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Goin' South
Cruising the eastern seaboard from Maine to the Bahamas.
Still in Virginia

We left the bright lights of Norfolk early to make a tight schedule of several opening bridges and a lock in the ICW, all within the space of 20 miles. Miss one bridge and wait an hour before the next opening! Although the ICW, or the Ditch, actually starts much further north, mariners count its start in Norfolk, as Mile Marker 0, and we have switched our instruments over and are now tracking our progress in statute miles instead of nautical miles. It will be about 1,000 statute miles to Florida and although we think of it as a straight north-south line, the ICW actually winds and curves up and down so much that I am already finding it confusing to figure out where north and south are. In fact, the guidebooks take this into account and just use left/right directions, so at least I am not alone in this.

Well, our plans to do 56 miles today stopped right in the lock, at Mile Marker 12. We safely tied off bow and stern and proceeded to await the lock's reopening. As a courtesy, we had turned off our engine to keep the fumes down. Once the lock tender gave the go ahead, we tried to start the engine, and no dice. Bob waved some magic in the engine room and was able to jump-start the failing solenoid so that we could move out of the lock the following hour. But that put us behind schedule enough that we couldn't make another port in time, so we pulled into the Atlantic Yacht Basin for new parts and another tie-up for the night. On the plus side, we got some exercise walking to the Farm Fresh Market, one of Virginia's hidden treasures.

For you nonboaters, picture this scene. Right here, we are tied up right in the ICW, which is about 300 ft wide here. Behind us, about 200 ft, is the Great Bridge bridge, busy with traffic to and fro. Every hour this bridge opens and up to 10 boats stream through at slow speed. One of the lazy things everyone does is sit and watch the boats going by. Suddenly I spy John and Barbara on Soleig IV, friends we met in Maine and again in the Solomons, going past. A quick wave and maybe we'll catch up to them at some point. Everyone in the ditch is friendly. And across from us, some locals have been sitting in their chairs, fishing, maybe discussing the problems of the world or maybe just hoping they can bring dinner home.
We are now out of synch with friends Alan and Gerri on Civil Twilight, but imagine we'll catch up at some point.

Exploring Norfolk
10/25/2010, Norfolk, Virginia

Puffin is now in Norfolk and to my surprise, there is insufficient time to do all the things we'd like, despite three days here already and counting. Puffin is docked at Waterside Marina, a city owned facility in downtown Norfolk that's an integral part of a massively renovated city downtown and waterfront area.

Unusually wide and handsomely landscaped walkways lead us like a brick carpet to the three-story Nauticus, a navel museum and other things nautical that includes an entire, floating battleship. The Wisconsin, armed with some of the largest guns ever made at sixteen inches, was built during World War II and only recently retired. It was an incredibly massive piece of engineering and metalwork.

The earlier mentioned herringbone brick walkways took us on to a large section of artfully designed townhouses. Perhaps unique in setting this area apart visually from other renovated cityscapes elsewhere were the foundation plantings in front of all the houses, which were then fronted by the brick sidewalks and sizeable trees bordering the streets and providing shade and a visually soft texture to the city's masonry.

These walkways continued on to an opulent three story mall and a food store that was a delightful mix between a large chain type and gourmet food store with lots of eye appeal.

Nancy and I also visited the old town section of Portsmouth across the Elizabeth River: a historic group of houses many of which date back to the America's revolution.

Tomorrow Puffin and Civil Twilight move on to North Carolina and Puffin's first lock adventure.

Mobjack to Norfolk

A peek out of the port this morning startled us with a reminder of Maine - fog! It wasn't pervasive and impenetrable as it so often is up north, but it was fog on the Chesapeake nonetheless; presumably because of an elevated dew point and the fact that fall weather was finally announcing itself with temperatures in the very low 50's while the water was still a reasonably balmy 64 degrees.

Shortly after departing our anchorage, Puffin burst out of the fogbank. I turned and saw the moon over the fog and had to snap it. (I acquired a digital camera this summer that seemingly takes pictures in the dark, has a stabilized 20x zoom that captures diving pelicans two hundred yards away from a moving boat and compels me to point it at anything of even the least moment) Even so, this picture did not quite capture the magic of the moment.

Today's trip to Norfolk, Virginia was itself quiet, short and uneventful as a cruise. Norfolk Harbor is, however, anything but. Being warm, sunny and a Saturday to boot, several dozen sailboats were out in full sail; some racing, some cruising, before Puffin even entered the harbor.

Norfolk is a massive harbor; home to the largest naval base in the world and a major commercial shipping port as well. A future blog will endeavor to describe Norfolk's impact on us in more trenchant detail as Puffin and Civil Twilight will stay here for a couple of days to visit friends (Civil Twilight) and see new sights (Puffin).

On to Mobjack Bay

The full moon was in its fulsome glory this morning as we awoke to start Puffin on her way south to the Severn River (different than the river of the same name in Annapolis) in Mobjack Bay; another of the magnificent rivers that feed the Chesapeake estuary and make for great and often secluded anchorages on this great Bay.

As we motored out of Reedville, lights from the fishing fleet signified how early their day starts as well. Beyond the fleet the sun was just preparing to cascade the Bay with its reddish yellow curtain of color. Nancy and I live in the wooded hills of Vermont and don't often get a first look at a sun as it rises or sets right at the earth's horizon.

The wind promised to be brisk at twenty plus knots, but out of the northwest which will provide Puffin a rollicking but comfortable ride to her first stop in Virginia. Many more pelicans made their appearance today including a squadron of five, who showed up a two different times. As we entered Mobjack Bay, one pelican was fishing on a parallel course with Puffin, but perhaps two hundred yards away. While it does not speak well of his fishing prowess, I was amazed at the repeated dives he took without respite over perhaps a twenty minute period before I finally lost track of him. It is his picture I used for yesterday's post banner.

The Severn in Mobjack is a wide, shallow, meandering waterway spotted with the occasional splendid home built on a very low-lying shoreline. We arrived in mid-afternoon followed shortly thereafter by Alan and Gerri aboard Civil Twilght. They will continue to accompany us (hopefully), much of the way south from here and share with us some of the intricacies of the intra-coastal waterway that they've learned on two previous trips to the Bahamas.

Destination: Reedville
10/21/2010, Reedville, Virginia

Puffin slipped the lines that have kept her at Solomons since October 7th and headed out into a boisterous Chesapeake Bay to continue the trip south.  Winds of 15 to 20 knots out of the southwest built up a four foot chop that Puffin manages better than Nancy and I.  Reedville, Virginia was the destination: it's an old fish processing center that is still home to a sizable menhaden fleet and a processing plant.  We anchored well up Cockrell Creek, just off the mouth of the Wicomico River.

The waterway guide warns of an offending odor from the processing plant, but we took a chance and are glad we did.  Upcreek (and upwind), of the plant, numerous tendrils of a beautiful waterway reach out everywhere, making a very scenic town seem like everyone lives on or near the water.  Main Street runs lengthwise down a small peninsula, a mix of historic and newer homes.  Halfway up the street there is and old and modest monument to Elijah Reed to remind us of the town's founding in the mid-nineteenth century.

Today's highlight was clearly the sighting of pelicans several times during the day.  The Chesapeake pelican is the Brown Pelican, which uniquely among pelican species, plunge-dives for fish, it's main diet.  This amazing bird cruises along perhaps 20-30 feet above the water and very abruptly drops straight down, head-first into the water to seize a fish (see banner photo). That dive ends with a big splash.  Wikipedia says that after catching a fish, they must drain their pouch before swallowing the fish.  It is an absolutely spectacular sight.    

Civil Twilight is Here
10/19/2010, Solomons, Maryland

Civil Twilight, a beautiful 47 foot sailboat, arrived yesterday afternoon here at Solomons, with our friends Gerri and Alan aboard. They're always fun to be with and surprises are not uncommon with them - such as the tray full of delicious crab cakes Gerri whipped up before coming aboard with Alan yesterday to help celebrate my birthday. The crab cakes were uncommonly "noteworthy" as the tray was covered with post-it notes each noting with sly sympathy that there may still be hope for someone of my advancing age. Easy banter, I say, from a couple still enjoying their frolicsome fifties.

Alan is not without talents either. For one, he is without equal in fixing things and not a few of us have profited from his particular penchant for solving a pernicious problem. Like catnip to a cat, popcorn to pigeons, Alan cannot resist a problem. For Alan, a world without problems and projects is not a world worth contemplating. And I know this.

So yesterday I mentioned a problem Puffin had with her auto-pilot. I don't ask for help outright - remnants of an imprudent pride forbid that. I simply mention a vexing issue, Alan asks a few questions, his eyes glaze in thought and - shazam! My problem is now our problem - help is on the way. Over the years of our friendship this is now a standard ritual.

So it was this morning, pre-dawn, I'm munching my Wheaties, I get an email from Alan, anchored nearby, asking for some details......He is on the case and wants to solve it by sun-up. (I have already devoted several hours to this issue, without success!)....I mail back the requested info, thinking "nah, not happening that easily".
Still doing my Wheaties, he mails back a procedure to try. I try it and it works....problem solved.....and sun-up still to come.

So Puffin's always the better for seeing Civil Twilight arrive.

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