82 Hampton, VA to Wildwood, NJ

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Newport News Shipyard overwhelmed our view as our bus rounded a corner. An aircraft carrier under construction looked huge out of the water but was a small part of the immense yard. Hovering over the carrier, huge cranes added a surreal look to the skyline. Hearing our comments about the shipyard, a fellow bus passenger began filling in details. Over the noise of the bus, biggest, largest, heaviest lifting and other words associated with immense drifted through. I made a mental note to come back some day and walk the road along the yard to get a better view. The shipyard was a fitting conclusion to a day of exploring and discovery. Earlier we’d taken off by bus with Bob and Peg off Last Gasp heading for Mariner’s Museum. Our bus ride provided an interesting cross section of Hampton and Newport News. Studying our bus schedule and talking with the drivers, we found a different way back to Hampton and got the view of the shipyard as a reward.

Mariner’s Museum is a gem. We spent the day enjoying exhibits. A reproduction of the turret on the Civil War Monitor was complimented by a recent addition of the actual propeller and shaft salvaged from the wreck of the Monitor. The propeller is not much to see. It sits in a murky tank of water. Wires provide a low current to knock off the corrosion and allow conservation. The combination of exhibits caught our imagination. The remainder of the museum was equally interesting and wonderfully diversified. We’ll revisit on our next stop in Hampton and explore it again.

Exploring up the York River we tucked into Sarah Creek and found a snug spot to anchor. Jackson Creek anchorage was less snug than we’d remembered from prior visits, but we stayed for the night. Then it was up the Rappahannock River to the Corrotoman River. We threaded our way into Taylor Creek–its narrow entrance included a duck blind. Local residents had stuck saplings into the muddy bottom to help mark the narrow entrance channel with its twists and turns. Once inside Taylor Creek is a charming collection of coves. They wander off the main body of the creek twisting and turning through the tree-lined shores affording many places to anchor.

We found a place to tuck in and anchor away from homes barely visible through the trees. Unusually hot Spring conditions caught up with us, and we settled in to work on a jigsaw puzzle in the cockpit. The creek water went glass smooth. Only occasional feeding fish wrinkled its mirror smooth surface. The air stopped moving. Our thermometer placed on the cockpit table next to us climbed slowly to 99 degrees. We found moving the occasional puzzle piece and standing on the back deck to wet down with the deck shower was about the right amount of activity on this sultry day. We sat out the afternoon sweating, working on the puzzle and enjoying our pleasant surroundings.

Places we visitedLate in the evening the temperature moderated as a front came through. We took advantage the next day and explored Taylor Creek’s many coves by dinghy. Masses of flowering bushes added splashes of white to the tree-lined shore. A waterman loading crab traps ashore said hello and asked about Odyssey anchored near the cove entrance. We stopped the dinghy engine and drifted as we chatted across the quiet waters. From him we learned it was myrtle in bloom that we were enjoying.

Urbanna was to be just a stop for fuel. Town looked interesting, and we stayed overnight giving Odyssey a much-needed scrubbing. Urbanna was one of the first towns established in the U.S. It is a quiet little spot with no USA Today at the newsstand and no traffic light in town. We picked up a walking tour map and explored town. The old tobacco warehouse was listed as the visitor center on the map. We went looking for it and found it didn’t even have a road leading to it, just grassy lawn all around. At the marina we learned the town had managed to come up with funds for the purchase but had nothing left to develop it as a visitor center.

Alas modern times are slowly creeping into the Chesapeake. As we snaked our way into the tight entrance to Horn Harbor we noticed a few pieces of PVC pipe marked shallows instead of traditional saplings or branches. We felt quite proud of ourselves fitting our 15′ beam through a twisting harbor entrance barely 20 feet wide. As a reward we rode the dinghy a mile up river to the highly acclaimed Horn Harbor Restaurant only to find it closed and only opened weekends. Instead of a great restaurant meal, we enjoyed grilled hot dogs from Odyssey’s stern grill.

Peering out from under our umbrellas we looked over a sea of blue and yellow umbrellas toward Herndon Monument. Atop its point sat a cap. Below, the entire Navel Academy plebe class worked to build a human pyramid up the monument sides to retrieve the cap and replace it with their regulation navy hat. 200 pounds of lard covering the monument sides and rain made the task more difficult. The pyramid grew to 3 levels of struggling plebes and then slowly collapsed into a tangle of arms and legs and groans from the plebes climbing for. Wild cheers rose when a struggling plebe made the fourth level only to be defeated by the collapse from below. We circled the outer edge of the gathering for over an hour watching the plebes struggle, people watching and catching pieces of conservation from upper classmen talking about the difficulty of the task.

A wild cheer went up as a plebe reached the fourth level of stacked bodies without a collapse. He somehow managed to get a fingertip hold on the lard covered sloping top. With an incredible display of strength he chinned himself up made a wild grab and got the cap as the human scaffold again collapsed. Ten minutes later he and his classmates repeated the feat, this time placing the hat on the monument touching off a grand celebration by plebes and spectators. This was just one part of the excitement of the U.S. Naval Academy’s graduation week.

Heading back to Odyssey’s mooring one afternoon we were suddenly surrounded by Star sailboats returning from their race. Eighty fast moving craft filled the narrow waters of Spa Creek. One avoiding another sailboat cut in front of us, and we looked like we’d broadside them. A quick shift to reverse let the fast moving sailboat continue pass with inches to spare. We headed for a more protected spot along a dock and watched sailors from all over the world in Annapolis competing for Olympic qualification, sail through the mooring field managing to miss moored boats and fellow racers.

One rainy afternoon Richard and Jory from Caribbean Soul dinghied over. Leaving their dinghy to hold our mooring we slipped Odyssey under the Spa Creek Bridge up the Severn River to a creek holding Cantler’s Restaurant. We joined the late lunch crowds sitting at long tables for an outstanding seafood lunch. We couldn’t resist the temptation to explore the creek holding the restaurant before heading back to the security of Spa Creek.

After five days we were itchy to move. We said our good byes to Richard and Jory. Our sailing companions when we cruised Maine in l998, our plans to meet in Key West this past winter never happened because we changed boats. We enjoyed each other’s company as we explored Annapolis. We’ve made plans to meet again this time in Maine next year.

Following winds and seas made for a quick trip up the Chesapeake to the C & D Canal. We flew through the canal on a favorable current and started down Delaware Bay toward Cape May.

Our smooth run suddenly vanished. Now the wind was on the nose and slowly increasing. Seas became short and steep as tidal current began running against the wind. We pounded into the chop taking white and occasional green water over the deck and a few cases the cockpit roof. Still learning Odyssey we experimented with different operating strategies and tried to recall heavy weather suggestions related when we took delivery. Below our household began a self-reorganization. The TV, not fastened down, nose-dived to the library mattress. Books on the library shelves followed the TV as we caught a few large waves head on. Tools in the gen-set workroom crashed from their shelf to the floor. Ruth found the refrigerator beginning to coming out of its wall compartment. Not a great thing to see in rough water. I pushed it back, but it preferred trying to slide out and head for the floor. We’ve since installed missing restraining screws. Steering became a timing test as we tried to ride up each wave and then turn to ride sideways down the back to keep from stuffing the bow into the next wave rising. In the confused seas we weren’t always successful.

Our rough ride went on for 4 hours, then calm took over as we entered the Cape May canal and wind-sheltered waters. The VHF was active with other boats that had endured the same passage and were now looking for the comfort of marinas in the Cape May area. Tired but still eager to try something new we, continued on entering the New Jersey portion of the ICW. Because of low bridges and shallow water the New Jersey portion of the ICW had been closed to us when we had been a sailboat. In the fading light of a gloomy evening we headed a few miles up the ICW to Wildwood, NJ, a marina and dinner our for two well-pounded boaters with a big mess below to clean up in the morning.

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