July 1st, 2003
An Important Day
We got an early start and motored through the Alligator River canal. This canal is 20 miles long and very narrow. There are mud banks on either side so it is important to stay in the middle and follow the marks carefully.
A couple hours into our day, the boys surprised Pierre with a card for his birthday. He’s not too fond of birthdays and would rather forget this one so I think it’s just as well that we are on a boat in the middle of nowhere. We were out of cell phone reach so he couldn’t receive any calls.
Patrick and Thomas
help dad celebrate his birthday!
Happy Birthday Pierre!
I was steering as we approached the Alligator River draw bridge. Pierre was down below and told me to radio the bridge tender and ask her to open the bridge. I did and also told her about Pierre’s birthday and asked her if she would surprise him by wishing him a Happy Birthday. He had a puzzled look on his face when I told him the bridge tender wanted to speak to him. When she wished him Happy Birthday he said “I think my wife has finally lost her mind.” I didn’t want his birthday to pass without some sort of surprise.
Our crossing of Albermarle Sound was uneventful. Pierre said that when the wind kicks up this sound can get pretty rough. We were just south of Coinjock,NC when we spotted a cell tower. It was great to be able to call home and update our families of our position. We anchored in a small area south of Coinjock. There were a few other sailboats and a couple motor boats anchored in this protective cove. We covered about 60 miles in this 12 hour day.
July 2nd, 2003
Shower Day - Great Bridge
We got another early start and motored the whole day in the rain. This was the first bad weather we had since our start. At least there wasn’t any lightening. We made it to Great Bridge, VA by 3 p.m. Pierre knew of a free dock across from the Atlantic Yacht Basin boatyard just south of the Great Bridge lock where we could tie up for the night. This worked out great because my high school friends, Beth and Karl Van Deusen, and their five children were going to meet us in Great Bridge for dinner. It was a rainy evening when we joined them for pizza at a local restaurant. The boys were wired and fueled by the energy of being around all these kids.
The kids were interested in hearing how we live on our sailboat.
Where do you sleep?
How do you cook?
I told them that it was a lot like living at home. The boys had their room and we had ours. They had toys, books, etc. and played with them just like they were home.
They all came back to see the boat. The boys were excited to show them their room and toys.
Karl invited us to go for a ride on his boat. His is the USS Gonzalez, a 505 foot destroyer docked in Norfolk, VA. He said on July 28, they were hosting a family day and taking everyone out for a day cruise. He took over the ship as Captain in December. What an invitation! We gladly accepted and will even get a break from the boys as children under 8 are not allowed on the cruise. Beth said she’ll get a babysitter for us.
July 3rd, 2003
Onward toward Norfolk, Va. (Hospital Point)
In the morning we left Great Bridge in route for Norfolk, Va. I was at the helm in a narrow area of the waterway when we ran aground. I was trying to avoid the crab pots floating in the channel when I got off course and the next I knew there was a “thud” and we stopped moving. Pierre flew up the companion way to see what happened. We were stuck. The water is dark so I can’t see the bottom but I know we’re on it because we aren’t moving. Pierre is putting the boat in reverse and trying everything possible to get us off. After about 20 minutes of revving the engine forward and backward we finally move. I am so happy as I did not want to spend the entire day stuck in the mud. Pierre laughed and said it was good that this happened to me so I’d learn how important it is to stay in the channel.
I have never been to Norfolk so it was exciting for me to see all the huge Navy ships as we approached the city. Military personnel with guns were sitting in smaller boats about 50 yards off the ships. Their eyes were on us. I made sure to keep my distance.
We anchored in Hospital Point, a small anchorage off of Portsmouth. This was a great location as we could also dinghy across the river to Norfolk. We had a perfect view of Norfolk’s Waterfront district. There were lots of shops and people walking along the water. There were about seven other boats anchored here. I’m sure that number will increase tomorrow for July 4th.
We had lunch in Portsmouth and took the kids to a wonderful Children’s museum. This was our first experience using our dinghy as transportation. There’s a lot of action in this harbor. Large barges being pushed by tugs were prevalent as were other work boats, passenger ferries and recreational boats. It was fun to sit in the cockpit and take in the sights.
July 4th, 2003
Fireworks (Up Close)
The fireworks on July 4th were the highlight of our visit to Norfolk. The harbor was filled with boats and hundreds of people lined the waterfront.
A tugboat and barge pulled up about 300 yards in front of us and suddenly rockets were propelled off the barge. We have never been so close to a firework display.
The explosions reverberated in our chests and the boys had their fingers in their ears during the entire show.
July 5th, 2003
Offshore To Deltaville
We got an early start the next morning. We had a great day sailing and only used the engine for about an hour for the 40 mile trip to Deltaville, VA. As we neared Deltaville the SW wind freshened from just under 15 knots to over 20 knots. It was good sailing because we were close to shore and the water was real flat. The boat healed 15-20 degrees and we were scooting along at 7-8 knots. I loved it as this is what I was used to when I was involved in sailboat racing. I was surprised when Pierre said we had to take some sail down. The boys and I were having fun but he thought we were close to being overpowered so he reefed the main and shortened up on the genoa. He’s definitely the cautious one in the family.
After 7 hours of sailing, we were excited when we could see Fishing Bay Harbor Marina in the distance. We radioed the marina to let them know we were arriving shortly. The dock master replied “We’re glad you are finally here.” We had picked this marina out in May and planned to spend a month here and cruise to different anchorages and towns along the Chesapeake Bay . We told them we’d be here in early June but our arrival date kept getting pushed back. We were happy to be here.
July 6th, 2003
Deltaville is a quaint town on the western side of the Chesapeake with 1,000 people and 3,000 boats. It is located an hour SE from Richmond, VA. The marina has a 25 meter freshwater pool. We’ve been told that it is the only freshwater pool in the area. The others are saltwater. This will be a great for the boys. They don’t swim yet and this will enable us to work on that.
There aren’t any restaurants or stores within walking distance from the marina, especially when you have toddlers. The marina has a couple of bikes that guests can use but none with child seats. Pierre will leave here on Monday, July 7 to head back to Atlanta to meet our house renters. The plan is for him to return with our van.
The merchants in town try to be as accommodating as possible to the boaters. There are three restaurants in town that will pick you up and the local grocery store will pick shoppers up who spend more than $25.
July 7th - 11th, 2003
Just Kim And The Boys
I was here five days with the boys when Pierre left. It was my first time spending the night on the boat without him. It’s a little like camping in a tent alone. You hear a lot of strange noises at night. There is no way to lock the boat from inside so anyone could walk in if they wanted to. The marina staff assured me that the area was very safe and there was a couple living on a boat just down from us who said I could call on them anytime if I needed anything. It was nice to know that I wasn’t the only one living here. Our Sprint cell phones wouldn’t work here and there were no pay phones nearby so I really felt isolated. I had to borrow someone’s phone to call the grocery store to come pick us up. You can tell you’re in a small town when the main grocery is a small market with only a few isles.
The boys and I spent our days checking out nearby beaches in the dinghy and swimming at the pool. The temperature was in the 90’s so we tried to stay indoors during midday. There are very few people here during the weekdays but the place fills up on the weekend. A lot of people that live in Richmond keep their boats here so when the weekend comes they’re here for a good time. There are also a lot of boats that arrive from other nearby ports. One of the neat things about living here is meeting new people. It’s interesting to hear where they’ve been or where they are headed.
July 12th - 27th, 2003
Our lives became much more mobile when Pierre returned with our van. We make frequent visits to the local library; playground and occasionally we even get to play tennis. The pace is so slow around here. I’m used to the 80 mph pace around the perimeter in Atlanta. Here it’s more like 30 mph. The roads are all two lane, many lined with fields of corn, cucumber and soybeans. The people are friendly. Most of the oncoming drivers wave to you as they go by. I’m used to this with passing boats, but not in cars. We’ve been told that everyone in this town is related in some way so to be careful with what you say about people around here.
Initially our plan was to use this as a home base and sail around the Chesapeake. We’ll, we’ve been here over 3 weeks and haven’t left the dock. We’ve decided that boat maintenance needed to be a priority before we can start playing.
The downside of having a boat with a lot of varnished teak is that once it has been exposed to the sun for long periods of time the varnish begins to peel and then it needs to be reapplied. If it has begun to peel off to bare wood then the work to restore it can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, that is our case. We have been using heat guns, chemical strippers and scrapers to get all the varnish off. Once the varnish is gone, we have to sand the areas multiple times and then we’ll apply several coats of varnish. It is important to sand in between each coat of varnish. Each coat needs 24 hours to dry. As you can see it is a long drawn out process.
When we are in a marina with shore power, we have the luxury of air conditioning and cable TV. Last week, our air conditioning stopped. This happened once before a few weeks ago and we discovered the wires going to the cooling pump were corroded. This time we figured out something was obstructing the thru hull and seacock. The thru hull allows water to enter from the outside and cool the AC system. There are several thru hulls on a boat, including one for the head. Pierre suspected something was blocking it from the outside so he got his mask and swam under the boat to investigate.
He came to the surface and said “a large eel was clogging the hole. “You’ve got to see this,” he said. I thought he was kidding. I dove beneath the surface. The water was dark so it was a bit creepy when I came upon the long dark eel protruding from the boat thru hull. Pierre said we needed to pull it out. I volunteered and donned a pair of gloves and tried to pull on it. It was extremely slippery and wouldn’t budge. I tried again with a rag and Pierre opened the seacock from inside and out it came with a forceful tug. It was about 18 inches long and dead.
The boys were intrigued by it and even wanted to touch it.
All I could think of was what if it had tried to slither up the thru hull leading to the head.
We got to experience a little local flavor with a trip to the Virginia Motor Speedway for some dirt track racing. Pierre’s college roommate, Peter Kane, has a river house close to Deltaville and invited us to the races. It was a new experience for Pierre. He had never been to a car race before. It was loud and exciting. A car flipped in the first race we saw. The winner of the top class was a young man named Booper Bare. This was definitely a down home experience.
July 28h, 2003
After working hard all week on our varnishing, we were happy to take a break and head to Norfolk for our day cruise on the USS Gonzalez, an Aegis class destroyer built in 1996. It was an incredible experience to be on a ship like this and to see my high school friend in command. To me, Karl still seems like the same easy-going, polite and friendly guy I knew in high school. I’m in awe at the amount of responsibility he has and seeing him in action was a treat.
|The Gonzalez has 340 enlisted personnel and officers, both male and female. There were 300 guests also on board. It takes two tug boats to assist the ship in leaving and returning to the dock. Once out of the channel, we were traveling at 26 knots. Karl said they can go faster but the depth of the water was a factor today. The wake from the ship looked like a wave off the North Shore in Hawaii .
The crew went all out to make sure we had a good time. We were allowed to watch the action from the bridge, spend time in the command center and even fire the 50 caliber machine guns. They also arranged for an F-18 to buzz our ship at Mach speed. The whole experience that day was a rush.
Our stay in Deltaville has been productive. In addition to having a tear repaired in our mainsail, we were able to have some canvas work done and start redoing the bright work on the boat. We’ve decided to leave Deltaville on Sunday, Aug. 3 and start making our way to Maine. Before we go we’ll need to change the oil and fuel filters and do some minor electrical repair. Our route will be north up the Chesapeake and then down the Delaware Bay. From Cape May, NJ we can either head directly off shore to the eastern end of Long Island, NY or the more conservative choice of following the coastline up to New York City and then down Long Island Sound. The former would save us a half a day or so. Entering NY harbor and entering Long Island Sound involves lots of boat traffic and having to play the tides just right. But of course, the weather will be the determining factor.
We should be able to make it to Maine by mid-August and hopefully we can cruise the area for a month. There are a lot of neat places to see on the way to Maine but we will have to save those stops for our return trip south as we are trying to get there before it gets too cold.