Something Fishy’s Ponging On

As dawn arrived in Annapolis on Thursday 25th October, we let go our mooring lines, motored out of the harbour and turned right towards Hampton, Virginia. The wind behind giving us a welcome boost to get to Hampton before late afternoon on Friday, as long as we motor-sailed all the way to Reedville – our destination anchorage for the evening. 

We could detect Reedville in the distance before arriving at sunset. This is home to the Omega Protein fish processing plant. And when the wind is in the right (or wrong) direction, it delivers a full-on nasal affront. Fortunately, the anchorage we picked was upwind of the plant, so we could only see it rather than smell it. Equally fortunately, the wind speed had dropped, and the bay was glassily peaceful. A welcome change from our last anchoring experience.

In the cold pre-dawn light on Friday, we lifted the anchor and retraced our track out of Reedville to minimise the risk of hitting any lobster pot markers. With no wind boost this time, we turned up the engine revs to get to Hampton as soon as possible and arrived at the Bluewater Yachting Center fuel dock just after 4 pm – just as the wind started to increase.

Blundering around Bluewater

Our batteries had been playing up for the last few days – all of them. The house batteries weren’t holding much of a charge; the starter battery wasn’t starting anything, and the bow thruster batteries were clearly knackered. 

Without the bow thruster, manoeuvring in tight spaces requires more tricks than Penn and Teller. I explained this to the guy at the Bluewater fuel pontoon, who was also doubling up as the pontoon helper. He said it would be OK and gave us directions. Then, after replacing all that burnt fuel with some new stuff, we motored around the corner to our allocated slip.

Unfortunately, his description of port and starboard are fundamentally different to mine. I aimed for one slip, but he was standing in another. So, with wind and tide colluding together as a very unfunny comedy pair, we ungracefully drifted past the slip towards a dead end. 

I can tell you that the space between the piles on one side of that row and the boats on the other is exactly 46ft. I know this because I polished the boats at the back of me with our dinghy while inches away from the mooring piles at the front. No combination of mooring tricks was helping in this situation. So, I was aiming for a gentle landing at the end of the row. But then, a space appeared in front of us. And with a burst of throttle and a lot of determination, we were in. And we weren’t for moving. The mooring fella said that he would check if we could stay. We were staying whatever the answer. But he never came back, and we stayed for a week.

Salty Dawgers and New Batteries

The reason for being back in Bluewater was to meet our fellow Salty Dawg Rally sailors headed off to the Caribbean. And to pick up some more things ordered for Lady Jane. This included a new dinghy that Rick Palm, the Salty Dawg Rally Director, offered to have delivered to his house and bring to us when we arrived – a very kind gesture.

Our priority for the week though was to replace the batteries. To be fair to the existing ones, as they were a bit on the economy side of cheap, they did quite well. But, we wanted to make sure the next ones last longer. So, after spending a few days indulging my inner battery geek, reading what I could, and seeking advice from friends more knowledgeable than me on this stuff – we hired ourselves a truck, took the old batteries off Lady Jane and drove to Parker Batteries in Franklin. 

Our original plan was to get our main batteries from Parker and the starter and bow thruster batteries from Sam’s Club (a discounter similar to Costco). Principally because I’m cheap. But after a discussion with the guy behind the Parker trade counter (the polite version is that Sam’s Club batteries are more Lada than Lamborghini), followed by some negotiation on price, we bought all of them from Parker’s. Then, the warehouse fellas loaded them into the truck. A combined weight of 218 lbs  (just under 220KG).

Salty dawgers in hampton

Our All American Truck

Maria vs Muscle

Although we carried the old batteries off the boat and carted them to the truck in one trolley, the new ones were an entirely different proposition.  They were at least double the weight of their predecessors. Fortunately, as Maria and I dragged the new house batteries to the back of the truck at the marina, one of the divers working in the marina passed by. Not ones to refuse any help, especially if it is labour-saving, we jumped at the chance. And despite the fact that he made Rambo look anorexic, even he struggled to get them in the cart. 

Clearly then,  getting them onto the boat wasn’t going to be straightforward. Rambo’s big brother had made a quick exit to see a chiropractor, and the Salty Dawg’s were at happy hour – so we didn’t want any help from them. Instead, we used the spinnaker halyard and a block and tackle to lift them onboard and lower them into the battery compartment. Actually, Maria did the winching as it was good practice in the event that she needs to recover me from the water. Honest Guv.

Reunions With Old Salty Dawgs

With all that behind us, we spent the rest of the week listening to the seminars on diverse topics from weather to clearance procedures to fishing. And we made the occasional trip to the supermarket and West Marine and sold our old and trusty dinghy to someone on Craigslist.

Salty dawgers in hampton

Salty Seminar

Salty dawgers in hampton

Last ride out for the trusty old dinghy

We also caught up with some old friends from Bermuda – Mindy and Reinhardt, and from Dominica – Jim and Ann. And lots of Ocean Cruising Club folks. Bill and Lydia Strickland, who organised the Chesapeake cruise we enjoyed so much, came along to present the OCC to the Salty Dawgs and encourage membership. Many of them will be eligible to become full members after their sail to the Caribbean. I hope they do join – it’s a great club and an excellent way to strengthen your liver.

Salty dawgers in hampton  Salty dawgers in hampton

Destination Dismal Swamp

With the weather steadfastly proving uncooperative (and memories of waiting almost three weeks for a favourable weather window to leave Bermuda) we decided to head off south down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). The ICW is something we considered doing before arriving in the US. And with the choice being either battered in the Gulf Stream or taking it easy in sheltered waters; the ICW won. So, on Sunday 4th November, with help from Charles (one of our OCC friends) and our new bow thruster batteries, we squeezed out of the marina without incident and headed across to Norfolk and the Dismal Swamp.

For anyone more interested in batteries than I, our house batteries are US Batteries AGM12V150 (3 of them), and our starter and bow thruster batteries are Deka Intimidator 8A31DTM. The last ones make the bow thruster sound as butch and rugged as the name. I didn’t realise our existing set was so bad. Of course, we don’t intend using the bow thruster very much, but they are handy spares for the starter. And we are looking after them like they are a pair of delicate children.