We were very pleasantly surprised by our entire 3-1/2 week Potomac/Washington adventure.
Here’s a very brief summary:
- The Potomac is wide – *very* wide – and there are no significant navigation difficulties. There is a strong tidal flow that will affect cruising boats – either help if “fair” or hinder if “foul.” Washington, DC, is about 115 miles up the Potomac from the Smith Point – Point Lookout line on the Chesapeake Bay. That’s about half as far as Chattanooga is from the Tenn-Tom. On the Potomac, there are no locks and no gorges, but the scale of the Potomac’s vistas are amazing.
- There are many good places to anchor and several marina choices along the way.
- The marinas we encountered were more “affordable” than the marinas along the A-ICW; i.e., less expensive!
- There are three marina choices on the Washington Channel in downtown Washington:
- Washington Marina,
- Capital Yacht Club and
- Gangplank Marina.
- Make advance reservations!!! All DC marinas are near each other and close to the city via public transportation. With New York (or Charleston or Savannah) prices as a benchmark, they are either an outright bargain or very reasonably priced.
- One week will not be enough time to “see the town.” The “usual” sights include the Smithsonian Museums (there are nineteen units in the Smithsonian system) and other government buildings, The National Holocaust Museum, the Library of Congress, Arlington National Cemetery with it’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, The National Archives, The National Cathedral, The National Mall (National WWII and Vietnam War Memorial, Presidential Memorials, etc), and perhaps, Georgetown. There are many private, for-profit museums and attractions for cruisers to pursue.
- With a car, there is a Marine Corps Museum at Quantico, VA, about 40 minutes from the Washington Marinas. Admission is free. It is superbly done.
- Upbound or downbound, cruisers can dock for the day at George Washington’s Plantation at Mt. Vernon, VA, and visit the plantation site. Call ahead for instructions. Monday is best day; no tour boats are on the docks on Mondays. Use the “south channel” for best access (deepest approach depths). The “north channel” is more challenging and shallow.
- There is a new (open 18 months) museum at Mt. Vernon detailing the plantation and the life of Geo. Washington. Excellent.
- Upbound or downbound, there is a State of Maryland Honors College at St. Mary’s City. St. Mary’s City is on the St. Mary’s River, on the north shore of the Potomac, about 6 miles from the Smith Point – Point Lookout line on the Chesapeake Bay. Anchor in Horseshoe Bend and dinghy to the college’s docks. There’s a US post office and an historic restoration of the first Capitol of Maryland village, circa 1634, a la Williamsburg except more rustic. St. Mary’s College has a free “Concert on the Lawn” series on Friday evenings in the summer. Eat at the college dining room. Breakfast and lunch are $5.00 plus tax and dinners are $8.00 plus tax. All you can eat. Visitor’s are welcome.
- Upbound or downbound via the Potomac River, stop and visit Freddie Olverson at his Lodge Creek Marina off the Yeocomico River. If you’re an MTOA member, he’ll give you one free night. He has a free Courtesy car for grocery/hardware shopping. Also upbound or downbound, there are fine, protected anchorages available at Mattawoman Creek, Aquia Creek, the Point Tobacco River, and St. Clement’s Bay, and a nice marina at Colonial Beach.