Monday, June 8, 2015


The river yesterday was full.  Full of boats, being the weekend of Norfolk's largest waterfront festival.  Full of sunshine, with a brilliant clear sky.  Full of wind, an incredibly consistent east breeze that brought cool dry air, pushing away the heat and humidity that should be here this time of year.  And for me, yesterday, the river was full of memories.

My two favorite boats in the anchorage were cruisers who just happened to find themselves in the middle of the festival.  Above is MOONSTONE OF ABERDOUR out of London, England, a Victory 40 and a very fine looking ketch.  And below is the equally beautiful ANANDA out of Marblehead, Massachusetts, a Cherubini 44.  There were lots of local boats - sailboats, power boats and pontoon boats out for the party - but I could not help but make several passes to enjoy these two cruisers.

I found my memories as I sailed by the Kalmar Nyckel.  I have seen her on the waterfront several times and shared tacks with her on the Chester River, but yesterday I suddenly recalled that she was on the Elizabeth River nine years ago this very week when, with a visiting brother and my Dad's picture tacked to the coaming, we poured champagne on Spartina's bow launched her for the first time ever.  Out on the river, trying to adjust the lines and set sails, I looked up to see the Kalmar Nyckel as if she was there to welcome the newly launched yawl.

Sailing down the waterfront I passed the American Rover and turned the corner to find the tugantine Norfolk Rebel.  A tugantine? you say.  Yes, a sail assisted tug boat, conceived and built during the oil shortage of the late 1970s.  I am glad to say that I was friends with the captain of the tug, the late great Lane Briggs, being brought on board as guest for Lane's last sail down the bay in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.  It was a wonderful interesting sail, with Lane sharing everything from his life stories to, as he said, "a spot o' tea" at dawn in the galley (that's rum to you and me).  

Beyond the Rebel in the otter berth were two large sailing ships.  At right is the US Coast Guard Barque Eagle, which I have been aboard but have not sailed on.  And to the left is the Brazilian tall ship Cisne Branco, which I sailed on from Charleston, South Carolina to Norfolk too many years ago.  I remember a wonderful crew, exotic meals and fantastic sailing as we crashed through deep blue waters a hundred miles off the Carolina coast.

Yesterday's east wind allowed us to sail the first part of the gauntlet between the shipyards and dry-docks and security boats down the southern branch back to the ramp.  While adjusting the sails I glanced ahead and notice the ship in the dry dock with the number "5" on her island.  It was the Bataan, the ship I lived aboard for three weeks while visiting Haiti just after the tragic earthquake in 2010.  I recalled a shattered nation, sailors and marines working long shifts, MRE's, heat and diesel fumes and noisy engines, helicopters and small rubber boats, and children standing in villages with the earth cracked beneath their feet.

It was a beautiful day a sailing, but also a day full of memories, one that left me wondering how or why I ever found my way to get to know, and sometimes be a part of, the waterfront.  I can't answer the how or why, I'm just glad it happened.


JimB said...


MaryLou said...

Nice post. Photos, memories and the way you describe them. Thanks.

Steve said...

Life can be interesting, can't it.....

JimB said...

Yes it can. Connecting the dots.