With my father in tow, our engine leak fixed, and the weather promising a beautiful Father’s Day weekend, we made our way out of Solomons Island and headed to Deltaville, VA, an adorable little marine town approximately 2 miles long, situated about halfway between Solomons and Norfolk.
The town, in the past, has laid claim to the title of “Boatbuilding Capital of the Chesapeake,” and, indeed, for over a century [until at least the late 1970s], as many as 20 boatbuilders supplied watermen with wooden work-boats of all types and sizes. Although little boatbuilding goes on today, boating continues to be centric to the local economy.
On our way through the Chesapeake, we had been having a conversation about when one is officially in ‘The South,’ and discovered that it was actually quite a bit further north than we originally thought [who knew that the Mason-Dixon line was actually north of DC? Not us].
We would decide for ourselves when we were officially in ‘The South.’ Doubt was erased when we pulled into Deltaville.
The boat next to us was having a little family afternoon gathering, and we struck up a conversation with the owners, telling them what we were doing.
Out-of-Touch-Southern-Man: So the three of you ladies are taking this boat to Texas, and where is the man?
Lady Pirates: …. Nope, just us.
OOTSM: Just three ladies on this big boat?
LPs: And three dogs! [subtext: har har you are joking right]
OOTSM: Hey, Dave– get out here! These three ladies are taking the boat to Texas by themselves!
Dave the Out-of-Touch-Southern-Man: What?! By yourselves? No man??!
LPs: …. Nope….
OOTSM: But who docks the boat then? — Hey, Barbara, get out here a second– these three ladies are taking the boat to Texas by themselves!
LPs: …We dock the boat… And drive it… [I think this is the point I lost my eyes in the back of my head]
Barbara-the-poor-out-of-touch-southern-woman: No man on board?! Oh my goodness I could never do this without [OOSTM]! I just go along for the ride!
DTOOTSM: But wait, who did you say drives the boat?
BTPOOTSW: They said they do it!
OOSTM: I can’t believe it! Ladies!
Dad: [emerging from the cabin after a shower] Hi!
OOSTM: See, you DO have a man on the boat!!!!!!
DTOOTSM: I knew it!
LPs: He’s just here for the weekend, along for the ride… [eyeroll by all except my because my eyes were already lost back there]
OOSTM: Well, I don’t know about that…
LPs: We must be lying! [Collective sigh. Silent agreement that we are in fact, in The South]
The marina supplies transients with bikes for transportation [because what could be cuter than that], and although I don’t remember the last time I biked, as it turns out, riding a bike is just like riding a bike, and, after mastering the pedal brakes [because these are adorable bikes with high handles and pedal breaks not stupid hand brakes], I was transported to age 10.
After a sensible happy hour on the boat, we buzz-biked [not drunk-biked, we were def under .08 maybe] to a cute family owned restaurant allllll the way on the other side of town [aka a 7 minute ride]. Our fearless captain fell off her bike after she forgot about the pedal brakes and went into a ditch and obviously I immediately took pictures because she literally never does anything wrong or clumsy and I felt like she needed to be publicly shamed.
I don’t know what we expected out of a restaurant in a 2-mile long town, but it was hot and tiny and had no AC and we were hangry and [BEGIN RANT] unfortunately we encountered another experience where the summer-job service staff had just got out of school and were not yet equipped to handle the business volume and our poor 16 year old waitress ignored us for 15 minutes and the stupid manager did nothing and I had to prevent my dinner-mates from murdering her and so instead I broke out the restaurant talk and asked to speak to the manager who had conveniently left before I could speak to him cause clearly he had such a hard day standing around and not helping his sinking staff like an idiot and we told her it wasn’t her fault [cause she was 16 and had no idea what she was doing] and clearly she thought we were going to chew her face off and when we didn’t she was relieved and super sweet and I hope the manager reads this one day and calls me cause I’ve got a handful of choice words for him but obviously the next day I was over it and we were leaving Deltaville and so I wasn’t going to waste energy calling to complain cause whatever [END RANT].
[Oh yeah also we ate alligator bites. I don’t recommend it but any alligators that we will encounter in the future should be warned that now that I know it’s an option they should be scared because we have a harpoon on board and even though I don’t know how to use it, I will try and there is a 20% chance I might succeed.]
Although we went to dinner at 6 [we usually eat at the blue-haired times because we get up with the sun don’t judge us], because of the aforementioned reasons, we left at almost 9pm and so we barely had enough light to bike home through Deltaville’s unlit, tree-lined, single road, but somehow we made it without being eaten by a lion or a bear or a giant mosquito so clearly luck was on our side.
The morning of Father’s Day, we woke up early to head through Norfolk, finally entering the Intracoastal Waterway, to our first ICW stopover, in Chesapeake, VA.
Side note. Let me just say. When my dad decided to come down for Father’s Day, [before the magical, mythical, mysterious, [e]mancipating mechanic showed up to fix our oil leak], he joked with me that he was coming up to visit us “just so he could fix things,” and I reminded him that that would literally be his best Father’s Day ever and he agreed because his favorite thing to do besides hanging out with his favorite child [me] is to fix things.
Well, upon arrival, with the boat fixed, he clearly needed something to do, so he was sure to break no less than 3 things while he was onboard. First, possibly an honest mistake, he broke a chair in the saloon as we celebrated happy hour in Solomons. Ok. So… he spent the next day fixing it. No harm, no foul.
On our way into Deltaville, we discovered that the boat was listing a bit to starboard, because some swells we encountered in the Chesapeake had caused the fuel from the port tank to move over into the starboard tank. As we tried to transfer the fuel, he had the idea to listen to his daughter [who isn’t an engineer or a mechanic and really just had a question about the way that the tanks work and a possible suggestion but who doesn’t accept any responsibility because she is in no way qualified] and, sparing you the technical details, flipped a lever in the engine room which almost caused one of the engines to sputter and die.
Finally, upon arrival in Chesapeake, he decided to “help” and connect the power and somehow blew a fuse which, in the 95 degree heat and humidity, disabled our AC.
Two days. Two days on board. So let me be clear to all you OOTSM out there, the Lady Pirates had everything under control, and the all-powerful, all-knowing, fully-necessary MAN broke everything. [To be fair, he did fix his mistakes. Love you, Dad.]
We drove through Norfolk, VA, home of the world’s largest naval base, and my dad was in heaven as we passed through all of the ships stationed along the coast. The Navy is NOT EFFING AROUND in Norfolk, guys. Lookout patrol boats monitor the area along the yard armed with machine guns, and followed us along our trip for quite some time, making the Lady Pirates sweat a little. I wanted to wave at them but my mom said no and I don’t know why I was just trying to be courteous.
In Chesapeake, we encountered our first lock of the trip, at MM11, at the Great Bridge. [History lesson: The Great Bridge was the site of a major battle on December 9, 1775, which resulted in the removal of the British from Virginia. Though the battles of Lexington and Concord took place months earlier, and are historically more memorable, the Battle of Great Bridge can be seen as the first strategically important colonial victory over the British, forcing the redcoats withdraw to Norfolk.]
A lock, for those of who who don’t know marine navigation, is a device used to raise and lower ships between stretches of water that are dammed at different levels on river or canal waterways. It consists of a chamber enclosed by gates on either side, which the boat enters, tying up to its wall. The gates are sealed behind, the water level is raised or lowered in the chamber, and the gates open ahead, allowing passage into the canal at the differing water level.
We’ll be encountering a lot of locks on our trip, especially as we go through the Okeechobee in Florida and New Orleans. Like bridges, lock openings are occasionally on demand, but generally occur at specific times, so timing the trip to make a certain opening can be frustrating, as missing your time can mean idling around for up to an hour waiting to pass through.
In Great Bridge, specifically, the lock takes the boater 2-3 feet, from seawater to freshwater, into the part of the ICW known as the Virginia Cut. The lock times out with the opening of The Great Bridge, which is directly after the lock.
We ate on board in Chesapeake, enjoyed a beautiful sunset, and my dad and I drank some Lagavulin and shared his last cigar, because when I’m alone with my dad I have to do everything I can to make my brother jealous. He told me he had the best Father’s Day ever because my brother wasn’t there and he could spend the whole day with just me.
The next morning, my dad waved goodbye to us from the dock as we headed back into the ICW, destined for the [now infamous] Coinjock, NC.
Of course, in true fashion, things did not go at all according to plan…
More to come.