More Norfolk Views

We’ve been enjoying Florentijn Hofman's Rubber Duck at the Chrysler Museum. It was a Major Social Event™. There were crowds in front of the museum for the duck’s entire residence. Hofman created a really fun sculpture, and I’m glad the Chrysler could host it.


Of course, when it’s time to move on, there’s not much left but a lot of deflated PVC (or Hypalon or whatever the duck is made from.) 

Sort of reminds us of Scout. Deflated.


We’re waiting for a status report from the dinghy doctor. We’re aware that it takes time to carefully remove the old adhesive we applied and replace it with new adhesive. We’re aware that we just passed through a big three-day weekend where inflatable sales and rentals are more important than repairs.

So, we’re stuck to the dock at Waterside. It’s not a bad place to be stuck.  But, multiple weeks of dockage are not really compatible with our cruising budget. Our preference is to be anchored in the cheap seats.

Meanwhile, CA reports the goslings living in The Hague are cute.  Until they grow up to be full-sized Goose Poop Machines. 


Geese and Pelicans have a kind of “we’re watching you, human” attitude that’s a bit reptilian and unnerving.  But when they’re small, they're cute.

Scout’s at the Dinghy Doctor

While waiting for Scout, we tackled two jobs.

The aft deck sunscreen. 


When we had the dodger and bimini made, CA asked Dan at Wavestopper Dodgers to add some extra zippers in the bomini. She made the starboard-side sunshade which zips onto the bimini and provides ample cooling shade for the aft cabin. 

In principle, she needs to make one for the port side, too. But the companionway is on the starboard side, and that’s where the biggest benefit seems to be.

I rearranged the vent hose for the Nature’s Head. That’s a 10’ section of hose from McMaster-Carr.

Water is not running from the deck vent up that loop and down to the head. 

Yes, it’s fair to partly ugly.


No more worries about what happens when rain overpowers the deck scuppers.

Our “Closet” Space

CA sent this picture of our “closet” space on Red Ranger.

We have hanging lockers, which are like closets. But we also have bins underneath the various berths and settees. 

Here’s one of the bins under the aft berth.


Yes, that’s three cases of Ranger beer in Red Ranger. And yes, it’s under the bed; saves a walking about 12’ forward to the saloon.

And yes, everything is in plastic bags. In the winter, there’s a fair amount of condensation. We’ve wrestled with mildew and bagging things as the come out of the laundery is essential.

Art Installation

Not on Red Ranger. 

In The Hague. Yes — for folks not from Norfolk — that body of water is called The Hague or sometimes “The Hague Inlet.” 


Yes, that’s a giant rubber ducky.


No Crabbing or Fishing, but what about Ducking?

Horrifying Failure — Averted

A few weeks ago, we had some Wrath of God rain on the Neuse river. It might have been a waterspout. It left frogs on the deck. It was brief and brutal.

Today, we had rain of larger volume but less wind. The narrowly averted horror part was in the interior of Red Ranger.

By larger volume, I mean the kind of epic hurricane scale wind that we saw when we were stuck in NC for five days while Hurricane Sandy had her way with NJ.

Here’s a picture take down inside the bulkwarks on the port side: the scupper drain is barely keeping up. 


On the starboard side, the drain is simply not keeping up.  You can’t make out the drain hole in the middle of the picture because it’s under 3” of water.

Let’s to back to the picture at the top of the page.

In the middle right, you can see a gray disk with some black lines on it. That’s the drain cover. There’s a black line for a furling drum further to the right. Beyond that there's the brown teak of the toe rail with it’s aluminum track on top.

There’s an inch of water on top of the drain cover. It’s sort of keeping up.

On the left side of the image is the big coaming around the cockpit; the winches are mounted on top of this box. In the center of the image — way back — across from a lifeline stanchion — under the visible winch — there’s a gray something-or-other on that coaming.

The gray something-or-other is the stainless steel cover for the Nature’s Head vent. Our poop box vent hose is under that cover.

When the deck drains don’t keep up...

Wait for it...

The water backs up into the vent hose.

And runs down into the poop box of the Nature’s Head composting toiler.

I’ll repeat that. Rain water is running down from the deck vent into the composting toilet.

CA noticed that the stirring crank was too easy to turn. Then she heard the gurgle and pulled the hose off the head. The water was sptraying out the vent hose, full bore. All over the floor of the head.

There was shrieking at first.

Then CA realized that the hose was spraying clean rain water all over the head. And it’s running down the shower drain. Into the bilge. That’s all good. Indeed, that’s helpful because it rinses the bilge.

But there was water in the poop box!

It did not overflow. It was close. That was simple good luck.

Ordinarily, the contents of the composting toilet are pretty dry. We can shovel it into a garbage bag and dispose of it ashore. In this case, that’s not going to work. We’ll pour the poop box it into the forward head; flush it into the holding tank; then use ordinary marina pump out services to clean up.


One way to prevent future problems is to relocate the vent hose exit to a higher spot on the coaming: above the toe rail. But that’s almost impossible. The vent hose is mounted as high as possible without making absurdly complex cuts in the interior of the coaming box. The coaming has two layers: the upper section is almost inaccessible; any fitting we put up there would blow vent air into the cockpit instead of overboard. Making hose connections inside the top section would require several long, skinny super-flexible arms.


We can add a sort of anti-siphon loop. To get the hose to be higher than the toe rail, we would have to re-route the hose completely. It would have to go up from head to ceiling — outside the cabinetry — and then back down to the vent exit. 

Ugly. Additional holes in the furniture. But perhaps necessary.

In addition, we should probably reroute the deck drains. The Whitby deck drains go from the scupper to a hose that leads to a through-hull under the water. The advantage of this is a sparkling, clean hull. The disadvantage is hoses and hose clamps that can fail and a through hull which can clog.

It seems like a short 90° bit of plumbing and a through-hull mounted as high as possible would be better than the hose and underwater through-hull. A short, almost straight overboard drain might keep up with apocalyptic rain better. It certainly wouldn’t get clogged with barnacles (or an oyster.)

For the starboard side, it’s a pleasant change because it’s one hose to one through-hull. Remove the hose and you can remove the bronze through-hull fitting and close off the hole in the hull permanently. 

On the port side, it’s a little less pleasant. If I recall correctly, the deck drain hose has a T-fitting in the engine room where the deck drain and the cockpit drains merge. I think the aft head sink joins them through a second T-fitting.


We’ve moved about 700 yards from our anchorage in the Elizabeth River to the dock and Waterside.  From 36°50.61′N 076°17.93′W to 36°50.63′N 076°17.49′W.

Why spend money for a dock when anchoring is (largely) free?

Scout. Red Ranger’s trusted assistant. Our dinghy.


It’s not easy to see, but the patch is wrinkly. Because air is pushed underneath it. We did two coats of adhesive. We waited for it to get tacky. We mashed the living crap out of it. It’s awkward mashing things together on the small, curved space available on the foredeck. We were able to position the hole over the forward hatch, giving us a solid, flat place to work.


It didn’t work out well.

Jeremy of Lighthouse Inflatables told us that the adhesives take 24 to 48 hours — out of the direct sun — to set up.

Waiting just overnight (12-14 hours) wasn’t adequate. Got it. Lesson learned.

What he’s got to do is use MEK to dissolve the adhesive and peel off the patch. Then buff the rest of the adhesive away using a Dremel tool with a buffing pad. Then try again to apply the big-old patch over the big-old hole.

Only this time, he’ll give it 48 hours to set up in a controlled indoor environment with no possibility of rain or direct sun.

Hopefully, we’ll have Scout back by Red Ranger’s side in a week.

How did the hole get there? Scout got wedged under a dock by the rising tide.

More Norfolk Views

The Elizabeth River and the Norfolk waterfront.

A cute little yawl that sailed by yesterday.


Today we fixed the fuel tank sender. Instead fo complicated math, the fuel gauge works again.

Also, we saw this, today.


That’s some kind of big Navy ship being pushed up the Elizabeth past Red Ranger.


CA, gesticulating wildly. “Get a picture of that. Whatever it is.”

Here’s more of the whole thing, viewed from Waterside.


Very cool.

Rumor has it that we may again become a cruise ship destination.

Also, another rumor suggested that Waterside was going to be expanded.

We’ll see. For now, we’re enjoying the river.

Norfolk View

Nauticus Sailing in the Elizabeth River.


You can see from the reflections on the water that conditions were super calm.

Yesterday, going ashore, we met four sailors we knew. And waved at some others we’d seen in the ICW heading north. It’s amazing to continue to run into folks we’ve met before on the waterfront.

Closing the Loop in Norfolk

Started: The free dock near the Great Bridge bridge, 36°43.25′N 076°14.26′W, ICW mile 12. 

Anchored: Hospital Point, Norfolk, 36º50.61’N 076º17.93’W, ICW mile 0.

Log: 12 mi. Time: 5 hr. Engine: 5 hr. 

Norfolk. Our home port. And for good reason.


The scenery is a nautical delight.

Also, this is a vast military seaport. The waterways are crowded with tugs, barges, container ships, warships, the ferries, and pleasure craft.

It’s a great trip up the Elizabeth river. A wonder of American technology and business.

Taking Notes

The downside of clever electronic charts is the inability to make pencil notations in the margins.

The Great Bridge to Norfolk run needs a set of notes on the edge of chart.

  • Allow a full hour for fuel and water. 
  • Great Bridge (ICW 12) opens on the hour.
  • Don’t tie too firmly to the lock, allow some slack. Pull up all fenders before moving.
  • Steel Bridge (ICW 8.7) opens on the hour: keep speed down to about 3 mph = 2.6 kt.
  • Gilmerton Bridge (ICW 5.7) opens on the half-hour: keep speed up to 6 mph =  5.2 kt.

We have a similar need for notes from Coinjock to Great Bridge.

  • North Landing Bridge (ICW 20.2) opens on the hour and half-hour. It's 29.3 miles from Coinjock, 25.5 nm. At 6.3 knots it’s a 4-hour run.
  • Centerville Turnpike appears to be on demand except morning and afternoon restrictions. It’s 5 miles, 4.4 nm. (City of Cheasapeake web page says both “hour and half-hour” as well as “on demand”; hard to understand.)

Some Boat Chores

CA has to finish our sunshades. She also has to finish covers for our on-deck jerry jugs. But, she also has Floating Leaf Tiny Quilts to make. We got through the Florida springtime without a sunshade. We can get through a Chesapeake summer without a shade to keep direct sun off the aft deck.

I have to change the oil. This is potentially messy, but I’ve been getting better and better at it. I’m working at reducing the mess and the number of paper towels required to remove that mess. I generally keep an entire oil change kit on Red Ranger, so changing oil means replacing the 2 gallons of oil and the filter that was used.

I need to replace the fuel tank sender. 

I want to add a Racor Life Guard Fuel/Air Separator to the fuel vent line. 

I really want a new tachometer, too. But. First things first. The sender is critical safety gear, the fuel/air separator is environmental health and safety. 

Great Bridge, VA

Started: Coinjock Marina, 36°20.87′N 075°56.96′W, ICW mile 50.

Docked: The free dock near the Great Bridge bridge, 36°43.25′N 076°14.26′W, ICW mile 12. 

Log: 38 mi. Time: 6 hr. Engine: 6 hr. 

Except for some drama, today featured a pleasant run up through the rivers and canals of the Virginia Cut (and the North Carolina Cut, too.)

It appears to be time to change the fuel filters. Mr. Lehman started struggling to keep the RPM’s at 1700. It’s kind of a sudden thing: working fine, then the engine sound switches to a kind of lugging. I’d been watching the vacuum pressure gauge; this wasn’t a complete surprise. 

I switched the primary filter. No useful effect. The primary filters sparkle because they’re so clean.


A lot of boats have trouble with algae growing in their fuel tanks. We just burned through two full tanks of fuel in about two weeks. Include some oceanic sloshing about, which should rinse any crud from the tank. I think the tanks and fuel lines are in good shape. Let’s say “clean enough to eat from” except for the diesel fuel issue. So let’s not say that.

That means I’m left with the ugly, messy job of changing the secondary fuel filters. I’ll wait until the engine has cooled a bit before I start that. 

Tomorrow, Norfolk. 



Then we have to decide where we’re going for our summer cruise. Maine? Stick around the Chesapeake? 

Coinjock, NC

Started: Alligator River, 35°40.49′N 076°03.50′W, ICW mile 99.

Docked: Coinjock Marina, 36°20.87′N 075°56.96′W, ICW mile 50.

Log: 50 mi. Time: 8½ hr. Engine: 8½ hr. 

We started at mile 1095 on the Atlantic ICW on 22 April. We’re now 50 miles from the head of the ICW in Norfolk, VA, on 2 May. We could make it tomorrow, but we won’t. 

If we get to Norfolk on the 4 May, we’ll have done 1095 miles in 13 days. And had a ton of fun doing it.


Our first down-and-back trip on the ICW was challenging. We didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t know what to expect.

Stuff broke.

We had made big efforts to prepare ourselves. We’d rebuilt parts of Red Ranger. We’d taken some shakedown trips around the Chesapeake Bay. We had two guidebooks for the ICW. We had the paper charts and several varieties of electronic charts. We had friends, too, who could offer advice.

The Voice of Experience

Preparation is important, but nothing compares with experience.

Today’s chug across the Albemarle Sound was just another great day on a boat watching the water slide past at 6 knots. The wind was on the nose; the seas were 3’-4’ and water was spraying everywhere as the thundered along under power.

Our first time in the Albemarle, we were worried about how big it was. Worried about finding the famously hard-to-navigate marks at the top of the Aligator river. Worried about the sometimes horrible weather on the Albermarle. We wound up playing with our mizzen stays’l and wondering why the Albemarle gets such bad press. Our second crossing of the Albemarle was equally uneventful. Our third crossing was a kind of reminiscence of the first one. 

Maybe the legendary roughness of the Albemarle is just one of those legacy stories in the cruising guides that dates from the olden days when the guides were mimeographed notes. Another legacy story is that the magenta line in the chart doesn’t match the marks at entrance to the Alligator river. On our charts the line ends at and picks up again: it’s not “wrong”: it’s not there. Maybe on some older edition of the chart it was wrong. And the legend remains.

Now that we’ve anchored in seven different spots along the ICW, we’ve settled on two anchorages that stand out. They’re 50 miles apart, which means we can cover the distance in just over 8 hours at 6 knots. These amount to a pleasant day’s motoring. 

Or, in the case of our Sporty Day on the Neuse River, an amazing day’s sailing backed by Wrath of God rain. With frogs.

We think that taking a night (or two) of transient dockage in Coinjock and Beaufort to bracket is a good idea. Expensive, but a small simplification. It allows topping off fuel, fixing things, and getting a last hot shower.


Offshore Legs

Our offshore skills have been building, slowly. What we’re getting a little better at is spotting the good weather. We’ve found that avoiding seas over 4’ is important.

Now that we’ve done two passages of 3 days and 2 nights, we’re feeling a little better about our offshore skills. These two passages had the kind of oily smoothness that one dreams of, but doesn’t expect to enounter in the real world.

Looking Forward

Tomorrow will be just 38 miles to Great Bridge, VA. We think we’ll stop for the day when we get there, and run some errands ashore.

Sunday we’ll do the last 12 miles into Norfolk. The Elizabeth River from the Gilmerton Bridge to Norfolk is the American Industrial Waterfront writ large. Each bend in the river is another jaw-dropping view of big machines, big boats, big warehouses.

Welcome To The Ditch

Started: Bonner Bay, 35°09.61′N 076°35.65′W, ICW mile 159.

Anchored: Alligator River, 35°40.49′N 076°03.50′W, ICW mile 99.

Log: 50 mi. Time: 9¾ hr. Engine: 9¾ hr. 

The day started with an odd squawking or shrieking. Likely a bird in the rigging, pooping on deck. Right? Wrong.

Here’s how you know you’re in North Carolina. Mud.

Anchor Chain Plastered With Mud

The bottom in Bonner Creek is shown on the nautical charts as SO: “Soft”. That means a wet concrete-like concoction that has to be carefully hosed off the chain so it doesn’t get into the anchor locker and create unique, new kinds of smells below decks on Red Ranger.

Note that each link is thoroughly painted with mud. It took CA over 30 minutes to bring up the chain while hosing it down carefully.

While today’s winds were forecast to be a bit heavy (20-25 knots) with thunderstorms and showers, we missed most of that. The winds we got were 10-15 knots and one little rain shower was more pretty than serious thunderstorm material.

This part of the journey North involves the Pungo River to Alligator River canal. It’s 4 hours of staring at a ditch.

But after yesterday’s Sporty Day on the Neuse, it was a pleasant respite. 


The gentle motoring along the canal allowed us time to locate the sqauwking noise. Since the noise was intermittent, it took a while to see what was causing the ruckus. It wasn’t a bird. 

The squawk was a tiny green frog.


It had been blown aboard with yesterday’s “Wrath of God” rainstorm.

After removing one frog, we heard the squawk again. It took a few hours of poking around to find frog #2 hiding on deck.

How many more can there be?

After a few hours, we joked about the frog count. “Red Ranger 2, Frogs zero”. Ha ha.


Then we heard another squawk. This took a lot of searching to reveal no additional frog. Just a squawk every half-hour or so.

The third frog was in one of the deck cuddy’s where we normally keep winch handles and off-shore tethers and other hardware.

We haven’t heard any squawking since. We think we’re frog-free. No more joking, however. We don’t want to find desiccated, dead frog three months from now.

Last night, it seemed like we’d merely try for the head of the Pungo River. This morning, however, with a pleasant breeze helping us along, our chart plotter showed that we would easily make the Pungo by 13:00, allowing us to make the Alligator by 17:00. Cool. Why not press on?

And once through this stretch, we’re counting down the legs.

Tomorrow is likely Coinjock, NC. 

Then Great Bridge, VA. We’ll probably stop there for a few days because there’s a good fabric and sewing store a short walk from the canal.

© Steven Lott 2021