A party around the bonfire
We woke up this morning to a lovely calm day. The night had been so still that it was easy to forget that we were on a boat atall, let alone one at anchor. Kali was still feeling brave and wanted to dive to free the net and the conditions were perfect for it so we proceeded to get ready for the attempt.
Kali dug all the dive gear out of the locker - she has a good wetsuit, mask and snorkel but no air tanks so she was going to have to try to get us free in short bursts. She'd last seen all the gear in Oban in Scotland where she'd gone to get it so we knew it fitted her. Even so, it took a while to get everything ready, get the torch to work, find the right knife and get her kitted out and comfortable. Kali remembered getting herself a hood but couldn't find it which I thought was pretty bad news. She still wanted to dive but I thought at the time that our chances had just decreased by about half. In the end, she just put a hat on but I don't think that made much difference and the water was only 5 degrees Centigrade so barely above freezing really.
We still had the net tied to the midships cleat on the starboard side and I think Kali was surprised how frightening it was diving with that much net hanging around. I put tension on the line while she cut the majority of it away and it felt great hauling it onboard Saxon Blue and stuffing it straight into a bin bag so it couldn't snag on anything else. As I'd guessed last night, the net was caught around the propellor and, particularly, around the rope cutter just behind it.
Kali dived again with another line which she threaded through the remaining net so I could put some tension on that bit. Bill operated a fender so that she had something to hang onto and rest each time she came up for air. After a few trips below, I pulled in the line again with another chunk of net with a couple of floats attached. There were still a few small pieces of line wrapped around the prop but Kali soon had them chopped off and then that was it - we were free.
It was a successful job but still took a long time and Kali looked very cold by the time she got out. We helped her out of the gear and down below for a hot shower while Andrea prepared a hot water bottle and cup of hot cocoa for her. We thought about staying where we were but it would have left us a very long day to get down to Norfolk tomorrow so, in the end, we decided to get a few miles in but not stay out too long. In the event, it was a totally calm day so we just motored along looking at all the ducks sitting on the water. We passed a couple of groups of angling boats and that was about it. The lack of wind coupled with a bit of cloud cover made it seem much warmer than yesterday so Bill and I were almost sunbathing in our full winter gear.
After lunch, Andrea cooked a delicious-smelling fish pie and then we were approaching the Piankatank River where I intended to take us into a marina around the back of a peninsula. Kali suggested that we use a closer harbour which I'd dismissed earlier as being too shallow but, on second look, it seemed just about doable so we decided to give it a go. The entrance is one of those strange ones where it looks like you're heading up the beach before turning sharply along the seafront - very like Beaulieu. Anyway, we didn't have much spare water but enough and the whole place is really pretty. There was one spare hammerhead pier at the small marina so we rigged up all the fender boards and came alongside.
It turns out that it was party night in Deltaville. The boatyard where we're staying were getting ready for a barbeque come outdoor party and the town were organising trips around the bay on a boat to let everyone see all the Christmas lights and decorations. We used the last hour of daylight to go for a walk to the local museum which was closed but had a great time walking through the woods. We were going to eat Andrea's fish pie for dinner but Kali had got us invited to the boatyard party and rumour had it that the food was going to be impressive. We decided to leave the pie for tomorrow so Andrea sorted herself out with some veggie food on Saxon Blue in case there wasn't any at the party (in the event, there was but better to be sure). Kali, Bill and I got stuck into the party fare which Bill reckons was about as Southern as it's possible for food to be.
They had Boston Butt (the back end of a pig, hot smoked for 6 hours), Corn Bread with peppers, Deep-fried whole Turkey and Chicken, raw Oysters (I actually ate one for the first time ever - not bad), steamed Oysters (I ate two of those but I think the raw one was better), Pecan Pie, salads, spicy sausages, cakes, and so on and on. It really was a feast. In the middle of it all, they had a massive bonfire giving off enough heat to keep us all toasty - oh, and a huge cooler full of beers. All the workers from the yard were there with their partners and about a dozen people from boats so it was a good crowd. Andrea came along carrying a bottle of Prosecco which she shared with anyone who held still long enough so we ended up chatting to loads of people, most of them from other boats.
One lovely couple live for much of the time on a catamarran which is on the dock in front of Saxon Blue, another couple have their boat in the yard and they're about to fly back home to Germany for a couple of months. A great guy called Tom entertained us with stories about Boston and his trips up and down the US East Coast. Bill got stuck into opening the steamed oysters for everyone and ate about half his bodyweight in Boston Butt. He seemed to feel right at home and I wouldn't be surprised to find him coming back to Deltaville in the future.
As we walked back to Saxon Blue, Andrea and I could see the crescent moon overhead in a field of brilliant stars. All around the shoreline were houses with their trees full of fairy lights. The boat taking trips around the harbour was steaming slowly past, lit from stem to stern with more fairy lights. It's so idyllic and so different from the frantic big-city life that you'd associate with the US East Coast. Altogether, a very memorable day.
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