|Rockhopper Swims With The Fishes – Uhhhh, Mammals
Rockhopper has finally done it! Over a four day period, we made it to the ocean and symbolically – and literally – dipped our
feet in. As a welcoming, Rockhopper was met by a pod of dolphin that beckoned the way.
We left the marina at about 3:45 on Thursday afternoon and proceeded down the James, anchoring for the night off the
Something river, where Prince George, Surry and Charles City counties meet. It was just up river from the thriving megalopolis
of Clarement (population, 338). Although we were still technically in the James, we were far enough off the channel, tucked in
behind a line of crab pots, that we felt safe and secure. However, since this was only the third or fourth time we had been at
anchor all night, we were still apprehensive about the batteries maintaining a charge all night and still having enough juice to fire
up the engine in the morning. However, the system worked fine and we were even able to watch an hour of television before
going to be. Interestingly, we got all of the Richmond channels, and some even better than we get in Richmond.
We took down the genoa and left up the mizzen up while we started the engine again. After getting lost (again) in the Ghost
Fleet – very aptly named – we were finally straightened out and headed to Blue Water yachts in Hampton. We had stayed at
Blue Water last year when we brought Rocky home and it just seemed symbolically right. Besides, they have a good restaurant
and a great pool! We also decide to fuel up, since we had last filled the diesel tanks in Coinjock, almost exactly a year before.
We took on 80 gallons of diesel, which amazed us since our capacity is only 150 gallons total. Our readings of our gauges
indicated that we had about 40 gallons left, but obviously the gauges are mismarked somewhat. The evening found us tucked
in beside a charming couple from Fredericksburg and introduced us to Rick, another cruiser who had bought his Tayana 37
(sorry if I have the length wrong, Rick) last year about the same time we bought Rockhopper. Rick was working his way up the
East Coast, trying to get to Maine this year, but had decided that Hampton was far enough for the time being. Rick and I need
to get together and form a support group for cruisers called West Marine Anonymous – the primary requirement for joining will
be at least 10 of the coupons they give you for spending $300 at West Marine.
We slept in on Saturday morning and headed out
about 10:00 to find the ocean. Frank suffers a bit
from MCPS (male chart perception syndrome). It
is a malady which causes one to look at the chart,
measure the distances involved, calculate the
speed necessary to get to the location, evaluate
the possible boat speed and then, chuck
everything and optimistically assume you can get
“there” by noon. It really doesn’t matter where
“there” is – a person who suffers from MCPS can
look at a map showing the distance from the
earth to the moon and come up with the
perception that it is possible to get “there a little
after noon, as long as we leave right after
It was almost three by the time we passed the Cape Henry Light. During that period, Frank had raised all of the sails,
lowered all of the sails and raised the mizzen again. Suzanne, on the other hand, had discovered a floating monument off
the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel that turned out to be the conning tower of a US Navy submarine. Somehow, they
always look different when they are underway (and guarded by people in small boats with big guns).
Just as we sailed past (OK, motored past) the Light, we watched as a pod of dolphins started surfacing around us. A
dozen of these amazing animals started sounding and playing, coming towards us, then beside then away again.
Suzanne tried desperately to photograph them and they tried desperately to be photographed, but our camera refused
to cooperate and most of the shots were of the spot that dolphins had just been in. Frank tried to encourage her to
take the picture BEFORE the dolphins surfaced, so that they would appear in it - but Suzanne refused to see the logic.
After an hour of playing in the ocean, we headed back towards Hampton. As we neared the CBBT, we heard a call
over the radio from "Navy Warship One." Navy Warship One turned out to be the super-secret code name for the USS
Theodore Roosevelt - which wasn't too hard to figure out since, although the Navy and Coast Guard insisted on
referring to her (odd calling a ship called the Theodore Roosevelt :"her", but...) as "Navy Warship One," the harbor
pilots going out to meet her referred to her as Carrier 71.
Anyway, Teddy quickly
appeared behind us,
getting larger and
larger as she charged
along. Eventually the
Coasties decided to
come up and remind
be 500 yards away - a
fact that WE needed
no reminding of. In
fact, we did a slow
round turn on location
as TR went past and
then followed her into
Night was spent on the hook off of Fort Monroe - our only regret being that we had to run the generator in order to
recharge the batteries before bed time. It was sad to have to disturb the quiet of our surroundings - OK, we were only