Saturday, June 21, 2014

Why Knot is looking pretty, and heading up the bay

Our two week stay in Hampton was very productive. We did some maintenance work, got Lisa to see a chiropractor, and Lisa got a huge slab of accounting done. But the biggest item on our to-do list in Hampton was to get new canvas for Why Knot.

When we purchased her back in very late 2011, we knew that the canvas on her was, at best, poor. We don’t know exactly when it was first put on, but we suspect it was around 2001 or 2002. So by 2014 the bland khakis colored canvas that covered her fly bridge and sundeck was dingy, dirty, moldy and downright ugly. So, we had budgeted time and money to get it all replaced early in the summer before heading up Chesapeake Bay. I mean, we wanted her to look pretty to all the snobs in Annapolis, don’t cha know.
Before (Taken on the Illinois River, Sept. 2012)
We turned our attention to this project all the way back in October, 2013 while we were home in St. Louis. We determined that the best place to get this work done would be at the Hampton Public Pier Marina in Hampton, Virginia. And this was a very satisfactory location in our minds. We like the marina and the locale. The docks are very new and in great shape. There is also an Enterprise car rental office almost dockside. Shore side facilities are nice and there is even access to the swimming pool of an adjacent hotel. But the main reason that we like that marina is the dockmaster, a great young man named Jake. (Many loopers that attended the 2012 rendezvous in Norfolk may remember him from Waterside Marina.)

We contacted Jake about whom he might recommend to do the canvas work. He gave us the name of Chandler and Charlene at Signuature Canvas in the town of Phoebus, which is adjacent to Hampton. We called them in October to start our discussions about them doing the work. We knew that when we would be in Hampton would be in the height of their busy season. But we made a mutual agreement that we would indeed contract the work to them and they, in exchange, put us on their calendar to get the work started and finished within two weeks of our arrival in Hampton on June 1st. (During the following eight months we stayed in contact with them to maintain the relationship and the arrangements.)
Sans Canvas. Note the frame. (Hampton City Pier, Hampton VA)
Why Knot is a little different than many boats in that she does not have a bimini structure to support the canvas. (A bimini top can be folded down if needed.) Instead she has two large ten foot by ten foot rigid aluminum installed frames that cover the decks. They are very heavy duty and are rock solid. There are also some side canvases on the sundeck that are a mix of regular canvas that is lower on the frames and sunscreen netting from about waist height to the large horizontal canvas frame that covers the deck. (see the before picture) We were prepared to be told that we would need to replace all of it. But that was not the case however. The netting was deemed to still be in good shape.

Arriving in Hampton on time (actually two days early), as Chandler and I had arranged, we contacted him as soon as we had the boat tied in and the power connected. True to his promise, he and his installer were on board Why Knot within an hour. That impressed us. After a bike trip over to their shop the next day, all the arrangements were made, the fabric was selected (We chose a fabric called Nautec instead of the usual Sunbrella.) and everything was put into motion. And as promised, the work was completed and installed on time and as per their quotes…quotes that were made eight months earlier without seeing the boat except for some photos I sent them. There were no surprises.
With her pretty new canvas.
So, if you are thinking of getting new canvas for your boat, we highly recommend Signature Canvas located in Phoebus, Virginia; close to Hampton.
By the way, we uninstalled and re-installed the radar ourselves. No problems, though I do still need to re-calibrate it. 
With all of that done and out of the way, it was time for us to start heading up Chesapeake Bay to our eventual destination of Annapolis Landing Marina in Annapolis, Maryland; one of our most favorite places on the planet. And with all of the aforementioned canvas work done, for all intents and purposes about a week early, we started to make our passage up the bay at a leisurely pace.

When heading up the bay, most boaters go up the western shore. The usual destinations of Deltaville and Solomons are the most likely stops. There’s nothing wrong with them for a night or two, but with a half of month available to cruise three days worth of routes, and we generally like to keep on the move, we decided to go exploring along the eastern shore again. We already visited St. Michaels, Smith Island, Tangier Island (via a ferry), Onancock, and Cambridge as we headed south last year. This year we decided to hit two locations – Cape Charles, Virginia and Crisfield, Maryland. Cape Charles was up first.

We departed Hampton with good conditions on the short route across the bay (and northeast) up to Cape Charles. The harbor is actually very busy. There is a small industrial area with some kind of quarry or other bulk goods processing facility and barges on the south shore of the inlet entrance. The Cape Charles Harbor Marina pretty much covers the rest of the inlet. There are very nice new floating docks there with one-hundred foot long tee head docks at the ends of the three spacious slip docks -- a good day’s trip and a nice place to tie up for a few days. There are also quite a few clam boats that come in and out of the marina to drop off their catch at the farthest point of the inlet. It’s a busy place.

So, what was our take on Cape Charles? I guess the best way to describe our experience there is to say that they get an A for effort to turn Cape Charles into a boating destination, but they still have a long way to go. The town itself is unremarkable except for two very good restaurants: Kelly’s, an Irish pub vibe kind of place with some very good sandwiches, and The Shanty, a seafood restaurant right on the water’s edge at the marina. Their food was excellent! (Try the clam strips, the calamari and buffalo chicken nachos. Egads!) But other than those two places and a couple of shops there really isn’t much going on there. But, like I said, they are making an effort. The new marina with everything else that goes along with it, such as a nice bathhouse, is a good start. But they need better shoreside amenities. Our opinion is that it is a great place to go with some boating buddies and hang out at the restaurants or on the dock itself. We were there four nights and we had pretty much done everything to do there in one day. But if you are looking for a great marina to stop at, it would be a good choice.

We left Cape Charles to head to our next destination; Crisfield, Maryland. It was a long day on the water. The route was sixty-two miles long almost straight north the entire way. Our first leg was forty-miles of rough stuff. We had a north wind, which we wanted so we would be diving into the waves, instead of being rolled or having wind and waves swamp our transom. So while there were some heavy waves (Our ship’s bell rang by itself three times.) it was manageable.

We eventually made our way up to Tangier Sound and past Tangier Island where the seas calmed down considerably. Another twenty miles past that we pulled into Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield.

Now, go ahead and ask, “Hey, Darrell. Why did you choose that marina in Crisfield?” Go ahead. I’ll wait…………..Well, the reasons are simple. First, it is the only marina up there, and it’s a good one. And second, they are running a special for members of the American Great Loop Cruisers Association, of which we are members. Until the end of June they are offering an incredible fifty cent per foot rate for dockage. That’s 50 flippin’ cents per foot!!! That's a great bargain by any measure. And since we are ahead of schedule and have time to kill before getting up to Annapolis by July 1, what better way to do that then to hunker down at a nice marina in a town that looks like it actually has something going for it and at only half a buck per foot.

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