If John could have gotten us off to Norfolk before dawn, he would have–but 6:57 am turned out to be the perfect time. We had an ebb tide all the way to the entrance to Hampton Roads, then a flood tide up the Elizabeth River. We made it to our dock at NOAA after a fantastic voyage of 5 1/2 hours. We had expected two hours more, but we had cruised along at an unbelievable 10 1/2 knots.
We passed Old Point Comfort and Fort Monroe Thursday morning, heading once more towards a port that would have been familiar to earlier crews of the F.D. Crockett. This time, instead of passing work boats, we passed warships and the Godspeed, heading toward the tall ship anchorage at Lynhaven Inlet.
We settled in at NOAA Marine Operations Center-Atlantic–a facility more used to ships that map the ocean floor than buyboats–along with sister buyboat Muriel Eileen, who once called Deltaville her home port.
While Crockett didn’t join the arrival parade on Friday morning, we were able to view the Muriel Eileen as she came up the river with the tall ships. We headed to see the ships after they had arrived, set up our displays for visitors to the christening of the NOAA hydrographic survey ship Ferdinand R. Hassler, then to the Mayor’s reception that evening. Saturday NOAA, a secure facility with guards and normally locked gates, opened them to invite visitors to NOAA Days on the Hague and educational and children’s activities. In addition to exhibits from NOAA (Weather Service, Sanctuaries, and Coast Survey), the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Team, VIMS and CBF, there were tours of a number of vessels which included us, the Muriel Eileen, the Hassler (very impressive!), the Elizabeth River Project Learning Barge (an actual self-sufficient wetlands on the water), the Fay Slover from ODU and a converted Viet Nam-era Swift boat used by by Tidewater Community College as well as several others.
The weekend was a whirlwind of visitors to the boat, receptions (Mayor, Governor, military and tall ships) and activities at Town Point Park–we were docked too far from the center of festivities to hit everything–but a highlight was a reception on the Norwegian frigate Thor Heyerdahl–with marinated (in Aquavit) reindeer, dried moose, pureed raspberries and cranberry liqueur–along with spectacular fireworks from the deck. A reception on our own Coast Guard’s Eagle celebrated the War of 1812 complete with crew members in period uniforms. Of course, I have pictures of none of the spectacular stuff, as my camera was either a mile away at the boat or broken.
It was a pleasure to visit a port where the F.D.Crockett and the Muriel Eileen both would have brought their wares on a regular basis–a tour of the harbor brought us to the Miles Oyster House, the last one still in business in Norfolk–but likely not for long. The nearby ice house that supplied it for nearly a century is thankfully being saved–as condominiums. Like the buyboats, the industries that supported them have also dwindled.
Tuesday morning we waited as first the military vessels and then the tall ships were blessed and departed.
We joined the parade along with the Muriel Eileen following the Godspeed at about 9:00am.
Our journey home was made a little more exciting by the strong winds that greeted us on the bay. The tide was against us, the 20 knot winds were behind us, and the 5-6 foot swells made the journey interesting. The tall ships headed out to the Baltimore Channel and as they put up their sails became distant reminders of what the bay looked like a century ago. We made good time, and were glad to be home before it really started storming.