Alexandria, Virginia has a rich history of building sailing vessels, a vanished time when brigs, sloops and schooners hauled cargo in and out of the crescent shaped seaport, and salty men with calloused hands rigged up the sails, masts and ropes.
The city pays homage to this heritage with a ship-maker statue in Waterfront Park, an old sailboat nearby, and a sailboat image on the signs in Old Town. Ironically, however, there are no sail boat cruises from the Old Town shores.
Not to worry though. The Potomac Riverboat Company has launched a new sailing cruise on the historic Minnie V, a 104-year old skipjack. The 45-foot sailboat, built to dredge oysters, departs from National Harbor (next to the Awakening Hand) on weekends from July to October.
With a crew of three and about 15 passengers, we set sail at 1 pm today. Because of the uncertainty of the winds, there’s no set route. We paralleled the eastern shore down to a spot short of Fort Washington, and made the same route back. Along the way, the Captain provides a history of the oyster industry in the Chesapeake.
The Minnie V was built in 1906 in Wenonah, Maryland and named after the owner’s wife Minnie. It has seen over 80 years of action in the oyster business. Skipjacks, whose numbers have dwindled from over 1,000 to just 30, are the last of the commercial sailing boats in the country.
The cruise lasts about 90 minutes. Tickets can be purchased on-line, at the Potomac Riverboat Company ticket booth at the Old Town Marina or at the one at National Harbor. If you want to take the sunset cruise, they need a minimum of 18 or so.