Through Coinjock on to Portsmouth & Norfolk - in position 36:50.48N, 076:17.93W

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Sat 13 Jun 2009 19:55
We left our overnight anchorage at Buck Island later than planned as there was no electrical power on the port engine switch panel with which to power the engine up with. Plenty of volts down at the engine but none getting back to the panel to activate the starter solenoid when the ignition key was turned and the button pressed on the cockpit panel. It was rather fortunate that we hadn't needed to use the engine during the previous nights "gusty front" activity. The fault was eventually traced to a fuse holder which had presumably suffered from engine vibration.
Once underway we called in at Coinjock a small place on the waterway to take on more fuel and buy a chart book of the Chesapeake. Then, after a pleasant stop at Great Bridge overnight we motored the last 10 miles towards Norfolk, going through one lock with a 1' drop, and numerous opening road and rail bridges. As we approached this large city the rural scenery we had become used to over many days gave way to river-side industry, including shipbreaking.  The town of.Portsmouth is situated on the river opposite Norfolk Very confusing if you were discussing these two places and didn't explain that you were in the USA. There are of course other Portsmouths and other Norfolks in the USA but we were still in Virginia where there also happens to be a Gosport and an Isle of Wight to confuse matters even more. Portsmouth Virginia is home to a large Naval Hospital which has been treating military personnel since the Civil War, but unlike Portsmouth UK, it doesn't have a naval shipping prescience, that's all on the Norfolk side.
We  tied up at the Tidewater Yacht Marina,  a pleasant stop with good facilities, including a very welcome medium sized swimming pool set into one of the floating pontoons. Unfortunately, like many of the marinas we seem to put into, the internet access onboard was almost non-existent,  despite there being a booster Ariel just yards from the boat. Whenever you complain the excuse is either that they are having trouble with the system, its being fixed the next day (after we are gone) or that you'll get it just fine if you hang, computer in hand upside down from the top of your mast after office closing hours. In this case, needing to get a form back to our insurers we gave up and used the spare marina office computer, which should really have been in a museum.
As we had arrived in Portsmouth around midday we had time to explore. We visited the Portsmouth Visitor Information Centre which was close by the marina and collected some information ready to undertake a quick walk round the historic part of the town. The locals of course loved to hear that we were from their sister city in good ol' England and we soon discovered what beautiful gift England's Portsmouth had presented to Virginia's Portsmouth - A red telephone box!  That must have really taken some boffin in the PR Department in Guildhall Sq a long time to think about, after all, they are hardly unique to Portsmouth UK are they. Well this box is certainly unique to Portsmouth Virginia and they are so proud of it they seemed to have hidden it away somewhere where we could never have found it. Not that we looked that hard. We did however call into the Naval Shipyard Museum which depicted Portsmouth's role in the area since early times.
The old part of the town was very pretty and tranquil, with original properties dating back hundreds of years. However, the High Street where most of the shops were is struggling to keep business and many units are lying empty. Also in the high street was a 1940's cinema, recently restored and still boasting a full service dining restaurant. We glanced through the doors and noted it had the carpet typical of cinemas of that period, featuring a faded pattern. There was also the original ticket box office situated outside the main doors. Star Trek was showing and in it's last week.
Across the waterfront, Norfolk towers over it's near neighbour, with high rise office buildings on the skyline and of course the largest Naval facility in the USA, stretching for miles along the river. We didn't get over to Norfolk this time but will call in there on the way back down especially to visit the Battleship Wisconsin which is preserved and open to the public. (Nikki's really looking forward to that)!!! But for now we need to press on into the Chesapeake, and we were almost there!