Posted by: wrmcnutt | June 2, 2010

Ship’s Log: September Blue – The Spousal Cruise

So I was up in DC for a business meeting, and I loathe the American air transit system with the white-hot heat of ten thousand suns.  Since Tax Town is within a nine-hour drive from home, I can avoid flying and save money by driving up there.  And since I’m driving any way, it won’t cost me that much more to bring my boat.  So that’ show September Blue wound up afloat on the Potomac River, so far from home.

My Lady wife had chosen to fly up and join me briefly.  She didn’t have enough time off from work to join me for the entire trip.  The winds were light and variable, and all things being under our control, I would have opted to go to the museums that day and sail later.  But we were constrained by the calendar, and that was the day we had to go sailing, so sailing we went.

We set out at about 11:00 and immediate made the decision to motor up the Washington Channel.  The win was both light and unfavorably directed, and we’d have used up all of our time trying to get out of the channel.  So we fired up the “iron jenny” and motored on out.  We hadn’t gone fifty yards when the radio spoke on the hailing channel.

“Motor vessel southbound in the Washington Channel:  This is the Coast Guard Cutter Ibis.  Hold your position.  You are entering a security zone. ”

I looked up the channel and there was a big Bayliner coming to a stop.  At the end of the channel was Ibis, gleaming white and bristling with .50 caliber machine guns and looking ready to do some heavy-duty smiting.  As I watched, two overgrown Defender-class inflatables, also armed to the teeth, intercepted the Bayliner ahead of me.  There appeared to be a short conference, after which the Defenders escorted the Bayliner out of the channel.

I was born on a day, but it wasn’t yesterday.  I got on the radio.

“September Blue – September Blue – September Blue:  This is sailing vessel September Blue hailing Coast Guard Cutter Ibis.

This is Ibis. Switch to two-two.”

I met the radio operator on channel twenty-two.

“This is September Blue. Am advised you are maintaining a security zone.  What are my instructions?”

“Captain:  maintain your current speed and adjust your heading to the south side of the channel. You will be intercepted and shadowed by two gunboats across the security zone.”

It was exciting.  I’ve never had anyone feel the need to escort me anywhere.  The two Defenders had about eight Coast Guards each.  They were young, looked to be under 2% body fat, and loaded for serious Kodiak bear.  They lightened up a bit once it was clear that my little fiberglass sailboat was not stuffed with either jihadis or semtex.  When we go within range of Ibis’ bigger guns our escort peeled off.  We went on past Ibis, waved good-bye, and headed out into the main river channel in light air.

Despite the light wind, we made the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in under two hours.  We didn’t go under the bridge this time but headed about in front of the Alexandria public docks.  With dinner reservations looming, we went ahead and motored back.    We realized later that our restaurant had been less than three blocks from the Alexandria docks, and that it would have been faster to motor over the river and walk than to take the Metro and taxi we ended up taking.

With no wind and some extra time we motored upstream toward the Jefferson Memorial.  Alas, September Blue’s 25′ mast will not clear the bridges at that end, so we couldn’t make it up to the Tidal Basin.

On our way back up the Washington Channel, the security zone had been lifted and we were able to get closer to the War College.  There’s a giant eagle sculpture over the west end of the War College, and he’s more than a little evocative.  His head is turned to face the North, up the channel.  His beak is open, not wide, but instead is full of incipient speech.  He clearly has something he’s about to say, and someone is about to hear it.  And not just hear it.  His wings are off of his shoulders and his weight is pushed forward.  Somebody is about to lose some organs they are particularly fond of, and they have it comin’.

We were only under sail for about half of the voyage, but I think my bride had a good time.  The only stressful part of the day for me was parking the boat.  It was my Lady Wife’s first time driving into the slip. She’s parked many a competition class bass-boat in her day, but they all had steering wheels, throttle levers, and gear shifts.  Still, we docked without incident, and proceeded to the more romantic part of the evening.

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  1. So now your a Security Threat!! Congrats!!

    • Not a threat. Merely a minor imposition.

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