Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hello, Chesapeake Bay!

Wednesday, April 22 - We traveled an easy day up to Oriental, NC. Wayne asked me on the way what my favorite little town was of all we'd visited this, and last, trip. Oriental may be one of my two favorites. Vergennes, Vermont, is the other.We tied up at one of the two free town docks, the smaller one. There's no power or water on the dock...but, it IS free. ;-) They have a video cam focused on the dock so you can see if it's empty or not.

As is plastered all over the town, Oriental is the "Sailing capitol of North Carolina." Everyone we met was extremely nice and helpful (walking along the highway to Bradley's Restaurant we had people offer to give us a ride.) We got to the town early enough in the day to be able to walk around and see the harbor area and shops. And...we got ice cream at Bean's, right across from our dock. View from the Bean…Journey on the right of the sailboat at town dock.

Park on the water near our dock...

My favorite house here. It has curved windows along the left side of the front. I need to compare it to the pictures I've made on our other trips to Oriental. I think they've improved the landscaping. ;-)

And…the town dragon in the middle of the little duck, oops, dragon pond by the harbor. The below excerpt from the town’s website ( explains the history of the dragon its relationship to Oriental:
Once upon a time a part-time resident of Oriental, Joe Cox, was pondering how to celebrate New Year's Eve in Oriental. He must have laughed out loud to himself when the idea came to him that a town named "Oriental" should celebrate New Year's Eve with a dragon like those used to celebrate "Chinese New Year".  
Being a talented artist and very gifted man, Joe set about creating a dragon. This first dragon, donned by a a few stalwart revelers, ran around Oriental that New Year's Eve, running through homes, around the village, startling, surprising, and delighting. There are still some who remember that first dragon. It's been more than forty years and that first dragon has been lost to history. But, thanks to a deep and abiding sense of whimsy, dragons have come to be a part of everyday life in Oriental.
We still celebrate New Year's Eve with the "Running of the Dragon". Every New Year's Eve since Joe Cox first created the idea, a dragon has emerged from the shed on Hodges Street that Joe first built his dragon in. Unfortunately, Joe passed away some years ago, but the homeowners who have since owned the "shed" have been very accommodating in allowing the tradition to continue. 
Every New Year's Eve for all these years, at the hours of 8 PM and 11 PM the dragon has emerged from the shed to walk among us. It is also tradition that everyone makes as much noise as possible, beating pots with metal spoons, banging drums, blowing whistles and horns. All this chaos is intended, as with Chinese New Year, to frighten evil spirits away from the new year. It is also considered very good luck to touch the dragon as it passes. 
At 8 PM on December 31st, the dragon wanders, not exactly "running", down Hodges Street, past the Town Dock to the end of the block, then turns around and wanders back to the shed, to wait for the 11 PM "run", after which, the dragon will rest quietly until the next year. The "run", with the street full of people making all sorts of noise, takes about twenty minutes. Then, revelers still have time to retire to their various parties out and about the area, secure in the knowledge that they have done everything possible to convince the spirit of the dragon to keep their new year safe and secure. 
The legend "thickens" a tad here...since Oriental was so welcoming to its first dragon, word got out among dragons that Oriental was a wonderful place to be. Now, wandering around town, you can see evidence that other dragons are here. The ultra secret Dragon Protection Society (DPS) oversees their nests and lairs, protecting them and making every effort to keep them safe from harm. There are now so many dragons, that adults are often seen helping children with arithmetic by having them count the different dragons they see as they wander around town. 
One very dazzling dragon has even set up housekeeping in the Duck Pond near the harbor. Of course, we do have ducks sometimes, but here it's more of a "Dragon Pond". Luckily, the dragons that make Oriental home, are benevolent and kind. The one by the harbor is often seen allowing a Great Blue Heron to sit on its head to get a better view of the fish in the pond. 
For many years local resident Grace Evans was the Keeper of the Dragon. She saw to our New Years dragon's every need and was active in soliciting other dragons to come to town. Grace was awarded a plaque of thanks for all her attentions to our dragons. Now, others have taken up the mantle to take care of these creatures and the whole town watches out for them. 
So, if you see a dragon's nest, with a dragonlette emerging...shhhhhh!

We had decided to leave Oriental the next day, but as Wayne was doing his daily engine room check he noticed the shaft seal had salt crystals on it: some water was getting in. He called Deaton’s Marine and Gary, the service manager, came over within half an hour and reassured us that the seal was OK, we just needed to watch it.

It was still early enough to leave…but OOKPIK had gone out and come back saying the water was too rough on the Neuse River! Wayne had been suffering from a nasty cold and was glad to spend an extra night at the Oriental town dock.Friday, April 24 - Left Oriental early after OOKPIK and headed for the Neuse. Water was rough, but do-able.
Anchored that evening on the upper Pongo River and readied ourselves for the Albemarle Sound the next day.  It was a large anchorage and relatively sheltered...though a little wind crept in that night.  We're on the left and OOKPIK is on the right...

Saturday, April 25 - Took Lucy to shore in the early dawn light and set out up the canal to the Alligator River following OOKPIK. The Alligator can be gnarly, but on that day it was as smooth as silk…

The Albemarle? Well, it wasn’t horrible, just uncomfortable at times with a wishy-washy effect in the waves. We altered our course several times to try and lessen the effect, and it would help for a while.   At one point, Wayne gave the sign:  "You must be this tall to ride!"

Seemed like it took for-ev-er to get to Elizabeth City, and when we did…it started to rain.
OOKPIK knew of a free dock sponsored by the local restaurants. Tie up at the dock, eat dinner at a restaurant in the city, and the tie up was free. Great! Well, what we didn’t know is that the property on which the dock is located is a commercial concern and the entire site is locked up on Saturday and Sunday(read: constantina wire, high fences) to the point that we couldn’t get out to go to a restaurant…or see the town. Bummer!

Not to be outdone we called the local police department, a couple of restaurants…no one knew how we could get off the property other than to go by water. Finally we called Papa Johns and they delivered a couple of pizzas. We met them at the gate and they slipped the pizza box under the gate. Hey, after the ride we had today we were not about to be cooking that evening. ;-)
Sunday, April 26 - The Dismal Swamp was our destination that day. The trip started out looking pretty dismal, all right, with rain and grey skies...

But the rain and clouds gave way to a beautiful afternoon before we finished the run.

We had left pretty early that morning so we were docked up at the top of the Dismal Swamp at the free Deep Creek dock by 3 or 4 in the afternoon. There were several other boats there, but plenty of room for the two of us.

Monday, April 27 - Went through Deep Creek Lock at the first opportunity and headed for Hampton Public Piers in Hampton, VA. The Deep Creek lock master is known for his shell collection...

On the way up to Hampton we stopped at Top Rack Marina to take on fuel and eat lunch in their deli.
Going through the Norfolk area is a unique experience in itself: large warships on either side of the channel, armed guards pacing the decks or in boats letting us know we should “keep our distance."

That evening we enjoyed supper at the Taproom in Hampton with OOKPIK.

The rest of the time in Hampton was spent doing “life chores” and working on little boat projects. Interspersed were trips to the local Patrick’s Hardware, lunch at Goodies Deli and Bar and the Grey Goose, and some shopping in the local shops.

One day we walked over the bridge to Hampton University. A historically black university, it was beautiful from the water as we came into the harbor. We walked around campus, admiring the architecture and setting, then ate lunch at a little Chinese restaurant nearby.

Friday, May 1 - One reason we stopped in Hampton was so I could arrange to go back to Kingsport, TN, for my 50th high school reunion. Early on the morning of the 1st I walked over to the Enterprise location (within sight of the marina, BTW) and picked up my car. By 3 PM I was checked in at the hotel and had time to take a walk before getting ready for the evening social. We had a good turn out for the two-day event and I enjoyed catching up with friends.

Luckily, Nadine was able to meet me for breakfast so I got a sister fix that weekend, too. ;-)Sunday I was packed and on the road by 6:30 AM. I rolled into Hampton around 1:30. Since we had a car, we knew a trip to the grocery store was in order so we got OOKPIK and headed to the local Food Lion for provisions.

Monday, May 4, we were ready to leave Hampton and start cruising the Chesapeake. Trouble was, we had ordered a couple of guidebooks and they weren’t delivered on Saturday because the marina office was closed. We tracked down their location and were told they would be delivered to the marina that morning between 11 and 12. We had a short day planned, so decided to wait.

Once they came, we were outta there! We had a short run up to Chisman Creek where we anchored just before Dare Marina. (We saw a point that looked like a good spot for Lucy to wander.) 

We were attracted to Chisman because of a marine railway up there that is supposed to be one of the oldest still functioning on the East Coast. It was a tad windy by the time we set anchor so we didn’t opt for a dinghy cruise that evening to check out the railway. Little did we know, we’d have an opportunity to puruse it up close the next day.  [Way to build suspense, eh?]

The sunset that evening was amazing! …And, while we’re not sailors, we filled with delight. ;-)

We had a beautiful day on the hook the next day! I think this is the first time on this trip that we’d anchored in the same spot for two consecutive nights. It really is our favorite time: we’re more inclined to relax, read, whatever, when anchored out…as opposed to being land-based where there are things to be done or seen.

Late that afternoon we decided to take that dinghy ride up to see the marine railway. As we were embarking on our cruise, Captain Bob of Boat US came by to say “hi.” We asked him about the location of the railway and he said he’d be glad to guide us there…just follow him. We tried. The dinghy motor started stalling. Finally it just wouldn’t go. Bob circled back, we told him our predicament, and that we thought it might be the gas we just bought and put into the dinghy. He said he would tow us to Dare Marina to see if they could do something to help.

Dare said they would empty the tank and fill up with new fuel. Wayne waited there with the dinghy while Bob took me back to the boat. About half an hour later Wayne floated up in the dinghy…but he was “not a happy camper.” The motor had stopped several times on the way back to the boat.After calling Mercury about the motor situation we decided to go back down towards Hampton to an authorized repair facility, Dandy Haven Marina, on the next day.

We were talking about our experiences that day and Wayne was marveling at the fact that Dare Marina hadn’t charged a penny for the work they did…or for the fuel they supplied! Then I took a good look at Wayne. We’d just taken Lucy into shore before our dinghy cruise and Wayne had on his “I may have to wade to shore in these shoes and pants” outfit..

They may have taken pity on him. ;-)

Wednesday, May 6 - Motored back to Dandy Haven Marina down the coast about 15 miles. Boat US Bob had told us that the channel into Dandy Haven was narrow and tricky…and to call and have them escort us. We did just that, and it was a good thing. The markers were tricky and the water outside the channel was slim, even at high tide.

Preston, the serviceman, checked out the Mercury motor and discovered it needed a new altenator and spark plug.  The altenator would come in overnight from Mercury. We were tied to the service dock and decided to stay right there for the evening.

Thursday, May 7 - The part came in by 10:30 and we were ready to leave by noon. We had planned a short day and were in Cape Charles Town Harbor by 3 PM. We had easy, smooth waters as we crossed to the east side.

We walked across railroad tracks to get to the historic little downtown area. Found a great hardware store where we scored a good, large map of the Chesapeake and a hat for Wayne.

Then we walked down to the public beach…

And just where was that selfie stick? Back at the boat!

Walking back through the residential area we admired the beautiful old homes and the new, tastefully done new ones.


This house is being restored and you can tell by the detailing on the window trim that they are taking their time and doing it right. Love the old gate, too...

Really a nice little town! I guess the municipal marina atmosphere and the railroad tracks between us and town sort of colored our perception of the place, though. It seemed, overall, like a town trying to “come back."

Friday, May 8 - Off we go to Onancock, VA! Took about 6.5 hours up and the waters were fine. We anchored in the bight near the town wharf. Later that evening we were joined in the anchorage by two sailboats.

Saturday, May 9 - This morning we went into town for the farmers’ market. Small, but we came away with fresh asparagus, leaf lettuce, eggs, and a loaf of oatmeal wheat bread. Wayne took our haul back to the boat while I toured the art galleries and scoped out the shops. We met for lunch at Mallard’s Restaurant, right at the wharf, and enjoyed our first crab cakes this trip. They were good, too: “nothing holdin’ them together but love!” Dessert was gelato at the Gourmet Market. Yum!!

OK. We LOVE Onancock. I know, this is only our second small town this trip on the Chesapeake…but we do. I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

The town from our anchorage...

Dinghy dock, only a short ride from the anchorage.

Park adjacent to the town harbor and the dinghy dock.

Park on the way to "downtown" from harbor.  Looks like they were getting ready for an afternoon wedding...

Looking out to our boat in the anchorage from the town harbor parking lot.


Town harbor from nearby bridge..

Sunday, Mothers' Day, May 10 -For our cruise today we decided to go up the Pocomoke River to visit two small towns we'd read about: Snow Hill and Pocomoke City, MD.

It was a pretty day for travel, the waters were calm...and we saw almost NO CRAB TRAPS!!  Maybe the crabbers take off for Mothers' Day?  We ran straight up the coast and into the Pocomoke Sound, then followed the channel on up to the river.  The channel was really narrow coming in...and shallow on the sides.  Of course the current and the 10-15 wind that had picked up in the sound made for an "eyes to the road" ride.  

But once we got on the river itself we were rewarded with placid waters and spring in Maryland! 


It was a pretty solitary trip up: we saw only about 3 boats the whole time.  Over twenty miles later, and having passed Pocomoke City for the time being, we found an easy spot on the Snow Hill town dock.  The Port of Snow Hill, they call it.  There are two free docks, actually.  One is further down the river by a large public park.  We chose the dock closest to town up by the drawbridge.  There were only two boats on the dock (OOKPIK was one) and plenty of room for many more boats even after we'd docked.  We're right by a smaller park (Lucy has made her mark there) and the public library (beautiful facility!)...and only a block or two from the downtown area.  We have 30 amp electrical hook ups and water available on down the dock.

Our timing for the visit was a little off, though.  Most of the town's restaurants and shops are on a Wednesday-Saturday schedule.  We have enjoyed walking around, though and seeing the neighborhoods...

The Blue Dog Cafe looked very inviting...Maybe the next time we'll be there when they're open.

As in a lot of downtowns, there were lots of store fronts that weren't "taken."  Still, it's a pretty place.

Wednesday, May 13 -  Happy Birthday, David!!

We're leaving Snow Hill today and heading on back down the river to Pocomoke City.  OOKPIK, who'd already visited Pocomoke City, said there were actually more "services" here in Snow Hill (grocery, for instance, within half a mile)...but we don't want to get out on the Chesapeake until 
Friday when the winds and waves calm down so we're going to spend a couple of nights in the City.
While in Snow Hill, we did go to the grocery store for a few items and yesterday we washed clothes at a nearby laundromat.

We have noticed that we see way more cars on the street than people.  The road through town that crosses the drawbridge seems always to have traffic, but I bet we've only seen a handful of people on the downtown streets.  Of course, only the banks, offices, and library were open while we were here so there's that.

Later that day... So here we are in Pocomoke City!  At last I can round up this episode with a couple of pictures of our Pocomoke City Municipal Dock surrounds. Like the park next to our dock...

From our back deck, looking towards town and the bridge...

And JOURNEY sitting at the dock with the Pocomoke City Drawbridge in the distance.

It's 4:15 on Wednesday afternoon.  We got here at around 11:30.  We've already taken Lucy in for a grooming appointment and walked to Walmart for a few supplies.  Life is good!  ;-)  Till next time....