Sunday, August 10, 2014

Boating to Philadelphia (with apologies to Mark Knopfler)

One of Lisa’s favorite songs is called Sailing to Philadelphia, by Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), along with James Taylor. It’s the story of Mason and Dixon, the two English surveyors that surveyed the borderline between Pennsylvania and Maryland, which also became the imaginary boundary between the North and the South. The whole Philadelphia thing is that they arrived in America in 1763 at the port of Philadelphia, rather than someplace like New York, Boston, or Baltimore.
It is very easy to think that Philadelphia is not a seafaring city, went in fact, it has a long history as a major eastern seaport. All ships had to do was go up Delaware Bay and then up the Delaware River a relatively short distance (30ish miles) from the top of the bay to the city.
We made the trip ourselves, and are happy to report that it was a terrific experience. And the reason we made the trip there was simple; we were invited.
When we were all the way back in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, we were fortunate to get back together with Dick and Deanna of Sareanna. While we were at dinner Dick asked us what our cruising plans for the summer were. We told him about going to the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay, spending a month in Annapolis, and finally getting to the inner harbor of Baltimore. He simply told us that we should go to Philadelphia also. We were a little perplexed by the suggestion because, frankly, we didn’t know we could get there by boat. We didn’t think of it as a boating destination. He told us about the easy boating to get up there, Penn Landing Marina (where we stayed), and all of the wonderful things to see and do in the City of Brotherly (and Sisterly) Love.
We looked into it, and I was apprehensive about it. First, I wasn’t sure about the marina. Active Captain’s information about it was up to date, but the satellite photo was woefully out of date. The marina is actually a nice one, located in a sheltered (sort of) manmade bay right next to downtown.
The cruise up to Philly from Delaware City was easy enough. The Delaware River is wide and deep and did not present any challenges whatsoever. Now, there is definitely a current that can be substantial, and unfortunately, no matter how well you plan your route, coordinating the times you make the run compared to when the tides go in and out, you are going to hit some head on current at some point. One tip I have is to plan your trip immediately after a new moon, when tides are less.

Penn Landing Marina is a three star marina. The slips are long, wide and easy to get in and out of. The only downside to it are there are no dedicated shore side facilities like showers or flushable bathrooms. There isn’t pump out available there either. (There is pump out available at another marina a bit further up the river, but they want forty freaking bucks! No thanks. I can hold it.) But you won’t have to worry about your holding tank because you will not be on your boat very much. That’s because you will be spending all of your time in the city taking it all in. And there’s a lot to take in.

The biggest reason I was apprehensive about going to Philadelphia was that I had a preconceived idea of what the city was like. I thought that it was going to be a rough and dirty place, without nice amenities or interesting things to do.
I was wrong.
Philadelphia was a terrific city. It was clean, bright, shining and very exciting. There were a gazillion restaurants, stores, attractions, and museums to visit. Let me give you some of the highlights.

Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell — They are the centerpieces of the city, and very worthy of the pilgrimage. It was truly inspiring to stand in the footsteps of our founding fathers. The Liberty Bell is just that, a bell. But it is iconic and almost spiritual in its context. There are all kinds of other revolutionary period things to see too. Helpful hint: Go to the visitors center around 8:00 am and get in line early. (The center opens at 8:30 am) You need a free ticket to get into Independence Hall, and get in there for the first tour that starts at 10:00. You do not need a ticket to see the Liberty Bell, but the line outside the hall where it is located starts early and is very slow. There is a security check point inside the front door. We were second in line. By the time we got in there the line outside went all the way to the end of the building.
City Hall — Visit a city hall? Absolutely! Philadelphia’s city hall is a massive French design building that is very ornate, and, according to some residents, ugly. But the party piece is the 540 foot tower at the north entrance. You can get tickets to go all the way to the top to an observation platform. The views are breathtaking. Call the city hall visitors center for reservations.
Museums — They have a oodles of them. The Franklin Institute is a science museum (lots of kids). The Rodin Museum (Lisa’s favorite), The Barnes Museum (another art museum), the City Art Museum (the one that Rocky ran up the steps at), The museum of American Jewish History, the U.S. Mint, Ben Franklin’s print shop, and on and on and on.
Philly Pass — The Philly Pass is a prepaid three or five day card that pretty much lets you into everything without paying any additional ticket fees. Worth it. We bought five day cards at $95.00 each and definitely got our money’s worth.
The Big Bus — The Big Bus is a double-decker tour bus that zooms around downtown. Lots of fun. Hop on / hop off. Covered in the Philly Pass.
Duck Boats — They are the amphibious bus/boats that you see in some cities. It’s fun. Covered in the Philly Pass.

 Reading Terminal — The former train station, now a convention center. The street level is the market with eighty food vendors of every type and taste. Historic and tasty.
All in all, we had a terrific time in Philadelphia, made all the better by being with Dick and Deanna again. We also went out to dinner with them and two of their friends, Ron and Patty Weingrad. They were hysterical! All the two of them and Lisa and I wanted to talk about was baseball. They are died-in-the-wool Phillies fans, and I am a Cardinal fan, so we had a lot to talk about. Unfortunately, Lisa is stuck with the Rockies. It was a fun evening that again proves that the true reward of living an on board life is the wonderful people that we encounter.
Now, there is an issue that I want to talk about that I am afraid may make me some enemies; Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches … I'd rather have a sack of White Castles.

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