The relatively staid flotilla of boats on the Potomac River recently welcomed a new vessel to its ranks. The speedy Seadog, a sleek powerboat from Entertainment Cruises, the company that operates the Spirit of Washington, thrills kids and adults alike as it reaches speeds up to 35 miles an hour.
Because of the Districts wake restrictions, the vessel rarely ventures north of the Wilson Bridge, but the wild ride from National Harbor to Mount Vernon and back combines speed, lively music and a healthy dose of information about area history.
Seadog sets the tone as it leaves National Harbor to the accompaniment of Who Let the Dogs Out? as the guide urges passengers to bark as loud as you can. They oblige, and the captain soon cranks up the engines.
The squeals of joy emanating from children onboard certainly suggested they were enjoying the ride. And adults had fun as well: We had a great time, said Lori Howard, an Arkansas resident staying at the National Harbor with her husband while they attend a health care convention. We didnt know the Potomac was so big.
Not everyone is thrilled by this newcomer, however. Ridership so far is sparse in comparison to initial expectations.
The company initially planned to operate the boat once per hour, six days a week. However, Seadog now traverses the Potomac only on weekends and only once every two hours. Sal Naso, vice president and general manager of Entertainment Cruises ships in the D.C. area, said it is starting to pick up now that were getting the word out.
Some environmentalists have assailed the Seadog as a threat to Dyke Marsh and a nuisance to other boaters. Its just not an appropriate kind of thing for the river, Alexandria resident Jack Sullivan said. The Seadog is something utterly new, Sullivan said, claiming that is the first boat to consistently operate at such speeds near Dyke Marsh.
We just hate to see new threats to an already fragile treasure, he added.
Both Naso and Wayne Eanes, one of the Seadogs captains, insist the boats wake is no larger than many of the other boats that sail the Potomac.
We know we have a serious erosion problem in Dyke Marsh, Friends of Dyke Marsh President Glenda Booth said. I would like to see the wakes reduced in general, she added, carefully noting Seadog is not the only tour boat causing problems at the marsh.
It is a view George Stevens, owner of the Belle Haven Marina, shares. He would like to see a no-wake zone imposed near Dyke Marsh but said, Seadog is one of many, many boats that goes up and down the river. You cant lay the blame on any one boat.
Bill Line, a National Park Service spokesman, said, While the NPS believes that there is some erosion in Dyke Marsh, we scientifically cannot prove it. According to Line, conclusively determining whether erosion is occurring requires hundreds of photographs taken over 10 to 15 years.
But as the Seadog continues skimming across the Potomacs waters, its crew focuses on having fun. Were trying to create something that is a wonderful service for the community, Eanes said. Not everyone can afford a powerboat, but they can come out here and do this.