Monday – May 6th – 0 NM – In: Norfolk, VA
Today was the first official day of our “Americas Great Loop Cruisers Association” AGLCA Spring Rendezvous. As most boaters are early risers, we started our day at 8:30 AM at the Sheraton Hotel next to the Marina. We had several hundred attendees and about 20 vendors with booths in the hall. It was great to be able to see some of the boaters that we’d met before coming through Wacca Wache Marina, and to meet others that we had read about in our group forum. We ran into Brenda and Tim Hagen, friends who have a Swift Trawler 44 (the newer version of our boat) and are from Reserve Harbor Marina, in Pawleys Island, the next marina down from us at home. They are in the planning stages, and it was good to catch-up with them through out the week.
Monday started with registration and spending time in the exhibit hall meeting the various vendors and mingling. We did our registration, visited a bit, then Brenda volunteered at the “Ships Store” where they sell logo shirts, books, flags, etc. and I went went back to the boat to do some final cleaning and preparation for the “Looper Crawl” that afternoon.
We met two very interesting Loopers, John who is doing the Loop on his Jet Ski “Buzzz”! He’s 68, riding his Jet Ski and camping out. Also “Dan” and his wife Mary on “Gammel Dansk” a 26 ft Nordic Tug. Dan is legally blind and get’s around with the help of a seeing eye dog. He is the Captain and drives the boat. His wife Mary handles the lines and gives him verbal instructions. They are a great couple and have done much of the loop with “few” incidents, none major.
At 2:00, we had our first session, which was an introduction of current Loopers, where we got up and introduced ourselves to the group. With over 100 current looper boats in attendance, it took almost an hour and a half!
After the session, we all went to the docks at Waterside Marina (where our boat was moored) and from 3:30 to 5:30, we had a “Looper Crawl” which is an open boat event, where you can walk the docks and go aboard the boats to check them out. This is a great event for the “Planners” in the group who are still looking for a boat, and for owners who want to see how “the other half live”. We opened up our boat for visits.
One of the major sponsors of the Rendezvous was Beneteau who is the manufacturer of our boat. We were the only Beneteau at the marina, so the staff from Beneteau camped out on the dock outside of the boat.
The traffic was non-stop, we estimate that over 100 people came through the boat, it was very popular! Brenda and I didn’t even have time to stop and take photos! We still had people on the boat at 6:30 when we had to kick them off and rush up to dinner!
In the afternoon the Carnival Cruise ship that docks just down river from the marina pulled out. They came up even with the marina where the harbor is wide, and did a very graceful 180 degree turn to head out to sea. It was a spectacular sight!
Monday was a group dinner, and we were able to meet many new friends. It was a great time. After dinner, we walked to the Waterside complex and had an ice cream desert, then went back to the boat and relaxed before bed.
Tuesday – May 7th – 0 NM – In: Norfolk, VA
Tuesday was the first day of sessions. Each day started with an overview of the day at 8:30, then we broke up into various sessions based on topic. There were two basic tracks available, “Route Briefings” where speakers who were very knowledgeable about a particular part of the Great Loop, would do a walk through of the section giving hints on where to stop, where not to stop, what to watch for with with weather, and best routes through specific trouble spots. These are popular with boaters like us who were just starting their Loop trip.
The other track was more informational and typically targeted toward people who are still in the planning stages, and covers topics like buying a boat, weather, selecting electronics, anchoring, maintenance, etc. As Brenda and I are just starting our Loop, we stuck to the Route Briefings.
The Tuesday morning briefing was from Norfolk, up through the Chesapeake Bay, to Cape May, NJ. This is the part of the trip we’ll be doing for the next two weeks and was of great interest to us. The Chesapeake has a reputation for bad weather, so we were very interested in learning how best to read the briefings. The Chesapeake area is so large, (you could spend an entire season boating just in this area) we had not decided on where to stop, so the briefing helped us decide on a route up through.
After a break, we went to our second session of the day, which was a Route Briefing, on the next leg of the trip, from Cape May New Jersey, up through New York City, the Hudson River to Waterford New York, where the Erie and Champlain canals split off. Again, this session was of interest to us, as the New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway is very shallow, and most boaters go out into the ocean in this area. Also, we are planning to stop in Margate City, NJ, (10 miles south of Atlantic City) for Labor Day to visit my Niece Sunny and her husband Rob who have a summer home there. Again another great session.
From 12:00 to 1:00 we broke for lunch which was served buffet style.
In the afternoon session, we learned about the next section of the route through the Erie Canal, into Canada to the entrance to Trent-Severn Waterway. The speaker also covered the option of going up the lake Ontario route, through the 1000 Island’s area of New York, then into the St. Lawrence Seaway to Montreal which is the route that we plan to take.
The sessions ended at 2:30, and we went back to the boat to drop off our materials, and then took the ferry across the harbor to Tide Water marina in Portsmouth, VA where the other Looper boats that didn’t fit into our marina were staying for another Looper Crawl.
There were two boats in particular that we wanted to visit. Brenda had never been on a Catamaran so we visited one. It’s surprising how much room there is on them given that there is no middle! The other was a “Selene” Trawler which is a “Blue Water” (ocean capable) boat that was on our original list of options. At Tidewater Marina there was a Swift Trawler 44, the newer model of our boat that the owner had just purchased a few weeks before. We stopped and chatted with them for a while.
About 5:30, we headed back to the ferry, to cross back to our marina. We rode the ferry back (the ferries look like small paddle steamers) to Waterside. There was no group dinner on Tuesday, so we walked around the area around the neighborhood looking for an interesting place for dinner. We found “Grace O’Malley’s Irish Pub” a couple of blocks from the marina. Tuesday is “Whiskey Tasting” night and I sampled 3 excellent Irish Whiskeys. We had an excellent dinner, and then stayed to listen to an Irish singer who was very entertaining. Then, back to the boat as we had another 8:30 start in the morning.
Wednesday – May 8th – 0 NM – In: Norfolk, VA
Wednesday’s schedule was pretty much like Tuesdays. In the morning, we had sessions on the Trent-Severn Waterway in Canada presented by the Canal Manager which was very entertaining and informative. Then Georgian Bay and the North Channel, which is the upper part of Lake Huron.
During a break, we all went outside for a group photo.
After lunch, the session covered the Michigan side of Lake Michigan, and boating through Chicago. We then went back to the boat for another “Looper Boat Crawl”, we had several requests to visit again, and hosted another 30 or so people. Also, the Coast Guard Auxiliary came aboard and did our Vessel Safety Check which we passed with a perfect score!
All over Norfolk, there are painted Mermaids. We’ve seen cows, chickens, moose, bears, flamingos, now mermaids! At Nauticus people have put their entry stickers on a mermaid!
In the evening, we had another group reception and dinner at the hotel in the evening.
Thursday – May 9th – 0 NM – In: Norfolk, VA
Thursday was the last day of the Rendezvous. In the morning we had a session that covered the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. There is an ongoing debate about which side is better, Michigan or Wisconsin. Even after the sessions, we still have not decided which side we’ll take. After the break, we had another session that covered Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, and the Tennessee river to Alabama. In the fall, there is a Fall Rendezvous in Alabama, where we will all meet up again. There, they will have similar sessions that will cover the rest of the trip and the Bahamas.
During lunch, we had another introduction session for “Planning” Loopers, and an awards ceremony. Things started to wrap up around 1:30, and we went back to the boat to rest. At 3:30 we headed back over to the hotel to help with tear-down and say good-bye to some of our friends who were either driving or flying out.
At 5:00 “TxAu” (Texas Gold) one of the boats down the dock, hosted a “DockTales” event. We visited with other boaters and then around 6:00, went to Guy Fieri’s BBQ restaurant in the Waterside complex. We were expecting tourist food, but it was excellent. The freshly made Jalapeno Pork Rind appetizer being the star of the meal!
Friday – May 10th – 0 NM – In: Norfolk, VA
On Friday we slept in a bit. Our plan was to do a little sight seeing. We walked along the waterfront, and went to “Nauticus” which is a Norfolk history museum, and features the USS Wisconsin, a battleship that saw action in WW 2, Korea, and the Gulf War.
The ship is amazing, you are pretty much free to wander the decks at various levels. The bow of the ship, rises almost 30 feet, so it’s an up-hill walk. Most of the ship is still as it is was when it was de-commissioned including the armaments. There are cruise missile launchers , and ship to ship missile launchers still in place, and of course the 16″ guns! Staggering to see up close! I can’t imagine how loud it was when they were firing.
At the end of the tour, we were browsing in the gift shop, and ran into Robin and Charlie from The Lower Place, and the four of us walked to the “MacArthur Center”, a large shopping mall near the “Douglas MacArthur” memorial. We got a snack for lunch at the food court, then went to the Apple Store to have my phone looked at. The battery has not been holding a charge for the entire day lately. The tech at the Genius Bar, quickly diagnosed the issue, and determined it was an app causing most of the issues. She did offer me $150 for my current phone, if I wanted to upgrade to a new $1,200 phone, but I respectfully declined! After walking around the mall (there’s nothing we needed, just getting some non-water based sight seeing in) we headed went to the Pagoda Garden.
This garden has an ice cream parlor in the pagoda, and is part of the Norfolk park system. Nice peaceful place. There were lot’s of people there taking graduation photos.
I worked on the blog, and Brenda added some beads to her cross stitch map, then we had leftovers to make room in the fridge. At about 8:00 we had another band concert, it started out pretty good with a “Rhythm & Blues” set. At 9:30, they took a short break, and when they came back, they switched to “Hip Hop” and cranked up the volume. The boat was rattling with the base like it does when we’re crossing a rough section of water. They played until just after midnight, so we didn’t get much sleep until then.
Saturday – May 11th – 0 NM – In: Norfolk, VA
On Saturday we had a plan to go to the Chrysler Museum of Art. They have the second largest collection of glass art in the country, and also a working glass studio. There was rain predicted, so we took the down-town trolley over to the museum, and spent several hours there looking at the amazing glass exhibits. They have displays showing early glass production, (about 550 bc, up until the modern age including a large collection of Tiffany, Lalique, and Chihuly. At noon, we walked over to the glass studio, and watched a glass blowing demonstration by one of the resident artists.
It was spitting rain a bit when we left the studio, so we took the trolley back to the MacArthur center (the closest stop to the boat) and then walked back to the boat and did some clean-up from all the guests and a couple of maintenance repairs.
In the evening, it was raining, but we still got together with Robin & Charlie from The Lower Place, and Herb from Phantom and went to dinner together, as they were planning to pull out in the morning. While we were eating dinner, all of the phones in the restaurant went off together with a Tornado warning. No one seemed very concerned. We finished dinner, and walked outside where we could see the marina and the river, and saw that there was a large shelf cloud just across the bay. We hurried back to the boats, and battened down the hatches. The heavy rain reached us shortly afterword, and we had a few flashes of lightning. We could hear the tornado sirens at the naval ship-yard, but for a short while, it was raining so hard, that we couldn’t see across the river.
The heavy rain ended about 9:00 and we had a nice sunset!
Sunday – May 12th – 0 NM – In: Norfolk, VA
The Lower Place, Phantom and B-Side all left in the morning. It was starting to get lonely at the docks! We had reservations for an evening dinner cruise to celebrate Mothers Day, and my un-day. After we helped everyone get off the docks, we took an Uber to a local Harris-Teeter grocery store to get some provisions. After returning, we put the groceries away, and then walked down to the center of town to mail some letters. Interesting, the Post Office, has no mailbox outside! We had to walk another two blocks to find one. While we were there, we also visited the Douglas MacArthur park, and found the “Mile 0” marker. The US Army Corp of Engineers, and US Geological Survey are based in Norfolk, and this point, is the “0” reference for measurements. Mile “0” of the Intracoastal Waterway is also located in Norfolk, at Red Marker 36, only 1/4 mile away at about the same Longitude.
We went back to the boat, and I read a bit while Brenda worked on her cross-stitch. The Carnival Cruise ship pulled out again, this time with an armed Coast Guard Escort!
At 5:30, we walked over to the Spirit of Norfolk, which leaves right next to the marina for our dinner cruise. Dinner was a very good buffet, and we cruised north up the river where we would be traveling on Monday and got a look at what was to come. The route went past the Navy Yards and Container terminals, and we were able to see some amazing looking ships. (Side Note: I’m writing this on Monday, and it was good we took some photos of the Navy ships during the cruise as it was raining and foggy when we passed the next day).
The cruise returned around 8:00, and we walked back to the boat, and did a bit of preparation for our departure the next morning.
Next Week: Back on the water again and into the Chesapeake Bay!