Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Portsmouth and Hampton, Virginia


Sorry for the delay in posting, but I’ve been waiting for internet tower all week.  It was VERY fun for me to see my new Followers! Thank you for your support!

After we left the Dismal Swamp lock we headed into Portsmouth for a few days.  As we made it to the junction where the ‘Virginia Cut’ met the “Dismal Swamp Cut’ you could tell we entered into a busy port.  It was evening and the sun was setting, but there were many barges and commercial traffic everywhere. 

This particular vessel was armed with two men on the bow loaded with machine guns and watching us carefully.  Below the ships there would be men in smaller boats traveling back and forth protecting it in the water.  We knew we were safe when the patrol boats would come in for their nightly pizza run and meet the delivery guy with a flash light signal. It was a quick grab as they scurried back to their post!  
The waterway was lined with tons of huge naval ships including aircraft carriers, destroyers, subs, etc. The kids had played ‘Battleship’ the game recently and were excited to see the real thing up close!  At one point we counted over 26 naval vessels in a was amazing! 
Can you imagine what the bridge tender has to do to get to work each day? Look at the control tower in the upper middle section and all the stairs leading to it.
 Our dock wall was next to the ferry that takes you over to Norfolk across the river.  
We left in the morning and headed over to the ferry.  It was nice to have someone else captaining the ride for once and fun to have the bikes so we were able to see more.  We went to the mall and around town in the art arcade and historic area then over to Harris Teeter grocery to provision over two miles away.  Jaxon took a nap at one point and it ended up being a long fun day.
We stayed right downtown at a free dock that had power.  We were protected from the constant traffic in the harbor and right next to the downtown area, museums and shops.

Hospital Point Park is at mile marker '0' on the Intercoastal Waterway.  As I stated before, Key West was mile 1,200 and our protected waterway ends here in Norfolk.  Next is the Chesapeake Bay. 

The kids loved playing on all of the structures.
Probably not intended to play on...but was fun!  We ended up finding a park shortly afterward in town and met a nice family from Seattle, Washington named Matt and Lee with their son, Trevelyn who was Jaxons age.  The kids had fun playing they came back to the boat later for a drink and fun adult conversation! 

We went to the Portsmouth Naval Museum. It had displays dating back from hundreds of years ago and the kids had many activities to keep them learning the local history.  Portsmouth had the first 'drydock' in the United States.  It has one of the largest naval yards and goes for miles! 

A 'Lightship' is a vessel (like the one pictured here) that is deployed and anchored in the ocean (for months on end) years ago in place of light houses.  This particular one served the Portsmouth area for many years (they always displayed the ports name on the side of the vessel).

The view of the bow shows the very large anchor. They would stay out there in ALL weather too and at times would break free.

I liked the Galley area. There were usually 6 people aboard plus a captain at all times. They would take shifts to make sure the light was lit during bad weather and others times would do ship duties to keep the boat in good condition. Some lightship keepers would be out for a very long time.  A tender would come each week to bring provisions needed. 

This is the captains quarters.  There was an interesting short film about Lightships at the museum and they told many stories. A sister ship to the Titanic collided into a Lightship off Nantucket Island years ago and killed 4 crewmen. 

We were traveling through the harbor and I said to Craig how I’d like to see one of these ships in motion. Sure enough not only did we see one come out, but they called us on the VHF to warn us of their intentions. In a very professional way they told us to stay clear of them as they maneuvered around close to shore doing drills. A few of our looper friends caught us with us later as they heard the call come through. 

Jaxon is growing so fast that he’s almost as big as Ryann. He's still her little buddy and she and Morgan dote on him constantly. He loves it!

We found a great anchorage in Hampton just past the Downtown City Pier Docks Marina and under the bridge.  We shared it with “Bay Coaster” which is a couple that we’ve been traveling with a lot over the past month and the last night with 6 other people, but plenty of room.  We were able to use the dinghy dock and all of the marina amenities for free. We met some really nice people and had a great time. 

The carousel downtown was one of around 200 antique ones left in the U.S.

Weather for this area has been a drastic 90 degrees one day, freezing 50’s and windy and cold for two days and then back up to 85 again after that.  This particular day we took the dinghy over to Fort Monroe. We bundled up and enjoyed the destination once we arrived.  Nothing like a slushy on a chilly day?
Exterior photo of Fort Monroe.  We just can't get enough of these forts!  There was another one across the harbor called Ft. Wool that doesn't open till the end of the month. This particular one might be closing in August due to funding and the state might take it over? 

People were much shorter years ago and the entrance ways were indicative of that.

The upper fort walls were lined with a pet cemetery and headstones around the perimeter. 

The inside casement museum was loaded with furniture and artifacts dating back from the War of 1812. This room was where Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, was imprisoned after the Civil War was won and the Union took over.

General Robert E. Lee was housed here for many years.

We had the pleasure of meeting an old family friend that we haven’t seen in years, Maureen Archer and her son Phil.  She is Paul and Alice Morrissey’s daughter and use to babysit me years ago.  Our parents are still neighbors and close friends today.  I haven’t seen her in a long time as she’s lived in Yorktown for almost 20 years.  We lived in Morrissey's home for over a month (after the RV trip) while they went to Alaska.  Craig actually house-sat for them before we were married.  They've always been like second parents to me. 

We actually went over to the Bass Pro Shop but had limited time as it was a very busy week for them. Maureen's husband and daughter were not able to join us.   
It didn't take long for the kids to hit it off! 

The BID bus was something new to the Hampton area. It allowed us to get a quick free bus ride to the downtown area which was about three miles away.  We waited in a cold windy day for about 45 minutes later than anticipated and was surprised to find out that we were a part of the ‘ceremonial loop’ with the mayor of the town on our particular ride!  It was a brand new bus and a great quick way to see the area. 

The Easter Bunny is always a big hit!

On particular Saturday nights they have a ‘block party’ where vendors and a live band take over the street. We enjoyed the festivities and met some great people in Hampton. "Tonic" was playing the night we were there.

There was a moment of panic as the kids realized we were at an anchorage this year and not tied to a dock for the Easter Bunny to pay us a visit.  We reassured them that this magical bunny will not miss our boat and will find a way to us. Sure enough he didn’t let us down and the girls woke us up at 6:00 am excited!   

We waited so long for our weather window to open in the bay, that unfortunately the best forecast was Easter morning. We left the harbor by 7:00 am with a dozen other boats and were pleased with our decision to move forward. With a southerly wind blowing 10-15 knots we were cruising at a mere 11.5 knots as we rounded the point and headed north up the Chesapeake Bay. Within the hour the tide turned and brought us down to 7.5 knots as we crested the following seas with an enjoyable extremely hot 90 degree ride north to Tangier Island.  We went a total of around 65 miles and made it to Parks Marina.     
Next posting is our stay on Tangier Island, Virginia!