Saturday, November 7, 2015


This morning found us anchored in the Potomac River, just off the small town of Quantico, Virginia (map). We had a nice cruise from DC yesterday, albeit in some chop, and as I type we are again under way, now on a glass-calm river in light rain.

Reflecting pool, WWII memorial, Washington Monument, and Capitol from the Lincoln Memorial.

We had gorgeous weather for our last couple of days in the capital, and I took advantage of it on our last day by walking a few miles around the monuments. From the waterfront I headed past the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to the Washington Monument, then walked around The Ellipse to the White House. From there I headed to Constitution Avenue and the last remnant of the Washington City Canal, the lock keeper's house.

Preparations under way for decorating the National Christmas Tree, on the Ellipse.

From there I continued into Constitution Gardens and walked the footbridge to the forlorn monument to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence. Situated on an island in a man-made pond for the nation's bicentennial, it is today largely ignored, and the pond has become polluted in the four decades since. All of Constitution Gardens are slated for renovation shortly.

The lock keeper's house, still in its original location from when what is now Constitution Avenue was a canal. It is slated to be moved and restored next year.

I did the circuit of great war memorials, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial ("The Wall"), Women in Combat, The Three Soldiers, the Korean War Memorial, the DC War Memorial, and finally the World War II memorial. Several of these are new since the last time I made this walk. In the middle I stopped at the Lincoln Memorial, but stopped short of dodging traffic to visit the Watergate Steps.

I liked the way the marble columns framed the Washington Monument from the north side of the Lincoln Memorial.

I ended my day by walking past the John Paul Jones memorial and along the Tidal Basin across from the Jefferson Memorial on my way back to the waterfront. In all, about a three-hour walk. While some of the monuments were busy, the walk was mostly solitary and offered the chance to be contemplative.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial from across the Tidal Basin.

For all of the political whining and bickering we all do, it is somewhat cathartic to walk these grounds. From the 56 men who risked everything for freedom and self-governance, to the hundreds of thousands who died defending that freedom, it is fitting that these memorials are just across The Mall from the Capitol.

Sunset over the Tidal Basin.

Thursday evening we rode the Metro to Old Ebbitt Grill, the oldest restaurant in Washington, having long outlived its original quarters, the Ebbitt House Hotel. It was a boisterous experience, but the food was good and we enjoyed the people-watching.

While we could have stayed one more day in DC and still made our commitment Monday, weather on the lower Potomac has been a concern, and we decided to give ourselves a buffer day by leaving Friday morning. That meant an early start -- the tide was already well on its way out at daybreak. We weighed anchor at 7am in light fog and headed out past the Titanic Memorial and the War College into the river. The cat seemed incredulous that we were moving again, but she will not miss the unmistakable sound of Hueys buzzing us just a hundred feet off the deck.

In the three weeks we spent in DC, the fall color has come in along the river, and our downriver cruise was much different than the upriver leg. My little camera could not do it any justice. The folks at Mount Vernon took down the big party tent, leaving the mansion looking much as it did when Washington lived there.

Mount Vernon, southbound. It was too gray to capture the fall colors.

We ran out of tide at 11am and spent our last hour pushing against it, dropping the hook at Quantico right at noon. An early stop to the day but we did not want to push against an increasing current for a few more hours. Besides that, we wanted to see the town.

When hearing the name Quantico, most Americans think of the Marine Corps Base there, the "crossroads of the Marine Corps," or some of their famous tenants. The latter include the FBI Academy and the Hostage Rescue Team, the DEA Academy, and the new headquarters of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and other military investigative services, the Russell-Knox building. It is also, however, the name of a small, unassuming town of just 480 residents.

When the base was developed, the town of Quantico was surrounded by it on all sides, save for a short stretch of Potomac riverfront. Residents and visitors alike arriving to the town of Quantico by motor vehicle, bicycle, or on foot must pass through the base gate, presenting ID and subject to inspection. Consequently, there are few visitors and little development, and the town has the feel of having been left in another era.

Vector at anchor off Quantico, from the riverfront park.

Arriving by boat (or train -- there is a station serving Amtrak and Virginia Rail Express trains) avoids the pesky base checkpoints. The town even provides a nice new floating dinghy dock at their riverfront park.

It took us all of fifteen minutes to walk the entire town, just 12 square blocks. We counted no fewer than a half dozen barber shops -- the Marines are serious about their crew-cuts. They're serious about beer, too -- our drafts at Sam's Inn Restaurant came in one-liter mugs. A perfect complement to a nice pizza.

It was still warm and pleasant enough when we returned to Vector to sit on the aft deck for a while enjoying the river. We decked the tender in anticipation of another early start this morning. After yesterday's chop, it was nice to awake to calm conditions, and we had a nice push down the river.

Update: We are now anchored off Swan Point, Maryland (map). We had the hook down before noon, just a bit after the tide turned. The wind is picking up and the river is no longer flat, but I expect we will have a comfortable night. We'll see how far we get tomorrow -- conditions on the lower Potomac are forecast to be rough. We'll try to make the Yeocomico if we can tough it out.

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