Sorry this is a long post but we’ve been too busy socialising and exploring to attend to the blog, very remiss.
Leaving Coinjock we carried on motoring but with a stiff north-easterly wind blowing across some of the more open areas, it was quite bumpy. We also saw a barge with a tug coming towards us on the AIS and decided to slow down so we didn’t meet it on a narrow section of the ICW. We had a couple of bridges to call for opening but apart from that, no issues.
Being off season, the 2 long docks at Great Bridge were virtually empty, just us and another yacht spending the night there. You can stay for free for 24 hours and within a 10 minute walk you are at the small mall with bakery, fast food outlets and a big supermarket. We decided to tie up to the dock before the bridge as we had plenty of time to do the final few miles the next day and could time leaving the dock with the bridge, which was very close by.
A shady, pine tree filled woodland park is right by the dock and we saw lots of people enjoying the evening with their families. The bridge only opened twice whilst we were there, once for a barge and again for a powerboat, so it wasn’t busy. We took a stroll to the mall to get some basics and passed by several memorials to the historic battle that took place at the bridge. You need to tie up to pilings that jut out from the dock but there wasn’t a lot of current and it was deep enough for us at low water. On the opposite side of the ICW is a big marina and yard so you can get fuel there. No water or electricity is available at the dock but we didn’t need either and spent a quiet, calm night.
The following morning we called the bridge tender on VHF Ch 13 and arranged to leave the dock at 1055 for the 1100 opening, along with the other yacht. Next we had the excitement of our very first lock, visible from the Great Bridge. This opens in time for the northbound bridge boats so you just motor in and tie up to the southern side where a lock keeper was waiting for us. We both held a line and up we went until the next set of gates opened and we motored out again. Quick and easy.
From there we had a couple of fixed 65 foot bridges, a railway bridge which is usually open and a lifting bridge just beyond that. As we approached the railway bridge we could see it starting to close, so we had a half hour wait until the train went by and it opened again but the next bridge was waiting. The final bridge was very high so no problem and we passed the big navy ships and submarines, cargo boats and marinas until we motored over Mile Zero, the official start of the ICW.
From there we went to the OCC Port Officer’s dock, lying alongside a short, high pontoon and tying our stern to a piling. They have an apartment in a block with several docks but not all are used by residents, so OCC members can stay for free there and enjoy the warm welcome and hospitality of Gary and Greta. Their reputation goes before them and we were pleased to see so many of our friends had entries in the Visitor’s Book. Busy people. They were so kind during our stay and invited another British couple, Andrew and Polly from ‘Drummer’, over for dinner on our first night. The next day we spent hours at the Nauticus Museum and on the neighbouring Battleship Wisconsin. Both were very interesting but it would have taken much longer than we had to listen to and read all the information. We picked up a few facts though. Norfolk is the only US port that can take the new super panamax ships, so it is well placed for the future. Something that amused us, given the current size of our forces, was this quote from the British Journal of 1875. ‘There never was such a hapless, broken down, tattered, forlorn apology for a Navy as that possessed by the United States’. How times change! The ship is huge, with several decks and inner areas you can explore and well worth a visit. It was designed for 1900 men but 2900 sailors squeezed into the cramped quarters to sail the world.
Downtown Norfolk is very close to Greta and Gary’s place, an easy walk to the historic areas, museums and houses. The Cannonball Trail is a good place to start using the tourist centre’s leaflets. The following day we walked over the pedestrian bridge to the Chrysler Museum of Art. It houses an amazing array of glass and objects from the ages and from all over the world. We recognised many from Guatemala and Mexico. Next to the museum is a glass studio where you can book glass blowing classes and take home your own Christmas bauble, for instance. We spent hours in the museum and had a tasty lunch in the restaurant before visiting an old house built by a successful Jewish merchant. All of these were free.
It is now getting into the busy time for hurricane season and we did see one disturbance approaching the east coast and monitored it for a while but it went offshore and was never a threat. There are 3 items to watch today though.
Another OCC boat arrived in Norfolk and turned out to be ‘Landfall’, the one we’d assisted the previous week after we left Oriental. Greta kindly took us to the supermarket to stock up, we were able to leave our rubbish and could have had water if necessary. We accepted a drinks invitation on board ‘Landfall’ so we could finally meet them and gave our thanks to Greta and Gary for their help before heading off the next morning.
Although we were out of the confines of the ICW we still had some excitement with the US Navy Warships heading out of port. Warship 60 radioed us to say they were going to be coming down the channel and we offered to move out of it, to port, to give them plenty of room. We saw lots of ships, including a hospital ship and a NOAA vessel. We use a lot of NOAA resources, most importantly their Hurricane website and are grateful for the work they do.
Our next stop was to be a small anchorage up the Mobjack Bay at Woodas Creek. We were the only boat there and had a lovely evening anchored in mud in over 4 metres of water. It was tempting to stay there another day to enjoy the tranquility but we had decided it would be best to sort out a boatyard and broker for selling the boat, sooner rather than later, so left before 0700 to do the 33 miles to Fishing Bay, near Deltaville. This was supposed to be where we left the boat in May, so we were a few months late. It was another motoring day, with little wind and we took half hour watches to make the time pass more quickly.
I was off watch as we approached the big, deep bay when I heard the engine revs mount up and thought Rob was either giving the coke a blast out of the engine, or it was going to rain. Sure enough a big, black cloud was heading our way and we just made the anchorage in time before the heavens opened, the thunder and lightning started and we began catching buckets of water for cleaning the boat. It had been forecast but they don’t always appear. One other boat was in the bay but we didn’t even get time to wave before anchoring in 6 metres and giving the anchor a quick tug to set it. The rain had just started as Rob finished setting the bridle and we sheltered under the bimini, watching it all. It didn’t get too windy but we faced all directions and had lightning hitting the sea quite close to where we were.
That over, we put out some more chain and dug it in harder so we had a good night. We got in touch with another OCC Member, John Koedel, the next day as we’d been emailing previously. He had offered his car and assistance finding the yards and drove us around, paid for a great lunch at The Table and took us to his lovely house to get his spare car, which we used to get some food. We met very professional yacht brokers to discuss the selling process and get advice on where to sell Beyzano. We had heard that Annapolis, as the big sailing centre, was the best place to sell and the brokers we spoke to there said the same (of course). One told me ‘nobody drives to view a boat’ but I disagree with that, especially in the USA where everybody drives. We drove all over the UK to find the right Beneteau 473 for us, so I really think if the right people are out there and they see the photos of Beyzano, they will drive to see her if she fits their requirements. We need quality rather than quantity viewings whilst we are away in any case.
The prices for leaving the boat in Annapolis are 3 times what they are in Deltaville and on top of that, they won’t allow us to live on the boat in the yard so we’d have to find a hotel for a month or more. Another big expense. They didn’t seem to care much either, another big negative for us. So, we decided in the end not to continue to Annapolis but to start doing some work in the water at Fishing Bay Marina and haul out mid-September in Chesapeake Boat Works next door. They were really helpful and accommodating and have a nice pool, laundry etc. Everything we need. Another plus is the number of people, both OCC Members and Yacht Club Members, who were offering us help in any way they could, from places to stay to carting our belongings to a lockup. We really are astonished at how hospitable the American people are, just so kind.
John and his wife, Fay, invited us to the weekly dinner at the Yacht Club where a dozen of us had a lovely evening, chatting, drinking rum and coke and eating the lasagne and lemon sorbet 2 of the members had made. The town has several canvas makers, a big West Marine chandlery and enough shops and cafes to keep us happy. So, Deltaville will be our home until mid October and we can fly from nearby Richmond to Boston, then on to Reykjavik and on again to Gatwick with Icelandair. There are small and large storage units to empty all our gear into and plenty of expertise for anything the boat needs doing on her.
Before we start on the sale, we had arranged to visit Bill and Lydia Strickland, OCC Rear Commodores in the Corrotoman River, a side shoot off the Rappahannock. We managed to get full sail up for a few hours as we tacked up and down to within a couple of miles of their house, a lovely, gentle sail. We anchored past a sandy spit that looked alarmingly close to us as we went by in 6 metres of water. Around another bend was a perfect anchoring spot in 4 metres, totally protected from all directions. The forecast for the following night was poor though, with thunderstorms and squalls so we planned to take up Bill and Lydia’s kind offer of a place on their new dock.
As we sat in the cockpit a man on a jetski stopped for about an hour to chat. He wouldn’t believe we sailed the boat over the Atlantic at first but eventually did and invited us to his house for drinks. As we had a BBQ planned we had to decline but after we’d eaten Rob heard a lady shouting over from a different dock and she asked us to join them for cocktails. We got a great view of the boat from their house, wisely sited high from the water. It was a fun evening with them and their neighbours, all from Washington D.C. with homes in a piece of paradise.
The next morning we emailed Lydia and Bill, as our AT&T signal has worked well everywhere we’ve been. We dinghied over to meet them and check the dock would be OK for us to use. They are such a lovely couple and have a simply gorgeous home with water at the front and rear of their gardens. They offered us an air-conditioned room to stay in, given it was the hottest day of the year, use of their car, pool and laundry. They also fed us for 3 days and gathered other OCC members for a BBQ the first night. We all went to a superb Thai restaurant on Saturday night and we used their car to provision. The dock is brand new and a good height for us. It has the usual protruding pilings but we came in starboard side to and tied off our bow to a piling off the dock. There is 8 foot or more at low water, so no problem for us.
They drove us to a couple of historic venues, the Historic Christ Church and the Steamboat Museum in Irvington. The church was modelled on English Churches and built with private funds in the 1730s by Robert Carter. It is sited in the middle of the woods and still used for services. The high backed pews created a wooden pen almost, ensuring people weren’t distracted from listening to the sermons. The era of the Chesapeake Bay Steamboats only ended in 1962 having had a glorious past ferrying people and animals from Baltimore to Norfolk and many small ports in between. The museums at both were excellent, full of interesting facts, photographs and exhibits. We were completely spoilt this weekend and can’t thank Bill and Lydia enough for the wonderful time we spent with them.
Tomorrow we are heading back to Fishing Bay to book the marina, yard, haul out, lockup and broker. Then we need to do some work getting the boat empty and ready for photographs and compile the inventory. After that we can do some more sailing, hopefully visiting a few more towns and bays around the southern Chesapeake before we surrender our cruising license and pay the customs duty to import the boat for sale here. We are still hoping to meet up with Bob and Lin on ‘Ile Jeudi’ before then but if not, we can always meet on land, heaven forbid!