Thursday…four days ago. It feels like a couple weeks ago, but it has only been four days. We spent the days in the run-up to Thursday preparing the boat to leave our slip (well, actually, our friend, Robert's slip) in Hopewell, Virginia, where we spent the last two months working on the boat, installing Robert's gifted generator into Stinkpot, and waiting for the right time to get underway. We determined a week earlier that the right time would be July 1st after consulting tide calculators. Doing so would allow us to ride the outflowing tide almost all the way down the James River to Hampton in one day—it would peter out around Jamestown around 1PM, but then the tide would change there and give us another push all the way to Hampton before petering out again when we arrived at the mouth of the river.
We did a last grocery store run and then moved our car to our next destination with the help of Robert's Jeep. We got the boat ready and scrubbed a month's worth of spider poop off and ejected the eight-legged web-artists responsible for it. We put all the tools away, and stowed all the spare parts. Still planning on a Friday departure, Wednesday we decided to move up our departure to Thursday. We were ready, and the plan was to anchor out at a nearby swimming hole where I'd dive on the hull and see what kind of condition our sacrificial anodes were in before we ran down into the saltwater of Chesapeake Bay. By Wednesday evening, I looked at the tides again and realized we'd have our "good run" all the way to Hampton a day earlier than the models had said a week before. We changed our plans.
Thursday morning rolled around and Robert showed up early at the marina to see us off. Hugs and handshakes all around and we cast off with Robert telling us to look for him waving when we come onto the James River.
We pulled out of the slip and made our way to the marina's black water pump-out dock to take care of a little business first. We started the process and the nozzle dripped this viscous mess all over our clean deck and on Stacey's pant leg. This is not an uncommon occurrence when using this kind of equipment, but usually the drips are human waste which rinses right off with a water hose. Spoiler Alert: this stuff didn't.
We started pumping (the machine still worked fine), and started to clean the mess while it we offloaded our "cargo." This was when we realized that the "mess" was oily. Someone had used the pump-out machine to clean the sludge out of a fuel tank—at least that is the only hypothesis I can come up with to explain the mess it made. Whatever it was, it was pumped into Hopewell's sewage system, which can't possibly be a good thing.
Pumped out and cleaned up, we started our way out to the James River to pick up our predicted current. We came around City Point and took our last looks at Hopewell, and there was Robert as promised, standing on top of an oil tank and waving at us. Stacey took his picture while Robert took ours. You can barely make him out on the oil tank, but Stinkpot looked great underway in his shot.
It felt great to be underway again! As predicted, we had the current pushing us for about 4 hours. About the time it petered out, we were just south of Jamestown and we dropped anchor in Cobham Bay to wait for the tide to turn about 2 hours later. While we were there, I pulled on my swim trunks, strapped on a diving mask and proceeded to give Stinkpot a quick once-over to make sure she was in good shape below the waterline. The last time I looked, was right before we launched in Maine for the summer of 2021. The water was not very clear. To wit, I could not see my hand in front of my face, so "copped a feel," and the year-old Navalloy anodes right in front of me were crumbling under my touch. They were, spent.
Anodes protect the metal parts of the boat underwater from galvanic corrosion, and without them electrical currents in the water will "eat" propellers, rudders, and such, via a process called galvanic corrosion. Without turning a blog post into a chemistry class, anodes are made of a metal that will corrode before the bronze and stainless steel that our underwater bits are made from, so keeping them fresh is very important—especially in saltwater, which is an electrolytic solution. Not such a big deal way up the James River where the water has no salinity—I'm sure our nearly-spent anodes were just enough up there, but the closer we got to the ocean, the more important it became to change them out.
I immediately began contacting divers in the Hampton Roads/Portsmouth/Norfolk, VA area. Only one got back to me, and only to say that he didn't work in that area (though Google disagreed with him, apparently). Again, Robert to the rescue, when I told him about our anodes, he gave me the number for Justin, the diver he uses. I called and Justin Friday morning he said he'd try to get a colleague out to us ASAP, and if all else failed, he'd come himself on Monday. Having anchored Thursday evening in Hampton at a favorite anchorage, while we were ashore enjoying dinner at a local tavern, Justin texted me and said he had someone coming to help us first thing in the morning.
We finished our dinner and returned to the boat for the evening and started scheming how we'd find a dock for him to do the work. We decided to just take our chances and use the Hampton City Docks. 8AM the next morning, my phone buzz with a text, and it was our diver, Christian, telling me he was on his way and would be meeting us in 30 minutes. I told him to meet us at the City Docks and we quickly raised anchor and started chugging in that direction, about 1/4 mile away. While I drove, Stacey called the dockmaster, and after a little phone tag, he gave us permission to dock. It all came together. Diver arrived and changed our anodes. We sent payment via Venmo—very reasonable too. By 10:30AM we were underway, to where we did not know.
After a bunch of indecision, and given that we had a good following tidal current, breeze, and 2-foot chop pushing us up the bay, we decided to run until we wore out the push, which we estimated to be about Deltaville, VA, which proved to be correct. About the time we started to get near the mouth of the Piankatank River, we noticed our speed starting to slow. We pulled into Jackson Creek and dropped anchor. We dropped the dinghy and did a little exploring of the creek as the day waned and spent a very peaceful night in this familiar anchorage—we anchored here before in spring of 2020, while we were cruising home to Maine after finishing the Great Loop. At the time, we did not go ashore because it was early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sunday morning, I woke, made coffee, and emailed the nearby yacht club, Fishing Bay Yacht Club to ask about spending the night of the 4th on a dock instead of leaving ourselves out in the open on the hook where revelers surely would be careening around us on jetskis and pulling screaming children on floating, inflatable toys behind power boats. I happened to mention in the email that I'd gladly play a show in exchange for such a courtesy. At about 1:30PM, our boat phone rang (What? You don't have a "boat phone?"). It was Brian, the General Manager of the yacht club, inviting us to dock for as long as we'd like to stay, enjoy the club's evening cookout, and entertain the waiting masses. I accepted his offer to both dock and perform, and said we'd be over right after we dinghied over to the local maritime museum and park for a walk around the grounds, which is exactly what we did.
As I am writing, it is Monday, July 4, and we are still enjoying this beautiful spot on the club's t-head pier. Tomorrow we plan to drop lines and head to Tangier Island, which we have been told is a must-visit place. We'll let you know….
say it is an engineering marvel that it happened at all. The generator weighs 505 lbs. and needed to be lifted into the boat, laid on its side, moved over two feet, and then stood up into position by rolling it 90°. Robert owns a welding shop and made a makeshift, Stinkpot-sized gantry crane out of scrap steel that performed flawlessly. Everyone should have a friend like Robert!
2. I'm the father of a college graduate. My son completed a bachelor's degree with a major in film making from Lesley University, which I traveled north to witness. No sooner had the wheels of the plane hit touched down, my phone rang with the news that he had just tested positive for COVID-19 and would not be taking part in his own graduation ceremonies. I visited with friends in Maine and Massachusetts, as planned, and drove my own car from Maine back to Virginia to give Stacey and me wheels for the summer.
3. Stinkpot continues to show her age, and we continue to stay on top of systems failures as they happen. What have I fixed recently (other than installing our new-to-us generator)? Well, air conditioners. Both of them. We have managed to keep cool and comfortable during the warm weather, but it required that I add HVAC technician to my list of skills. In this case, it was a failed start/run capacitor on our salon A/C unit and a corroded connector on our stateroom A/C unit.
4. We have become adept at ordering from Amazon without an address, using "Amazon Lockers" and "Amazon Hub Counters." We've been using a counter at a RiteAid Pharmacy nearby. Strangely, there are some items on Amazon that we simply cannot order here, which we've found enormously odd. We had no idea that geography was an issue when ordering from Amazon, but apparently it is.
5. Stinkpot is DIRTY. We are in a covered slip, which keeps the sun from baking us, but I have never in all my days seen so many spiders and other insects in one place. Fortunately, there do not seem to be a lot of biting insects, but I have been pressure washing weekly, and within a day of doing so, she's covered in webs again. It's a nearly pointless, perpetual pursuit. The worst part is the spider poop. It's harder to remove than gull crap, leaving the captain to frequently utter, "This is bull****!"
Other than that, we are status normal and just waiting for a few upgrades to be complete—the generator is functioning, but we still haven't connected the remote start and gauges. Once everything is done, we'll be scheduling our departure and figuring out how to relocate our car to wherever we'll end up next. If you happen to be somewhere in southeastern Virginia and want to help us move our car, drop us a line….
Our next post will come after we've arrived at our next stop. Stay tuned!
Both of our alternators had failed, so we were very dependent on our little Honda EU2000 generator to keep batteries charged, as daylight (we also charge batteries with solar panels) was getting scarce for the approaching winter. I knew I'd need to upgrade and rewire while I was replacing the alternators, which would take a lot of back and forth to auto parts stores and chandleries (marine stores), so I put it off until we had ready access to wheels, and as it turned out, that was here.
from Westerbeke generators (original equipment on Stinkpot) to Onan generators, and that difference means modifications. So here we are, buying and borrowing tools, ordering parts, and making the most of Robert's genuine and generous hospitality.
after which I will be flying back to New England in a couple of weeks to watch my son, Kieran, graduate from Lesley University.
To wit, the plan is that I will leave Stacey here at the boat, fly one-way, into Portland, Maine, where my good buddy, Steve, will pick me up at the airport. I'll spend a day or two with he and his wife, Leah, while I get my car, which has been parked in their garage all winter, ready for a trip south. I will then drive to Medford, Massachusetts to impose upon some other dear friends, Jeanne and Charlie, for a few days whilst the graduation and other related (and unrelated) festivities happen. Finally, I will put myself behind the wheel for the long trip from Beantown to Stinkpot back here in Hopewell, at which point we'll decide what's next for Stinkpot.
As of this writing, we plan to be cruising Chesapeake Bay for the summer. I might play some gigs here and there, and there will also be some online concerts from the boat as we go. Where around the Chesapeake Bay region would you like to see Stinkpot drop anchor? Let us know in the comments.