Friday, May 31, 2013

Back On The Road Again...

After a brief trip home from May 11th to May 19th, we returned to Norfolk and In MY Element ready to depart on Monday, May 20th. We were headed to Cape Charles which is a small community on the southern tip of the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay. It was described by some boating friends as the "Mayberry"of the Chesapeake. Finding that we are attracted to smaller out-of-the -way marinas, we wanted to find out.

First though, we had to depart Norfolk. There is no way you can enter or depart Norfolk harbor without being awestruck by the number and size of the Naval vessels in port.

And those are just the ones that you can see from your own boat. Two huge ships stood out though.

The first one was the USNS Comfort. This is the third ship to bear that name and the second "Mercy-class" hospital ship. The ship is owned by the US Navy but staffed by civilians from the Military Sealift Command.

It was originally an oil tanker but was converted to a hospital ship. Its home port is now Norfolk after having been in Baltimore for 25 years. These folks respond to worldwide emergencies and usually take 4 days to get under way. They were  ready to go in one day after 9/11.

The other ship that caught our eye was the USS Enterprise.

Now in the process of being decommissioned, it was the  worlds first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. It was in service from 1962 to 2012. Its length is 1123 feet, its beam is 132.8 feet, and its draft is 39 feet. It was powered by eight Westinghouse A2W nuclear reactors. Even in dry dock it was awesome!

As we were leaving the harbor on the north side, we heard several radio transmissions between two different "Warships". Fortunately for us we were along the edge of the waterway because these guys were headed our way and took up a lot of space. Even from a long distance we could see the the first one was BIG!

And it got bigger...

and bigger yet as it got closer.

Once it passed,  we thought we had enough excitement for the morning. Seeing this huge naval vessel underway is quite impressive. Just as we throttled up to get underway again, a Virginia Beach police boat moved into our path...

and asked that we slow down to idle speed for the passage of the next ship. It took a few moments to realize that there was not much of the next boat showing as it was a submarine.

As in the movie, Hunt For Red October, a number of the crew were standing out on the top of the sub as it continued to enter the harbor.

Once it had passed us, "our" escort departed...

 and all we had to do was bypass the Coast Guard boat taking up the rear escort position for the submarine.

Well, here it was only about 10:00 AM and we thought that we had a pretty good day already having passed a lot of present and past Naval history.

We continued on our way to Cape Charles...

 with a mid-afternoon arrival. As we approached the town dock for a pump-out, we could see that much of the local crabbing fleet was in. The typical crab boat "draws" only two feet meaning that that is the lowest depth of water in which it can function. Ours is 3 1/2 feet for our boat. They can and do go just about anywhere. This industry has not changed much over the years. One example is the Betty D.

They still pack up their catch in bushel baskets...

with a local broker meeting them at the docks to buy and distribute the catch of the day.

Many of the crab boats have installed crab pot pullers to help lift the pots out of the water.

Much of the crabbing is done in waters that are only 8 to 20 feet deep but they set a lot of pots. We as pleasure boaters must be on the lookout ALL the time for their markers which are ofter black and are about the size of a softball. They can be very difficult to see.

After talking to the distributor, we were able to buy a half bushel of the blue crab they caught that day.

Once we got tied up in our marina slip...

we cleaned the crab ...

and then went to explore "Mayberry" on foot. We had been advised to go to the ice cream shop as a must stop.

OK... so we were there on Monday so no ice cream for us.

You've got to love that work week!

The good news was that the local Irish Pub WAS open...

 so we substituted an order of calamari and a Guinness for ice cream. Fair trade? We thought so!!

Nautical Word For The Day: [from]


1. To interfer with the normal movement of a ship by ignoring the rules of the road.

From Great Loop Jargon:

2. That clothing receptacle into which dirty clothes are to be placed. To miss it is to interfer with the normal movement of laundry by ignoring the rules of the Admiral.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sometimes It's All About Timing

The goal today was to get to Norfolk to the Waterside Marina where a Great Loop Rendezvous was meeting. We would arrive near the end of the meeting but wanted to meet up with some folks who were there. As we have learned already, you never know who is going to show up when you are in port.

So we were off in the morning of May 8th finding the Dismal Swamp Canal to be very quiet . We were getting used to this with virtually no other boat traffic.

Of course, we had to be mindful of hazards in the water.

Then there are the times when we are the hazard and the "locals" scampered to get out of our way.

On the north end of the Dismal Swamp Canal we had to exit via the same routine that we entered on the south end. This included a passage requiring a bridge opening and then through the Deep Creek lock. The lock master and bridge tender was the same person. He is the locally famous "Robert".

He loves his work and is a wealth of information for all who pass through. Being the only boat making the transit gave us a little extra time to talk to him. The timing was great!

After we exited the canal we traveled through a very serpentine route sometimes heading south in order to get north. The closer we got to Norfolk, the more boat traffic we found. There were barges heading south, many commercial and pleasure boats heading north. All seemed to be in a hurry except us. After a few very quiet, private days in the Dismal Swamp it gave us a feeling of "culture shock" to be back to "civilization". The timing was poor.

When we got to our destination, Waterside Marina, we requested a pump out for our holding tanks. Well, it seems that someone had left their boat in that area and was not coming back for about 3 hours. We had to go to another marina for the pump out. The timing was really poor.

After returning to the marina we were given our slip assignment. It was the last one on the inside where we wanted to be since we planned to keep the boat there for a while. Since the meeting was in progress, the marina was jam packed with boats and not a lot of room to maneuver. We eased our way in through the narrow opening lined with big, beautiful yachts hoping that we would not nudge one along the way. One of the spectator sports with boating is to watch others come and go and see how they handle their boat. We passed that test and provided no extra entertainment for the onlookers. Overall, the timing was good.

Once there we were able to join the rest of the looper group for their last dinner on Thursday night and to attend a class about Georgian Bay which is on the eastern end of Lake Huron. We got some great information and had a great time catching up with some looper friends. The timing was again great.

Almost all of the loopers left on Friday morning, May 10th, as we prepared to return home for a week. We became the spectators in that marina sport as we watched the loopers leave... mostly one at a time. By the early afternoon there were only a few of us left. However, we were treated to an unexpected "show" on the waterway next to the marina. The OBX WaterJetPack Company from Kitty Hawk, NC was there to put on a demonstration for the TV news stations to promote an upcoming water festival they are having next month.

These are the guys that use jet ski propulsion to propel themselves up in the air and do all sorts of stunts. We got to inspect all the gear up close as there was not a big crowd there at the time. The "rider" has a jet pack strapped to his back...

 and with a fire hose type connection to the modified jet ski. In this case this is all controlled by the rider.

It all starts off with the jet pack in a rack to hold it up.

The rider is then strapped in to the jet pack and positions himself for "liftoff"...

while a "spotter" adjusts the jet ski from his own unit.

And off he goes.

These units are very maneuverable with subtle movements of the body.

Stunts included "walking on water"...

the dolphin move where the rider dives head first towards the water...

actually goes all the way under...


and in this case he jets right out of the water again.

He demonstrated how controllable they are by just dragging his feet along the top of the water over quite a distance...

and by landing on the back of the spotters jet ski.

When he was done, he came back to the dock for a very soft, controlled landing.

The timing here really was GREAT! Even the local mermaid loved it!

Nautical Word For The Day: [from]

Jury Rig:

1. A piece of equipment made out of materials at hand to take the place of broken part.

From Great Loop Jargon:

2. This is what you want to have in your favor if you have a court case or are on trial for some reason.