I suspected I was in trouble when I saw the crowd at the Virginia Wine Festival at Norfolk's Town Point Park. Then I knew I was in trouble when I saw all the expensive boats, both power and sail, filling up the Waterside marina.
After sailing all day Saturday I called the marina on the radio and asked if they had room for me. Long pause.....then yes they had room.....but with the wine fest the per foot rate was at a premium and boats had to pay for at least a two-night stay. "Come back, Spartina" I heard. "Hold on, I'm doing some math in my head." A few rough numbers and I realized that the night would cost me nearly $100 instead of the usual $25. "I'll take it." Ouch.
I've had my good luck with slip fees over the years. The guys in Beaufort cut me a little slack just a couple of weeks ago. Onancock wharf gave me a free slip one night, then I rafted up with my friend Maria's three sail bateau the next. The Sultana Project is giving me two nights at a prime spot on waterfront in Chestertown for the Downrigging Weekend. So it all evens out.
But then again, as I walked from the ramp parking lot to Waterside Marina this morning I began thinking about what I was really getting, above and beyond the beautiful moon in the predawn sky.
What I got was a sail with my friend and colleague Aaron and his three year old son Monroe. Monroe first sailed with us a little over a year ago, miserable in his life jack and afraid of the tilting decks and flapping sails. This time he was loving every minute on the water.
I saw Spartina, tied up in the thick of the schooners from the race down the bay, looking as if she belonged there.
There were the schooners themselves, along with the friends I've made over the years with their captains and crews.
Plus the little dingy, the same one I photographed a few years ago at Fells Point in Baltimore before the start of the race.
Greetings and compliments were shouted across the water with the schooner Adventurer out of Washington D.C.
And I got to watch as my friend Barry enjoyed the scenery, shooting video and stills, and talking about boats, books, friends and ideas.
Then there were the friendly waves and glasses raised in a cheerful toast as we made several passes by the Schooner Virginia, the second prettiest boat on the water today.
And the delight of sailing with the my daughters, the original crew of Spartina.
So maybe I wasn't really paying for dockage last night. I was paying a hundred bucks for something that was priceless....and the slip was thrown in for free.