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 flood tide, 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, and 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 launched 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….