A Capital Club -July 18, 2002
Would you admit this unemployed transient to YOUR club?
We do not belong to a yacht club. It's not that we have anything against yacht clubs, it's just that we don't think we'd fit in very well with the membership of most clubs. To paraphrase that great social critic, Groucho Marx, "We wouldn't want to belong to a yacht club that would accept us as members." Let's face it, we have no fixed address, we don't hold steady jobs, and we appear a bit shabby at times. David's navy blazer has a terminal case of mildew. Eileen's personal hairstylist for the past eight years has been David. We'll say no more.
When we arrived in Washington, DC, the morning before Independence Day (see last week's log entry), we anchored in Washington Channel, a canalized spur of the Potomac River at its confluence with the Anacosta River. You can't get much closer to the centre of action in DC. It's only a few minutes walk to The Mall. The Washington Monument loomed above us as we dropped the hook. Technically, it might be possible to land your dinghy at the public park on the south side of the channel, but this would leave you with a long circuitous walk to any of the city's sights and services. Instead, most itinerant cruisers take their tenders to the north side of the channel, where there are two landing options: the Gangplank Marina and the Capital Yacht Club. Both private organizations charge transient boaters ten dollars a day to use their facilities, which include a secure dinghy dock, laundry room, showers and e-mail. That's not bad considering it costs that much to park a car for an hour in the lot across the street.
The Texan couple on the sailboat "Sea Tramp" anchored next to us urged us to join up with the Capital Yacht Club. "They're really friendly and have great facilities," Lynn and Ann enthused. We were reluctant. We didn't know whether our fragile egos could handle rejection. "Don't worry," our new friends laughed. "They'll let you in - ALL the visiting cruisers go there."
Eileen put on her good pair of sandals and David found some shorts without any grease stains. We tied up our inflatable in front of the yacht club. The brass plaque beside the large wood and tinted glass doors informed us that the club had been founded in 1892 and was for "members only". As we opened the door, David whispered, "I doubt they've survived 110 years by admitting all the flotsam and jetsam that happens to wash up."
Our fears were quickly dispelled. The young administrator, Amy, was downright enthusiastic. She gave us an information package and showed us around the place. The shower rooms were spotless. The machines in the laundry room were only 50 cents a load. There were a couple of courtesy phones. In the library, there was a computer connected to the Internet where we could surf to our hearts' delight. We were also able to connect our laptop to one of their phone lines. During the day, when the club bar was unattended, we could help ourselves to all the sodas we wanted. Amy apologized that their ice machine was broken.
Kelvin, the dockmaster, had a infectious laugh and was equally welcoming. He gave us a key to the facilities, told us where we could fill our water containers and pointed out where we could lock up our bicycles.
After leaving a deposit for the key, the staff didn't want any more of our money. "Just run a tab at the bar and we'll settle up when you leave," Amy said. The drink prices weren't posted. "There's got to be a catch somewhere," David muttered.
We accepted an invitation to their July 4th barbecue. It was a great spread for ten bucks apiece (put on our tab). Everyone was friendly. Eileen approached the commodore, Jim Forrest, and told him how much we appreciated the club's hospitality. Jim replied, "Well, we like to think we'll be just as welcome wherever we go."
The next evening, Stephan, the bartender, had a slightly more pragmatic view of the club's inclusiveness. "We need you guys!" he said. Looking around, we saw that there were as many transient boaters drinking and socializing as there were members. But everyone seemed to fit in just fine.
Our Washington sojourn lasted ten days. The day before we left, we visited Amy to pay our bill. David was acutely aware of the number of pints of Samuel Adams he had put away while researching the attributes of yacht club membership. Would we have to mortgage the boat?
The bar tab, including the barbecue, totalled thirty-two dollars. There was no catch. The Washington Yacht Club is just a nice place with friendly members who welcome transient boaters. Now, that's our kind of club.
Cheers, David & Eileen