in town, but when we got in there, we realized that there was a city dock that allowed free docking for up to 72 hours. SCORE!
The dock was located right in front of city hall and just a block away from the downtown district. Founded in 1684, Cambridge is an iconic Chesapeake town with a rich history and culture. It was also a stop on the “Underground Railroad” according to the Harriet Tubman Museum, which is located downtown and is a pretty decent museum, by the way.
We were in Cambridge from October 26-30 and being right next to the courthouse, an early voting site, we got to see and meet many of the locals as they stood in long lines to get their chance to vote. We had a couple of days of cold rain and strong winds, but people still stood in in for their turn to vote.
On the 5th day of our stay, the Sheriff knocked on our boat and politely asked us to leave the dock. Of course, we were embarrassed about overstaying our welcome, but in our defense, the weather had really sucked for the last two days and there was no one else on the dock, so we didn’t feel like we were causing any harm. The Sheriff agreed, but rules are rules…
With our tails between our legs, we headed over to Deale for an extended stay at Shipwright Harbor Marina. We had scheduled time in the marina to have an enclosure installed for our fly bridge. And we had reservations to fly back to Texas to vote on 11/4 and to visit family. We put the boat away for an extended period and then flew out on the 3rd. with plans to return on 11/9.
The new cockpit enclosure was built for us by Christine Germann at Canvas Connections. She did a beautiful job and we have found that having a way to block out some of the wind has allowed us to enjoy the view from the fly bridge so much more than before. We love it!
We left deal on 11/11 with winter breathing down our backs. If we had been able to get a perfect weather window, we would have made a single hop from Norfolk all the way to South Florida, but we’ve found that when we wait this late in the year to head south, that perfect window is rare, so we make the trip in shorter hops, waiting for good weather to make the ride as comfortable as possible. Our longest hop was 550 miles from the Alligator River to Fort Pierce.
There really wasn’t much maintenance work to do on Roam, so other than shopping, we were ready to head across to the Bahamas, but we planned to park the boat, rent a car and drive home to visit family before leaving the country. But that’s another blog…