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Winnie and I decided to celebrate yesterday’s Fourth of July on the water. It turned out to be a very memorable event. We had some adventure, learned new things, and an overall great day of boating. Especially after a year of pandemic lockdown, it was a very pleasant day indeed.
We didn’t use our Bayliner 175BR “Sea Dragon” at all last year due to peak zombie apocalypse. So we promised ourselves this year would make up for last. Saturday July 3 we took the boat out for most of the day, and had a pleasant outing. Normally, taking the boat out one day per weekend is all we do. This time, we went back out Sunday as well, to enjoy our Fourth July on the Water.
Starting Out Bad
Our standard launch point is the nearby Leesylvania State Park. They have a great marina right on the Potomac River, along with a separate kayak launch, picnic areas, and walking trails. The downside is that it’s a very popular park, with finite parking space in an region with growing population. So for the past few years, the park closes for the day when their parking lots are full. This typically happens in early afternoons on weekends.
Knowing this, Winnie and I made a point to get the the park early – at 9:00AM. To our horror, the park was already closed! So, dragging our boat behind us, we found a place to turn around and head – somewhere else. Winnie was ready to just come back home, but I wasn’t willing to give up so easy. Most of the other marinas in our area are private, and only allow members to use their launch. Then I thought about Occoquan Regional Park. They have a boat launch, but I didn’t know if they were already full. Since it was only a few miles away I felt going there was worth the risk.
So we drove up to Occoquan Park, and discovered it was open with plenty of parking spaces. We didn’t have a season pass so had to pay $13 to use their launch facilities. A small price to pay indeed! We quickly got the boat in the water, car parked, and underway on fossil fuels.
We’d never launched from this park before, but we had motored there several times. So I knew the way out to the greater Potomac River.
A Water Adventure
One downside to Occoquan park is that it’s way upriver from the Potomac, which requires a 30-minute “no wake” transit. It was a pleasant transit, dodging lots of kayakers and swimming geese while passing a number of marinas and expensive waterfront homes. There were a number of boats also heading out, all more or less making No Wake speeds..
We finally hit the end of the “No Wake” channel and cranked up Sea Dragon. We shot out of Occoquan Bay and into the Potomac River, and headed north for a run. I planned on anchoring near Pohick Bay Regional Park for the day, but I wanted to do a bit of sight-seeing first. The Potomac was calm enough for a decent run, and I headed up to Mount Vernon. Once there, I pulled a detour under a stone bridge of George Washington Memorial Parkway and into Little Hunting Creek. I’d heard about this creek and wanted to check it out.
The creek was pretty enough with the typical waterfront homes and private piers lining the banks. I went up far enough to start running out of water under our keel, so turned around and headed back out. From here we did head into Pohick Bay, and found an anchorage in Gunston Cove, just a bit south of the Pohick Bay Regional Park Kayak Pier.
Hanging Out On The Water
The kayak pier (with kayak rentals) is part of the Pohick Bay Regional Park system. We’d been here before, in fact I once launched my former boat “Sea Dreams” here when boating with other people. Gunston Cove is a nice large bay (as bays go on the Potomac River), with lots of room for boat anchorages.
We were anchored reasonable close in to the beach to give us some shelter. Winnie and I settled down, had lunch, and relaxed a bit. Then, it was time for an experiment.
Winnie has really become hooked on kayaking this season. She convinced me to bring along our inflatable kayak “Nemo,” a 12.5 foot Sea Eagle 370 so we could use it. I really wasn’t sure we would be able to inflate and launch while at anchor, but Winnie insisted…
Turns out it wasn’t all that difficult, once we thought through what we needed to do. I inflated the two splash panels at each end of the kayak, then the side tubes with the kayak hanging off the back of Sea Dragon. Finally, the floor tubes. I hook a large carabiner to the kayak’s bow ring, clipped off a mooring line, and slide the kayak of the back of the boat. Next I inflated the seats, set-up our paddles, and we were good to go.
Getting in and out of a kayak is, with my aging knees and back, a bit of a challenge. But I managed to gracefully get in. The 370 is designed large enough for a tandem setup, but I paddled solo for about an hour . Winnie had brought along her latest sewing project and wanted some time to work it. I had a nice paddle, then came back and worked out how to get back on the boat without falling into the water.
Then Winnie wanted to try a solo paddle. She slipped into the kayak more gracefully than I did, and paddled around the bay awhile. She came back, and insisted we do a tandem paddle. Once again, I managed to get in without flipping either of us into the water, and we had a nice tandem paddle. By this time, mid-afternoon, a lot more people had arrived and the bay had a number of anchored boat clusters . Some people had pulled up on the nice sandy beaches, other just floated at anchor. Many folks had bar-be-ques going and were generally getting into the “celebrating the 4th” spirit.
Heading In Early
The most serious downside to launching from Occoquan Park, was that all cars had to be out of the park by 8:45PM closing. Leesylvania Park was more open about allowing cars to remain after closing time, and we had planned on watching fireworks by water. But, it was not to be for this year, so about 5:00PM we headed back in. By now, the open Potomac River had gotten bumpy from afternoon winds and tide changes. Trying to avoid slamming the boat made our ride back slower than coming out that morning.
We returned to the Occoquan Park marina about 6:00PM. Trailering the boat was uneventful, in fact easier than the normal Leesylvania event. We headed home, and later in the evening enjoyed fireworks from the comfort of our front lawn.
Next year, we have to plan out watching fireworks from the water.