Saturday, June 27, 2020

Going topless

As I begin typing we are underway across Hampton Roads, headed for the James River inbound. We are en route back to the Chickahominy, not far from the scene of the crime. We plan to arrive Monday afternoon, so it will be a nice leisurely cruise.

We spent Tuesday morning licking our wounds. With everything dry I went back up to the flybridge with a roll of duct tape, some snips, a utility knife, and a few more lines. With a couple hours of work we were able to get the most seriously damaged part of the top cut away, unlaced, and off the frame, and secured what was left with a combination of duct tape, lacing, and lines thrown over the top. All of this in anticipation of having to go at least of couple of weeks, and maybe longer, before we could find a canvas shop that could get to us.


Contemplating the damage, before we cut away the starboard fore quadrant.

I posted the saga of the incident, mostly for entertainment purposes, on a number of boating groups I'm in on Facebook. Those groups have a wide reach, collectively maybe 20,000 or more members. So I suppose I should not have been surprised when someone who lives right on the Chickahominy, and keeps a boat at the River's Rest marina there, reached out to say he knew a canvas guy at his marina who might be just between jobs.

After a couple of phone calls back and forth, we agreed that we'd stop by on our way back downriver so he could have a look. In the meantime, I sent him a few photos. We scratched the plan to tender over to the campground near the dam after learning the pandemic had closed their restaurant permanently, and instead made ready to head back downriver on the ebb in the afternoon.


As close as we came to Walker Dam, left, and the resort campground.

With the current behind us, it took only a bit over an hour to run the eight nautical miles back downriver to the River's Rest, where we dropped the hook outside the buoy line just a half mile upriver (map). It was a quiet and comfortable anchorage, if a bit buggy. Fortunately, I had just re-screened all the house windows a couple of days earlier, so fewer of them made it inside than in the past. I still need to add some weatherstripping to complete the job.

Wednesday morning Jeff, from Trident Marine Canvas, got a ride out to the boat with a fisherman friend, and came aboard for a quick look at the top and frame. We discussed fabric options, and whether or not we wanted to continue our cruise and have him ship us the finished top for self-installation (we did not). He told us he would make some calls to his suppliers and get back to us later in the day. We settled in for the day, thinking we'd be there for another night.


I needed to change networks while anchored at Walker. The first three entries are ours. Posted without further comment.

By early afternoon we had picked a fabric that he would be able to get in just a day or two, and the only fly in the ointment was that his suppliers were all out of grommets, which have to come in from China. We'd have to buy them retail, from Sailrite, at about three times the cost, but they were in stock and he could start right away.

And thus it was that Wednesday afternoon found us removing the duct tape, cutting through the remaining laces, and taking down the remainder of the old top so I could drop it off in the tender for him to use as a guide. With the tender in the water, we would have come ashore for dinner at the on-site restaurant, which has a nice outside deck, but they are only open on the weekends.

The tide was such that the downriver trip was only favorable for a couple of hours early in the morning, or else leaving after 4pm. With nothing keeping us at River's Rest, and needing to be in Newport News on Friday, we opted to deck the tender and get under way after four to run downriver until dinner time. That put us at the confluence of the Chick and the James, where we dropped the hook just upriver of the ferry landing (map).


Vector topless, near River's Rest.

That was also a dark, quiet, and peaceful anchorage, with just a handful of tugs dragging their loads up and down the river. But after dark we soon learned that the previous night's bug-fest had been just a warning salvo. Wednesday night we were hit with a full-on midge swarm; we taped over the gaps in all the windows, doused a many lights as we could, and awoke in the morning to find every square inch of the outside of the boat covered in them, and their green deposits.

With the boat pointed into the wind, the foredeck was not too bad, and we quickly weighed anchor first thing Thursday morning on the ebb, and raced downriver toward Hampton Roads. We had the anchor down before lunchtime, in a small bay between the enormous Newport News Shipbuilding yard, and the James River Bridge, just off the Leeward Municipal Marina (map). Sadly, the cruise downriver rid us of virtually none of our newfound passengers.


We had a nice sunset at anchor near the confluence. Before the midge attack.

With most of the midges taking shelter on the aft deck, we despaired of even getting the dinghy in the water. And so I went out, shop vac in hand, to do battle. I spent well over an hour vacuuming midges, after which I had thinned the herd down to perhaps 15% of what we had started with. That was enough to get the tender offloaded so we could get ashore. Shortly after splashing, a thunderstorm rolled through that churned what had been a very calm anchorage up into a froth. Even that was not enough to rid us of the final midges.

I made arrangements with the marina to land the tender at the dock, and they gave me a code so we could get back in after dinner. It was quite the challenge to board a rolling, pitching dinghy from an equally pitchy swim step, but we managed, and tendered ashore to walk across the highway to the Crab Shack on the James, at the foot of the fishing pier. We sat on the covered patio and had an acceptable meal, grateful to be able to get off the boat for a bit.


Just a small fraction of our midge stowaways. I could not get myself into the thick of them, on the aft deck, for a pic.

After dark the weather radio alerted us to a violent thunderstorm headed straight for us, one that made the afternoon event look like child's play. It hit with a vengeance, with gusts to 40mph. Things got quite choppy in the anchorage, but it was all over in a half hour or so, and an hour later relative calm had returned. This storm was finally enough to rid us of the bulk of the midges, and, as a bonus, it also rinsed off most of the green deposits on all the exposed decks -- we still have a bit of cleaning to do on the covered decks.

In the several wind events that we've now had since losing our top, we've learned that the naked frame catches the wind in a way that it does not when covered, and vibrates at its resonant frequency, a low-pitched hum. These sorts of sounds transmit all over on a metal boat, and it took us a while to figure out what we were hearing.


Leaving our anchorage yesterday, this is how calm it was. Newport News Shipbuilding in the backgound.

Yesterday I tendered back ashore with the e-bike to collect our various packages. The replacement for the helm computer was waiting for me at the post office, and they would have held it for 30 days, so we did not need to rush down here for it. But as long as I had a package coming here, we also ordered some Amazon items to a nearby locker, and Amazon only gives you three days. After making my pickups at the post office and the locker, I swung by the nearby Walmart to restock some provisions before returning to the dock, where I left the bike locked to a rack.

Other than the two short thunderstorms, the anchorage had been very calm. But with miles of fetch to the south, we knew it would become untenable when the wind shifted in the morning. We weighed anchor at high tide to get into the shallow marina for a pumpout and some water, then loaded the bike back aboard and headed out in search of a more protected spot for a couple of days.

We cut diagonally across the roadstead, lowered our SSB antennas to clear under the Monitor-Merrimac small boat span, and set the hook in the bight of Craney Island (map), which we thought we give us the protection we needed today. It did reduce the fetch considerably, and things were by no means bad, but the current holding us beam to the wind made for an annoying slap against the hull, and we decided we did not want to live with that for another whole day. We made a plan to leave at the turn of the tide.


Sunset over the Monior-Merrimac Memorial Bridge.

While we waited this morning, a nuclear submarine came into port; I could just see her fairwater in the distance. But, this being the weekend, the radio cackled literally every three to five minutes with one of the Navy patrol boats trying to raise a pleasure boater about to be caught in the 500-yard security zone. They would try hailing each boat three times, and on the third attempt we always heard their siren in the background. Who keeps driving while being run down by flashing blue lights and a 50-caliber machine gun?

The plotter says we should have the hook down just before cocktail hour, in a spot that we hope will be much calmer and more pleasant than our digs near Craney Island. It's just another few hours back to River's Rest, so we may well spend two or three nights here. When next you hear from me, with any luck, Vector will be sporting a new lid.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Wind-tossed on The Chick

We are anchored in the Chickahominy River, just downriver of the Walker Dam (map), which is the limit of our navigation. Smaller vessels can transit the self-service, manually operated lock, with a depth of four feet, and continue into Chickahominy Lake. We've only been here for a couple of hours, yet we've already had enough excitement to last us the rest of the year. More on that in a bit.


Old City Hall, undergoing renovations. Capitol is somewhere behind it.

As I mentioned in my last post, we needed to stay tied to the dock in Richmond at least another day to let the bulk of the river flooding pass. While rain had been forecast for most of the day Saturday, it never really materialized, and I once again sallied forth on the e-bike to explore some more of Richmond. In particular, I really wanted to get out to Monument Avenue, take in the monuments as they currently appear, and reflect on the import of what is happening right now.

I started my excursion at the east end post office, because Louise and I both had packages to ship out. They would have gone out Friday, except for the fact that our printer ran out of ink and refused to print the labels. We emailed PDFs to our friends, who brought them to us at dinner Friday night. The post office opened at noon, so that's when I set out. From there I decided to head west on Broad Street.


Site of "The Devil's Half Acre" -- Lumpkin's Slave Jail.

That brought me in short order to the site of Lumpkin's Slave Jail, just north of the train station, where I again paused to reflect. From there I continued west until I was downtown, where quite a number of businesses had been boarded up prophylactically. Many of the coverings were stenciled with slogans of support; some suggested that within was either a small local business or a black-owned business. But many storefronts were not covered, and I saw no real damage. Graffiti was generally contained to the temporary boards.


Broad Street storefronts boarded.

After passing through the enormous VCU campus, I eventually came to Monument Avenue, where the first statue I encountered was JEB Stuart. One man was using the base for skateboard practice in between passing cars. I read this morning that the police had to disperse people today because they were trying to topple the massive statue, and there was concern someone would get hurt. Considering what happened in Portsmouth the night we were there, the concern is not unfounded.


JEB Stuart.

Up next, Robert E. Lee, the largest piece on the mall. This has become the epicenter of protest in the city, and on my visit it was a festival atmosphere, not unlike your local farmer's market or art & wine festival, with a handful of EZ-ups, and families strolling the grounds and making a day of it, witnesses to history.


A festival atmosphere around Robert E. Lee.

I passed the Jefferson Davis memorial, really a monument to the entirety of the Confederacy and the most brazen of the lot, Lee's spotlight notwithstanding. I also passed Stonewall Jackson, and Maury, and ended my trip at the Arthur Ashe monument, cleaned up in the few days since being vandalized by counter-protesters.


Jefferson Davis, atop an enormous ovation to the Confederacy.

I came back through the museum district and a different section of the VCU campus before landing at the Capitol, which I had hoped to take in. That was not possible, however, since it's been fenced off tighter than Fort Knox at a perimeter that does not permit any sort of view. On my way home I stopped at the Farm Fresh grocery, where a pair of ink cartridges was waiting for me at the Amazon locker, and where I also picked up a few fresh provisions.


Stonewall Jackson.

When I returned to the boat, I found a six-pack of the local brew, Legend Brown Ale, on the deck, courtesy of a blog reader who had stopped by when I was out. Thanks, Denton! (I texted the number in the note you left; not sure if you got it.) I like the Legend Brown, which we first experienced at their other location, near the free dock in Portsmouth.


Matthew Fontaine Maury.

We were all set to just eat our own grub aboard, given the ever-present probability of rain. But at dinner time I had a short dry window, and ran back out on the e-bike to a parking lot next door to Poe's Tavern, where earlier I had spotted a phalanx of food trucks. I picked up a pair of jerk chicken sandwiches and a side of fries from the Meats & Treats truck and zipped back home for one last meal that we did not have to cook or clean.

After dark we were treated to a fireworks show, launched by a random guy on a random boat just downriver. Friday night after I posted here, perhaps 1 am or so, a group had launched quite a number of fireworks from the dock less than 100' from us; I had attributed those to a Juneteenth celebration. Both "shows" were nice, for a amateur under-the-radar displays, and Louise got to enjoy Saturday's fireworks with me.


Arthur Ashe.

Yesterday morning the debris flow had subsided to a dull roar, and we timed the current next to the boat at a knot and a half, which we judged acceptable for departure. After enjoying the bagels I had procured at the grocery, we singled up, fired up, and cast off the dock with some help from the engine. Once we were out in the middle of the channel I noted we were doing 9.5 knots while making turns for only 6.3, so we had quite the push.


More of Broad Street. Many businesses expressed support on their signage.

Otto-the-autopilot does not handle this much following current well, and so I hand-steered most of the day. We whizzed past the various landmarks and wharves, thankful that no ships were making ready to depart on this pass. We timed our departure to take advantage of the ebb, and we rode it until it petered out, just downriver of the Benjamin Harrison Bridge. We pulled well off-channel and dropped the hook, near a spot called Harrison's Landing (map).

While we were anchored, a large flotilla of logs, some of which had, perhaps, bounced off our hull while we were at the dock, made its way upriver on the flood, surrounding us in the process. The same flotilla came back downriver on the next ebb. Also while we were anchored, TowBoatUS came by to warn us that the river gets shallow outside of the channel. I think he had seen us over there and honestly thought we were already aground.


A number of monuments elsewhere in town have already been toppled or removed, leaving only pedestals.

While we could see the bridge in the distance, and a small marina near it at Jordan Point, and on a Sunday afternoon there were numerous very small, very fast boats passing by in the channel, this was still a fairly remote anchorage, to the extent that once the boat traffic stopped, it was dead quiet. Thus it was a great spot for Louise to send my heart rate through the roof by asking me to cut her hair.


Vector at high water. We can just step across through our boarding gate. Compare to the photo in the last post, where we had to board on the boat deck.

This is the second pandemic haircut I've had to do, and having only one prior experience under my belt, my skills have not progressed. But at least we now have a half-decent pair of haircutting shears, which we bought after the last experience, and by going slowly I was able to do a presentable job. Nothing going on around us suggests either one of us will be able to go to a salon in a very long time, so amateur haircuts will be the new normal for us. We've been cutting my hair on the boat for years, so there's that, at least.

This morning the ebb was already well under way when we awoke, and so after our first coffee we weighed anchor and continued downriver. At this rate, we could easily be back in Hampton Roads by day's end tomorrow, except for the fact that we actually don't want to arrive much before mid-day Friday, because that is when I am expecting an eBay purchase to arrive at the post office, care of General Delivery, in Newport News.


The most I could see of the Capitol. I think the dumpsters as crash barriers is a nice touch.

That eBay purchase is a replacement unit for our helm computer, which crashed three times while we were at the dock in Richmond. I can't be 100% sure what the problem is, because the hardware itself is stopping, leaving Windows to just tell me the shutdown was "unexpected," but as near as I can tell, the CPU is overheating. I did take it all apart and clean out the cooling fan, to little avail. A replacement fan is $150, whereas the whole unit on eBay was $114. I have my fingers crossed that when I move the SSD over to the replacement, it will just boot right up and all will work normally.


Dinner venue. Two more trucks out of frame.

As long as I have to bike over to the post office, I'll also go to yet another Amazon locker, because neither of the two aftermarket ink cartridges in our last shipment was recognized by the printer. They're getting returned, but, ironically, I can't print the return label. I have a couple of other items coming as well.

With nearly four full days before we need to be at the mouth of the James, we decided to make the side trip up the Chickahominy, just to see it. It's about a 15nm trip after turning off the James to our head of navigation at the Walker Dam. We had to pick our way across a shallow bar at the entrance, perhaps 8' at low water, but once in the river it is deep the whole way. It's a meander river, serpentine near the dam, so we're just 10nm from the James.


Unexpected fireworks on the river.

It was a great day for a cruise, sunny and calm. In fact, the outside temperature crept up to 95 throughout the afternoon, and lots of folks were swimming from docks, fishing, or running around on jet-skis. We ran the AC in the pilothouse to stay comfortable, wondering whether we'd have to fire the generator right up as soon as we stopped to keep cool


A better view of the Varina-Enon bridge after passing beneath it.

We need not have worried. A front was bearing down on us, and as we approached our intended destination, the weather alert on the VHF radio went off to warn us of a rapidly approaching thunderstorm traveling at 60 mph and bringing high wind, heavy rain, and large hail. Louise was able to pull it up on the weather radar to give us a more precise arrival estimate.


Sunset at anchor in the James. Ben Harrison Bridge in the distance.

At this point we were in a narrow part of the river, where current ripping back and forth keeps the bottom scoured and can make for depths in excess of 50 feet. We raced ahead to a section where the river widens just below the dam, found a 14' deep section that we figured to be sedimentation, and dropped the hook where we are now, right in the middle of the river.

As soon as we had the anchor set, I dogged everything down on the flybridge, and Louise dogged all the windows. Before I even had the engine shut down, the outside temp had dropped into the 50s and the wind was picking up. It was no more than three or four minutes later that the front hit, and hit hard.


60+ mph thunderstorm passes over Vector. 6 minutes long. We're anchored -- all the movement you see is from the wind.

I restarted the engine, just in case, and had to turn the wipers on full tilt. The driving rain and wind-blown river soon obscured the shore and everything on it. A loud crash informed us that something, somewhere had fallen over; that turned out to have been every single piece of furniture on the aft deck. Louise looked up the hatchway to see the canvas soft top had ripped away from its frame and was flapping loose. The anemometer recorded 50mph before the ripped canvas took it out of commission, but we know it continued to go much higher.


Weather instruments captured 52mph before the sensors stopped working. The temperature drop at lower left, 95-67, happened in the span of minutes. It dropped further, to 57, a short time later.

The anchor held through it all, even when we somehow turned beam-to the wind and rolled a good 10°-15°. We stayed in the pilothouse through the entire outburst, watching the radar set and the chart plotter. It was all over in the span of perhaps five minutes, the storm racing away as fast as it had approached.

I changed into my swim suit, grabbed the waterproof camera, and made my way onto the flybridge. I was able to get the canvas off the wind instruments and get them down, and Louise and I were able to pull the shredded canvas back on top of the frame and throw a rope over it to keep it from causing any further damage.


Aftermath; The top ripped down the middle and flipped over to starboard. Cheap string of patio lights hung on for the whole storm.

While I was working on the instruments. I noticed a trio of jet-skis carrying five young ladies clad only in bikinis and life vests race by upriver, presumably back to their dock. They had passed us in the other direction perhaps an hour or so earlier. It was 95° and sunny when they left the dock; I can only imagine what they went through riding this thing out on PWCs, with no warning. And then, when it was over, they froze their buns riding miles back in 57°. They have more of a story to tell than we do.


Aftermath on the aft deck. I had to move one chair just to get out.

Replacing the ripped canvas is going to be a major pain. Most marine canvas shops are booked out weeks, if not months, in advance, and even when they are ready to start, it can be two weeks or more between measurement and final installation. What lies ahead of us now are dozens of phone calls to canvas shops trying to find one who can squeeze us into their schedule and which is somewhere between here and the northeast. It's daunting.

We can't just leave it undone. There's lots of stuff up on the flybridge, including the hatch from the pilothouse, that depends somewhat on coverage it provides to keep the majority of rainwater at bay. Also, the shade it provides keeps the heat load down in the galley and pilothouse. So this project is now our top priority.


A different view, showing how the weather stations were pushed over by the canvas.

That being said, this soft top was living on borrowed time, and owed us nothing. It was installed nearly 13 years ago, toward the end of 2007, by our good friend John, who owned the boat before us. It served faithfully and without issue for the remainder of his ownership and well into ours, until calamity befell it ten years later when the center seam parted as we rode out Tropical Storm Cindy in Biloxi, Mississippi in 2017. At that time, we taped it together and held it down with a rope until we could get to Charleston.


Furniture blows over violently on the aft deck as we take a broadside gust.

We spent three full months in Charleston, and while we had that much downtime, we got quotes from three local canvas places to repair or replace the top. All of them quoted replacement and suggested that was what was really needed; none thought we could get even another year from it. But one was willing to repair it, without guarantee, for a lot less than replacement, so that's what we did. Long-time readers may recall I took the opportunity to remove and relocate all the equipment that had been bolted on top of it so we could again have a lowerable mast.

Two years later, we were very glad we had not yet invested in a complete replacement top when a lightning strike shot a piece of VHF antenna fiberglass through the top like a bullet, leaving an oblong hole. I covered the hole with repair tape made for the purpose and called it good enough.


Our older anemometer was a casualty of the situation. Maybe I can find some vanes.

So full replacement of the top has been a long time coming, and is one of the projects we had in mind for our next major yard visit, perhaps toward the end of this year. Now its time has come just a tad sooner. Previous thoughts of perhaps including some solar panels in that process will likely be forsaken in the name of expedience.

In the meantime I have taken my cue from Mythbusters, and duct-taped what's left of the top into an inobtrusive and semi-usable position. More duct tape and some scissor surgery is needed when everything dries out. The duct taped result will not survive even mild winds, so it is, at best, a very short-term proposition.


The calm after the storm. We had a lovely sunset after a pleasant dinner.

Of course, I still need to fix the helm computer, and the anchor rollers have stopped turning and need replacing, and the satellite dish stopped working two weeks ago and needs to be looked at. Proving the maxim that cruising is just working on your boat in new and interesting locations.

Tomorrow I hope to put the tender in the water, go check out the dam, and maybe get ashore at the nearby campground and marina. Perhaps we'll then make our way partway back downriver and see if we can anchor in another scenic spot.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Juneteenth.

Emancipation Day. Freedom Day. Liberation Day. Whatever you call it, I can hardly think of a more fitting place for us to be on this day, at this time: in Richmond, Virginia, once the Capital of the Confederate States of America, long defeated but somehow, 155 years later, still celebrated here and elsewhere in monuments more fitting of victors. We are docked at the city wharf (map), at one time in the midst of the Confederate naval base and shipyards.


Vector docked in Richmond. We went down another couple of feet from here, and mostly had to get on and off the boat from the upper deck.

Not far from here, President Lincoln stepped ashore, just two days after Richmond fell, to tour the city, now smoldering in ruins. Directly across the river from our dock stood the Manchester slave docks, where the ghastly human cargo was unloaded and marched in irons to the slave jails, in the dead of night to avoid exposing proper society to the sights and smells of unwashed and often injured humanity.


Monday afternoon after I already posted we saw this US Navy Seahawk conducting low-altitude maneuvers nearby.

Tuesday morning we weighed anchor right after our first coffee, and rode the flood upriver until it petered out about four hours later. We anchored in another wide spot in the river, across from Windmill Point (map). With the hook down just after lunch, we had a relaxing afternoon aboard. We certainly could have made more miles, but with our dinner date not until tonight, there was no point in pushing against the combination of ebb and freshet. I got a couple of things done around the boat. It was a very quiet anchorage.


Passing Colonial Williamsburg on our way upriver Tuesday.

Wednesday, between the diurnal shift in the onset of tides and the fact that we were much further upriver, we were able to get a much later start. Nevertheless, we made it a very short day, because there are no anchorages in the last dozen miles of river. Instead we turned off onto a long-abandoned meander of the river and dropped the hook next to Farrar Island, in the Dutch Gap Conservation Area (map). The meander was actually cut off by the excavation by Union forces of the Dutch Gap Canal.


Just before turning off to Farrar Island we passed under the Varina-Enon bridge carrying I-295, our usual route around Richmond in the bus.

Wednesday I also called ahead to the lone marina in the city of Richmond, at Rocketts Landing, to ask about dockage. They informed me that, in normal conditions, they might be able to squeeze us onto their diminutive floating docks, but with flooding and the associated high current expected to arrive Thursday night, Vector posed too much risk to their docks. The dockmaster was able to tell me, though, that he did not think the city would have any issue with us tying up here at the quay. We had another dark, quiet, and peaceful night.


The tugs and ships kept referring to "Jimmy Dean" as a landmark on the radio, and we thought it must be a plant. No, it's his estate.

Thursday morning we waited until the flood was well underway. I knew that no matter how much tidal help we had, somewhere in the last few miles, the tide would be overwhelmed by the river flow, and the current would be against us. Our choice of departure time put us in the river just ahead of two tugboats running upriver light-boat to assist a cargo ship off the dock. They passed us in a bend of the river, and we had to pass astern of them later and through their prop wash as we passed the cargo ship. In between, we met a downbound tug with a barge on a short wire; our busiest, yet shortest, day on the river.


Our view of downtown Richmond and the Falls of the James out our front windows.

Our final turn northward, some eight miles south of Richmond, was at an escarpment called Drewry's Bluff, where the evacuating Confederates scuttled their fleet, in the hopes of one final blockade. The ships still lie on the bottom, under feet of silt. Shortly afterward we passed the deepwater port of Richmond, and after just a couple hours under way we arrived here at the head of navigation. As soon as they came into sight it was clear to us that the dockmaster was right -- Vector is too big and heavy for the marina, even in settled conditions.


View back downriver toward Rocketts Landing from the Great Shiplock. Vector is just out of sight to the left, behind the river gage that controls our life at the moment.

Fortunately the city wharf was devoid of fishermen as we arrived, and we had plenty of time to carefully plan our approach. The built-in fenders on the quay protrude 20" from the wall, but only extend downward 39". They were well above our rail line  aft of the forward fashion plate, and just barely making contact with the gunwales forward. We needed to approach carefully to keep them from overrunning the rails.


This huge fender on the quay in Richmond partly obscures the construction date - 1932.

The enormous cleats, designed for small cruise ships, were well above Louise's head, and as she was trying to lasso one, a man got out of his truck and offered to take it for her. He turned out to be one of the marina principals, and we had a nice chat. In all, it took us well over a half hour to get Vector situated and secured in such a way that we were well fended-off the dock. With a tide swing of over three and a half feet, and quay fenders just a bit shorter than that, we knew we'd be adjusting our own fenders numerous times.


Great Shiplock downstream gate, unopened in many years.

After getting all squared away we took a stroll around the Rocketts Landing neighborhood. Several historic buildings have been repurposed into condos, apartments, and even a restaurant, and new construction is filling in the gaps. The neighborhood sorely needs a grocery, or at least a mini-mart, but is rather pleasant with many waterfront views.


Surrounded by graffiti, this dedication from 1849 is still legible on the lock's stonework.

We returned in the evening for dinner on the outside deck at The Boathouse. In addition to being seated outside, the restaurant has implemented touchless menus, ordering, and payment, with masked servers delivering food. We were afforded a lovely view of the city, and felt relatively safe.


Our dinnertime view, from the deck at The Boathouse. Vector looks diminutive from here.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, folks arrived on the dock to fish. By the time we got back from dinner there was hardly an open space on the quay. I spent a lot of time answering questions any time I went on deck, which was frequently to check and adjust lines and fenders. Cruising boats simply do not come here. Some of the fishing parties lingered and carried on until past 1am, but we were all alone when I turned in.


The quay full of people fishing and socializing. Some in this photo stayed past midnight. Boathouse is the place with the smokestack at right.

We went through a full tidal cycle at the dock yesterday, but by midnight, the water upriver was beginning to steadily rise, and I knew we would not have to raise the fenders again. We've been lowering them all day, and as I wrap up typing late in the evening, the river here is already three feet above normal and still has not crested. The upstream gage is just cresting, slightly above flood stage, and a flow just under 50,000 CFS. The river flow when we arrived yesterday was one tenth of that.


Some interesting art in the remains of the powerplant on Brown's Island, now an upscale mixed-use neighborhood.

Today's forecast was for rain, but I got a break in the middle of the day, and I put the e-bike on the ground and went for a spin. I rode up past the old ship lock, which, last century, raised ships and their cargo up to the level of the city proper for unloading. I continued along the narrow canal system, in and out of the enormous city floodwall, and across the river atop the old VEPCO low-head dam.


A short clip of the Falls of the James above 30,000 CFS.

I would estimate the flow at the time I was there to be 30,000 CFS. At this stage the river is closed to paddlers, who otherwise can run the class III-IV rapids right past downtown, emerging just upriver of where we are docked.


The paddling put-in above the falls, across the street from the Civil War Museum at the old Tredegar Ironworks. Closed.

My detour across the river and back meant I would not have enough battery to make it out to Monument Avenue and the Capitol, which I will try to do tomorrow. I returned by way of downtown and then Main Street, passing the restored train station, the 17th Street Market, and the quaint cobblestone restaurant district in Shockoe Bottom. The only real evidence I saw of the protests that have gripped the city was at the boarded windows of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum.


Edgar Allan Poe museum.

This evening we returned to Rocketts Landing to meet our friends for dinner at Conch Republic, which was chosen because there is plenty of safe outdoor seating. Of course, the rain that missed me early in the day arrived with a vengeance just before dinner, and we walked over in raincoats hoping for at least a dry spot on the deck. As it turned out the rain was short-lived and we had a great time catching up over sandwiches and beer at opposite ends of a suitable outdoor table.


Tobacco Row, residential lofts in historic former industrial space.

By the time we left for dinner, the current was running past the boat at close to three knots. The swollen river has been carrying all manner of debris, including a number of massive logs, some as much as 20' long and two feet across. And while the river will crest overnight, the flow will remain high and debris-laden throughout tomorrow and into Sunday morning, and so we'll remain right here, securely tied up, until it's safe to maneuver in the river.


Richmond station. I wanted to peek inside, but it is now open to ticketed passengers only.

In addition to some more riding around tomorrow, we have an Amazon order arriving at the closest locker, and I need to pick up a few groceries as well. We will likely drop lines Sunday; in normal times I could easily see us spending several more days here taking it all in, but with transit and rideshare risky, and most museums and other sites closed, there is little reason to do so on this visit.


The small canals that lead from the city wharves at the Shiplock basin (behind the floodwall) through town. In normal times small tour boats run their length.

I expect our return trip will be just as slow and lazy as the trip upriver. We have no particular destination in mind once we leave the James, and it's too early to be looking ahead to passage weather for either the Chesapeake or the Atlantic.


Richmond tonight from our upper deck, on a very hazy night.