April 24-May 9
April 24 – Stay-over in Oriental, River Dunes Marina (storms)
April 25 – Oriental, River Dunes Marina to Pungo River Anchorage (49 miles)
April 26 – Pungo River Anchorage to Alligator River Marina (44 miles)
April 27 – Alligator River Marina to Virginia Beach, Centerville Marina (69 miles)
April 28 – Centerville Marina to Norfolk (13 miles)
April 29-May7 – Waterside Marina, Norfolk
Miles traveled this blog entry: 175 miles
Total miles traveled: 4651
Review of states explored so far (13): Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and now Virginia.
When we finally cast off the lines in Oriental, NC the Namaste and Melody in Sea headed for an anchorage in the Pungo River where, after Dan got his anchor to hold, we shared dinner and a quiet evening.
Since Melody is faster, we left early the following morning heading up a narrow cut directly into the blinding but beautiful sun. They eventually passed us in a wide spot but we both ended up waiting for the Alligator River Bridge whose schedule was in disarray due to construction.
Somewhere along the river we saw a small, flat bottom fishing boat with four young men frantically working. We finally surmised that they were cat-fish fishing. They had stuck long sticks/branches into the mud along the banks and attached string with some form of bait – a most crude fishing pole punched into the bottom of the river. What we witnessed was these guys racing up and down a long stretch of river checking their lines, unhooking the fish, throwing them into the bottom of the boat and rebating the hook. A cat-fish version of crabbing? Another day we saw a turtle straddling a floating log in the middle of the channel. No pictures of either the fisherman or the turtle but vivid visual memories remain.
Since it was early, our plan had been to cross the Abemarle Sound that afternoon. However, as we waited for the Alligator River bridge to open, the wind picked up and clouds rolled in giving us pause about the crossing which can be nasty with the easterly winds we were experiencing. In fact, Ron and Vicki reported that they had the worst seas of their entire Loop in the Abemarle Sound. Instead we decided to make a sharp left and enter the Alligator River Marina, basically a Shell gas station and convenience store under new management and delighted to have us. Eventually about 7 mostly “new to us” Looping boats arrived and the party began.
The following morning the weather looked iffy but the wind was light and from the south so perfect for a smooth crossing. We buddied with Ann, onboard the Nautical Gypsy who is single handing her Albin 36 on the Loop as a traveling nurse & social worker stopping to practice along the way. Her next job is in Albany, NY. She is one amazing woman!!!
During the Abemarle Sound crossing each boat must decide whether to take the Dismal Swamp route (neither dismal nor a swamp) or the Virginia Cut. Both are different experiences but end up just south of Norfolk. Due to timing of a lock and bridge we decided to take the Cut resulting in even worse timing. We waited for almost an hour for the North Landing bridge only to find out that we now had to wait two hours for the Centerville Turnpike Bridge (I sure didn’t see any Turnpike). Anyway, most bridges open on the hour to keep it simple but some don’t open at all between 6:30-8:30 am or 4-6 pm due to rush hour traffic in their locations. Because we waited for almost an hour for bridge #1 we arrived at bridge #2 around 4:05 and no they won’t wait, no there were no anchorages, no we had no marina reservation and yes, everything around was full! This may represent one of our worst planning days ever! Captain Jim eventually convinced the Centerville Marina just the other side of the bridge to let us tie up at their face-dock after they had closed up and gone home. The lady got a pound of Biggby Coffee the next morning for her hospitality and we got tied up for the night. It turned out to be a 69 mile day that took us almost 12 hours! We also didn’t nourish or hydrate properly so irritability was a nasty factor. You can perhaps imagine but all’s well that ends well!
The following morning with only 13 miles to Norfolk we had yet another bridge and lock to conquer – the Great Bridge bridge and the Great Bridge lock. Approaching the bridge early we were 6th of 7 in line jockeying for position with docks on either side of the river at the base of the bridge. Just then two go-fast Sabres (read expensive boats) came roaring up as boats #8 and 9. Within 30 seconds a guy came on the VHF radio to ask that since he and his friend were the fastest boats, could they just go on ahead and be first under the bridge and into the lock. After a long silence a southern, slow, male drawl came over the airwaves, “Well, we just may not all fit in that lock this lift so ya’ll had best just stay in position.” The radio went silent and they stayed put until one tried to pass us before exiting the lock. Captain Jim deliberately edged slowly over to the middle of the channel until all 7 of us were safely on our way. You have to wonder if some people ever went to kindergarten?
The final 13 miles into Norfolk was full of tall bridges that didn’t need to lift, tugs pushing barges as well as all manner of navy vessels which are huge and intimidating. The rule is that you cannot come within 100 yards of a docked government ship but then my question is, who would want to?
We were one of the first of fifty or so boats to arrive at the Waterside Marina on Norfolk’s brand new waterfront near the Sheraton where our Looper Rendezvous would be held. We excitedly and with great relief celebrated meeting our goal of an April 28th arrival, for which we had made reservations last December. By Sunday all the boats were shoe-horned into their slips and along the walls with not an inch to spare. In the end we were all pretty amazed that nobody hit anyone else on their way in or out but with heavy winds and very tight spaces folks came way too close more than once. We added four more fenders after this picture was taken!
The bow of the Namaste tucked right up to Phanthom
The AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association, lest anyone forget) Spring Rendezvous is the semi-annual event held for Loopers who have completed, are in progress, or who are planning their Loop. There were more than 300 people attending from all over the world, Australia being the furthest away. Workshops, seminars, and informational meetings on everything from routes to engine maintenance to staying in shape; good food and drink; boat crawls and pub crawls; treasure hunts and a Loop trade show were all part of what felt somewhat like a professional conference but in casual clothes with fascinating stories and easy laughter. My favorite was a presentation on reading the NOAA weather. In my next life I am going to be a meteorologist!
A word about the Looper crawls. One particular highlight was that each afternoon some captains opened their boats for the rest of us to “crawl” upon. Getting to see other boats is always interesting but add snacks and wine = perfection. We decided to open the Namaste to inspection and had perhaps 100 people onboard, 4-6 at a time. The Albin 36 is a popular Looper boat and there are very few available so we enjoyed lots of interest and compliments. No, she is not for sale!
The Namaste all prettied up and ready for the Looper Crawl
Jim and I came in second for the longest married couple in attendance which I translated into we were the youngest married couple in attendance. A shout out to Kim Russo, director of the AGLCA who did a fabulous job of planning, executing and keeping everyone happy – one can only imagine! We missed the Joe Wheeler Fall Rendezvous 2015 in Tennessee so are happy that we took-in this full Rendezvous experience.
After the last party ended, we created a complex yet workable plan with Dan and Jenny Lynn to retrieve our cars from Savannah and Brunswick Georgia, about 550 miles south. We obtained an Enterprise rental car and all four of us drove to Savannah, dropped them off at their car, drove to Brunswick and picked up the Tiguan. Jim drove the rental car and I my car back to Norfolk the following day. The day after that we traveled to Deltaville to drop off the cars where we will haul out our boats for the summer and then all came back to Norfolk in the rental car. A total of about 1250 miles! Thinking we won’t have a car with us next year.
We also took the public transit ferryboat to Portsmouth one evening to see “Avengers” at the Commodore Theater – a mixed experience. The theater was built in 1945 and is refurbished in art deco /cabaret style – the highlight of the evening. We sat at tables with old fashioned office phones to place our food and beverage orders. The food was OK, the service good and the ambiance spectacular! I shall not comment on the “Avengers” as a movie! Today we went to the Chrysler Art Museum and then to the Freemason Abbey for a pre-birthday, birthday dinner with Clark and Ev of Sunset Delight.
Sammy says: it was fun to be with Mac but sitting in the car for three days was b-o-r-i-n-g! I like boat travel better as I can smell the smells, run around on the fly bridge and bark at anything I wish. They give me lots of treats too!
Now it is time to move on. We are provisioned, the laundry is done (a story for another time but due to a comedy of errors I got $10 worth of machine use for free), and the boat maintenance is finished. We plan to leave tomorrow.
Good Boat Name of the Day: Nellie May, named after the Captain Tim’s grandmother (love it)
Bad Boat Name of the Day: Chaos
Quote of the Day: “You are the books you read, the movies you watch, the music you listen to, the people you spend time with, the conversations you engage in. Choose wisely what you feed your mind.” -unknown
Happy Belated birthday to: Georgie, Beverly, Melissa,
Happy Birthday to: Bastian, Missy, Donna and Theresa
Congrats to: Bastian, Christine, and Lisa!!!!