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Crossing Virginia, Norfolk, the Chesapeake and beyond

May 20, 2011

May 14, Norfolk

I agreed with Paul to cross the Chesapeake on Sunday, so I had to get to Norfolk on Saturday night. My plan was to go all the way to the State Park at the mouth of the Chesapeake. It was an ambitious 46 miles away from the North Landing Campground just at the border of the Virginia. The State Park was only 20 miles away but I had to go around the world’s largest military yard in the world and an enormous industrial area filled with large ships.

Machine gun crew with safety glasses during maintenance work

Nuclear submarine

Number 36... The buoy at mile zero of the intracoastal. A lot of people cheer here.

Oh yeah, welcome

Destroyer lurcking behind the welcome to Norfolk sign.

The industrial wasteland that is Norfolk is so ugly that it's pretty

BIG boat traffic; small kayak!

I was hoping to take advantage of the wind on my way to Norfolk but it barely made it inland. I got to Norfolk only at 4 and turned the corner of the Navy ships close to 7 with 20 miles to do to get to the State Park. Moreover, the wind and the waves were really hard and in my face. It soon became apparent that I would not make it. I made it outside the military zone and found a marina right as the military zone ended. People gave me a lift to Motel 8 and I was in heaven. My prospects for the night were not really good only minutes before. This is one instance when things just worked themselves out.

Bottle left for me next to my boat at the marina, nice gesture that made my day.

Paul came by the Motel and we went to the Thirsty Camel. A classy establishment were they gave me two plates of prime ribs because it was two for one. The band started playing Tequila Sunrise very loudly covering to dragster show on the tele. Paul really knows his classy restaurants.

May 15, Mackau island or Ghost Island on the other side of the Chesapeake

View of the Chesapeake from my Motel.


Paul woke up early and set sail towards me. He came at least 15 miles west to meet me before the crossing of the Chesapeake. I could barely believe it. I would not have to cross the Chesapeake on my own and Paul is as hardcore as they come. He sees no problem with 100 mile races through storms while I go out of my way to stay away from any sort of maritime excitements.

Paul, the Water Tribe enthousiast!

We started the crossing directly in front of my Hotel. Because of the diagonal path the Chesapeake was now a 20.4 mile affair. We had a light wind at our back and we sailed while talking. This was a very nice from my normal solitary days. No time to worry about my route, the weather or anything. I left that to Paul. I felt like a tourist with a guide. That was really nice.

Paul, with all the gear I don't have

Paul came with me all the way across. He turned back in high contrary winds that soon became thunderstorms. I worried enough to text him to call me when he got to the other side. Which he did… He made it although he did have a spell of white out in the rain and there was this little matter of the water funnel and six foot wave crashing directly on his kayak but otherwise he was fine and sounded unfazed. I sure wish I had that sort of confidence on the water.

On Mackau island, there are different abandoned buildings from before WW2. Walking into them is rather dangerous and you’d have to be a fool to go on the second floor but the sight of all that vegetation reclaiming the sites is just wonderful.

Ghost house that sat next to my tent site. I noticed it only after trying to set my hammock on trees a few yards away.

May 16, Quinby (David and Nicole’s lawn)

Last night I sensed something on my skin. It was not a pimple. It moved when I played with it. Worse, I was able to grab it. I put it in the light and it was a huge tick. Shivers run down my spine when I think about ticks. I tried crushing it but that’s not possible. So I took my lighter and burned the sucker. I spent the next 10 minutes looking for other ticks on me as well as in the tent. Good night and don’t let the bed bugs bite.

Regardless, I slept like a dead man. I woke up and as soon as I got out I knew I had to bolt. The mosquitoes were swarming around me. Packing my tent and gear under mosquito attack was a challenge. I got on my boat and headed off for a windless morning with the current running steadily against me. I was making no progress at all. Between 7 and 12, I completed about 10 miles. A little before 11, I wrecked my drive on a mussel bed. I bent both steel rods and the rubber covers were torn. I bent back to their original selves them the best I could and pushed on. I figured I’ll put the replacements I have in the hull when I get to the mouth of the Delaware. I hit other mussel beds all day.

Some of the nicest sceneries I've yet seen on this trip. This coast is entirely deserted.

The Army Corp of engineers decided to stop working on this water way 30 years ago. Now some of the markers have become islands!

When the wind did show up it was timid. Then by 2, it was howling from the east. I used the wind to cross Hog Island bay and then it got heavier. I was cold and it was past 5. I was considering sleeping in the marsh since that’s all I saw all day. No dry land anywhere. I was thinking about how to sleep on the trampoline. My mood was not high. I finally wave a boat as I got to a crossing that led to an inlet. Nicole and David told me about the marina at Quinby and offered their lawn. Since I was close to hypothermia this was sort of the best thing that could happen. Miracles do happen.

The brown house in the back is the one where I pitched my tent.

My saviours

May 18, Quinby

It turns out that the bad weather that pushed me into the Quinby Marina will last a few days. Yesterday I stayed at the Fisherman’s Lodge where every resident must have a large pickup; actually that’s true for all of Quinby.

Staying put on the fourth day is standard procedure but the wind would have forced me to stay anyway. The wind increased from a scary 20 mile per hour to 30 then to a steady 40 mile per hour late in the afternoon.

May 19, Quinby

Thunderstorms were forecasted and it rained hard in the morning so I chose to stay put another day. I’m exhausted anyway. This trip is starting to wear me out. I cannot afford to burn myself out.

I’ve met interesting people here. I now reside in the old general store. My friends rented it to me for half the price of the Fisherman’s Lodge. I also got a contact for a guide publisher so it’s really not a waste. This place is so remote that there is no phone service or stores.

5 Comments
  1. James gagnon permalink

    Hang in there Rene, you made it this far and The better weather is on the way…

    • The weather has been pretty good up to now. These cold fronts brought a bit too much wind but it worked out alright.

  2. DavidQuinby permalink

    Hope all is well. I am having fun retelling our encounter on the intracoastal. People are shocked to see the pictures. Look forward to more updates.

    • Hey David, I’m adding you on facebook if you are on it… I put at least one other picture of you guys on fb.

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