Pandora in Hampton VA for the Cruiser’s Rendezvous

Najībābād On Friday we did a bit of backtracking from Norfolk where we had spent a few days to Hampton for the much anticipated Hampton Cruiser’s Weekend.  Several locals, some involved with SSCA, a group that Brenda and I are members of, are putting on a terrific event to attract cruisers headed south for the winter.  The goal is to encourage folks headed south for the winter to visit Hampton.  It seems that many boats just keep going when they enter the Newport News area and pass right by Hampton.

Jhālrapātan I am very impressed with what the planning folks did to make this first event a success with discounted dock space at only $.75 a foot per night and, believe it or not, sponsored cocktail parties and even meals compliments of local merchants and town government.  Wow!

Friday night’s opening reception, included free drinks, two per person and free food, if you can believe it, I learned that there were some 40 boats signed up for the event.  Pretty amazing for a first year.

In planning our rendezvous in Essex last June, I can’t say that I had even a thought of going to the local government and asking for funds to encourage folks to visit. Actually, I don’t expect that would work very well as Essex isn’t particularly focused on bringing in outsiders and seems pretty happy with the tourists that stop there already.   Besides, I am not sure that I have quite enough energy to pull something off that’s so elaborate with everything else I have on my plate.  Besides, as they say “I’d rather be sailing”.

All I want is for folks to visit a nice spot on LI Sound, Essex, and enjoy the company of other cruisers.  Having said that, folks on the SSCA board would like our event to grow so adding more activities to our weekend in June probably needs to happen.  I guess I’ll work on that while I am home over the holidays.  Perhaps I need to put an alarm in my phone calendar to prompt me out of cruiser’s mode when I return from Florida in early November.  Yeah, a loud piercing ring on my phone with a note saying “Bob, think about the SSCA Gam in June!” would get me in the mood and snap me into action.   Perhaps.

Our stay in Hampton will be extended as we plan on leaving Pandora for a few days while we head back north by car for the funeral of my late uncle, my father’s brother, who passed away after a long illness.   Brenda and I really want to be there so we have rented a car and will leave Sunday for the 10 hour drive to CT and back.  The service is on Monday so we expect to be back to Pandora on Tuesday.  With luck, we will be able to continue our voyage on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.   We will have to make a stop at our home in Essex first as we don’t have anything but jeans and casual clothes aboard.  Super casual is fine for someone who’s in cruiser’s mode, but not so good for a funeral.  

Perhaps I will have a few hours to clear the yard of leaves while I am home.   Now, that would be fun.  NOT!!!  Have I mentioned that we have a LARGE yard?  What ever happened to “downsizing”?  I guess we missed the memo.

In the time we were anchored in Norfolk we saw one massive ship after another pass us by.  The harbor is teeming night and day with ships arriving and departing at all hours.   Ironically, the largest ship we saw while we were there, in spite of the huge naval presence, was a cruise ship.  It’s hard to describe just how big these babies are and to see them dock without the aid of tugs, using their bow and stern thrusters, is a sight to behold.  As if moving one of these behemoths onto a dock in the wind and in very tight quarters isn’t enough, they do it in the dark.  It’s sort of like watching someone dock an office building, no make that two or three office buildings stacked on top of each other.  These ships move from port to port at night so that the passengers can enjoy the sights of the various ports during the day. Makes sense but certainly must keep the crew busy.

I have been trying to find a way to illustrate just how big these ships are and as we left the anchorage yesterday, I had my answer.   This cruise ship was moored along side of the WWII era battleship Wisconsin, on the left, now a museum ship in Norfolk.  Just see how downright diminutive the cruise ship makes a battle ship look?  When it was built in the 50s, it was one of the largest ships in the Navy.  How times have changed.  I guess it takes a lot of room to house, and FEED, all those passengers.  Big ships for big passengers.  “I think I’ll visit the buffet again honey…”

Speaking of navy, we visited the museum “Nauticus” while we were in town and were very impressed.  The museum includes interactive exhibits about the history of the area, an IMAX theater and the WWII battleship.  And, the ship is very well maintained.   In spite of the fact that today’s ships pack far more firepower, the Wisconsin is still quite a sight.   Her guns could lob 16″ shells, that weigh as much as a VW, for miles.  Later in her career she was outfitted with cruise missiles and fired quite a few in the Desert Storm conflict.  She had a very long commissioned life from the early 40s until the 90s.   To stand on her forward deck and look at the huge guns was awe inspiring. A lot of grey paint, something like 350,000 lbs of it, we were told.

The Navy has some big ships too, including the aircraft carriers.  These troop carriers probably can house even more passengers than a cruise ship but I am guessing with a lot less comfort.  “Wait, where’s my balcony?”While we were in Norfolk we also went to a movie in a great old time dinner theater.   We were sitting in our cockpit having an evening cocktail and a couple from a nearby boat stopped by and invited us to join them to go to a movie.  The theater was a spectacular old time building but with a very modern projection and sound system.  The Commodore Theater interior was classic Art Deco and each patron was seated in a plush swivel chair.  What a great time.  Here’s the two happy couples as photographed by a very enthusiastic theater owner.  While this photo doesn’t begin to do justice to the room, you can get a feel for how it looked.  Each table had it’s own light that was dimmed from a a common control panel and there was a phone on each table to place your order.  Very nice indeed.  The Commodore will certainly be on our “must do” itinerary for next year. Almost forgot.   The movie was Captain Phillips and it was particularly interesting to see a movie about the hijacking of a container ship as there are loads of them in the harbor.  

Each year there is a late season schooner race from Annapolis down the bay.  It’s a big deal and the regatta concludes in Norfolk.  While we were headed back to Hampton we passed a number of them along the way.  The Pride of Baltimore II is a particular favorite.  Oh yeah, I should also mention that my foul weather gear was waiting for me at the Hampton visitor’s center, compliments of our son Rob as planned.   I also became the proud owner of a “smart voltage regulator” from Hamilton Ferris that I was able to successfully install.  I have to say that, as simple as it was to install, It took me several hours to pull out the old unit and strip out unneeded wires from the old system.  I also needed a bit of hand holding from “Ham” himself, the owner of the Hamilton Ferris company (Ham owns Hamilton? Get it?  Pretty clever.), to be sure that I wasn’t screwing things up.  He patiently walked me through the process.   It took some time to get it installed and to check and recheck that I had done it right, it’s now working swimmingly.  

Pandora’s batteries will once again thank me now that the engine can charge things up smartly as we motor along.  When you need your next piece of electronic equipment, especially if you are looking for something with blinking red lights, I heartily endorse Hamilton Ferris .  I have purchased items from them off and on over the years and was impressed to see how much they have grown since I placed my last order.  It seems that they are now big into alternative energy for homes too.  I guess that they have taken advantage of the increased interest in alternative energy.

As I finish this post on Sunday morning we are headed up to CT and are right now on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel.  (No, I am not blogging and driving. Not a good idea. Brenda is driving) Don’t you just love mobile computing?

We had just a terrific time at the rendezvous and both Brenda and I were just amazed with the number of folks we met that we had seen in the Bahamas last winter and had seen us.  Some we already knew and some we met over the weekend.   It was sort of like an aquatic college reunion of the Bahamas School of Hard Knocks.

It’s hard to believe that I will be in Florida in a few weeks.

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