Observations from Mt Vernon

Let us begin by saying, “WOW”. As amateur history buffs, what took us so long to get here?

In 2008, we skipped Mt Vernon, but took in Monticello. These farms and homes are as different as the men who owned them. Where Monticello is beautiful and a mixture of styles with Jefferson’s own inventions and constant state of remodel throughout, Mt Vernon is elegant and maybe a little understated. While there are luxurious elements, expensive paint, fabrics and furniture, the rooms are relatively small and simply decorated. Washington believed in using good quality items, whether for his home or his appearance. He inherited the home from his half brother’s widow, Anne Washington. Initially the home was a typical eighteenth century 2 up, 2 down design. By the time all the renovations were complete, Mt Vernon boasted a ball room called “The New Room”, 2 parlors and 9 guest rooms. The only one of these guest rooms known for sure to have hosted someone of significance is the Lafeyette room. It is known only due to Lafeyette’s correspondence, in which he mentions his accommodations. It goes without saying, that many other important people stayed with the Washington family, but there is no record in which room anyone in particular stayed.

The farm is expansive. At one point, he owned 8000 acres. He was known as the best horseman of his age. The stables and farmyard at Mt Vernon reflect the pride he took in his animals. His 2 favorite horses were a grey called Blueskin and a chestnut called Nelson. Blueskin especially was known to be “bombproof”. They were heavy and stout horses that could easily carry Washington’s 6ft 2-inch frame. These 2 horses went to war with him and came home with him.

We took the regular tour of the home, which begins every 5 minutes. There are so many people, that this is necessary. There is an option for an in depth tour, given once a day and includes all rooms from the attic to the cellar. It’s $60 and although more than I’d normally pay for a house tour, was really tempted to do it this time. The tour we took was very rushed. Literally 5 minutes per room, maybe a question answered but probably not, generic information given then herded into the next room. I looked longingly into the stairway to the 3rd floor….both of them. I have questions. I want to feel the presence of the Washingtons. I want to hear the stories. I want to see the room that Martha retreated to on the 3rd floor after her husband passed away in their shared bed chamber.

Something that the Mt Vernon’s Ladies Association, owners of the estate, do well, is acknowledge and honor the enslaved who lived there. Their names are spoken and remembered. There is also a memorial to tribute them, near the tombs of the Washingtons. Graveyards and graves are also noted and marked. The enslaved butler, Frank Wills was the one who, when guests presented themselves, would determine if they were worthy of a visit with the family. He had that power. Also, of note is that Washington emancipated his slaves upon his death. There is considerable debate on why he waited until that time, but it was unusual to do it at all. In the end he followed his conscience.

OK- so I am enamored with Mt Vernon. I could go on for ages. I’ll leave it here and strongly recommend that if anyone has the opportunity to visit Mt Vernon, do it. You won’t be sorry. The general admission for the grounds is $28, there is a discount for military, first responders and medical personnel. The tour of the house is $6 more (I think).

One last thing I’ll mention is that if you are arriving by boat, it’s a unique situation. We had purchased our tickets online. We dingy’d to the wharf dock. There was not a dockmaster on site. There was no one monitoring our coming and going. We first went through the farmyard and I approached a worker there, asking if I needed to show our tickets anywhere. She said we did not, only when we went into the house. So, when it was time for the house, we got in line. No one looked at our tickets. When purchasing, I had also added the guidebook to my cart. I asked a worker on the front lawn where I would go to pick that up. She said I should have gotten in when coming in through the main entrance….. and therein lies the problem. So, we made our way backwards through the “do not enter” signs and got the guidebook. We then realized there was a museum we had missed by not coming in the usual way. We went back to the boat, had lunch and returned to the museum. We were there until closing and faced our next problem. The guests were being ushered out….through the exit to the parking lot. So, we asked a guard to let us out the door that would allow us to backtrack to the wharf. “No, we can’t do that, ” said in utter confusion. Apparently, our situation is unique, or the staff we were dealing with didn’t know it was possible to arrive by boat. The end result is we were escorted and driven to the wharf by armed guards and made sure we went to our boat. However, I’m still not convinced they ever checked the wharf again after that. I would have loved to sneak back into the mansion…. yes, I know, I’m sure I would have invited a lot more attention than that of an armed escort off the property.

Until next time,

Slainte’

Yorktown

Have you ever listened to someone tell a story and felt you were there? Have you been somewhere, a museum or exhibit and there were reenactors that were so good that you believed they were the character they are portraying in real life? I’ve had 2 of these experiences. Megan was living in Virginia Beach at the time, so we had reason to visit Virginia on more than one occasion. The first was in Colonial Williamsburg in 2007. We were in the Capitol and the reenactor was a woman. She was in period clothing, obviously and was very convincing in her part. There were many of us in the group, 30-40 at least and all ages. She proceeded around the room and telling us the story of the colonials gathering in this room to discuss and plan for the impending declaration for independence. She (I wish I knew her name) would stand behind individuals in the group and whisper in their ear what was said and that person would say it out loud. The entire group was quiet and respectful, it seemed we all understood the significance of what was being said and decided. Somehow, that short tour and her presentation has stuck with me and will forever.

The second time was a year later, at the Yorktown Battlefield. Mike, Sean, Megan and I were there for a tour. The guide this time was a national park ranger, and again I wish I could remember her name. She was in ranger garb, not dressed as a reenactor. We toured the battlefield, learning about various companies and what was happening at each, as well as what was going on “in town”. This included where Lord Cornwallis had his headquarters and where when things got tough, he hid in a *cave* or something like it. The exact area isn’t known, although there is a cave where the townspeople took shelter along the waterfront. Right. At one point at the edge of a field, the guide is telling us about the last night before the last battle. It was to be a full moon, thereby enough light for each side to see what the other was up to. Cornwallis’s men had thought to make a run across the York River to Glouster Point. A storm came up and foiled that plan. The guide proceeds to tell us how this was like a Weather Channel segment of “When Weather Changed History”. Not only was there no way for the British to make a run for the other side of the river, but the storm made it possible for the Americans and French to dig their fortifications and take redoubts 9 and 10 without notice. She was so animated in the telling, I had goosebumps! Again, I will never forget.

So, here we are back in the area. We aren’t making it back to Williamsburg, but for sure taking a better look at Yorktown. Anyone who has followed us for a minute knows we love history. More precisely we like all the old stuff. Old houses. Old buildings in general. Old tools and implements. Old boats. Old furniture and kitchen gadgets. How people used to live and their stories, especially.

While Colonial Williamsburg is a living history (town) museum, Yorktown is a presently lived in town. While Mike walked dogs (King can’t be trusted alone for very long, yet) Matthew and I attended the morning worship service at Grace Church. This church was established in 1697 and has had an active congregation since then. We thought it would be fun to visit, and it was. We met a lovely couple, Betsy and her husband (I really need to get better at name retention). They asked us the usual “where are you from” questions and we talked about dogs and hunting and living on a boat and the ever present “how did you get here from South Dakota?” I told them my story about Williamsburg and the battlefield, and they introduced me to a retired NPS ranger. She was very kind and said she was already retired in 2008 but loved to hear how the presentation had affected me.

We walked all over the small town and visited the American Revolution Museum and the Watermans Museum. On The Hill Gallery features local artists, we spent a bit of time there and made a purchase. It’s just the kind of place we like to shop. There are many little beaches and because it was a weekend, they were packed. The Ben and Jerry’s is a hit as well as a couple of other restaurants and a pub. We didn’t go into any of the other shops this time, but there were a few….. Mike dissuaded me from going into the bookstore. It

We took about a gazillion pictures, so here are many of them. The Schooner Alliance was here in 2008. We took a sunset cruise on it one night back then, so it was fun to see it sailing in the river where we were anchored.

Here’s a short glimpse of our sail out of Yorktown. Sailing with winds of 12-18 knots and making 5-6 knots. We just moved a little north to a new anchorage for better protection from storms blowing in. We will be gradually making our way to Washington DC by June 7th. Mike has 4 shifts scheduled in the ER in Pierre, so we thought that seemed like a good place to spend a few days at a marina and explore some more before he leaves and while he is away.

Slainte’

Long Time No Write

Well, hello there!

Where to begin….. Maybe with a statement of commitment to write more. The commitment is to myself, mind you. I kid you not, I think about writing *something* everyday. It is a sort of mind exercise, that I value. Sometimes I write in my journal. I write notes during my devotions and Bible study, have taken notes and journaled during my knee replacement recovery (more on that later).

Right. So, maybe a brief 2021 summary? When last I wrote, we were beginning 2021 with hopes and dreams and learning to navigate life at what was still a time of the ongoing pandemic. Last year was a decent one for us. Our sailing and cruising plans took a 180 degree turn, but it was GOOD!

We initially sailed down to St Marys, GA. We like the boat yard there and Mike has everything he needs there to take care of our old girl. We did some bigger projects, toured around and ended up going back to SD for a few months in the spring.

Then in June we decided to head north. We thought at first that we would sail the Chesapeake, then decided to keep going for Maine. Boy, are we happy we did that! That is territory that we will go back to. We had visited before, by land 11 years earlier and always wanted to go back. I think that’s the thing with Maine. Each visit leaves you longing for more time there.

The small fishing villages, islands that feel like they have been lost in time, ruins and national and state parks, hikes and trails, even the more “touristy” areas leave their mark. We found areas run by research partys where we learned about scallops and how they are harvested, another an Audubon camp on a nature preserve. Islands without habitation, beautiful rocky bays and beaches.

And then there’s the food. Lobstah, lobstah, lobstah! I am allergic to shellfish, but Mike and Matthew enjoyed it. Actually, Matthew isn’t the biggest fish of any kind fan, but he tried it. I discovered I can tolerate mollusks, while in Maine. So- scallops! I had my first scallops in Booth Bay, with an epipen in hand. Thank the Good Lord I didn’t need it, because I would have had a hard time not finishing my meal. YUM!

Then, there’s the people and history. We took so many walks and visited with many locals. We bought art and other crafts and just marveled at the trusting and friendly natured people we met. Truly incredible.

We had friends from SD visit towards the end of August. Rick and Dr Rachel Edelin are from Rapid City. We have known Rick for years in his life as a Pfizer rep. He and Mike had talked sailing (and any other outdoor activity) as we were planning our exodus. Mike had mutual patients with Dr Edelin, so knew her in more of a professional manner. None of us really knew how their visit would go, they were the first other than family to stay with us on board. I believe we were all pleasantly surprised with how well it went. We shared meals, hiked, kayaked, paddle boarded and talked til we were blue in the face. It was such an enjoyable time and we were blessed to have them.

We had several mishaps, as is always the case. Our centerboard decided to let itself down….twice. The first time we opted to haul out where we were to make sure we were good to continue. That was a mistake….the haul out was near disastrous as the boat was dropped unevenly in the sling. We got scraped up and lost our grill. The second time was as we were leaving NYC, we knew what it was and opted to keep going despite the horrible banging it was making. We tied it up in Hampton VA and kept going. We also had some “deck love” in NYC at the most rocky dock, ever. But, NYC was amazing, so we aren’t going to dwell on the scuffs. We developed a diesel tank leak in our midship tank. That was a near disaster for a minute. Then a water tank leak presented itself. Then, there was the BIGGIE. Our hull had shown delamination from our first haulout in 2019 and it was time to fix it. This, I think will be an entirely separate post. Mike has documented it well, so I thinking we will talk about it then. I feel like there were a few other more minor issues, but they escape me at present.

We also spent a few days in Montauk, NY, Onset, MA, Province Town, Cape Cod and Newport, RI. All places we would like to visit again. We missed Nantucket and Martha’s Vinyard and several other places. They are on the list, however.

For our last leg, from Myrtle Beach, SC to St Marys, GA our grandson Luc joined us for the first time on board. He had a really good time, and we look forward to having him again this year!

So- What’s in store for this year? Well, Mike has been working on the hull and other projects since we hauled out in November. He has been home for about 6 weeks since then. St Marys is his home away from home, for sure. What he has gotten done, on his own is quite astounding. He has repaired a 12-foot section of the hull. Stripped and prepped the entire boat for painting, among other, smaller projects. I went down for a week in January, then again in February when he was driving home. Once home, he built a new gorgeous wood helm seat (aka Erin’s booster seat) and a swim platform and dog step that will be mounted to the stern. While he was gone, I worked and prepared for my knee replacement surgery. It was put off once when I got covid 2 weeks before surgery was scheduled. So, I worked a little longer. Surgery was March 22 and I have been working hard at recovery since. Physical therapy is going well and I’m going to be given my walking (sailing) papers in a week or so. Mike has also picked up some shifts in the ED in Pierre, where he had worked for 8 years, pre-Voyager. They are, of course, happy to have him back here and there.

We plan to splash the end of May. We will initially go to St Augustine. We really like the town and are hoping Meg, Jon and Luc are able to visit while we are there. Mike will fly to SD to work a few shifts. When he gets back, we will head north. The Chesapeake is our destination for now. We have plans to be in Washington DC in July when Mike has to fly for work again. Other than that, nothing definite is on the dance card. Meg and Jon are expecting their second baby the end of August. So, we will be planning and deciding on whether to be back south before then or for me to fly home to be there when the baby comes. Stay tuned on that decision.

Until next time- Slainte’ Mhath