Sunday morning brought sunny skies and light winds, a really beautiful day. We pulled away from the Coinjock Marina around 7:30am. We were one of the last boats to leave. Everyone else had left, some as early as 5:30am. The key to leaving Coinjock, heading north, is to figure out what time to leave to make the hourly opening of the Great Bridge Bascule Bridge. Our goal was to be there for the noon opening.
The cruise up the Coinjock Bay and into Currituck Sound was uneventful. The seas were calm, maybe aone foot wave. Crab pots lined the channels, but with the calm seas they were easily visible. The channels are narrow, however, so a fair amount of concentration was needed to keep us out of the shoals and away from the pots. We passed a few sailboats but not nearly as many as in the days before.
By 10:25am, we were up the North Landing River, waiting for the North Landing Bridge’s 10:30am opening. One other power boat was ahead of us. Ten minutes later we were through the bridge and heading for Centerville Turnpike Swing Bridge. The bridge was about 5 statute miles away and we thought it would be opening on the hour. We sped up and hoped we would get there in time. Of course, there seemed to be a number of small fishing boats close to the channel, which forced us to slow down periodically to avoid ricking them with our wake. We were just rounding the bend to the bridge and it looked like we would just make it. We called the bridge and then learned that, because it was a weekend, they would open whenever we got there. We had hurried for no reason. Oh well!
Now we had over an hour to go the 5 statute miles to the Great Bridge Bascule Bridge. So we slowed downed and almost drifted down the river. We still got to the bridge early with over 20 minutes or so to wait. Fortunately, there was a public dock on the starboard side, with room for us to tie up. We pulled up behind another boat waiting for the bridge, and quickly tied up. It was much easier to be tied up than idling about for 20 minutes.
Promptly at noon, the bridge opened and we were through. We heard on the radio, another boat calling and stating that they would be at the bridge in less than five minutes or so and would the bridge tender hold the bridge. The answer was a terse no, so they were stuck for another hour waiting for the bridge.
Half mile down from the bridge is the Great Bridge Lock. The lock tender called us on the radio, stating that the gates were open and to proceed into the lock. There were only us and the other trawler in the lock, so there was plenty of space. By 12:23pm, we were through the lock and on our way. The only bridges in our way now were railroad bridges that are always open except when a train comes through. We figured we would make great time at this point. However, as we rounded a bend just before 1pm, we saw that one of the railroad bridges was down and a very long coal train headed for Norfolk. Fortunately most of the train was already over the bridge and we only had to wait about 10 minutes.
Now we were on the Elizabeth River heading into the Norfolk-Portsmouth Harbor – an incredibly busy commercial and military port.
We passed Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, where several aircraft carriers including the Dwight D. Eisenhower, were undergoing some repairs or retrofits. Quite impressive ships. We also heard on the radio a warning that “Warship 96” was exiting the Naval Base heading forsea. Kind of eerie hearing that over the radio.
As we reached the Lamberts Point Terminal, we could see the coal train we had seen going over the railroad bridge was pulling into the terminal. Two large cargo ships, one nearly 1000 ft long, were waiting to be loaded with coal.
Just after 2pm, we reached the Lafayette River, a small river off the Elizabeth River, which leads to the Norfolk Yacht and County Club. We called the yacht club to speak with the dock master, but no one could find him. We tried hailing him on the radio. No answer. However, the large t-head dock was open and I figured it was waiting for us. We reached the dock, Adrienne jumped off, and in five minutes or less we were tied up. It was 2:50pm. My sister came walking down the dock but no one else was in sight.
I walked up to the front desk and checked in at the club. The receptionists tried to call the dock master and this time she got him. She put him on the phone and the first thing he said was that we should have tried and called him!! In any event, we were tied up at the right spot and all was good.
This was going to be the end of the voyage for Adrienne. She had a number of things to take care of in Maryland and was going to fly back to BWI early Monday morning. Katherine, our daughter, was flying in Sunday night to help me take Curiosity back to Maryland. She was due in around 7pm (after her plane was delayed for an hour) and my sister went picked her up and we all went to the club for dinner.
Early the next morning, my sister picked Adrienne up and took her to the airport. Also early that morning a former Navy diver came over and checked our props to make sure that there was no crab pot line still wrapped around our prop. There wasn’t. All was good.
Katherine and I had a relaxing morning. My sister came over a little after 10am, and we decided to take her pout for a ride around the Naval Base. Curiosity is not the type of boat one usually takes out for a short run, but my sister had never cruised on the boat and complained bitterly about it. It would also be good practice for Katherine, since this would be the first time she was crewing without Adrienne around.
We left the yacht club and entered the Elizabeth River heading for the Naval Base. The VHF radios were alive with chatter, a lot of it by the Coast Guard. Coming down the river toward us was the Spirit of Norfolk, a waterfront cruise boat that usually takes groups out for evening tours complete with music and dancing. However, this time the Spirit was surrounded by Coast Guard gun ships and the Coast Guard was ordering all vessels to keep 1000 yds away. There was one coast Guard gun ship that raced toward each boat, looked over the boat and then ordered them to stay just on the edge of the far channel. This happened to us as we began to approach the Naval Base. Obviously, we complied. Using my binoculars, I could see a bunch of Navy brass on the Spirit but nothing else.
We continued cruising by the Naval Base until we reached Hampton Roads and then we turned around to go back to the club. Unfortunately, the Spirit had also turned around and down we were going to pass the boat again. Boy did this look suspicious. This time, the gun ship raced to us and proceeded to escort us down the channel. At this point, the Spirit was between us and the Naval Base, so any one on the Spirit would have their back to us as they toured the base. However, this time as we passed, there was a solid wall of individuals shoulder to shoulder blocking the persons viewing the base from our sight and from any evil intentions we might have had. The snipers on the spirit were also carefully watching us. We passed without incident and were soon back at the club. More excitement then we expected!
The rest of the day was uneventful – lunch, grocery store, dinner and bed. We are off to Deltaville tomorrow.