Waterside Marina – Norfolk, VA – Friday, 5/14
Although we thought yesterday was cold, we had no idea how could it could get. At the GBB free dock, we had no electrical connection, which meant no heat. At 2:00 in the morning Mark got up and turned on the generator so he could put on some heat as he was freezing. When Denise got up at 4:30 in the morning she was grateful for the warmth, although she had been toasty all night under the 2 blankets and a bedspread.
Although cool, it was a beautiful and peaceful morning. Denise went for a quick walk around the GBB Museum Park and grounds, and then came back to the pristine ICW for a cup of coffee.
Just before 7:00 am we watched the boat in front of us (“Cracker Jack”) leave the free dock and queue for the first hour opening of the Great Bridge Bridge.
We finished our breakfast and getting the boat ready, then left the dock just before the 8:00 opening. We made our way through to the GB Lock with 2 other power boats and a sailboat. In years past we have gone through the lock when it was so crowded we wondered if we would all fit. But, Mark reminded Denise that usually we are coming through in the afternoon (after a stopover in Coinjock) and this year we were arriving so early in the day.
In 20 minutes we were through the lock and on our way to Norfolk. In a very short distance we watched the ICW fade from residential to industrial and with only one small area of natural topography left.
We passed by the area where southbound boaters turn off for the Dismal Swamp (northbound cruisers merge with the Virginia Cut cruisers like us.
From here there are a lot of slow (no-wake) zones, and the handful of bridges (mostly railroads) that will need to be opened for us to pass successfully. Because of this, the time it will take to cover the 10 miles is somewhat unpredictable, and we have waited as much as an hour for a single one of these bridges in the past. But today, was our (mostly) lucky day. As we approached the Norfolk-Southern #7 Bridge (known for being closed for long periods of time), we noticed “Cracker Jack” was in queue, along with another sailboat. He had been in a hold position for 45 minutes waiting on the numerous railcars to clear the tracks. It was within 10 minutes of our arrival that the bridge opened allowing us and 3 other boats to make it through before it shut down again. The other two railroad bridges were open when we approached and we were able to get through them without issue.
As we approached the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, we encountered a tug pushing a barge. He was running up the middle of the channel and was going just fast enough that we could not pass him in the no-wake zone. Finally, Captain Mark was able to negotiate his way around him and cruise us safely the rest of the way into Norfolk.
We entered the Waterside Marina where we had reservations until Sunday, and docked successfully with the assistance of the marina’s dockhand “Danny”. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed our short time on the water, but were happy to be in a full service marina with good cell and Wi-Fi signal.
We went and checked into the marina, then for a short walk around Waterside but since it was early nothing was opened. We had a chance to meet a few Loopers who were in the marina when we arrived and started the conversation about having docktails on our boat in the late afternoon.
Once back on the boat Mark got to work rinsing off the cockpit while Denise vacuumed and cleaned up the galley. We ate some lunch and then both of us got to work on some business-related work and calls. During that time, we watched several boats come into the marina, including a few Looper Boats and invited them to join us for docktails as well.
Finally, we completed the work day on our Island Office, finishing just in time for our 5:00 pm “docktails”. Unfortunately, only two of the couples could make it and we spent most of the time talking about Maine as that is where one of them is headed. The other boat is trying to find a way to salvage their Loop because it doesn’t look like Canada is going to open this summer. We had a chance to meet some new people, and as we have learned, our paths may cross again someday.
For dinner we wanted to eat a nice meal at a restaurant and had been looking for a place within walking distance of the marina. Although Waterside (the waterfront area at the marina) usually has a plethora to choose from, two of the places are shuttered, including Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse where we ate in 2019. The others did not appeal to us and so early in the day we asked the marina staff for a recommendation. He suggested “Todd Jurich’s Bistro”, located near the Nautilus.
So we walked there for our 6:30 reservation, expecting to find the place crowded. This is in a popular part of town and it was a highly-rated restaurant. The bar areas (inside and outside) were packed with people, but the restaurant was empty. We were seated in a booth that sunk Denise so far down she almost asked for a kids’ booster chair to be able to eat. Their service was great and the meal was delicious, but the ambience of the place was a huge disappointment. The music was awful (can you say hip/hop) and was not conducive to having a nice meal with good conversation. Knowing what we now know, we should have ordered the meal “to go”; the new normal for even high-end restaurants during this post-Covid time.
Once back at the marina, we stopped to talk to a few of the boaters near us. We learned they were leaving tomorrow morning and taking the ocean route to Chincoteague, before heading to Cape May, NJ. One day maybe we will take that route. But for now we still have lots more to explore on the Chesapeake and have family we hope to see while making our way north.