Friday, June 4, 2010

Norfolk & Points North

Sunday, May 30 - Thursday, June 10, 2010
We've made it! We arrived in Norfolk Sunday afternoon and anchored off Hospital Point, near ICW Mile Marker Zero. What a feeling! To think we were reviewing anchorages near MM1050 last year, it's pretty exciting to see "MM Zero" on our charts now. The trip up from Kill Devil Hills was uneventful, although it did involve our very first trip through a lock. The Great Bridge Lock is about 12 miles south of Norfolk, and raises/lowers the water levels 2-3'. We followed another boat in, tied to the starboard wall with the help of a lock employee, and were northbound again after about 20 minutes. Piece of cake... "-) We were anxious to get up to Deltaville to see friends Rick and Linda, but decided to spend an extra day in Norfolk to get a movie and mall fix. Norfolk has a free dinghy dock at the bow of the Battleship Wisconsin, and the mall (complete with cinema) is just two blocks from the waterfront. Most of the downtown shops were closed as we walked down the street on Memorial Day, but the mall was open...and air-conditioned! We had a fun day ashore and plan to spend more time here when we head south later this summer.

Tuesday we made the 50-mile trip up to Deltaville, NC, known as a mecca for cruisers. There are plenty of boat yards that will haul your boat out of the water, power wash the hull, and either re-splash it or put it on blocks for repairs. Rick & Linda have had Sojourner on the hard for the past month while they attended their daughter's wedding in Texas, and they tell us that the Deltaville Boat Yard and Marina is like their second home while on the Chesapeake. What a terrific place! The marina offers a "usage fee" where cruisers at the yard or in the anchorage can pay a daily, weekly, or monthly fee, and use all of the marina amenities. They have showers, laundry, an air-conditioned lounge, bikes, a courtesy car, dinghy dock, pool, etc. The longer you stay, the cheaper it gets. If you stay 4+ days, it's best to sign up for a week. For anything longer than a week, go ahead and sign up for a month. The rates are so reasonable that it has us thinking about getting hauled out later this summer to do a bottom job (power-wash, sanding, paint, wax) before we head south. Anyway, we anchored off the boat yard and were met at the dinghy dock by Rick. Rick gave us a tour of the marina, and we soon found Linda waxing Sojourner's hull in anticipation of getting "splashed" (put back in the water) the next day. We enjoyed dinner on Sojourner that night, and rode the marina bikes around town the next day. It really is a haven for cruisers; there are two West Marines, a hardware store, two NAPAs, a grocery store, restaurants, and a family-run produce stand all within two miles of the marina.

Thursday was reunion day with the arrival of Debi & Carl from River Rat and Dave from Southern Heat. It's pretty incredible to think back on all of the incredible friends that we made in the Bahamas last winter; it's even better to see them again in the Chesapeake! It turns out that Debi & Carl live near Deltaville, and Dave was in the area visiting friends. It gave us a perfect opportunity to get together for dinner, and Dave even spent the night with us on the boat. Not that the fun stopped there...Debi & Carl invited us all to their home north of Deltaville for the weekend. They live on the water and have a prime anchoring spot in front of the house. Road trip!

Even though it's been nearly 16 months since we left Kemah, we're still reminded that there's just something about people from Texas! Rick & Linda (who happen to be from Dallas) were telling us about a man who retired in Deltaville from Texas four years ago, and lives in one of the homes flanking the anchorage. He stopped by Sojourner last year to introduce himself after seeing the Texas flag flying, and invited Rick & Linda to his home for cocktails. This same gentleman saw "Kemah, TX" on our boat, and we soon found ourselves invited to happy hour on our last night in Deltaville. Bill and his wife, Mary, have a boathouse on their dock that makes for a fantastic entertaining spot. They hosted 5-6 boats from the anchorage, and we had a great time meeting our neighbors.

It was finally time to leave Deltaville, and we joined Sojourner and their friends, Dean and Nancy (from Pegasus), at the home of Carl, Debi, and Hannah-cat in Yopps Cove. For those of you who've forgotten, we first met Carl & Debi in the Bahamas when we dragged anchor into their boat, River Rat, during the wind storm in Green Turtle. Thankfully they're not ones to hold a grudge, and invited us all to anchor off their dock and spend the day with them. Talk about hospitality! There's something truly special about visiting fellow cruisers in their land-based homes, and they know what's really important to those of us still on our boats: laundry and air-conditioning! Carl and Debi were warm and gracious hosts and it was great to see them again. Dinner was fantastic as well...kudos to Rick and Linda for the spaghetti and salad, and Debi made a wonderful chicken curry salad and an amazing turtle cheesecake. She even shared the recipes, so we'll see how easy it is to make in the boat galley. :-) Since we're staying in the Chesapeake this summer, we're hoping to meet up with Carl & Debi again in a gorgeous anchorage somewhere. We'll see them soon!

Monday morning we headed towards Annapolis, 80-90 miles to the north. Wouldn't you know, the winds were strong and dead on the nose...not the best conditions for Chesapeake Bay! Rather than continue to fight the waves (we already had one very seasick pussy cat), we called it a day and anchored off the entrance channel to Reedville, VA. Reedville is best known as the home of an oh-so-fragrant fish processing plant. When the winds are "right" (and boy, were they ever), there isn't an anchorage spot in a 3-mile radius that's safe! Soon after dropping the hook, we were treated to a front row seat of the returning Menhaden fleet; apparently 4pm was quitting time, and over a dozen ships passed us in the nearby channel.

Tuesday, the nightmare continued. After checking in with Rick & Linda, we all agreed to meet up in Solomon's Island. The trip took us across the mouth of the Potomac River, where 20-knot winds fought the currents to produce 3-4' seas (not to mention a couple of 6' whoppers). A few waves slammed into the bow, forcing water through the forward hatch, and some even came through the dodger window into the companionway. It took us about eight hours to get to Solomon's, six of which were pure hell. On the plus side, we had a wonderful surprise waiting for us in Solomon's. Ian and Sharon from Celtic Cross were anchored nearby! We'd missed them when they came through Fernandina Beach (our boat was there but we were in Houston), so we were thrilled to see them again.

The plan was to continue up to Annapolis with Rick and Linda the following morning, but we called for a mandatory rest day. Besides, the weather forecast was for thunderstorms throughout the day...why put ourselves and the kids through another hell trip? We ended up staying in Solomon's for an extra night, anchored near the Holiday Inn at the head of Back Creek. The Holiday Inn offered a $2/day dinghy dock that was close to a gourmet grocery store, a liquor store, and a West Marine. It was a convenient spot, but next time we'll probably anchor closer to the touristy part of town. That's the beauty of this area - there's always a nice quiet anchorage if you want one, or you can put yourself in the middle of the action. Take your pick!

We finally made it up to Annapolis, MD, Thursday afternoon. We had a gorgeous day and good winds, and even managed to find an empty mooring ball in Weems Creek with our name on it. Something tells us we're going to be staying here for awhile! But that's for another chapter...

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