Friday, October 10, 2014

Breaking my silence

We've been docked in Yorktown, Virginia, at the county's Riverwalk Landing Marina (map) for nearly two weeks, since Monday September 28th.  That's a long time to go without updating the blog (aside from George's memorial), but we've been busy visiting friends and family daily.  I'm also behind on answering comments.  Of course, dealing with a dying cat did not help my time management.

We said our last goodbyes this morning, to Martin and Steph as they shoved off for Norfolk.  There they will pick up their delivery skipper, who will take them and Blossom all the way to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, where it will be part of the Nordhavn exhibit.  Now that it's back to just the two of us, I finally have some time to catch up on the blog.  As luck would have it, I'm again typing under way in the Chesapeake.

This morning's sunrise over the York River.  That's Blossom at the pumpout dock on the right, with the barque Alliance behind it.

Our plan today had been to shove off at high slack around 1pm, head over to the pumpout dock, and then go just a mile downriver to the same anchorage where we spent the Sunday night of our arrival, adjacent to the marina's mooring field. That would give us all weekend to make our way to Deltaville for a Monday morning start on the project list.  It would also have given me a quiet afternoon at anchor to update the blog.  The forecast has been deteriorating, though, and we decided, after pumping out, to get as far as we could today, perhaps all the way to the Piankatank, so we would not have to plow through rough seas later on.

Shortly after finishing my post here two weeks ago, we arrived at our destination in Yorktown.  We were two full days early for our Tuesday reservation, but we headed over to the marina anyway, just to check it out.  It looked like a pretty easy dock, and the dockmaster met us to see if we wanted to try coming in, but it was a good hour past slack, and I would have to dock with the current behind me to be able to offload the scooters, tricky without a working bow thruster.  With full batteries, we also did not want to pay for an extra night of dockage we did not need.  So after assessing the situation, we headed back downriver to the anchorage.

We were happy to find these signs on the docks, which were locked after hours.  I called the sheriff's office three times during the course of our stay to deal with uninvited "guests" on the docks after hours, mostly guys fishing.

After we dropped the hook and got settled in, I contacted my cousins, who were already in town and just settling in to their accommodations.  They were happy to meet us for dinner at one of the dockside restaurants right there at Riverwalk Landing, and so we splashed the tender and did just that.  It was a great reunion -- we had not seen my cousin Lawrence, his wife Lori, and their son Joe (who calls us uncle and aunt) since January, 2013, when we were in the thick of buying a boat and they were in the thick of buying a house.  Long-time readers may remember we had Christmas dinner with them after delivering their dog, Simon, and their car, having driven both across country from our pre-purchase sea trial.

They rented a suite for a week in Williamsburg, a 20-minute drive from Yorktown.  Joining them were my other cousin, Chris, whom we saw recently in Troy, New York, and my Aunt Graciela, whom we also saw recently in Haverstraw, New York.  My uncle couldn't make it, and so the five of them fit comfortably in Chris's car for the ride to the docks.

Over an al fresco dinner at the Water Street Cafe, we hatched a plan for my cousins to join us aboard Vector Monday for a short cruise.  That involved the four of them piling into the dinghy with me at the marina for a slow putt to the anchorage, then watching as we stowed the tender and weighed anchor.  We had just enough time before slack tide to cruise underneath the massive George Coleman double swing bridge and up to the naval weapons depot before coming back through the bridge to the marina and docking.  The cruise was very short, but they got to spend a couple of hours on the boat, and Joe got to drive for a while after we turned around at the weapons depot and headed back for the bridge.

Joe drives Vector towards the Coleman Bridge.

The marina was happy to have us come in a day early, and I trundled into the office and paid for nine nights, a fairly long stay for us.  Blossom arrived Monday afternoon and did exactly what we had done -- anchored downriver to make a slack-current arrival on Tuesday.  The marina crammed the two of us right next to each other, yet we had the entire marina to ourselves for most of the nine days.

Vector and Blossom all alone at Riverwalk.

After we were well tied up at the dock, we put my scooter down so that we could go over to the cousins' suite in Williamsburg for dinner, bearing in mind we could not all fit in the car.  We had a lovely ride along the National Park Service's Colonial Parkway.  My cousins ended up feeding us at their place Tuesday and Thursday nights as well, and even invited Martin and Steph along. We returned the favor at a local Italian place near their digs on Friday, their final evening in town.

We had a fantastic visit with all five of them, mostly involving overeating in the evenings.  They did some of the Williamsburg tourist stuff in the daytime, while I got some projects done, Louise had a hair appointment, and we both got massages at a local massage school.  Wednesday was, of course, focused on the cat, and we were too emotional to have dinner with a crowd, so we had a quiet dinner with Martin and Steph at the Riverwalk Cafe dockside.  Martin and Steph were also quite close to George, having cat-sit for us on more than one occasion, including while we were sea-trialing the boat.

When the four of us made unequivocal plans to spend a week in Yorktown, Steph and Louise both decided to have their mothers fly out to meet us.  Louise's mom was the last among our parents to see the boat, since making flight reservations from California to connect with us is a bit like hitting a moving target.  This is one of the few places we've stopped long enough to do so close to a major airport.

To facilitate the logistics of all the family visits, we rented a car, as did the Blossom crew.  We got a great weekly rate, and picked it up on Thursday, making it due back yesterday right after all the mothers-in-law departed. As long as we had a car, we ran lots of errands involving trips to big-box stores in Newport News.

Among many other projects, I thus finally was able to replace the failed start battery.  A handful of pulleys and some rope from Lowe's let me rig a system to lift the old one, weighing 175 pounds, out of the engine room.  I replaced it with a much smaller battery from Advance Auto Parts, leaving room in the battery tray for a second, identical battery in parallel if this one proves insufficient.  The jury is out at the moment.

We had a bit of downtime between my family's departure and the arrival of Louise's mom.  Part of that was occupied with projects, but Saturday turned out to be the annual Virginia Wine Festival at Riverwalk Landing, and we all bought tickets and sampled the local wines.  I found none worthy of actually buying a bottle, but it was fun tasting them all and enjoying the outdoor festival in perfect weather.

Super moon rising over the York.  We did not catch the eclipse at zero-dark-thirty the next morning.

This was the event that necessitated the tight quarters at the marina.  By Saturday afternoon the marina was full, with a boat at every inside spot.  As luck would have it, though, Saturday night ended up being the worst weather of our whole stay, with 30-knot winds whipping down the river and sending waves crashing over the docks.  Vector and Blossom did not move uncomfortably, being the heavy boats they are.  But the other dozen boats in the marina did not fare as well, and we saw many crews standing watch in the wee hours, tending to their dock lines.  Some of the smaller boats looked like they were having worse motion at the dock than Vector has seen at sea.

Waves coming over the docks, shot from our aft deck.

We never made it to Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, or any of the other tourist attractions in the area.  But I did ride my bicycle around all of Yorktown, which is historic in its own right.  It is, of course, where Cornwallis surrendered to Washington, thus ending the Revolutionary War.  Many of the earthworks and fortifications for both sides still exist, as do some structures of the era, though the fortifications were altered by both sides during the Civil War.

The very first monument authorized by Congress, in 1781.  Even then, they were inefficient -- it was not erected until a century later, for the centennial of the surrender.

This week we've been entertained by numerous Coast Guard boats practicing docking and line-tying at our dock and the ones around us.  There is a large USCG training facility in Yorktown, and these were recruits, still wet behind the ears, being instructed by petty officers.  Many, it would seem, had never set foot on a boat before they enlisted.

Perhaps hard to tell, but there are five USCG small boats in this photo.  We saw as many as a dozen practicing at the docks.

Today's entertainment, just as we were finishing our pumpout, was watching the USS Farragut transit the swing bridge, which seldom opens, on its way to the weapons dock.  We only saw the bridge open one other time during our stay, for a Coast Guard cutter going to the same place.

USS Farragut, an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, heads for the opening of the Coleman Bridge.

This morning we were awakened by a DSC distress message on the radio at 7:15, which turned out to be a false alarm from a vessel some 150 miles away, in North Carolina.  At least I got a nice sunrise photo, which appears earlier in this post, and we were well awake for our 8:30 farewell breakfast date with Martin and Steph after they moved Blossom to the pumpout dock on the 7am slack.

The visitor we found under our bow line.  He's tiny -- that cleat is perhaps 10" long.

We cast off lines and headed for the pumpout ourselves at the 1pm slack.  As she was singling lines, Louise found a tiny visitor to our humble abode: a little green snake no bigger than a pencil in diameter. I have no idea how he got here.  By the time we were ready to leave, we had 5-10 knots of wind pinning us to the dock, and it was a real challenge to get the boat away with no thruster and no room for backing astern.  We made it without incident, other than some black marks from the dock's rubber bumper on our hull, which the dockmaster called a "Yorktown racing stripe," easily removed.

It's taken me most of the cruise to get this all typed, and then some, and we are now safely anchored in nearly the exact same spot we left two weeks ago, in the Piankatank River outside of Deltaville. We decided to press on the whole way, knowing we'd arrive just after dark, but that we'd be dropping the hook in a familiar spot.  Of course the five minute downpour of rain had to happen just as Louise was on deck deploying the anchor.  We'll move into Jackson Creek tomorrow or Sunday as weather permits.


  1. Awwww, you updated your posting. I liked the "George" link even if the caption was wrong ;-). Was a fitting reminder of George again.

  2. We gad a great time with you guys last week! Looking forward to getting back together later in the year down south.


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