Our short trip from Hampton to Portsmouth took 2 hours in cloudy, dreary weather. We passed by the Norfolk Navy Shipyard just like we did on the Miss Hampton tour boat. The Elizabeth River has had the most marine traffic of any place we have been yet. In addition to the gray presence of the US Navy, there is a considerable amount of industrial traffic. This busy place has the “little” pushing boats and tugging boats moving those big guys all over.
For the first time ever, we were hailed on the VHF by a tug to let us know they would need a wide area to bring the Ocean Ruby out of her berth – “Could we please stay on the far side of the channel where we were?” You bet, NO problem! The AIS system provided the tug with our name and info so that we could be hailed on the VHF by name. This is so much safer and more efficient than hearing, “white sailboat with tall mast near ………” You never knew if they meant you or some other white sailboat with a tall mast.
And then, there it was!! The moment we have all been waiting for!! The beginning of the ICW – Mile Marker 0, officially the “R36” buoy in the channel. Ok, it is a bit of a let down. This doesn’t really seem like the beginning of the famous Intracoastal Waterway, but it is, and here we are! Officially the ICW runs form north of Boston all the way down the East Coast and along the shore of the Gulf Coast to Brownsville, Texas. But this stretch from Norfolk (Mile 0) to Miami (Mile 1095.) is what most people refer to as the protected “inside” Waterway, also known as “The Ditch.”
We checked out two basins with free docks (North Landing and High Street Landing) on the Portsmouth side, but both docks were under water about 10 inches due to a very high tide. We decided to anchor off Hospital Point, known as the place “to stage” for beginning a trip down the ICW. You do get a lot of wakes from passing marine traffic, but nothing we haven’t felt before. In the anchorage we spied two sunken boats, and not old wrecks, but quite recent ones. Of course there is a story to go with them, as told to us by a local in the marine store. The most curious part is that both boats are owned by the same person….. let’s not go there.
Have a mentioned that the weather has been awful?
Saturday was a bit better than the previous three days, so we donned the foul weather jackets and took time to explore Portsmouth. We walked up High Street to the Saturday morning Farmers Market -not much going on, probably due to the lateness of the season and the dreary weather. But the fresh produce was nice.
We visited two different nautical stores. First, Mile Marker 0, the local marine store for boating supplies and equipment, and a friendly, chatty place. Bar stools line the counter so that people can just hang out. We saw two of the men later at SkipJack Nautical Wares and Marine Gallery, the other nautical store. Skipjack is filled with old nautical antiques re-purposed into decorative items, or just for display as they are. The folks there are knowledgeable and fun to chat with, demonstrating a real love of all things nautical. I couldn’t resist and bought two Japanese fishing floats to add to my collection at home. I did show restraint by choosing a tiny 3 inch globe and a rolling pin style so they can be stored on the boat!
There is wonderful Fresnel light on display outside of Skipjacks. Standing 10 feet high and weighing 2,500 pounds, it was used in 1896 as part of the Hog Island Light on the Eastern Shore. Due to overcast skies, the photo doesn’t do it justice.
Dave and Sue of sans cles raved about a little place called the Green Bean Cafe at Bowmans Garden Center here in Portsmouth, so we thought we would search it out and give it a try. We are so glad we did!! The atmosphere is unusual; the decorations create a feast for the eyes. Better yet, since we were hungry, the food was a true feast. Deeeelicious! We had the Tokyo birds nest ahi tuna salad and a BLT that set a new standard for all BLTs. We even shared the Mississippi Mud Pie for dessert. Everything is made fresh right on the premises, “because there is no creativity in buying something already prepared.” A quote from Paul, the chef himself. If you are ever in Portsmouth, Virginia, by boat or by car, you really must stop here.
On Sunday morning, we faced another gray day. Yes, another. But that didn’t stop us from donning the jackets again, hopping into the dinghy and crossing over to Norfolk. We had a new vessel in our neighborhood here – the Carnival ship, Glory, arrived. Now that is a whole different style of cruising! We prefer our little cruising boat to that behometh. It sure was entertaining to watch it turn around, in the harbor, right in front of us.
We wandered about Norfolk’s waterfront. Norfolk has a logo of a mermaid with painted mermaid statues around the city. I wish we had seen more of them on our walk. It reminded me of West Hartford’s cows and Atlanta’s manatees, and Rhode Island’s Mr. Potato Heads. But prettier. 🙂
It may be overcast and gray and even raining, but we are finding things to do and see. And we also just hang out and read. Isn’t that what you folks on land do on a rainy day?