Tuesday, July 9, 2013

More Pleasant Things

or Be Gone, Oh Specter of Discontent!

The last time I posted I said that I was taking a break from posting. I was in a rut. I was in a funk. It seemed that all I was doing was complaining. I said I was not going to blog until I had more pleasant things to say. (Lisa said with her eyes and roll of her head, “Yeah, right.”)

Well....I have more pleasant things to say! 

We are at Hampton Roads, Virginia during the week of the Fourth of July. It is a pleasant place to be and the specter of uncertainty is disappearing. Our goal of reaching Annapolis for an extended holiday is within reach.

We finally pulled out of Great Bridge very, very early on July 1. When I say early I mean like-before-the-sun-was-up early. The reason for this is that our next leg to Hampton Roads was a short one, only twenty-four miles, and there would be a weather window open to us from before sunrise to only about 10:00 am. We pulled away from the dock at 5:00 am to the fuel dock for a pump out, then request an opening of Great Bridge bridge and go through the lock. Then we would slowly motor to Steele Bridge for their 7:00 opening. This was critical as this was a weekday and Steele bridge does not open at 8:00 am. Missing the 7:00 am opening would force us to either go back, go to an alternate dockage (the free dock at Dismal Swamp channel) or face the possibility of getting pushed around pretty hard heading out of the Elizabeth and James river to Hampton Roads which is right at the mouth entering Chesapeake Bay. But we made the opening at 7:00am.
Great Bridge bridge from the lock

lock watching

Big and small make their way through the lock

After Steele Bridge the coast was clear to head directly to the greater harbor. We motored up through Portsmith and Norfolk pretty aggressively. The water conditions were ok-ish but we could tell that it was beginning to chop up with the winds freshening from the southeast. There was one very odd thing that happened. The NWS warned that there could be patches of what could be called flash fog that would almost instantly appear as thick as soup then disappear just as quickly. This did happen. When we made that big right turn from the Elizabeth River onto the James River (right before the navy base) we had almost unlimited visibility. Then all of a sudden we were socked in. We could not see a thing! I went to radar. Then no more than five minutes later it was gone! It was so weird.

The cruise out to Hampton Roads was also made interesting by the company we kept. We had to negotiate two freighters, a myriad of tugs, security patrol boats, fishing boats, a Coast Guard cutter and two Navy warships. 

We pulled into the Hampton Roads Public Pier at 9:30 am. Jake, the very able dockmaster, helped us get tied up. Then at 10:00 am, just like the NWS predicted, the winds picked up a bunch, the clouds opened up and it rained. A little later while talking to Jake in the office he checked conditions out in the harbor and the winds were blowing at around twenty to twenty-five knots with two to three foot seas. Our strategy for the short day worked.

On the Fourth of July Lisa and I made some big decisions about our cruising future, both short and long term. Short term it's about getting to Annapolis. From Hampton Roads its only three or four more days. We have a months reservation at a marina there that starts on July 15th, but that is flexible. We did want to get up to The Solomons in a bit of a hurry to see Ross and Laura but they head to New York City for a few days. Dockage rates at the marinas north of Hampton Roads like in Deltaville and The Solomons are more expensive, especially the short term transient rates. (Our monthly rate in Annapolis is very much beyond our normal tastes and budget but we are making this a special situation as son#2 Kevin is joining us for his summer vacation.) The weather is just stuck in pattern of a good day here followed by three or four stinkers. What we have decided to do is to stay put here in Hampton Roads until at least July 8th (even though it pains us to miss some good cruising days). The dockage rates here are much more affordable and it seems to be a nice place. I have two different plans for making the way north from here: a plan with more short hops mostly with anchorages, or two longish legs stopping at Deltaville and Solomons. These two plans are completely modifiable so that legs are not so long that they can't be combined are even skipped altogether to fit within the conditions presented. We'll meet up with Ross and Laura at The Solomons a day or two before we need to run the final leg up to Annapolis.

Our long term thinking is a bit more complicated, but we are happy with what we have come up with.

There are several factors that affected our decisions. First, we do have to take two shore leaves of about six to eight weeks each, one in the fall and the other in the spring. Second, we do have some destinations we want to make, such as the Bahamas, the Florida Keys, New England and even the entire Gulf Coast ICW (Texas by boat. What a concept.). Third, we do have some investments in the boat we would like to (or have to) make which could preclude us from doing the other things. Lastly, I find that at least for myself, I like to keep on the move. The investments in the boat are divided into two categories: things we would like to do (petty cash expense) such as new flooring, upgrading some of our salon furniture and adding satellite tv, and things we might have to do (capital expense) such as getting a new bottom job with the same heavy duty covering that we have on now, new top canvas of which there is a lot of, and maybe even having to get a new generator. Our current genset was evaluated back in Savannah with the diagnosis that its probably got a year left on it, which to us is totally believable. 

So here's the plan. (all dates are flexible)

We know we will be in Annapolis until August 15th. From there we will then explore the east side of Chesapeake Bay through the end of August. During the month of September we will start heading south with ending up at Myrtle Beach as our goal. We will leave the boat there for our shore leave during the month of October. We will then return on November 1-ish to continue on south to Florida someplace to jump over to the Bahamas for the month of January, 2014. We will then go back to Florida to either Vero Beach or Titusville to leave the boat for shore leave from February 1st-ish to the end of March. We will then start the trek back up north perhaps for New England.

Of course this is all predicated that we do not have any major repairs such as the generator crapping out on us and needing to be replaced. Or that as we have the boat pulled out at some point for a bottom inspection and we are confronted with having to get a complete bottom job done. Or when we consult with a marine canvass company (most likely in Myrtle Beach. The canvas does need to be replaced. We probably won't be able to avoid that expense.) and it costs a zillion dollars. If any of these things occur, especially the generator needing to be replaced, our cruising plans are pretty much going to get scrapped in favor of the repair. That's life. That's boating.

Anyway, we are very comfortable with our thought process. We are also comfortable with our plan. We have met quite a few boaters that never have a plan from one day to the next even so much as to where they are going to spend a night and that's fine. Lisa and I can be very spontaneous but we pretty much are planners. We have a motto: We are very flexible so anything is feasible. So we start with a plan and modify, modify and modify to fit what new challenges confront us. 

Anyway, back to Hampton

Our stay at Hampton Roads Public Pier was very nice and comfortable. Jake and Maxwell, the dock masters, are superb. The docks are in terrific condition and the facilities are very good. As we discovered in our extended stay in Norfolk last year there is a ton of cool stuff to do in the area. But unlike last year when we depended on public transportation to get around we rented a car this time.
There are two major points of interest that we visited.

We made the drive up to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia to get a glimpse into the past. It is however a rather odd place. To me it was straddling the line between being a living museum with all of its shops and docents, and a modern attraction of some sort. It was better at the former than the latter. But it was very interesting and educational. There were hourly reenactments of the town folk (docents in period costumes putting on little plays about revolutionary incidents), a parade with two different fife and drum corps, and docents
Stinkin' Redcoats!
walking around helping visitors learn as much about the times as possible. We were extremely impressed with the level of expertise that these people had. When we visited the millinery shop (dressmaker) there were three young ladies sitting around actually sewing pieces of garment. Never being one to pass up an opportunity to learn a thing or two more about something I asked her some pretty detailed questions about cloth importing during the war. She was quickly able to make a full explanation about how it all worked – about how the colonialists had lots of time to place and receive large quantities of fabric from England before the imposed embargoes when into affect. We also visited the print shop. As both Lisa and I have a background in the printing industry we were eager to see this. The craftsman there was very knowledgeable about the subject. One interesting aside from our meetings with the craftsmen and merchants was their use of the phrase of the “art and mysteries” of their professions, as if this was the way the people of that time period would describe the assimilation of their knowledge about their chosen craft. 

We highly recommend that when you cruise into the Hampton/Newport News/ Norfolk area that you rent a car and make the trip to Colonial Williamsburg.

The other attraction of note is really not an attraction per se but the quasi-historical Fort Monroe that guards the entrance of the Norfolk harbor on the north side of the entrance. I say quasi-historical because it is certainly historical being one of and the largest of the many shore protection forts that line the east coast from Maine to Florida, but it was also up until September of 2011 a fully commissioned and operating US Army base. It is now run by the National Park Service. Driving to the fort from Hampton takes only ten minutes.
A Moat!!!
The very first thing you notice are the beautiful homes that border the the outer road. These were the homes for the top brass on the base. There is also a very formidable main street where the main buildings used for the commands at the base were located. But the main attraction of the area is the old fort itself. The walls are massive with only a few narrow bridges and wall openings in which to enter... and of course it is surrounded by a massive moat. Yes, a moat...just like a castle. Inside the fort walls there is the Casemate Museum. A casemate is the fortified artillery placement within the walls of the fort. It is a foreboding place with low ceilings with heavy stone construction. (One piece of history fact – during the Civil War it was always under Union control.) Also inside the walls of the fort are more homes and condos that are for lease. Imagine, living in a fort with a moat. I like it! It is a very cool place. 
Yes you too can lease a home inside a fort, inside a moat!

The Casemate

"Honey, I'm going to cut the lawn and change  the water in the moat!"

We finally left Hampton on Monday July 8. It was a bit rolly but otherwise a good cruising day. We are at
Dozier's Regatta Point Marina in Deltaville. Of course the weather is being a bit problematic. There is a stark dividing line at the Potomac River which is just north of here. South of the Potomac the conditions are ideal. North of the Potomac and up past The Solomons, our next destination, it is not so hot. Friday looks like the next good day to go. So here we will wait.

Anyway, like I said at the top, I had more pleasant things to say.


Anonymous said...

Looks like you are heading our way. We look forward to seeing you in Solomons. We are at Spring Cove along with Ross and Laura. Betsy Johnson, Rick 'n Roll

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you're in a better mood! Anita G. (Limelight)