Antigua to Norfolk VA - last post

Stravaig'n the Blue
Fri 21 May 2021 19:38
Position: 36:50.4 N  076:17.35 W (Waterside Marina, Norfolk, VA)
Position timestamp: Wednesday 19 May 2021 13:30 UTC-4

We tied up at Waterside Marina at 13:30 on Wednesday, a little over 10 days after leaving Antigua.

Passage stats
  • distance travelled: 1494 NM (vs 1433 shortest route so less than 5% extra)
  • time at sea: 243.5 hours (10 days 3.5 hours)
  • average speed: 6.1 knots (vs planning assumption of 6.25)
  • maximum speed: 11.7 knots (no idea when that was)
  • engine hours: 93.5 (38.4% of the time, much more than anticipated)
  • diesel used: 470 litres approx
  • watermaker production: 280 litres
  • satellite phone minutes used: 69
  • fish caught: none (I wasn’t fishing - having landed a 7kg King Mackerel a week before setting off, the freezer was full)
Here are a few screenshots of our route in.  The first one shows us 40 NM (45 miles) east of Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. From the ship’s log book I can see that we were there at 8pm on Tuesday evening. This was the point at which our AIS position (which gets transmitted every 30 seconds) was first picked up by a US coastal base station. 45 miles is very good. And of course, Kitty Hawk is near where the Wright brothers made the first controlled powered flights on December 17th 1903.

This screenshot shows our path along the Virginia coast from Virginia Beach and Cape Henry at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay to Hampton and then down into Norfolk and Portsmouth. The two white lines that we cross are bridge tunnels, bridges at either ends, a tunnel in the middle.

This last screenshot shows our final approach down the Elizabeth River and into Waterside Marina on the Norfolk Side.

I tried to register our intended arrival into Norfolk with US Customs & Border Protection using their ROAM app while still in Antigua but the notification was rejected because “The trip was submitted too far from US borders”. I tried again when just past Cape Henry but this was rejected because “Your location cannot be determined”. So I phoned CBP to notify them of our arrival when we got to the marina only to be told to try the ROAM app once again using the marina’s wifi. That arrival submission was rejected because of “network connectivity problems”. So I phoned CBP again to explain what had happened and was passed up the line to a supervisor who was able to establish that our personal credentials had never been properly verified when I installed ROAM and that was the reason the arrival notifications were being rejected. No clue to that in the rejection messages!

So, instead of being processed using FaceTime or Skype, we did things the old way. Two CBP officers came down to the marina at about 6pm, scanned our passports to populate their systems, took our index finger finger-prints (electronically, no messy ink), took mug shots, and then stamped our passports, entry good for six months.

The next day I took a short walk to the rather fine Owen B. Pickett U.S. Custom House, built in 1850 from Maine granite, where I registered the boat’s arrival with CBP and obtained a one year cruising license, $19 all told.

Waterside Marina is on the Elizabeth River in downtown Norfolk. Note how the Customs House is dwarfed by the more recent buildings.

The marina is opposite Portsmouth and at mile zero of the section of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) that runs from here all of the way to Key West in Florida. Many boaters and a lot of commercial barge traffic prefer the ICW over the open ocean route for safety reasons and the ability to stop overnight despite the extra distances involved (the ICW does meander) and the slower pace. Most of the other boats in the marina are snowbirds, making their way north after a winter in the Florida sun.

Also across from the marina are naval dry docks and refit centre which seems to run 24*7 but is sufficiently far away not to be a nuisance. This photo illustrates the futility of trying to hide a warship, no matter how big a sheet of plastic wrap you have.

Norfolk’s naval heritage is celebrated in this social distancing poster.

After the engine’s MDI started playing up on the way here, I had been exchanging emails with a Volvo Penta agent in Norfolk to check availability and pricing. Initially the news wasn’t very good. A newer version of the MDI unit was available but the wiring harness that went with it needed to be shipped from Europe. And the cost would be around $2000 including fitting. Ouch. But the agent has since discovered that the faulty MDI unit is subject to a recall notice and VP are going supply it and the harness free of charge and pay for the installation. The parts are all on order and should be here before the Memorial Day / late Spring bank holiday weekend. 

The last word today is again on socks. A few days ago the sartorial inelegance of me wearing longish socks with shorts and deck shoes was pointed out. Imagine my surprise then to find that regulation attire for the dockhands here at the marina is exactly that. But I do agree it’s not a great look. 

I’ve gone through the blog posts, corrected a few points here and there, added some photos, deleted the duplicate Day 6 and added the missing Day 8.  Thanks for tuning in. 

All is well.