July 4th Celebrations

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Tue 7 Jul 2009 18:03
America's biggest day of the year - July 4th,  which celebrates their independence from the 'Mother Country" was a real firecracker of a day in Herrington. So as Brits we were unsure of what the form should be - whether to lie low, lock the boat from the inside and watch our Wallace and Grommet DVDs collection all day, or simply join in all the fun and games and take it on the chin like the good Brits we are. But our sense of humour needed to be in good form to withstand the numerous jibes on offer, especially as we seem to be the only British visitors in the marina.
Well, we joined in some of the celebrations, which was an adventure in itself. A huge firework display was being held at Herrington Harbour South, the sister marina to the one we are in, which is only a mile or so from here in a boat but by road the "trolley" as it is called takes considerably longer. At 25 cents it's a bargain ride running from Deale through Herrington North, Herrington South and ending up in Chesapeake Beach which is the main resort in the vicinity. It is subsidised partly by local businesses and is a brightly painted bus but where it gets it's "trolley" status from is slightly baffling.  It does sound a bell as it trundles slowly along the local roads. However, on the evening of the fireworks - July 3rd it wasn't doing any trundling at all, as a notice at the trolley stop just inside the marina entrance informed us. For reasons unknown it wasn't running that evening, but the marina had kindly arranged a shuttle service between north and south for anybody wanting to see the fireworks.
It didn't state where the bus would be operating from or what the times were so we walked the 1/2 mile to the marina office to see if there was another notice giving more information. No, same notice. So we walked all the way back to the original bus stop and sat down to see what happened. 15 mins later round the corner came one of the traditional bright yellow school buses driven by a local bus owner called Warren. He and his bus had been hired for the whole evening, announced Warren, so we climbed on board.  "Just gotta pick up from the marina office before we get going" he said.  But Warren didn't know his way round the vast marina complex and a wrong turn took us straight back near our boat by the swimming pool. Guiding him round the marina complex found us back at the bus stop we had been picked up from before finally arriving at the marina office. A 15 minute wait for any stragglers and it was then back to the swimming pool trolley stop before we finally exited the marina 40 mins later, still with just the two of us onboard!!  In that time Warren had found out we'd sailed all the way across from England in a little boat!  We did tell him it was 39ft long but as Warren was used to cruise ships Ajaya could have been 100ft long and it would still have been damn small to him.
Arriving at H.H. South we went straight into Mangoes Restaurant for a meal. Mangoes is situated right alongside the Olympic sized swimming pool on the complex which also has a Motel adjacent to the pool - very different from our location at 'North'. The meal was excellent except Phil in a greedy moment ordered the FULL rack of Texas Barbecue ribs which arrived very neatly stacked one rack on top of the other. Nikki just about made it through her seafood platter but the last rib on the plate remained untouched by our greedy skipper. We staggered out of Mangoes wondering if we would be eating again in the next couple of days.
The fireworks were due to start at - well nobody seemed to know the exact time so we went for maximum viewing potential which was on the beach behind the stage which had loud rock music blasting out from its front end. There were thousands of people lining the beach front waiting the spectacular display. But just before the fireworks started the owner of the two Herrington Marinas got up on the stage to introduce a State Senator who looked as if he had also been eating a lot at Mangoes! A short rundown of all Americas war efforts with particular attention paid to beating the British in 1812 was well received by the crowd which was then followed by a Marine soloist singing a heart-rending version of the 'Star Spangled Banner' at which point nearly all the people on the beach in front of us turned and faced the flag which formed the stage backdrop, with us standing in front of it!!  It was a long rendition and being faced with so many people young and old standing with right hand on heart gave the whole evening a heavy patriotic flavour which, when the fireworks commenced continued with music and songs about America, oddly punctuated by Queen's "We are the Champions". HHmm.
The display was impressive, made even more so by the fact that unlike most modern fireworks events which are lit automatically and computer controlled this 30 minute wiz-bang was lit by a handful of brave men out on the breakwater holding bright red lights who could just about be seen in the dense smoke wafting round the launch site. The backdrop to the display was formed by the lights from many anchored yachts and powerboats that were watching the event, no doubt enjoying their own private celebrations.
We wondered back to see if Warren and his magic bus were anywhere to be seen to take us and our heaving stomachs back to Ajaya. It was there, only this trip he had more customers, making about 12 of us in total which was hardly likely to strain the massive diesel engine pulling the bus along. Just as he shut the bus doors he announced - "These are the folks who sailed all the way from England everybody! 22 days at sea they were". He'd obviously done a good 'bigging-up' job on his next run after dropping us off at South!
The return trip was another adventure. The heavy traffic was backed up a couple of miles to the 'circle' which translated into English becomes a roundabout. Warren pointed out his wife walking along the road, who was rather large and 65 if she was a day. He announced that she worked at the Marina swimming pool - as a lifeguard, then laughing as we all went quiet wondering how she could ever save somebody's life in that condition. Then he thought he'd missed the turning into the H.H.North road which meant he would have to drive for miles before being able to turn the bus round again. He hadn't actually missed the turn but then driving a school bus maybe he doesn't drive much in the dark evenings. Between Warren's jokes we bore the brunt of the Americans around us lapsing into over pronounced 'Queens English', which was started by the 'roundabout' v 'circle' confusion.
The evening of July 4th we stayed onboard Ajaya playing Scrabble, whilst watching the various smaller firework displays going on round the marina and surrounding area. A short distance away from us there was a "Dinghy-In movie" (popcorn provided - bring your own chair) which was showing Top Gun with Tom Cruise which supplemented the noise of fireworks lifting into the sky from all around us.
So, in a large nutshell, those were the events of July 4th in the little bit of America we are in - lots of patriotism (can't remember the last time we heard that word in the UK), fireworks, barbecues, movies, people having fun, and us two playing Scrabble.
Warren's big yellow bus
Waiting for the show to begin
aaaaahhhhhh !!!