After fueling up and topping off our water tanks in Beaufort, NC, it was time to move on. Our goal was to get north to the Chesapeake, but we still had a ways to go. We decided on Norfolk, VA as our next major stopover which meant 4 more days of travel on the ICW dropping anchor in Bay River, Alligator River and North River. As we neared Norfolk, we came upon our first lock of the trip at Great Bridge Lock. Once through the lock, the scenery changed drastically with huge naval ships being worked on and large container ships being loaded by cranes. It was obvious immediately that this was massive naval base and shipping channel. Arriving late in the afternoon, we dropped our anchor at Hospital Point anchorage right next to Tidewater Marina and Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.
The next morning, just as I was commenting to Randy about how quiet the anchorage was, we heard loud music and singing coming from downtown Norfolk. Shortly after that, we began seeing boats circling the waterfront decorated with rainbow flags and unicorns – a boat parade. We searched online and found that Hampton Roads PrideFest 2022 was being held that day in Town Point Park. The festivities were just getting started.
Since it was our anniversary that day, we had already decided we would head over to Norfolk to check it out and have dinner and drinks there. We loaded Sophie into the dinghy and crossed the harbor to Waterside Marina. There, we paid the dinghy fee and began to explore the downtown area. Because of the festival, there were people everywhere, most of them dressed in costumes or wearing rainbow colors from head-to-toe. We walked into the park to check out the festival. There were tents everywhere and a couple large stages for musicians. Since it was crowded and hot, we decided to grab a drink somewhere and come back later. After dinner, we walked back to the festival. We loved seeing all the outrageous outfits and people just having a great time. It was a fun and festive way to spend our anniversary.
Since Norfolk was the beginning of the Chesapeake, we decided this stop would be a big provisioning run. After 2+ months and over 1,200 nautical miles, we were beginning to run low on many things. We needed a Costco run and since Norfolk had one, we decided to take advantage. We took the dinghy over to the Waterside Marina again and got an Uber to Costco. We decided to load up on enough non-perishable food to get us through the rest of the Chesapeake. We would still need to make a run to a grocery for other items, but this would help stock the boat for a few months. After loading the dinghy with our goods, we headed back to the boat.
Later that afternoon, we decided to take Sophie to shore for a walk. We took the dinghy to the free dock in Portsmouth which is a little sketchy and a bit of a ride with no wake zones. We were gone about 45 minutes and were on our way back when we noticed the boat was GONE! Randy spotted it across the channel on a dock so we sped to it. When we got there, the Norfolk Police were just tying it to the dock. They said they were patrolling the Norwegian Cruise ship in port when they noticed our boat dragging almost into the channel. They rescued it and were trying to get it tied up when we arrived. We had spent 3 nights at anchor at the same spot with no issues, so it was surprising to say the least! The anchor was still down and when Randy pulled the anchor up it was entangled with debris it must have picked up from the bottom. We were thankful the anchor didn’t break off since it is brand new! After thanking the Police several times, they left and Randy and I had the job of figuring out how to get the boat off the dock with the wind pushing it on it, and let’s not even mention all the crab traps nearby. By the time we got off the dock and reanchored, we were exhausted and needed a drink! WHEW!
The next morning we discussed the things we still needed to get done before leaving Norfolk: grocery run, laundry and fill water tanks. Without very good free dock options near anything, we decided to get a slip at Tidewater Marina that way we could get it all done easier. Plus, we were still a little gun shy about anchoring and leaving the boat in this particular anchorage again.
The marina worked out great and we got our chores done. We actually had time to do something touristy. We took the ferry one morning from Portsmouth (it was a couple blocks from the marina) to downtown Norfolk and walked to the Nauticus Museum where the USS Wisconsin is berthed. For one fee, you can tour the battleship Wisconsin and visit the museum’s exhibits. The battleship tour is definitely worth it if you ever visit Norfolk. Very impressive in size and below decks you would need a map not to get lost. Launched in 1943, the USS Wisconsin was one of the largest and last battleships built. During her career, Wisconsin served in the Pacific theater of World War II and the Korean War and after a modernization program, she participated in Operation Desert Storm. While we were visiting, we were lucky enough to get to see the Naval Sea Cadet Band perform some songs on the top deck of the battleship.
Later that afternoon, we took Sophie for a walk along the Portsmouth waterfront and stopped for a beer at the Legends Brewing Depot. The next morning, we prepared to leave Norfolk and Portsmouth for a short trip to an anchorage near Langley Air Force Base. More soon!
Beaufort, NC to Bay River = 42 nm Bay River to Alligator River = 55 nm Alligator River to North River = 37 nm North River to Norfolk, VA = 51 nm Bridge Openings = 4 Locks - 1 TOTAL miles to date: = 1,285 nm TOTAL Bridge Openings to date = 34