Thursday, June 11, 2020

Yes, Virginia

We are tied up at the free public dock at the foot of High Street, in Portsmouth, Virginia (map). This is a familiar stop for us, although more typically we preferred to stay at the north ferry landing, three blocks to the north. The docks there were in such bad shape that the city finally ripped them out; no word on replacements.

Moonrise over Croatan Sound, looking toward Roanoke Island.

As predicted, seas on Pamlico sound built throughout the afternoon Friday, and we were glad to make the turn northward into Croatan sound, putting them on our stern. By the time we made it to the bridges at the northern end of the sound, they had built to three feet on a short period, and we opted to go another couple of miles to tuck in behind Reed's Point (map), where we had the anchor down by 4pm. We were able to get in close enough to have a comfortable night.

Saturday we got an early start across the Albemarle Sound, knowing that it, too, would worsen throughout the day. It was a bumpy ride after the first half hour, and we were happy to finally be in the protection of the North River embayment after lunch. We steamed up to the northernmost point where we could still leave the channel to anchor, at the last anchorage for dozens of miles (map). That made it a short day.

In the middle of the day, we were anchored all alone, and we've always been alone here. But this is the busy season now, and by dinner time we had three neighbors, and we could see another couple of boats anchored further down the bay. The vast majority of boats we saw, though, went right on by us, on their way to Coinjock, an overpriced marina with an on-site restaurant famous for prime rib, which we found to be acceptable but nothing special.

This work crane near the Steel Bridge project in Chesapeake appears to have suffered a boom failure; you can see the twisted remains of the lower section resting on the barge.

While I would have loved to have a nice fresh slice of even mediocre prime rib, which we could carry right out to the boat for a safe place to eat, and I'd even be willing to pay the somewhat inflated price for it (offset by the fact that we always split a piece between us), paying an extra $110 for the dock makes it decidedly not worth it. We always motor past Coinjock for just that reason.

Just past Coinjock, which straddles a man-made cut, lies one of the narrowest sections of the ICW, a dredged cut through Currituck Sound. As luck would have it, we just cleared the canal when we saw a tug and barge headed toward us, about two miles away. He needs the whole channel there, and I did not want to meet him in a squeaky spot, especially after listening to another boat touch bottom going around him. We hovered right at the end of the canal, where it is relatively wide and deep, for a half hour to pass safely before resuming our journey.

After leaving Currituck Sound the route follows the twists and turns of the North Landing River. Where the river passes underneath the only road for a dozen miles in either direction is a small landing with the remains of a long defunct marina. The locals turn this into the Redneck Yacht Club every weekend, and this being Sunday we had to play chicken with a half dozen jet skis, a few ski boats, some kayakers, and even swimmers. And, of course, listen to the crusty dude living on a permanently moored dilapidated motorboat who yells at everyone on the radio to slow down.

Vector docked at High Street basin, Portsmouth, with the naval shipyards across the river.

Eventually we made it to the series of drawbridges across the Virginia Cut. After clearing through the scheduled opening of the North Landing bridge, we arrived at Centerville Turnpike only to find they were delayed for maintenance. They opened just in the nick of time for us to make the 3pm opening at Great Bridge Bridge by pushing the throttle up to 80% power; this bridge only opens on the hour, so missing it by even a minute would have meant a change of plans or hovering in the river for an hour.

We tied up to the free wall in the town of Chesapeake (map), once again finding ourselves all alone. The other five boats that came through the bridge with us continued on into the Great Bridge Lock. My Amazon orders arrived a day early, so after we tied up I put the e-Bike on the ground and rode over to the locker to pick them up. I also made stops at the hardware store and the Kroger grocery; convenient access to these services make this one of the best stops along this route.

On my way home I stopped at one of our all-time favorite Mexican restaurants, El Toro Loco, just a block from the dock, and picked up fajitas and some chips and salsa for dinner. It was delicious as always and ridiculously inexpensive, but we were sad to learn this was their last week in this location -- they are moving to a new location two miles from the dock. We were very glad they were open on this visit so we could enjoy one last meal; it's unlikely we will be able to partake on future stops that far away.

The docks at the North Ferry Landing basin, where we once rode out a hurricane, are gone. Also, the Renaissance Hotel, where we took tornado refuge, has been painted gray to hide the nasty dark stains that had crept across the beige facade.

Monday we decided to stay put and get a few things done while we had easy access to stores. One of my Amazon packages was a leather repair kit; Angel managed to put a deep scratch in my brand new helm chair, which eventually wore through to a full-blown hole. I applied numerous small coats of repair goop throughout the day, as long as the chair was not in use. I also installed a more useful battery meter on the new "buffer" battery and did some work on the tender's VHF radio, all with parts that were in my Amazon order.

As long as I had the e-Bike out I took a spin around town on both sides of the bridge. The "new" battlefield visitor center, which has been perpetually under construction since our first time though, but looked mostly complete last year, apparently was just about to open when the pandemic hit, and thus has yet to be open even a single day. Several other businesses have come and gone. I made another grocery run, having only picked up much-needed milk on Sunday -- we try to stay out of the grocery store on the weekends. I picked up a sandwich at Panera for dinner, along with a couple of bagels for the morning.

Tuesday we dropped lines for the noon lockage at Great Bridge Lock, which put us in the Elizabeth River at the very end of the flood. After just a mile we had the ebb with us for the rest of the dozen mile run here to the free dock in Portsmouth. Just as on our last trip, we had to wait for a train to cross the Belt Line railroad bridge, but this time it was a short wait of just a few minutes.

This morning en route to Hampton we passed yet another phalanx of idled Norwegian Cruise Lines ships, sitting at a container wharf.

We were very surprised to find these docks completely empty when we arrived, and we were alone almost till dinner time. This is doubly surprising knowing now that the North Landing docks are closed. I walked to the visitor center to sign in, per the rules, to find it closed due to the pandemic. So I spent some time online to make sure we were still permitted here. I found nothing to suggest otherwise, and eventually found a page to sign in online, which I did.

There were protests here over the weekend (which have continued through our stay), and perhaps that accounts for the scarcity of boats here. Two sailboats showed up later in the afternoon and were with us last night. One of those is with us tonight as well.

Yesterday evening we had our first full-service, sit-down meal since the Staniel Cay Yacht Club in early March. We had hoped to eat on the patio at the Renaissance Hotel, which seemed like the safest option, but their kitchen is still closed. We walked past our old standby pizza joint, just up the block from the old town square and its prominent Confederate Monument. Their patio was in full sun, so we continued past the monument and ended up at Humboldt Steel on High Street, which had a few nicely spaced outdoor tables.

Portsmouth's Confederate Monument, or what's left of it after the protest.

We've never stopped here before, principally because it's basically a beer bar with a very limited food menu, and the patio tables are always full of smokers. Changing priorities continue to influence our choices of dining venues; our old standbys the Bier Garden and Thai Basil were too enclosed. New spacing had us far enough from the smokers, and the sandwiches and salad were fine. Their 40-beer tap list is down to just a handful due to the pandemic, but we enjoyed what they had.

Today was a quiet day at home, with 90+ outside temperatures keeping us on board with the AC running most of the day. I tried to get whatever projects done that I could without moving from our tiny air conditioned zone. We walked right across the basin for dinner at Legends Brewing, which again had nicely spaced outdoor tables and who brew a lovely brown ale. I brought a case home with me.

Eating at the basin meant we missed all the excitement in town, which only became apparent after dark, when I noticed flashing blue lights closing off High Street. I wandered down to the old square, where slaves were once bought, sold, and publicly punished, to find the Confederate Monument roped off and covered in spray paint. One of the figures had been toppled, apparently knocking a protester unconscious in the process, and the others had been beheaded. The good citizens of Portsmouth have been trying for years to get this removed; perhaps it finally will be. The entire protest was peaceful and without police conflict.

Another view, with a handful of celebrants and a small TV crew. The police looked bored.

Update: While I typed most of the above last night, my detour downtown to take in the aftermath of the protest caused me to run out of steam before I got the photos edited and uploaded. This morning we dropped lines at 8am to catch the last of the ebb downriver, and we are now docked at the Hampton Public Piers (map), in downtown Hampton, Virginia, where we will spend a few days with power so I can work on reconditioning the battery bank.

1 comment:

  1. Drove over from Virginia Beach this morning to see the Vector in person. I've followed and enjoyed your blog for 4-5 years. Was hoping to wave hello but there was no sign of activity at 1130. Safe travels!


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