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BayWindRider 05-08-2011 10:33 AM

Sailing in the Potomac River
Bay Sailors, I was wondering if anyone routinely sails the Potomac River. I’m looking at putting a boat (Catalina 27) in the Potomac around Quantico. Does anyone have any experience sailing around there? By reading other threads, it seems that sailors mostly motor all the way up DC.

I would like to have the boat closer to home since I live in Woodbridge, VA. My job moved from MD to VA so Deal, MD (Main Bay) would be a little far. It would be much better, but farther…

Any thought or recommendations?

pdqaltair 05-08-2011 11:15 AM

I live in Vienna and work in Alexandria, so I understand the area. I've been sailing for ~ 28 years.

I kept a small cat at Gunston Cove for a few years. I sailed a 27' cat out of Aquia Creek a few times. Yes, it's close to home, but the cruising is quite limited and the air is quite cut up and gusty if from the east of west, typical of river sailing. Thus, you either reach back and forth, or work up and down wind, which can be very slow work if the current is set against you. Yes, there is a lot of motoring if you really want to get somewhere. Additionally, there are few places to visit or explore. On the other hand, I have fond memories.

Sure, living in Woodbridge I would certainly keep the boat there for a season or 2, it's worth it, but then you'll move to Deale, I hope. The trip to Deale would be fun anyway.

My blog (below) has a number of travel posts about the Bay and near Deale. Perhaps you will find it interesting.

kd3pc 05-08-2011 11:45 AM

PDQ has it right, with a boat your size and a work schedule you are limited as to when and how you will sail the available river area. Saw several boats around National Harbor and the Wilson bridge yesterday so it can be done, just depends on what you want to get out of your time.

The river starts to widen out near Quantico, but you still have quite a bit of power boaters out from Occoquan and Quantico, plus the through traffic. A bit further south the river starts to twist and turn more so that can restrict you some.

Deale opens up a lot more of the bay and even more places to visit, if that is your bag. But you still have to get there by car. Yesterday it was over an hour from Woodbridge to Stafford on I-95...a single pickup truck caught fire.

Northern Neck is not a bad compromise of good sailing and traffic to get there. Plus it is quite inexpensive to slip there.

pdqaltair 05-08-2011 12:06 PM


Originally Posted by kd3pc (Post 728290)
Northern Neck is not a bad compromise of good sailing and traffic to get there. Plus it is quite inexpensive to slip there.

I almost mentioned that, but it is a bit further. I really like the area from Solomons Island to Deltaville, and if I lived where you do I would consider them. They give wonderful access to the islands and the whole Bay. Maybe later.

BayWindRider 05-08-2011 02:31 PM

Thank you for the responses
Thank you so much for all the good information. I was wondering… What do you mean by Northern Neck? Are you talking about the area from Occoquan Bay to DC? The southern part of the river definitely looks interesting from Colonial Beach to Cobb Island and St. Clements Bay.

It looks like a seven hour motor / sail from Aquia Creek to Popes Creek / Cobb Island. It will be much longer fighting the current though.

JohnRPollard 05-09-2011 08:41 AM

The "Northern Neck" refers to the peninsula in Virginia between the Potomac River and the Rappahannock River. That is a very pretty area down there. If I lived where you do, I'd be tempted to drive the extra distance down that way instead of out to Deale. Kinsale is nice on the Yeocomico, but there might be someplace closer.

WouldaShoulda 05-09-2011 09:13 AM

I keep my 27' boat in the bay.

It's less than an hour drive from DC.

I would not contemplate keeping it in the Potomac. (Though plenty of people do)

The Washington Sailing Marina is full of them.

BayWindRider 05-12-2011 08:28 AM

All Good Points
Thanks for the inputs everyone. Top notch as always! I'll probably put my boat in the Quantico area. I've thought about it and came up with two main reasons:

1. I'm still a beginner and the Potomac (around Occoquan Bay) will be a good place to learn the ropes. I choose a 27' because I wanted the ability to have a good starter boat with overnight capabilities.
2. I'll be 5-10 minutes from my boat and can easily jump in the helm for a couple hour sail after work. That sounds like heaven to me.

I'll decide later when the skills are sharpened and travel bug kicks in to move the boat. More than likely, I'll sail it up to Deale so I can explore the bay a little further.

Thanks for your inputs!

pdqaltair 05-12-2011 04:44 PM


Sound reasoning. Enjoy the summer!

mccary 05-13-2011 10:52 PM


Originally Posted by BayWindRider (Post 729627)
2. I'll be 5-10 minutes from my boat and can easily jump in the helm for a couple hour sail after work. That sounds like heaven to me.

Hard to argue that logic. I live in Gaithersburg and keep my boat in Shadyside, about 75 minutes away. In the season I get down at least once a week when the weather permits. Since I work for myself, I can usually find time to get away for a few hours. I think it is better to spend any time possible on the boat, even just going down to do some projects lifts my spirits and 2 hours sailing can pump sunshine into my system like nothing else. I suppose I am lucky, my wife loves sailing as much as I do. If the boat were closer to me I would go more often.

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