Friday, July 3, 2009

Storm before the calm

June 22rdrd - 28th

From Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Norfolk, Virginia, is over one thousand miles. With less than fifty six miles to go we anchored at Buck Island, a peaceful, isolated, small island just off Albemarle Sound. Our last night in the ICW, gentle, beautiful, or not.

At 1am the peace was shattered by a howling wind that left Seraphim almost on her side and the dinghy which had been lifted and horizontal alongside, now standing vertical like the space shuttle about to take off. John rapidly clipped heavy duty battery cables onto the mast and hung the other ends into the water to give any strike a path along which to ground itself. (It also grounds the boat making it less attractive to lightning as it is the difference between negative and positive potential that is the attraction.) The gas was switched off at the bottle and our computers, cell phones and VHF radios stowed in the microwave and oven. The metal enclosures act as Faraday cages and protect them from the electromagnetic pulse of a nearby strike. Finally all antennas were disconnected.

It was our closest most terrifying lightning experience. Un-forecast, and way too close with Seraphim the only 55 foot aluminium pole for miles around. I felt “fear full” when I smelt “ozone” , the scent of a near strike. Seraphim was not struck but it was an extremely tense hour as the storm passed.

From Buck Island through Great Bridge, into the lock with a two feet rise, pretty ho hum after our French Canal experiences in the Rhone locks which were up to 15 metres. Then onto Norfolk, twelve miles to go.

Norfolk Virginia

Mile "Zero"

Greta Gustavson and Gary Naigle, Ocean Cruising Club Port Officers for Norfolk, who sponsored our membership of the Ocean Cruising Club gave us an excellent welcome after 2,350 miles odd from Martinique to the “end” of the Intracoastal Waterway and a berth on their dock in centre of the historic district of Norfolk. Their condominium overlooks Portsmouth and the building in which Gary was born. We met Gary and Greta in St Martin in February 03 and I think we would have still be in Simpson Bay if it was not for their encouragement, (cajoling?), into heading for the BVIs. The gathering of friends on their dock for our arrival was all part of the hospitality offered by these real special folks.

The bicycles were out again with a new one from Wal Mart for Jack. Pedalling a go go. The historic district around Greta and Gary’s home is elegant and very Edith Wharton.


A must re-visit was the mighty Wisconsin battleship docked in downtown Norfolk with her four acres of teak deck.

The other must re-visit was the Chrysler Museum although this visit was shorter and more stressed than our visit in 2003. As with the Miro Foundation in Palma, Mallorca Jack presumed the contemporary art was painted by his contemporaries. James was within an nth of touching a multi million scribble when I grabbed his curious paw. Jack asked if they were wet? Yes. The paintings had been just finished that morning, and were still wet, so no touching.

The special exhibition by glass God Lino Tagliapietra was breathtaking, literally, particularly a work inspired by the yacht Endeavour. The Tiffany glass collection for which the Chrysler is famous was a joy as ever but could only be a brief encounter with two boys bent on playgrounds.

In our previous visit we spent hours in the McArthur Mall watching movies. This time it was the Port of Virginia Looney Tunes, an air conditioned play area, perfect when outside it is 98 degress with 69% humidity.

The Portsmouth Children’s Museum was under refurbishment with several attractions in bits, nevertheless, it gave six hours solid entertainment at half price.

The giant bubble making was original and compelling.
From here in Norfolk we are heading into the Chesapeake Bay,
heart of Civil War history, where we shall spend 4th of July.

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