Monday, October 15, 2012

Norfolk



     As we exited the lower Chesapeake Bay and entered Norfolk, Virginia on the Elizabeth River our peaceful cruising lives changed dramatically. With the Naval Shipyard to port, mixed in with commercial tankers backing out of docks, war ships bound for sea, Coast Guard cutters speeding by, barges pushed by tugboats, helicopters hovering overhead, and a sprinkling of pleasure boats we felt as though someone suddenly jarred us awake after a peaceful nap. It was time to sit up straight and pay attention! Without any hard and fast plans made we were scrambling about for the ICW chart book, the binoculars, my glasses! Why are they never around when Joe wants me to look at the chart plotter? Things were slightly tense for a few minutes until we composed ourselves and got the act together. I think we'd been lulled into a false sense of security because we'd made this trip before. But, as we've learned each trip has its challenges and there are plenty of opportunities along the way. Always expect the unexpected...

     It was nearly sunset as we spotted numerous masts at Hospital Point which is a popular anchorage after the Naval Shipyard and directly off the ICW. It was jammed with anchored cruising boats. Since the last rays of daylight were blocked by the buildings of the city we knew that we'd need to select an anchoring spot quickly before dark. After motoring in and around the anchorage in search of a suitable spot with proper swinging room we finally settled on one and lowered the hook. It was acceptable and we looked forward to leaving early in the morning to pick up a free dock in the Portsmouth basin only a few minutes south on the ICW.

     At dawn the anchorage cleared out as cruisers headed to their southerly destinations. We readied dock lines and fenders while motoring toward the Portsmouth dock. It was empty! There was plenty of room to tie up. I steered Simple Life into the narrow basin lined with pilings while Joe gave directions on deck and readied the lines and himself to tie the boat off. A man approached the boat and we thought he was there to assist us but his official business was to keep transients off the docks due to a schooner race scheduled on the weekend. With another fast change of plans we turned the boat out, scrambled for charts, iPad, and binoculars and began our unexpected day of traveling down the ICW. Fortunately, we caught up with the pack of boats that departed at dawn at the first bridge opening.
Simple Life in lock at Great Bridge
     From there we stayed at the back of the pack through three more timed bridge openings and a locking in at the Great Bridge Lock until tying up at another free dock at Great Bridge, Virginia. We made unexpected progress south and still managed to secure a dock in the process. Whew! What fun!
Joe tying Simple Life in the Great Bridge Lock
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Location:Virginia