Adventures on the Potomac River

A ship with two open decks is docked at the Alexandria wharf.

Being on a boat conjures up images of going on an adventure to a strange and exotic place like Indiana Jones.  As a child, my grandfather went to Korea on the ships of the early 1900s with names like Empress of Australia and the Empress of Asia.  His father was the first missionary there, so it was truly an adventure!

For me, it was a 40 minute cruise from Alexandria, Virginia, around the Potomac River on the Admiral Tild.  Getting on a boat made me nervous.  When I was in the Girl Scouts, I took the Catalina Flyer.  The boat rocked so much that I got sea sick.  All I could do was sit on the stairs and try not to throw up.  So I kept my fingers crossed.  Exploring is no fun if you’re turning green (aliens don’t count).

The day started out hot, layered with humidity.  The sweat stayed on my skin, and I kept feeling the tickle of drops running down my shins.  Even the ducks near the wharf weren’t motivated to do much beside float — until the two kids with bread came along.  The 5-year old hurled half a heel into the water and started a duck war.  Every duck for himself!

Ducks on the surface of the river go after pieces of bread.

A breeze from the water carried the briny smell of the river but didn’t do much to cool me down.  So I melted while I waited to board the boat.  This Indian boy of about seven tried to take my picture.  Didn’t bother me, but his father chided him, telling him to ask permission first.  Instead, the boy took a picture of his father.

The boat consisted of two decks.  A curving, steep staircase went up to the second deck.  That probably had the better view, but I thought the lower deck would be cooler.  So did grandparents with their grandchildren.  The Indian family went on the top deck.  As I sat down on one of the bench seats, vibration from the engine came up at me through the deck and into the seat.

The captain gave us our safety briefing and pointed out the locations of the tiny bathrooms, opening one up to show us.  I think he was trying to discourage anyone from using them except in an emergency.  I think I would have turned into a pretzel inside.

Shot of the captain's wheel and the two very small restrooms on either side.

The captain gave long pull on the horn.  No one was going to miss that we were leaving the dock!  As we did a 180 degree turn,  my sinuses lurched sickingly, and I hope this wasn’t a sign of things to come.  It turned out that I was okay as long as I didn’t stand up and move around too much.  The vibration changed to a steady rumble and we were off on our adventure.

Tree-lined riverbank with trees sprawled in the water.

This looked like damage from the recent storm — a lot of trees were ripped apart and tossed aside as if they were discarded paper.

The underside of the Woodrow Wilson drawbridge, with curving arches of concrete.

The underside of the Woodrow Wilson drawbridge.  As we passed under it, we could hear the ghostly whistle of traffic speeding across it.

Maryland shoreline showing a distant bridge

The bridge marks the unofficial border between Virginia and Maryland.  There’s a lagoon on the other side where the military trained frogmen.  Frogmen were the early version of the Navy SEALS.  Isn’t that cool?

What looks like the wooden legs of an old pier in the middle of the water, with green bushes growing out of it

I thought these were the wreckage of an old pier, but they were used to tie up boats.  It was strange seeing this burst of green out in the middle of the water.

A distant view of the Capitol dome.

And where would a trip on the Potomac be without the Capitol?  If you’re having trouble spotting it, it’s on the right third of the photo.

All that humidity may turn into a thunderstorm later today.  If you were on the boat and a thunderstorm hit, what would you do?  What kind of adventure would it take you on?

Read my flash fiction story The Librarian at the Writer Unboxed’s 7 Sizzling Sundays of Flash Fiction!