Yes, Virginia, We’re BA-aaaack

We return to the very familiar Hampton Roads area, setting up shop for a month plus stay to go through the Life Maintenance Checklist.  We also spend a week at the Looper Rendezvous in Norfolk. 

Click the Google Map button below to open the map  in a separate window.  There you can zoom in/out, and click on the icons to see pictures and more info on the various places along our route.

We’ve now been living the cruising life for almost exactly a year, having made our first sortie with our new-to-us boat out of Ft. Pierce FL on April 26, 2021.  We love the life – seeing new places, meeting new people, learning cool history and fun facts in the stops we make.  But it’s also nice to have the occasional familiarity of a place we’ve been before.  Things like already knowing where the bathrooms are in the marina, how to get to the grocery store, or having the dockhand recognize our boat (not usually us, but See Level is a bit of a unicorn boat so it sticks in their memory).  With no more physical ties to Minnesota, Hampton Roads in Virginia is now the closest thing we have to a ‘home base.’ Having lived here on and off over the last 20 years that Dave was on active duty, and now returning to it as we finish our third trip on the Atlantic ICW, it feels a bit like home.

Coinjock, NC to Chesapeake, VA

April 16, 2022

There was a mass exodus in a 20 minute period from the Coinjock dock first thing in the morning.  One minute it was a quiet sunrise, and suddenly there were boats pulling off the face dock in organized chaos.  Just shows how much Coinjock is really a one night dinner stop in route to other places. 

We continued up the North River, crossing Currituck Sound.  Shortly after joining the North Landing River, we crossed from North Carolina into Virginia.  No big Welcome to Virginia sign or visitor center – just a dashed line on our chart plotter.   Got an unusually grumpy bridge tender at one of the bridges that made us wait almost 10 minutes beyond the scheduled opening and took two radio calls and finally a cell phone call to finally get him to open the darn bridge, even though we were sitting right there.  Never did know the reason for the delay.  But we still made it to Atlantic Yacht Basin before noon and long before the weather moved in.

Only way we knew we were in Virginia -- we crossed the dotted line on the chart plotter.
Only one side of the North Landing Bridge was opening. It was actually a lot wider than it looks in this photo, which is good news because it doesn't look like we will fit on this view.

Atlantic Yacht Basin

April 16-19

Yes, we are back at AYB, where we spent November and December.  But this time it’s by design and nothing is broken.  Not sure it’s a good thing that this felt like coming home as much as it did and the staff welcomed us back, but we realized it’s the place we’ve spent the most time since we moved onto the boat. 

With weather moving in (which is what pushed us to get to Virginia two days earlier than originally planned), this was a great place to wait it out as it is completely sheltered.  The extra time there gave us a chance to see Dave’s brother and family nearby, along with Amy and Stephen, who we had met when at AYB previously and were doing a major rehab on a classic sailboat.  It was easy for us to see how much progress they had made (even if they feel like it’s going at a snail’s pace).   A couple other Looper boats whose company we had enjoyed at previous marinas, Pura Vida and Dashaway, also chose to wait out the next few days here so we had plenty of good company. 

Early morning at the AYB fuel dock, with azaleas in their full glory.
There we are, back on the big long AYB dock.

Since we arrived during a weekend there wasn’t much activity at the boatyard, so we took Kim and Chris from Pura Vida through the sheds and looked at all the cool classic boats there at AYB.  One has been there for years – the 100 year old Prinicipia, a luxury cruise ship that among other things in its storied life was owned by (Boomer alert!) John Davidson and then part of a museum in Rhode Island. We also were able to visit with Dave’s brother and family who live nearby, as well as a couple (Amy and Stephen) we met when we were there in the fall that are renovating a classic sailboat.  When we were here prior it was before Dave’s knee surgery, and this time he was able to enjoy the long walk through the park across the river with Roxy and me.  Even the warning horn blasts as the bridge opened and closed on the hour had a pleasant familiarity to it. 

The third and fourth days there turned cold, windy, and rainy so everyone just stayed hunkered down in their boat and not much socializing was to be had.  Plus after the long run up the coast, I think we were all ready for a couple of ‘down days’ to plan the next segment of our respective trips. 

Pretty sure they need a bigger sail.
Dog PIle on Great Uncle Dave!

Norfolk, Part 1

April 20 - 30

Weather finally cleared, and we had a short run to get to Little Creek Marina.  We wanted to use the rising tide to our advantage so weren’t in a hurry; the slip we were going into has a narrow approach that turns shallow quickly, so by planning our arrival on the high tide part of the day it gives us more maneuvering room and less worry about getting a hull stuck in the mud.   We fueled up there at AYB while waiting for the scheduled bridge opening, but it took a little longer than expected and we were counting down the minutes.  If we missed the bridge opening, we would have to wait another hour.  We hastily dropped the lines with a couple minutes to spare and with me throwing a bag of dog treats onto the dock for Amy’s dog Dipper that I almost forgot as we pulled away. 

At the fuel dock with the bridge in the background.

We backed into the same slip at Little Creek Marina where we had spent a good chunk of summer and fall, so once again we were in the Land of the Familiar.  Almost all the people that had been here when we left Nov 3 were still here and welcomed us, with the exception of the guy who liked to work on his boat in his red underpants who has moved on to parts unknown.  Oh darn. 

One of our top priorities on arrival was to get Roxy to the nearby beach.  She seemed to know where we were and how to get to the beach as soon as we got off the dock.  I guess this was her Familiar.  The route took us through the East Beach neighborhood that reminded us so much of our home in Stillwater, and that was our Familiar.  She has since enjoyed many a walk on the beach, and is a happy dog.  We even enjoyed an evening picnic there watching the sunset. 

Chillin' with a sunset picnic on the beach -- doesn't get much better.

We rented a car for a week when we got here.  I had managed to schedule as many things as possible into our first week, hence our Apr 20 deadline to arrive.  We packed in doctor and dentist appointments, lots of errands, haircuts for everyone including Roxy, visits to Chuck’s to pick up our massive Amazon order, the laundromat, and COVID Boosty-Boosts.  One of the big things we realized is how much time it takes to run errands.  It felt like we spent more time driving between places, parking and unparking, and sitting at traffic lights than we did actually completing the errand.  It made me further appreciate how much simpler life on the boat is and only doing things you can get to via your own feet, bike/scooter, or occasional Uber.   When you have a car it makes it all the easier to find places to go with it. 

One other thing we had to do was get Dave a suit.  Why does Dave need a suit on a boat, you rightly ask?  Because we are headed to France this month for Danica and Fab’s wedding celebration, and our regular boat attire of shorts, quick dry fabrics, and boat shoes just aren’t going to cut it – especially since most everything has at least one stain on it if you look closely.  Dave has a suit, but it is in storage in MN, so off to Mens Wearhouse we went.  (Tip:  don’t go on a weekend, when wedding parties and prom-goers are all there. ) I also needed a dress a little more sophisticated than my one bright-colored Carribbean print that is great for a beachfront restaurant but probably not so appropriate in Paris, so off to Macy’s after picking out Dave’s suit.  I haven’t been in a department store in about two years, and this reminded me why I avoid them;  this is one ‘familiar’ I can do without.  But success was had in spite of my mental resistance, and now we are good for the wedding, even if I’m sure I will look like the consummate American tourist with the rest of my wardrobe there in France.  I’m just gonna embrace it.   

Once we returned the car, we went back to boat projects for a few days – routine maintenance for Dave, cleaning, some sewing for me, and planning for when we continue north in a month.  There’s our new tradition of trips to the local Cova Brewing company for breakfast, Klassic Donuts, and Saturday mornings at the nearby farmers market.  And of course, lots more beach walks with Roxy, enjoying the progression of spring blooming azaleas, snapdragons, and irises in the yards we pass. 

Spring is sprung here in Norfolk!

Looper Rendezvous

May 1 - 5

One of our other reasons for being here in May was to attend the Looper Rendezvous, a semi-annual gathering of people both doing and planning to do The Great Loop.  The spring event is held here in Norfolk, so we backtracked a bit on the Elizabeth River and moved the boat to Tidewater Yacht Marina in Portsmouth, across from Waterside Marina where the event was being held.  There were about 50 boats total between the two marinas, plus another 200 or so people staying at the hotel to put attendance around 300.  It was three-and-a-half days of sessions with details on the various routes and possible side trips we will be traveling, boat life information, and informationals for the planners on things like buying and insuring a boat (which we didn’t attend, of course, as at this point we really don’t want to hear what we did wrong).  It’s also a social opportunity to meet other Loopers.   With the looming trip to France, we avoided some of the large social gatherings as we remain COVID cautious for the next couple weeks and didn’t want to take the chance of having to cancel our trip.  But we learned a lot, and feel much more knowledgeable about where we will be going and the details of navigating there (including into Canada). 

Tidewater Yacht Marina was where we spent all of June last year when we first got back to Hampton Roads.  This was another Familiar for us.  In fact, it was particularly familiar because all the things that were broken 11 months ago are still broken – pool closed, no diesel, no pumpout.  Not sure how they’re getting away with that, but they are.  There were about 15 other Looper Rendezvous boats here, and we all were taking the ferry back and forth to the conference.  Met some really nice people, including one guy whose wife is a Peds ICU doc (but she was unable to attend this, so I didn’t get to meet her).

We had dinner one night at the Bier Garden in Portsmouth with Gary and Patty from Inconceivable, whose company we’ve enjoyed on several other stops along the ICW.  The last evening after all the Rendezvous events were over, Dave and I went to the Commodore Theatre and saw Dr. Strange.  This is definitely one of our favorite theaters with its retro vibe.   But no Clarence the Happy Panhandler as we left this time, though admittedly we looked for him.

Norfolk, Part 2

May 6 - still there

A major weather system was bearing down on the Chesapeake Bay, with only the first day after the conference looking to be a good travel day before a string of thunderstorms and north winds upward of 40 mph, so anyone who wanted to get out of Norfolk left first thing the next morning.  Once again, we had only the short trip back to the very familiar Little Creek Marina and wanted to time it with the high tide about midday.  As it was, the last 30 min as we crossed a portion of the mouth of the Chesapeake was getting a bit sporty.  But we arrived safe and sound and tied up securely, with lines doubled to prep for the predicted conditions.   Fortunately our timing for a planned extended stay was good, and we can wait out whatever is to come. 

Waterside Marina (where the Rendezvous was held) as we were departing from Tidewater Yacht Marina.
The USS Wisconsin, part of Nauticus museum.

Rest assured we will be busy in the coming weeks.  We are now armed with information and can start refining our voyage plan for the summer.  There are route options from the Erie Canal, and what we learned at the Rendezvous convinced us we want to spend as much time in Canada as we can this summer.  We are excited.

Oh yeah, and there’s a side trip to France next week.  We will be traveling by plane, not boat.  Like normal people.  It’s familiar.

Pops’ Stats Corner*

  •  This blog:
    • No of days:  21
    • Travel days:  4
    • Miles traveled:  118.7 sm / 103.2 nm
    • Locks transited: 1
  • Days with a car: 7
  • Boat baths: 3
  • Roxy baths:  2
  • Donut days: 2
  • Norfolk/Portsmouth Ferry rides: 12 (each)

*Pops was what everyone called Dave’s dad.  He had a mind for sports statistics, earning him the nickname Numbers from the coaches of several Stillwater teams with whom he worked.  This regular section of the blog is in his honor, because we know he’s sitting in heaven keeping the stats for us.

4 thoughts on “Yes, Virginia, We’re BA-aaaack”

  1. Robert Lee Neider Jr.

    Dave/Karen, We are a late arrival into your venture blog and we’re enjoying it. It’s well deserved after your dedication and service to our country. As I’ve mentioned before, if you’re back in the Charleston area, contact me and we can get together. T/C, Bob

    1. Thx for following Bob, and thanks for your service as well! See you Spring 2023!!

  2. Plenty of lessons learned in your first year, we know you guys will enjoy cruising Canada! Who is watching Roxy while you two are across the pond to celebrate Danica nuptials???
    Best Regards, Friend of Roxy

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