Tag Archives: Norfolk

Another Long Day!

Annapolis to Norfolk

Thursday (9/16) – Norfolk, VA

Denise started the day with a quick run through downtown Annapolis and then through the neighborhood around the marina in Eastport.  It was near dark when she started, but captured a few pictures of downtown Annapolis at dawn.

We left Spa Creek just before 8:00 am when the tide was low enough for us to once again squeak under the Spa Creek Bridge without requiring it to open.

Approaching Spa Creek Bridge

We cruised out of Annapolis Harbor and into the Severn River, finally turning right at the buoy and headed south on the Chesapeake Bay.  Less than 30 minutes later we were passing the Thomas Point Shoal Light. This is one of the most photographed lighthouses on the Chesapeake, and we are always thrilled when we pass by it.

Thomas Point Shoal Light

It was a nice calm day on the Chesapeake, although overcast. We made as straight a course heading as possible for Cape Charles on the Southeastern shore for the first few hours. However, it was not long into the journey that Captain Mark suggested a change in plan.  The window for a comfortable passage from Cape Charles to Wormley Creek on Friday afternoon had shut, and now we were rethinking our overall plans. After much discussion, we changed our plans for Cape Charles and Wormley Creek in order to get into safe harbor for the evening. Friday through Monday was going to be really rough on the Chesapeake and the best option for us was to go all the way into Norfolk tonight. However, we needed to see Denise’s brother as he had several packages for us, including the main salon window shade we had repaired. We had discussed going to Norfolk, renting a car and driving up to see him, but after several scenarios we chose to just take the boat up the York River to Wormley Creek for a quick stop over on the way to Norfolk.

With this in mind, we altered our course to hug the western shore and ran close to the LNG facility at Cove Point, near Solomons.  For the first time here we actually saw a ship docked at the pipeline.  And right after that we passed the Cove Point Lighthouse.

Ship at Dominion Cove Point LNG facility near Solomons
Cove Point Lighthouse

As we continued south, the water continued to get calmer and we made pretty good time.  We ate lunch along the way and around 12:30 we passed the Smith Point Lighthouse.

Smith Point Lighthouse

It remained calm as we continued cruising; at one point we could see the eastern shore of the Chesapeake near where we would have gone in if we were going to Cape Charles.

Calm Chesapeake near Deltaville
Looking towards Cape Charles

Just after 2:00 pm we passed by the New Point Comfort Light house and shortly thereafter we turned right to go up the York River.

New Point Comfort Light

The wind had picked up a small bit, but it was at our back and we were fine. We were a little concerned with what we may face on our way to Norfolk, but so far it all still looked good.  Meanwhile, we had been in constant communication with John (Denise’s brother) who agreed that a meet-up at Wormley Creek Marina was the best alternative all around.  So we made our way back to the place we stayed in the spring, and he met us for a quick hello and package exchange.

Wormley Creek Marina
Denise & John

In less than an hour, we left Wormley Creek and headed back out on the York River.  It was a little bumpy as we were now facing the wind from the east, and the current was also against us.  But it was certainly tolerable and we knew that we only had 1.5 hours left to go before arriving in Norfolk.  Along the way down the Bay today we had cancelled our reservations at Cape Charles and Wormley Creek (all without penalty), and made a reservation at Waterside in Norfolk.

We entered the Chesapeake and immediately were faced with increasing chop.  It was not very comfortable for the first 30 minutes or so, until we rounded the Poquoson Flats.  But, as we neared Ft. Monroe we were able to change to a more southern (less easterly) course and that made it a little better. 

We then crossed over to the eastern shore of the main channel heading into Norfolk where the land blocked the wind and things finally settled down. As usual, there was lots of boat and barge traffic that required Captain Mark to keep a sharp eye and steady hand on the wheel. It was here that we passed the USCG sailing vessel “Eagle”. It was a thrill to see this beautiful ship up close.

USCG “Eagle”

We entered Norfolk harbor and the US Naval Shipyard where we were amazed at how many boats were in port at the same time. Wasn’t this not supposed to ever happen again after Pearl Harbor? 

As we moved up the channel to the “no wake” zone, we approached a large yacht (“Serendipity II”) trying to pass a barge and attempting to raise him on the VHF. After several miscommunications between the two vessels, the yacht made their way around the barge without issue, as we did too.  We then both approached the Waterside Marina about the same time, but we were requested to hold outside until the yacht was docked.  Once it was tied-up and settled at the outermost dock, we were instructed to come into our assigned slip in the marina’s basin. As we entered, Captain Mark had to make a tight left turn near this large vessel, and our stern turned towards the yacht.  The Captain was on the deck of the boat looking down and gave Denise (standing in the stern) an awful scowl. What he couldn’t see from his vantage point was that we cleared the hull of his boat by at least 10 feet.  He had nothing to worry about and just minutes later Mark successfully docked our boat around another yacht in even tighter quarters.

Finally, we arrived in our slip and secured our boat for the night.  It was 5:15 pm and we had traveled a total of 156 miles, including a side trip up and back down a part of the York River.  We checked in with the marina to get the usual information, and poured ourselves a celebratory cocktail.   We were disappointed that we would once again miss Cape Charles, but we were glad that we would now be able to head south before the NS #7 railroad bridge was locked down.

When we arrived at Waterside there were several other yachts in the marina, including a Berger Yacht we saw in Portland, ME (“Wrigley”).  Then we watched another handful of boats pull into the marina, including a 60 foot “Downeast” boat from Key West called “Indigo”.  We did not have a chance to talk with them, but we did like the lines of this older but beautiful boat. Unlike in the spring when the marina if full of “Loopers”, the majority of the boats here were larger yachts who were like us, trying to get south.

“Serendipity II”
“Wrigley”

Before it got too late, Mark hosed the salt off the boat and Denise prepared a dinner on board.  We took a short walk around the marina, then retired for the night. Like in the spring, the handful of restaurants remaining at Waterside were blaring music quite loudly and it barely faded us. It had been another long day!

Waterside in Norfolk

Norfolk – Not the same anymore!

Waterside Marina – Norfolk, VA – Saturday, 5/15

The day began with a run for Denise, happy to have some place that allowed her to get in 5 miles without running out of town.  She made it part of her mission to locate the Church of the Sacred Heart for mass; a possible alternative to the Basilica that we learned yesterday was not open for non-parishioners (thanks to limited seating because of Covid restrictions). She embarked on the streets of Norfolk not sure what she would find. Her adventures took her through the quaint downtown and into the Ghent neighborhood, designated as a National Historic District.  She found Sacred Heart Church, found out the information she was looking for, and then headed back to the boat.  Along the way back she rerouted to visit the Japanese Garden she has run past before near Freemason Harbor, and past the Nauticus (maritime museum). She returned to the marina under beautiful skies and perfect weather on the Elizabeth River.

Selfie after run – overlooking Hospital Point

After eating breakfast we then spent some time on the phone talking with family members and getting some information about areas of interest to us.  From that we began planning our next two weeks itinerary. We juggled some venues because they are not good to visit on Mondays (like Cape Charles) and shuffled our schedule so we could see Denise’s family once her brother John returns from an out-of-town fishing trip.  We also wanted to be someplace where we could celebrate Mark’s upcoming birthday (5/21). We made reservations at marinas further north, knowing some may have to be altered should we encounter any bad weather.  Right now the next week looks pretty good and we are hoping to be able to capitalize on it.  This literally took up our whole morning and we know it will have to be redone in about 3 days; we have learned that you can’t really plan that far out when travel is dependent on the weather and we are on a large body of water like the Chesapeake Bay.

After lunch we hung out around the boat. Mark tackled a few boat chores like oil and engine checks, and cleaning out the shower sump pump. Denise published the last blog update and did some other chores.  We also socialized with a few of the other Loopers in the marina, and spent some time talking with the Angela and Mike; a couple we met yesterday on a 65’ Endurance Yacht (“Viscaya”) who are from Clearwater, FL and are also on their way to Maine.

During the day a boat called “Life with E’s” arrived in the slip next to ours. It was a “Regal” brand and was carrying a family of 5 kids full of energy and fun.  We spent some time talking to them and learned they lived locally and make outings as a family on the boat. They took off to enjoy some of the area around Waterside and we went back to our boat chores and hanging out. 

In the afternoon Dave (“Painkillers”) came over to talk to us about Maine. We had spoken with him earlier in the day and he and his wife want to also go there and wanted to pick our brain. We spent quite a bit of time sharing information and before we knew it time was up and he had to leave; we had barely scratched the surface of where to go and what to see.

Sharing Maine info with Dave “Painkillers”

We also got to witness one more wedding party; a popular thing around the water in May.  This one was quite a bit different as the entire party came to the waterfront and did a big dance routine while the photographer, videographer, and us recorded it all.

The Wedding Dance

Just before dinner, the family on “Life with E’s” returned to their boat and we had a chance to talk with them some more. The reason for their boat name is that all of the children have names that begin with “E” (Erich, Ethan, Eli, Ella and Eva) and we learned they range in age from 12 years to 4 months old.  Alex and Sarah (mom & dad) shared a little about their family and how the kids were home-schooled. We talked for a while getting to know each other, then we went back to our mutual boats for cooking dinner on board. 

Joungeblood Family

Mark cooked fajitas for us and they turned out delicious.  We cleaned up the galley and shortly thereafter ended up in conversation once again with our new friends on “Life with E’s”, including the oldest two boys.  We learned Erich has his own YouTube channel (“Epikkids”) and that they both are very skilled about boat handling already.  During this time they asked to see our boat and Denise gave them a tour. Then they wanted to show off their boat to us, so over we went. We ended talking with the whole family for the rest of the evening, and Mark even helped Alex out with some things on his VHF.  It was a wonderful evening and we delighted in getting to know this really special family.

Waterside Marina – Norfolk, VA – Sunday, 5/16

Today was Sunday which meant going to church first thing. This time we took an Uber to Church of the Sacred Heart in the lovely Ghent neighborhood. After mass we walked one block north to the Harris Teeters to buy some groceries for the week. We then used Uber to take us the 2 miles back to the marina and put everything away.

The “Life with E’s” family was preparing for an outing and we stopped to chat for a while. We said good bye as we were going on a walk and not sure they would be there when we returned; they were leaving before lunch. 

Then we went on a walk along the waterfront and around the park near the Nauticus. We wanted to check out a marina on the grounds of Nauticus, and near the (currently non-working) cruise terminal.  However, once we saw it we decided it would not be anything we would stay at. It was very small with a narrow entry and few slips. Plus, it had no amenities.  So we continued walking all around the area and the park, then through some of the downtown. 

At park near Nauticus

There is a place a few blocks from the Nauticus that is called the Selden Market and is a retail location housing numerous small up-and-coming entrepreneurial businesses. There were only a few of the places open including a coffee shops and small to go eatery.  In under 5 minutes we walked the entire length of the place, exiting at the next block right near the library. Here the architecture was most interesting as the original part of the library is an old building but its expansion is in a very modern building that opened in 2015.

From there we continued walking back towards the marina through downtown and arrived back at the boat in time for lunch.  Sadly, our “Life with E’s” family had left and other boaters started arriving into the marina.

We spent the rest of the afternoon on the boat. The sky turned from overcast to partly cloudy, then back to overcast.  More new boats came into the marina and Mark talked to one couple on a Marlow (yacht) from Vero Beach.  But most of the time we spent reading and catching up on home-front things.

For dinner we ordered salads and sandwiches from one of the bar-restaurants at Waterside called the Tap Room.  We feel sorry for these establishments as they all have been seriously hurt and especially in this somewhat touristy area, they are struggling. In fact two of the restaurants have shut down and are not coming back. We have also noticed that the number of people at Waterside is significantly reduced and the clientele is not the same as it was two years ago. Even with the perfect weather of the last few days, there have been few people at the adult “playground” that is part of the Tap Room.  It is sad to see an area that had been revitalized and doing so well, take such a down turn.  We probably will not come back here on the return trip.

Empty “adult” play area of Tap Room

Tomorrow we are leaving Norfolk and heading up the Chesapeake Bay. We are headed up the western side to the town of Urbana on the Rappahannock River and will (hopefully) have good cruising conditions.

Waterside Once Again!

GBB to Norfolk

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.

Morning on the ICW

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.

In Queue for the GB 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.

Dismal Swamp turnoff on ICW

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. 

Todd Jurich’s Bistro

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.