Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Making tracks

We are underway southbound in the ICW, just entering Currituck Sound as I begin typing.  Seas got progressively calmer Friday and our speed picked up, and we actually had the hook down in the Phoebus anchorage (map) by 5:20. That was in plenty of time to splash the tender and go ashore, but rather than the longer ride and half mile walk into town, we just tied up at the Old Point Comfort marina and ate on the deck at the on-site restaurant, the Deadrise (named after the state boat of Virginia).

Our first dolphin escort of the season, southbound on the Chesapeake.

On our final leg down the Chesapeake we passed the ship anchorage, which was more full than I have ever seen it. The news coverage of enormous backlogs at US ports is not an exaggeration. We arrived at the entrance to Hampton Roads at dusk, and I noticed for the first time that the giant "77" on the island of the aircraft carrier George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) is illuminated in red, white, and blue. Too far away to get a photo, unfortunately. We just made the anchorage in the last of the fading twilight.

I could not get a photo of the ships at anchor, but you can see 13 of them in this plotter image, a few miles off to port.

The weather was dicey enough on Saturday that we considered just hunkering down in Phoebus, or maybe going around the corner to Hampton. But winds from the west were already making the anchorage uncomfortable, and we decided we'd just endure the pounding for an hour while we crossed Hampton Roads and got in the lee of Craney Island. We weighed anchor as the tide slackened.

Sunset over Norfolk, just before we turned off Chesapeake Bay.

Two outbound ships, including the "ultra large" container ship Al Qibla, had me crossing the channel early and running down the green side. That put us just 50 yards or so off the edge of the security zone for Naval Station Norfolk, but it was choppy enough that the overly aggressive patrol boats were nowhere in site. In addition to motoring past the Bush, we also passed the Harry S. Truman, CVN-75, two of the last Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carriers.

The heavy chop along with some ebb had us spending over two hours to make just 11 nm. We arrived in Portsmouth to find the High Street basin nearly empty, and we were able to tie up in our preferred spot on the inside bulkhead (map). Mindful of having missed out on our last visit, I ran right over to the Legend Brewing Depot and picked up a case of Legend Brown, which comes in pint cans. We ended up right back there for dinner on a chilly evening.

Tied up at High Street. The city has started decorating for the holidays. White platform at far left will soon sport a tree.

We opted to spend two nights in Portsmouth so that I could run out to Walmart on the e-bike Sunday. It's about a six mile round trip, but it's the last convenient Walmart we will see for a while, and we have a number of staples on our provisioning list that we normally get there, including two gallons of motor oil for the generator, which is overdue for a change. We ended the day by walking down High Street to Thai Basil for dinner.

This mural in the shopping plaza at Great Bridge depicts the bridge opening, but if you look closely on the right side you will see it is painted across a fiberglass heron. A half dozen of these herons line the canal.

Yesterday morning we walked over to the post office and then had a nice breakfast sandwich at The Coffee Shoppe just a couple of blocks from the landing. The post office shares a building with the Coast Guard Fifth District headquarters. Afterward we dropped lines for the short cruise down to Great Bridge. We had to hover waiting for the lock, and were tied up at the park bulkhead in the canal by 2pm (map).

This "mailbox" right near the bulkhead is actually a depository for old US flags, which are given proper ceremonial disposal. I dropped our retired ensign here.

Here again I had expected to stay two nights, since we are slow-rolling to our planned Thanksgiving stop. But a check of the weather revealed that we need to be crossing the Albermarle Sound tomorrow at the latest, and so we made plans for one night only, and as soon as we were secure I hoofed it the half mile to the shopping center, where I had s shopping list for the dollar store and the Kroger supermarket. At dinner time we walked to the Vino Italian Bistro, just a half block from the dock. I am happy to report they have improved since our last visit six years ago.

One of several herons across the canal from us, all painted differently. This one has a a scene from the Elizabeth River.

We needed to make the 9am opening of the Great Bridge bridge this morning to make the anchorage before dark, but we were up early and dropped lines for the 8am instead. We're having a good cruise, with Currituck Sound as flat as I have ever seen it. The plotter says we'll be anchored by 4pm. Tomorrow we will cross the Albemarle and head for the Alligator River ICW route, as conditions will be unfavorable on Pamlico Sound. My next post will likely be from the Neuse River in three days.

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