My first morning at Atlantic Yacht Basin started with a chorus of noisy-ass Canada Chickens. I think they were trying to honk a Metallica song, but the only part they got right was the volume.
It was perfectly reasonable for them to be making a ruckus, it being late in the morning, and high time I’d got a move on anyway. Having made up my mind to find a new home, I’d settled on Salt Ponds Marina up in Hampton, VA. It would be a nice, leisurely thirty mile day. Once Perkins had warmed up, and with the help of the single staff member on duty, we slipped our lines and backed into the fairway around 1045.
I checked in with the Great Bridge, and the Great Bridge Lock, and reserved a spot for the 1100 opening. I was first in line, but was joined by several other pleasure craft, and a medium sized tugboat. The tug was ushered into the lock first, and I moored just opposite and astern of them.
I made a bit of a dog’s dinner of the tie up. I threw a line out from my port quarter, and was hoping to pivot on that line and keep the bow up against with some hard left and forward thrust. It was a trick that had always served me well on my first boat, Wayfarer. Sylphide is an entirely different animal though, and she had other plans. She pivoted the other way. I soon found myself across the lock, nearly ninety degrees from where I wanted to be, with my dinghy flirting with the wall astern of us, and my bow sniffing the tug’s arse. I solved this problem with a gratuitous helping of forward thrust, and in a little more time than my pride would prefer, we were back alongside. I can report that my stern cleat/ bollard/ bit/ timberhead is strong like bull.
In keeping with the apparent theme of the day, I had moored right next to another goose. This one was sitting on a nest about four feet away, and was not pleased to see me. She hissed at me several times, and even threw out some racial slurs. I’m pretty sure she had a gun, actually. I did my best to make friends, and was able to sneak past her to slap a sticker on the lock wall fenders. I’m part of this club now too.
After the lock, we led the pack for a glorious mile or so. Sylphide was proud to be at the head of the line. Her tail was wagging, her nose perked up a little higher, and she threw a slightly frothier bow wave. It didn’t last long though. We were clearly slower than everyone but the tug. We slowed down to let them pass, and took up the familiar spot at the end of the parade. This actually worked out well for us, though. The other boats pulled out ahead, and had to wait for an opening at the next bridge, while we tootled up just in time to catch the opening. No lines, no waiting. Nice.
The trip through downtown Norfolk was a fairly busy one. In addition to my convoy of northbounders, there was a smattering of other traffic zig-zagging around haphazardly. One of the big pleasure boats I’d been in formation with since Great Bridge slowed down through this stretch, and I caught up with them. At one point, we were side by side, and they sort of corralled me over to the left side of the river. I got a little closer to the bank than I’d have liked. When I came around a corner to find a small center console coming the other way, it’s captain greeted me with his arms wide in a sort of ‘WTF are you doing?!’ gesture. I smiled like Forrest Gump, and waved at him like he was my favorite person on this, or any other planet.
Once I was clear of the downtown area, the channel opened out, and the traffic thinned. I put my feet up and stared contentedly out the window while Iron Mike and Chief Perkins took the conn. It was a beautiful sunny day, our temperatures and pressures were good, and I really enjoyed ogling the big Navy boats. I was wikipediaing the USS Something or Other, when I heard a couple of boats far out in front of me conversing on the radio. Apparently there was thick fog ahead.
The fog filled in as promised, but thankfully I’d made my way out of the shipping lanes before it did. I passed Fort Monroe and Old Point Comfort without seeing either, and shaped my course to northward. Once I got past Thimble Shoals, the fog lifted, and gave way to a beautifully calm Chesapeake. It was a blue bird day, and we finished the last few miles of the trip in fine fashion.
I put out the curb feelers and made my way into Salt Ponds Inlet, and by about three that afternoon, I’d found my spot at Salt Ponds Marina Resort. It was immediately obvious that this would be a much, much more comfortable place to spend the rest of my time off. The docks were nicer, the breeze was gorgeous, the scenery was lovely, and the water tasted way more gooderer. It was even less expensive than AYB. I was very happy with my decision to move. That’s one of the great advantages to living in a moveable house. If you don’t like your neighborhood, you can get yourself a new one.
After a few days, I found out that it would be another couple of weeks before I’d be going back to work. I thought about the possibility of continuing to cruise north, but with all of the uncertainty in the world, I decided I’d better just hold onto the spot I had, and stay put for a while. It was a nice spot, and it seemed as good a place as any to be quarantined for a while.
I spent my time playing video games, watching YouTube videos, and eating too much. I kept my sanity by taking the occasional walk around the marina, or to the beach across the way. It was open to anyone who wanted to walk or run there, provided they practice social distancing. Swimming and sunbathing were verboten. I was happy to comply.
I had plenty of time to consider just how lucky I am to be able to spend these crazy times doing what I would have been doing anyway. My job is still secure. I’m healthy, and so are all of my friends and family. Aside from not being able to tourist around towns, the greatest discomfort I’ve faced has been the grocery delivery service that brings me my food, wasn’t able to supply me with my first choice of chip dip.
I really am a very, very lucky man.