“anyone have general advice about boating in the upper Potomac”

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Photo by PoPville flickr user District Shots

“My husband and I bought a powerboat and are awaiting delivery. We will be docked in DC and are wondering if anyone has any general advice about boating in the upper Potomac. We mainly want to cruise and do some light fishing (downriver). We had some specific questions too:

The boats that tie up to one another up the river from Georgetown – what is the deal with this? Do they know each other, or is this like in the south where anyone pulls up to a sandbar and just hangs out?

Any advice about marinas? We are attracted to James Creek due to price and the fact that the rest of the waterfront is so tied up with construction, but haven’t rented a slip yet.

Are there any online forums that are popular for boaters in this region? The ones I have found seem like they haven’t been updated recently.

What are some good destinations that can be reached in a day trip from DC, via a small powerboat?

Any advice is appreciated!”

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12 Comment

  • Ashy Oldlady

    I hope you have a name picked out that is a nautical pun. That should be your first order of business.
    .
    I’m also curious to hear about slip rental in DC. I always assumed that they’re probably a lot like real estate here: in short supply and really expensive.

  • The boats that tie up to each other at Georgetown’s Harbourplace tend to be friends with each other. If you are there a stranger may approach and ask if they can tie up to you (quite expecting to do so) and then more boats may tie up to it and you are truly trapped. People will walk all over your boat to get to other boats. Some arrive there early in the morning and get really wasted and play loud music the whole time, and the selections are not from Brigadoon. One boater shot at another last weekend because “guest” would not leave. But I have docked there on un-busy times and really enjoyed it – quite a treat to take out-of-town guests there and then eat at restaurants there or sight-see.

    James Creek is a good choice – they have the fuel dock and pump-out.

  • I volunteer instruct sailing at DC Sail (check it out http://www.dcsail.org) and am frequently on the Washington Channel and Potomac.

    Not a lot of advice to give. Watch out for big your boats. Come visit Cantina Marina before it closes.

  • Also if you haven’t already done so, make sure you obtain a DC boaters safety certificate which is required to operate any boat on District waters.

    Go in person : http://mpdc.dc.gov/page/boating-safety-courses

    Or do it online via Boat US.

    They do stop and check for these so it’s not optional.

  • Is the old saying about boat owners’ happiest days true? Was the happiest day in your life as a boat owner the day you bought it? Are you looking forward to the day you sell it to experience the same happiness?

  • For trips outside of DC – there are plenty to be done on the Potomac, including St. Mary’s City, St. Clements Island (only accessible by boat), Cobb Island, etc in Maryland; Colonial Beach and Cole’s Point in Virgina. If your boat can navigate the Bay, you can go up to Solomon’s Island on the Patuxent… Really, the possibilities are pretty endless.
    Be aware of No Wake zones and speed limits; there are police boats off the Charles County Shore who would quite happily ticket you. Also, be mindful that the Potomac can have a great deal of debris including entire trees after storms.
    Happy boating!

  • Mallows Bay is also a cool spot. It’s a ship graveyard…more popular with kayaks since they are a little more nimble when navigating sunken ships but still cool for anyone who can see it. It’s on the Maryland side sort of across from Quantico.

    http://sometimes-interesting.com/2013/04/18/the-ghost-fleet-of-mallows-bay/

  • If you are not entirely married to the Potomac, you should consider taking the boat to a marina in Deale, Maryland. The Chesapeake Bay is much better for boating and fishing. Plus you will have access to boat mechanics which are a must for any boater. There is even one marina in Deale called Harbour Cove that specializes in fishing and has a boatel (indoor rack structure for storing boats when not in the water—meaning longer life and less damage to a boat compared to a slip). You call them an hour before you arrive and they will literally lift your boat out of the rack and then put it in the water, fill it up with gas (and ice if you have a built in cooler), and have it prepped and ready for you. And when you are done for the day, you just pull up to the dock and they take it out of the water using one of the forklifts, clean it, and then put it back in the rack for you. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

  • Get paper charts and a Chesapeake Boating Guide to back up your GPS. Get a subscription to Chesapeake Bay Magazine. Watch out for the shallows in the upper upper Potomac, there are some skinny waters! Can you spend the night aboard? Anchoring out overnight is one of our favorite things to do, in a protected cove near something cool to explore like a sandy beach, historic town or marina with a pool. Or do you need marinas that have an inn or walking distance to an inn?
    Start taking day and overnight trips, plotting out the distance between marinas with fuel. You will have so much fun exploring the area! Recommend day trips to Old Town Alexandria, Tantallon Marina, Fort Washington Marina, Occoquan, Fairview Beach…There was a fuel dock at the Sweden Point marina on the Mattawoman at Smallwood State Park. Captain Billy’s Crab House north of the 301 bridge. Port Tobacco
    River, Nanjemoy…Colonial Beach would have everything you need at the end of a long day’s trip and is a great place to explore the lower Potomac and great fishing. You can eyeball all the rivers & protected anchorages on the way down. Cobb Island is another (on the north side of the Potomac – it has a couple of crab restaurants & marinas) But you have to know your fuel range.
    Another fun adventure will be getting over to the Chesapeake and heading to St. Michael’s, Oxford, Annapolis, Wye River etc. If you don’t mind an hour’s drive to your boat I would keep it near Deale/Herring Bay (or Galesville/Shadyside) for the summer because the cruising is even better when you start from the actual Bay.

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