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Published: June 28th 2010
May 30th to June 14, 2010
Beaufort, NC to Baltimore, MD
Skip and Barbara Williams arrived on time with a load of groceries that promised great meals for the coming two weeks. Barbara is a passionate cook and Skip, having grown up in a marina around boats is the most experienced boat handler on the whole cruise. For me that meant taking a vacation from handling the wheel. Skip became the captain and he named me the admiral. That meant Skp had the responsibility for the boat and I just had to plan the routes and to select the marinas while during cruising and docking I could relax.
We left Beaufort early in the morning timing our departure with the opening of the bridge. The ICW then veered to the right and we almost grounded because the identification of the markers was difficult even for Skip. The weather continued to be sunny and we enjoyed the ride even more since the reports from home were rain, rain, rain.
The first port of call was Oriental, which is the sailing capital of North Carolina. Indeed we had to watch the sailboats closely that seemed to surround us and had the right-of-way. The small marina we selected called for a stern tie, which Skip managed flawlessly. By the time of our arrival the temperature had soared and we enjoyed a dip in the marina pool. The marina was part of a large resort. Barbara fixed a great meal, which promised further culinary delights during the next two weeks. She kept it up: pasta with pesto, later crab, chicken with various vegetables, (her buttered beans al dente were a highlight), potato salad, and tacos with all the trimmings. She was determined to teach me to enjoy garlic. I was tempted to recall the gastrointestinal sequelae after eating this ingredient so essential for her but stopped short of it. She acquiesced finally and served me garlic free meals. Thanks, Barb!
Bellhaven was our next stop. We met the crew of the Sojourner, two ladies who were experienced sailors who gave us good advice for the next ports. They already had done part of the Great Loop and lived on their boat. One lady had been a dean of a law school, the other also seemed very educated but was somewhat quiet. I observed their boat handling and was envious with how much coolness they dealt with a difficult egress from the dock.
Bellhaven seemed to be a rather dead town. Skip and Barb took the courtesy car, a gulf cart, to explore town and do some shopping. The also enjoy walking while I like to watch the boat. The Bellhaven marina proprietors take great pride in their investment. The docks were clean, the social rooms, bathrooms and even the showers were decorated with old naval pictures and images of a relative in uniform from the time of his service.
At the Alligator River Marina, our next stop, we met the Sojourner crew again. They had told us about Wanda, who ran the show here. Besides the marina she also owns a gas station and a restaurant, which serves excellent ice cream. At a conspicuous place in the marina Wanda had a big boat named “Wanda” for sale.
The Alligator River is actually not a river but a wide waterway that extends toward the Abermarle Sound. Several boaters at the Bellhaven Marina had already waited a few days for optimal weather to cross the Sound. We moved on the next morning, negotiated a shoaly area successfully and proceeded in about three uneventful hours through the Abermarle Sound towards Coinjock.
The marina in Coinjock was located along a narrow passage of the ICW across from a Memorial Park. The restaurant at the marina served local blue crabs.
In the evening a couple in their sailboat arrived and gave us good advice concerning the next port, which the crew of the Sojourner had also recommended, namely the Atlantic Yacht Basin. I was looking for the actual basin that is shown on the chart but the marina is a long dock parallel to the ICW, where the Marilsnick again was the smallest vessel.
The next day became a navigational challenge even for Skip. First we had to time a bridge opening, then had to go through a lock, that fortunately was coordinated with the bridge opening. The boats that had assembled in the lock had captains with very different attitudes. Some were aggressive passing us with large wakes, others were indecisive so that we had a hard time reading if they wanted to follow us or pass us. By this time we had crossed into Virginia and had reached the outskirts of Norfolk. All boats, which had passed the locks together came to a halt at this last bridge on the ICW because a large ship tried to make it through the open bridge guided by two tugs at the bow and two more at the stern. After the “Tsuru” had finally made it the bridge closed and we had to wait another half hour for the next opening..
It was around noon by this time and we reached Norfolk, which is mainly a Navy town. Large dry docks on each side and heavy traffic challenged Skip. We suddenly received a toot from the Tsuru, which we had passed earlier when it was being tugged. Now it was under its own power and appeared suddenly at our stern. The Marilsnick appears awfully small when this large ship showed up behind us. Skip quickly moved. A little later a giant air craft carrier left the dock and followed us but this time we were far ahead and out of its way.
We had decided to spend the next couple of days in Hampton. We had called ahead on the phone and the dock attendant somehow seemed not very with it. It turned out to be a man named Archie, the owner of the marina, who rarely welcomed transients and does not even have a VHF radio. When we finally reached him on the telephone he assigned us a slip a few feet away from a bridge with pilings to tie on and a non-floating dock. Skip again did a masterful stern in tie up. I felt slightly stressed because my mishap at the bridge in St. Augustine again became vivid in my mind.
Archie was a fairly wealthy man and turned out to be competent and helpful. He did the pump-out with a manual pump and gave us good advice about town. It turned out that there were three Hamptons: we had arrived in Hampton City Center, then there is “Old Hampton” and regular Hampton, all several miles apart.
We had decided to rent a car to explore the area, which includes colonial Williamsburg and the Yorktown battlefield. The Enterprise Car Rental was just across the bridge, that had put fear into me, and next to a Starbucks. We refreshed ourselves with iced coffee drinks because the temperature was in the 90s. The next morning Barb and Skip searched the Farmer’s Market for goodies and I picked up the rental car. We drove to Williamsburg, got lost for a while but then ended up in the new town center which been built as a tourist hub but was in walking distance from the old colonial buildings. Most of these were located along a wide road partially paved with cobble stone.
The first house we visited belonged to a wealthy man who allowed his son-in-law to live there. This son-in-law was one of the first legal minds of the colony and a friend of George Washington, who temporarily lived in the house. The guides giving the explanations in Williamsburg were all dressed in colonial period attire, which gave us a more authentic impression of the time and its people.
Most buildings in Williamsburg have rather plain, I am tempted to describe it as a calvinistic style architecture, that is characterized by symmetry and rather sparse decorations. This was true of the church, the courthouse, the restaurants and even the “gaol”, the jail.
While most guides gave good presentations of their site the guide in the magazine, where the ammunitions had been stored, wove the story of this building and that of the Revolutionary Wars into a great tapestry. We could have listened to him all afternoon.
The jail was our last stop. At the time people were not jailed for punishment but had to wait there for their day in court. The punishment consisted in branding of a hand for a first offense, whippings, or hanging. The suspected criminals were held in shackles. The jailer’s wife had to cook for them, but they did not receive more than one meager daily meal. When a person who had been branded committed a second offense supposed he was sentenced to hang. The pirates of the Bluebeard gang who had ramsacked Chesapeake Bay were sentenced to hang and all except one were executed in Williamsburg.
Before driving home Barbara wanted to take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean. So we drove to Buckroe Beach near Hampton, which was just as crowded as the beaches along the Baltic Sea in Germany only that the people in Buckroe were mainly black.
The next morning, a Sunday, we attended worship one of the oldest congregations in the United States, an Episcopal Church, surrounded by a cemetery. It was very liturgical service with communion and many readings from the Book of Prayers.
Thee afternoon we spent at the Yorktown Battlefield. As we arrived at the parking lot the Yorktown fifers and drummers got ready for a concert. These young people - I estimated them around fifteen years of age - were serious in their pursuit of the hobby which brought much pleasure to the listeners. They explained their instruments and why the high tones of the fifes were important for communication on the battlefield.
In the museum we watched the end of a documentary about the battle of Yorktown between the American Colonialists, who were allied with the French and the British under General Cornwallis. Washington led the allies and was victorious in the battle that lasted several days. Severe weather when the British had been defeated did not allow Cornwallis to escape with his troops across the James River so that he had to capitulate. This battle virtually ended the Revolutionary War. Either the British lost interest in the colonies or - more likely - they realized the futility of conducting a war so distant from their shores against an enemy as determined to fight for their liberty as the American colonialists.
We departed Hampton, VA towards Deltaville, where we found a protected Marina. As we entered the Chesapeake Bay we encountered higher seas than we had expected. The Marilsnick under Captain Skip handled the seas without difficulty. The Chesapeake Bay has the reputation of being very scenic. Skip commented that he would rather have a boat on Puget Sound, where the variety of scenery and marinas is greater. The next morning the forecast was for four to five foot seas in the morning. We decided to depart late in the morning and had favorable seas. The entrance to the Smith Island Marina was rather complex. Dan, the owner said that the purpose was to keep riff raft out.
The weather forecast for the next day was so problematic that we decided to stay an extra day at Smith Island Marina. There was not much to do and the next town, Reedville, was too far away so we kept busy on the boat.
The journey to Solomon Island was long but the seas were friendly. The dockhand at Solomon was a young lady who seemingly had just returned from a beauty pageant. However on closer inspection she had a few piercings. She was as competent as good looking and we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at the pool including the Happy Hour.
We all looked forward to Annapolis the next day. Although it was only thirty miles away the journey seemed to stretch. We could see a long, long bridge from many miles away and saw several large ships anchored south of the bridge. We had to turn toward the east before the bridge to enter the Annapolis harbor. In its early years it was a slave market but the city must have tried to suppress this dark period. Today it is not only the capital of Maryland but also the home of the Naval Academy. As we approached the harbor we saw a large cupula, which I thought was the Capitol. It turned out to be the “chapel” of the Academy.
Next to Norfolk, this was the busiest harbor we had encountered. Most boats were pleasure boats of all sizes. We wound our way between moving boats and mooring buoys with boats attached to the very end of the narrowest portion of the harbor, where boats had docked on both sides. We entered this narrow waterway not knowing to which spot we were assigned. The first slip was too narrow to fit the Marilsnick but then the dock master sent us to a choice position at dock street about a block from the entrance to the Naval Academy and another block to Gloucester Street, the tourist avenue of Annapolis. Our boat was docked at the equally narrow turning basin, where all boats had to turn. This portion of the harbor is called “Ego Alley” because boat owners like to show off their prized possessions to the admiring public. Sometimes the prized possessions are not only the boats but the pretty halfly-clad ladies who show off bodies and apparel to their best advantage.
The greatest attraction for me was the Starbucks and an ice cream store across the street. We thoroughly enjoyed our two nights’ stay in this busy location. It turned out that even the Marilsnick was inspected by the passing public. We met people who were familiar with Puyallup for a variety of reasons.
On Saturday morning the three of us took a tour of the Naval Academy. It is a beautiful institution with a lot of pride that seems to exude from every midshipmen and every guide. The education for the 4400 midshipmen is devoted to the physical, mental, emotional and intellectual areas. Unfortunately for me I cannot forget that the goal is to train officers prepared to lead their troops into battle. One of my “babies” graduated last year from the Academy and only after this visit can I appreciate his accomplishment. It begins with a rope climb that is suspended from a sixty-foot ceiling at the end of the boot camp and before graduating the midshipmen have to jump from a ten meter platform and swim clothed in a uniform for two miles without stopping to prepare them for the “abandon ship” command.
The journey to Baltimore on a Sunday morning after attending church in the Episcopal Church named St. Anna was brief. The harbor of Baltimore is large and mainly industrial. We ended up in the Inner Harbor in a modern marina surrounded by high buildings. The sports arenas in Camden Yards were only half a mile away. The next day was devoted to cleaning the boat for the next crew. Skip and Barbara did that with a passion, which I could never muster for such a task. They only rival Marianne in this.
The next afternoon Karl and Christel, my brother and sister-in-law arrived on the train from New York. Barb and Skip, who had signed into a Bed and Breakfast, came back for a drink and saying good-bye. They were a great crew in every respect. Skip’s ability to discover little things to fix on the boat, his expert boat handling was a gift that allowed me to be a vacationer on my own boat. Barbara was the enterprising person, who could not sit still for a moment. She always had something to do or to see. This included prodding Skip and me occasionally until Skip said: “I am out of my element” or “she is pushing the envelope”. We laughed a lot and had a great time together. Maybe there will be a trip for us on Puget Sound or in the San Juan Islands. Their condition: I have to fish and crab with them. Barb and Skip: Granted!
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