Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Day 2-162 Wonderful (long) day in Washington, DC

We started off the day about 9:00 am with a short walk to the adjacent marina that has a pretty good marine store. We needed to buy a replacement bottle of hydraulic fluid for the steering system. If you remember two days ago we had used up the last of our supply of hydraulic fluid to partially fill the reservoir. That additional fluid corrected the "sloppy" slow responding steering problem. However, we still need to add a little more fluid to make the reservoir properly filled.

Then it was off for a little museum viewing. The weather forecast for today indicated rain starting about 2:00 pm so we wanted to get an early start. First we walked about a mile to the National Museum of American Indians. We had been told that the best cherry blossoms in DC had been about a week ago but that the same storm that had delayed us in Norfolk had also blown away many of the cherry blossoms. Fortunately, there are still plenty of trees that seem to be in full bloom. Wow!

Well, the Admiral says that I am vain. She took this picture of me taking pictures so I just HAD to include it as well. In spite of me, these cherry blossoms are pretty as well...

Anyway, as you can see the walk to the museum was quite a beautiful trip.

Neither of us had been to the American Indian Museum before, and it was quite a nice experience. One of the first things that we did was to have lunch, and that was spectacular. They had four different serving areas with each one featuring a selection of foods from different nations/tribes. I had a squid ceviche and southern squash (butternut squash). The ceviche was outstanding! The picture on the right was taken from the top (fourth) floor looking down into a central area with three hand made boats. We saw a movie and toured several of the many informational displays/exhibits. Then it was off to our second (and as it turned out) final museum of the day.

Along the way we walked across the mall that extends from the Capitol Building to the Washington Memorial. If you remember, the monument suffered some damage during an earthquake several years ago, The scaffolding up the sides has been removed in only the past few days, but the monument is not yet open to visitors. The picture at the left is up the Mall toward the Capitol Building. The Washington Monument was about the same distance away directly behind me.

What was the second museum that we visited? Of all things, it was the Spy Museum. The Admiral wanted to see it, and well, Admirals do usually get their way. Actually, it was quite interesting. It was an eclectic mix of about half James Bond and had really spies and their tools of the trade. Cassette tape players really became a big thing around 1970, but it seems that spies had been using similar looking tape recorders for as much as 20 years before that. There were cameras of every size and shape, etc. There was also a fair amount of history of spying particularly during the 20th century. As stated earlier, there was also a lot of information about how James Bond worked as a spy, including this Aston Martin as seen in Goldfinger (and several other Bond movies I believe). One of the interesting factoids was that facial recognition software was used in a Bond movie about 20 years before it became readily available (for non-spies at least).

Then we headed back to Lucky Us for a little R&R before Lori picked us up for a really great dinner at one of those non-tourist restaurants that are known to locals. This final picture was taken as we said goodbye back at the Capitol Marina. Thanks Lori for a great evening!

Day 2-161 arrived at Capitol Yacht Club in Washington, DC

We left Hope Springs Marina at 8:20 am for a leisurely 47.5 mile trip to Washington, DC. I throttled back on the engines, but with a favorable 1.2 mph tidal current we still averaged about 8.3 mph in scattered clouds  with a breeze of 5 to 10 mph. Until we approached the DC metro area, we only saw a half dozen boats, and the scenery was magnificent. I was able to continue my "love affair" with ospreys. We must have seen a hundred today! Hard to believe that the first ospreys were sighted on the Potomac River near DC only about 20 years ago. We did learn more about these magnificent birds. A
couple of years ago, two osprey living under a bridge near DC were tagged so that there migration pattern could be observed. During the warmer months, there are abundant fish near the surface, but in the colder months the fish move into deeper water. When the readily available food supply vanishes, the birds migrate south. One went to the coast of Venezuela and the other went to the coastal margin of the northern Amazon Delta. With their low body mass and large wingspan of up to 6 feet, they are able to glide efficiently using thermals. According to the researchers, they can fly those long distances over water with one eye closed and half of their brain asleep to conserve energy???

Much of the shoreline was in a natural state until we got closer to DC. George Washington's home at Mount Vernon is about 16 miles by water from DC so there are houses nearby, but the view from the water is spectacular. Washington was a surveyor so he had much of this area, and as you can see, he chose a spectacular location. Partially hidden in the trees, you can see some of the many outbuildings that served the farm.

We also went by the Marine base at Quantico, which has a long sprawl of buildings along the riverfront. It is also home to training centers for the FBI and NCIS. Interesting, but not very scenic...

As we got closer to DC, the number (and size) of waterfront houses increased. Honestly, they were not all this big, but...

The first real sign of the approach to Dc is the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge for I-95. The clearance under the bridge is 76 feet, but it does open with 12 hours notice during a strange time period (low traffic) of midnight to 6:00 am. Fortunately, we cleared with about 57 feet to spare.

There is a fabulous looking area with the Gaylord Conference Center (and hotel, ferris wheel, marina, shops, etc.).We might try to check this out on the way back down river. The picture is just the hotel and conference center. The shops, etc. are off to the left (east).

As we passed under the I-95 bridge, we got our first view of the DC skyline.

I will be the first to admit that this is not a great photo. Starting on the left you see part of the Alexandria, VA waterfront, a water taxi with the Washington Monument in the background, a plane to the right of the monument (going in to Reagan Airport, and near the right side is the dome of the Capitol Building. The cluster of radar domes on the far right is a Navy research lab. The scenery just kept getting closer and better as we approached the Capitol Yacht Club near the Washington Monument. It has been a long side trip of about 125 miles to go to DC, but it is well worth the effort.

After docking and getting settled, we went off to meet our friend Lori and meet several of her work colleagues. Then we went off for a great dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Since leaving Texas about 2 months ago we had been going through withdrawal for Mexican food and this was definitely a treat. After dinner, we walked to the Capitol Building and toured just a little bit. Yes, this picture is a "selfie" taken in front of the Library Congress Building. After the short walk, Lori was kind enough to drive us back to the Marina. By then, it was getting late (about 8:00 pm), and both the Admiral and I were struggling to stay awake. Aaaah, sleep, wonderful sleep! A long, but wonderful day indeed.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day 2-160 onward up the Potomac River

Yesterday I showed a picture of the narrow harbor channel into the marina. Well, this morning we faced a 15 mph wind blowing right into the channel as we departed. We left the dock and had about two boat lengths in which we had to turn 90 degrees to the right and directly into the wind to go out the channel. It turned out to be a "piece of cake" because...  I have been working on my slow speed maneuvering of Lucky Us. For docking and other slow speed maneuvering the mantra is idle speed, helm in centered position, use forward/reverse on the engines to turn. This is indeed true because the easiest way to get into trouble in close quarters is to "gun" the engines. However, there are times when the wind and/or current make it difficult to turn. What to do? The next stage in the learning curve is to begin to use the helm to increase turning rate. The propellers are in front of the rudders so when backing up, the flow from the propellers does not pass the rudders, but when going forward the flow from the propellers passes and is effected by the rudders.  Anyway a little turn of the rudders makes the boat turn faster, but if does not effect backing up. Anyway, I am still learning, and this more complicated approach is far from perfected. So, I will keep working on it until it feels "natural".

For the first 5 miles there were more small fishing boats trolling for Rockfish, and then suddenly there were no more for the rest of the trip. Obviously there was a change in something like salinity, bottom type (rock to mud?) or ???

Today's trip was 54.9 miles, which is a little shorter than the past two days, and mercifully, I got to sleep in a little. We departed at 8:40 am in light  southeast winds of 10 to 15 mph. The seas were only 1.5 feet or less depending upon the orientation of the river relative to the wind. The Admiral usually calls the next marina about 9:30 am, and after she got off the phone, she commented that the marina employee had mentioned several times that the railroad bridge adjacent to the marina did have 4 tracks going over it... Sure enough, the main north-south line for the CSX System runs over that bridge. In a very short time we saw two Amtrak passenger trains as well as numerous freight trains. This picture was taken up by the marina office, and Lucky Us is docked out at the end of the pier (about where my finger tip is along the left edge).

Being a (retired) scientist, I had to check out the noise level by taking a nap... No problem! Then it was time for a few jobs. We checked the level of the hydraulic fluid in the steering system and added several ounces of fluid. The fuel price was good ($3.699/gallon for diesel) so we added 197.8 gallons.
While we were at it, we pumped out the holding tank and added fresh water to the aft tank. The marina was closed early for the holiday so we did it by ourselves so the pace was pretty relaxed. The picture at the right shows us tied up at the fuel dock so all of the fuel, pump out, etc. was right along side. There is also a CSX freight train going over the bridge. I exchanged waves with several of the engineers. Great fun!

In all fairness to the marina, this is the view out the port side of Lucky Us. There are a few houses on the high hill behind the marina, but we never saw anything like a town although the address here is Stafford, VA. I mentioned a change in the fishing earlier, but while enjoying this view, I realized that the vegetation has changed from a few days ago. We do not see any of the tall southern pines, and the forest appear to be all deciduous trees, which are in the process of leafing out.

Tomorrow we hope to be in Washington, DC. Stay tuned...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Day 2-159 into the Potomac River

We departed Deltaville at 7:40 am (once again) and headed up the Chesapeake Bay to the Potomac River on our way to Washington, DC. Yesterday from Norfolk to Deltaville, we had travelled at our "high" cruising speed. This results in a higher fuel burn (duh?), but it also results in a higher than normal consumption of oil in the starboard diesel. Just for reminders, that diesel engine is the one that has not been re-built so the extra oil burn (and related smoke) is to be expected. However, I felt that it was worth it to reach our destination sooner given the sea conditions. The Admiral and I were both a little stiff this morning from a certain amount of "holding on" and also not moving around more than necessary.

Our run today was 59 miles at our normal cruising speed of 8 mph. Without touching the throttles, our speed ranged from 6.8 to almost 10.0 mph as the tide direction varied, our overall average was just about 8 mph for a trip of 7 hours and 25 minutes.

After 25 miles, we rounded the Smith Point Lighthouse and headed west into the Potomac River. Depending on how you measure it, the Potomac is as much as 12 miles wide where it enters the Chesapeake Bay. The wind was about 10 mph out of the north with modest 1.5 to 2.0 foot waves. About a half hour after rounding the Smith Point Lighthouse, we finally got into the lee of the north shore and the wind and waves dropped to "almost" nothing.

If you have some spare change, the lighthouse is for sale for $499,999.00. Beginning in the late 18th century, there have been a series of lighthouses, including the first one that was dismantled and moved further inland twice. This was followed by different lighthouses and lightships. The last one is built on a cast iron caisson sunk into the muddy bottom, and it is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It has four bedrooms and has been completely remodeled, new kitchen, bathroom and boat lift. If you like isolation, this could be for you...

Our final destination was the Coles Point Marina about 24 miles past the lighthouse. Coles Point is just past where the Potomac bends to head north toward DC. Along the way, there were a number of boats trolling for Rockfish (aka Stripers). The marina has a very good restaurant on site, and we ate dinner there. We lucked out since the restaurant just opened for the season as of yesterday. Guess what the dinner special was? This is the second time on the trip that I have had Rockfish, and it is very tasty!

We are now less than 100 miles from DC, but we still plan to do this in two days remembering that we have "no itinerary".

The marina has beautiful new floating docks for transients, and it also has a big sand beach and a large in ground pool that is, of course, not open yet. As I said earlier, the wind and wave conditions that we encountered in the Potomac today were quite good. Hopefully, these same conditions will prevail tomorrow morning for our departure since the channel into the marina is rather narrow.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day, and to top it all off, the Admiral just took this picture of the sunset over the marina...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 2-158 onward toward DC - to Deltaville, VA

The weather predictions got slightly better over night, so we left the dock at 7:35 am on our way to Deltaville, VA about 59 miles up the west side of the Chesapeake Bay.

As we left the marina and rounded a bend to head north into the Chesapeake Bay, we passed the Nauticus Marine Museum and the battleship Wisconsin. The trip out to the bay then took us between Norfolk and Hampton Roads with more shipyards and naval bases.

We passed two more aircraft carriers and several destroyers as well. As we got closer to the Bay, we passed two destroyers from the task force for the USS Harry S Truman that was due into Norfolk today after a 9 month deployment. Shortly after we entered the Bay and turned to go more northwest, we could see the Truman as she was approaching Norfolk. In the picture on the left the aircraft carrier on the left is a super carrier like the Truman, but when you see one all alone on the open water it is a much more impressive sight...

Once we got into the Bay, the waves were slightly less than expected (1.5 to 2 feet) and over the next 30 miles the wind went down to less than 15 mph. It was not a great trip, but we were not holding on for dear life either.
We got to our marina at about 2:30 pm, which was sooner than expected thanks to largely favorable tidal currents. We borrowed the loaner car from the marina and went into Deltaville to take our used oil to a recycling center. While there we also went to West Marine where I bought a shirt and some throw away paint brushes. On the way back to the boat we stopped and got a pizza to go for dinner. Deltaville is a really small town, but it is a large boating center with many marinas. We chose Dozier's Regatta Point Yachting Center because we have seen it written up in several different boating magazines, and it really is quite nice with a pool, club house, etc. One of these days we are going to stay at a marina with a pool that is actually OPEN...
Tomorrow, the trip to DC continues...

Days 2-154-7 Good times (and some bad weather) in Norfolk, VA

Day 154 in Norfolk, VA (Monday, April 14, 2014)

Wow, I should have a picture of a bus... It seems like we spent the whole day on a bus. We set off to run errands with the first stop at Walgreen's, Target and then Ruby Tuesday's for lunch. At this point we would have been done, but West Marine had moved! We  got there nearly 1 1/2 hours later. This had actually been our most important stop since the time limit on our hand held flares had expired, and we would not have passed an inspection. On the way back we got off the bus at the end of the (new) light rail line and rode it back to about 3 blocks from the marina. Kind of a long (boring) day, but I needed to pick up some prescriptions, and the flares were a necessity.

Day 155 in Norfolk, VA (Tuesday, April 15, 2014)
We knew that there was a 100% chance of rain so we planned accordingly.
We set off on a 4 block walk to the Nauticus Maritime Museum and the battleship Wisconsin. We had a short wait before the museum opened at 10:00 am, but we beat the rain.

While waiting for the museum to open,, we had time to walk around the slip where the battleship Wisconsin is permanently moored. She had a long and varied career starting late in WW II and through the first Gulf War, where instead of using her 16 inch guns, she launched rockets. Our tickets to the museum included a tour of the ship, but when we got to the entrance, it was pouring so we opted out. This is the fifth battleship that I have visited, and I continue to be impressed by their size, grace and power.

The Admiral took this wonderful frontal view of the Wisconsin. We have passed along side many large ships on Lucky Us, but I think that I would really freak out if I ever looked up and saw this coming at me...

The museum had a wonderful story of the history of the US Navy with many ship models. However, keeping with the theme of Grandson Will and tugs, I thought this exhibit was quite fun. We did pick up some pointers on tug construction as well.

We left the museum in time to have a quick lunch and go to see the Captain America. There was plenty of rain throughout the day, but once again the several blocks to the movie and back to the boat were dry. Actually, I walked back to the boat after the movie while the Admiral had her haircut.

We had dinner on the boat, and the TV was full of severe weather reports and warnings. There were frost warning right up to the Atlantic coast in some places. Sure enough, at 7:30 the wind switched from south at 12 mph to north at 30-35mph with gusts as high as 54 mph. The wind shift was very quick, and in the next 20 minutes the temperature fell 20F as well. Overnight our low temperature was 37F, and the Admiral remarked that she was happy that she had not unplugged the electric blanket yet. We had known about the approach of this front (aka a northeaster) for several days so we had already postponed our departure from Norfolk.

Day 156 in Norfolk, VA (Wednesday, April 16, 2014)
We picked up a rent car at 8:00 am and set off to visit the battlefield at Yorktown and the historic colonial village of Williamstown for the day. The morning after the front blew through, it was clear and sunny but still very windy.

This picture is out the front window our the Mini Cooper as we head into the tunnel under the ship channel between Norfolk and Hampton Roads.

At the Visitors Center we saw a historical movie about the Battle of Yorktown, which was the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. Then we took a self guided driving tour around the battlefield. The last earthen works were less than 400 yards apart so they really were firing at point blank range. Unfortunately, it was too cold in the strong wind to walk around for very long.

After the driving tour, it was time to head off to Williamsburg and lunch with JJ Lightfoot. JJ is one of many special students that I have taught over the years. As you can tell, she is an Aggie -class of 2011 (Gig 'em!). The three of us had a delightful lunch and did some catching up.

Downtown Williamsburg is sandwiched between William & Mary University and the restored colonial village. So, after lunch we walked around part of the beautiful restored town.

Then it was time to head back to Norfolk to do some grocery shopping before turning in the rent car. We are planning on a 4-day trip to Washington, DC starting the day after tomorrow (?). So, this is our window of opportunity to fill up the refrigerator.

Day 157 in Norfolk, VA (Thursday, April 17, 2014)
aaaah, the sweet smell of oil in the engine room...
While the wind is hopefully blowing itself out, I took the opportunity to change the oil in both of the main diesel engines. We have a two way, 12 volt DC pump on top of a 5 gallon can. Attach the alligator clips to a 12 volt battery and plug in a hose that goes to the drain valve at the bottom of the crankcase. Turn on the pump, and a few minutes later the 3 gallons of oil have been removed. Then you can fill up the engine with 3 gallons of new oil. Now, reverse the pump and put the old oil into the empty gallon cans. Sounds easy and quick? Yup, but it is also dirty/messy, and if you are really (un)lucky, you can spill some oil into the bilge. Fortunately, after I had finished one engine, the Admiral reminded me that it was time to walk over to the mall to see the movie "Heaven is for real". Unfortunately, the other engine was still waiting for an oil change when we got back from the movie.

Normally, after a front like the one on Tuesday night moves through, the winds stay high for about 3 days. However, the weather forecasts for tomorrow (Day 158) predict north winds of (only?) 15 to 18 mph and waves of 2 to 2.5 feet. These are marginal conditions so we will take a closer look in the morning...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Day 2-153 First day in Norfolk, VA

Started the day off with a big mistake... I did not sleep in, and the Admiral had a full afternoon of activities planned, which meant no nap. After 153 days on the boat, you would think that I would have learned by now??? The adult fare was $1.50 and the 50% discounted Senior Fare was $0.75.

We caught the Norfolk to Portsmouth Ferry (first picture) across the river to the historic riverfront area in Portsmouth.

From the ferry, we had nice views back at the Norfolk waterfront and skyline. The scattered high clouds allowed the temperature to reach 70F away from the water. With a nice breeze it was comfortable sitting outside on the ferry with a sleeveless sweater on.  It was nice going past some of the shipyards that we had passed yesterday with someone else "driving" so that I could be more of a tourist.

We first went to the Commodore Theater to purchase tickets for the 2:00 pm dinner theater showing of "Noah". After buying tickets, we had planned to go to a marine supply store, which it turns out is no longer in business. Well, we then spent some time in an antique store, but by then it was time to go inside the theater. We had been advised that all ordering needed to be done before the show started. Robert, the famous lockmaster that we met yesterday, had recommended the Nachos with BBQ Beef. We took his recommendation and were not disappointed. Just before the show started, we ordered some popcorn so that I could get my
movie popcorn fix... The theater is a historic landmark, but they have state of the art projection and sound (Dolby, 3-D, etc.). The side walls had colorful murals with local scenes (picture on right). The mushroom lights at the bottom were on the tables that had nice stuffed arm chairs that could be re-arranged for viewing the movie (and holding hands). All in all it was a pretty class act. Just one more of those pieces of local color that the Admiral has been so good at finding. Once more, we were very grateful that we have had the time to explore towns and find wonderful places like this theater.

After the movie, we walked around a little on the way back to a different ferry dock. Along the riverfront walkway, we passed the Portsmouth Lightship. Lightships played an important role in dangerous areas where it was too deep to build a lighthouse. It must have been miserable duty aboard an anchored vessel subjected to violent Atlantic storms, which no doubt made regular re-supply and crew changes difficult. One of the problems with the restoration and display of vessels is that they must be dry docked regularly to have their bottoms painted or in a worst case have the steel bottoms replaced. Here they seemed to have solved that problem by putting the lightship in the ground encased in concrete. They also have a wall so that several inches of water make it look like the boat is afloat. Pretty good idea, and it has worked for about 60 years.

We also walked past the "Learning Barge", which is a floating marine education center. This kind of facility is appropriate for this area given the heavy influence of maritime activities on the economy, environment, etc. Besides, I really like the name...

Sadly, by then it was nearly 5:00 pm and time to catch one of the ferries back across to our marina on the Norfolk side of the river.

..and so, I will end today's post with a picture of the blades on the (fake) paddlewheels.