Delaware Bay & Cape May, NJ

Friday morning came early.  I had my alarm set for 5:40 to get up and recheck all forecasts.  As always happens when I actually set an alarm, I woke up before it.  I woke up at 5:25 AM to the sound of thunder.  I pulled up the radar and sure enough we were in the middle of a HUGE storm due to hit hard right around 6.  After that the radar was all clear.  I woke Ben, shoved my phone in his face to look at, and told him I wasn’t comfortable leaving until after that moved past.  He agreed, took a few minutes to settle, and went back to sleep.  I’m not so lucky.  I do just fine on little sleep but that’s a tad early for me since I stay up late.  I reset my alarm for 6:30 but never fell back asleep.  By about 6:25 the storm was done.  I got Ben back up around 6:30 and we got ready to leave.  Tim from the marina was already there to help us with lines.  He comes in daily in time for the first boat to leave.  Talk about dedication.  We got out of the narrow, shallow channel with a falling tide and out into the bay.

Sunrise was magical.  Absolutely beautiful.  IMG_2540

The bay that so many have warned us about was like a big bathtub.  It looked like glass all day.  Tim had told us that if we have a boat that goes fast, go.  He said you don’t dawdle on the bay.  At one point Ben was going to speed up.  I asked why.  Because we shouldn’t dawdle.  Agreed…..except the radar was totally clear, the water was glassy flat, we could see all sorts of stuff swimming and jumping around in it, and it seemed there was no good reason to speed up.  So we didn’t.  We saw some cool lighthouses out in the middle of the bay.

Ben thinks he spotted a sea lion.  I managed to see all the bubbles as it dove down and a ton of jumping fish that were clearly trying to get away from it.

And then we saw New Jersey!  We can now add Delaware and NJ to our list of states traveled.  We tucked easily into the Cape May canal and passed the huge car ferry dock.  We passed under one bridge and through an open railroad swing bridge that felt like it was just barely wider than our boat!

We pulled into Canyon Club marina on the north side of the canal.  We chose this marina because it had deeper water and a large swimming pool.  We got checked in and decided to hop on the shuttle into town for a few hours and then hit the pool later to cool off again.  It seems to be our daily plan lately.  We got dropped off at the pedestrian mall, had some lunch and walked around some shops.

IMG_2550

The beach was right down the street but it was so HOT.  The streets of Victorian homes were beautiful but we weren’t up for the walk.  Instead we decided to head back to the marina.  While waiting for the shuttle we popped into Stitch by Stitch and bought a bunch of string to start making friendship bracelets.  We headed back to the marina on the shuttle.  It took us down one of the streets with beautiful gingerbread homes.  So colorful and cute.  The girls got in a quick swim before the forecasted storms moved in.  I’d call the day a success.  We had a fabulous crossing.  We got to see town.  And we got to the pool before the storms moved in. So happy the forecast kept moving those storms later and later in the day.

IMG_2552

Saturday we got up and decided we were going to head to Fishcakes for an early lunch rather than go back into town and head to the very popular Lobster House.  The American Great Loop Cruisers Association (AGLCA) has Harbor Hosts all over the great loop route.  We haven’t met too many of them in part because I forget to reach out.  But we had just met Foster in Delaware City and I reached out to Bruce and Buffi at the same time in Cape May.  They own Fishcakes, a cute waterfront outdoor restaurant on the side of the canal we were on.  We decided to walk.  It was a quick mile and we walk all the time.  Mistake.  The humidity and heat were both really high and even one mile was crazy.  We got there and were dripping.  Waters all around, quickly followed by Coke.  I was actually shaky from the heat and having not eaten that morning.  Fishcakes is known for their homemade donuts.  We got an order of those immediately and introduced ourselves to Bruce and Buffi.  The donuts came out steaming hot and covered in cinnamon sugar.  So so good.  We quickly followed with orders of lobster rolls.  I’m not a huge lobster fan but these were amazing!  We had a lovely conversation with Bruce and Buffi.  Bruce then went to make our food and Buffi brought t-shirts out for the girls.

IMG_2556

We had planned to take the shuttle into town to see the beach and the Victorian homes.  But it was so hot and all we wanted to do was go to the pool.  Sometimes you just need a pool day.  We asked Buffi what she thought and she assured us that the houses were pretty but that if we’ve seen one Victorian home we’ve probably seen them all.  She said that Cape May is unique because of a huge fire that burned so much of the city down…but she agreed it was ok if we just skipped it and headed to the pool.

The pool at the Canyon Club was really nice.  Madelyn said it was her favorite pool yet.  Usually we have a small marina pool and are spoiled having it all to ourselves.  Not the case on a Saturday afternoon here but it was large with nice people and other kids so it was all good.  We stayed until dinnertime.  I had to practically drag Madelyn out of the water.  We go in streaks – we have many days in a row with a pool and then a month or more without one.  I knew this or Atlantic City would be the last pools we see for a long time so I wanted them to soak it up.

We had a quiet evening on the boat and got ready to head out Sunday morning to Atlantic City where we will get to see Gabi an John (Loop friends on Crazy Love) and Kerry, Dan and Helayna (Bahamas friends on Igloo).  Both live right by Atlantic City and we miss them lots!

On the second day of our trip we met good friends Tim and Carol on Liquid Assets way back in Joliet, IL.  Most of us have the Great Loop map blown up and hung on a wall somewhere on our boat.  Tim and Carol were no exception and their map was covered in little Post It flags.  What a great idea.  We traveled with them for our first few weeks which were also their last few weeks of the loop.  When we pulled into Green Turtle Bay with them last September to “cross their wake” and complete their loop they had us come over to their boat.  Carol let Molly and Madelyn put their VERY LAST FLAG on their map.  What a special thing for them to do.  It may sound silly but it’s a big deal to look at this map and see how far we’ve come.  And it was a big deal to put that last flag on their map.  Here’s a picture of our map with a flag marking each stop along the way and the date we were there.  It’s up to date through the Chesapeake Bay.  We need to add Delaware City and Cape May.

IMG_2533

Rock Hall & Delaware City, MD

Wednesday morning we left Annapolis and headed across the bay a short 17 miles to Rock Hall, MD.  In a Chesapeake Bay magazine, Rock Hall was ranked number 1 or in the top 3 in many categories for places to visit in MD including crab, food, family friendly, ice cream and a couple of others.  After reading that I definitely wanted Rock Hall on our list of stops.  I had mentioned my findings to the Davis family a couple of weeks ago and they went to Rock Hall and loved it.  So, I was even more excited that someone else had enjoyed it as well.

We pulled into the Rock Hall Landing marina and were greeted by the friendly owner who helped us get settled.  It was another uncomfortably humid and very hot day.  We got registered and decided to have lunch and see town before hitting the pool to cool down.  We headed directly to Waterman’s Crab House.

IMG_2528

It was written up as the best place in Maryland for steamed crabs and had great reviews on crab cakes as well and it was directly next to the marina.  Well, we have a mind to write to that magazine.  We had a terrible experience….not something we’ve said at all on the Chesapeake.  Hostess nowhere to be found.  Then waitress nowhere to be found.  Had to ask for kids’ menus.  Took about 40 minutes for food to arrive.  It was lunchtime and there were plenty of people there but it wasn’t crowded or under staffed.  Just seemed to be run poorly.  I debated steamed crabs and probably should have ordered them since they are supposed to be the best.  But I went for the crab cake instead.  I can’t get enough of them.  I had incredible crab cakes in Crisfield and Annapolis and was really happy with the ones we made.  The crab cake was fine but certainly not the best in MD!  We finished lunch and put Waterman’s behind us.

Next up was a marine consignment store.  It was like a treasure trove for Ben to look through.  And they had a dog.  My kids love dogs wherever we go.  They loved Chessie and kept giving her treats.  And the only thing we bought was a new life vest for me!  Ben has a nice comfy Mustang inflatable.  I’ve been wearing an uncomfortable stiff West Marine inflatable because I didn’t want us to spend the money on another Mustang one for me.  But then there was a lovely hot pink one in the consignment store and now it’s mine!

We walked into town to find the top 2 ice cream/sweet shops and see the cute main street.  Well, it turns out that Rock Hall is pretty much shut down on Wednesdays.  Go figure.  Bad luck on our part.  Both of the ice cream/sweet shops were closed.  ALL of the stores except one were closed.  The one store that was open was a higher end boutique type place.  So, sadly no magnets from Rock Hall for the girls’ collection.  And no sticker for our dock box.  There was one smart ice cream place that was open when the whole town was closed and it was doing a mean business.  Given how hot it was and the almost mile we just walked we got right in line.  We also found this one building with a boat coming out of its side!

IMG_2529

We gave up on town and headed back to the marina to swim.  The pool was OPEN!  The pool felt amazing and the marina also had bikes to use and a playground.  Molly rode the bikes.  Madelyn played with her dolls on the playground.  I hung at the pool to stay cool.

I’m sure Rock Hall is lovely and had we had more time we would have spent another day and given it another chance.  But we had been watching the forecast and knew if we made the trip north to Delaware City Thursday that we could get to Cape May Friday before storms moved in.  So, Thursday morning fairly early we headed north to finish our time on the Chesapeake Bay.  It’s hard to believe this was our last bit of time on the Chesapeake.  It’s been a great month.  There are endless places to explore and so many on my list that we didn’t get to.  But we’re so excited about Canada and want to have a lot of time there before it gets cold.  So we had good weather and figured we should get moving.  The Chesapeake is mostly smaller towns and beautiful countryside as we move past.  It’s green and pretty with large stretches of trees with houses scattered about.  As we were moving north we passed this one area that looked completely different.  The houses almost looked to be on top of each other.  There was beach at the water’s edge.  And all the houses above.  I thought it was unique since it looked like nothing else we’d seen.

IMG_2531

I’m always sad to check off another section of the trip.  Wendy from La Cigale mentioned that people would always get excited for them as they completed a section of the loop and got closer to finishing and that she always felt a little sad.  I fully understand.   That doesn’t excite me.  I’ve said a thousand times how amazing this trip has been.  It makes me sad every time we finish a section.  And yet so happy that we’ve had the opportunity to experience it.  So Thursday we got to the north end of the Chesapeake Bay and turned right into the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.  This is a 12 mile canal cut between Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay.  It saved mariners hundreds of miles when it was first built.  I’ve learned a lot of geography on this trip.  Take a look at Google Maps to see just how far south mariners had to travel to get to the south end of the Chesapeake from the Atlantic and then travel back north to reach destinations such as Annapolis and Baltimore.  We too were very happy that we could take this 12 mile cut rather than heading all the way south on the bay.  We passed Chesapeake City and then arrived in Delaware Bay.  We rounded the corner and pulled into the Delaware City marina.

I may have mentioned it was hot and humid.  Well Thursday was no different.  We didn’t even walk into town.  We were soaked from docking and just wanted to be inside.  Tim from the marina mentioned that in addition to town that if we walked directly behind the marina we’d find the library.  It is housed in an old school building, hallways, lockers, classrooms and all.  The girls love visiting libraries.  It was close by and air conditioned so we headed there.  We walked in and within five minutes there was an announcement that the sewing class was starting.  I asked if my girls could join and the lady running it said of course.  They were going to be making wish pillows – for a tooth or a wish or anything they want.  The girls were so excited.  Madelyn also wanted to look at books but I reminded her we can look at books anytime.  The girls each made a pillow and learned a slip stitch and a running stitch.  The next morning on the boat they got out our sewing kit (that otherwise only comes out when my mom visits) and sewed up another hole in another pair of Maddy’s jammies.  And then they started sewing all sorts of little things for their dolls.

While the girls were sewing Ben attended a briefing with Tim from the marina about crossing Delaware Bay.  Delaware Bay is one of the bodies of water that is not to be messed with.  We had storms moving in overnight.  And more storms late in the day Friday.  Those storms had been moved up a few hours.  Tide and current also play into the decision and the local knowledge is very much appreciated.  Tim looked at the forecast, tide, current and wind and determined that we needed to leave at 6 AM to be in Cape May and settled before the bay turned rough.  Ben was on board even though the thought of leaving at 6 AM is downright painful for him.  He told friends of ours a couple weeks ago to leave at 9:30 AM.  They are early risers and were nervous about leaving so late but Tim was spot on.   So, we were inclined to listen.

After the briefing Foster came to see us!  Anyone doing the Loop knows that Foster is one of the most famous Harbor Hosts.  He is incredibly helpful and keeps the forum entertaining on a daily basis.  He’s the Harbor Host for the northern Chesapeake and Delaware City.  He offered to drive over and say hello.  We invited him to come to our boat so I could get dinner for the girls and visit at the same time.  We had a great visit and he’s as funny and entertaining in person.  And he cares so much.  As soon as I reached out to him he started checking all forecasts for us and agreed with Tim about our travel plans.  He was set to return by boat to Delaware City on Friday for Delaware City Day so we told him we’d see him again if we didn’t make it out before the storms.

Our stay in Delaware City was very brief but all good.  Knowledgeable and friendly marina staff.  Craft time for the girls.  And meeting Foster!  We’re sorry we couldn’t stay longer.  The Delaware City Day parade and fireworks were the talk of the town and we very much would have enjoyed seeing that.

Annapolis, MD

Thursday marked the day that Grandma Cathy and Jim were finally arriving!  The girls were so excited.  My mom was able to spend a full week with us at Easter time back in April.  It’s hard to believe it had been almost 3 months since we’d seen her!  That was way back when we had been in Florida for months on end.  We saw my mom when we were in St. Petersburg, Ft. Myers, Islamorada and Cocoa Village, FL.  So this felt like a long time between visits.  Molly was able to rattle off that since then, we had gone through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland!

Unfortunately my mom and Jim weren’t arriving until close to bedtime so we had the whole day to wait.  We took the shuttle from the marina into town and looked at a boat we’ve looked at once before.  Then we walked into the cute little downtown part of Annapolis and grabbed some lunch and shopped a bit.  I love these old cities.  I love their charm and their houses and their cute little streets.  As usual it was hot so after some shopping we stopped for the girls to get ice cream.  We knew all day it was going to storm and it had held off for quite awhile.  As we were walking to the shuttle stop we saw the sky turn colors and knew we were in trouble.  We had pushed Mother Nature too far and 10 minutes before the shuttle was due to pick us up she unloaded on us!  There was no protection.  I had the girls’ rain coats and had umbrellas for the three of us.  Ben won’t do jackets or umbrellas usually so I didn’t have one for him.  Unfortunately he was carrying the activity bag I packed for the kids when we were looking at the boat including Maddy’s summer workbook.  It has now completely dried out but is about 2 inches thicker than it was previously with VERY rippled pages!  We sprinted through rivers and flooded streets to the shuttle where Scott from the marina was standing with the doors open for us, taking umbrellas and hurrying us in.  Such a sweet guy!  Thank you Scott!

We got back to the boat and changed clothes and dried out a bit and went back to waiting for Grandma to arrive.  My mom and Jim arrived around 8 PM and the girls ran full speed ahead to greet them.  After hellos and hugs we all got back on the boat and eventually got the girls in bed.  Molly was super excited because my mom brought birthday presents so the birthday celebration would continue in the morning!  We had a lazy day Friday.  Birthday presents in the morning followed by breakfast at the café by the pool.  Then the playground and pool for a few hours.  Later Friday afternoon we went into town for dinner.  We had quite a few recommendations for Annapolis restaurants and hit as many as we could.  Friday was Boatyard Bar and Grill and we had a great meal.

IMG_2453

Saturday morning we were ready to go in the morning for a day of sight seeing.  We took the shuttle into town and headed for the Naval Academy.  When we got there my mom realized her ID was in her other purse so we saw the town instead.  We walked the charming streets and up the hill towards the circle around the State House.  We stopped in a lot of shops and had a nice lunch.  We passed a public piano in the square and an amazing pianist happened to be sitting there playing when we walked by.  After quite a bit of walking we went back to the shuttle stop, which happens to be right across the street from the marina with the boat we keep looking at so we took my mom and Jim to see the boat while we waited.  We opted for dinner on the boat that night and prepared the rest of our crab cakes for them to try.  They still tasted good!

Sunday my mom, the girls and I went to St. Mary’s Church – a beautiful old church with a steeple that we could see from all over town.  It was founded years ago on land owned by the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence.  The inside was beautiful with a ceiling that looked liked starts.  Maddy is a sucker for a good ceiling, dome, rotunda….you name it. She loves them.

AnnapolisChurchCeiling

After church we had a fantastic brunch outside overlooking the water at Carol’s Creek.

Then we went to the Naval Academy for the afternoon.  What a wonderful treasure open to the public.  We started in the Visitor Center and watched the introduction video about the Academy.  We did a self guided tour and began in Lejeune Hall – the sports Hall of Fame.  The girls (and adults) were amazed at the Olympic sized pool and the diving well.  We were able to go in and look at the pools.  The diving platforms are SO HIGH.  The naval academy students have to conquer jumping off the platforms at the start of their sophomore year.  If they have height issues (like me!) or can’t quite do it at the start of the year they are given that year to work out their issues.  This height is the height of the top of the ships they will be stationed on and it’s important for the candidates to find out now if they can handle the heights and the jumps or get out before they get in too deep.  Seems logical!

After Lejeune Hall we walked the campus a bit.  We passed some of the pretty Commander’s Houses on our way to Bancroft Hall, the largest student dormitory in the United States.  We were treated to seeing candidates marching in formation while we walked.

Bancroft Hall is a work of art.  Nothing like the dormitories Ben and I lived in at University of Illinois!  We will have to take the girls there and show them the difference.  Bancroft reminded me of DC with the white stone and front steps.  Up we went into the main hall where we were treated to another rotunda and amazing ceiling!  Then up the main staircase into the assembly room where the “Don’t Give up the Ship” flag is displayed.  This room is gorgeous and contains quite a bit of history and museum like exhibits.

We also got to tour a sample dorm room.  This was neat for the girls since they have never been in a college dorm.  These rooms were HUGE compared to ours as well with large closets for uniforms and big desks below the beds.  And each room contains it’s own sink and shower because cleanliness is very important at the Academy.  Bathrooms however are down the hall.

Next we moved onto the Main Chapel at the Academy.  Services are open to the public on Sundays.  The chapel is huge and ornate.  I loved that in addition to being a house of worship it also pays tribute to the Navy with a ship!

Finally we moved onto the museum.  We had hoped to just stop in and see the model ships exhibit but the rest of the museum was great too.  We spent quite awhile looking at everything and really enjoyed the model ships.

There was a whole group of models carved out of bone.  These actually had nothing to do with the US Navy.  They were carved by French POWs during the French Revolution.  The prisoners were allowed to make things out of whatever scraps they could get their hands on.  The bone was from their meat rations.  The prisoners were then allowed to sell what they made.  These ships were amazing.

IMG_2493

Made from bone!

After a very full day at the Naval Academy we decided to head back to the boat and save the State House visit for Monday.  Monday morning started with a sewing lesson!  We acquire clothes with holes in them and give them all to my mom when she arrives.  Madelyn had some pajama pants and Ben had a t-shirt that needed to be mended.  The girls love to sew and I can hardly thread a needle.  So they truly enjoyed the grandma time learning new skills.  They each took turns with my mom sewing up different holes until everything was as good as new.  While they were sewing I headed out for a haircut and a pedicure.  YAY!

Next we headed back to the other marina for a test ride on the boat.  This boat is perfect for us in so many ways and we just keep coming back to it.  Monday we got to go for a test ride.  It’s a great boat but during our ride Ben did some math and tested out various speeds and realized that the fuel economy on the boat is downright bad.  We are looking for a boat that will allow us to do longer range cruising, so burning more fuel isn’t the answer.  So, sadly I think we have put that particular boat behind us.

IMG_2497

It was windy!

It was another sweltering hot day.  We walked into town and straight to an ice cream shop!  Jim opted for a beer.  My mom, the girls and I got ice cream.  And Ben stayed at the marina for a few talking to the broker.  Then we all convened at the Maryland State House.

IMG_2506

There is so much history everywhere we go.  We quickly learned that this is where George Washington resigned as commander in chief of the Continental army and stated that he wanted to go home to Mt. Vernon to be a farmer.  State congress was not in session so we were able to see the Senate and House floors as well as an elaborate silver service on display in the Caucus room.  The silver was commissioned by the Maryland governor when the state had no money to pay for it.  The governor started a state wide fundraiser including school children to raise the $5000 to pay for it.  There are six themes present in the silver ranging from country (an eagle) to state (crops) to the Navy (ropes and ships).

The State House contains the actual room where George Washington gave his resignation speech.  This room is not used by congress anymore and is set up as a museum room now.  To be standing in a piece of history was pretty incredible.  His resignation is what led to returning the military back to the people and the development of the structure that has the President serve as Commander in Chief over the military.

Finally we got to tour the Old House of Delegates room.  The Old Senate Chamber is currently under restoration.  Just outside the State House is the original Treasury building, still standing on the grounds.

Back to the boat to cool off and have some pool time while Grandma Cathy and Jim went out for dinner.  The girls loved playing basketball in the pool!  After my mom and Jim were back it was our turn for a date night.

IMG_2524

Tuesday came quickly and my mom and Jim had to leave for the airport after lunch.  My mom and Molly took a walk on the nature trail in the morning and Ben and I ran and got some last minute grocery shopping done.  We headed back to Boatyard Bar and Grill for lunch since we all enjoyed it on Friday.  We finally got a picture with all of us in it!  And then all too soon had to give goodbye hugs.  The goodbyes are never easy but we’ll see them again soon.  We spent the rest of the day soaking up the pool and relaxing.  We loved our time in Annapolis!

 

 

St. Michaels, MD & July 4th

We were sad to leave Crisfield, but wanted to keep moving on the Chesapeake.  We still have so much to see.  So, we pulled out Sunday morning and headed 70 miles north to St. Michaels, MD.  We told the Davis family on Endeavour where we were headed.  They said they couldn’t make it that far in one day so they may stop at Solomons Island instead and catch up with us the next day.  We said great, but asked why they couldn’t make it that far.  They said they weren’t sure, they’d never tried.  We’ve all been there…when we first started the loop we were challenged by others to do things we hadn’t tried yet either.  We pulled out around 8 AM and headed north.  About 45 minutes later we saw Endeavour pop up on AIS!  They were on the move and texted that they were following us to St. Michaels.  We planned to anchor in San Domingo Creek on the backside of St. Michaels.  Their generator is not working and we said we’d be happy to have them raft up and share some power.

We ran against a current that slowed us down so it took awhile to get there.  We got into San Domingo and anchored.  As our friends had told us it was absolutely beautiful.  We got settled and then helped Endeavour raft up to us.  Another first for them!  We haven’t rafted up too often either but have done it enough to know where to dump fenders, tie lines, etc.   Isabel immediately jumped over to our boat and the girls played while Ben and Andrew fiddled with power.  They needed an adapter they didn’t have.  It was hot!  We put our dinghies into the water and off we went to town.  Isabel rode with us.  Molly was so happy to have a playmate!  She plays so well with Maddy but it was great to have someone close to her age to play with too.  We tied up at the dinghy dock and headed into town for dinner.

IMG_2280

Town is quaint and cute and one of the more prosperous we’ve seen in awhile.  We had a good dinner with a view of the marina and then headed back to the boats, anxious to explore the next day.  The girls played awhile longer on the boats while Ben and Andrew went back to work on the power situation.  Between an extra shore power cord Andrew had, and a different end for it Ben had, they were able to work up a solution and get some AC pumped into their boat.  Either way, once the generator was off it was HOT and sticky!  We got to catch yet another gorgeous Chesapeake Bay sunset.

IMG_2283

It took a long time to get the girls to settle.  Between new friends rafted up to us and the knowledge that Ben was on his way in the dinghy to pick up his cousin all while I was trying to get them in bed, it was hopeless.  Ben’s cousin Isaac was driving from NYC down to Miami and stopped to hang out with us for a few days!  We were thrilled to have him.  He is so good to the girls.  He plays with them and spends time talking with them and is WAY more fun than we are.  He got to St. Michaels around 10 PM and parked his car.  Ben zipped over in the dinghy to pick him up.  Isaac has grown up around and on boats so he isn’t fazed by anything in the boating lifestyle.  He also lives in NYC with no air conditioning so he said he was fine with us shutting the generator down at bedtime.  We all quickly learned just how sticky the middle of the nights are in St. Michaels!

We spent Monday morning on the boat.  I used all of the crab we had from Crisfield and made the crab cake mix.  We planned to have lunch in town and cook up our crab cakes for dinner.  Ben talked routes and options with Andrew and Carrie, Molly and Isabel played, and Maddy was in awe of Isaac and his Lego building skills.  He sat on the floor with her and built her an airplane.  She was so happy to have such undivided attention!

After we said our goodbyes to the Davis family we headed into town for the rest of the day.  We started with lunch and then moved onto the maritime museum that we had heard so much about.  The museum was pretty incredible.  It was a lot of outdoor exhibits, many that made it feel like walking around a working boat yard.

We also toured a lighthouse on display.  We learned a lot about the Maryland lighthouses.  They are such a different style than the tall lighthouses we have otherwise seen.  These are low and round and close to the water level.

The exhibit had a great history of lighthouses around the Bay as well as the lighthouse keepers and their stories.  The exhibit was set up as the house would have been set up with a kitchen, bedroom and office.

After sweltering in some of the outdoor parts of the museum we ducked inside for some air conditioning and looked around there a bit.  We also saw a full dock house full of crab boats and the story of crab pickers.  Years ago the men would go crabbing and the women were crab pickers.  There were accounts of bringing children to work and those kids learning how to pick crab at a young age by watching their mothers.  Crabbing and picking is hard work.

IMG_2294

The girls also got to see and walk around an oyster boat and try out using oyster tongs.  The tongs are taller than Ben and heavy so they needed some help scooping the oyster shells off the bottom.

The museum was great but it was a HOT day so ice cream was in order next!  Isaac treated us to ice cream and a huge root beer float for Molly.

IMG_2297

Ben and Isaac took off for West Marine and I took the girls into all the little shops.  After we’d exhausted our energy and seen most of what there was to see we all headed back to the boat for crab cakes!

IMG_2287

Ben and Isaac formed the crab cakes and then we cooked them up.  They were pretty good!  Molly was not happy with the pieces of shell in hers.  Oops.  Now that I’m finally writing this I’ve had crab in restaurants twice this week and picked shell out of both dishes.  So, I felt better about the bits of shell in our crab cakes.  First try was a success.

The next day was 4th of July.  Happy Birthday America!  I thought we’d go into town for the children’s parade but no one was interested in the heat.  Understandably.  So, we turned the generator on and hung out on the boat to cool down.  We decided to boat across the bay to Edgewater.  We had planned to go to Annapolis on the 5th, but the water was really calm on the 4th and we had a place to use a mooring ball in Edgewater so we decided to head there.  Isaac was scheduled to leave at sunrise on the 5th and drive all the way to West Palm Beach, FL.  By moving to Edgewater on the 4th it got him on the correct side of the Bay and shaved an hour or more off his drive.  So, he drove over and we boated and then grabbed him with the dinghy again.  In St. Michaels the water was filled with jellyfish.  Everywhere we looked we saw them.  We saw none in Edgewater!  Isaac was so hot he jumped in.  He promised he’d check out the water and let us know.  The girls begged to swim.  We said of course, but don’t complain if you get stung!  Molly jumped right in.  She and Isaac played for quite awhile in the water, jumping off the boat, etc.

Maddy was nervous.  I was so hot I dunked in and got back out just in case.  Ben was in.  Maddy finally got in and joined in the jumping.  My daredevil children jumped off the flybridge with Isaac and then with each other time after time after time.  It was CRAZY!

It was not feeling much like 4th of July until this.  Finally swimming, enjoying the water, good company and just having fun.  That’s what we do every 4th of July on the boat and we were happy we were able to make it happen.

We were going to dinghy to dinner but we couldn’t get the girls out of the water and decided to instead throw together a 4th of July cookout.  Perfect end to the day and fortuitous as a HUGE storm moved through and we would have been soaked in the dinghy.  We got to see a lot of local private fireworks around the bay we were in and enjoyed the show.

Early (5:45 AM) Wednesday we said goodbye to Isaac.  The girls said sad goodbyes the night before.  Ben took him to shore and off he went on his 15+ hour drive south.  Ben went back to sleep.  I tried to doze a bit.   Once back up, we spent the day at Burr Yacht Sales looking at boats again.  It’s a favorite pastime of ours.  After that, we boated around the bend into Annapolis and got settled at Port Annapolis Marina.   The Annapolis fireworks had been rained out on the 4th so lucky for us they were doing the show on the 5th instead.  The girls were all ready for bed when the fireworks started and they jumped off the boat and ran onto the dock to watch.  Watching them watch the fireworks is magical.  They just love them!

 

Crisfield, MD & Tangier Island, VA

Wednesday morning the girls got a quick swim in before heading to Tangier Island.  It was a calm, hot and sunny day.  Perfect for a boat ride – although strange for Ben to be a passenger!

The ferry goes to Tangier Island, VA every day.  It’s 14 miles away from Crisfield, but just across the state line.  There are also daily ferries to Smith Island which is just north of Tangier.  Both are small islands with very small populations and not much else.  We had read a lot about Tangier and been told to go by a number of friends.  It was first settled in 1686.  There are about 600 people on the island now.  The residents of Tangier have their own unique dialect.  Ben and I were able to catch it while listening to locals talk to each other.  The girls were not.  Tourism is big business here from May to October.  We got off the ferry and were greeted like a cruise ship…local kids waiting to say hi, many others waiting with golf carts wanting to take us on tours, still others fanning pamphlets and flyers at us.

We only had 2 hours before the ferry went back to Crisfield but that was plenty.  It’s a very small island and we chose to just wander around ourselves.  We turned right first and walked down towards the marina.  Crabbing is big business here and we had passed all of the interesting looking crab shanties on our way in.  The watermen boat out to them and then there is a little house on a dock and a crab boat tied up there.  A fellow boater told us that many of them are set up as man caves with crabbing supplies in one section and possibly a recliner and TV in another.  The marina is very small but we ran into and walked with another boater for awhile who was staying for two nights.

IMG_2196

There are a few good restaurants on the island but it was 2 pm and we didn’t want to spend a lot of our time eating, so even though the food smelled amazing we skipped it.  We turned and walked the length of the main road the other direction.  Constant golf cart and scooter traffic zoomed past all the people walking and on bikes.  We stopped in a couple of little shops and read the plaques that gave the history of many of the houses.  Many houses have gravestones in their front yards.  We learned this was done for a couple of reasons.  One reason was to keep grave robbers away years ago.  Another was to keep your loved ones closer to visit and care for the grave.  And a third, and likely most practical reason was to keep them away from the water line where they could be washed away in high tide or a bad storm.  The houses are set back from the water line a bit and therefore on higher ground.  However the entire island is sinking into the Chesapeake.  The locals believe this is all due to erosion, not climate change but not everyone agrees.  Either way scientists think that within 50 years the residents will have to vacate the island.

We found kittens galore.  There are cats everywhere and at least a couple of them must have just had a lot of kittens.   We were on our way to look at the school which houses K through 12th grades and found one little guy all by himself.  Ben scooped him right up and the kids were elated to take turns holding him.  Maddy begged to take the kitten with us.  For so many reasons the answer was no, but it sure was tempting!

Before heading back to the ferry we stopped at a food stand for a crab flatbread and some ice cream.  All the crab in this area is so good!  We hopped back on the ferry and said goodbye to Tangier Island.  It was definitely unique but reminded me so much of the Bahamas.  We saw a lot of communities like this in the Bahamas.  Tangier reminded me specifically of town on Green Turtle Cay.  However in the Bahamas the boat with food and mail comes once a week.  Tangier has food and mail deliveries 6 days a week from the mainland.  Otherwise the communities were so similar.

The girls hopped right back in the pool when we got back and swam til around 7.  We were treated to another incredible sunset.  Crisfield, MD is the place to be for good sunsets!  They did not disappoint!

IMG_2215

Thursday we decided to stay put because of wind.  We walked around town for a bit and stopped in some of the little shops. We also walked down to the town pier and watched the mail/grocery boats be loaded.  It was fascinating to see what all goes over.  Boxes and boxes of fresh food for the grocery stores.  Amazon boxes galore.  A recliner and scooter on one boat.  A golf cart on another.  Some people seemed to be loading luggage.  Once these boats are loaded we were told you could hop on and ride them over to the islands as well.  And at 12:30 exactly all of the mail boats and ferries start their engines and pull out in a line.

IMG_2219

We headed back to the marina and were in for a real treat!!!!  Tom from the marina is an absolute gem of a person!  He’s one of the best we’ve met on this trip.  Our friends Sonny and Phyllis from Corkscrew had told us to make sure to go to Crisfield when we got to the Chesapeake. We’d never heard of it. Sonny said find Tom and have him teach you about crabbing.  He told us Tom would show the girls all about it.  Tom did not disappoint. When he had some downtime he came down the dock and showed us and the girls how to catch crabs right off our boat on a piece of twine!  Ben bought fishing gear.  We don’t fish.  We have no idea what we are doing and don’t want to deal with cleaning it if we did catch something.  But crabbing is easy!  First, all we had to do was tie a weight to the end of a piece of twine, and then a piece of chicken neck (gag) and then we just tied it to one of the lines off our boat and dropped it in the water.  The Maryland blue crab is absolutely everywhere.  Tom patiently showed the girls how to slowly pull the line up to see if something was there.  Then you just scoop a net underneath the little guys and pull them out and drop the line back down.  He taught us the difference between a male and a female….females go back in the water.  The males’ underside looks like the Washington Monument and since we’d just been to DC they both knew what to look for!

Next lesson was that in Maryland crabs need to measure at least 5 inches across to keep.  Ben handled all the crab.  We didn’t want the kids getting pinched and I was too scared to pick one up.  So he did the picking up and measuring.  He got pinched really badly at one point. The crab would not let go.  Our slip neighbors split time between Crisfield and Key Largo and do a lot of crabbing.  He yelled over and asked how to get it to let go.  Cindy showed him where to grab and then to shake the crab to sort of stun it and then it’ll let go.  He had some good puncture wounds and she quickly grabbed iodine for him to clean the punctures.  His finger hasn’t turned black or fallen off yet so we think he’s all good.  All joking aside that happened to one of her fingers and she had a large portion of it shaved down and off.  Yikes!  Tom kept all our crab for us in a refrigerator overnight and told us he’d cook it for us and show us how to clean it the next day.  Did I mention what a gem he is???  We ended up with 13 total!

Friday morning we trekked out to the grocery store.  The people on the docks and in the office were so friendly.  We had so many offers for rides to the store or anywhere else we wanted to go.  But the girls had their scooters and it was only about 1.2 miles away and was more of an outing for us.  We don’t mind the walk.  Probably one advantage to being younger and having kids with lots of energy.  Not that I’m discounting anyone older….my mom walks 3 miles most days and definitely could have walked to the store.  But many people look at us like we are crazy when we grab the wagon and walk to the store.  It doesn’t bother us!  We saw a whole other part of town going this direction.  We stocked up on groceries and then headed back, stopping by the Smith Island Baking Company on our way back.  When we checked into the marina they gave us four slices of Smith Island cake.  We had to get more!  The Smith Island cakes symbolize community and togetherness and have been a staple on Smith Island and around the Chesapeake for years.  A Smith Island cake has many layers with fudge frosting in between.  It reminds us a lot of a special dessert Ben’s mom makes.  Hers has thinner layers and more of them, but these were very similar.  The traditional cake is great.  But they make other flavors as well.  We stocked up and have now tried traditional, double chocolate, lemon and red velvet.  I think traditional and red velvet are my favorite.  But I love them all.  I could survive on dessert alone.

smithislandcake

We got back from the store and our boat neighbors told us Irma the activity director heard we had kids and had come looking for us.  What?  An activity director???  Friday was my mom’s birthday (Happy Birthday Mom!) and we were on the phone with her. The girls had finished talking and were back outside checking our crab lines again when Irma returned.  I was talking to my mom and before I knew it off they went.  Irma asked if they wanted to come do some arts and crafts and Molly basically leaped off the boat.  My kids are always super clingy and hesitant to go anywhere without us, but when Molly gets comfortable at a marina she becomes very independent and little sister doesn’t hesitate to follow.  I found myself with this strange thing called adult kid-free alone time!  What???  What’s that????  I grabbed my book and sat on the back deck and read.  Alone!!!!!  Ben was there but he likes the air conditioning so he was inside.  It was amazing!  Irma did 3 different craft projects with the girls and then she walked them back to the boat.  Somers Cove Marina is amazing.  Anyone doing this trip should stop there.

The day just kept getting better.  While I was sitting out back reading Tom and his friend Joe came past in a little boat.  It was Tom’s day off and he and Joe were going out to set a trot line for more crab.  He introduced us to Joe and said they’d be back in awhile to go back out and see if they had any crab.  The new and incredible experiences just kept on coming here in Crisfield.  Joe and Tom said we could hop on board and join them!  Yes please!  The kids jumped right in the boat and off we went.  We learned what a trot line is and how the bait is set. And then Ben, Molly and Madelyn all got to catch the crab off the trot line!  I could have as well but I was resident photographer and happy to watch.  We had so much fun.  I can’t describe the expressions and pure joy on the girls’ faces (and Ben’s!) as they were scooping up crab after crab out of the water.  No picture does it justice.  As with so many experiences we’ve had I just hope they remember as many of them as possible!

The fun continued when we got back to the marina.  Tom cooked all of the crab for us!  We can hopefully replicate all of this on our own now.  My mom and Jim come to visit this coming week and we told Jim we’d show him how.  Anyway we had a feast.

Tom spent much of his Friday evening and day off of work sitting with us.  He showed all of us how to crack and pick the crabs.  First taking off the apron and the shell and then scooping out the inside parts.  Cutting off the legs. How to crack the claws, etc.  He was so generous with his time and we truly appreciate it and wish we had a way to thank him.

IMG_2248

He left us to our mess and we continued working and eating until around dusk when I said we needed to clean up and head to the boat.  We put the rest in Ziploc bags and dumped them in our cooler til the morning.  Tom mentioned many times that you can eat crab all night and never get full.  I had fed Madelyn an entire other dinner of course but Molly kept saying no because she wanted crab.  Once done she said she realized why I kept pushing other food.  You do so much work and eat as you go but it’s small pieces and not super filling.  What a fantastic end to the day.

Saturday morning we got up and cracked and picked all the rest of the crab.  Madelyn even pitched in and got a little dirty!  The girls had a lot of fun doing it.  We saved all the meat to make crab cakes.  This will be my first attempt!  A looper friend gave me her favorite crab cake recipe.  Last night as we were about to head back to the boat we ran into Tom and he came out with a big tub completely full of crab meat.  He filled a whole container for us from crab he had at home to supplement what we had.  I wish I could taste his wife’s crab cakes.  I’m sure they are nothing short of amazing.  He said he goes crabbing all summer and she makes crab cakes to freeze and last for the rest of the year.  I’ll be sure to give an update on how the crab cakes turn out!

Yesterday we got another treat!  Friday night another looper reached out that they were on Tangier Island and because of our DC side trip had almost caught up to us.  This is a new looper family with 8 and 11 year old daughters from Charleston.  I was supposed to reach out in Charleston and completely forgot.  They are just spending 10 weeks on the boat this summer and then hope to do the full loop sometime soon.  I’m so glad they reached out!  They were heading to Solomons Saturday and we were on the fence about heading to St. Michaels, Solomons or staying in Crisfield.  We’d become attached to Crisfield, the wind was still fierce and gusty, Freedom Fest was last night, Molly wanted to do more crafts with Irma and both girls wanted to swim more.  And the Sunday forecast was much better so we stayed.  Somers Cove probably thought they were never getting rid of us.  We asked Endeavour if they wanted to come to Crisfield instead.  They did!  It was short but icky ride for them because of the ridiculous wind.  I know I’m from Chicago and it’s windy a lot but the wind this spring has been insane.  Anyway the Davis family pulled in right as all of the 12:30 boats were pulling out so that was some adventure for them.  They got tied up right behind us and we all introduced ourselves.  We did the immediate tours of each others’ boats and then headed to the pool.  My girls had so much fun having friends to play with again!!!  They swam and then magical Irma appeared at 3:30 for crafts and off they went again.  An hour or so later they reappeared decked out with all their new creations.  We swam until 5:30 or so and then got cleaned up and headed to Freedom Fest.  We spread out picnic blankets and ate and listened to live music for a couple of hours.  The girls all enjoyed the beauty of a small town and had free reign to run back and forth wherever they wanted.

IMG_2252

We headed back to the boat as more crazy dark storm clouds were moving in.  We wanted to watch fireworks from the boat anyway so this was good timing.  The clouds blowing through with the cool gusts of air were kind of amazing.

We watched fireworks from the boat and dock just as the first drops started to fall.  The fireworks finished up, and boom, rain.  We hopped on our boats, said a quick goodnight and closed up for the storm.

It has been such a wonderful week in Crisfield.  A definite highlight of the Chesapeake so far.  A big thank you again to Tom and Irma and everyone else at Somers Cove who were so good to us!

We pulled out this morning for St. Michaels.  We convinced the Davis family to come with us!  A longer day than they usually do so hope all is well on their boat.  And the girls are anxious to play when we arrive at our anchorage.  Ben’s cousin Isaac is joining us tonight for a couple of days and my mom and Jim arrive Thursday.  Time is flying.  No idea how it is July already.  Today would have been my dad’s 71st birthday.  Today I’m enjoying the peaceful day on the water and remembering him.  He would have LOVED this trip and soaked up every minute of it he could with us.  I know he’s with us in spirit and smiling at this amazing adventure we are so lucky to be on.

Washington, D.C. Day 5 and Beyond

Sunday was our last full day in D.C.  My list of sites to see was still long but we also still had a lot we wanted to get to back on the Chesapeake Bay.  Ben and I felt like we had covered a lot of D.C. highlights.  So, we took it easy again on our last day there.  We met my childhood friend Molly, her husband Mark and their two girls for a picnic on the National Mall.  Molly and Mark put the whole thing together and were there waiting when we arrived.  Their daughters are very close in age to Molly and Madelyn and the girls have met once or twice before so after a few short minutes of being quiet and eating their sandwiches they were off and running playing on the Mall.  Frisbee, gymnastics, and some other games.

I had hoped to go to both the National Museum of American History and Natural History but knew that Maddy’s patience was waning for museums.  Molly and Mark had not been to American History yet so we went there.  We started in the Transportation exhibit and found a whole section from Chicago.  The girls climbed into a very old el car and looked at newer electric cars as well as very old cars.  Adult Molly (as opposed to daughter Molly) found a minivan like her family had that we both remember riding around in when we were in high school!  We also found school buses and fun big bicycles.

Next up was some playtime for the girls.  We popped in the Wegmans hands on exhibit where Madelyn was so happy playing with groceries and cooking meals and playing house.  She’s creative and likes to make and cook full meals for us with her play food all the time.  Molly and Silva and Ben headed next door to the invention lab.  Eventually Claire was ready as well and I dragged Maddy out and next door.  The invention lab had all sorts of stations for kids to be creative.  Molly and Silva worked on a few things before we came over.  Madelyn worked on building a pet enclosure.

I was really excited to see Dorothy’s ruby slippers and the First Lady dress collection.  It turns out Dorothy’s slippers are not on exhibit right now.  The museum apologized and said they have had a lot of people asking about them.  But the First Lady exhibit did not disappoint.  The history and the dresses were just beautiful.  All the girls picked their favorites and learned a little about some of the First ladies as well.

IMG_2156

The President’s room was right next door and we went in search of the hat Abraham Lincoln was wearing when he was shot.  The girls also got to take turns giving a press briefing at the podium.

One of the most fascinating exhibits was the Star Spangled Banner.  No photos were allowed unfortunately.  The exhibit walked through a history of the Star Spangled Banner and how it inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem.  We talked through the war and a few of the lyrics with the girls to make sure they understood.  The original flag was on display in the museum.  It’s incredible.  And HUGE (30×42 ft!).  Molly (adult) and I both commented that it is so much larger than we ever expected.  It has seen a lot and shows some wear and tear.  But what a moving exhibit.

banner

Courtesy of Google Images

We went on to read about the one woman, Mary Pickersgill, and the 4 teenage girls that helped her sew the flag.  They ran out of room in her house and had to move the flag making across the street to a brewery to assemble all of the pieces.

We didn’t give this museum the time it deserved, being day 5 and all.  We saw a lot and before losing the attention of our crew we headed outside for some ice cream instead.  I let my wish of seeing the Natural History museum go and we all headed back to the boat to show it to Molly, Mark and the girls.  We so appreciate them driving into the city to spend the day with us!

FullSizeRender (2)

Dinghy ride to the boat

After they headed home we decided to go out for our last night in D.C.!  We hopped in a cab to Georgetown and had a great dinner.  Molly (daughter) really wanted to go to Georgetown Cupcake one more time so we did that after dinner.

IMG_2161

Washington, D.C. was an incredible trip that I hope our girls will remember.  We walked a lot, saw a lot, learned a lot and had a lot of fun.  And it’s refreshing to see the wonder in their eyes over the buildings and the history there without any political climate clouding or influencing their views.  I truly hope they enjoyed it as much as we did!

Monday morning came and it was time to say goodbye and head back down the Potomac.  We traveled about 70 miles south on the Potomac and anchored in Breton Bay, near Leonardtown on the MD side of the Potomac.  What a gorgeous night we had. We were the only boat in the anchorage.  The shoreline was scattered with beautiful houses.  The random boat with someone water skiing would pass us by.  The kids and Ben jumped in and swam immediately as we were still in fresh water and the water was 84 degrees!  And then we were treated to an incredible sunset.

Tuesday we finished our trip back down the Potomac to the Chesapeake and crossed to the east side of the Bay to Crisfield, MD.  Crisfield is the crab capital of the world according to everything here.  We pulled into a lovely marina for the first time in a week.  As great as anchoring was, it was also great to run up the dock and watch the girls jump in the pool!  We walked into town to have some crab and it did not disappoint.  On our walk back to the marina there were dark skies and thunder to one side and blue skies and white clouds on the other.

We quickly got back to the boat just in case and watched one of the most incredible sunsets I have seen yet.  We could see the rain through the clouds and setting sun.  The pictures do not quite capture how purple and beautiful the water and sky were.  But they got close!

 

Washington, D.C. Days 3 & 4

Friday morning brought a tough goodbye.  After a wonderful fun filled visit, our friends had to head home.  After tears and lots of hugs we said goodbye for now and waved as they drove away.

Then we pulled ourselves together and headed back into the city.  First stop today was going to the Senate Office building.  We stopped by our IL senator Tammy Duckworth’s office and picked up passes for the House and Senate galleries inside the U.S. Capitol.

IMG_2110

On our way back towards the Capitol we stopped to see the Supreme Court.  The building is breathtaking.

Once inside, Ben and I tried to explain what the court does and some of the decisions that have been made in this ever so important place.  Court was not in session but we were able to get fairly close and take pictures of the bench.  The halls around the building hold a lot of interesting displays both about the history and construction of the building as well as history of many of the justices.  We got to peek around a doorway and see part of the beautiful spiral staircase as well.

IMG_2116

We headed across the street back to the Capitol.  Maddy wanted to see the Rotunda again but we went right for the House gallery.  The House was supposed to be in session until 3 pm so we started there.  They must have ended early because there were just a few people down on the floor that appeared to be taking a tour.  But we got to sit in the gallery and look for as long as we liked.  Then we headed over to the Senate gallery.  The Senate has a booklet they hand out to visitors with a lot of useful information.  It gave us a short history of the Senate and then had a tour of the room.  We were able to sit in the gallery and study everything with the girls.  We read that 48 of the desks date back to 1819.  The rest have been purchased to match over the years.  I love that they are old fashioned wooden desks.  Not fancy computer tables or long conference tables.  In the 1830s writing boxes were added to the tops of the desks.  Senator Daniel Webster supposedly refused to have one added to his desk, deeming it unnecessary.  Madelyn and I looked for a long time for the 1 desk out of 100 that does not have a writing box affixed to the top.  We didn’t find it.  The room has such a historic feel.  We found the roll top desks the official party secretaries use and the busts that line the top of the gallery.  Unfortunately no pictures were allowed in either gallery.

IMG_2120

Once done in the Senate gallery we headed outside and walked to the National Archives.  This was our first stop in D.C. where we had to wait in line!  We wanted to pop in just to see the original Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  We waited in line to get inside and then waited in line again to see these sacred documents.  Again no pictures allowed.  We spent quite awhile looking at different sections of the documents and explaining in some detail what was included in each.  The originals were impressive to see.  The history in that building is amazing.  The Declaration of Independence is almost illegible and very faded.  The Constitution is in excellent condition considering how old it is.  We talked about how the Declaration of Independence was never a legal document and it’s pretty incredible that it was saved so many years ago.  The Constitution on the other hand was well preserved and cared for carefully.  I hope our girls understood even a tiny bit of how important these pieces of history are to our country.  What an experience to see them in person.  We walked through a couple other galleries in the Archives building and then headed back to the boat.  We were all pretty tired and grabbed a quick dinner at the restaurant next to the marina.  Our days have gotten shorter and less ambitious as we run out of steam!  However the long list of things to see persists.

IMG_2122

Saturday we had a short list and no history lessons!  We had a leisurely morning and headed to the National Portrait Gallery.   Another beautiful building and so much fun inside.  Right inside the front door is a floor to ceiling piece of license plate art spelling out the preamble to the Constitution.  Ok, so a little more history.  It’s hard to escape in D.C.!  But it was fun to try to read it in license plate speak.

Next we headed straight up to the top floor and worked our way down.  The girls love sculptures and unique art.  We passed an awesome exhibit all made from old tube televisions.  Then we stumbled upon an Art-o-mat.  It was an old cigarette vending machine repurposed to sell small pieces of art.  Some wood carvings.  Some jewelry.  Some tiny pieces of art.  All $5.  The girls chose a whittled piece.  The put in their money and out it came.  They opened it to find an adorable turtle.  Great selection!

Then we moved into a room full of current day portraits.  We found Katy Perry right away and then Toni Morrison.  These were most impressive because they looked like large photographs but were actually oil on canvas paintings.  When we got up very close we could see the brush strokes.

We continued to move through the various galleries and found a cool sculpture Madelyn liked.  One of my favorites was a neon outline of the United States filled with old televisions.  I liked this one more than the first television piece.  This one had the TV screens each playing something that represented that state.  Some played pieces of history like MLK giving his I Have a Dream speech in the Alabama outline.  Some played fun pieces of history like The Wizard of Oz in Kansas.  Washington D.C. had a mini-cam set up that recorded anyone who walked past the exhibit and showed that feed on a tiny screen.  Next we found a random woman eating her lunch.  Maddy jumped about a mile when she realized it was a piece of art and not real.  They loved it.  We found interesting piece after interesting piece on this floor.

Last we looked through the gallery of Presidents.  We found some of the old ones that the girls know like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and the moved onto the Presidents we have had since Ben and I were born.  This was a fantastic fun stop and such a change of pace from everything we had been seeing.

IMG_2136

Continuing with the change of pace we headed across the street to The Spy Museum.  Here we met a friend of Ben’s from Chicago and spent the rest of the afternoon with her.  She was kind enough to wait in line and get tickets while we were in the Portrait Gallery so we got to skip the line and go right in.  The girls enjoyed the museum but it was a bit overwhelming to them trying to understand all of the spy history and tactics.  As we went in we all got to choose a profile and memorize all of the details of our cover story before getting assigned our mission.  Molly was Sandra Miller and Madelyn was Angelena Falcone.  I snapped a picture to help them but they did a pretty good job of remembering.  As we moved along reading and seeing spy history we came to the kiosks where we input our cover story details and received our missions.  Madelyn was traveling to Vietnam to obtain some security details.  Molly was heading to Austria.  They both completed their missions successfully.

Again since we can’t go anywhere without at least a little bit of a history lesson we found the Civil War spy room.  The exhibit had 3 kinds of ciphers set up and the girls worked together to solve the hidden messages using the ciphers.

Finally some physical activity other than walking!  The girls took turns hanging from a slippery, twisting, vibrating bar that appeared as if they were hanging off the side of a building.  Maddy did a great job hanging on as long as she could!  Molly is a complete monkey always.  She can do monkey bars at a park for hours on end and has arm strength like not many 10 year olds have.  As she got to about 20 seconds the attendant cheering her on told her she would get a prize if she made it to 60 seconds.  Challenge accepted.  She claims swinging back and forth and constantly regripping helped her hang on and of course she made it.  She won 20% off in the gift shop!  Music to her and Maddy’s ears!

Much to Madelyn’s dismay our next stop was a walk to the White House.  I told her she couldn’t really complain.  We took a cab from the  marina to the Portrait Gallery.  The Spy Museum was across the street.  This was the first actual walking we’d done all day!  Wednesday when we stopped by the White House we couldn’t get close because it was all closed off.  We were happy to find the streets open this time.  We got pictures of the back of the White House and Ben’s friend suggested walking around to the front since you can get closer.  Absolutely!  Madelyn grumbled.  Ben and I took turns with piggy back rides for her and we made it.  She pointed out as soon as we started walking that to get to the front we were going to have to walk a long way out of the way around.  Yes, yes we did.  And that’s just fine because we hadn’t already walked 8 miles Saturday.

After the White House we walked a bit back towards the Monument and past the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.  We found a water fountain and grabbed a cab back to the  marina to show Ben’s friend the boat.  This was another great day in D.C.!

 

Washington, D.C. Day 2

Well, we recovered from our insanely long Day 1 and decided to take Day 2 at a slightly slower pace.  First up was our tour of the U.S. Capitol and we smartly decided to take a cab there rather than wear everyone out walking.  When we booked the tickets for our tour Kathy found a U.S. Capitol Study Guide for kids.  On our long day on the water getting to D.C. we had the kids complete the packets about the Capitol.  This was important for both of my girls but especially for Madelyn.  Having some concrete things to look for on the tour and some background information about the Capitol made all the difference for her.  She went into the tour excited about seeing the Rotunda.

Our tour started with an introductory film, which we have learned is the norm for everywhere we’ve been recently.  I thought this one was well done and really did a good job covering the branches of government, the U.S. Capitol building, the Senate and the House galleries in the Capitol, the Rotunda, the history, and a somewhat moving coverage of all of the laws and amendments that have been passed under that roof.  For the kids the display of dates and laws flew across the screen too fast to read them all.  But I sat there in awe seeing important issue after important issue flash across the screen and it really hit home how much has been accomplished even since I was born.

After the film, our tour started. We breezed through the crypt pretty quickly and saw a few of the statues and moved into the Rotunda.  Madelyn was in awe of the dome.  She absolutely loved it and took a lot of pictures.  In the study guide the girls had learned about the murals that circle the Rotunda and the scenes they depict throughout history.  We were able to find the very first one of Christopher Columbus and follow it all the way around covering events throughout history including wars, mining for gold, the first flight by the Wright brothers and many in between.  Our tour guide also gave us some background on the statues and murals on the walls in the Rotunda.

After the Rotunda we moved into the National Statuary Hall.  In the study guide we had covered a dozen or so of the statues, mostly of people the girls had heard of but some they had not.  It was a great point of reference to be able to find some that they recognized.  Our tour guide told us that each state has 2 statues in the building somewhere.  I asked about Illinois.  I had just taken a picture of the Rosa Parks statue since that is one both girls knew.  Turns out the other woman statue I snapped in the picture is Frances Willard.  She is one of the statues from Illinois and the first woman statue added to the collection.  She was a women’s suffragist and was active in the fight to pass the 18th and 19th amendments.

 

IMG_2082

Rosa Parks & Frances Willard

 

Madelyn says the Capitol, and specifically the Rotunda, is her favorite place we went in D.C.  She says she’d like to live in the Capitol so that every morning she can go look at the dome and the Rotunda.

From here we took the underground walkway to the Library of Congress.  We were directed down the hall to the Children’s room.  The little girls played with puppets and put on a show and the big girls headed to the reading room.

Then we insisted we move along to the main section of the library!  We could have spent hours here touring all of the rooms but we had a long list to see still so we went upstairs to look at the main floor and take pictures of another beautiful structure.

Then further up to the viewing gallery for the main reading room.  It was equally beautiful.

IMG_2091

Next up, the National Gallery of Art.  We headed out into the heat, walked past the Supreme Court and headed out onto Constitution Ave. towards the National Mall.  First stop was the National Gallery of Art to see a few paintings Kathy wanted to see.  Had we had more time we would have grabbed headsets and done the children’s tour.  The girls loved doing that at the Dali museum in St. Petersburg and Madelyn asked if we could come back here and do it if we had time.

IMG_2094

After a few minutes in the National Gallery of Art we headed out to the mall.  The kids asked to run around for a few minutes.  This was the first picture worthy shot of the Capitol building so we stopped for them to play and snap more photos.

Onto the next stop, the National Air and Space Museum.  We have been told by multiple cab drivers as well as a friend that the new Air and Space museum outside the city is phenomenal.  It’s 5 times the size of this one and just amazing.  But it was a 20 minute drive outside the city and that just didn’t work this time around.  The kids enjoy air and space things.  Lots of hands on exhibits and flashy exhibits to look at.

Ben commented that the museum seemed tired in a way that other places in D.C. do not.  I have to agree.  Additionally we’d been to the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL last fall and it was fabulous.  But, this museum did have exhibits from a wide span of time. We walked through a WWI exhibit as well as a Wright brother’s exhibit and then moved into a hands on room for the girls.  The Wright brother’s exhibit was great.  The museum has the glider from 1903 on display!  The canvas has been replaced but it is the actual glider.  We studied the Wright brothers last fall when we covered inventions and inventors.  It was really neat to see the glider in person.  We also learned that they tested all of their glider ideas as kites first.  Some of the model kites were on display as well.  I spent quite awhile with Madelyn and Claudia going from exhibit panel to exhibit panel.  We learned the glider on display made three successful flights, the longest of which flew 852 feet in 59 seconds!

 

IMG_2105

1903 Glider

I shouldn’t sell the National Air and Space Museum short.  It had a lot we did not cover as we were tired by the end of the afternoon.  We stopped for a quick ice cream and then walked back to the marina and called it a day.  We stopped by to grab some groceries on the way back and had some excitement.  While Ben, Kathy and I were checking out Livia and Molly came running over to say that they needed Ben because Maddy’s arm was stuck.  Huh?  I looked over and there is Maddy lying on the floor with her arm pinned under a pallet of watermelons.  I took off running as well.  She had gone after a dropped toy that rolled under the crate and I thought the pallet had crushed her arm. Turns out she reached in an opening under the pallet and got stuck.  It took a group of men to move the huge crate of watermelon just an inch or two so I could yank her arm out. Thankfully just a scratch and she was fine.  We were shaken up.  That could have been so much worse!  Always an adventure.  After that we walked back to the marina all intact, made some tacos for dinner and enjoyed our last night together before the Burnetts had to head home.

 

 

Washington, D.C. Day 1

We set out early Tuesday morning for our 100 mile trip up the Potomac River to Washington, D.C.  This time Jack drove and Kathy rode on the boat with us and the girls.  We had a 10 hour boat ride.  He had a 2 hour drive.  The Potomac winds and twists and turns.  Parts are very wide.  Parts get a little more narrow.  Parts are beautiful.  We passed Mt. Vernon and told the girls that was George Washington’s home.

We passed Alexandria.  We sped up for a little bit along the way and ended up breaking off the Potomac into the Washington Channel ahead of schedule.  The trip ended up taking about 8.5 hours.  We decided to anchor and get a dinghy dock pass for our time here.  It’s been great, however Tuesday when we pulled in after a very calm beautiful day on the water the winds picked up and anchoring was quite difficult.  We really wanted to get all the kids off the boat for a bit but that wasn’t happening.  The water was rough and Ben got soaked just running to pick Jack up.  Instead we offered movie night on the boat.  We had a VERY ambitious list for Wednesday and wanted everyone rested.  We enjoyed a quiet evening with a view of the Washington Monument.

IMG_2030

Thankfully the winds died down and we had an ok night.  The next morning looked much better.  Kathy and I got up early to go get tickets for the Bureau of Engraving tour.  The ticket booth opened at 8 so at 7:30 we had Jack dinghy us to the dock and drop us off.  We walked to get tickets and walked back to the boat.  We got everyone organized and took two trips from the anchorage to get us all to shore.  I mentioned we were ambitious.  We started by walking all the way to the Washington Monument.  It’s not all that far but probably a 25-30 minute walk with the kids.  Kathy and I had talked about grabbing a cab there to make sure we didn’t start the day exhausted.  She and I had already walked 4 miles.  But then somehow we were all energized and just started walking and there we were.  It was HOT.  As we knew D.C. in June would be.  Livia made a break for it when she saw the first water fountain of the day!  This started our trek from water fountain to water fountain.

The Washington Monument is beautiful.  I took so many pictures of it.  We can see it everywhere we go.  From the boat.  From anywhere we’ve visited.  It’s always there and I keep snapping new pictures of it from what seem like better angles.

From our tour of many angles of the Washington Monument we walked over to the WWII Memorial.  We haven’t really studied WWII much with the girls but explained that at the Memorial each star represent 100 soldiers that lost their lives.  It’s a moving display.  And from the fountains you can see the Washington Monument!

IMG_2043

We kept moving on towards the Lincoln Memorial.  The girls stopped to look at the reflecting pool.  We had a lot of sunshine so we could see a perfect reflection of the Lincoln Memorial in the pool.  Another spectacular sight.

We walked down to the Lincoln Memorial and climbed the grand steps to the top.  I’ve mentioned it was hot right?  Really hot.  And humid.  And hot.  Really hot.  But awe inspiring to see such a grandiose statue and such an important figure in our history.

We have studied a lot about the Civil War on this trip.  It has been present in so many towns and cities we have visited and Lincoln has become the President that Maddy always brings up when asked about presidents.

We continued on to the other side of the reflecting pool and walked through the Vietnam Memorial.  I was last at this wall 20ish years ago and still remember being moved by it.  It’s all so overwhelming for the kids.  And it’s just a big wall.  But then we explained that every single name on the wall was someone who lost his/her life in the Vietnam War.  To make it more concrete Ben did a little digging.  My brother in law Brian’s older brother Marshall lost his father in Vietnam.  He was MIA.  Ben found out where his name was located and a ranger helped us find the row and eventually his name, William M. Price.  She then gave the girls pencil and paper to do a rubbing of his name.  We have them saved and will pass them along to Marshall and his daughter Price (both named after Marshall’s dad).  Livia and Claudia did rubbings of one of only 7 women’s names on the wall.  The loss of lives in these many wars represented here is so sad and hard to take in.  I’m glad we were able to show the girls and at least expose them so they may be able to comprehend the gravity of these wars later.

We stopped for lunch and an air conditioning break and then headed out to walk another half hour back past the Washington Monument to the Bureau of Engraving for our tour.  Otherwise known as the money factory.  This was a favorite with all of the kids.  The adults enjoyed it too.  We learned the process followed to make our money.  Our paper money is made from cotton and linen.  We got to watch as the paper was first dyed the correct colors, then printed and security features added.  We watched as men on the floor fanned the large pages of bills to separate them and then fed them through a machine to take a picture of every sheet.  We were surprised that there is a 5% defect rate.  For a lot of machines that seemed kind of high to Ben and me.  That money is shredded and then repurposed.  Some of it is recycled and some is used to make the items in the gift shop.  Finally we watched as the money was cut and stamped with the seal and serial number.  We learned that every 1 in 200 or so (we can’t remember exactly how many) bills is a “star bill”.  It has an * instead of a letter in the serial number.  We quickly opened our wallets and checked all our bills.  All letters.  But I will now be on the lookout for a star bill!  We also learned that it costs $0.11-0.14 to make each bill.  That seemed a bit high to us, but not shocked since it is an all government run process.  It could be highly efficient and right now it is not.

No pictures were allowed during the tour.  It was really interesting to watch.  After the tour we headed to the visitor center and gift shop where we could snap some photos, look at all of the generations of old bills and pick up some dollar bill magnets for the girls’ collection.

IMG_2061

Since we were not yet exhausted enough we decided that since we were so close to the White House we’d walk on over.  We were trying to get to as much in that geographical area as we could so Burnetts could see as much as possible in the time they had in D.C.  Have I mentioned it was hot?  We began our water fountain trek again.  Some tired kids got shoulder rides from already tired dads.  We passed the monument AGAIN and trekked on to the White House.

IMG_2062

We arrived to find Pennsylvania Ave. barricaded more than normal.  They were not letting pedestrians through and we spotted snipers on the roof of the White House. Security told us to go out onto the ellipse park area and look from there.  Security said it could reopen at any time and we could come back.  We watched for a bit and nothing happened so we decided that was close enough and we’d come back by another day.

IMG_2064

By this time it was around 4 pm.  We promised Molly we would go to Georgetown Cupcake while we were in D.C.  She loves the show D.C. Cupcakes and this is the cupcake store where the show is set.  We knew we had to walk a ways from the White House to catch a cab so we started walking again.  Then we looked at a map and it was only about a mile and a half.  So we kept walking.  And walking.  And then it was annoying to get two cabs for 9 people so we just walked the whole way to Georgetown.  With 5 kids.  And 4 very tired adults.  Kathy said she thinks we may have been delirious.  I have never felt so dehydrated.  What were we thinking?

 

IMG_2066

Seriously strung out kids

 

We thankfully arrived to a very short line.  We expected a line down the block but only had a few people in front of us before we got in the store.  Molly lit up when we got inside.  She was so beyond excited.  She is a truly genuine and sweet child.  She thanked us over and over for bringing her.

Once inside decisions had to be made.  They were out of red velvet!  A crime!  So Livia had to make a different choice.  Ben and Molly had peanut butter fudge.  I had peanut butter banana fudge.  Madelyn and Claudia had a birthday cake with unicorn topping.  Livia a rainbow and Sabina vanilla.  They were indeed quite good and a welcome treat after the long day.

We actually did NOT walk back to the marina.  We could hardly stand up.  The girls and Ben and Jack walked 8.5 miles.  Kathy and I had an extra 4 from first thing in the morning putting us at 12.5 miles for the day.  We fell into cabs back to the marina.  Took the dinghy back to the boat.  Drank gallons of water and collapsed.  We made the girls a quick dinner and got everyone in bed.  We were exhausted but we covered so much and had a wonderful first day in Washington, D.C.!

 

IMG_2077

A record!

 

Molly’s 10th Birthday & Father’s Day

June 17, 2017 Molly turned 10!  The big double digits.  She was so excited about her birthday.  Age 9 was pretty spectacular being on this trip and we hope that we can make age 10 just as special for her.  She had a list of requests for the day.  She wanted donuts and fruit salad for breakfast, sandwiches on the boat for lunch and to go out for dinner.  She requested root beer floats in lieu of cake.  She loves a good root beer float but I feel a bit guilty because we didn’t have room in the freezer for her favorite, ice cream cake.  I told her I’d make it work but she said root beer floats were her choice.  The day was filled with phone calls and FaceTime calls from grandparents and cousins and she was lucky to have her very best friends here with her to celebrate.

We started the morning with donuts and candles and I made a big fruit salad.

We sang and Molly tore through her presents.  She’s now the proud owner of a Fuji Instax camera and a ukulele!

In the spirit of a lazy fun birthday we headed to the pool for the day.  We ended up having sandwiches and chips poolside for lunch.  The pool party continued until a big storm blew in.  We had storms forecasted all week with the strongest chance being on her birthday.  But instead of the crazy amount of rain forecasted we just had one pretty quick storm.  We all ducked under the shelter and watched it blow through.

Soon enough the rain cleared and the girls made a beeline for the pool again.  Next up, root beer floats poolside!

After a long day in the sun we all got cleaned up for dinner.  We had a nice dinner out.  Molly got a slice of key lime pie to go and we headed back to the boat.  Everyone else chose ice cream on the boat.  We ended the day with a beautiful sunset and dessert.  Happy birthday Molly!  We love you!

Ten years ago Molly was born on Father’s Day.  This year Father’s Day was the day after her birthday.

IMG_2015

Jack and Ben didn’t have any requests for the day and we went back and forth on our plans.  We could stay in Yorktown until Monday when the Burnetts planned to head home.  Or we could travel north a bit making some progress in that direction.  Or we could head north towards Washington, D.C. and they could join us.  The water forecast Sunday and Monday wasn’t great, but mostly just a lot of wind chop.  We decided to go for it and make our way north to Kilmarnock, VA and the Burnetts decided to join us all the way to D.C.!  Kathy drove and Jack and the girls rode on the boat with us.  We ended up in a very tiny marina with a very tiny pool that was just perfect.  The kids hopped right in, the dads chilled poolside and then we all enjoyed a quiet evening.

Monday had a similar forecast.  We only had about 12 miles out on the Chesapeake before ducking into the mouth of the Potomac River.  The Potomac is 9 miles wide at the base and not so much like a river.  I learned that the water on the Potomac is all part of Maryland but when we stepped foot onto land we were in Virginia.  We were only going a few miles up and turning into Kinsale, VA for the night.  It was a welcome change to get off the wind chopped water and into the protection of trees and land around us.  We found another very tiny marina where we were the only transient boat.  The owner lived next door to the property and after a little chaos with how he wanted our lines tied, turned out to be very nice.  The marina had another great huge pool.  We broke out the noodles and all 9 of us swam.  We knew there were large storms moving in so we took advantage until the clouds moved in.  After a great afternoon in the water we had a burgers and brats cookout to end the night.

Next stop, Washington, D.C.!

Just as an aside…Other boaters ask us all the time how we have so many guests.  We love it.  We have the space.  We’re thrilled people want to come visit us and share this journey.  And yes when our friends come we have 5 kids on the boat but we make it work.  The kids bunk up.  We have plenty of floor space for them.  They play like the best of friends they are.  And it’s fun for us grown ups too.

 

IMG_2009

Cheers!