Hallelujah We Are Down The Bay

DSC05937a We spent 5 days in Reedville, Virginia waiting for the southerly winds to die down so we could get to Norfolk. My friend John Denver once wrote, “I spent a week there one day.” Of course he was writing about Toledo, Ohio. Now don’t get me wrong, Reedville is a very beautiful area with great old houses once owned by Sea Captains alongside new McMansions being built as retirement homes. But a major metropolitan area it is not. We needed to get on our way and make some time. The day did finally come.

We did have a good stay. Eddie and the crew at Buzzard’s Point Marina could not have been more friendly and accommodating. We made a couple of new friends at the marina, Joe and Barbara on the trawler Barbara Ann, named after, guess who. They own a rental house there in Reedville which is very nice and quite affordable for folks looking for a quiet vacation getaway (www.barbarascozycottage.com). They took us out for a great dinner at the Crazy Crab restaurant (http://www.reedvillemarina.com/) and homemade ice cream at the Chitterchats (sorry, no website, just great ice cream), both places we highly recommend. But if you stay at Buzzard’s Point, you will need transportation to get anywhere (http://www.tangiercruise.com/buzzardspoint-marina.asp).

DSC05992aFinally, on Saturday we had a decent forecast that did not suddenly change for the worse the morning we planned to leave. I get very frustrated with weather forecasts. You would think that with all of the modern technology they have and the billions of dollars in budgets, they could at least get it right once in a while. We would get a good forecast for light winds out of a decent direction at 10 PM and by 5 AM the next morning, it was changed and not for the better. We went through this for 3 days. Finally, their guesscast held and we were able to leave the dock and get underway. Even then the forecast was for light westerly winds although all of the buoy reports were for southerlies all the way down the Bay. But they were still light enough that the seas laid down enough for us to get to Norfolk. By 2 PM we were motoring past the International Shipping Terminal in Norfolk and heading for our fuel stop at Tidewater Yacht Marina. We had done some research and found that they had the best fuel prices in the area and we needed fuel before we headed down the ICW. We found the best source and most current fuel prices are on Claiborne Young’s website, cruisersnet.net. A quick fuel stop and we moved on to our destination for the evening at Great Bridge, Virginia.

DSC06008aWe arrived at Great Bridge at 6:45 PM after locking through the Great Bridge Lock with a couple of other pleasure boats and a commercial tug. The free dock just outside the lock was pretty full, but there was just enough room at the end for us to squeeze in. The boat we tied up behind was the exact same boat that was tied up with us when we made the trip north from South Carolina two years ago. It is indeed a small world when it comes to boaters. We had a chance to catch up for a few minutes before settling in for the night.  We like Great Bridge very much, not only because of the free tie up, but because everything you might need--groceries, restaurants, hardware, laundry and more--is within walking distance of the free docks.

The docks, more of a bulkhead, are between the lock and the bridge, so in order to leave heading south, we wanted to catch the first bridge opening at 6 AM the next morning. After our usual pre-departure check list, we untied the dock lines and pushed off to wait for the bridge. It took about four calls before the bridge tender finally answered even though we were sitting next to the span. After Great Bridge, there were two more bridges we had to have open for us. Both the Centerville and North Landing bridges opened as we arrived so there was little delay. Our only other bridge we would have to deal with would be the Alligator River swing bridge. The weather was not the best and it rained off and on almost all day. But the winds were very light so we just had to deal with some rain. These are the times we really appreciate the inside steering station on the trawler.

Crossing the Albemarle Sound can be a very daunting experience if conditions are not right. We have crossed in flat calm conditions and in roller coaster conditions. The shallow water can make very uncomfortable seas when the wind is up and especially if there is a wind against current conditions. No matter what the wind direction, it seems to funnel either straight up or down the Sound and steep seas spaced close together don’t take long to develop even in less than strong winds. This day we would be lucky since the winds were light, on our stern and the rains were scattered and light. Crossing the Sound was uneventful and the run down the Alligator River also had the winds and small waves on our stern all day. At about 2:40 PM, we called the Alligator Swing Bridge to ask for an opening. The bridge tender here is very accommodating and efficient. We did not even have to slow down and the bridge was completely open by the time we arrived. By 5:30 PM, we had the anchor down at Tuckahoe Point at the south end of the Alligator River. We have anchored here in the past and there were several other cruising boats anchored just outside the ICW channel. This area always has a primeval feeling to it. In 8 1/2 hours, we had covered 93 statute miles. Not a bad day for us and it helped make up for some of our delay in Reedville. There are still a lot of clouds and potential rain around so we will see if we have a peaceful night.

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