We’re heading south! And a good portion of our route for the next several weeks will be via the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). Frank has had this route in his head for years, but being me, I couldn’t have spit out a good explanation of what it was or WHERE it was until more recently. (I tend to plan in shorter time spans; we’re different that way). So if you’re a little sketchy about it, let me give you a brief orientation to set the scene.
#2- Taking the ICW from Norfolk, but taking what is called Route 1 – the Virginia Cut. This route is used by commercial and recreational traffic and is kept at a depth of at least 12 feet.
Brief history: The canal opened in 1809 and was largely hand dug by slaves in most difficult conditions. Because it was so shallow, only flat boats or log rafts could be manually poled through, typically carrying shipments of logs, shingles and other wood products from the abundant cedars and junipers. The slaves became so familiar with the route that it was widely used as a slave hideaway and became an important part of the Underground Railroad. It has been the inspiration for literature, poetry and songs. The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the upkeep of the canal, keeping it at at least 6 feet in depth. There are times when the canal is closed due to drought conditions. Recently, cruising friends of ours were turned away from the canal due to an overabundance of duckweed – a green plant with little teeny leaves. Due to some unusual and extended wind patterns, an excessive amount of duckweed had collected close to the top of the canal. The duckweed gets sucked into your intake for the engine, the strainer gets full of it and chokes the water/air supply to the engine which then overheats and eventually stops working! They had to tow many boats out. So they turned people away from the canal for several days until they could clear the overabundance of duckweed.
Here are some typical sights in the canal –
That night was a record breaker for us: the low was in the upper 30s. We had every blanket on us that we own and were very cozy. We have a propane heater that we kept on until we went to bed – not safe to keep it on all night. In the morning it was 49 degrees in the boat. Good news is that between turning the heater on and lighting the stove for our coffee, it warms up pretty quickly.
After a couple of nice days in the Wye, we headed back to our old stomping ground. It was a beautiful October Saturday meaning that the bay was PACKED with boats. We steered our familiar route right back to our old marina. Dean, owner of Stella’s Stern and Keel, had an open slip that we were able to rent for a couple of weeks, and when we pulled in it was just like we had left it . . . there was Dean in the yard ready with a hearty welcome and Buttercup, the yellow dog, with her mom/owner, Suzanne. It was a very welcoming feeling and we were excited to be back in our old stomping ground.
We spent our time in Annapolis seeing friends, readying the boat for our trek south and visiting the boat show which gives us a chance to catch up with Mike, Liz and Robyn Gozzard, the builders of our boat. We met up with friends which included a “chick day” at the Boat Show with Cheryl! And sister Caroline met up with us at the end of the day, too! (That’s Ems sister Caroline – not like a nun or something.) Caroline brought a delightful dinner with her and then helped with a major grocery run the next day. Our very dear friends, Tom and Cathy, have a Brewer sailboat that they have been lovingly restoring over the last several years. We spent time catching up with them and seeing the fruits of their labor as they get ready to move aboard! They were our neighbors at Stella’s our first two years there and we have watched each others’ projects and preparations as we shared the cruising dreams over a beverage or meal. The offers of rides and help and errands from many was heartwarming, and we are always grateful for them!
We rented a car which we used to do a visit of the Mamas! First stop, a nice visit with Frank’s mom and bonus fly-by with two nephews while there! Always good to “chat with Pat”! Then we drove to attend Mama Rapking’s 90th birthday celebration. (That’s Ems’ mother – and yes, that is really my maiden name . . . ) All six children came in from all over the country to recognize this happy occasion! As I like to say, my mom is 90 going on 70. Not that I am at all biased, but she is spunky, witty, affectionate and independent and we love being around her. Frank and I made use of her spare bedroom . . . and I asked her if we could pretend I was in college again so I could bring my laundry with me!! We loved having the gang together again for a couple of days . . .
We took off from Annapolis this past Sunday morning early to start making our way south. First stop, Solomon’s Island, MD for a quick overnighter. We ended up anchored by a boat that we met in Martha’s Vineyard this summer! After a quick chat with them as we rode the dinghy by, we agreed to meet up the following night in Deltaville, VA, the next night’s scheduled stop. We anchored up side by side in Fishing Creek and enjoyed cocktail hour in their very pretty and spacious cockpit.
The minute we left Solomons and took a right on the bay, we were in new territory for Eleanor Q! And so we begin the next leg of our trip – the southeast coast of the U.S. First stop, Hampton, Virginia. Hampton is “right close” to Norfolk, thus major military area. As we were getting close we noticed several helicopters and a couple of fighter jets hovering over the area, and we figured that might be normal for the area. Then we heard a “securite” announcement (French pronunciation sounding like seh-cure-i-tay) commonly used on the VHF radio to alert boaters that a large vessel is underway. It announced that aircraft carrier # 71 was departing the area and going out to sea. It also reminded mariners that it is against the law to be any closer than 500 feet of a naval vessel, enforceable by force including deadly force. That certainly will make you think twice about doing a buzz by one of the navy fleet! And sure enough, there was a Naval entourage leading the way with four heavily armed gunboats coming out first. Then we watched as the USS Theodore Roosevelt come out of the Navy base. It was surrounded by a few skiffs directing it out. The ship had just undergone a complete overhaul in August, and after passing all of its sea trials had returned to Norfolk. Carrier #77 was parked right behind it, the USS Hebert Walker Bush. Both are nuclear powered ships. Frank looked up their specs. He quizzed me, “What do you think their range is?” This means how long can the boat stay out without need of refueling. The answer: 20 – 25 years. That ship wouldn’t have to come back into port for 20 – 25 years. I imagine that there would be a mutiny before they tested that theory, but that’s the deal. It is a self contained small city. Pretty amazing. When you look at the deck of the thing, you wonder what it is like for the young pilot the very first time they ever have to land on its deck.
This story was originally written in July, 2013.
The next day we hoofed it right on down to the Rhode River, another long but wonderful day. It was very exciting when we caught our first sight of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge again for the first time in several months!
- The next day we took advantage of the bike rentals and had a little picnic lunch at the park beside the Methodist Church in town looking out over the water. By the way, thank you to the United Methodist Church of Oxford for the beautiful chimes that play every day at noon and 6:00pm. I’ll hum along and Frank will say, “Do you know that one?” And I’ll say, “It’s a Methodist Church . . . I’ll know ANYTHING they play!” There was a funny moment during our bike ride . . . it’s not going to SOUND funny, but it really was, so hear it the right way. We rode around the Oxford cemetery which overlooks the anchorage where EQ was parked. Neither one of us has any intention of being buried in an actual plot (not that we discuss it much, mind you, other than Frank saying “Put my ashes in a coffee can and throw me in the dumpster.”) We toured the whole place admiring how well kept it was and looking at the view. As we pedaled down the long road out, Frank looked at me and said, “You know, I don’t want to be buried in a cemetery, but if I did, this wouldn’t be a bad one to be in.” I laughed out loud and said, “I was thinking the EXACT same thing!” Great minds . . . I know, that’s weird humor.
As much as we love Oxford, Frank had a major setback there, however. . . the Highland Creamery (home of the finest ice cream) was closed for mid-week. He is still under treatment for depression from the incident. He had to make do with other ice cream options – and he did. Actually, on Monday we thought the Creamery was going to be open and planned to hit it on our way back to the boat . . . we had walked to the little market in town and while I was grocery shopping, Frank went to the ice cream counter inside the store and got a cone. Here’s the conversation that followed: