First leg of our journey down the Potomac


Well, after a year of fixing just about everything on the boat, we have no more reasons to procrastinate. We are going south! We even put the big anchor on.


We have allotted about 10 days to get from the northern tip of the Potomac, to its mouth, 96 miles. Adam likes to determine our average pace based on the boat’s maximum speed, 7 knots. I on the other hand, am averaging 3 knots, because I have noticed that conditions usually aren’t in our favor. Not to mention we don’t know what we’re doing. I am hoping that we will traverse the 96 mile journey in a few days, and have 5 or so more to peek our little nose into the chesapeake. If we don’t run away in terror maybe we will even sail on the Chesapeake!

Day one. Not sad at all to leave the Washington Sailing Marina. We didn’t really fit in there. I just hope we don’t have to turn around and go back! We puttered down the  long narrow channel into the potomac at about 630am. I went ahead re-rigged the boom vang while we were moving slow. I had taken it off in frustration on our last sail, not even knowing what it was. I just knew it was in the way so off it went! After the boom vang was puzzled back together we did a little reefing drill. Later the winds picked up and I was able to reef the main in no time and with zero snags and snarls. I would have taken the sails down altogether but we had a deadline to meet! Our first destination was Belmont Bay Harbor Marina on the Occoquan River. There aren’t many marinas with transient slips and sufficient depths until you get about half way down the potomac. Belmont Bay marina closes at 5, so if we hit any problems at all it was going to be a squeeze. And of course, we did..  First of all we faced a head wind the entire way down. And the northern part of the Potomac is so narrow for tacking. About 14 miles in, right where the potomac starts to open up and meet the Occoquan bay, a little rain shower and wind came to greet us. There was no thunder and the rain was minimal, but the waves rocked us. Literally.

We took the sales down in a panic, and motored into the wind and waves as best we could, ultimately docking at Belmont Bay Marina 7 1/2 hours after our start. The channel approaching the Occoquan River was painfully narrow and long with the current strong and against us. The waves were on our butt, making the progress uncomfortable, but progress nonetheless . Beautiful river. We saw numerous Bald Eagles, always under attack by Ospreys.


And day two! 80% chance of thunderstorms… I don’t think I’m quite ready for that, so here I am, still in Occoquan, VA waiting for day 3 to come around. 0% chance of anything but sun. It’s going to be a hot one!

We went ahead and tended to some things that we didn’t have time to before our trip. Our rolling furler jib line has seen better days. We had planned to fix it, but by the time we bought the line, we realized after peering into the furling mechanism that it is actually a continuous line. We were not ready to tackle ‘line splicing’ in the precious hours we had before our trip. But today was not a day to be wasted, line splicing it is!

Of all the stupid repairs we have made on our boat, this was by far the absolute worst. It felt like we were birthing a baby. How does anyone get the sheath to fit in the fid and then get both to fit in the other sheath? Crazy town. But after we cut the initial jib furler line, we were pretty much committed. So we did it. Do I trust it? Not much more than the ratty tattered old furler line, but at least we learned a little something about line splicing: it sucks.

Questions from The Frog:

The whole time we pitched in the waves during that little storm I was struck with the realization that any anchorages within immediate reach were either completely exposed or too shallow for our 4 foot draft. The little bit of wind and rain we met wasn’t even a big storm, but it left me wondering what a real squall would be like.  Should we motor into the wind? Heave-to? Or drop an anchor even if it has to be exposed to the conditions?



4 thoughts on “First leg of our journey down the Potomac

  1. Adam and Olivia, this is the stuff of tall tales told to your kids at night lol!
    I wish you luck and steady winds and nice sunny days…. But not too sunny!

    Get help along the way as needed, and advice from the locals!
    I wish I had better advice but the biggest boat Ive helmed was 24 ft In Lake Norman…Hang in There!!!
    Scallywag Lisa, Skipper of “Seventh Heaven” a 17 ft Oday Daysailer.


  2. I am very excited and happy for you two on this maiden voyage. May fair winds come soon.

    Day One sounded difficult. Heaving to might have been OK, depending on the tide. But then you would not have gotten anywhere. Maybe you could have done a long series of short tacks, but that can get exhausting quick. Motoring all day does not sound pleasant, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Better days to come!


  3. Hey guys. I don’t have much big boat sailing experience, but my advice is to learn the skills to weather your storms without your motor in case your motor conks out on you. Have you practiced heaving to on your boat to figure out what works? Adam was right about not wanting to be perpendicular to the waves when heaving to. You want to be at a 45-50 degree angle to the waves. Hope the big boat sailors can give you some advice.


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