We left River Dunes on the last Thursday in May in what could be our last trip north through the ICW. It was a pretty typical trip through NC, which afforded some pure sailing, motorsailing and some pure motoring. We dealt with the unseasonably early heat and humidity and the accompanying bugs (lots of bugs), that accompany the wild beauty of this part of the waterway. There were a few surprises: the closing of the Great Bridge
dock south of the bridge, which put our stop on the now-crowded north wall in doubt until the last minute; the change in the Gilmerton bridge schedule to open on the hour and half-hour; and the pleasant surprise that the Centerville Bridge opens on request on the weekend.
For the first time, we connected with Barb and Dave from Fortunate at their home in Chesapeake during our stay at Great Bridge. They were hosting a picnic for their family and friends Diane and Richard from Ava Ryan, whom we had met in Charleston as they passed through with Tom and Cathie. Dave and Barb graciously invited us to join them at the last minute. We even got to meet the newest member of their family, their precious grandson. We celebrated our anniversary the next day, then headed out early Monday morning for Hampton, tired of the heat and bugs, and
looking for the comfort of shore power and AC. On our way up the Elizabeth River, we were joined by Steve and Krista on Bay Dreamer, who were leaving Waterside in Norfolk, just as we passed.
Despite our hopes for a leisurely sail up to Hampton, it was alas another motoring trip, ending our season with a bit of an anti-climax. That was OK. We were back in Hampton, among friends and not too far away from family. It’s one of our favorite places to be.
Having arrived in Hamptonthe week of the Pirate Festival, we began to scramble to find a place to stay for the weekend. We doubted the Public Piers would be an option since festival boaters often book their slips a year in advance. Also, there was a sailboat race taking place the same weekend, that was filling up the other marinas in Hampton, so we were getting skeptical that we’d find a place, until we began to discuss the situation with dockmaster Kate. There was a possibility to let us stay at the Public Piers, until the slip at Joy’s freed up the next week. The Public Piers manages a few slips in the cove near the Hampton Carousel that might be deep enough for Orion, but Kate wasn’t sure. No one had surveyed the depth there. No problem. We had the technology to figure this out. We launched our dinghy and dusted off the portable depth sounder that was Dave’s birthday gift 2 years ago. While Dave trolled up and down the cove, Cathy took readings. When we checked them against the tide tables, we happily reported that the depth wouldn’t go below 6ft at low tide. That would be just fine for Orion. So, taking advantage of a calm morning on a near slack flood current, we backed into the cove and pulled into the slip as easy as could be.
the Pirate Festival. All of the kid’s activities were located in the plaza in front of the carousel. Also, the shade of the trees next to the cove and the wide sidewalk next to the dock, made this a nice retreat from the heat, as well as a good place to spread out and eat lunch. As evening approached, we headed over to Joy’s to join Steve and Krista for a picnic and to watch the fireworks at day’s end.
The deluge arrived just before we finished loading the car with the first load of supplies for our newly-acquired Columbia T26. With the Pirate Festival tents shuttered against the early morning downpour, we pulled out and headed north for Mayo, MD, where we would finalize the purchase of the boat that would become Orion Jr. Despite the less-than-encouraging start to the trip, by the time we arrived at the boat, the morning’s waterworks were history, and we started surveying the work to be done to make this much smaller boat become home for the fall and winter travels this year. Every system needed a review and most needed upgrades or complete installations: electrical, plumbing, rigging, sails, galley, canvas enclosure, interior cushions, and so on. Dave started with the basics – getting the boat powered. He charged the existing batteries, which would ultimately be replaced, but which he needed to allow us to do any testing of the boat’s circuits and get some minimal power for
lights and charging cell phones and computer.
With a minimum of effort, the cabin lights glowed and the newly-installed replacement bilge pump removed the accumulation of water in the bilge, removing the fertile breeding ground for the Columbia’s subset of the local mosquito population. It would take a bit more work to get the navigation lights to cast their light, starting with replacing the stern light. The lights up the mast would have to wait for the mast to come down, which was supposed to be easy to do. Right? That would have to wait for a later trip. Greg Rutkai of GBS Inc., who sold us the boat, was a big help with lots of details. He gave us a couple of fuel tanks to replace the worn-out container that sat on the boat. He offered us a large sun shield to give us some shade as the early June sun was already brutal.
Back on Orion, Dave became glued to the computer, designing Orion Jr’s electrical system, ordering parts and researching the projects to be done. Cathy began refinishing the badly-worn tiller handle and (when she wasn’t completely frozen from panic) started on preliminary designs for the enclosure. Then there are the lists. Stuff to take from Orion to its namesake. Stuff to buy. Projects to complete before we launch her. Projects to complete before we cruise south. Wish lists for the more distant future. And so on. We’re not as clueless as we were 5 years ago. We bring to the task all that we’ve learned from living on a sailboat for all that time. However, this is a different kind of sailboat with many problems that are new to us or present themselves in different ways. But
there’s nothing like a challenge to keep you on your toes.
OK, our focus on the little boat has distracted us a bit, but Orion is still our home – for now. Before leaving River Dunes, Cathy had retrieved her sewing machine from her daughter’s attic and managed to finally replace the bimini’s webbing that
was frayed and threatening to give way in the next strong breeze. Carefully examining the existing straps, she created new ones from some white webbing bought last fall. The moment of truth came when she had to cut the old webbing to retrieve the D-ring that made the straps adjustable. Once stalled, the new straps look much better and are so much easier to adjust than the old ones.
Also at River Dunes, Dave changed the Racor fuel filter, which had been showing some increased
pressure. After the filter change, the pressure settled back down to zero and has remained there since. Other than that, Orion hasn’t asked much of us, allowing our time and attention to be focused elsewhere. For the immediate future, we are splitting our time between Hampton, VA and Mayo, MD until Orion Jr is in shape to take a trip down the bay to a slip closer to her bigger cousin.
We spent some time at Norfok's Harborfest with Bonnie and Troy one Saturday. And Dave managed to get picked for a crab-eating contest. He didn't win, but he still got to eat all those crabs, so who cares?