News & Politics

Yacht Flying Trump Flag Gets DC-Bound Water Taxi Passengers Soaked

A water taxi boat photographed in June by Evy Mages

A large pleasure boat flying a Trump flag and operating at what appeared to be higher-than-permitted speed came so close to a water taxi bound for the Wharf Sunday that many passengers were soaked when the water taxi crossed its wake. A spokeswoman for the Potomac Riverboat Company characterized that day’s crossing as “a series of normal wakes which resulted in some spray.” Because this is Washington, there were at least two reporters aboard the water taxi who were more than willing to share some details about the spray.

Vernon Miles and Airey were returning from Alexandria, where they spent the early afternoon taking stock photos, meeting sources, and just generally checking on things in preparation for the launch of ALXnow next month. Both are reporters at the local news site ARLnow, and Miles will soon be the lead reporter for ALXnow. They’d taken the water taxi in part because they hoped to get some photos of Alexandria from the water. They returned to DC on the 3:30 PM service to the Wharf.

The weather was beautiful, Airey says, and the two were “messing around taking stupid Titanic pictures” on the bow of the boat as it entered Washington Channel, where the water taxi slows down. (Boats in Washington Channel may not operate at a speed faster than 6 statute miles per hour.) Just as the water taxi passed Roosevelt Hall at Greenleaf Point, they say, a large black and white boat with a raised cabin and a sharply pointed bow—and flying a red-and-blue flag on the stern that read TRUMP in white letters with stars around the President’s name—came up quickly on the left side of the water taxi, heading away from DC. “It passed us close, and there were people cheering and waving on the bow, then as we entered their wake the water taxi lifted a bit then suddenly dropped back down,” Miles says.

A towering spray of water resulted, “absolutely covering everyone on board, with the water quickly flowing back down into the interior section of the cabin, where other people were seated,” Miles says. Others at the bow were drenched head to toe, they say, and folks inside the passenger cabin had wet feet. One fellow bow passenger using a wheelchair tipped over during the incident. How did the people on the yacht react? “I don’t even know that they saw us get soaked unless they were looking back,” Miles says.

Miles after he got soaked. Photograph courtesy Airey.

Both say the water taxi crew did a great job in the, uh, wake of the incident, hustling the outside passengers into the interior cabin and handing out paper towels so people could try to dry their goods. “Everybody seemed in disbelief, crew included, and one of them said nothing like this had happened before,” Miles says. Airey, who describes herself as a “landlubber,” says one crew member said it was “totally illegal” for the yacht to pass that closely.

A dry Airey and Miles on the water taxi on their way to Alexandria Sunday. Photograph courtesy Airey.

Unfortunately for the cause of seagoing justice, Miles’s reporter’s notebook was as bricked by water as his iPhone, which he says Apple Store employees told him will cost him $500 to replace. Tantalizingly, he says he managed to get some photos and video of the offending boat on his now-useless phone, including, he believes, the name painted in gold letters on its back. Neither he nor Airey said they could be sure the yacht buzzed the water taxi deliberately. “I just felt really bad for the people with us who were probably tourists and had a bad experience on what should have been a pretty great trip if not for this,” Airey says.

Potomac Riverboat Company representatives at the dock were sympathetic but told the pair the terms of their contract for passage did not include any reimbursement for property that was ruined.  “The Potomac is a well-used waterway,”  a company spokeswoman tells Washingtonian, “so it’s not uncommon to have water intermittently coming onto an outer deck or for other vessels to produce spray as they pass. While this was undoubtedly uncomfortable for those affected, we would like to reassure our guests that as a company, we and our highly skilled mariners, take the safety of our guests and crew very seriously and operate our vessels to the highest marine safety standards. At no point was this compromised.”

Airey went home and washed her clothes with Dawn to remove the “eau de Potomac” imparted by their unplanned shower; Miles says his new maritime scent was “was… commented on at my Dungeons and Dragons session that evening.” Of all the indignities Miles suffered Sunday, this one probably hurts the most. With regard to his phone, at least, Airey says her coworker is “kind of up a creek without a paddle right now.”

This post was updated with comment from Potomac Riverboat Company.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.