Pork Chops and Chinese Lanterns: What to Bring for a Weekend on the Water

Gunston Cove is a small cove on the Potomac River bordered by Ft. Belvoir, historic Gunston Hall and Pohick Bay state park. It’s only a few hour’s sail from our marina so when we don’t have a lot of time we can still have a nice evening anchored out and a pleasant day on the water, then we can sail home in time to feed the cat his dinner.

We love grilling so I got a thick bone-in chop for Charles and a lovely slab of tuna for myself. I forgot the bacon but that just means no grease to clean up around the stove. Charles has been known to eat the whole package over coffee at breakfast. The wafting bacon aroma has also been known to lure fishermen a little closer to our boat in the morning. The fridge runs on propane so no worries keeping our perishables but the freezer is only large enough for a few burgers and some ice trays so no chance of long term food storage when we start cruising.

Provisions for the weekend.

After a pleasant sail going with the tide we discovered a few boats near “our spot.” We have a silver tree that marks the best position for anchorage; far from the park’s marina but still inside the cove and just in view of the historic Gunston Hall, a large white house on the hill overlooking the water. We dropped anchor between two motorboats, still close to our regular spot (and that darn crab pot) and speculated on who which be there overnight. Wishful thinking, we guessed neither of them; the first had four people on the back who looked like day sailors and the second was a bit small for an overnight. As the sun set the party of four pulled up anchor but the small motorboat turned on their anchor light and stayed. No worries, we were much closer to the boats in Mattawoman Creek last weekend.
Since the shore is heavily forested the birdwatching is great and we can usually spot vultures and eagles in the trees and diving for fish as the sun goes down. There’s nothing like watching a huge eagle land in a tree through binoculars.


I found the perfect string of colorful LED Chinese lanterns so I strung them up on the bimini and we waited to see if they would attract bugs as night fell. We were lucky to find a few gnats but nothing with a bite.

At dusk Charles raised the anchor light. At the very least, anchored boats need a marker light on the mast overnight. We found out that ours was out so we’re getting a replacement and some new instruments in less than two weeks. Until then, a camping lantern halfway up the mast works well as an anchor light in a pinch.
anchor light

Dinners are always good. Think steaks, chops, seafood and fresh seasoned grilled veggies. That day we’d had a late Thai lunch at the marina so neither of us were hungry. Time for cocktails under the light of the Chinese lanterns instead. Just maybe this is business as usual.

Into the evening we watched the red and green marker lights of the occasional boat coming and going in the dark. Gunston Cove is far enough away from the city that the stars are bright and I finally saw a shooting star! At close to midnight Charles fired up the grill and we had tuna and chops in the silence of the cove at night.

In the morning we woke to lots of wake and a banging noise. Did I mention that Gunston Cove is part of a state park with a marina? The protected cove is popular with power boats and water skiers who create so! much! wake! for people trying to sleep in on their catamarans. The banging was the lantern anchor light so Charles jumped out of bed and pulled it down. Naturally this meant stay in bed for me and hope that Charles is ready for coffee.

Time for coffee! (Thank you, Charles.) While anchored out we have battery power for the toilet, cabin lights and charging cell phones but no coffee maker so we use a fabulous stove-top pot on our two-burner propane stove. It only makes one cup and the coffee is boiling hot but it’s delicious and a cup of coffee in an anchorage in the morning is just short of perfect.
coffee pot

In Gunston Cove we often see morning kayakers and paddle boarders quietly paddling by on their way into the river. They enjoy paddling while we enjoy coffee and a hot breakfast. There wasn’t much wind and we were feeling lazy so we spent the morning and early afternoon with a few long cups of coffee doing nothing. Luckily the wind picked up in the afternoon so Charles set up the mast on our 10 ft. sailing dinghy and we went out for nice breezy sail. Here’s a video. 

In the late afternoon we pulled up the anchor and made it back to our marina just as the sun was setting. Last weekend we’d left the lines on the dock and with no wind or current, getting tied up was a breeze. We left the lines on the dock this time and again, getting in was perfect. Lesson learned, leave the lines on the dock.

Later we’ll practice transient line handling for the days when we’re cruising and have to decide between a tropical mooring ball or a marina, and when I have to properly time jumping from a moving boat onto the dock with lines in my hand.

I’m not an experienced sailor yet. I’m still getting the hang of tacking; it’s hard to pull over the jib and I’m working on knowing what point the rudders need to be straightened out when we’re at the end of a tack. I’m still figuring out which way the wind is blowing based on the waves (I mentioned the new instruments soon- a wind indicator is one of them) and I can’t always keep the sail from luffing. We sail when we can but we’ve been out a number of times on the motor recently because the river isn’t the greatest place for sailing. I’m looking forward to fall, bundling up to go out on the water with more wind in our sails.

I miss being under sail. I miss sailing with no noise but the wind and the boat moving through the water. You can’t hear those sounds when the motor is on.

3 thoughts on “Pork Chops and Chinese Lanterns: What to Bring for a Weekend on the Water

  1. “I miss sailing with no noise but the wind and the boat moving through the water.” When my wife Pam and I went boat shopping, we knew it would be a sailboat we were after just for the sake of that sound.

    BTW, re your propane fridge: Do you also have any experience with electric sailboat fridges? If so, how do they compare to each other? I ask because the one on the boat we bought is electric, and I’m already doing long-term capital planning. . .


    1. I don’t have any experience with electric fridges. I would worry about battery life when you’re off shore power since you also need the batteries for so many other things.
      I find a lot of helpful information for our cat in the Gemini catamaran owner’s Yahoo group. If you haven’t yet, you may want to check Yahoo and Facebook for owner’s groups for Meander. So much helpful info is shared and over-shared between boat owners.

      Here’s a little secret- some marinas have cable hookups and the wifi is as good as it is at home. Just FYI for when you’re selecting your next marina.

      Liked by 1 person

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