To see as much of the world as we can,
Using the smallest carbon footprint we can,
Spending the least amount of money we can,
Making as many friends we can.

Team Red Cruising

Week 33: Closing the Loop in Norfolk

Big Milestone: we've closed the loop on our home port of Norfolk, VA.

While we started this voyage in Deltaville, VA, Norfolk is our home port. I like to think that the first four weeks of living aboard—prior to Norfolk—are a kind of prologue.

Because of Hurricane Season, each year breaks down into two Cruises: a Winter Cruise and a Summer Cruise. We're ending Red Ranger's 2012-2013 Winter Cruise, which was a trip to the Bahamas and back. Now, we're starting the 2013 Summer Cruise, which is a visit to the Chesapeake while we undertake some upgrades.

Next stop: Annapolis, MD.

The goal: replace our tattered old dodger with a fancy new WaveStopper dodger.

We're about a month behind our original notional schedule. Some of that is weather. Some of that is engine repair. And some of that is being n00bs and not quite managing the stately pace of a sailboat on the ICW. And of course, the lesson learned is that the future tends to be difficult to predict.

Is being off-schedule a "failure"? No.


As a former high-tech software developer who was driven by insane project schedules, our schedule "problem" is actually very funny. I think I spent my entire 35-year career explaining that making predictions is hard, especially when predicting the future. Creating a farcical project schedule with no concrete knowledge of the new technology being introduced, or the team doing the work, or the business problem being solved wassimplya farce. For 35 years I explained that. Over and over again. If this was a corporate IT project, there'd be blame flying left and right: schedule overruns (even when based on a farcical pack of lies) often lead to career death for project managers.

Nothing is more damaging to corporate IT ("in house") software development than the brain-damaged project management that is regularly practiced. Any company can be as innovative as Google. It's easy. Actually permit innovation by ending dumb-as-dirt schedule-driven project management practices.

*Red Ranger*: Schedule-Free and Successful.


29th. Monday

Anchored at 36°14.511′N 075°56.023′W, North River, ICW Mile 58.

Steady rain. Steady. Gray skies. Not conducive to sitting in the cockpit driving the boat for eight hours.

Yes, we do have really good foul-weather gear.

No, we don't feel like sitting in the rain all day.

Great Bridge will be there tomorrow.

Today we can have pancakes for breakfast and make cinnamon buns, cookies and experiment with baking crackers.

And try to apply wood glue to the cutting board which broke.


Red sky at night, sailor's delight.

The photo is from the port-side portlight looking west into the setting sun. The little red ball floating there? That's our anchor ball. No. It's not out in front of the boat. In a reasonable breeze, sailboats will align with the wind. Red Ranger will even "sail" back and forth on her anchor line. Below some windspeed, Red Ranger aligns with the current instead of the wind. In this case of a breeze against the current, we point into the current, and then drift forward on the breeze with the rode trailing off to the side.

We can hear this happening when the chain shifts in the bow rollers.

The astute will say, "Wait, the marker ball is not even fully astern. Do you mean to say you have less than 40' of anchor rode deployed? In 10' of water and a 4' bowsprit you should have at least 100' of rode."

To which we respond. "Good point."

With a soft, moist bottom, the chain buries itself deep. [Yes, it sounds vaguely sexual; we do say that the Rocna made the creek his bitch and cackle like high-schoolers.] This chain-in-mud is clearly holding us in place. When we swing like this, we're pivoting on a point in the chain that appears to be 30'-40' back from the Rocna. In St. Mary's River we had our float marker astern of us, also.

In blustery conditions or a hard bottom the whole chain moves and we swing in a big 200' diameter circle.

Most anchor rode calculations, BTW, assume the rode is snubbed on deck. So the depth is always figured at high-tide water depth plus bowsprit height. We snub at the waterline. So we figure our rode length on depth alone. 10' of depth means 70' of rode.

Dinner was blacked-eyed peas and crab.

Weather for tomorrow looks cloudy in the morning, but the rain is past.


Attribute Value
Arrive Anchored at 36°14.511′N 075°56.023′W

30th. Tuesday

Started at 36°14.511′N 075°56.023′W, North River, ICW Mile 58.

At 07:00 we moved about 1100 yds (0.536 nm) and put the anchor right back down at 36°14.676′N 075°56.656′W.

It was too foggy to move the boat safely. We thought we could use the chart plotter and depth sounder to keep in the channel. Steering a narrow track when the entire horizon is uniformly gray is way scary. I can't tell if we're turning until the compass responds and then we've turned too much. Other times, I think we're turning, but it's just an illusion because there's no visible horizon.

So we put the anchor back down to wait for the fog to burn off. 10:00 is the go/no-go decision point. After 10:00 we're going to be hard-pressed to make Great Bridge before dark.

Second Attempt

By 09:45 the fog had lifted enough to see the channel marks. It wasn't clear, but we had enough visibility to hold a course.

At 15:30 we squeaked through the North Landing bridge.

Sadly, however, the Centerville Turnpike bridge is almost an hour away but won't open until 18:00. We actually dropped the anchor to wait for this.


The Great Bridge in Great Bridge, VA, is only a half-hour beyond Centerville, but it won't open until 19:00. We made this with plenty of time to spare.

There's a free tie-up on the S side, in front of the bridge for us north-bounders. But it's smallish and was filled with boats. The good news is we could see the N side tie-up. And there weren't many boats there.

We waited for the 19:00 opening so we could dock comfortably for the night. Just in time, too: moments before sunset.

Docked at the free tie-up in Great Bridge, 36°43.273′N 075°14.478′W, ICW Mile 12.

Dinner was alu mattar.

Tomorrow is 12 miles to Hospital Point. Hopefully, things will go well and we'll find a place to anchor out of the channel and away from the various marina docks there. In spite of living in Norfolk for three years, we're unfamiliar with anchoring in the Elizabeth River.


Attribute Value
Depart Started at 36°14.511′N 075°56.023′W
Waypoint 36°14.676′N 075°56.656′W
Arrive 36°43.273′N 075°14.478′W
Time 9h 15m
Distance 38.9

1st. Wednesday

Started at 36°43.273′N 075°14.478′W, Great Bridge, ICW Mile 12.

Cold. Rainy. Blustery. Spring? Doesn't feel like it. 16°C (62°F). We don't really want to get into the soaked cockpit and peer through the rain-spattered dodger even for the easy three-hour run to Norfolk. But. It's only three hours of cold and damp.

The Great Bridge didn't open at 08:00—no boat traffic. Why is this relevant?

The canal is synchronized with the bridge. If the bridge opens at 09:00, we can follow those north-bounders through the 09:00 northbound locking in the canal.

Or maybe we'll wait for the 10:00 locking to see if the weather is any nicer.

In principle, we're only supposed to tie up here for 24 hours. If there are no other boats around, however, we can probably stretch it to 48 hours without any complaints. The two other boats which were here last night haven't moved, either. We're slaves to our peer group.

Other Boats

At 08:45 it was not raining heavily, so we started the engine and pulled out into the channel. The bridge opened, the lock opened and we were on our way. Two other boats were going with us.

In this case, the lock only needed to lift us a few inches. The real purpose behind the Great Bridge lock isn't making boat traffic possible, it's keeping sea water and fresh water from intermingling in the Elizabeth River.

We breezed down the river a little too fast and wound up way early at the Steel Bridge. The distance is fixed, so with some cleverness, one can arrive just as it's opening. Not 15 minutes early.

We were much better about making the Gilmerton Bridge just a few minutes before it opened. With the driving rain, we didn't want to get too close. But there's no current to speak of, so it's possible to get close.

We had a very rainy and blustery trip down the Elizabeth to Hospital point. Blinding kind of rain. Hard to see the next mark. After anchoring, the sun started peeking out from behind the clouds.

We're anchored at 36°50.606′N 076°17.922′W, Hospital Point, Norfolk, ICW Mile 0


From the Water

Norfolk, from the water, is amazing. Norfolk may not be unique, but that doesn't reduce the level of amazement as one works their way down (or up) the Elizabeth River. There's a lot of waterfront business. Boats. Bridges. Buildings. Buoys.

The good news is that Red Ranger moves at a slow pace. We could gawk and stare all we wanted without getting into trouble. Sure we drifted out of our lane. Boat lanes are big. Our speed, 4 knots, is only 135 yards a minute. You can take a good long look and only a few score yards off course.

The enormity of commercial shipping boggles the mind.

And this just just the 6 mile stretch from the Gilmerton Bridge to Hospital Point. The rest of the Elizabeth River plus the James River, and the various creeks of the larger "Hampton Roads" area is awesome.

We're proud to have chosen Norfolk as our official Home Port.

Going Ashore

Launching the dinghy in a breeze is challenging. But it's the only way to get to shore, so we just have to be careful we don't get knocked overboard.

We shopped around for a place to tie up, and opted for the dinghy dock at Waterside. $3.00 (plus tax, $3.15) for the day. For $3.00 more you can use the head, which means show and laundry, also.

We shopped at a shopping mall (for the first time in nine months, maybe more). Bought an iPad keyboard, iPhone power cord, underwear, and treats from Williams and Sonoma.

Dinner at the Vineyard restaurant on Granby street.


Attribute Value
Depart Started at 36°43.273′N 075°14.478′W
Arrive 36°50.606′N 076°17.922′W
Time 3h
Distance ?

2nd. Thursday

Anchored at 36°50.606′N 076°17.922′W, Hospital Point, Norfolk, ICW Mile 0.


When we lived in Norfolk we walked (and biked) a lot. We had cars, but we tried to minimize the driving. Now that we're back, and walking everywhere, Norfolk is like a favorite pair of jeans: comfortable.

Really, comfortable.

Breakfast at Starbucks. Lunch at Hell's Kitchen. Planned meetups with folks. Randomly running into people we know. Drinks at Mo & O'Malleys. Dinner at Domo Sushi. The downtown Norfolk Granby Street experience.

Victuals were facilitated by having friends. Friends with a car. Allows us to just buy as much as we can stuff into her car. (Thanks Linh!)

Tomorrow we'll do laundry at the marina laundromat. Saturday we'll head north, weather permitting.

Dinner at Domo Sushi. Dessert at Havana.**


Attribute Value
Arrive Anchored at 36°50.606′N 076°17.922′W

3rd. Friday

Anchored at 36°50.606′N 076°17.922′W, Hospital Point, Norfolk, ICW Mile 0.

Walkies, Yoga. Washing (showers and laundry).

Weather on Saturday and Sunday looks miserable. Saturday is NE winds 15 to 20, waves 3-4ft. No thanks. Sunday is NE winds 10-15, waves 2-3 ft. Unpleasant. Monday may be E winds 15 kt; waves 3 ft.; that's at least manageable.

In the afternoon, we got some (but not all) of the supplies for an oil change. We need some Fram PH8A filters.

In the Bahamas, it was clear that oil (like diesel) was readily available. Mr. Lehman's specific filter, however is not available. I've decided that I really need to buy 3 or 4 filters, so that I have the next oil change and a spare and maybe more more beyond that. Just in case.

It's hard to find filters downtown. There's no NAPA store downtown: they're all out in the ‘burbs.

We stopped by Tribute, a Brewer 18, sister ship to the Whitby 42. We had tied up next to them at the Whitby Rendezvous back in October. They're family.

Dinner at the German Pantry.

Finding Friends

When we moved to Norfolk, we had an agenda. Besides buying a boat, we had decided to work on a specific skill: Meeting New People.

When you live in the suburbs, you meet a few neighbors. Of course, you meet people through work. But in my case, I didn't actually work in our area very often. You meet folks through school and church and things like kid's sports. You meet kid's friend's parents.

My work life was irregular. For years, I had close associates at work. Then we moved from Syracuse to Albany, and I left those close associates behind. Ever since, I vacillated between travel to another city or working from home. Working from home, of course, is totally weird unless you get out of the house once in a while.

I took to walking to the local coffee shop every day to work from there for a few hours in the morning. To get out of the house. And see other people.

You click with some people. You don't click with others. This is so typical you rarely think about it. Some folks become friends. Some don't.

I was president of the liars club that met every morning at the coffee shop. This was four to six folks (mostly men) who were retired or self-employed, and needed to get out of the house.

When we decided to pull up stakes and move, however, then we start to think about how this association with other people works.

Making A Connection

When we decided we were going to move, we started looking at cities. Annapolis. Baltimore. Norfolk. We would take long weekends and drive (or fly) to these cities and look around. We'd go to bars and coffee shops. We'd ask random strangers what they thought.

Back on '08 or maybe '07, we were looking at marinas near Norfolk. We'd flown to down Hampton, and rented a car and drove all over the area. At a Starbucks on Rt. 17, one afternoon, we'd stopped in for a coffee. A family had come in after us and take a table near us. We just leaned over and asked them if they'd share their impressions of "Richmond vs. Norfolk".

It was a skill we were cultivating: Connecting with Random Strangers.

When we finally elected to move to the Norfolk, we had a long list of criteria for the apartment. We had lived almost our entire lives in the ‘burbs. Even when we lived in the city of Syracuse, we lived in a "nice" neighborhood with relatively large lots and off-street parking.

We came to Norfolk looking for big houses, off-street parking, laundry in the building. All the amenities of suburban living.

Then we looked at apartments in Ghent.

The off-street parking and in-the-house laundry, and all the other criteria went right out the window. The idea of being walking distance from bars and restaurants on Colley Ave. and 21st street was just too cool.

The Coffee Shop Lifestyle

When we moved, I picked a coffee shop and starting hanging out. It's easy to do. I had work to do, and a laptop computer on which to do it. Why work from home when there's perfectly good coffee (and people) a few blocks away?

You click with some people. You don't click with others. This is so typical you rarely think about it. Some folks become friends. Some don't.

Tonight we had dinner with a random collection of folks who we've been seeing on-and-off for the last three years.

The common aspect?

At some point in all of our collective pasts, we've been in Linh's coffee shop. Or worked with Linh at one of her other jobs. Or played Volleyball with Linh.

Just random, tenuous, connections.

The kind of thing we set out to find. Meeting New People. Connecting with Random Strangers.

In way, we're working on creating new tribes everywhere we go.****

Tonight's get-together—and this afternoon's visit with the crew of Tribute—were stops on on road to learning how to meet new people and connect with random strangers.


Attribute Value
Arrive Anchored at 36°50.606′N 076°17.922′W

4th. Saturday

Anchored at 36°50.606′N 076°17.922′W, Hospital Point, Norfolk, ICW Mile 0.

Walkies and Victuals. Today we went back to our old Norfolk neighborhood hangout for breakfast and lunch. We chatted with the "coffee shop crowd": the community of people we saw every day for three years.

The past three days (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,) we had stayed in the downtown coffee shop because we had chores. Today we wandered up to Ghent to hang in the coffee shops and bars we habituated during our refit.

While chatting, a total stranger stops by, apologetic for eavesdropping. (It is a coffee shop; no need to apologize; join in!) He's a student at EVMS, relocated from Minnesota to the coast. And he's interested in learning more about this "sailing" lifestyle. Really?

We don't know much, but we can encourage him. It's been rewarding so far.

Additional fun: another grocery store run and had a home cooked meal. We also did something we haven't done in four years: sat around a real crackling fire. (Thanks Jen!)

Back at the downtown coffee shop—a block from Waterside—we ran into the crew of Anthyllide. They're anchored a few hundred yards away near Hospital Point. We last saw them (and their unique aluminum boat) in St. Mary's, Georgia. We're headed to Annapolis. They're going to the Azores.

Wait, what?

The Azores? Yep. They're going to cross the Atlantic. Wow.

Dining Out

Dinner at the Public House. But it's a Saturday night! That wasn't our usual night.

For the first few months of our refit, we had no fixed "routine". We didn't know what we were doing. And the boat was in the hands of the the Deltaville Boatyard while they rebuilt the foredeck.

Once Red Ranger was launched, however, we established a pretty stable schedule. On Friday night (in the summer) or Saturday (in the winter) we'd drive up to Deltaville to work on the boat. On Sunday evening, we'd drive back to Norfolk.

Before too long, we'd established a regular Sunday Night at Bella Pizza on Colley Ave. We'd leave Deltaville 4-ish to get to Bella Pizza about 6-ish and order the same thing week in and week out. A 16" Capri with extra anchovies and two Sam Adams. The Same Thing. Every week.

After a few months, we could sit down and "our" waitress would simply ask us if we wanted the usual.

One evening, as we sat outdoors on the sidewalk, the waitress leaned out the door and asked us if we wanted the usual.

Other folks sitting at the sidewalk tables were floored. "That's so bad-ass," one of them said. I guess it is. But having a usual order is easy. Order the same thing at the same place for week after week. It has to be a great meal. And in this case, it was.

The Public House

Then they opened the Public House. It was a little nicer with a different menu, and a lot better selection of beer. A lot better.

We switched restaurants, and started eating our Sunday-Back-From-The-Boat meal at the Public House. An O'Conner El Guapo, a Dismal Swamp Black IPA and two Blue Collar Mac and Cheese. Heavenly. Sometimes a Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55 when they had it on tap.

The best part about Sunday night at the Public House is that it was almost empty. We had stellar, personal service. There would be eight people at the bar and maybe a quarter of the tables had people. I think the back room was closed. After a few months, we didn't need to order, just confirm that we were having the usual.

We enjoyed returning to our old haunt after being away for nine months. None of the staff knew us, but we had a delightful meal in familiar surroundings.

We'll be leaving soon.

But while we're here, we're enjoying it.****


Checking our weather.

Sun: NE winds 15 to 20 kt. Waves 4 ft. Areas of fog in the morning with vsby 1 to 3 nm.

Mon: E winds 15 kt. Waves 3 ft. A chance of rain.

Tue: E winds 10 to 15 kt. Waves 2 to 3 ft. Showers.

That confirms our decision to stay put through Sunday. 20 kts of wind in the direction we're going? No. Four foot waves? Fun an hour or two; not fun when you do it all day. Fog? Danegrous.

Monday will be sporty, Tuesday will be even more amenable to pushing north.


Attribute Value
Arrive Anchored at 36°50.606′N 076°17.922′W

5th. Sunday

Anchored at 36°50.606′N 076°17.922′W, Hospital Point, Norfolk, ICW Mile 0.

Went to Ghent United Methodist Church this morning. Communion. Saw some more of our peeps from when we lived here doing the refit.

Saw something shocking this morning.

Each time we leave or return to Red Ranger, we make a fairly critical examination of the topsides and waterline areas. This morning, we noticed something weird. Very weird.

We snub our anchor to a line that is shackled to a chainplate at the base of the bobstay.

**Snub**  tie off the anchor rode so that it doesn't jerk the boat in wind and waves. An all chain rode is unforgiving. Adding some nylon twist line as a snubber eases the motion.

**Shackle** — a loop of steel with a removable pin.

**Chainplate** — an place to attach standing rigging to the hull of the boat.

**Bobstay** — the piece of standing rigging that supports the pulpit in front of the bow.

In order to keep shackles in place, I put a twist of stainless steel seizing wire through the pin.

This morning we noticed that the shackle was gone. And also the anchor snubber that had been fixed there. The anchor chain itself is woven to another piece of nylon that's solidly bent on to a deck cleat. But our shock-absorbing snubber has vanished.

This also tends to change the angle of anchor to bottom. As we noted back on Monday, we count on the snubber being right at the water level to assure that our anchor chain lies as flat as possible on the bottom. Without that snubber, we have to ease out 30 more feet of anchor rode.

How does the stainless wire drop off? How does the pin unscrew itself?

Seems improbable. But there it is.

Or isn't.

When we haul the anchor up, we'll recover the rest of the snubber line. It should be held to the chain with a large Wichard -brand hook. Next time we anchor and deploy the dinghy, I'll potter around with new shackles and more seizing wiere.


Weather is not cooperating very well at all. Here's the 06:53 zone forecast for Chesapeake Bay from New Point Comfort to Little Creek VA (ANZ632). That's most of the way to Deltaville; zone ANZ632 is the rest of the trip.

Mon: E winds 15 to 20 kt. Waves 3 to 4 ft. A chance of rain.

Tue: E winds 15 to 20 kt. Waves 3 to 4 ft. Showers.

Wed: S winds 5 to 10 kt...becoming SE in the evening...then becoming SW after midnight. Waves 1 foot. Rain likely in the morning...then a chance of showers.

Monday has ramped up the sporty factor. The rhumb line from Norfolk to Deltaville is 40 nm. With twists and turns it's a bit longer. That's 8 hours of bashing about in 4' seas.

If we wait until Wednesday... Well... Will we kick ourselves for missing a day of travel? Or will we kick ourselves if we try to leave Monday and suffer a painful slog?

Dinner was actually on the boat: burritos. We've pigged out quite a bit in the last week.


Attribute Value
Arrive Anchored at 36°50.606′N 076°17.922′W

This Week

Engine Hours: 12. Diesel Gallons: 0. Water Gallons: 0. Miles Run: 58.

Books: Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop, Salt: A World History. Yes, the reading has slowed down from the high-velocity book-chugging we did in the Bahamas. Wi-Fi means we spend more time on Facebook less time with our face in a book.

Read Aloud: The Name of the Wind: The Kingkiller Chronicles.


Attribute Value
Engine 12. h
Diesel 0. gal
Water 0. gal
Distance 58. nm