This was the best simulator of the bunch, but still not very realistic.
Fri 17 Aug 2012
Docked at the Public Piers, Hampton, VA
[photo: Diane taking instruction in guiding aircraft on an aircraft carrier]
We both slept very well last night and the early morning dawned cooler and comfortable (but it is forecast to go over 90F today). It was time to see if I could use my hair clippers in the shoreside bathroom. It sounds like a petty thing, but I have not been able to properly buzz my head or trim my beard since the humid weather arrived. The humidity makes it impossible for my clippers to cut well and they clog up too often. This morning, I could walk to the showers without getting sweaty, and since they were air conditioned and no one else had steamed them up, it was a complete success. You get to appreciate small things when you cruise.
Diane defrosted the freezer and cleaned the refrigerator while I was gone. Even though we have had hot days, there have been so many clouds that the solar panels are having trouble keeping up with the high loads of the refrigerator and the fans. It seems my laptop has developed a charging problem, whereby it works fine when powered, but won't charge the battery. I swapped batteries with Diane's laptop and the problem is on my machine. Why mention this? I need to keep the inverter powered on 24/7 if I don't want to run down the battery that I cannot easily recharge, and the inverter draws power just being on. We normally shut it off after our device charging needs are satisfied and hardly ever kept it on overnight. That change is probably costing us an additional 20 Amp-hours of energy usage per day.
While in the shower I was thinking that we hadn't received any automatic email notifications of voice mail messages from the home phone in a while. Our PhonePower service packages up the message in an audio file in the email, so you never have to call your own number or log into the website to get your messages. Well, I made a test call to home and discovered that our mailbox is full and no messages can be left. I quickly logged into the website and saw that every message we had received was still stored and proceeded to delete them all. I then did another test call to home and within moments got an email with my test message. Our last message was from over a month ago. Oh, well.
When 1000 came, we dressed to visit the Virginia Air and Space Center. We elected to self-tour and spent 2 hours. It is very different from many of the other museums that treat this same subject. There are many interactive displays that are appropriate for kids and adults alike, but almost a quarter of them were not working properly. They had many models (mostly to scale) of ships and aircraft, which were interesting to see all in one place.
Duane could not resist several of the flight simulators (the airliner was the most realistic), but despite being a licensed private pilot, he barely survived all the takeoffs and landings (one was a crash). My excuse is that the simulator controls behaved nothing like real aircraft controls and had so much lag time that it was ridiculous. The best thing was that Diane got several good laughs out of it. My opinion is that it is worth $11 per adult if you like to look at full size aircraft and enjoy reliving our past in space exploration and catch a glimpse into the future.
Back at Diva Di, we had a nice lunch and relaxed for a while. At 1500, we left to walk downtown again to the Hampton History Museum. At $5 per adult, it is very well done. One thing we both liked was that the path through the museum directed you along the chronological development of the area and its peoples. All the exhibits were attractive and interesting, in our opinion, and we were glad we went.
I had a belly laugh when we were reading about the native Indian culture and the males were described as very fit, like long-distance runners. Some of the "jobs" they would have, besides hunting, were to "jog to meet the enemy" and "run home from the enemy." Diane was first to remark that it implied they weren't very good warriors.
On the way back, we couldn't help but notice how few shops and restaurants there were and that a high percentage of those were closed. We did manage to find "The Taphouse" in order to have our traditional beer. They have about 30 beers and ales on tap amidst an eclectic décor. While there, I saw lamb stew as the soup of the day and just had to order a small portion to try it. It was really tasty.
We came back to our boat and saw that many other boats were docked. We had learned that many volunteer captains are taking out about 300 Boy Scouts over the weekend for fishing. Dinner was the leftover pasta with meat sauce, and the last of the fresh Brussel sprouts. We hope for a good passage tomorrow since there are scattered thunderstorms expected to roll through the entire region.
[Note: we are traveling a different route - through the swamp - and have no idea how much of an internet signal we may get, so don't be concerned if there is no posting until Sun or Mon.]
Thu 16 Aug 2012
Docked at the Public Piers, Hampton, VA
[photo: where the Smith Islander watermen work]
This was a morning for cleaning the boat (Diane below, and Duane the decks and cockpit); we had clear, comfortably cool conditions and access to water at the marina. Even though the hull has many tannin stains again from the water, the decks look good, and that is a nice feeling.
We got underway at 1000 after a pre-underway shower (a rarity) and enjoyed mostly clear skies and a nice helpful breeze most of the way. The warm rays of the sun were abated by the breeze until it died about an hour shy of our destination; then it got hot. We finally got to the entrance of the river up to Hampton after fighting a strong current for the last hour and then got fuel and a pump-out.
We traveled up river a bit more and found the Hampton Public Piers. It is run by the city and seems like a good operation, although the finger piers are very short and it is difficult to access the outboard pilings. We got tied up to the floating dock and got the air conditioning plugged in. After relaxing a bit, we had an early dinner of the meat sauce over pasta I prepared yesterday, plus a salad by Diane. Then we took a short nap and followed that by showers.
When it was a little cooler around 1830, we got into nice clothes and walked around the downtown area. We get the feeling you don't really want to walk too much outside that area, and even then you probably want to be back by dark. There were quite a few homeless people in the parks we passed, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they would be aggressive.
We will explore more tomorrow, including the Virginia Air and Space Center, which Duane is really looking forward to seeing. Back on Diva Di, Diane took Clyde for a stroll on the dock and then we all relaxed in the cockpit until it got dark.
Duane went below to plan our next two stops; we are back in bridge and lock territory where you need to time your travel to avoid annoying delays. The current plays a big part in how much distance we can travel in a certain time, but that looks to be in our favor for a Sat departure to the Great Dismal Swamp. The current weather forecast has the heat moderating by Sat, so that will help, if true.
Wed 15 Aug 2012
Docked at Cape Charles Harbor marina, Cape Charles, VA
[one of the many watermen plying his trade from Smith Island]
We both slept well considering we had partied a bit too much the night before. Up to the shower at 0700, we saw Steve and Pauli leaving for their boat ride to the mainland. They are nice people and we will always remember Smith Island fondly.
Getting off the dock with the strong current pushing us toward Paul and Cyn's boat was tricky and one of those times when you have to commit. After pulling our boat as tight to the starboard side as possible, I got her in reverse, added judicious throttle and we simultaneously cast off the lines. The current swept us sideways so fast that we only missed their boat by a foot, but Diane was ready to fend off, if needed.
Recovering from that maneuver and getting out of the narrow channel proved to be easy by comparison and we were soon on course to the S for Cape Charles. The wind was such that we could just barely use it by sheeting our headsail as tight as possible. About 5 hours into the passage, we had to furl the sail and just motor, but at least by then the current had switched and was in our favor. We averaged just about 6.5 statute miles per hour for 9 hours and made it in before the building thunderstorms to the W threatened.
Cape Charles Harbor marina is pretty nice. The docks and the bathhouse and showers are brand new and done well. It was one of the best marina showers of our trip so far. The cost is only $1.50 per foot plus $5 for electric. We would really recommend this place for those reasons alone.
After getting settled in, we both showered and dressed for a brief shoreside excursion. Even though Duane had made a meat sauce and cooked penne pasta for tonight's dinner while underway, we wanted to get off the boat, so we strolled to Kelly's Irish Pub. We had our traditional beer and decided that the pasta would keep, so we ordered 6 sweet bourbon-glazed wings and a plate of calamari. We loved the wings and only ate one-third of the calamari, bringing the rest back to the boat.
The storm threat was over, so we walked down the main street for several blocks (most store were closed at 1930) and then headed back to Diva Di. Clyde walked the docks with Diane for a while and we relaxed in the cockpit before heading below. It was a surprisingly comfortable day; the entire time we were underway in the bay, it was nice, and only for a short while after we docked was it stifling hot. By 1900, it was almost pleasant.
We have decided to leave later than normal tomorrow so that we can spend some time cleaning up the boat. The decks and cockpit really need scrubbing. Our destination is up in the air for now.
Tue 14 Aug 2012
Docked at Smith Island marina, Smith Island, MD
[Note: I don't know how I was able to post Monday's blog because within a minute of getting an Internet connection, it faded away and I never got another one until we got to our next destination.]
Once we killed those mosquitos that got below, we enjoyed a comfortable evening below (all together now) - in the air conditioning. We spoke to our slip neighbors who abandoned their boat in the middle of the night to sleep in the tiny, but charming, "yacht club" building at the end of the dock with its small window air conditioner.
After our breakfast, we got the bicycles out for the first time in many weeks. Their dearth of use was due to the much hotter and humid weather, and more travel time and less time in port. Smith Island is very flat, and barely above sea level. There were many puddles along the sides of the roads and this was just from a high tide flooding over the road. A local worker said they get flooded frequently to a foot or more, which wreaks havoc with the homes and low-lying equipment.
Our ride was interesting and challenging only in the sense that we had to keep removing one hand from the narrow handle bar to swat biting flies. The entire island is a series of marshes and there are flies in abundance. We passed the town of Ewell's dump, incinerator, and waste treatment plant. We passed dozens of homes that were all very modest but one and ranged from absolutely decrepit to well-kept. None but one was anywhere near new and most were in desperate need of scraping and painting. There were many structures (shacks, really) that housed gear for crabbing and many with bay water flowing through PVC plumbing that were obviously for storing crabs alive until they were ready for selling.
From our brief observations, it seems that the inhabitants are friendly, hard-working, stout-hearted people. That so many properties are in disrepair and littered with broken down boats, boat parts, junk cars, and other things may just be reflective of how hard it is for them to scrape out a living as watermen today.
After our ride of several miles, Duane was soaked with perspiration and tired of swatting flies, so we stowed the bikes back aboard and relaxed in the cool, dry, bug-free cabin of Diva Di. A small thunderstorm rolled over us briefly, but later we heard deep rumbling and discovered a large powerboat was coming in beside us. Once they were docked, we introduced ourselves and helped acquaint them with the charms and limitations of the place.
They were a bit shocked to learn, for example, that the marina accepts only cash or check, and that there are no ATMs on the island. They were equally shocked that the town's two restaurants close at 1600, since that is when the cruise boat leaves and takes away pretty much anyone that dines there. We finally decided to dine at 1500 to avoid any surprises.
When 1430 came, we were all assembled at the foot of the dock conversing with Pauli. When 1500 approached, we readied our pre-dinner cocktails and dinner wine (it was BYOB) and then went into the Bayside Inn Restaurant. It was exactly what you might expect from a down-to-earth establishment, yet our food was very good and quite affordable.
After dinner we sat on the restaurant porch in the nice breeze and finished our wine. After much great conversation, we decided to retire to their boat, Original Cin (named after Cynthia), and enjoyed quite a few cocktails and innumerous stories of life on the water. It is a truism that only near calamities make for interesting, but not tragic, stories.
An interesting note is that Paul and Cynthia were thrilled that we (as sailors) were so friendly and eager to make their acquaintance; their previous experience was that sailors did not associate with power boaters. It was apparent that regardless of the mode of propulsion, we all face the same challenges and enjoy the same rewards.
Following a few too many drinks and stories, we made our way back to Diva Di, where Clyde was ready to come out for the night. We allowed him up on deck, but quickly closed all the hatch boards to keep the bugs out. Within 20 minutes, he was ready to come inside and we buttoned up for the night.
Mon 13 Aug 2012
Docked at Smith Island marina, Smith Island, MD
Thanks to the air conditioning, we slept well and awoke before 0630 to get ready for our big date ashore at the Comfort Inn breakfast buffet. Duane made the mistake of thinking the small, thin, round, pale discs next to the sausage patties were small pancakes, so they got pancake syrup on them. It turns out they were eggs and usually used to make a sandwich with the sausage and a muffin. Oh, well; it was still pretty good.
After breakfast, we were able to get ready to leave rather quickly and then the challenge began. Being in the second slip from the seawall, there was not enough room to get our stern toward the wall so we could exit the fairway bow first. We set up a spring line on the outboard piling to the midship cleat and Diane tended it as we backed. At the appropriate time, she held the line fast and we pivoted stern first into the fairway. She cast off the line and we were on our way. It helped that the wind was fairly light.
We got to put out the headsail almost right away, but it only served well until we had to turn SE on our course, then it was of marginal help for just another hour or so. One exciting thing occurred as we left the Patuxent River; an F-22 Raptor was coming in with gear and flaps down for a landing at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. We had never seen one except in photos and videos before.
It sure was a great day to be a powerboat; the wind was so light that the water was almost like glass for half our trip. Getting into the main channel at Smith Island and transiting it and the secondary channel proved less of a challenge than we expected, but finding the right slip was the problem. Our first approach was into what turned out to be a restaurant slip where a small cruise boat was coming in momentarily. We were scooted out of there pretty quickly and when we tied up where the woman told us to go, it was still not one of the marina's slips.
We were trapped temporarily, until another boat moved and then we were able to make our third and final docking maneuver. Diane says that none of these "were pretty" and she is right, but considering the conditions, I think we did just fine. First, we had to get unstuck off the bottom to get out of the second spot, and then maneuver around part of the cruise boat that was partially blocking the slip. Coming into the last slip, there was strong side current and there was nothing to be done about the lack of water depth; we were aground again about 5 feet from the pier.
Fortunately, Diane was still on the pier, so she could catch the lines I threw her. Once she tied them off, it was all Duane could do to pull the boat through the mud close enough to the pier to get on and off the boat. At high tide after supper, they could finally pull it in to a normal distance. We will need to be careful with the tide when we want to leave.
After getting the boat just forward enough in the slip so that the shore power cable reached, we plugged in the air conditioning and then tried to get cool. With the sun beating on the deck and the water temperature at 83F, the cabin only cooled from 87F to 84F in 3 hours (it got to 77F after the sun set). On the plus side, there was seemingly little humidity in the boat.
While the boat was cooling, we got some cold beverages ready and lowered the dinghy to explore a bit. It was comfortable with the breeze generated from moving through the water at 10 knots, but it was a little nerve wracking in that the water in the island's many waterways is murky and shallow. You don't know you are getting ready to run aground until you do. Fortunately, we could raise the propeller and keep going back to deeper water. You know it is shallow when a dinghy needs to stay in the main channel to avoid running aground.
When we came back, a nice-looking pleasure tug boat was aside of us, so we introduced ourselves and got a nice tour. They were invited for cocktails later, and we relaxed and then took showers in the very clean and spacious bathroom/shower at this tiny little marina. It is run by a husband/wife team (Steve and Pauli) and they are very nice and accommodating. The price is only $1 per foot of boat length plus $5 for electric usage. We are pretty sure it is the only game in town for transient dockage.
Our slip neighbors in the tug informed us they were taking a long walk and would be back later. We prepared dinner around 1830 and then while Diane was cleaning up, Duane was banished to the cockpit. Our neighbors saw me arise from the boat and they came over. Before long, the local pastor strolled by and we invited him to have a glass of wine with us. What followed was a series of very interesting and varied conversations. We cannot stress enough that the most enjoyable part of cruising is the people you meet along the way.
The sunset was gorgeous, but within 20 minutes the noseeums (tiny biting gnats) and the mosquitos became ferocious. Duane is bothered by biting insects more than most people and we were driven to say good bye and head inside pronto after exchanging contact info. Our slip neighbors are moving on tomorrow, but we are staying to enjoy and explore this little piece of yesteryear.