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It was a bit of a shock to go from the quiet rivers of northern North Carolina to a jumble of bascule bridges and a lock system in Virginia. Waiting in narrow waterways for bridges to open while avoiding other, larger sailboats that are also waiting, a large tug boat that is waiting too, and trying not to run aground or into the bridge isn’t what I would call relaxing (and that is apparently a good day!). We snaked our way past a graveyard of dilapidated boats, an industrial maze of cranes, naval ships, and tugs leading container ships. A small craft advisory had been issued for Hampton Roads that day, but we pushed onward, despite the discomfort, to Hampton, where we planned to meet up with my family for my brother’s birthday dinner.
Although I grew up in southeastern Virginia on the York River, I had only been sailing in the area a few times as a child. It was definitely an eye-opening experience to arrive by water, and I began to see the Chesapeake in a new light. Nearly all of the other sailboats that had been traveling alongside us up the coast of North Carolina stopped at the anchorage in Norfolk, but we had a little bit of insider knowledge from family friends, so we sought out the quieter anchorage in Hampton. We were quite happy with this choice, although there were only a few tight spots to drop the hook. The town of Hampton was impressively accomodating; in fact, the dock master even gave us a welcome packet upon our arrival (and we weren’t even renting a slip!). They offer a public dingy dock, $1 showers, and free bicycle rental.
Our first night in Hampton, in the midst of dropping our second anchor, a squall hit. My parents were waiting for us at a nearby restaurant with my brother when a 40-knot gust of wind hit us side-on. The wind shifted quickly, pushing Brian and the dingy into a nearby dock, while Illusion heeled way over under the force of the blow. The wind generator was on and cranking, as I struggled to locate the off switch and turn on the engine in case the anchors drug. We were terribly positioned, side-on to the wind, as Brian climbed back onto Illusion and tried to winch down on the second anchor rode. He managed well enough, and although we still weren’t in an ideal position, both anchors seemed to be holding us tight. Still, a second squall line was headed our way.
Between phone calls with my parents (should they go ahead and eat dinner or not?), we put out fenders, closed hatches, and prepared for a second blow, which never came. We waited instead until the rain subsided and then took the dingy to shore to meet the family for an after-dinner beer and birthday cake; by that time, we had unfortunately missed dinner. Despite our initial concerns, it turned out that we had positioned Illusion in a pretty nice spot, which we enjoyed for the next few days. We even made friends with some young folks on another boat that we recognized from Charleston, trading sailing stories like a couple of old salts (we aren’t) until we pulled up the anchors and made our way to the York River. We sailed most of the way, which was fantastic, reaching Yorktown just before dusk.
We’ve been enjoying the area in between working on the boat (Brian), preparing scholarship applications (me), and visiting with my family. I think I can safely say for the both of us though, that we had the greatest time kayaking to Goodwin Island from Back Creek yesterday. It may have been a hot day (101 degrees), but it was nice and cool on the water.
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