Gunkholing and Ft. Monroe
There is a book called "Cruising the Chesapeake: A Gunkholer's Guide" which is an excellent place to find lovely places to go by boat on the Chesapeake Bay. On their webpage they had a photograph of Ft. Monroe that shows the star shape of the fort that can't be easily seen even from the top of the hotel or in this old postcard. The photograph was not in the book.
I didn't want to use that photograph from their website without permission. But when I went through the fort this time, I found that the photograph is the second one here which is on display in the fort.
If you look at the Yahoo maps of this area, you can see the outline of the starshaped fort moat if you know where to look for it.
2000 November 4th to 6th- ICW Trip
"November 4, 2000"
As we come down into Hampton Roads, we can see the Chamberlin Hotel from a long ways off. Old Point Comfort Marina, and everything else in this area except the Chamberlain Hotel are part of the Fort Monroe Army Post.
We come down alongside Fort Monroe and we can see the brick row houses - military housing. As we round the hotel coming in toward the marina about 12:15 , I call on the cell phone and tell them we want fuel before we go into our slip. The fuel dock is on our starboard as we enter, and we want to tie up port side to the dock. However, due to the wind, the boat is only backing to starboard instead of to port as it usually does, and we end up coming in on the starboard side. We use their lines, since all ours are rigged on the other side.
We get 15 gallons, and Bob goes up to pay. We tell them we are supposed to go into slip B33. They say there is no way we will fit in a slip on B dock (which is mostly small power boats). The guy who seems to be in charge runs up to the office and says it was supposed to be E 33, but he is going to put us into E38 instead. That's really better as that way we don't have to go around between the docks to the other side but just go in as we come around the protective wall. I think he decides this based on how incompetent we were at getting in to the fuel dock but whatever the reason, it's better for us..
One of the fuel dock guys and a guy from one of the other boats help us to tie up. Our trip today has been 22 nm at an average speed of 5.5 knots. The docks are floating docks and transient rates are $1/foot. There is free water, and free electricity, but only 50 amp outlets, so we rent a splitter for $5.
In 2000, the marina was open to anyone who wanted to come, but as of 2003, the marina only allows civilian transients if they are DOD employees (military, Coast Guard or civilian employees), or work at Fort Monroe.
The people tied on the end of E dock next to us are Fred and Sharon in an aft cockpit Gulfstar named DOLPHIN . They are from New London CT - Fred is a retired submariner. This is their first trip down the ICW too and they are bound for Ft. Pierce.. Bob fusses around with the lines until he has us tied as he wants.
Right outside the marina is a big protected anchorage between the entrance to the tunnel and Old Point Comfort. You just have to be careful not to anchor in the channel especially of the commercial fishing boats in the far corner. We go up to the hotel for lunch, but it is too late and they are not serving lunch.
I go back to the boat and find my chicken from Wendys (from the 31st) and eat that and make myself a cheese sandwich. Bob goes out to the commissary, which Sharon warns him will be closing, and to the PX and brings back sandwiches, but we get into conversation with Fred and Sharon, and don't eat them.
As of 2003 the commissary is closed.
Then we go up to the hotel to try to use the phone to connect to the internet and have dinner. The phones there will require a phone cable to connect, and that is in my other computer bag.
I have a nice birthday dinner, which is a buffet. The soup, the waitress tells us is vegetable beef. NOT. There is no beef in this soup -I know there is crab in it. It is a spicy tomato base, but I don't see any other vegetables. The head waiter guy says it is really a crab/lobster bisque. Also on the buffet is some kind of a chicken dish in cream sauce with big hard biscuits in it (no labels so I don't know what it is), a beef dish, rice, potatoes, broccoli, green beans, rolls (but not hot) and a salad bar. After dinner we walked back to the boat (I picked up my email with pocketmail), and had an early night.
"November 5, 2000"
It rained last night. I heard an annoying loud dripping sound over my head (don't know why - it isn't leaking inside), and then I could also hear the pitter patter of the rain The wind has picked up quite a bit too. Since it is from the north, and the boat is in the slip pointed south, this makes a loud slapping noise when the waves hit the stern. Normally, this is not a problem at anchor because the boat would usually ride bow to the waves.
The rain stops before morning. Fred and Sharon from Dolphin intend to go to the brunch buffet at the hotel this morning. We were told that it didn't start until 11:00 am, so Bob takes the laundry and goes up to do that and have a shower. I piddle around on the boat. It is both windy and cold. The furling sail on the boat opposite us looks like it will be torn off the furler.
We leave to walk up to the hotel about 10:45. We get there at about 11:10, and find the brunch doesn't start until 11:30.
Fred and Sharon are hungry, as they haven't eaten since last night about 6:30 but I had a couple of bagels this morning, so I'm fine. I suggest that they go out on the steps overlooking the pool, and I go into the visitor's center and use Pocketmail.
"World Famous Brunch"
When we go into the hotel again there is a long line waiting to get into the dinning room. However, they take us without a reservation, and seat us in the front row where we can look out the windows at an angle (we are beside the wall, but there's a window at a 45 deg angle from the table at each side).
The "world famous seafood brunch" is $18.50 each, and includes champagne, juices, coffee, and a buffet where there is (on this day), egg drop soup, omelets to order, ham, roast beef, salmon, waffles made fresh (the ones with the big deep holes) with syrup and preserves, tossed salad, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, diced fried potatoes, half baked tomatoes, steamed shrimp, Alaskan king crab legs, mussels, meat loaf, a stuffed crab shaped thing, rolls, apple pie, strawberry moose and coconut cake. At least that's what I remember of the offerings. Bob and I had cranberry juice. Bob and Fred and I wanted hot tea, but they could only find 2 tea bags, so Bob and I shared. It took us two hours to eat from start to finish.
Then we went up to the 8th floor to look out over the fort and Hampton Roads. It is a beautiful view up there. We could see the marina, and the fort ramparts, and Fort Wool across the way.
The land that Fort Wool was built on was started by ships dumping their ballast there.
The hotel is the tallest building around, and a well known landmark. The wait staff was setting up for a wedding reception in the terrace room so we left and walked over to the fort. The hotel went out of business after 9-11 because anyone who wanted to go there to eat or use the hotel had to submit to a search.
We walked along the waterfront, past the place where the old Baltimore ferry dock used to be (that Bob used to travel on with his family to visit their relatives in Norfolk), past the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse which is almost dwarfed by the fort ramparts, past the Engineer's pier (which they built to bring in the materials to built the fort), and went into the fort through the East gate. This gate (and also the North gate) is just wide enough for one car (oversized vehicles have to use the Main Sallyport on the west), so there are traffic lights at either side.
One comes while I am on the bridge over the 8 foot wide moat and have to stand out of the way for a car to enter the fort, and then again when I am in the middle of the tunnel through the fort walls when a car is coming out, so I duck into a pedestrian cavity to allow them to come through. Bob and Fred and Sharon are a bit ahead of me because they walk faster and don't stop to take pictures.
"Fort Monroe Casement Museum"
Quarters One is right opposite the East Gate. It is the oldest residence on the post, and Lincoln and the Marquise de Lafayette have both stayed there. We walk around inside the fort, where Army families are still quartered, past the house where Robert E. Lee stayed in 1831-1834 when he was stationed here and was stabilizing the island where Fort Wool is located (it was then Fort Calhoun).
We pass Jefferson Davis Memorial Park above us on the ramparts, and the Flagstaff Bastion, and then enter the Casement Museum. The (free) Casement Museum is in the fort casements which is what they call the rooms inside the fort walls. They have several dioramas set up, including one of firing the guns, one of the cell where ex-Confederate President Davis was held for several months, one of the Casement Club which was apparently an early officer's club, and one of a quarters for an army family with a piano, and a bed - an officer would get 2 rooms.
The casements are no longer used for quarters, but the chaplin has his offices there, and the post day care is also housed in the casements. We saw a short interesting video tape presentation on the Ghosts of Ft. Monroe, and saw a little show with narration and flashing lights on a map of the Chesapeake about the armament and the ranges of various types of artillery, but the little 30's movie of the firing of the disappearing gun was broken, and we didn't get to see that. We got to see it on a subsequent visit and I've posted a video I took of it (see videos)
There were plenty of places to sit in the museum even without sitting on Jefferson Davis's chair (which is in a glass case anyway).
We exited the museum after peeking into the gift shop, and walked back up toward the old cistern which was appropriately marked as a confined space, and exited by the postern gate. There was a sign advising bike riders to dismount, which would certainly be necessary as one of the passages had an arch which was only about 5.5 feet tall at the center. As Fred said - a bike rider would boink himself on the head.
We walked back to the marina, and stopped off to see what the weather on the weather channel said. Bob and Fred decided to stay another day. Bob said with the wind the way it is, we probably couldn't get out of the slip. We visited with them on their Gulfstar for a bit. We still have block ice, so Bob bought some more cubes. I watched the football game on TV and Bob started the electric heater up and read yesterday's paper (forgot to get today's paper). The NOAA weather say the wind is 20-25 knots, and in some places in NC is gusting to 31 knots. There's no good reading light here on this boat. (We've fixed that problem) Went to bed early.
"November 6, 2000"
This was to be a lazy day. I wanted to cut Bob's hair, but didn't get it done. He wanted to repair the UV protecting Sunbrella (the dark stripe) on the jib. It was too windy to do that as the jib would have to be taken down. Instead, he got out his tools and started modifying the cockpit locker that contains the pass-through into the kitchen so that it has a tray in the top to store things like winch handles and I worked on writing up the sections of our trip. Bob wanted to walk up to the hotel for lunch. The people in the marina are afraid that letting me attach the computer to their phone system will mess it up so he was impatiently waiting for me to get done with what I was writing so we could have lunch and this time I would bring a phone cord to attach the computer.
There was a soup and salad bar, and the specials were meat loaf or crab cake sandwich. I should have taken one of them, but I had a cheese steak sub, and Bob had a BLT. Both very good, and pretty cheap, and we watched the harbor out of the window while we ate.
Then we tried to hook up the computer to the internet. It took a long time and a lot of futzing around before I got the computer hooked up and I had to use an #800 number because the phones in the hotel wouldn't accept a local number with an area code and area codes for the area have recently been added and are required. Then packed up and walked back to the boat. The whole thing with lunch and all took from 12:30 to 3:30. And lunch didn't take that long.
We went back to the hotel for dinner, and I had what they described as a "rib eye with bone" steak. (It was really a Tbone.) I took some of it home in a doggy box. We again watched the ships, and we amused ourselves by listing all the equipment we'd bought for the boat.
Back at the boat, I set the nav program to statute miles instead of nautical miles because that is the way the ICW is measured. Bob (grumbling) switched the antennas on the radios so that the one that will send is on the tall antenna.
The marina is gated so you need to have a key to access it. They have carts at the land end for people to take stuff in along the dock to the boat.
As of 2003, there is a breakfast and lunch restaurant at the marina.
Next - Through Norfolk to the Dismal Swamp