37:32.9N 76:19.7W What's in a Name?

Madeleine and Martin
Tue 18 Jun 2013 19:34
Finding out afterwards that our brush with a wind storm on the way to the Chesapeake had been upgraded by NOAA to hurricane “Andrea” – the first of the year – was a bit of a disappointment. How can one revel in a “named wind storm” if no one tells you! On second thoughts perhaps it was just as well that we didn’t know.............
The Chesapeake is named as a Bay but it is BIG. 200 miles long and up to 40 miles wide in places it should really be a Sea rather than a Bay. Anyway, having crossed the Chesapeake Bay bridge tunnel – where it isn’t a bridge, its a tunnel – we joined the queue of shipping heading for Norfolk – that is the city of Norfolk, Virginia which is to be found on the Elizabeth River.  It all sounds very English until you start to pass the serried ranks of US navy warships; cruisers, destroyers, submarines, all manner of auxiliaries and of course the mammoth floating cities, aka aircraft carriers. This is followed by row after row of dockside cranes loading and unloading container ships of every hue and provenance. Quite a place.
A quiet night at anchor in the Lafayette River, trust the French to lower the tone, gave us the strength to tackle US Customs and Immigration. In the event it was a pushover, much form filling using carbon paper (“it’s the cutbacks”) the entry fee of $19 (which necessitated a trip to Starbucks to get the right change) and we were off back to September with Officer Little in tow – she who had to inspect the contents of our fridge, freezer and fruit bowl. As all of the fruit and veg in the Bahamas originates in the US, this was another easy win. This warm welcome was quickly overtaken by the thunder, lightening and apocalyptic rain. Still no need to wash the salt off the boat – welcome to the ultimate service economy! Downtown Norfolk is “safe and clean” according to the brochure – so safe that you can call this number to get a complimentary guard to accompany you to your car, venue etc. When we told the tourist info lady that we were going to walk to a venue –“You do NOT want to walk THERE” she said sternly, “You’ll take a cab!” “Safe” clearly has a number of different meanings.
The USS Wisconsin is one of the world’s last surviving Battleships. Finished in 1943 she was already an anachronism courtesy of the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbour which demonstrated to the American Navy of the day that aircraft carriers were the new top dogs. Wisconsin is parked in her permanent floating dock at the end of one of Norfolk’s main streets with her forward guns pointed at City Hall – not that this has improved the service according to our taxi driver! We took the conducted tour of this behemoth; fascinating in its 1940’s grandeur (partially updated in the 1980s) and came away filled with useless statistics – the main armament throws a projectile weighing the same as a VW Beetle 20 plus miles; when first launched she had a compliment of 2700 men and marines etc etc
We retired up Bay to the East River which runs off Mobjack Bay. As beautiful, as serene and as simply green as Norfolk had been, well, awesome. We anchored in the mouth of a little tributary called Put In Creek overlooked by the occasional splendid colonial style house with mirror smooth grass gliding down to the waters edge. We decided to Stay Put In for a couple of days but it turned out that “Put in” was thus named for a reason. About 5 in the afternoon we noticed the black clouds approaching and before the hatches could be closed we could see the curtain of water boiling off the river. Two minutes later you couldn’t see a thing; we were picked up by the wind and dumped unceremoniously on the edge of the channel dragging one large anchor and 20 meters of chain; heroic efforts in the stinging rain got us off the putty and back in the main river and away from Put In. Suddenly all was calm again, the view and the Osprey returned; the sun came out. Clearly we should have understood that Put In did not mean Stay Put! This was our first experience of the weather phenomena known as a “Chesapeake Duster” -
and doubtless there will be more to come.
And so up the Piankatank river, so named by a local Indian Chief in the 1500s meaning “crooked”, and down the channel of Jackson Creek (which is incredibly narrow and what else – oh yes – shallow),  to our new home port of Deltaville. This is a gathering of boat businesses and home to 800 people in the winter and 3000 plus in the summer. Deltaville itself is a gaggle of houses, churches and “consignment shops” spread out along a main road, Route 33. There is no centre as such but somehow it all seems to fit together in a relaxed, distinctly unhurried, rural and riverfront kind of way. Instantly relaxing. There are no taxis – the local restaurant sends a car to collect you from one of the dozen or so marinas that surround the peninsular, and delivers you home again afterwards. Our marina supplies a swimming pool, bicycles and a courtesy car for shopping – all part of the service. It’s going to be hard to move on.
You probably haven’t heard of Deltaville. It is suggested by the pilot book that Deltaville has avoided mention in the history books (or anywhere else) by changing its name regularly. It has been known as Union, Unionville, and then Sandy Bottom until the early 1900s. That is when it formally changed its name to Delta only to be informed by the U.S. Postal Service that the name had already been taken by a town in the Virginia mountains, hence the rather sad addition of “ville”. That’s a worry. Does that sound French to you? Still what’s in a name!
[Home again his week so normal blog/service will be resumed sometime in August.]