Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Delayed in Portsmouth, VA

We finally made it to Virginia. We're at the south entrance to the Chesapeake Bay with all kinds of places to explore, and haven't been able to go anywhere by boat!  The weather has been just horrible and very unusual.  The wind has been the primary issue with 2 to 3-foot seas every day on the bay.  It has also been chilly for this time of the year and foggy several mornings.  All the locals are shaking their heads at the weather also and none of them are moving on their boats either.  When the locals don't go, it's a good idea for you to sit tight also.  But we've stayed busy, starting off with a bicycle tour of Portsmouth.  Here's Tidewater Marina on the Elizabeth River with Norfolk in the background on the other side of the river from Portsmouth.

The city has beautiful streets of old homes just like many other towns we have visited but many are older - from the 1700s. The style has changed to Federal, Queen Anne, and Greek Revival.  From what we can gather, "decorative detail elements" is the distinguishing characteristic.

Rhonda's favorites are always the white homes with some degree of columns in front.

We loved how the streets were really wide, and we were struck by how close many of the homes were built to each other.  There is a beautiful park in town with a really sad story.  A ship was docked in the harbor and when the crew released some of its bilge water, mosquitoes were released also and caused an epidemic of yellow fever.  One tenth of the population died.  The home at the end of the park in the picture below had to be used as an orphanage for children who lost their parents

One prominent resident made one of his slaves available to assist with digging all of the graves that were necessary.  On a positive note, when the plague was over, the slave was recognized for his efforts in helping the town through the ordeal, and he was given his freedom in return.

Here's a better picture of the orphanage.

Here's an interesting story.  Residents of Portsmouth were resistant to paying taxes of course.  Homes were taxed by the number of floors, so the owners of these "tax-dodger" homes designed the roof to extend down to the first floor, suggesting that the second floor was roof and attic, creating an early tax loophole!  Windows also extended from the second story down to the first with the floor of the second story butting up against the window. You'll have to look through the trees to see it but this style is still used today with dormer windows on the second floor.

Lighthouses were common in the day and this is one of two Hog Island Lights built for the area.  

Here's the story.

Just across the river in Norfolk, lots of Loopers have gathered at Waterside Marina for a spring rendezvous.  There are normally around 60 boats and crews in attendance for these. There's another one held in the fall on the Tennessee River about 10 miles from our home, so if we attend one this year, it will be that one.  However, we wanted to go over and visit some of our Looper friends, so we took one of many ferries available throughout the day. Here are the ferry and Waterside Marina.

Norfolk's statue "theme" is mermaids.  I believe there are 26 located around town.  Here are three of them.

I guess if we're going to have mermaids, we need a few Poseidons also, huh?

Haven't taken any bird pictures recently so we got this shot while in Norfolk.

In historic towns like Portsmouth and Norfolk there are numerous commemorative statues and memorials.  We really liked this one showing a sailor returning home to his family.

There was an impressive Naval Museum in Norfolk with the USS Wisconsin on display.

This is not quite as impressive as above, but still interesting.

The naval history in the area is tremendous with lots of artifacts on display in the museum.  There's no way I can cover all of that for you, but here are a couple of things of many that we found interesting.

There were actually balloons mounted on ships that were used for reconnaissance.

Naval aviation was born in Hampton Roads in 1910 when pilot Eugene Ely flew his Curtiss pusher biplane off of a manufactured " flight deck" on the USS Birmingham.  The flight only lasted 5 minutes, but its success signaled the advent of aircraft carriers.

Just as we were leaving Norfolk for the ferry back to Portsmouth, we ran into Don and Judy from "Suite Endeavor" again and struck up more conversation.  We were pleasantly surprised to find out that Don is a graduate of Wake Forest University also, 5 years before me.  And, he was a dorm counselor at UNCC when Rhonda was there.  What a small world.  Once we found all of this out, you can imagine how many more stories we had to tell! 

Back in Portsmouth, we should note the founder, Colonel William Craford, in 1752.

We took lots of pictures of churches and they were all beautiful.  We attended Court Street Baptist Church on Sunday.  It was founded in 1789 and this is its third building.  There is a tour of several historic churches next weekend but surely we'll be moving again by then!  Here are pictures of Court Street Baptist.

This is interesting.  In addition to land-based lighthouses, some "lightships" were used also but with much more versatility to aid mariners in navigating coastal waters.  The lightship "Portsmouth" served in this capacity for 48 years off the coasts of VA, DE, and MA from 1916 to 1964 and is being converted into a museum, opening to the public soon.

We had lunch yesterday with Roger and Dorothy from "Slow Churn" and Mike and Cindy from "Aurora."  There was a creepy statue of a frog outside the Children's Museum near the restaurant.  It was donated as public art and titled "I've Been Kissed."  Strange, just really strange. This might give kids nightmares.

And it's appropriate to end this post with pictures of one of the most prominent sights in the area - military ships. This one is the USS Normandy, a guided-missile cruiser. Armed with naval guns and anti-air, anti-surface, and anti-submarine missiles, plus other weapons, she is equipped for surface-to-air, surface-to-surface, and anti-submarine warfare. The cruiser was the first US warship since 1945 to go to war on her maiden cruise and in 1998 she was awarded the title "Most Tomahawks shot by a U.S. Navy Cruiser". She is named for the World War II Battle of Normandy, France, on and following D-Day.  Her home port is Norfolk.

You probably don't want to mess with her.

We hope to get moving again tomorrow with a decent weather forecast for now.  Fifty miles to our first stop in Chesapeake Bay - Deltaville, 800 residents and 3,000 boats - my kind of town.

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