April 26, 2012
Installment one- the early days and the Revolution
Two days ago we decided to take a road trip and do a couple of nights on terra firma. The idea was to stop at some history sites and basically get out of the boat for a night or two. This started what I now must admit was the first time in my life I achieved museum overdose. Day one was a short trip to the very beginnings of European history on the Continent. Armed with my handy dandy Senior Pass from the National Parks Service we got underway around 0900. The first stop was Jamestown which I mentioned before occurred 13 years before Plymouth.
Jamestown- established 1607 was actually a commercial enterprise under the charter granted by James I to whip over to the new land and set up a colony. They arrived (all 104 of the survivors of the little cruise) on May 13 and promptly started to die off. Seems someone forgot to mention that drinking brackish water ,feeding the local bugs intravenously, and not subscribing to Rosetta Stone software to learn the local language was not a good thing. Now here is where the real Capt. John Smith and the local cutie Pocahontas whipped up some legends. Back to the survival story- folks kept booking passage for the new world and yet by the summer only 60 of the 300 were still alive. Settlements of a couple dozen folks were set up around the original fort and settlement on James Island. Ok, so the locals (that would be the first Americans) tried to get along and deal with the new folks but things went downhill and when the discourse turned to snuffing out 347 settlers in 1622 the Crown decides to revoke the charter. After all a full one third of the settlers either starved or were used as target practice for arrows, spears and axes. In short, from 1607 on the settlement was a study in survival. As the tee shirt says, "Jamestown, 1607, When surviving wasn't a game". Like all such early colonies, this is a story of great spirit and dedication. The British flag flies over old fort grounds and Queen Elizabeth actually visited the place. There is an active archaeological effort in place to discover more graves and features of the place.
There is a very nice history trail called the Colonial Parkway which runs from Jamestown, through Williamsburg to Yorktown. Along the way, there are markers to show where folks did stuff. The next stop was Williamsburg. One could spend a few days there just walking around the "living history" part. There is a section that is about a mile by one half of original buildings where folks dress in period clothes, speak the language of the day and demonstrate life as it was. They won't acknowledge any events beyond the era. One will not see watches or electronics. We drove around the old town and then got back on the Colonial Trail toward Yorktown. It is a short distance but if one stops to read all the markers, it takes an hour or so to get to Yorktown along the York River. Yorktown was under siege two times in its history: once by General Washington and a French General Comte Jena Baptist de Rochambeau against Lord Cornwallis in 1781 and once by Union General McClellan against Confederate Major General Magruder in 1862. Without the French blockade of the entrance to the Chesapeake, the final victory would not have happened. So there, we do own something to the French after all.
Needless to say, a former Infantry officer can appreciate the fortifications, the distances between muskets and the valor that must have been displayed by both sides. Methinks that Lord Cornwallis diminished his honor a bit by ordering a subordinate to surrender his sword. This was the last battle of the Revolutionary War and yet General Washington maintained a standing army until the formal end at the Treaty of Paris some two years later 1783. The end of hostilities was not permanent since three decades later the British came at us again. Standing on that field was definitely worth the effort to get there.
Next installment is about the Civil War. Day one saw us visiting three museums. I should say that Bear and Scurv enjoyed the wonderful weather whilst I stumbled around.
COLONIAL TRIANGLE TEASER
April 25, 2012
This will be a short post because we have photos which we cannot post "on the road". We decided to take a night or two ashore (read find a real bath tub for Bear). The target was Colonial history sites. That's easy since not more than an hour or so from Norfolk are three communities that mark the earliest and very significant places in the early American experiment. First, literally, was the Jamestown Island settlement which was in place a full 13 years before Plymouth. The next was Williamsburg. The most interesting to me was Yorktown. The forces of the Continental Army and the French lay siege to Lord Cornwallis' troops entrenched at Yorktown and with the taking of Redoubts 9 and 10 by hand to hand combat (the Continentals attacked fixed bayonets on unloaded muskets) secured the surrender of said Englishman and his band of merry men and thus the victory for America. Much more on this later.
They we decided to jump forward seven decades and head to Richmond, Virginia and take a peek into the 19th century battles that happened there. Needless to say, Bear is getting really good at finding a bench where she and Scurv conduct people watching. She does not mind, really.
04/22/2012, Portsmouth, Virginia
April 21, 2012
There are many museums in the Norfolk/Portsmouth, VA area. Most are maritime or naval in nature but we were directed to one particular museum as a starting place. It is the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, VA. Boys and Girls, this is a very impressive presentation of the story of this area and of the sea in general. We have visited more than a few such museums and this one tops the list so far. There are actual artifacts of the very earliest days of the sea from dugouts to the age of discovery; from the early and last days of sail to the modern ships. This is a must for any sailor that might find some time in the area. It also happens to be the place that is preserving the USS Monitor, or what's left of her. Her turret (cheese box), the cannons and many parts of her are in the de-salting tanks to preserve. Not only that but the local Lockheed ship yard reconstructed her hull, deck and turret for display at the museum. One can walk her deck and that is a bit touching. The museum also does an excellent presentation of the battle of the CSS Virginia (aka Merrimack) and the USS Monitor.
The soaking tanks contain the guns, the engine and the turret of the USS Monitor which take about 20 years to preserve. Dinner ware, clocks, crew gear are on display. Letters to loved ones are on display. The two ships met at a place now marked by a lighthouse visible from shore to do battle. It was a dog fight and both sides claimed victory. The Virginia did more damage to the Union fleet by sinking wood ships before the Monitor arrived. They the stood within pistol shot and fired on each other all the time maneuvering in a narrow channel until it was done by retirement of both ships. Shortly thereafter, the Virginia was destroyed by the Confederates nearby to keep her from Union capture. The Monitor was lost in a hurricane off Cape Hatteras not long afterward. She sunk in 260 feet and 16 crew went down with her.
We have yet decided whether or not to let Scurv go with us to these museums. As long as the weather is cool and he is somewhat trained to sit on the back seatback guarding the car he might get to go.
Yesterday was a wonderful spring day with 86 degrees and a clear sky. We prepared for a change and moved the dink into the slip and side tied it so that high winds would not beat it or the boat into oblivion. It was hard to believe that a radical weather change was in works. About midnight the whole weather change occurred. As of 1700 today it is 57 degrees, winds NW at 22 mph and raining cats and dogs. It was a good day to visit the Nauticus museum in Norfolk whose main attraction is the USS Wisconsin BB-64. Unlike most WWII ships I have been aboard, this one was active through the Gulf War and launched Tomahawk cruise missiles. That means that she is in good shape. They retained a few Tomahawks and brought them home even though all the other ships launched all they had. Speculation states that perhaps the ones that came home were not exactly conventional explosives. The Navy won't confirm or deny. Whilst I was doing the history thing, Scurv guarded Bear and the boat. He did a fine job and all aboard did some serious napping. That is a fine was to deal with the weather gods.
Picture is from the bridge of the USS Wisconsin. No wonder the city let them have the best slip
April 18, 2012
We decided to do a bit of tourism yesterday and that was in the form of a Navy Base Cruise. Good thing we did because today at the slip, the winds are 25 g 30kts and we have waves climbing aboard our swim platform. I had the dinghy tied astern but it stood a good chance to self destruct and take some gel coat with it. We are heeled about 4 degrees in the slip and rocking and rolling. If the wind clocked ten degrees either way, we would be somewhat sheltered. It is debatable whether or not it is better to be at anchor in some cove where the bow is to wind and the boat is pitching as opposed to pitching, and rolling at the slip. Nawh, it is better to be tied in 30 kts of wind if one can.
Back to the cruise, we took the one designed to sail past the Naval docks with a narrator telling ship names by numbers. We first passed the dry docks where a couple of Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyers (DDGs) were receiving bottom paint and repairs. One was the USS Bainbridge which was used to take out the Somali pirates. Gee, I thought the Nave must have some whippy dippy bottom paint that never needed replacing. Then we saw the active fleet in port. Am guessing here that there must have been fifty or so ships and subs in port. Among them were several DDGs such as the USS Cole (hit by a suicide boat in Yemen) which is now fully functional. The USS San Antonio, a specialized ship to take the Marines boating. The USS George H.W. Bush is in port. She is the last of the Stennis class supercarriers and just recently commissioned. They came in at around $5Billion each but supposedly the Bush was over $6.5 Billion. National treasure much!!! There were a few Los Angeles class subs. What a show. The Navy security guys wouldn't even discuss letting me take one out. Got my captain's license so I don't understand why they did not even wave.
Another local attraction is a huge sloop sailboat with a 160 feet mast. She is in port for repairs. Guess what color she is? Give up? Bright red and what a beauty. They snubbed me too. So for now, guess we will just hide below today and do inside projects. Scurv is now the master of the quick nap, the wind sprint below deck and a fierce competitor at tug of war. More later.
Pic is of some of the ships at Norfolk
04/15/2012, Portsmouth, VA
KNOWING ONES LIMITATIONS
April 15, 2012
One attraction to us is the historical aspect of our cruising grounds. Along the way from Texas to the Chesapeake we encountered significant historical sites in small numbers. Once we stopped by the Visitors Center in Portsmouth, VA it became obvious that historical sites are stacked on top of each other from here north. Portsmouth, for instance, celebrated its 400 th year in 2007. Yesterday, armed with brochures, we drove around looking at the area and enjoying the spring foliage. The old gps was overheating when asked for history stuff. So, it is now obvious to us that there is absolutely no way we will see even half of them. Dang, we need another quarter century just to drive by them. Now I know how Scurv feels when he looks at a forest.
We started to see notations about Sears Houses. Local communities keep track of them since they were popular in the pre-depression US. What is a Sears House? It was a prefabricated house sold by Sears Roebuck. It included everything but the foundation and came by train or truck with a seventy five page do it yourself manual. There were several models and Sears offered some custom features. One such house in Wilmington was priced at $600, delivered. Sears even carried the note which came back to bite them when the Great Depression hit. They wanted to be known as "family friendly" so Sears actually absorbed the defaults. The houses were offered before Sears sold tools. That came after they recognized many folks needed tools to assemble the house. More on this subject: http://www.antiquehome.org/House-Plans/1916-Sears/
We have decided our 15 hp Yamaha is just too heavy for our needs. Besides that, we don't really like to do 20 knots in the dinghy because it puts whitecaps on the coffee; that is the coffee that is not on the shirt. We don't need to expose Bears back to high speed beatings either. Rowing speed is just fine. Scurv has not ridden in the dink yet and my guess is that he would not like it either as the face fuzz might be a problem. He has been "bugged" a time or two by sticking his snoot out the window of our vehicle. Speaking of bad haircuts, Scurv has actually managed to grow hair in the gaps we gave him.
04/12/2012, Portsmouth, VA
PASSING MILE ZERO
April 12, 2012
After a day and a half listening to high, cold winds it appears some relief is on the way. The temperature did not get above the high 50's today but the bright sunlight made it tolerable. There are a number of Canadian Geese in residence here and some consider them a pest. The marina has attempted to discourage their presence by the use of something that makes the grass bitter but it has limited success. There are a half dozen taunting the marina. Scurv considers them potential buddies. They don't seem to think so and legends of goose-on-small dog violence is everywhere. Scurv has a bit of a surprise on the way when he does finally get close.
We saw a trawler the other day named The Pearl from Port Lavaca, Tx. They are on the same type of cruise as we. It was not long afterward that we passed mile zero into different water than before. This area has documented history back to the sixteenth century as one would expect for the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. So, to those unfamiliar with this area, there are several rivers that spill into the Chesapeake and each one is a history lesson. To me, it's like a dirt trip(trip to shore grass) for young Scurv. Are we looking forward to sailing past West Point, the DC area and Baltimore Inner Harbor to name a few. I am wondering just how many forts and battlefields are within a hundred miles of this place? For instance, Norfolk has one and on top of that they have BB64, the USS Wisconsin, the class of battle ship that is perhaps the most beautiful warship ever built. Is it possible to wear out a pair of deck shoes in one town?
The picture is of the dry docks near downtown Norfolk
Note: we have added a few pics to the gallery under Norfolk. More later