Recap Part 2: Blame It On Harrison Phoebus

Urban sunset on Little Creek

A week on Little Creek in Norfolk, Virginia, was plenty. It’s a nice place and the location is awesome: just inside the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel with the open Atlantic Ocean just beyond; the whole of the Chesapeake Bay to the north; Hampton Roads and the (real) start of the Intracoastal Waterway a couple of hours’ sail to the west; and plenty of amenities/resources nearby, not least of which was a beach on the bay within walking distance that I enjoyed on a nice, warm day. But it’s a pretty industrial area, with a major U.S. Navy and Coast Guard shipyard running twenty-four hours a day just across the fairway from where Further was tied up, a steady stream of airliners flying low overhead on final approach to the nearby international airport, and a whole lot of concrete and buildings for 360 degrees around the marina. And the marina itself remains under construction. It’s kind of a mess and the showers/toilets were, let’s just say, not exactly enticing. I’m not so precious that nasty toilets are that much of a problem, but their state was outrageous given what the marina was charging for a slip fee.

So when my friend Kevin, aboard his 53-foot Amel ketch, arrived over by Hampton after motoring down from Annapolis, I packed up and scooted the ten miles west. Kevin and his wife Kristen are friends I met at the home of a mutual friend, the aforementioned Jay, a couple of years ago. They’re from just over the border in New Hampshire from my ancestral home in northern Massachusetts, and they’ve been cruising for a couple of decades and wintering in the Bahamas for the past couple of winters aboard Kiana. Following them south for the season was my bright idea that started this whole damned adventure.

A rockin’ daysail along the beaches of Norfolk, Virginia

In the course of their travels they found a delightful marina in Willoughby Bay at the western end of Norfolk, right where one of the freeway bridge/tunnels crossed the James River. Kevin had taken a slip there for Kiana and had also convinced, Dave, the marina’s owner to accommodate Further. It’s a great, folksy place that’s NOT on one of the online-reservation engines and doesn’t take credit cards. The owner is a lifelong waterman who’s run vessels of all sorts all over the world. The facilities were light years better than those on Little Creek and yet the fee was a fraction of what I’d been paying. Sign me up!

Late one afternoon I packed things and headed out Little Creek. Upon clearing the jetties and turning west into a nice 15-knot southwesterly breeze, I unfurled Further’s genoa and enjoyed a fabulous two-hour sail right along the beaches in Norfolk. I made the turn around Fort Wool, staying tight against the shore to stay away from a big-ass cargo vessel headed out into the bay, and then turned into the channel leading to Willoughby Bay and the marina. Kevin and Dave were there to meet me and help get Further secured and boom! We were settled into our new temporary home. And while it was a great spot in which to stay, and Dave was a great host (he even loaned us his pickup truck to run to the grocery store), neither Kevin nor I really wanted to be in a marina. So on a sunny Saturday, we each packed up our boats and moved over to the other side of the James River and into an anchorage off the section of the city of Hampton, Virginia, called Phoebus.

Happy Harrison Phoebus Day!

And boy, was our timing impeccable. After getting Further secure on her anchor, I took the dinghy and motored into shore to check things out…and stumbled right into Harrison Phoebus Day. What timing! The town was having a celebration—the first ever!—of its namesake with the main street shut down for live music, food trucks, various displays and, maybe best of all, a beer garden. I texted Kevin to let him know about the festivities and he motored in shortly thereafter and proceeded to dance his socks off.

The weather was perfect, the music was great, the crowd was

Sunset over I-64 in the Phoebus anchorage

fun…after owning Further for almost six years, sailing on the Chesapeake and even taking the boat north to Newburyport in 2018, that day was the first time I REALLY felt like I was cruising. And I quite liked it, thank you very much. Being able to join folks as they celebrated their history, learning about that history and about that of the Hampton Roads area in general, and feeling the joy of people reveling in being alive on a fabulous autumn day…Harrison Phoebus Day was a wonderful experience and a great time. And it made me want to have that experience more. It made me want to continue on the journey despite also being nervous about it all. It made me realize just how wonderful a start the trip was off to, despite the bumps I’d already encountered. Being part of the first-ever Harrison Phoebus Day pushed me to keep living in faith. It’s Harrison Phoebus’ fault I’m still out here. Thanks, Harrison!