Fair Winds and Following Seas

ODBC marks opening of boating season.

The Old Dominion Boat Club, a waterfront institution in Alexandria since 1880, celebrated the start of the boating season with its annual flag raising ceremony May 19 along the Potomac River. 

ODBC Commodore Art Barletta presided over the celebration at the foot of the club’s mast, where the U.S., Virginia, and City of Alexandria flags were hoisted along with the organization’s signature burgee.

U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8) was on hand to raise the Commonwealth of Virginia flag with Mayor Justin Wilson hoisting the City of Alexandria flag.

The ceremony opened with the singing of the National Anthem by Keith Harmon and invocation by Rev. Edward Hathaway of the Basilica of Saint Mary. “Fair Winds and Following Seas” was the nautical blessing for safety during the boating season.

With plumes of water from the Alexandria and D.C. fireboats in the background, ODBC president Steve Forehand raises the organization’s burgee May 19 at the Old Dominion Boat Club. 


In addition to Wilson, dignitaries in attendance included Vice Mayor Amy Jackson and Council members Alyia Gaskins, Sarah Bagley, Canek Aguirre and Kirk McPike.

Now celebrating its 144th year, the organization was formed with a mission of “the promotion of charitable, community service, athletic, water-related activities and fellowship among its members.” With more than 1,000 members, it is the second largest Boat Club in the state of Virginia.

The ODBC flag raising is a longstanding tradition in which the organization publicly shows its appreciation for “our city, our state and our country.”

The Old Dominion Boat Club Foundation was established to carry out the philanthropic goals of the ODBC and has provided support to: the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, Alexandria Crew Boosters, Campagna Center, Marine Toys for Tots, Alexandria Seaport Foundation, Alexandria Sportsman’s Club, Potomac Conservancy, Potomac Riverkeepers Network. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and Sea Scout Ship 818.

Joining Beyer and Wilson in the ceremony were U.S. Army veteran and retired District of Maryland U.S. Marshall Johnny Hughes, who raised the U.S. flag, and ODBC president Steve Forehand, who raised the ODBC burgee.

As each flag was run up the mast, former commodore Tom Whalen fired the club’s signaling cannon. Just offshore, Alexandria and D.C. fireboats sent plumes of water skyward in a water demonstration marking the event.