Washington DC, Part 2, the Spy Museum, Capitol, and Zoo

So, after my initial neurological orgasm at the Air and Space Museum, what could I do but go back? In fact, that’s precisely what I did with John on Friday, albeit for a more protracted visit. Our next stop was the spy museum, which you have the pleasure of paying 20 bucks to visit, but which obligingly provides you with a spying “experience”. This essentially involves remembering a bit of information and picking out details on computer screens. It  is very kitschy and clearly directed at kids, but most of the museum is actually incredibly interesting. Their one floor exhibit that seemingly never ends(seriously, we were there for probably 3 hours on the same floor and just kept wandering into more exhibits. It was like Narnia in museum form) provides a wealth of information, from gadgets and other tools of the trade,  to notable spying accomplishments, and the lives of spies from ancient history to the present. All in all, it was pretty cool. I’ve always loved James Bond, and the museum definitely caters to that particular taste in spy history.

After spending a few hours as a Kiwi spy, stationed in Thailand, I met up with Pieter and Ellen and spent a few hours on the mall, walking around the monuments before being driven inside by a torrential downpour that continued into the evening. We all met up with several friends, John’s mother, Tracey and his uncle, Will at Will’s house for dinner.We had a scrumptious fish dinner there(after I shamelessly exploited Will’s hot tub, shower, and kindness) before heading back into the city to enjoy a Friday night in DC. We  met up with several more friends at the surprisingly difficult to pronounce Dan’s Cafe. For those of you who are familiar with Dan’s Cafe, I have said enough. For those who aren’t, that’s probably for the best.

We all met up again the next morning afternoon for a tour of the Capitol, put on by John’s friend from college, Ben, who knows more facts about the Capitol stored in his head than I could memorize in two lifetimes. We got to see all of the usual stops, statues and paintings, the dome, obviously, and even one passage that usual tours don’t get to visit. It was pretty awesome to look around at the immensity of the Capitol and think that many people actually go to work there every day.

Having seen enough of the government the first few days, we took a slightly different tack on Sunday. We met up at Busboys and Poets(a mouthful of a name, and friggin impossible to remember) for a delicious, if pricey brunch, and then walk up a ways to the Washington DC Zoo. I have a moral quandary when it comes to zoos. On the one hand, I’ve always loved being able to go and see animals I would never see anywhere else. I have some amazing memories from zoos as a kid, and most zoos that I have been to are very involved in conservation work and the preservation of the animals’ natural habitats. There is something to be said, too, for exposing children to such animals at a young age, so that they grow up with an understanding and respect for the natural world all over the earth. Having said that, I always feel a slight pang watching a bear with maybe 500 square feet of space, looking forlornly about at the only world that he will ever know. It’s not for me to say whether the benefits of such institutions outweigh the grave cost in the lives of these animals. It is sometimes simply difficult to watch them seemingly mourn their lot in life. In spite of that…inspiring dilemma, I really did enjoy going to the zoo, as I generally do. The one area that I regret not seeing is the reptile house, because if there is one thing my irrational fear of snakes requires, it’s a constant update of how terrifying and deadly those disgusting, slithering creatures are.

We got up early(ish) the following morning and took a bus back to Annapolis to pick up the boat and continue on down the Chesapeake, heading for the (thankfully well protected) city of Norfolk.

Washington, DC Part 1 The Air and Space Museum

I enjoyed Washington DC a lot more than I expected. Having only experienced the city as an 8th grader on a school trip, and as a fellow pilgrim to Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity two years ago, I expected DC to be both intellectually overwhelming and packed with people. Happily, I was proven incorrect on both counts. Washington, DC was incredibly intellectually stimulating, but when you aren’t being dragged to five museums a day, with guest speakers between each, you can process and register the information, making the experience enlightening, rather than simply exhausting. To lay out all of our myriad adventures and intellectual accomplishments would be thoroughly dull, so I will instead regale you with the highlights of our tourist experience and forgo a thorough recollection of our social endeavors, which would take far too long.

On Thursday, October 25th I met up with Pieter and Ellen at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum, and proceeded to spend the next 4 hours viewing the entire thing. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. I had no idea I was so interested in aeronautics and space, but I apparently possessed this latent obsession with flight that was tickled absolutely silly by the sight of so many planes in one place. That passion however, was a mere passing interest in comparison to my complete fascination with space and our exploration of it. The thought that we could have gone to space and landed on the moon back when supercomputers were, in comparison to John’s $400 pos laptop, roughly the equivalent of a pubescent simian, is absolutely astonishing and a tribute to human accomplishment. In fact, due to this visit, I am now considering a career as an astronaut. From what I hear, all i have to do is become a genius in math and 3 or 4 other sciences, none of which I have the least aptitude for, and complete job-specific training in addition. That couldn’t take me much more than thirty or forty years, could it?

Chesapeake Bay and Annapolis

Our trip down the Chesapeake to Annapolis was entirely uneventful. We didn’t even have to beat into the wind to get south. In fact, the only even vaguely difficult activity was getting into our anchorage up Fairlee Creek. We had to wind our way through a tiny channel, registering depths of less than a foot under the keel, fairly certain that at any moment we would feel ourselves slowly ground ourselves into a sandbar. The tradeoff was, however, a fantastic anchorage where we were completely protected from both wind and waves. We got up early the following morning and caught a fair, following breeze all the way down to Annapolis where we pulled into the Watergate Village Marina.

Watergate Village was one of the most understanding places that we’ve been to so far. They gave us a map of the area, along with free tickets to the water taxi and instructions to come back and get more, should we like them. We didn’t do much the first night, other than checking out the local sailors’ watering hole, Davis’ Pub. It wasn’t a particularly crowded place on a Wednesday night, but with dinner, followed by the densest quart of orange chicken this world has ever known, we, in our sinful gluttony, could hardly complain about how the night went. We spent the entire next day working on the boat, clearing it off for the weekend and getting a long-neglected coat of varnish down(just for reference, we had begun planning to apply varnish August 21st). We headed to Washington DC late that evening, for yet another weekend of card games and soda with friends from home and school.

Philadelphia

Going back to Philly was kinda like coming home for me. Having spent three years going to school just north in Haverford, I’ve spent enough time in the area to feel comfortable there. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that most of my friends from school have moved into Philly, as Haverford grads are wont to do, and it was a great opportunity to see everybody in their grown-up, mature lifestyles(so to speak).

Ellen has family in Philadelphia, so she and Pieter headed out fro Friday night, while John went up to Princeton to see our friend Peter(long-term readers may remember him as the friend who accompanied us across Lake Michigan in June). I, on the other hand, went out in Philly with a few friends, mostly discussing our old shenanigans over tea and crumpets in a civilized, sophisticated fashion. The following day, everyone came into the city and we hung out for a few hours, before John, Pieter and I went to a buddy’s housewarming party before crashing at my friend Ankur’s house. We spent Sunday watching football and indulging in the greatest of Philadelphia’s contributions to humankind, Philly Cheesesteaks. We left Sunday night to head back to the boat, not without some regret on my part. I’d like to take this opportunity to selfishly thank and give a shout out to the 42 wrecking crew who were so welcoming to us in Philly(with the notable absence of Hannah, Joey, and Rob, I wish y’all had been there). So, to Aaron, Andrew, Liz, Laura, and, of course, Ankur, thank you so much for your hospitality. I miss you all, and I’m looking forward to getting back soon…ish.

We got up early in Delaware City on Monday morning and caught the C&D canal into the Chesapeake, heading down to Annapolis and the next big stop of our trip, Washington DC.

Cape May to Delaware City

We spent the night at the Miss Chris Marina that evening, where John and Pieter got their first taste of Wawa sandwiches, which were a staple of my college career. We arose late the next morning to catch the tide through the Cape May Canal and into the Delaware Bay. After a relaxing day, on which the wind died, allowing us to motor directly to our anchorage in Cohansey Bay. Naturally the wind began picking up as we arrived, and we all slept deeply until around midnight when the waves began building. We spent the rest of that…memorable night, laboring for sleep as we were tossed up, down, and side-to-side by waves seemingly coming from every direction, one of which resulted in my rather rapid airborne vacation of my bed for a much firmer location on the floor against my will. I got up around 6:30(woke up would be far too kind a term) and motored up the Delaware River against thankfully much reduced wind, while the rest of the crew got their first real sleep of the night.

Although we spent very little time in Delaware, we were incredibly impressed with the managers at the Delaware City Marina. Our experience on the East coast has been that the people we meet are generally amiable, but distant. Whereas in the midwest people were always looking to hang out with us and find out about our trip, we have generally found that East coasters prefer to keep us at arm’s length and are not quite as warm in welcoming us. In Delaware, by contrast, we found the marina managers to be extraordinarily hospitable and affable, just about talking our ears off about how much they liked seeing guests who didn’t need assistance getting from the boat to the dock. We spent the afternoon performing some light maintenance on the boat before renting a car to get us to Philadelphia.

Atlantic City to Cape May

The following two days were exercises in full-blown laziness. While 30 kt winds combined with torrential rain kept us firmly in AC, prudence suggested that spending any more money there, and we endeavored to enjoy as many Golden Nugget hotel amenities as we could, without enjoying their more expensive offerings, such as “gambling” and “food”. Hannah left around 3pm, also known as “shortly before everyone else got up,” and we spent the rest of the afternoon in the hot tub and fitness center, before watching football and going to bed early. Tuesday was more productive(if it can be called that), as we spent the whole day using the hotel’s internet to plan out the rest of the trip. This included my spending a spiritually calming 6 hours trying to figure out Christmas flights, only to be shown up by John who got everything figured out in half an hour. This kind and generous favor forced me to struggle mightily between the impulses to hug him with gratitude or to hurl a stapler at his head.

We left bright and early on Wednesday for our wholly uneventful sail down the coast, apart, of course, from the dolphins who swam with the boat for a mile or so, two hours out of AC. We are starting to get absolutely spoiled in our ocean going experiences. We have reached the point that I thoroughly expect to see Dolphins every time we venture out onto salt water. As far as I can tell, it is wholly impossible to venture any great distance from shore on the ocean without seeing dolphins, which seem to turn up brimming with curiosity at the merest presence of a boat. The puppies of the sea, they are continually playful and frolicsome, and always a pleasure to watch as they make their (much more rapid) way past us.

 

Atlantic City:Day 1

Atlantic City was simultaneously a lot of fun, and incredibly depressing. I had never been to a casino before, and as a result had never had much proximity to real gambling and its pervasive addictiveness. I gotta say, As a place to spend a day or two once or twice a lifetime, AC isn’t too bad. As a frequent weekend destination where you bring the kids, however, I would say that it lacks some of the attributes that one would generally look for, including museums, parks, cultural experiences, and really, any activities other than gambling and drinking. Nevertheless, it was a blast to visit for a couple days, and get a little taste of the seedy underbelly of the (otherwise serenely beautiful) garden state.

We spent the first afternoon recovering from the rigors of our journey in the only sophisticated way possible, by napping and relaxing in the casino hot tub. My friend, Hannah came down from New York for the night, and we all entered the Golden Nugget Casino with little conception of where our night would take us.

As it turned out, our night first took us to the most disappointing buffet this side of Atreus and Thyestes. In spite of our resultant indigestion, we hit the casino floor for my first gambling experience. To be honest, I really don’t get slots. It took me all of about 2 minutes and 5 dollars to realize that slots is the least addictive activity, in which I’ve ever participated. I must have been doing something wrong, but as far as I could tell, all you do is push a button and lose money in 20 cent increments. I fared somewhat better at blackjack, but after about 15 minutes we all felt like a change of pace was needed, and it came in the form of three German students who happened to walk past just then. I heard them speaking and shouted (only the most polite and cosmopolitan phrases) in German to get their attention. They turned out to be incredibly friendly, and we spent the night hanging out, even going to another club before finally getting to bed very close to sunrise(which really, when you think about it, is the only way to do Atlantic City).

Nantucket to Atlantic City

Sailing the 240 miles from Nantucket to Atlantic City took a good long time. We were on the boat for 3 days and nights, moving pretty much constantly. The first day was uneventful. We had to navigate through some shoals on our way around Nantucket, but once we got out and pointed south, we didn’t have to do much but put ourselves on the right course and let Henry the autopilot do his work. Of course, it was at this point that the wind chose to die, leaving us to drift vaguely southwest through the ever-present fog.

It became very clear some time on Friday that we would not be reaching AC on Saturday as we had hoped. The dearth of wind, combined with our reluctance to motor kept us moving at 1-2 kts all day, while a veritable menagerie of wildlife frolicked around the boat like it was Snow White’s enchanted forest. Fish were jumping, a pod of dolphins swam by, and 4 separate birds came and hung out with us in the cockpit, one of them going so far as to actually fly into the cabin, undoubtedly trying to find the source of the delightful aroma that accompanies our vessel when none of us has changed our clothes in days. We also watched as a falcon/hawk-looking bird of prey circled the mast for a while, probably drawn by the preponderance of food-sized fauna chirping around the cockpit.

Friday night was absolutely staggering. The fog finally lifted a bit before nightfall, and as we were still too far out to see lights on the coastline we had an amazing view of the entire universe opened up above us. I’ve seen some good looking stars in my day, having seen beautiful nights up in Michigan, as well as in the mountains of Colorado and Santa Fe, but the sheer number of stars, their brightness, and the clarity of the milky way especially were, to describe it succinctly, indescribable. I sat there completely star str…flabbergasted for about half an hour until the moon came up and ruined everything.

Saturday was rather less relaxing. Winds approaching 25kts sped us up considerably, but also kept us at a fairly constant 25 degree heel, which, in conjunction with 8 foot waves turned even going to the bathroom into an impressive athletic feat. While this wind front did speed us up, it also did so with impeccable timing, getting us into Atlantic City at 1am. This  timing forced us to circle for 7 hours, waiting until the marina opened. misfortune had not finished with us quite yet, however. As we approached the dock, I casually threw the boat into reverse to slow us down, and was quite surprised to find us accelerating forward. We were already at the dock, so we all had to leap off the boat and frantically wrap lines to stop it from ploughing into the dock. The boat suffered some scraping from the dock, but the damage was mostly cosmetic and John got the throttle fixed up in minutes. We finally pulled into our slip at the Golden Nugget and set out to explore Atlantic City, the East Coast’s nominee for “City Where You are Most Likely to Wake Up with a Lower Back Tatoo and a Spray Tan” What could possibly go wrong?

Nantucket

Leaving Boston for Nantucket, we only had one decision to make. Cut through the Cape Cod Canal and Wood’s Hole again, or just go around Cape Cod entirely. We opted for the latter for a couple of reasons.While riding the tides through is pretty exhilarating, they are very precise, and if we were to miss one(a virtual certainty for us), we might to wait as much as 12 hours before the next tide, which is far longer than anyone wants to spend with John on a 31-foot boat doing circles. Additionally, we decided that going around Cape Cod would give us some nice experience in more open water, which we were all keen to get. We ended up sailing rather tenaciously through the night, as a deep fog enveloped us around midnight and persisted through the following morning until we got to Nantucket.

Nantucket is the cutest East coast island that I’ve never seen. It was actually out of sight as we pulled into the harbor, and only vaguely visible as some sort of land mass when we finally moored 800 ft away from the shore. We spent a lovely afternoon walking around “downtown” Nantucket, trying to find a place with prices that you wouldn’t have to mortgage your house to afford (we didn’t find many). Nantucket has a similar strange sort of feeling to it that Mackinac Island had. It was, to be fair, significantly less creepy, but it was still somewhat disconcerting to walk through the fog and watch house after house emerge looking exactly the same.I don’t know if it is a building code that only applies around the heart of town, or if everyone on Nantucket just has similar taste in green-panelled siding, but the buildings were homogenous enough that it was easy to get lost and find yourself in entirely the wrong place…the fog didn’t help either. John, Pieter, and I spent a fun, low-key evening at the Chicken Box and the Salty Dog, where we played pool, ate wings, answered trivia, and still got to bed by 11 (which is much easier when you go out at 5:30).

We woke up the following morning, October 4th, and frantically paddled back to land to use the restrooms and arrange a pump-out, which was truly necessary before the 3 day slog ahead of us. We left much the way that we had come – through fog. We set sail for the 235 mile stretch to Atlantic City – our longest non-stop sail yet.

Still in Boston

I apologize profusely for our flagrant lack of posting. So remember how I said we were gonna leave the next day in my last post? Yeah, that didn’t happen. We ended up sticking around for almost a week, once again miles apart from one another. However, in the interest of keeping the blog going, I figured we might as well post a bit about the nature of our most recent maintenance activities that we undertook in the last week.

Some of the tasks were fairly routine, organizing the cabin, cleaning the bilge, re-oiling the interior teak. and crawling into the lockers under the settee and cleaning them, getting the last traces of bilge water (left over from that little “almost sinking” incident) finally wiped up.

There were, in addition, two tasks that unfortunately eluded our burst of productivity. Putting up the Radar system and resetting the lazy jacks. The first is a task that I don’t particularly relish. Our Radar hangs on a tube that runs up the back stay, which puts a lot of pressure on the stay itself.As a result, we have yet to find a way to tighten the stay to the manufacturer’s specifications. In addition, as we’ve only used the Radar up to this point once, and it very helpfully told us that it was already raining, I do not set much store by it. Having said that, I do understand the need for it and it’s uses, particularly in fog and heavy weather, so I tend to piss and moan about it a good bit, but I wind up just wanting to get it back up so that we can at least have a clear cockpit. The other task is rather more delicate, as it requires the proper conditions. Since hitting salt water we have rarely had a period of true calm, which has limited our ability to clamber up the mast for work. I am hardly what one would call “cautious”, “intelligent”, or “respectful of my own inevitable mortality”, but climbing 40 feet up to run lines with a heaving boat sounds particularly unpleasant, especially considering that every movement of the boat is magnified several times at the top of the mast.

Those two tasks aside, however, we were actually extremely productive, and we are looking forward to actually heading south finally, as we head to Nantucket, thence to Atlantic City.