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FROM THE LOG #2

September 18, to October 4, 2001
From Norfolk, VA to Annapolis, MD.

Navigate the Reports

wolftrap
Wolftrap Lighthouse, Chesapeake Bay

We enjoyed our stay in Norfolk very much. But on the fifth day it was time to leave. The funny thing, it is always nice to arrive, but regardless of how good the stay is, within a few days you start to get restless again. We left the Freemason District of Norfolk at noon on a Tuesday and headed out along the Elisabeth River towards Chesapeake Bay. The Coast Guard was certainly very much in business. We could hear them continuously on our new VHF, interrogating and instructing boaters in the vicinity.

Before long we became their target. The USCG cutter Beluga was almost alongside. For the time being they were content with just checking on us on the VHF. We gave them all the information they required, but when we told them that our next anchorage was off Fort Monroe, we were told that particular spot was off limits. Since our previous encounter with the Coast Guard the safety zone around military installations had increased from 100 yards to 500 yards (we did not even know before that there was a current presence of the military at Fort Monroe). We were then free to proceed, but one of their questions kept ringing in my ear: have you ever been boarded by the US Coast Guard? My answer to this was: no; which left me with a feeling that this was not the last time we met the Beluga.

A few hours later we found an anchorage in Hampton, on the north side of the James River, just a few miles north of the Norfolk docks. And not surprisingly we soon got company: the USCG cutter Beluga. Before this starts to feel like nagging, I want to make it clear that I strongly support the objectives of both the USCG and the US Defense organization as a whole. We have nothing to hide onboard our own boat, but very much to gain if they get the bandits. And with respect to the global scene, I think that it is better that there is one Police than none. And now, after all, it was just a week after the terrorist attacks. So, when we were informed that the USCG had decided to board Scorpio I just wished them "welcome aboard".

Within 30 minutes after their boarding of Scorpio the USCG evidently found everything aboard pertaining to the safety of the republic to be satisfactory. Thereafter they started to "do the job we normally do, when not assisting the navy in national crises", i.e. check our safety gear. Not visibly impressed by the information that we had crossed the Atlantic Ocean a couple of times in this vessel, they asked to see our safety rockets and life vests.

I handed them the container where we keep our rockets and told them where to find the life jackets down below (I was not allowed to go down myself!). The first rockets that came out were outdated and the first life jackets that they got their hands on lacked the required reflective tape. Followed a lengthy lecture by the boarding officer; explaining why it is necessary to have fresh rockets and vests with reflective tape. And this lecture was delivered even though they had found the required amount of fresh rockets below the old ones and even though two of our eight vests had reflective tapes, when we were only two aboard! Having said all this, I also have to admit that they were, at all times, extremely polite.

The next day we left Hampton Roads, rounded Old Point Comfort and continued in a northeast direction along the western shores of the Chesapeake Bay. At the same time the aircraft carrier USS Teddy Roosevelt headed out of the Elisabeth River at Norfolk. The sea and the air were dense with navy vessels and aircraft. Just above our masts circled a swarm of Blackhawk helicopters. A couple of stories higher we saw F-15 fighters and above them all a large plane with radar dome looking construction on its back. Several other war ships accompanied the aircraft carrier, all probably on their way to the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. This time we avoided confrontation. Soon we passed the inlet of Back River - which we, until yesterday, had regarded as a possible over night anchorage. Not so any more - that area is the home of Langley Air Force Base. By now we understood by ourselves to avoid such sensitive spots.

Too many geographical names and no bearings? A MAP of the AREA is HERE (opens in a new window, so you can keep it open behind the active window, while you read on).

We stayed at anchor for two nights in Sarah's Creek on the north shore of York River. This is a well-sheltered and peaceful place close to (by car of course) several historic landmarks. Closest (we took our bikes) is Yorktown on the south side of the high Tomas Jefferson Bridge across York River. Here was fought the last battle of the Revolutionary War. The British Army under General Cornwallis surrendered to the combined forces of the Colonialists and the French. Without the military presence that we had encountered the past days it would have been difficult, moving past these peaceful shores, to envision the brutal and savage fighting that took place here more than two centuries ago. If you have not seen the movie "The Patriot", starring Mel Gibson, see it soon!

Deltaville is a small village that occupies the land stretching into the bay sandwiched between the Rappahannock River to the north and the Piankatank River to the south. The village has a long boat building tradition. At one time there were more than 20 local boatyards. Today most of them are gone, but there are a couple of repair yards left, and one of them was our goal last spring. It was at Deltaville Boatyard that we had intended to leave Scorpio for the past summer. Now we anchored for several nights in Fishing Bay on the Piankatank River side. Again we had good use for our bicycles and for the first time since Beaufort we found a library with internet connection to check our emails.

We stayed a couple of extra days in Fishing Bay hoping for sailing winds, but in vain. Instead we got some strong winds at anchor one evening, when a "tornado watch" had been announced on the radio. For a while we got 40 knots from the south (the only direction with no protection). The sea built up and, lying too close to a lee shore, we had to re-anchor in the middle of a thunderstorm with heavy rain. During these days we made friends with two nice couples from neighboring boats, one from Sweden and the other from Canada.

"Few anchorages are perfect, but Mill Creek comes pretty close", concludes the cruising guide about this exquisite spot on the south side of the entrance to the Great Wicomico River. We followed the winding creek upstream in deep water for almost three miles, at times only a stone's throw from the tree line. There are few houses in sight and several inviting anchorages that offer protection even from the ugliest weather. At sundown we were approach by a small motorboat with an elderly couple. They lived in one of the few houses visible from our anchorage and asked if there was something they could do for us; would we like to tie up at their dock, connect to fresh water and electricity, take a hot shower or transportation by car to the nearest grocery store (quite a distance away)? Once again, as on so many occasions before and later, we marveled at the spontaneous hospitality and friendliness of the American people.

Our departure from Mill Creek was delayed until after noon. We had some problems with the alternator for the service batteries, but I was able to fix those during a couple of hours in the engine room (a quite familiar place by now). Therefore we moved only a short distance that day, across the Great Wicomico River to the village of Reedville. We found a protected anchorage, which was needed; we got stuck here, with several other cruisers, for several days because of strong (and cold) northerlies. It was here that I finally found the time to start writing these log entries to the web site.

Reedville was once the center of the menhaden fishing industry. During those times the community prospered and there are several impressive Victorian mansions in evidence of old times. However, after the great depression Reedville never recovered its enviable status as one of the wealthiest towns, per capita, in the country.  Menhaden is a small, herring like, fish, which is used for production of i.a. fish oil, and high protein animal feeds. Menhaden still provide Reedville’s financial base, but there are few signs of urban life. From the gas station one can buy some necessities, there is a post office and a mile and a half along the road to the north, a small grocery store. The fish-processing factory occupies a large area at the mouth of Cockrell Creek, which leads up to Reedville from the Great Wicomico River. There is also a distributor and retailer of soft shell crabs. The Fisherman's Museum, which eloquently captures Reedville's heritage, is known throughout the region and worth a visit.

Again we became subject to the warmth and friendliness of the local people. On the third day, when we were hiding down below with all hatches closed, sheltering from the rain and cold, we heard a knock on the hull and a voice calling:
- "Ahoy Scorpio!".
Alongside was a boat with a white bearded broadly smiling man, introducing himself and offering us transportation to a supermarket 10 miles away or any other assistance we might need having been stuck here in Reedville. He then pointed at his house and told us not to hesitate if we felt that he could be of any help to us. He then continued to the other boats in the anchorage with the same offer!

Heading north again, when the northerlies had subsided, we faced the usual problem: no wind. Our next anchorage was at Solomon's Island, on the Patuxent River, after ten hours of motoring. Once a hardscrabble fishing, crabbing, oystering and boatbuilding center, Solomons was discovered by the boating crowd in the 1970s. It is now a modern yachting center with several marinas. The well protected natural harbour offers many choices for anchoring out. This was the first place where we found most services within a short walking distance.

duncoveThe sun sets at Dun Cove

Our plan was to join in the Ocean Cruising Club's "rendez vous" in Annapolis, on the eveneing before the Sail Boat Show opens, but because of the northerly winds we were now behind schedule. To get there in time would have required one more day of motoring for ten hours. Tired of that, we instead motored across the bay, here only about five to ten miles wide, to the mouth of the Choptank River, where we found a sheltered anchorage in Dun Cove on Harris Creek. All over the eastern USA one finds several names of places taken from old England; on the Choptank River you can i.e. visit both Oxford and Cambridge. We did not, however, see any competing rowing boats.

In Annapolis we had the good fortune, again, to enjoy the hospitality of cruising friends. We were invited to tie up at a dock in Crabb Creek on the South River, owned by a fellow member of the Ocean Cruising Club. Once again we were reminded that although we have visited many wonderful places, it is usually the people we meet who make the cruising so special.

Too many geographical names and no bearings? A MAP of the AREA is HERE (opens in a new window, so you can keep it open behind the active window, while you read on).

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