"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

Captain's Blog Chuckatuck Creek

>> Friday, October 16, 2009

From the banks of the Chuckatuck Creek, Eclipse, VA

At 1930 on Friday the 2nd, WESTWARD altered course towards the Cape Henry Pilot station at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. We’d had a spectacular romp of a sail leaving Mystic, making fast passage, followed by several hours of motoring in flat calm. Finally under sail again, we were bound for the Nansemond River- my home waters- and a couple of days of exploring salt marshes and inland fisheries.

The mate notified me that we were being hailed by the Virginia Pilots on the VHF radio. I was asked what our ETA was to our anchorage: “I’m on a phone call here, Cap, just wondering when you’ll be in…”. I responded that we’d be anchoring near midnight in the Nansemond River. “No problem Cap, you’ve got a couple of ships sailing from Norfolk, no other traffic”. The mate asked how they had known to hail us by name. The answer came quickly. The folks back home were eagerly anticipating our arrival. They’d called a friend in the Pilot’s Association, and asked them to see if we were in range.

This makes my fifth stop, and fourth Proctor trip, at home. My hometown turns out to make this field trip easy, fun, educational, and… delicious. Upon reaching cell phone range a couple of hours later, logistics were worked out. We anchored at midnight, stowed the ship, and turned to anchor watch. At 0900, two local boats belonging to friends and family were alongside to shuttle hands ashore. By 1000, students were launching canoes used for years by my mother’s Girl Scout troop from my parent’s dock.

There were classes on salt marsh ecology and the Chesapeake’s resources and environmental challenges, some led by Karla Smith, my mom- a retired teacher of 40 years who’s not lost her passion for education. This followed by a muddy romp through the marsh in question and quality time with a fresh water hose. To cap off a beautiful day, other friends and neighbors rolled out the welcome mat with a dinner feast. My father steamed a bushel of crabs, friends brought fresh baked goodies to round out the fried chicken, barbeque, salads, and other fare. Students, crew, friends, family, and neighbors visited and asked questions. At sunset, we loaded the boats and headed for home- our home- WESTWARD.

On Sunday, students went ashore again, and talked to Mr. Robbie Johnson and his son Ben (twin brother of the Pilot who had us hailed), local watermen who crab and oyster on the James River. They toured a soft shell crabbing operation, and had looked over a couple of Chesapeake Bay Deadrise boats- shoal draft fishing vessels specific to the region. Then, back to the ship.

This is a trip I look forward to being able to offer- but one that always hangs on that fine thread of wind, weather, schedule, and curriculum. It wasn’t without its hitches. A couple of medical issues took us to the Urgent Care/ Emergency Room- and a mystery illness sent Sophie Viandier home (to rejoin in Charleston once cured and cleared)- and delayed our departure by a day. Again, though, local support made these events as painless as possible.

So I write this entry as a THANK YOU. Thank you to the teachers for humoring a whim of the captain, to the students for being polite, respectful, and enthusiastic with their hosts. Most of all, THANK YOU Karla and Jimmy Smith (Mom & Dad), for hosting yet another ship’s company at your home. Thank you for your generosity with boats, cars, docks, dogs, equipment, T-shirts, information, and food. THANK YOU to Bill & Betsy Daughtry, Jean Hodges, Cathy Roberts, Robbie, Ben, and Jacob Johnson for the food, crabs, boat runs, and friendship. Finally, thank you to the communities of Crittenden, Eclipse, and Hobson for another warm welcome and for all of your support.

We depart for Charleston via the Carolina Capes with 33 souls on board, an unsettled forecast and high spirits. We look forward to the passage, to Charleston, and to Sophie’s return. Look forward to- in the words of the National Weather Service- “more to follow”.
6 October 2009


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