June 2013

By Steve • • 18 Jun 2013

Tuesday 18th June, Solomon’s Island, Maryland

Having been in the States for nearly two months I have, at long last, managed to find a solution to internet access.  No doubt all you technophiles out there know about mobile hotspots, I didn’t and I do now.  For those of you like me they are, in effect, a mobile phone with no keypad or screen that hooks up to the cell network and connects wirelessly to your computer or iPad.  We now have access to the internet wherever there is a mobile phone signal and it can be very fast, as a good 4G connection is increasingly common here.

Enough technobabble.  I’m going to write up June backwards for a change.  As we have hired a car for a week (as cheap as five days hire), we drove up to Annapolis today.  Annapolis is Maryland’s capital, the home of the US Naval Academy and a major US sailing centre, I think they claim THE home of US sailing.  Anyway, picture perfect as it may be nowhere is much fun in the rain so after a damp stroll up and down the historic downtown we left.Gloomy-Annapolis

The weekend had been spent in the company of our friends Robin and Joe Harland who live in Louisville, Kentucky.  This involved a two day drive via Washington DC where we spent a few hours walking around some of the sights. Washington is a planned city and the downtown was beautifully laid out by its architect, L’Enfant.  With only a very limited time available we visited….Whitehouse

The Whitehouse, well you have to really.Vietnam-war-memorial

The Vietnam War Memorial and you really do have to visit this.  The photo shows the names of some of the (I think) 58,000 American servicemen who were killed in that particularly useless war (personal opinion).  It is quite telling that the memorial was built by public subscription and not US government funding.Lincoln-Memorial

Also on the itinerary was the Lincoln memorial, its hard from the photo to understand the scale of the statue, have a look at the sign at bottom left which is about three feet tall.

These memorials are all on the National Mall along with many others including those to the Korean and Second World wars.  There are also many fine museums and on another day with more time we might have sampled one or two.  Still it was time to go and we left DC mid afternoon to do a few hours towards Louisville.  After an overnight stop in a motel in Lexington, Virginia we spent all day Friday driving slowly west to arrive at our host’s house six minutes late.  I’ll try harder next time!

What a great weekend!  Louisville is, of course, where Churchill Downs are and thats where the Kentucky Derby is run (the locals say something like “duurrby”).  There was a Saturday night meet on so we spent the evening racing.Churchill-Downs-2

Here we all are.  Impressions of Churchill Downs?  Well, I thought that, like Goodwood, West Sussex it would be on the downs.  It isn’t, the area is very flat and the track abuts a less than wealthy residential area.  No matter, its a great racetrack and I’m even more fond of it having had three winners out of six races bet on!Lincoln-and-friends

A perfect blend of conversation, eating, drinking, sightseeing (above with Lincoln, a native of Kentucky) and just chilling out on Robin and Joe’s porch, we were very sorry to leave on Monday morning for the drive back to Maryland.  En route we stopped at a scenic viewpoint and got talking to a couple from North Carolina.  Its always hilarious listening to an American try to say Leicestershire!

The visit preceding Louisville was to Yorktown, Virginia on Monday 10th June.  Students of Anglo/US history will know that Yorktown was the site of the last decisive battle of the Revolutionary War where Cornwallis surrendered to Washington.  Actually he didn’t, he was “indisposed” so sent his second in command to conduct the formal surrender.  Washington, somewhat miffed (I imagine), sent his second in command to accept the British surrender.  That was in 1781 and the Treaty of Paris was signed two years later, on 3 September.  I’m not sure why America believes the country dates from the Declaration of Independence (1776) and not from the practical end of the war (1781) or the formal end in 1783.  As you might expect there is a museum to commemorate the battle and this includes a very well done reconstruction of a Virginian farm of the mid 1700s…Victory-Centre-Farm

And live firings of period artillery pieces….Victory-Centre-Guns

Prior to Yorktown we had finished our travels on the intra coastal waterway in Norfolk, Virginia.  There was a “Harborfest” (US spelling) in progress as we motored through on Sunday morning, 9th June….Norfolk-Tall-Ship

I don’t know what the ship is but its could be a reconstruction of one of the original colonists ships that took them to America.

Before Norfolk we had stopped in Great Bridge, Virginia having motored up the ICW with Tropical Storm Andrea on our heels.  Whilst we did see some gusts up to 40Kts for a few minutes it wasn’t really anything worse than a good gale in the English Channel.  In Great Bridge we had call to stop in a fabric shop to buy some elastic.  As we were walking out we were asked by the male half of a recently entered American couple if we were “Brits”.  Long story short it turned out he was a USN exchange pilot at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in 1982 and had spent time in Prestwick when I was stationed there!  For those readers who might know him – Kimball Thompson and he was on 810 Squadron.  It really is a small world (unless you are trying to sail around it!).

Most of the first week in June was spent either sailing or motoring north on the ICW from Beaufort, North Carolina where we spent Friday and Saturday nights, 31st May and 1st June.  Beaufort is a delightful town with a long waterfront…Beaufort-NC-Sunset
Beaufort-NC

There are many old houses…Old-House-Beaufort

This one dates to 1765. There is also a very interesting maritime museum that features artefacts from the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Captain Teach aka Blackbeard’s ship, or should that be arrrrtefacts?

As I have mentioned before the ICW presents many opportunities to see wildlife, in particular birds and whilst Ospreys are as common as blackbirds are in the UK Bald Eagles are not….Bald-Eagle

Saturday 22nd June, Artificial Island, Delaware River 

Having left Solomon’s Island a couple of days ago we are now en route to New York City and if all goes to plan should be sailing past the Statue of Liberty sometime on Tuesday morning.  Never having been to NYC before I can hardly wait!  There has been no wind in the upper reaches of the Chesapeake for two days and so we have been motoring, so much so that I had to do an oil and filter change once we had anchored last night – I don’t know what the service interval on modern marine diesels is but our 20year old one needs attention every 100 hours.

Tonights anchorage is just north of the imaginatively named Artificial Island which appears to have a nuclear power plant on it.  Not the most attractive place we have stopped but we are well positioned for the 50Nm down the Delaware to Cape May where we turn left and head up the New Jersey shore towards New York.  Tomorrow night we will be at sea and on Monday night anchored just inside Sandy Hook ready to enter New York harbour on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday 25th June – Thursday 27th June, New York City

What can I say that hasn’t been written, sung, acted or mimed before?  This was our first visit and we both had a wonderful time and want to go back again as soon as possible!

First of all a few logistic points for other cruisers.  New York marinas are very expensive, Liberty Landing, on the New Jersey Shore had been recommended.  It is $4/foot/night to stay there i.e. $168/night for us – you can probably get a hotel room in Manhattan cheaper!  Also the marinas on the Hudson have a reputation for being very rolly due to wake from passing traffic, 24/7.  We stayed in Port Washington on the north shore of Long Island.  It is at the end of one of the Long Island Railroad branch lines, there are trains every half an hour and it only takes 45 minutes to get to Penn Station in the heart of midtown New York.  An off peak return ticket was $16 a head.  It gets better, the town moorings are free for the first 48 hours!  You can use the water taxi ($8 per head round trip) or use your own dinghy.  The water taxi stops at 2145 so we used our dinghy for the last night in town and stayed until after dark to see Times Square.  Third and subsequent nights on the moorings are $25 and this includes the water taxi!

For lots of pictures of New York City click here.

In two and a half days you can barely scratch the highlights of this amazing city.  New York was and still is a large sea port.  When you arrive in a city by air it is normally at some generic, utilitarian, grubby and over crowded airport. Try doing it in your own boat!  We sailed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge with views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty in the early morning sun.No-1-World-Trade-Center-1 The brand new No 1 World Trade Center dominates the lower Manhattan skyline and at 1776 feet is the third tallest building in the world.

We visited the 9/11 memorial on our last day in town and I suppose if you only have time for one thing in NYC then this has to be it.  Whilst there it struck me that not everyone remembers where they were on that fateful day because they weren’t even born.  Another thing that struck me was that the memorial seems entirely devoid of hope.  To me the water cascading into the seemingly bottomless pits represents the descent into the abyss.  Whereas you could argue that some good has come out of at least one or two wars there doesn’t seem to be anything positive that came out of the atrocity of 9/11.

Still there is much, much more to NYC than the memory of 9/11!  For two weeks in June the city promotes some of its finest restaurants, when fixed price lunch menus are offered for about $25 per head.  We ate in Cipriani Dolci on the West Balcony inside Grand Central Terminal and overlooking the main concourse.  An amazing, iconic building and the food was pretty good as well.

As luck would have it one of our nephews, Scott Stanton, was in town.  He flies for Cathay Pacific and was on a two night stop over.  We had cocktails, Manhattans of course, at 240 5th Avenue, a rooftop bar that has a great view of the Empire State Building.  Also enjoyed was a haircut by an Italian barber, chatting to locals in Jeremy’s Ale House, an Indian meal on Curry Hill and half an hour walking around Times Square after dark.

In summary?  Completely overwhelming, tiring and absolutely mad!  We loved it!

Continued in July.

One Response

  1. Robin and Joe

    So lovely to see you both and catch up on years of change. Particularly enjoyed our discussions of American politics on which you are impressively well-informed! It helps that we hold the same opinions 🙂
    Fabulous photos on this blog, particularly love the NYC ones. Enjoy the summer sailing and please stay in touch.

    Robin and Joe

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