Friday, June 5, 2015

Return to the Land of Big Ships

After spending the night at Great Bridge (Chesapeake, Va.), the next leg of this little adventure was a short the Free dock at Portsmouth. They have two docks that sit downtown right along the waterfront. There are restaurants and attractions as well as a Dollar General for any emergency provisioning. Last time I was there I was even able to find a WiFi signal...something that has been scarce on this trip. It seemed like the perfect place to regroup and and try to find a boatyard.

The new dock at Great Bridge

We left the dock just after 9 AM (yes, just after the scheduled bridge opening) to slide across the canal to Atlantic Yacht Basin for some diesel, to top off our water tanks, and a pump-out. AYB has some of the cheapest fuel prices I've seen on this stretch of the ICW and this day was no exception. We used just  over 32 gallons of diesel since we left Southport...and other than a couple hours worth of generator to recharge batteries while sailing, it was all motoring along the ICW. Since I'm still trying to get a better idea of the fuel burn of the boat, it is good to get the tank topped off and do the calculations.  If my numbers are correct, the engines seem to burn a little under 0.8 gallons per hour at 2500 RPM.

Between taking our time getting underway from the free dock, adding fuel, adding water, and pumping out the holding tanks, we just barely made the 10 AM Great Bridge opening.  But we did make it.  Of course the next obstacle was only a few hundred feet away...the Great Bridge Lock. This would be my 3rd time through the lock, but it would be the first for my wife.

The Great Bridge bridge and lock

Going through the lock is really no big deal. You rig long dock lines at the front and back of the boat, find a couple boat poles, and put out a couple fenders. You motor into the lock and and pull up along side the lock wall. There you throw (or for this lock drop onto the outstretched boat pole) your rigged dock lines to the lock worker on shore who loops the line around a cleat or bollard and gives the rest back to you. Then all you do is keep your boat parallel to the dock wall without touching by using the line and pole. Every time I've been through this lock the change in elevation has been a foot or less, so you really don't have to do much and before you know it the gate at the other end of the lock opens and you are on your way.

Not long past the bridges and locks, the wilderness scenery that borders the ICW starts to fade, slowly being replaced with the industrial "scenery" that makes up the economies of Norfolk and Portsmouth.  Large docks with pipelines or conveyors or cranes line the waterway and the depths of the channel that were under 12 feet now are showing 35 foot or more. We are in big boat country.

Gilmerton Bridge with the railway bridge in front.

We pass under a bascule bridge that has a closed height of 65 ft (enough clearance for my mast) as a barge on the other side waits for the next opening.  We arrive at the Gilmerton highway lift bridge, our last obstacle on the trip. Even in as populated place as this, the bridge opens on demand. does when the adjacent train bridge isn't closed. We had to wait for two trains to pass before this lift bridge would grant us passage to Portsmouth. This bridge lifts it's section of highway 135 feet in the air...much farther than I need to pass and as soon as it gets over 65 foot or so, we continue our journey.

Naval Shipyards

Wonder how often they have to haul these out?

The commercial shipping docks soon give way to docks for more menacing looking boats. Norfolk has one of the largest U.S. Navy shipyards and the huge gray steel ships start to dot the docks along the channel as we arrive at the free docks.

Free dock in the heart of Poirtsmouth

We were able to tie up at the high street dock, where we would spend the next couple of days checking out the town, reprovisioning, and trying to find a boatyard for or next destination in the Chesapeake.  Of course, could I find the internet that was here last year...nope.  And that is why these posts are behind.

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