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Taking the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal
10/07/2013, Hampton, Va. to Manteo, N.C.

An almost new National Monument
We spent a bouncy Thursday night at anchor off Old Point Comfort. The Old Point Comfort Marina is still owned by the federal government but operated by a contractor who didn't charge us to use the restrooms and tie the dinghy up at the boat ramp. We had a couple of short walks along the Old Point Comfort waterfront, but we didn't have time to visit historic Fort Monroe. That's probably a good thing because it was likely shut down.

When we were in Hampton in 2011, we spent a fair amount of time touring the site, which had recently been decommissioned by the Army. Efforts were being made at the time to turn parts of it into a National Monument and turn the rest of it over to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

On Nov. 11, 2011, several months after we visited the site, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation making part of it a National Monument. A seven-sided stone fort, the largest stone fort ever built in the United States, is a historic centerpiece, but there are 170 historic buildings on the site, according to Wikipedia. I tried to get information about what parts of the site were designated a National Monument from the National Park Service Web site, but it's shut down along with much of the rest of the federal government because the people we elected to govern aren't doing a very good job of it.

The fort overlooks the navigational channel between the Chesapeake Bay and Hampton Roads which occurs at the confluence of the James, Elizabeth and Nansemond rivers. (This is where we spotted the ailing loggerhead turtle later taken to the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team by the Coast Guard.) The earliest English settlers recognized its strategic importance and built a wooden stockade there in 1609. The stone fort is an important Civil War site because it stayed in Union hands throughout the war and served as a refuge for escaping slaves. It is also where Confederate President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned after the war.
Fort Monroe Authority

Wikipedia history of Fort Monroe

National Park Service Web site

A mouse among elephants
Friday morning we hauled our anchor and motored down the James River through Norfolk. We were followed into the channel by Bremen Bridge, a loaded container ship flagged in Panama and headed for Norfolk. At about 5 knots, we were moving much slower than it was and someone on its bridge courteously radioed to make sure we knew it was behind us.

Just like the last time we went through Norfolk, I felt like a mouse in a world of elephants. The waterfront is dominated by huge Navy and commercial vessels.The city of almost 246,0000 is home to the largest Navy base in the world, Naval Station Norfolk, and one of NATO's two Strategic Command headquarters. The city is also home to the corporate headquarters of Norfolk Southern Railway, one of North America's major railroads and Maersk Line, which manages the largest fleet of U.S.-flagged commercial vessels. Massive cranes for loading and off-loading ships tower overhead along several sections of the waterfront.

We agreed that next time we're this far north, we'll anchor or stay in a marina in Norfolk and visit Nauticus, the National Maritime Center, and some of the city's other attractions.

On this trip, we slowed a bit so we could watch the tugs that took control of Bremen Bridge soon after the big ship called to make sure we knew it was on our stern muscle it to its dock.

Great Bridge to Coinjock
We made it through the lift bridge in the middle of town at 1 p.m. along with several other sailboats. We chose to follow the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal alternate route of the Intercoastal Waterway instead of going through the Dismal Swamp as we did in 2011. We went through another bridge and a lock before tying up to a free dock running along a bulkhead in Great Bridge for the night.

We didn't have time to explore Great Bridge, except for a walk of a few blocks to the grocery store, but it was the scene of an important Revolutionary War battle. A Patriot victory there on Dec. 9, 1775, forced Lord Dunmore, the British Royal Governor of Virginia, to evacuate and led to the Virginia Convention adopting a public proclamation expressing the spirit of independence, according to the Great Bridge Battlefield and Waterways History Foundation. Great Bridge also played a role in the Civil War. The Chesapeake-Albemarle Canal was completed in 1859 and the Confederacy benefited early in the war from control of the canal, but once Norfolk was captured in May 1862, the canal came under Union control. Confederate guerrillas continued to disrupt Union use of the canal and numerous skirmishes took place around Great Bridge.
Great Bridge Battlefield & Waterways History Foundation
Village of Great Bridge

On Saturday, we were up early to make the 8 a.m. opening of Great Bridge as were most of the other boats on the dock. We were in front of the line, but smallest and slowest, so the others soon passed us. By mid-afternoon we'd arrived at our day's destination, Coinjock Marina. There we met up with a couple of boats that had been on the dock at Great Bridge with us and enjoyed getting acquainted with the crews of Stella and Makani. Coinjock provided us with showers and an opportunity to do laundry. We ordered takeout from the marina restaurant and turned in early.

Sunday we followed the ICW from Coinjock down the North River and across Albemarle and Croatan sounds before turning into Shallowbag Bay and anchoring off the Manteo town dock. The day was clear and the route scenic with marsh grass, pines and cypress lining the banks.

The sound of bluegrass
We arrived in Manteo to the sound of bluegrass music and discovered that we'd made it just in time to hear the last three or four hours of the Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival. We could hear the music from Roanoke Island Festival Park on the boat, but as soon as we anchored, we took the dinghy in to check it out. We didn't have tickets, but we didn't have any trouble hearing and I managed to get into the venue long enough to take a couple of pictures. This is the second annual Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival and it makes a nice Coastal Carolina bookend for the Ocrafolk Music Festival held every year the first weekend in June.

It looks as though we may be here for several days because of high winds on Pamlico Sound. There's lots to explore, so that's OK by me.

Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival

Turtle update
10/04/2013, Hampton, Va.

The news is promising
The juvenile loggerhead pulled out of the water by a Coast Guard patrol boat near the entrance to Hampton Roads and turned over to the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team suffers from a bad case of pneumonia, according to Stranding Response Manager Maggie Lynott.

It's doing OK, she said, but not eating yet - though it's showing interest in food, which is good.

It's being given antibiotics to cure the pneumonia and will be released as soon as it recovers, she said.

"Our goal is always to release these guys," she said. The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team is the sole responder to sea turtles in the state of Virginia.

The turtle is too young to determine the sex, she said, but it weighs 42 kilograms (about 93 pounds).

It's tough to say how long it will be before it will be ready to release, she said, but it was good it was rescued because it was having buoyancy problems, which meant it was at the mercy of any boat that came along. Any number of things could have caused the turtle to develop pneumonia, she said.
Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team

The Coast Guard and the Virginia Aquarium to the rescue
10/04/2013, Lower Chesapeake Bay near the entrance to Hampton Roads

A turtle in the flotsam
On Thursday we crossed the bay again destined for an anchorage near the Old Point Comfort Marina at Fort Monroe, a one-time military base that is now part of Hampton. It should have been a four-and-one-half hour trip, but just before we reached the entrance to Hampton Roads we spotted something odd in the water and realized it was a turtle floating sideways. It seemed unable to right itself and would struggle to get its head above water every few minutes to breathe. It couldn't swim properly and was drifting away from Hampton Roads into the bay with the current as the tide went out.

It was clearly in distress. Robert said he thought it was a young loggerhead and called the Coast Guard to report it. The Coast Guard told him they would contact what Robert understood to be the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and asked if we could continue circling the turtle and keep it in sight. Robert said we would and a few minutes later he got a call from the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center's Stranding Response Team.

Robert agreed that we would keep circling while efforts were made to mount a rescue. We circled the turtle for an hour and 30 minutes from the time we spotted it until we received a call from a Coast Guard patrol craft letting us know they were on the way to pick it up.

I couldn't imagine how they were going to get the turtle, which had to weigh about 100 pounds into the craft, but with great maneuvering by Boatswain's Mate Joseph D'Amico, Seaman Brittany Reagle and Seaman Travis Williams had pulled it aboard in less than 10 minutes after they arrived. Despite whatever injury or illness it suffered, the turtle put up quite a struggle.

The Coast Guard crew said they couldn't tell what was wrong with it, but were taking it to the stranding team at the Virginia Aquarium. I talked to Stranding Response Manager Maggie Lynott at the aquarium after they headed in and she said I can call to check on the turtle.

The turtle drifted 2.6 nautical miles from the time we spotted it at about 2 p.m. until the Coast Guard picked it up at 3:50 p.m.

Robert created the map of how far the turtle drifted by superimposing the boat's track on Google maps. To my dismay, while we were circling the turtle my Nikon developed some sort of problem and stopped focusing so I was left to photograph the rescue with a point-and-shoot. The photos don't do it justice, but I've posted them anyway.

Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team

10/05/2013 | Sarah Christy
Great to see your blog and so glad you were able to stay with the turtle and save it! What a great adventure. Hope you both are well and enjoying life!!
10/05/2013 | Sarah Christy
Great to see your blog and so glad you were able to stay with the turtle and save it! What a great adventure. Hope you both are well and enjoying life!!
When boats fly
10/04/2013, Deltaville, Va. to Cape Charles, Va.

One last visit to the Eastern Shore

We spent Tuesday making final preparations for moving Arwen over the next month to her winter home on the Carolina coast. On Wednesday morning we pulled up our anchor and crossed the bay to Cape Charles on the Virginia Eastern Shore.

Cape Charles
Cape Charles Town Harbor has new floating docks and rest rooms and it was an altogether enjoyable place to spend the night. Walking into town from the harbor requires crossing the railroad tracks. Since Cape Charles owes its existence to those tracks, that seems altogether fitting. A short history of Cape Charles came with the information we got when we paid for our slip.

It says that in the late 1870s, the railroad came only as far as Pocomoke, Md., on the Delmarva Peninsula and extending it farther south was only feasible if a barge and steamer link could be built near the southern end of the peninsula where freight and passengers could be transferred across the lower Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk. A congressman with vast railroad interests in the West proposed such a link to Pennsylvania Railroad officials. A vice president with the Pennsylvania Railroad was interested in the proposal and resigned his position in 1882 to work with the congressman on the project. He laid out the route and chose the spot for its southern terminus, its harbor and connecting channel. He dredged the channel at his own expense.

The congressman, William L. Scott of Pennsylvania, bought three plantations totaling 2,509 acres of which 136 acres went to creating the town of Cape Charles. Seven avenues extending east to west were named for Virginia statesmen. The streets extending north and south were named for fruits. Hence, Washington, Jefferson and Madison and Mason avenues intersect Peach, Plum and Strawberry streets.

Cape Charles was incorporated in 1886. The town grew and prospered during the golden age of railroads and through World War II, after which it experienced an economic downturn. In the past several years, there's been new growth, though it's not clear from the information we received what's driving it. There's a cement plant, a few retail stores in town, some commercial fishing and perhaps some farming.

There did seem to be a thriving real estate market. During our walk through town we spotted at least four real estate offices. The sign outside one said: "Cape Charles will be the next Sausalito, buy now while it's still affordable".

A soaring dinghy
After we arrived Wednesday afternoon, we saw what looked like a hang glider attached to a dinghy shoving off from a sandy beach across from the marina. Sure enough, the pilot pointed the dinghy toward open water and soon he was sailing around over our heads. It was a bit disconcerting to see a flying dinghy.

Home and back again
10/04/2013, Deltaville, Va.

The bells of St. James

After a busy 10 days in the North Carolina mountains, I returned to Robert, Madison and Arwen on Monday, Sept. 30. I spent much of my time in the mountains at the North American Guild of Change Ringers annual general meeting, which was held in Hendersonville at the St. James Tower this year. Thanks to Ringing Master Bob Aldinger and other members of the St. James Guild, it was a huge success. Change ringing has nothing to do with sailing - well, except that it followed British settlers who arrived in the new world and Australia and other commonwealth countries on sailing ships. But I've posted a gallery of photos from the event anyway. Robert spent his time doing boat maintenance and taking it easy with Madison.

Turning South
09/20/2013, Havre de Grace, Md., to Reedville, Va.

Lafayette's 'haven'

On Sunday, Sept. 8th, we took a slip at Tidewater Marina in Havre de Grace. Robert took the marina's courtesy car to buy groceries and we enjoyed the really nice showers. Several times during the night we were awakened by a mild sense of wanderlust as trains rolled across the trestle just up the river from the marina.

On Monday we took a walking tour of Havre de Grace, a city filled with an interesting mix of architectural styles. I posted some pictures in a photo gallery. According to local legend, the Marquis de Lafayette named Havre de Grace, which is located at the mouth of the Susquehanna River, inspired by his hometown Le Havre at the mouth of the Seine River.

We found ourselves on the Lafayette Trail, which was apparently completed just in time for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the 1813 sacking of Havre de Grace during the War of 1812. I looked for "Lafayette slept here" signs, but I learned from a story in the Baltimore Sun that there wasn't much of a town when he was there, just some outbuildings for a ferry landing. Havre de Grace was incorporated in 1785.

A tavern and a Naval dynasty

One of the most interesting buildings on the trail was the Rodgers House. It dates from 1788, according to a historic marker and survived three attempts by the British to burn it during the 1813 sacking. It's the town's oldest documented structure. According to the sign, John and Elizabeth Rodgers operated a tavern in the building and also owned a tavern in Perryville and a ferry business connecting the two locations. He had fought in the Revolutionary War and they were the parents of Commodore John Rodgers who is credited with firing the first shot of the War of 1812. His son, also John Rodgers, commanded ironclads during the Civil War. An account I read said no less than nine U.S. Navy admirals descended from John and Elizabeth Rodgers. They were a vigorous and enterprising lot.

The house still operates as a tavern and is located across the street from the coffee shop where we stopped for coffee and chai. We came back to the Concord Point Coffee Shop because when we walked past the first time, the proprietor (or whoever was in charge at the time) was on the street and, besides having a water bowl for passing dogs, made friends with Madison and offered her a treat. We figured such a nice guy deserved our business.

St. John's Episcopal Church was another interesting building. Built in 1809, it also survived the 1813 sacking. Though they didn't burn it, the British vandalized the church by breaking all the windows.

There were too many interesting buildings on the trail to mention them all. Some were in need of renovation, but thankfully the town seems to appreciate their worth and it can only be hoped that they will get the attention they need. Havre de Grace would be a much less interesting place without them.

Frank Lloyd Wright and ginkgos?

On Tuesday, Sept. 10, we motored back across the bay to the Eastern Shore and up the Sassafras River as far as the Georgetown Yacht Basin. We motored back down the river and anchored at the mouth of Turner's Creek where we understood from Active Captain that there was a small county park where we would be able to take Madison ashore.

When we took the dinghy in, we found a landing where commercial fishing boats dock with signs that said no docking without a permit. We could see the park pavilion from the water, so we knew we were at the right place. We moved on around the point of land and found some steep stairs where we could tie up the dinghy. The stairs would have been no problem for Madison even two years ago, but stairs are a challenge for her now, so Robert pretty much carried her up them. Later, I called the number given on a sign in the park and learned we could have tied up the dinghy on a bulkhead to the left of the dock.

The small park smelled heavenly thanks to a prolific clematis with small white flowers. Madison and I waited in the park's large picnic pavilion for Robert to bring the dinghy around so we could load her from the boat ramp rather than carry her back down the steep stairs. The pavilion is across the street from the Lathum House, which served as a home and store when there was a flourishing settlement on the site where the park is now located. Donaldson Yeates developed the settlement before the Revolutionary War, according to a historic marker, and at its peak there was a granary, a tannery, a shipyard and a dock for shipping and receiving produce. The square log construction from the earliest part of the Lathum House dates from the 1760s to 1770s.

Just up the hill, the 147-acre Turner's Creek County Park offers walking trails, the Kent Museum, an agricultural demonstration area and our favorite - the Famous and Historic Tree Grove where trees are named for famous and historic people and locations. Examples include the President Lincoln White Oak, the Henry Clay Magnolia, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Green Ashe, the Frank Lloyd Wright Ginkgo, the Patrick Henry Sycamore, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Tulip Poplar, the Mt. Vernon Kentucky Coffee Tree and the William Seward Black Walnut.

Is there some connection between the historic and famous characters and the trees that are named for them in this pleasant grove? I was curious enough to call the Kent County Parks and Recreation Department to find out. I was referred to a nice man who said the grove was planted a number of years ago as an Eagle Scout project and he didn't remember whether there was a connection or not. He said he'd try to find out and get back to me. I never heard from him, so I'm still curious.

Mount Harmon House

On Wednesday we motored across the Sassafras and anchored near Knight Island. We were interested in seeing the Harmon House Plantation which we understood had a dinghy dock where we could land. There won't be a dinghy dock for approach to the plantation from the water until next year, I was told when I called to check. Before I called we had managed to get Madison off at a bulkhead where there's an old building that's part of the plantation property.

But we hadn't done our research adequately and we later discovered we were not supposed to land there or be on the grounds except when the house is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday May through October. When the house is open, boaters can land on a small sandy beach just up the way from the old building until the new dinghy dock is in place. There's a $10 fee to tour the house and an $8 fee to walk the trails. A $60 annual membership provides unlimited access to the 200-acre grounds.

The plantation's Web site says Mount Harmon Plantation originated as a land grant to Godfrey Harmon by Caecilius Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, in 1651. During the 17th and 18th centuries, it was a tobacco plantation. It was bought and preserved in 1963 by Mrs. Harry Clark Boden IV whose ancestors had lived there from 1760 to 1810. In 1997, Friends of Mount Harmon, Inc. became the owners with the mission of preserving and interpreting the plantation for the education and enjoyment of the public, the Web site says.

We didn't have time to stay another day in the Sassafras, so we decided to save Mount Harmon for the next time we come this way. We pulled up our anchor and moved to Worton Creek where we spent the night on a mooring at Green Cove Landing.

A day among the racers

On Thursday, Sept. 11, we motored to Back Creek in Annapolis. We picked up our mooring as a front moved in bringing high winds and dark clouds. Just after Robert picked up the mooring pendant I realized that we were about to collide with the French boat anchored next to us. I started yelling because I thought we'd come off the pendant and were drifting into the other boat, but the French captain had things well in hand. He'd already realized he was sailing over his anchor and into us and had his motor going. Shortly after, someone at Jabin's docks came out to the end of a pier and warned him that the mud in Back Creek wouldn't hold in a blow and that he was likely to end up blown onto a very expensive boat on their dock. The French couple pulled up their anchor and moved away. Robert watched with envy as the woman on the boat used an electric windlass to pull up their anchor. "That would be nice," he said, with a sigh.

We had planned to move south to San Domingo Creek on Friday, but unfavorable winds kept us in Annapolis for another day. We had a pleasant dinghy ride around Back Creek on Friday night and vicariously enjoyed what we later assumed were pre-regatta parties. There were festivities under two big tents and in the pavilion at Port Annapolis Marina. The twinkling lights reflecting in the water at twilight, the dramatic sky and the beautiful sailboats that fill the creek made for a magical atmosphere. As an added bonus, from our cockpit we could hear the band that played for the Port Annapolis shindig.

We left for San Domingo Creek on Saturday morning and found ourselves in the middle of a sailboat race. I haven't yet been able to figure out which race or if we were in the middle of more than one, but it was a gorgeous sunny day with the wind out of the north northwest. The colorful spinnakers dancing across the diamond studded water made a feast for the eyes.

We fetched up in San Domingo Creek Saturday afternoon and wandered over to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum where we bought ice. Afterwards we had dinner in the garden at Gina's. All the osprey have left San Domingo Creek heading south for the winter and the creek felt empty without the raucous calls of the youngsters.

The impermanence of it all

Sunday, Sept. 15, we moved across the bay to Solomon's Island and took a mooring at Zahnisers Yachting Center. We had planned to spend one night, but ended up staying three because a front moved through bringing high winds on the bay. We used the time to do laundry and other chores, go for walks and visit the Calvert Maritime Museum where there's a great paleontology exhibit.

Did you know that there were mass extinctions 444 million years ago at the end of the Ordovician Period (85 percent), 360 million years ago at the end of the Devonian period (70 percent), 251 million years ago at the end of the Permian period (90 percent), 200 million years ago at the end of the Triassic period (60 percent!) and 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period (70 percent)? The museum has an interactive display that lets you move along a timeline and see how earth's land masses have moved to arrive at their present configuration. They're still moving, of course. It's an exhibit that enlarges one's perspective about what a dynamic place Earth is.

From an impermanent earth to the vastness of space

We left Solomon's Wednesday morning, as did a group of folks from the Northern Neck Sailing Association with whom we'd become acquainted because they were also on moorings at Zahnisers and pinned down by the weather. The captain of one of the boats radioed to let us know to look east about 10:50 a.m. when a launch was scheduled from NASA's flight facility on Wallops Island on the Atlantic shore. We were able to see the trail of smoke, which was pretty cool. According to a NASA Web site, the launch was of Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus spacecraft, which is now traveling 17,500 mph in Earth's orbit to rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday, Sept. 22, for a demonstration resupply mission. The spacecraft will deliver 1,300 pounds of cargo, including food and clothing, to the space station's Expedition 37 crew, the Web site said.

We had nice sailing with winds from the east for the first part of the trip, but later in the afternoon they switched into the south and we ended up motoring.

We arrived at the anchorage in front of the Crazy Crab about 4 p.m. to find that the restaurant closed on Wednesday. We also arrived too late to get crab cakes at Cockrell Creek Deli, but we had a nice dinghy ride over to the Reedville Fisherman's Museum and ate leftovers when we returned to Arwen. I had texted our friends Sara and Thomas who own a cottage near the mouth of the Potomac to see if they were around and we could get together for dinner. They called to say they were in Georgia, but we had a nice visit on the phone.

Tomorrow it's back to Deltaville for a 10-day break during which I'll go home for the North American Guild of Change Ringers Annual General Meeting, held in Hendersonville this year. Robert will stay in Deltaville to do a couple of boat projects before we head further south at the beginning of October.

Baltimore Sun article about the Lafayette Trail
St. John's Episcopal Church
The Ghosts of Havre de Grace
Mount Harmon House
Northern Neck Sailing Association
NASA launch from Wallops Island

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