Rendezvous in Norfolk
Well, the leaky fuel tank was cut into about 15 pieces and removed from the engine room, one piece at a time. Messy job, but well done by the professionals here at Atlantic Yacht Basin. They made a template for 2 smaller tanks to replace the leaker, so the fabrication of the new aluminum tanks is underway. It will take about a week for the new tanks to be made, so Stel and I are doing miscellaneous boat projects as we practice patience. After the dirty work was done, we asked to be moved out of the machine shop and onto a face dock, where we could have fresh air, sunshine and a continuous parade of beautiful boats passing by. It’s great seeing all the boats coming and going, however there are risks to being in the middle of all the action. Yesterday, while I was running a grocery store errand and Stel was preparing lunch in the galley, she looked up to see a large Great Harbor yacht pulling into the dock in front of us to get fuel. From her viewpoint, it was towering over her, much too close for comfort. As a few excited words started flying between its crew members, Stel jumped up on the deck, but nothing could be done to prevent the crunch!! The wind had caught the stern of their boat and swung it into the starboard bow of the Estrellita! She handled the situation well but it is a helpless feeling when you are not able to do anything to prevent a collision with a boat of that size. Miraculously there was minimal damage to our railing and hull. The husband and wife crew could not have been more apologetic and willing to pay for the repairs. It could have been much much worse, so we are thankful for the outcome.
We are in the town of Chesapeake, about 30 minutes from Norfolk, where the America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association Rendezvous took place last week. It was a wonderful 4 day event with other cruisers involved in the same adventure. Their were about 150 people, mainly couples, who were there to learn about the first few legs of the trip which takes you from Norfolk, up the Chesapeake Bay, off the coast of New Jersey, into NYC, up the Hudson, through the Erie Canal, across Lake Ontario, through the Trent-Severn Waterway, into Canada’s beautiful Georgian Bay, down Lake Michigan to Chicago and then down the river systems of Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi. It was a busy 4 days, but lots of fun as we anticipated what was ahead, visited the boats of other cruisers and met many interesting couples from all over the country and Canada. The toughest thing about the week was seeing all of them leave Norfolk and start their journey up the Chesapeake without us.
But God is good! As a result of us being left in lower Virginia, our daughter Katie, her husband and our 2 grandchildren were able to drive to our location for a surprise Mother’s Day visit. They love the boat as much as we do, so we all spent Saturday enjoying marina life on the water. After treating us to a seafood dinner they spent the night on the boat with us! The only thing that could have made it better was to have our son Sam with us too! He has just finished his semester at North Greenville University and has headed toward Charleston to start his summer job. We missed you Sambo!
Machine Shop Blues
About one week after our departure from Charleston, I entered a blog post that mentioned waking one morning, not to the aroma of Dark Columbian coffee, but to the distinctive odor of diesel fuel. We discovered that we had a slow fuel leak in the port tank and we tried everything we knew to do to patch the tank enough to continue. We finally came to the conclusion that it was not fixable and that it was time to replace the fuel tank. Ugh! We started our research on where to have the work performed and after talking to a number of other local cruisers, we were pointed toward Atlantic Yacht Basin in Chesapeake, VA.
So, here we are with the Estrellita in a covered boat shed. She is still sitting in the water, but completely covered by a 25 foot high work shed called the Machine Shop, one of about 15 impressive boat storage structures built over the water. We had never seen anything like this in the Charleston area. The Machine Shop is where they do the dirty work, which is exactly what it will involve to cut this old tank into little pieces and remove it from our engine room. For now, we are living on the boat in the shed. But, when the dirty work starts, we may need to temporarily move to a motel. We were told that it would take about 3 weeks to complete the work. This is not what we wanted to hear, but if we are to face serious repairs and a delay along the way, this is a great place for it. The repair yard has one of the best reputations on the east coast and all of the employees have treated us with a great deal of kindness and professionalism. As an extra bonus, the waterfront is beautiful and we are surrounded by great restaurants, grocery stores, shops and churches. We have already had some good laughs about our interesting living environment. It will be a good memory, for sure.
One of the benefits of being stranded in this area is that it is only about 20 minutes from Norfolk, which is where we planned to stop for a week to attend the annual Great Loop Association Rendezvous. It is a gathering of people who are presently on the journey, planning on doing the trip in the future, and those who have completed the loop. We rented a car and will be commuting to the event for the next 5 days. It will be a great opportunity to meet fellow ” loopers” and learn more about how to plan for the journey ahead.
We have been living on the boat for approximately one month now and loving our life on the water! There is no way to describe a “typical” day because, honestly, every day has been different! While most house- keeping chores take much less time, grocery shopping or doing laundry can take an entire afternoon! New challenges and surprises pop up regularly so we are learning not be too attached to a routine or a plan for the day! Weather is much more a factor is our daily life. Flexibility is a must and an “attitude of gratitude” goes a long way! Living in a condensed space is much simpler too- as long as we keep down the clutter and store our belongings away in their places! No room for dishes to pile up in the sink or space to leave tools lying around! What we do try to do is maintain a routine time of devotion reading and morning prayer! As a result we have grown more aware of how we daily depend on HIs guidance and constant provision!
I have always shared Stel’s zeal to live aboard a boat with one condition – that it involved consistent movement across the water. The greatest joy of living on a boat is the adventure of moving from one beautiful waterfront location to another. This simple, but challenging lifestyle can offer a daily opportunity to see new places and meet interesting people as you move from one anchorage or marina to another. The alternative of being stationary can feel a bit constraining and frustrating, especially as we have seen hundreds of other boats passing by. But, with prayers for patience, productivity and opportunities for new friendships, we have learned to approach every new morning with a more positive attitude toward marina life. I am not sure there is another alternative while we wait for our fuel tanks to be replaced. Whether it has been a day of boat projects, visiting the marina laundromat, grocery shopping, site-seeing in our rental car, visiting a new church or going out to eat with cruising friends, we have stayed extremely busy and enjoyed just about every minute of our extended stay at the Atlantic Yacht Basin.
We have included a few pictures of our marina surroundings, a trip to Hampton to see old friends of the family, a trip to Ft. Monroe and to the Newport News Mariners Museum. Our new fuel tanks are now receiving a few coats of epoxy paint and they will start installing them tomorrow, the 20th of May.
During our visit to the Mariner’s Museum, Stel and I read this quote written on a placard in front of an old, but beautifully restored, Chris Craft cruiser. It made us smile. I hope you enjoy.
An auxiliary cruising boat is without question the most compact and ingenious arrangement for living ever devised by the restless mind of man – a home that is stable without being stationary, shaped less like a box than like a fish or a bird or a girl, and in which the homeowner can remove his daily affairs as far from shore as he has the nerve to take them. Here the sprawling panoply of ‘The Home’ is compressed in orderly miniature and liquid delirium, suspended between the bottom of the sea and the top of the sky.
– E.B. White “The Sea and the Wind that Blows”
Cast off those lines!
On Friday, May 24th, the Estrellita was finally whole again. Our mechanic, Bobby, worked 3 long and hard days this past week getting the 2 new fuel tanks back into their tight positions with fractions of an inch to spare. I had agreed to remove and reinstall the water heater and fresh water pump system, so I had some work yet to do, but it felt wonderful to actually see the end of the project in sight. We made plans to depart Atlantic Yacht Basin on Saturday morning after 3 ½ weeks of down time. I was a little nervous about receiving the final bill for all of the work that had been done, but I was pleasantly surprised that their invoice actually matched their original estimate. Wow, that’s a boating first for us! To any fellow cruisers, I can’t recommend a repair yard any more highly! All in all, we consider our time there to be one of God’s blessings as we learned more about patience, contentment and opportunities to invest ourselves in other people’s lives.
Stel used the last few days with the rental car to re-provision the boat and do some miscellaneous chores. The Memorial weekend weather forecast looked great, so our plan was to use the 3 days to quickly move up the Chesapeake Bay and catch up to some of our Looper friends before they make the offshore trek along the NJ coast and into New York Harbor. So far, so good! Our long days in the middle of the Chesapeake have been ideal, with clear blue skies and very calm seas. The many sailors in this area were not happy with the lack of wind, but it was perfect for us. We have cruised a total of 17 hours during the last two days and we are now anchored on a beautiful Mill Creek off of Solomons Island, Maryland. Our plan is to depart early Memorial Day morning, cross over to the east side of the bay to St. Michaels, and spend a day sightseeing.