May 4, 2012
We bought the guide some time ago and we have listened to those who went before about the Chesapeake. Since we leave Portsmouth next week, we broke out said guide and started to decide "where to next". The obvious thing here is that there were three guides covering Texas to Norfolk. The Chesapeake has its own guide. That means lots to do.
In looking at the bay and tributaries, it is obvious that we could easily spend the rest of the summer here. Fellow cruisers have favorite destinations on the bay and we have been taking notes. This is a place where one can almost see the next destination and long cruising days may not apply as long as we are in the Bay. It is a little over a hundred sea miles to Annapolis, near the top of the Bay yet the list of "must see" is so large that one must make choices. It is sort of like going to Disneyland the first time: which ride first.
One last museum in Portsmouth is the Portsmouth Naval Yard and lightship Portsmouth. The ship is moored in dirt in a park downtown but was closed for touring. So, the consolation was the museum. It is a small facility that tells the story of this area (again) along with more details about the lightship. Imagine a two month duty aboard a 100 footer moored in one location in stormy conditions for days on end and the whole duty was to keep the light on. Lightships are no longer used but the men who crewed them performed a very necessary duty faithfully and with honor.
We had a bit of a diversion yesterday in this marina. The marine construction company next door hosted the Mitt Romney visit to Portsmouth that made national news yesterday. Early in the day, the Secret Service, local, county and state law enforcement and many television crews took over the parking lots. Then a thousand or so supporters showed up. The security screening process was something to behold. Mr. Romney, and Ms. Bachman spoke on a stage easily viewed from the swimming pool deck at the marina. After the event all that disappeared in a couple of hours. Poof, the circus moved on.
May 2, 2012
It is rare for Bear and especially Scurv to sleep beyond the time when I get up. Could it be that I am noisy? Anyway, this was one of those mornings and the crew were asleep for an hour after I got up. We spent yesterday, starting early, in the maintenance of the engine cooling system. For the life of me, I cannot imagine what the assembly guys were thinking when they put a steel plug into a cast iron engine block. That is what they did for the engine coolant drain plug. It would not come out so I had to devise another way to flush the engine. The truth of the effort was that the alternative method was a messy job. It is a good thing that Beneteau built an engine sump into the system to catch drippings such as two gallons of goo previously known as anti-freeze. Again, a thirty minute job took several hours.
We managed to unship the 15 hp outboard we purchased years ago for the cruise. That engine is just too big for us. Why? First and most important, it weighs well over a hundred pounds. Secondly, we do not need to do 25 knots tearing around the anchorage. Simply put, we cannot take the beating. Third, it hangs on the same side of the boat where our generator is. That makes for a starboard list of about 2 degrees. Fact is that we find no reason to have an outboard that big since we are highly unlikely to challenge breaking surf on some remote beach or haul a half ton of provisions. Our solution was to procure a 6 horsepower outboard that is less than half the weight of the 15. It will propel our dink much faster than we sail or motor on the boat.
We have been at this marina about three weeks and that is long enough for Scruv to worm his way into the live aboard community here. Everyone knows his name and most stop to speak to him on the foredeck or while walking. Not much conversation is directed toward me so that tells me something. While we have the same color hair, he is way cuter and smarter so I am viewed as the lug that Scurv takes for a walk. We now know that the cabin rugs have a finite life highly dependent on how bored Scurv is when we leave him along below. He can actually extract individual threads and takes great pride in "unweaving" rugs. Maybe he is a purist that does not believe in such things below.
Picture of the Monument to the Yorktown Victory
MUSEUM OVERDOSE PART TWO
April 28, 2012
I am counseled by Bear that many who read this are not interested in all the history stuff. Get over it.
Civil War (hardly civilized) - Having spent the previous day in colonial times and with three museums, we drove to Richmond to see a few more museums about the area. Richmond, being the capitol of the Confederacy and so close to Washington, DC was the focal point of many attempts by Union forces to take the government of the Confederacy. Not only that, Richmond was, perhaps the most industrialized of the southern cities of the time. The State map shows a continuous string of battlefields around the city and the problem is where to start. We happened on the Civil War Museum which shared grounds with the Tredegar Iron Works site right downtown Richmond. I never heard of the Tredegar Iron Works; should have though. That facility was the largest iron works in the country at the time. Not sure here whether or not they meant the US or the Confederacy but it produced half of the artillery, some 1100 siege and field pieces, and a huge portion of the musketry for the South. They did custom stuff like the iron plate used on the Iron Clads such as the CSS Virginia (aka Merrimack). So, it was a natural prize for the President Lincoln and the boys. It was somewhat spared in the Reconstruction days due to its size and capabilities. The primary products were railroad rails. It continued to cast iron until 1957.
The NPS had a brochure outlining a driving tour of the battlefields around Richmond which took two and a half hours of one does not stop to read the markers. In 1864 Generals Grant and Meade sought to take out the heart of the Confederacy in places with names The Wilderness and Spotsylvania. They were unsuccessful against General Lee. So, they took every chance to battle the Army of Northern Virginia and that set up the twelve battles near Richmond. Of them, Cold Harbor was epic. Over seven miles of trenches marked the battlefield. Lee's 56,000 troops were in place to take whatever General Grant offered. While there were some breaches the lines held. Looking at the terrain, it was a true killing field. In one nine hour assault, Grant lost 6,000 men, more than half in the first hour. One cannot stand there without feeling the presence of the Americans who fought there. Of the battle, Grant later said:"...At Cold Harbor no advantage was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained." Those battle fields are now covered with beautiful spring foliage and a kind of peace that only hallowed ground offers.
Scurv has been after me since coming aboard to take him on a long walk. I offered, and he accepted to take a little stroll at Cold Harbor. The distance was about a mile and a half on a mild, sunny afternoon. By the time we got back to Bear and the water fountain, Scurv had all he could take. In fact he took every opportunity to sit down along the last half of the trail. Methinks he really wanted a ride but I did not offer. Deck shoes are not appropriate for hiking. I kept telling him my paws were on fire also but he did not care. It was every mammal for himself. When we got in the pickup to return to Portsmouth, he went to sleep, lucky dog. That's right, he and Bear sleep and I drive. It was an absolutely enjoyable visit to Richmond which is a very pretty place.
Our time here is limited. We have spoken with many "local" sailors who offered "must see" places in the Chesapeake. The list grows and it appears that we might modify our plans a bit to use the MSU to minimize backtracking. One option is to sail to the Annapolis and day trip to DC and other destinations along the Potomac. We have not definitely decided to do that but one gets a significant cost advantage to staying in a marina longer than a few days. For instance, this marinas break point is about seven days. The price for a month is the same as seven days transient slip fees.
The picture is of one of the killing fields of Cold Harbor. Will post moe in the gallery when we get a fast internet connection
Byr the request of several, the gallery has photos of Scurv before the cut and after the haircut. We have also posted several more pictures on the area history in the albums of the area names.
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.