6 November, 2014
Bonjour, Mes Amis,
The channel into Jackson Harbor at Deltaville is pretty shallow and zigzaggy(?), but well-marked. In spite of this, we kissed the bottom on our way in-no biggy, we plowed through the sand. “Krogen Sighting” in the East arm of the harbor-it’s “Changing Course”, home of Bill & Lisa, from Harbor Springs, Michigan. You may recall that we met them in Chesapeake City, on the C & D canal. Time to test the motor repair on the tender once we had dropped the hook. Dang-runs better than when it was new. After a few calls to Mercury, we found out that they weren’t totally happy with the original ECM’s (brains of the motor), and basically had an unannounced recall (don’t you just love this stuff?). Ours was out of warranty; new one was only $1K. After a little begging and cajoling, to their credit, Mercury stepped up and bought us a new one. We picked up the labor. Test run allowed us to find deeper water in the channel-there was about a 20 foot wide area around the spot where we touched on the way in. Deltaville Boatyard didn’t have our oil filters and other goodies in stock, so we strolled over to the NAPA store. No dice for the filters either, but there’s a West Marine store a mile or so up the way, and the guy at NAPA offered us a ride-Nice. “Hope ya don’t mind ridin’ with the dogs”. We say “No problem, as long as they don’t bite too hard”, and slide open the side door of the van. Whoa! 3 dogs, some homemade bench seats, and the floor is littered with rags, empty jugs and a five gallon bucket which is splattered with what looks like blood. I’m getting’ a Jeffrey Dahmer visual, but we’re already in and the van is rolling. Story is, his dogs are old, and have all kinds of food sensitivities to the preservatives in regular dog food, and one of his buddies had hit a deer the previous night. They hauled the carcass into the van and carted it home for butchering, so that he could feed it to his dogs. Even so, I’m feeling better when we stop in front of West Marine and are able to open the door from the inside. Bill & Lisa are in WM pickin’ up some doodads of their own, so we walk back to the boats together after we strike out again on our filters. We compare notes from the past few weeks, and our plans for the next few, and decide to run together for awhile. Anchor up at 0716 on the 4th, and it’s a sunny 49 degrees. Exiting the harbor, we miss the silted in area that we kissed on the way in. “Changing Course” has her hook up, and we’re all off to Yorktown, the site of George Washington’s defeat of Lord Cornwallis. 5 hours later, after a beautiful cruise over 1’ seas, and a visit by a pod of dolphins, we arrive in Yorktown. We grab a mooring ball in the river, get our faster than fast tender down, and are visiting the battlefield, and National Park interpretive center within the half hour. There isn’t much town in Yorktown, but what’s here is steeped in history. For a couple of science majors, this voyage down the Northeast coast of North America has been a historical eye-opener. When we are able to touch and feel the geography, the rat facts and dates that we learned (sorta) in grade school start to weave a fabric that makes some sense. Some blackened Rockfish at the Pub and a brew (or 2) complete our day with B & L. Overcast and 54 degrees on our way to Newport/Portsmouth Virginia. Lots of commercial and Naval traffic keeps us on our navigational toes through the harbor on our way in. This is, and has always been one of the largest (if not THE) largest naval yards in the U.S.A. It’s one of 2 yards that are capable of refueling our nuclear-powered ships/subs. There are also many private yards here that refit military vessels, so the scenery is quite impressive, to say the least. Our home for the next 2 nights is Ocean Marine Yacht Center, where we have called ahead for a reservation, and to order the elusive oil filters and impellers. We maneuver down a narrow fairway, and I’m eyeballin’ the slip, thinking “no way”. I tell the dock guy the same, and he says “38 feet, right?” “No, 48”. Okay, the fairway is too narrow for The Girl to turn in, so we back out in a crosswind, and head to another slip. All’s well that ends well. First stop is to the boatyard to pick up my goodies-mission accomplished. B & L, Suzanne and I are then off to visit the Naval Shipyard Museum, and the Portsmouth Light Ship. The museum documents the evolution of the shipyard from the early days in the 1700’s to Word War Two (the docent says that they ran out of room, otherwise the exhibits would have run through the present day). The light ship is closed, because it’s off-season, but we can walk around the outside. The story is that these light ships (I want to say that there were about 168 of them in use between 1820-1983) were moveable lighthouses, placed in areas where it was not possible to build conventional ones. They were manned by crews of 8-15 men, and would be anchored on station for months at a time, being resupplied by smaller boats. I can’t imagine how brutal the conditions were at times, during gales, freezing weather, fog and huge seas. The biggest dangers were from anchor chains parting in these underpowered, poorly maneuverable boats, and collisions with other vessels in fog and poor visibility conditions. In 1934, the Olympic (sister ship of the Titanic), came out of the fog near the Grand Banks, 25 miles offshore, and sliced the lightship there in two, resulting in the loss of 7 lives. I suspect that these 100’ boats got pretty small after a month or so with 15 crew, and not much to do but read and keep the lights filled with oil-wouldn’t be my ideal occupation. After a walk through downtown Portsmouth darkness was falling and threatening rain, so we headed back to the boats. We had our “Hour of Charm” (Bill and Lisa’s term for Happy hour, 5-7, Cocktail time) on our little ship, then grilled up some Nova Scotia salmon, mango salsa, couscous, courtesy of the Admiral, followed by Lisa’s great salad. After washing it all down with a little white pop, plans are made to meet in the A.M. and take the ferry over to Newport to tour the Naval Museum and the battleship, Wisconsin.