An Officer And A Gentleman
We picked up a mooring ball in Annapolis, just opposite the United States Naval Academy. The academy happens to be open to the public if you have ID and don’t set off the security scanner. So, given that we were only a throw of the monkey’s fist away, we gave it a try – and got in.
The campus is enormous, so we handed over some cash and joined one of the organised tours run by Mike. Not only can Mike navigate visitors around a place full of salty seamen. He also knows Basingstoke – our hometown for the last 19 years. This is a rare thing for a native Marylander (or most other people for that matter).
Naval Academy Tour
The tour started with a film about the academy, and the training which begins with Plebe week – an uncharitable term used throughout the years to describe fresh recruits. The training is tough both physically and mentally. They are pushed way outside of their comfort zone. But as we walked around the campus, the results of their training are clear to see in the confidence, poise and presence these young people exhibit.
As we walked around with Mike, we saw:
- Bancroft Hall, which is the largest dormitory building in the world with 1,700 rooms.
- The training areas, of which there are several, including an Olympic-sized swimming pool with a 50ft high dive platform off which the recruits need to jump twice before commissioning.
- A statue of a Native American Chief
- A colossal boat shed, and a figure of the football team goat
Now, all that may not sound like much, but embellish that with history, and it makes for a very entertaining couple of hours.
A Little Naval Academy History
- The Indian Chief is a replica of a figurehead – from the sunken U.S.S. Delaware – later retrieved and recast in bronze. The Chief was Tamanend – a peacekeeper. But, the recruits at the time preferred Tecumseh – the warrior. And that name stuck. Unfortunately, Tecumseh mostly fought against American interests and sided with the British in the revolution. But why let history get in the way eh?
- Albert Michelson measured the speed of light with equipment set up on one of the buildings here in 1879 and came up with 299,910 km/s. Not bad given the technology available at the time. The speed of light as it is known to be now is 299,792 km/s.
- Famous students who have trained here (including Jimmy Carter, Jim Lovell, Oliver North, Ross Perot, Alan Shepard, Wendy Lawrence, and John McCain – who was buried here only a few weeks ago).
After that we hunted around town for some more sights and history, and found this:
Washington and the White House
There’s a commuter bus service whisking passengers from the centre of Annapolis to the throbbing bureaucratic heart of Washington – the 220 or 230. And the fare is a mere five dollars. So, we hopped on it in the centre of Annapolis and dropped off it near the White House.
Our goal was to see the sites that have flashed up on our TV screens over the years; usually preceded by “live from Washington”: The Lincoln’s Memorial; the Washington Monument; the WWII memorial, and the Capitol Building and its reflecting pool. And of course White House.
And in the space of a few hours, we saw all of them. Although the reflecting pool wasn’t reflecting anything at the time – it’s dry. And, because Lincolns Memorial was having a facelift, we saw that at a distance.
After a quick coffee stop at the Smithsonian ‘Castle’, and at a gallery showing African Art, we made our way to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis is hanging from the rafters here, together with a selection of Wright Brothers aircraft, WW2 aircraft, the front section of a Boing 747, a V2 rocket, a lunar lander, some rocket capsules, as well as other famous air and spacecraft.
And here, in all, it’s refurbished glory is the studio model of the NCC-1701 – the Starship Enterprise. It’s inner child heaven.
We picked up with a tour that had just started (the whole thing is free by the way) and Steve, the tour guide, brought the place alive with his in-depth knowledge, fantastic storytelling skills and unbridled enthusiasm. Even the mural in the WW2 section developed a pulse through his description of the planes, the people in it and what happened to each of them during and after the war. Incredible.
The museum also has its planetarium, so we joined the small queue for that, asked for two tickets and were charged the senior rate. I was pleased as it saved a whole dollar each, but I don’t think Maria was too happy.
Regardless, eight miles of schlepping around Washington was enough for us seniors, and it was time to go back to Annapolis. So, after a dodder around the Capitol Building, we made our way to the bus stop, coppered together $10 for the fare (exact change only folks) and stepped off where we started in Annapolis Town. We had missed lunch, so went straight into a restaurant on the way down the hill. The French chef (and owner) knows his way around the skillet – the food was fabulous.
So, after getting back to the boat and lifting the outboard and dinghy onto Lady Jane, we had an early night ready for a 0600 start the next day to head South. We are aiming to be in Hampton, Virginia on Saturday (probably Friday now that we know of a grim-looking weather system coming in).