Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Roaming About the New Rome

Ok, so this is not a picture of Washington but it is a picture of the most important thing in Washington. Our first stop mandated by the Budget Committee, a jeweller, was a viewing of the Smithsonian Museum of the Hope Diamond, also known as the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The Budget Committee allowed as how there were other things displayed in the same building - like the Hooker emerald.

Sailing into Washington on the Potomac can be a bit disappointing. This city is deceptively unimposing, a sign I suppose of its awareness that it is the seat of power in the most powerful nation in the world. There is no skyline. I mean even Scranton has a skyline.

Arriving Washington you pass under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and divert into a small deadend channel called, unwittingly, the Washington Channel. Once here you have Washington on one side and the East Potomac Park on the other. You drop hook and then you clear in with local police. This is a first for us and we have been told horror stories of a clearance procedure resembling wartime Casablanca: people having to drop everything and race their documents to the local constabulary for vetting and, get this, Permission, to stay in the channel.

First you must work through the sage advice you have received along the way from experienced local sailors, none of whom seem to have actually come to Washington but all of whom know about it. You have to use 2 anchors are told, repeatedly, even by the guide books. When anchored you must race to the police station to have your papers vetted and get clearance to anchor. No one knows where the police station is but they have a dinghy dock. No, never dinghy to the police dinghy dock they are really sensitive about that. Even the guide books print this fearmongering twaddle.

Not looking for trouble we decide to take a slip at one of the downtown marinas to ease the process. One night's dockage is a small price to pay for some peace of mind and support from local staff.

Phoning around we find that all the marinas are booked into the middle of October. This elevates the threat level.

If the marinas are booked the anchorage must be filled, right? It is a small channel. What if there is no room?

Entering the Washington Channel we are wracked with doubt. Well, wracked is a bit strong but uncertainty did reign with a heavy hand aboard Meredith on our arrival. What if the police refuse permission? Being run out of Washington would be a great story but the loss of face would be unbearable. What would Homeland Security think of that?

Relying on our time tested method for discovering the truth of things - actually doing them ourselves - we enter the Washington Channel in a bit of trepidation. No need as it turns out.

The anchorage is near empty. Only 8 boats and lots of room. None of the boats have two anchors down.

Anchoring is a snap in 30 feet of water. We radio the Gestapo, I mean the Harbour Police. A very nice guy takes the call and gives us a phone number asking for a call back. He explains, when we call his office, that he needs some personal information and hates to have people give it over the airwaves. Simple stuff like name, address, phone number, number of people on board.

"How long do you think you will be here?" he asks.

"Four nights" we reply hopefully.

"Have a great stay" responds the voice on the phone "If an emergency arises we have your number and please feel free to call us if you need anything."

That's it? What about a DNA sample? Don't you at least want fingerprints? Aren't you going to grill me on my intentions? What about having to use two anchors?

"Well", is the reply, "if you got two anchors and want to use them feel free to put them both down. If you got only one anchor use that."

Washington is looking up. It is only noon and we are anchored beside a park, right down town, in a field of cool boats from Brisbane and Basel and San Francisco.

We leave the boat to explore.

I took this the night Matt Fischer started to brag
about how nice the sunset was in Vancouver.
It is a lousy shot. Reality is always better than my photography.

No comments:

Post a Comment