Friday, June 7, 2024

Back in the North

We are northbound in the Chesapeake Bay, crossing the sometimes turbulent mouth of the Potomac River as I begin typing, and leaving Virginia in our wake. Today's weather is mild and we are having a good crossing. The plotter says we will be in Solomons, Maryland before 4:30pm.

We passed this LOVE sign made from crab pots on our stroll around Reedville this morning.

Saturday night's winds were calm, as forecast, and we had a comfortable night at our anchorage on the Alligator River. Sunday morning we weighed anchor after a leisurely coffee and headed north toward the Albemarle sound. The Alligator River Bridge tender seemed reluctant to open the bridge three times in succession for boats that were spaced about 15 minutes apart; the replacement high bridge, construction of which has just started, can not come soon enough. He ultimately did make three openings, and we had only a short delay.

We've been very protective of our dragonflies, who've been eating the greenhead flies for us. Word has gotten out and they are now procreating aboard.

The Albemarle was fairly calm for our crossing, and we made good enough time into the North River that we cruised right past the wide sections, where we normally anchor, and into the twisty part, dropping the hook in a new spot for us, off-channel in a spot near Buck Island (map). There is just enough depth for us here, unfortunately, it was also full of pot floats, so we had to set a very short scope, and part of our circle was in just 6' of water over soft mud. Still, we had a comfortable night.

It's only mud.

Monday we steamed through a completely empty Coinjock on our way to Currituck Sound, which was choppy as usual. We timed our departure and cruise to arrive at the North Landing Bridge right at the top of the hour. That's always a risk, because it gives us just a half hour to go four miles to the Centerville Turnpike Bridge.

Two other boats were with us, which always gives us more breathing room as we don't have to be at the next bridge right on the dot. We squeaked through the bridge, which is only opening one of its two swing spans right now, and opened it up to full power to make 8.5 knots all the way to Centerville. While running full throttle like this for a half hour seems like a lot, we do 10-15 minutes of full throttle every day to mitigate wet stacking, so this is really just a double dose. We made the bridge just in time.

Vector at the free bulkhead in Great Bridge, Chesapeake, Virginia.

And then our hearts sank. The push to make this bridge on the half hour is to catch the hourly opening of Great Bridge Bridge, and as soon as we cleared Centerville we could see the rarely-used railroad bridge in between in the down position. In a decade we've only ever seen this bridge closed one other time, and before that we used to think it was abandoned.

The side of the canal is lined with decorated egret sculptures; this one has been decorated as a turkey.

Fortunately, the train cleared the bridge just a few minutes later, and the crew they have to send out to operate the bridge started raising the ancient thing, which rises with glacial slowness. We made Great Bridge just in time, owing in part to the pileup of four boats that were already waiting before the three of us arrived. We were at the back of the pack.

There is a lot of room between the bridge and the lock, but the two boats at the very front of the line started messing around just the other side of the bridge, trying to get over to the free bulkhead dock, which was also where we were headed. Consequently, we were still under the bridge at a slow crawl when the horn started sounding for the bridge lowering. I had to bark at the boat right ahead of us to clear the way.

Neither of those two boats at the front had any lines or fenders ready, and were completely unprepared for tying themselves up unassisted at a bulkhead with no cleats. Ironically, the big cat at the very front did not plan to stay and intended to lock through, but somehow mistakenly assumed they needed to wait here for lockage. The end result was they missed the lockage entirely, when they ought to have been the first boat in the chamber, and had to wait an hour for the next one.

This well-kept historic marine railway and wooden boat facility in Reedville is for sale.

Fortunately the bulkhead was empty before this bridge lift, and we tied up at the complete opposite end of the bulkhead from these two vessels (map). They were still messing with lines and fenders after we were all tied up and shut down. It was too hot to do anything off the boat, so we just bode our time on board until dinner time.

As usual we walked next door to Vino for dinner. This casual Italian place has draft beer, a full bar, and very reasonably priced food, and has become our go-to here since the departure of our long-time favorite El Toro Loco. Afterward I hoofed it down to the Rite-Aid to pick up several Amazon packages from the locker there and get our empty SodaStream gas canisters exchanged.

Reedville fishermen's museum. I walked around the outside exhibits. Reedville 150th anniversary sign can be seen all over town.

We had figured to spend two days here. We wanted a bit of a break from moving, and there are lots of services and a few restaurants here. So we had a leisurely morning, and I walked down to the Kroger for provisions. But a check of the upcoming forecast revealed that we'd be socked in with fog Wednesday, and so we dropped lines for the 11am Great Bridge Lock opening, figuring to just spend extra time in Portsmouth. (The fog never materialized.)

It was a short two-hour cruise up the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River to Portsmouth and the free High Street Landing. It was good we arrived at low tide, because there was a ferry being stored in our usual spot, and we had to tie to the wood docks (map), which we knew would be under water at high tide. We arranged lines and fenders accordingly, and brought our galoshes out of storage.

Someone parked a ferry in "our" spot. The nerve.

We did the math on when the docks would be awash, and headed to dinner early, to beat it on the return. We tried a new spot for us, the Gosport Tavern, which was quite good and had a large selection of drafts. But we hit it on an evening where some after-work gathering was in progress, likely Navy or Coasties judging from the haircuts, comprising two dozen people at one long table, backing up both the bar and the kitchen.

Of course the docks were already two inches under when we finally made it home. I waded across barefoot to get Louise's wellies and deploy a step stool so she could reach the boarding gate. Just a bit of end-of-day comedy to round out the evening. On the plus side, the awash docks keep the looky-loos and the occasional drunk from getting too close to the boat. It also meant my usual evening walk around Portsmouth was out.

Louise in her wellies with her step stool. I leapt across to the swim platform.

Just as we had planned to spend a couple of nights in Great Bridge, we had also planned a couple of nights here, waiting on good conditions in the Chesapeake. By Wednesday morning, though, the forecast had improved, and we made the decision to drop lines with the tide and get further north up the Chesapeake before hunkering down for forecast winds. Louise pulled the fenders out before realizing the rub rails were now 18" above the tops of the pilings, and I had a bit of a scramble onto the dock to finish singling up in my watermen boots so we could get off the dock before a wake bashed us into a piling. Important note for any future spring tide visits.

USCG having a stand-up meeting in the park as we departed. Fifth District HQ is just a block away.

Leaving on a favorable tide for the Elizabeth River and Hampton Roads put us against it in the Chesapeake, and we set our sights on Deltaville to end the day, where we knew there were a few services and a restaurant available, for what we expected to be at least a couple of days of hiding from winds and seas. We dropped the hook in a familiar spot in Jackson Creek (map), in an all-too-familiar place, well ahead of dinner time. The restaurant was dark Wednesday, so we ate aboard and figured to head ashore Thursday.

Deltaville Boatyard and marina, where we spent many months a decade ago. It looks just the same.

In what has become something of a theme lately, the forecast again changed overnight, and yesterday morning we saw that we could get a bit further north, but not cross the Potomac until today. Staying in Deltaville would have made today a numbing 11-hour cruise, and so we weighed anchor in Deltaville without ever even splashing the tender and steamed north three hours to the familiar Ingram Bay.

Vector tied to the free dock at Reedville Market. We had it to ourselves.

In the past we've either anchored in Mill Creek or around Sandy Point in the Great Wicomico when using Ingram Bay as a stopping point, but our friends Dave and Stacey aboard Stinkpot tipped us off that the free dock at the Reedville Market Restaurant was both sturdy and deep enough for Vector, and worth a stop. And so it was that we headed up Cockrell Creek and tied up at the restaurant dock (map) by mid-afternoon.

Welcoming sign on the dock. Town water tower and the restaurant in the background.

We're glad we made the stop, only about a mile further than our usual anchorages. I walked around the quaint little town after we tied up, and we had a nice meal at the surprisingly up-market restaurant for dinner. Southwest winds meant we did not have any noxious odors from the enormous Omega Protein menhaden processing plant that is the economic engine of this part of the Northern Neck. The restaurant closed at 9, and it was dark and quiet overnight. The storm we'd been running from blew through after dinner as basically a non-event, although we did step back aboard just as the rain started.

My project for the evening was replacing the impeller on the generator. We had started it shortly after we arrived, in the heat of the afternoon, to get some air conditioning, and I knew from the sound of the exhaust that the impeller had shredded. I opted to wait until evening to give the engine room a chance to cool a little. Normally it takes me ten minutes or so to do this task, but this time the impeller stubbornly refused to slide out, and I was baking down there for the better part of an hour. Needing to run the air conditioner to cool off after fixing the thing that runs the air conditioner is self-motivating.

The historic Morris-Fisher smokestack, all that remains of what was once the largest fish processing plant in the US. Today a symbol of Reedville, still home to a bustling menhaden industry. 

All of this unscheduled movement will have us in Solomons ahead of plan. I ordered parts for the outboard to the Honda dealer there, so we'll finally get some down time while I wait for those to arrive. I am hoping they will be here by Monday and we can continue to Annapolis by Tuesday.

1 comment:

  1. How lovely to get you two to a pleasant, but bougie, free dock! And the way you branded us in the blog. Seems like you've been well trained! Hope to cross paths some day soon. <3


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