Crossing the Mason-Dixon Line

November 23, 2015

We’re officially in the South now. Walking into town the other night, we were briefly taken aback when a man passing us on the sidewalk said hello. They certainly don’t do that in New York, but it is a nice tradition that we’re working on getting used to. Welcome to Portsmouth, Virginia! It’s gotten surprisingly cold here (36 this morning when we woke up), so we’re grateful to be tied up at a marina where we can run our heater.


We came into Norfolk’s harbor, otherwise known as Hampton Roads, at around 5:30 Saturday morning. (My ICW guide tells me that roads means “anchorage” in old mariner speak, but of course, Rich being an old salt already knew that.) It’s one of the world’s largest natural harbors and is composed of the mouths of the Elizabeth, James, and Nansemond rivers and empties into the Chesapeake. It’s also the official start of the ICW.

The sun wasn’t up yet when we arrived, so we were lucky to spot a shadowy shape off our port bow that turned out to be a green channel marker whose light had gone out and wasn’t equipped with a bell. We were a bit bleary eyed from our long night sailing, but that woke us up. We cruised in to a pink-tinged sunrise view of the harbor, home to Norfolk’s naval base and full of huge military ships. Rich will tell you we saw an aircraft carrier, a couple guided missile frigates, and an amphibious assault ship (the kind with a boat garage inside). Pretty amazing to sail that close to them. And yet, after being up all night I was kinda wondering why we were going so slow. Were we fighting the current? Um, no. Rich had slowed us down to ogle the cool ships. Grrrr!




When we finally tied up at the dock in Portsmouth, we discovered a few new problems to add to the list of things to work on that when we get to Savannah. People say that cruising is fixing your boat in paradise. A week in, I think it’s safe to say that sounds about right. That is, if 36 degrees is your idea of paradise. Guess we’re still waiting for that part!


Our friend Michelle works for the company that owns Liberty Landing, the marina across from ours back home. Her company just bought Ocean Marine Yacht Center in Portsmouth, so she’s been down here working and told us to come tie up here while we were in town. We got to have dinner with her on Saturday and watched the Packers game together last night. I think it’s fair to say that she’s a rabid Packers fan. She spent a lot of time in Wisconsin as a kid and her husband, JP, is from Sturgeon Bay. (Did I marry the only Wisconsin boy who doesn’t care about the Packers?) Anyway Michelle was a lot of fun and took great care of us. Thanks, Michelle! Hope to see you and JP in the Bahamas.

Tomorrow we plan to start making our way down the Dismal Swamp. From what we’ve read, it’s one of the prettiest parts of the ICW, despite the ominous-sounding name. This stretch is only about 50 miles, so we hear it’s possible to do it in one day, but you have to time everything just right with the bridge openings and transiting two locks. Guess we’ll have to see how it goes. If there’s one thing I’m learning, it’s that a lot of things are beyond your control when you’re sailing. And that’s okay.