Lake Erie and the real end of the Ehmann Loop Adventure

Our arrival at Buffalo was the time for decisions. We confirmed with Winston Trucking that they could truck The Cove from the Cleveland area to Anacortes in August. Chagrin Marine in Willoughby just north of Cleveland was recommended for summer storage and to help with decommissioning the boat.  We would head down the southern coast of Lake Erie with a favourable following wind to reach Willoughby. Timing would depend on the weather.

Thunderstorms, heavy rainfall and winds up to 30 knots kept Friendly Cove snuggly tied up at the Buffalo Yacht Club for four nights. Amazingly, this was the longest period of time we were held up with weather directly upon us in the entire Loop trip. Ostensibly, we were no longer “Looping” as we had completed the Loop while on the Erie Canal. We really enjoyed the hospitality of Buffalo Yacht Club; were welcomed by the staff and members and enjoyed their wonderful restaurant and facilities.  The weather forced us to read, make muffins, drink tea and snatch dog walks when the rain stopped! The electric bikes were exercised a couple of times to explore Buffalo in between showers.

Buffalo is a city of about 260, 000 people, located on the Niagara River, bordering with Canada, 20 miles south of Niagara Falls.

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Buffalo Yacht Club
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Founding Fathers Pub
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Art work in the Amvet parkway beside Erie Lake near the Buffalo Yacht Club. Jaya enjoyed this park, a few miles of trails..

It’s a good thing that we waited out the weather, which looked somewhat benign by Monday 1st June. Buffalo, and the mouth of the Niagara Rive,r are protected by a series of walls. Erie Lake is shallow and the wind there produces sharp seas very quickly, even though they were not visible from our cosy dock.  Presque Isle, Pennsylvania, was our destination for Tuesday, and was 77 miles away. Amazingly, we discovered about a knot of current due to the 10 knot wind which was helping make our run at an average of 9.6 knots per hour. Presque Isle is a huge natural harbour, largely a National Park, with  the mainland side being  the vista for the City of Erie. Sadly, this city is shrinking in size and has huge racial issues.

We enjoyed an entertaining meal at a lake side pub adorned with beautiful hanging baskets. Another big plus for this stop were the double laundry facilities…I was able to do six loads of laundry while getting the boat ready for decommissioning in two days time. Our preparation involved removing all the seat cushions, pillows, sheets, duvets and clothing.

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Wednesday took us to the charming town of Ashtabula, Ohio, Bula for short. It’s still a very active port: receiving West Virginia coal and Canadian iron ore, smelting iron and shipping gravel. This huge great lakes ship was coming out of the harbour as we entered.

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Ashtabula Bridge opens on the hour and half hour and is lit up neon blue at night…
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Downtown Ashtabula proved to be a delightful little village with wonderful shops and restaurants. Likely the classiest shopping area I have come across in the little towns we have visited.

A special mention goes to the Ashtabula Yacht Club; four members took our lines at the guest dock, drove me to downtown and shared all the amenities of the Club including a much needed pump-out.

Interestingly, we called Chagrin Marine on Wednesday, indicating we thought we could be in Willoughby on Thursday, then, suddenly, plans were cemented. The Marina said they could haul the boat on Friday  (5th June) afternoon, otherwise we would wait until the next Tuesday.  We found airline tickets back to Victoria, a hotel near the airport,set ourselves  to more cleaning and got the boat ready for storage and trucking.

Our last night of the Loop Adventure was spent at a marina called the Chagrin Lagoon Yacht Club.It was an interesting configuration of lagoon-like dredged channels, with sail and power boat dockage alongside boarded-up individual cabanas set up for summer at the lake.  Again, here a number of the club members caught our lines, then stopped by, inviting us for drinks or to watch the NBA playoffs: Cleveland Cavaliers vs the Golden State Warriors. Unfortunately, we were not able to  relax in those delightful surroundings, as there were too many tasks for us to do to decommission the boat.

After a hectic morning, we chugged down the Chagrin river to Chagrin Marine, a delightful marine yard with both outside and inside storage that looked like it could handle a big rig low bed truck! Reminicent of when we hauled the boat at Indian Town, here are some snaps of her coming out of the water:

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The end of our adventure came quickly, as we didn’t know if the weather would allow for travel on Lake Erie, and we were not sure which location would allow good access for the trucking company.  Completing the Loop was an incredible accomplishment for us. Looking back on it, and considering all those events and adventures, we have decided that the people were the best part by far: Loopers, friends who joined us, all the folks we met along the way, and the people who were reading the blog!  We feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to see so many parts of the US and in such a unique way.  Now, we are looking forward to going home to catch up with family and friends. One of our first post Loop tasks will be to order a Gold Looper flag!

This is what canal cruising should be…the Erie Canal

Beginning at the Hudson River, in the town of Waterford, about 130 miles north of New York City, the Erie Canal is 336 miles long, with 35 locks, and 249 bridges, some with only a 15.5ft clearance. We took down the dinghy lift and lowered the radar mast to get our overall height down to 13 feet.

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The Erie Canal is the largest and most famous of a number of canals in the New York Canal system. It was envisioned in the early 1800’s to shorten travel time from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes. Initially built as a ditch with horse towpaths that paralleled the Mohawk and Seneca Rivers, the canal has been rebuilt twice and as motorized barges came into use, the Mohawk and Seneca Rivers became “canalized”. Trains replaced barges in the early part of the 20th century. Canals struggled until maintaining some of the canals became a priority for the tourist industry. The following pictures are just a few of the incredible vistas we enjoyed:

Having some experience with canals in both Canada, the US and France, we can safely say the Erie Canal is one of the best! All the locks are smartly painted in navy and yellow, the grass is mowed and most of the locks are in very good condition. As in Canada, there are walls before and after the lock where boaters can tie up to wait for locks to open or stay overnight.

The locks worked much the same way as the Trent Severn, usually with ropes to hold on to fore and aft, occasionally a cable for a mid-ships tie. About half of the canals walls were in excellent shape with refaced walls and the later canals were obviously waiting for their refacing, lots of exposed aggregate concrete grinding away at the bumpers unless we could keep the bumpers away from the walls. One lock had a drop-down gate, one of two in the country. Another sported a lovely waterfall, meaning there is a leak in the gate.

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We thought the canals would be really busy over the Memorial Day weekend, but we had the locks and canals to ourselves. It is a real pleasure to tie up beside a lock with only sound of birds and fish jumping. Jaya of course enjoys the freedom of the endless cut grass!

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Back in colourful Adarondack chair at the waters edge country!

It was hard to imagine why there is a need for so many bridges, however many of the bridges were in place in small towns and have remained part of the local transport system. There were about 16 lift bridges in the last 30 miles, that meant asking the lift bridge operator to lift the bridge to 17 feet.  The section through Rochester was particularly interesting with the following arches:

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This lift bridge at Fairport is in the Guinness Book of records for having one end higher than the other and for having no two angles the same in the construction.

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The green structures with yellow arrows are guard gates, usually open, but used to control the pool or water height in the canal and prevent overflow.
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Train bridges, many still in use and usually the lowest of the bridges around 16 feet of clearance.
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Lockport double locks for a total rise of 46feet.
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Canal side building built from Medina sandstone… almost a European flavor.
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The surrounding countryside was as serene as the canals, mostly farm land and rolling away and to the north glimpses of sea mist over Lake Ontario which was only eight miles away.

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These photographs could be taken anywhere, showing the remains of an acquaduct from the 1800’s and the original canal.
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Tied up to a wall in the town of Gasport, again the whole canal to ourselves, just the occasional dog walker or jogger on the path. Incredibly all these tie-ups in the towns provided free electricity and some even had water.

At the end of the Erie Canal, we come back into civilization in the town of Tonawanda, then into the Niagara River, shared between the US and Canada. One last lock at Black Rock into the Black Rock Canal, that takes us to the Buffalo Yacht Club, in sight of Erie Lake.  Safely tied up inside their breakwater, we now wait for the wind to settle down for a run to Presque Isle, Erie Pennsylvania.

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Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada from the Buffalo Yacht Club

The Erie Canal, but first “Crossing our Wake”….

Dilemma…we have always considered Kingston, Ontario as our starting point of the Loop. However, we will be ending our trip on Lake Erie in order to truck Friendly Cove from a US location to Anacortes, in Washington State.  So we have determined that “Crossing our Wake” in Looper vernacular is now in New York State, on the Erie Canal at Palmyra (near Rochester), the equivalent milage of going across Lake Ontario to Kingston from Oswego.   We completed 3,167 miles in the fall, and 1,896 miles by the time we reach Palmyra on the 27th May, 2015, for a total of 5,063 statute miles.I hope that the attached map helps you to understand our calculations and location for completing the Loop. Palmyra is east of Rochester on the Map, home of Joseph Smith, father of the Mormon faith.

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This map shows our path up the Hudson River to the Erie Canal. Palmyra is at mile 236 from the starting point of the Erie Canal on the Hudson River

Happily, we celebrated a little early on the 25th May with Ken and Pauline from Shipperly when we caught up with them in Brewerton, at the western end of Lake Oneida. As mentioned before, we are amongst the lead Loopers coming up the East Coast, so most of our big river buddies are about two weeks behind in Cape May and the Chesapeake Bay area. Of note, Jaya is the first Schnoodle to “do” the Loop in 2015!!!

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Ken and Pauline Phillips from Shipperly are our witnesses for crossing our wake and helped celebrate!
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Jaya did not notice!

Planning and concerns about what to do with Friendly Cove are somewhat clouding the sense of accomplishment at this time, but we know that completing the Loop is a great accomplishment!  Inland waterways were and still are a new challenge for us saltwater sailors; no day is the same or without a surprise on the rivers and canals. Imagine not having electronic or paper charts, the last 70 miles of the canal do not have charts! These last 62 miles have 72 bridges, some as low as 16 feet, not to mention the 35 locks along the 338 miles of canal. So now we are “Gold Loopers” without a Gold Looper burgee, which will arrive in Victoria!  A big thank you to family and friends who have joined us and or supported us from afar and to all the Looper friends who have provided so much wisdom and enjoyment!

We are still firming up plans to have Friendly Cove trucked from the Cleveland or Toledo area to Anacortes. The Western Erie Canal brings us to Buffalo, then about 150 to 250 miles along the southern shore of Lake Erie to the trucking destination. Stay tuned for the final plan, although we would like to be ready to fly to Victoria by the 18th June for Ally’s graduation. Next blog will be about the beautiful Erie Canal, 338 miles from Waterford on the Hudson to Tonawanda, 10 miles east of Buffalo.

The Hudson River and beyond

New York City might be hard to beat for vibrancy and activity, but the Hudson River Valley is the most beautiful river we have travelled. Our first stop was Half Moon Bay; the first night was a nice calm change from the rock and rolling at 79th Street Boat Basin, the second night was noisy due to 30 knot winds.

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The Hudson River Valley was spectacular: lush, fresh spring green deciduous trees, hills, cliffs and the distant Catskill Mountains…all new scenery for Friendly Cove.

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The express train takes folks into town, along the Hudson from as far away as Albany, about 90 miles up river
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There are many gracious homes and farms along the Hudson, including the famous ones belonging to the Rockerfellers, Vanderbilts and Roosevelts. Second homes for New Yorkers would be very appealing in the Hudson Valley, less that 100 miles from the city.
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Sandhurst military training college
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A number of lighthouses still exist in the middle of the river
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Numerous bridges cross the river, some were built over 150 years ago.

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These lighthouses appear more comfortable that many of those we have previously seen!
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Back to the barges, we saw about one per hour and heard the running most of the night. Easier to navigate as they were mostly just on one barge and the river was much wider and deeper.

Peter and Kathe rented a car for their trip out to Cape Cod and Conneticut, so we joined them for a brief trip to Westchester County and a glimpse of Long Island Sound.  Westchester is clearly a very wealthy county with miles of beautiful white clapboard homes set in rolling green gardens, with gracious trees and long driveways.  Not a Walmart in sight!

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Sadly, Peter and Kathe departed yesterday and we pushed on past Catskill Creek and Troy, north of Albany, to join the Erie Canal. Tonight we are tied up at the Waterford free dock, ready for the canal in the morning.

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Albany, capitol of New York State

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A yacht commissioned by General Patton before WWII that he called “When and If” I survive the war, my wife and I will sail around the world. He did not survive and the yacht has new owners.

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The Erie Canal is about 350 miles to Buffalo on Lake Erie, and then we are considering making arrangements to take FC to Cleveland, Ohio, for short-term storage and trucking to Washington State. Tales of the Erie Canal will begin tomorrow!

Peter and Kathe Gerber’s Post….Cape May to New York City

19th May 2015

If one is going to be held up by the forecast of 20 – 30 knots on the nose, don’t hide out at the Summit Cove Marina in the Chesapeake – Delaware Canal, but instead take a bit of risk and head south to Cape May. We lucked out, beat the front and instead were able to relax in the luxury of the South Jersey Marina. Perhaps it was the contrast with SCM above, but we delighted in all that this sweet little place offered – gorgeous bathrooms & showers, the best of the loop. Cape May is a historic little town, named after a Dutch captain who explored it in 1620. Many of the buildings dating to the late 1800s are exquisitely maintained, and painted like colourful grand ladies…some examples were posted in the previous blog.

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Kathe on the beach at Cape May
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Peter inside Friendly Cove

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The beaches are vast, clean white expanses and there are no retail chains of any description to be seen. So, like a host of other cruisers waiting to head north on the outside, we relaxed in the sunshine for a couple of days. Friendly Cove II’s 42 feet looked pretty small next to the 120 foot Aspen Alternative and a few other sub 100 footers.

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As conditions allowed, the boats slipped their moorings and poked their bows into the Atlantic. Though the charts indicate the Intercoastal Waterway by name, it’s not a realistic alternative for heading up the New Jersey coast. For hours on end, a mile or two off shore, we slipped by beautiful beaches backed by condos and hotels which looked incredibly vulnerable, being set just meters above the sea.

As we were drawn in by surging current at Barnegat Bay, there were hundreds of fishermen casting for bluefish. It is said that these are arguably the best pound for pound fighting fish in the Atlantic. Those fish were hungry for the hooks, as evidenced by the successful catches that stained the walkway.

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We spent a starry night on anchor at Sandy Hook before negotiating our way into the Big Apple in the morning.The morning fog called for keen eyes to negotiate the traffic lanes coming into the New York harbor. Bridges and barges would ghost out the fog, as did the tops of Manhattan skyline

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It was all quite thrilling to pass by the Liberty island and the Statue of Liberty, which has been welcoming visitors and immigrants since 1886.

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Stepping off the boat at the 79th St Marina was a test of one’s balance as it rocked and rolled with the swells from the Hudson. Though the docks were seriously suspect, the location was brilliant. Located just off Riverside Park, and only a few blocks from Central Park, numerous galleries and museums were close by.

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Central Park
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Amsterdam Street Sunday Market
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Metropolitan Museum of Art
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Guggenheim Art Gallery

The subway to the zaniness of Times Square was also a short walk away.

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Our strip of Amsterdam and Broadway had great restaurants and amazing delis. The name Zabar will always be associated with the unimaginable choices of cheeses, sausage and fantastic breads. Where else do you have a choice of well over a dozen types of butter and find tasty surprises like rugalach?

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On Monday night, Friendly Cove hosted dinner for Paddy and Michele Guy and Paige Green…just like old times on Joyant..dinner on the boat, only in New York City!

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Thank you Kathe and Peter for contributing to the blog for the Cape May to New York section, great fun to have you along! Friendly Cove now heads up the Hudson River to Half Moon Bay.

Annapolis to Cape May

13th May 2015

Peter and Kathe Gerber arrived on Sunday, 10th May after eleven hours of delays in the hands of Air Canada. Their flight was originally scheduled to come into the Baltimore Washington Airport at 6pm on Saturday.  Great to see them, looking pretty good after their ordeal! Sunday was spent checking out the delightful town of Annapolis and home of the US Navel Academy.

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Maryland State Capitol building from Main Street, the downtown area of Annapolis
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Distant view of the Bay from downtown Annapolis, many sailboats out there racing
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Sandbagger sailboats…beautifully restored. Called Sandbaggers as the crew use sand bags to shift the weight/ballast in the boats. Needless to say, crew often ended up in the water!
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Front gardens along Southgate Avenue, where we took Jaya for walks

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FC in Spa Creek, Annapolis
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Entrance to Spa Creek

Monday,  and Friendly Cove is ready to move on. I returned the rental car and we cast off and headed back into the Chesapeake Bay, aiming for the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal about sixty miles away, again with tide most of the way. The picture of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is significant in that my very first time on a sailboat took me and my family under that bridge over forty years ago!

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Marinas and anchorages are infrequent in the canal, so we ended up at Summit North which had non-existent cleats, no wifi, poor dock help and miles to walk to scruffy bathrooms. The silver lining, however, was the finger slips which allowed us to completely clean the hard water marks (Bar Keepers Friend) off the boat’s green hull and re-polish both sides. Thanks to three off us cleaning/polishing and Kathe taking care of Jaya with long walks, Friendly Cove is smiling again!

Delaware Bay weather for Tuesday sounded like a small craft warning for the afternoon, but there was a favourable tide for most of the morning, so decided to make a run for Cape May, which turned into a beautiful trip, and the wind did not show up until the evening. We were very pleased to have had such a good run as the bay can be very inhospitable.

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Ship John Shoal Light house
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Contrasting shipping, tankers anchored on the west side of the bay and what looks like a upside down sail boat in the foreground.
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Bridges on the C and D canal

The forecast for Wednesday and Thursday however is for westerlies up to 30 knots, best to stay tied up at South Jersey Marina with our new friends in their white yachts!

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Cape May is the most delightful seaside town we have come across, clearly they have been successful in resisting the big box stores, chain hotels and highrise apartments. The locals are very proud of their slower way of life and there is an obvious civic pride.

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Pure Atlantic, no outer islands, just Africa
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Crab, with Bill and Jaya in the distance
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Cape May in the distance, beautiful beaches for miles around the Cape.
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Typical vacation properties along the beach, a far cry from huge condominiums further south.

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Holed up for three days, we entertained ourselves in various ways: bike rides, walks, cooking great meals, cleaning, baking, researching travel plans up into New York, thinking about what do when we “cross our wake” likely in less than a month in Kingston, Ontario! We have about 500 miles remaining, so next steps will have to be determined.  Tomorrow we travel about 60 miles to Atlantic City, then another 60 odd miles to Sandy Hook, then into New York on Sunday.

Washington DC

11th May 2015

Now for the Washington DC update and our favorite side trip! As mentioned, we left the boat on a mooring buoy in Annapolis, Maryland for two nights and drove forty miles to Washington to stay at the Capitol Hill Hotel near the Capitol building. Great location for the sights, lots of beautiful parkland for Jaya and excellent local eateries.

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The Capitol building with construction/repairs happening to the rotunda
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Washington Memorial with construction on the Mall
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Library of Congress
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United States Supreme Court

Before checking into the hotel, we drove over the Potomac River to Northern Virginia to check out the changes in Mclean and my old homes in Falls Church. The highway systems were the first noticeable changes, more interstate connections and more traffic everywhere. Rock Creek Parkway and the George Washington Parkways along the Potomac remained the same, gracious greenways connecting downtown Washington to Maryland and Northern Virginia suburbs.

While I attended high school, my family lived on Powhatan Street, which looked almost the same, with the addition of much larger trees. It was tempting to knock on the door, but we did not and just enjoyed seeing the old neighborhood looking pretty good!

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After I left high school, my folks moved to a townhouse nearby and that area also looked more established.

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Spring is a great time to visit this area as azaleas and dogwoods were abundant. I was not prepared for the emotional effect of seeing my teenage home; in many ways it was like coming home and so much seemed incredibly familiar. The town centers of Maclean and Falls Church have grown beyond recognition, and there are connected communities all the way out to Dulles Airport, now compared to the 1980s when Dulles was way out in the country.

For dinner, the hotel suggested an Italian place around the corner and we were delighted with the octopus, endive salad with English pea and shrimp risotto. I added this information for the foodies reading the blog, as I have not been chatting about food recently…suffice to say we continue to eat very well, but more often on the boat! The next night we found a pub with the most wonderful smoked pork belly!

Back to sight seeing…Thursday was largely dedicated to “The Mall” and the Smithsonian. Bill took in the Air and Space Museum, I went to the National Art Gallery…here are my iphone pictures of some well known paintings…

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We both went to the Natural History Museum. Apart from the excellent exhibits and information, the shear number of visitors impressed us….50, 000 people in the Air and Space museum, and a similar number in the Natural History Museum. Endless rows of buses were discharging school children and tourists. We enjoyed seeing the monuments from a distance, and especially enjoyed the numerous federal buildings lining The Mall, such as the Supreme Court, Library of Congress, and the buildings supporting congressional staff, Archives, Agriculture to name a few wonderful Neo-classical/Georgian architecture.

The Canadian Embassy is located on Constitution Avenue and we popped in to sign the guest book and take pictures!

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There were two people from my days in Washington that I knew still lived in the area.  I was hoping to catch up with them: Sue and Linda. Fortunately, I was able to locate Sue at the IMF, so we met for a glass of wine to reminisce and catch up on twenty-two years. Linda was able to meet us in Annapolis on Saturday with her son and two grandsons…we think the last time we saw each other was around 1982!!!! Again, very moving to meet people who were part of my life when we lived in Washington. Thank you Sue and Linda for making time to get together and hope to see you both in BC in the near future!

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Friday found us in the Eastern Market, reminded us of Granville Island in Vancouver.

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The next stop was Georgetown, but not before we got held up by the 70 year celebration of VE day at the World War II memorial: huge crowds, speeches, music and fly pasts of WWII airplanes. We took a quick drive through Georgetown University, where Bill had been accepted for grad school in the early 70’s. He declined, as he did not want to stay in the US and perhaps get drafted for Vietnam! Georgetown remains a charming upmarket residential area and the shopping has simply burgeoned on Wisconsin and M Street.

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Another trip down memory lane for me as we drove back to Annapolis via Chevy Chase and the Beltway, just missing the start of Friday afternoon rush hour! Both Bill and I thoroughly enjoyed our quick trip to Washington: it is a vibrant, attractive, influential city and we expect to be back on another visit. We were happy to find our dinghy intact and the boat still on its moorings in Annapolis.