The alarm clock (I Hate Alarm Clocks!) went off at 4:00 AM and jolted me out of a really sound sleep. It’s dark outside and really cold; well, 54° feels really cold after it being 78° the day before. I checked the depth of the water under us and found out we now had 18” to spare. After being buried for the entire night in a foot or so of Potomac River mud, that extra 18” of water looked a mile deep. I woke Kim and, half an hour later, we had the boat ready to cast off from Captain Billy’s Crab House. Once free of the dock, the water depth quickly changed in our favor. After moving only 20’ or so from the dock, the depth quickly changed from 6-1/2’ to 10’, to 14’, to 20’ and finally, 30’ or more in the main channel of the river. We were finally free and back on track towards D.C.
My most favorite time to be on the water is during those two or three hours before dawn. As Kim said earlier, she had gone back to bed and at that hour, most everything else living has finally gone to sleep. It’s so quiet that you can hear a person cough or a car door slam miles away across the water. There was also a full moon the entire night, so this morning, I was treated to the moon setting around 5:45 AM. In a cloudless sky, it was as pretty a sight as any sunset I’ve ever seen. Then, half an hour later, the first light of day crept across the horizon and at 7:15 AM, I was treated to a gorgeous sunrise. Now if only the sun would warm up the darn cockpit of the boat and me along with it!!
With daylight finally here, the Potomac became more and more interesting. North of US Highway 301 and the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge, the banks became littered with enormous homes (5000 to 6500 sq. ft. in size) that, not unlike feudal castles, dominated their piece of the shoreline. Unlike their southern counterparts, which are built on top of one another, these homes sit on immaculately manicured lots that are a minimum of three or four acres in size and surrounded by acres of hardwood forest, adding further to their castle like appearance.
As we got closer to Washington, names of places along the Potomac River began to sound like my 6th grade American History class. Quantico, Ft. Belvoir, Ft. Hunt, Ft. Foote, Ft. Washington, Mt. Vernon and Alexandria, VA were but a few of the places that lined our route to D.C. Actually seeing these historical places finally gave some clarity as to why they were so important (most of then strategically important) to our nation’s beginning. Also, most could be seen from the waterway, so, of course, we took lots of pictures as we sailed by.
Finally, near 3:00 PM, we had the Capital City in sight on the other side of the new Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge. This new drawbridge, opened to unrestricted traffic just this year, now boasts a minimum, vertical, closed clearance of 70’ (it’s old clearance was only 55’) and makes the entrance into Washington, D.C. a piece of cake for high masted boats like ours. Thirty minutes later, we pulled into the Gangplank Marina, with two VH-60N White Hawk, Presidential helicopters flying overhead as escort. We then made our way to the slip that would be our home for the next week. After checking in with the dock master, Kim and I collected lots of tourist info and brochures. Returning to the boat, we kicked back, relaxed and began planning our adventures for the next few days.