I think someone else may have had the idea before, but we have decided to
stay put every, lets say every 7th day. We have been moving most days for
the last
few weeks, and we find that we really need to stay for 2 or 3 days
and get to know places better. So we stopped at Deltaville which is a small
town on the southern shore of the Rappahannock River (the next river north
is the Potomac which goes up to Washington), where it meets
Chesapeake Bay.

1000 inhabitants, 3000 boats - thats the official
statistic - about 10 boat yards, and every house seems to have a boat in the
yard and an anchor next to the mail box. We had Sunday lunch at the Boat
House which has just re-opened after being knocked about by Hurricane Isabel
in 2003 - really delicious crab dips etc - talked to Mike and Helen who
leave their boat here most of the time, and read the Sunday Papers. Now
remember this is a local Deltaville and surrounding counties paper - there
are no real national papers sold
here - yet the main news items could have been from UK: 60 people are
starting to scrap 5 derelict ships containing asbestos; a US prison guard in
Iraq that alerted the authorities to prison abuse is home near here on
leave - he describes
the constant mortar attacks but refuses to talk about the prison events to
the press; a different slant on poverty - charities in US regularly collect
spare/surplus food from Dept of Agriculture (40%), private donations (10%)
and beyond sell by date food from stores (50%), and distribute to those in
need. But apparently demand has more than doubled from 123 people in Jan -
March
2003 to 480 now in Isle of Wight County (!) (most place names here seem to
come straight from UK), and supply is reducing - stores are finding ways to
keep food longer and
sell it instead of donating it in order to increase profitability. The
pastor in charge says that older people are having to choose between
spending money on food or medication.

There is also a comparison of CEO (Chief Executive) pay - the top paid local
CEO is paid $10
million/year (including stock options etc) and there is a
comparison of typical hourly rates - he is on $1200/hour, a typical white
collar worker $34/hour (20), the average full time employee $16/hour (9),
a prison officer $13 (7/hour) and a cleaner $9/hour, (5) which is about
the minimum wage. There is also a
quote from the US Head of the board that oversees Company accounts and
accountants
that the ratio of CEO pay to average employee pay is 'grotesquely abnormal'.
But that was in 2002, and since then, he says, 'nothing has happened'.
Meanwhile there is also an interview with a Gateway computer staff fired
from her $15/hour job because her employer (Gateway) closed the local
Hampton factory
and is buying its computers from abroad instead - she is attending college
for 2 years to retrain as a radiology technicican. There is a 4 step guide
on what to do if you are fired - (1.focus on costs, 2. network like mad
(throw a
'I got fired party), 3. don't touch your retirement funds, and 4. maintain
your
health insurance from your previous firm - but be aware - average employer
based health insurance for a family will cost you $770/month - about 50
hours work/month). Interestingly, we met a trained radiologist working as a
waiter at the Mexican Restuarant we were at on Friday who had just relocated
from Los Angeles 'because he had got deep into gangs there (and had the
tattoos to proove it)' and is now working as a waiter and 'is making much
more money from just the 4 tables he
serves' than as a radiologist. The labour market in the US is more flexible
than UK - and the tips (average is 15-20%) bigger.

We will probably leave Intrepid in Deltaville for her vacation (2 months out
of the water) and a complete antifoul for about $1200 (700), while we go
back to
UK and explore the US by car. We had an impromptu party with Frank, Peter,
Tania, Mike and Helen on board Intrepid, which ended with one man overboard,
and us having to return various belongings next morning. Fun.

We sailed further north up the Chesapeake and turned left into the Potomac,
at
this stage still a very large estuary similar perhaps to the Severn Estuary
in UK, and had a brilliant sail up the Potomac in unforecast 20 knot winds,
and anchored under the cliffs on the south-west side, near Pope Creek,
birthplace
of George Washington. Wednesday, we carried on up the Potomac, but the
Americans must have heard that the British were coming, because all guns
were firing - we got to the military range authorities first on the VHF
before they
got us and the range boat escorted us along the north east side of the river
before
they resumed firing, then we carried on up to a lovely anchorage/bird
sanctuary off Swedish Point State
Park, full of Canadians (Geese that is) and we arranged to have the Woodrow
Wilson Memorial Bridge - it carries a major motorway called the beltway -
similar to the M25 round London - opened for us at
midnight (for some reason its only 50 feet high and we are 60). This gave us
time to visit Mt Vernon, George Washington's 8000 acre estate on the north
bank of the Potomac, about 7 miles south of the capital. By the time he died
in 1799, he was not unreasonably the main social focus with 677 visitors in
a single year (1798), and the original modest 4 room wooden farmhouse had
been extended to a well proportioned 2 storey country house with a portico,
seperate quarters for visitors' slaves, and a number of innovative
agricultural buildings. Interestingly though the main house was of wood, it
was
painted to look like stone by mixing sand with the whitewash. Washington was
President mostly when the capital was in Philadelphia, so he spent less
time at the estate than he might have liked, but he regarded himself as
mainly a farmer/surveyer, and converted his farms from tobacco which had
exhausted the soil, to wheat using a 4 years out of 7 crop rotation. As a 21
year old he had been a hero of earlier wars on the side of the British, but
was very keen to resign his commission as General as soon as Independance
was granted, to avoid any hint of a military coup. We were the only yacht
anchored
on the Potomac, and Intrepid looked stately so had a courteous welcome as we
dinghied in.

We then motored north to wait for the bridge to open, so we are currently
anchored under the
flight path to Ronald Reagan Airport, and admiring the lights awaiting
midnight. I caught (and returned) a large catfish while waiting, then the
bridge slowly opened and we dashed under, past the the new bridge under
construction - and watched about a mile long tail back in both directions.

We motored north for about an hour, the lights of the city obscuring many
navigational marks - amazingly the best mark was the US Capitol Building
with its huge dome which was floodlit so we steered for that - until the
Potomac seperated from the Anacostia in the centre of Washington DC, and we
anchored in Washington Creek between the 2 rivers, about 1 mile from the
Capitol, and 1/2 mile from the White House.

I know I have said it before, but boating is a great way to see cities. We
are closer than almost any hotel to all the main sights, yet well away from
traffic noise etc. In fact the main noise is, well, the President. His
helicopter travels back and forth above us from the White House to Andrews
Airforce base, perhaps 100 feet above the top of our mast. (Can't really
complain). We joined the Capitol Yacht Club, which has various Senators and
Representatives as members, and has brilliant facilities including lots of
washing machines and driers, showers etc and a bar. We dinghy ashore, do our
washing etc and chat until late in the bar - everyone is either defence, a
diplomat, or a lobbyist. A number use the yacht club to keep a boat as
temporary accommodation while in Washinton. Interestingly, many defence
'hawks' are against the war in Iraq. Lobbyists find it hard to switch off
(we had a number of impassioned arguments in the bar on why it is right to
drill for oil in Alaska wilderness - no bigger footprint than an airport,
no-one goes there anyway....) and many find it 'unpatriotic' that foreigners
are using more oil with the result that Americans have to pay more for
gasoline (it hit $2/gallon this week). There is a real sense that 'proper,
patriotic foreigners' should have proper American democratic ideals and
values.

We had come to Washington in part because of a delightful invitation from
Carol Lyn and Russ who I had known from London as part of Fulbright Alumni
initiatives. They hosted a marvellous informal barbecue at their lovely
Arlington house for us, where it was genuinely great to meet other American
friends from London - especially Pamela who is back from Ambassador duties
abroad and is now teaching at Georgetown, Robin ex-cultural attache, and
Gary and Brenda from the American Institute in London, now Professor here.
Carol Lyn had kindly asked us to stay, so next day we walked dogs along the
quiet lanes surrounded by large trees with Tori and Eric their scintillating
children, and learnt about the Cichadas which bury themselves in the ground
for 17 years, and then emerge all together to mate - and this was the year!
They were everywhere - about 1 inch long, a bit like a bumble bee, stupid
and sex-starved the males emit a long lasting rasping noise, but most end as
food for dogs, birds, anything ....they only survive by sheer numbers -
there are so many that every predator is gorged and still there are more.

Then after Russ had returned from more Sunday work, we took them all sailing
on the Potomac - down to Alexandria just short of the Wilson Bridge, and
picnicked at anchor. Tori and Eric steered Intrepid like natural born
sailors, and there was just enough wind to sail on the way back.

Given our central location we worked out what we had missed in the last
months, and developed a schedule: Memorials in the morning, Air-conditioned
museums in the afternoon, and theatre in the evening. Washington is a great
place to visit - there is so much to see and do in a fairly compact area.
The new WW2 Memorial was to be opened on Memorial Day, so we admired the 7
acre park with a stone for each state, and 4000 stars, one for every 100
Americans who
died, (1 in 10 from friendly fire) in a central position on the Mall on a
line between the Capitol,
Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Then Vietnam Vets Memorial, in
some ways more moving with the 65000 names of Americans who died, Lincoln
memorial including the 270 word Gettysburg address which is a genuine
masterpiece, up the 550 feet Washington obelisk (tallest building in the
world at the time it was built) and so on. We planned 3 days, and stayed for
10 - its that good. Highlights included the Archive - Declaration of
Independance and Constitution - really great to see the originals with
Washington's hand written notes, the Act of Rebellion where King George
branded American seperatists as traitors, the Amendment freeing slaves
through to Susan Anthony who tried to vote in 1882 and was tried and
imprisoned; the Capitol where we stayed for an hour in the House of
Representatives, Ford Theatre where Lincoln was shot (still a working
theatre), Building Museum - superb building originally the Pensions Office
from where Civil War Pensions were paid (1/3 of the entire Government Budget
at the time), the extravagant beaux art Jefferson Library of Congress
including the landmark Brown - v- Education Board Supreme Court Ruling which
enforced integration of all black and white public schools 50 years ago this
week, all the Smithsonian museums including Art and Space, and the House
where the Women's Party campaigned for the vote, succeeding in 1919 in part
because they kept up the pressure during WW1. To our astonishment we learnt
that the Equal Rights Amendment (guaranteeing equal rights to both sexes)
was passed by Senate and House, but was not ratified by 2/3 of the States,
and so is still not law. (All the above is free by the way).

Washington DC has about 1/2 million people, but greater Washington has about
5 million, so it supports a large theatre scene - perhaps 15 theatres, many
quite small perhaps 100-200 seats, but some like the JFK centre, large
opera, theatre and music auditoria. We saw something every evening,
including Jazz at Ellington on 8th, and while watching Orpheus Descending
(Tennesse Williams) met Robin again which led to another pleasant evening a
few days later near his home north of DC.

Sunday, on Robin and Nancy's recommendation we had the buffet lunch at
Cochrane - with full live Soul music. Cochrane is a central art gallery
turned into university, and in addition to a really excellent eat as much as
you can (and we did) buffet, exhibited 4 pivotal Norman Rockwell pictures
that symbolised FDR's 4 freedoms (Freedom of Speech and Religion, and
Freedom from Hunger, and Fear). Brilliantly executed they caught the
imagination of the American people in the Saturday Post and were used to
gain suppport for the WW2 effort. After the buffet we felt we had conquored
personal hunger for the next month or so and waddled along the Mall to find
1000's of Rolling Thunder Harley Davidsons (and a few Hondas and even a lone
BMW) thundering to the White House in support of POW/MIA (missing in action)
causes - most bikers were grey beards, with greying dolls behind but
impressive nonetheless. The WW2 events included a number of personal history
recordings, then with a backdrop of the Capitol dome, the President's Own
Marine Band (including about 10 lady marine musicians) gave us 1 hour of
stirring marching band music including Colonel Bogey 'for our British
Allies' before the rains came and we dashed for Intrepid. The WW2 vets are a
pleasing bunch - the survivors - some 1100 are dying each day, some glory in
their role with bright jackets emblaxoned with 'WW2 veteran, Purple Heart
winner' etc, others totally incognito, just being there, meeting comrades.
They did a lot - its humbling.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day - a public holiday in USA, the unofficial start of
summer, we intend (with a few others) to visit Arlington Cemetory and
General Lee's House (Leader of the Confederates, the Unionists buried Union
soldiers in the grounds so that he could not live there again), then under
Wilson Bridge at midnight and back down the Potomac towards Baltimore,
Annapolis and New York.
 

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