Soundings - - Contents - By Peter Bass

Tug­boats, tall ships and a float­ing dry dock have kept things lively at Mile Zero.

Ah, sum­mer. Back in my Maine days, we trea­sured the high sea­son be­cause we could, on most days, act as if it were warm and wear things such as shorts and T-shirts. Here at the bot­tom of the Bay, we have al­ready had more days with temperatures in the 90s than we would dur­ing a whole sum­mer in Maine.

This year’s Nor­folk Har­bor­fest was mem­o­rable from sev­eral stand­points: the big­gest col­lec­tion of tall ships since OpSail 2012, a re­opened Water­side din­ing and entertainment com­plex on the Nor­folk side and a fire­works dis­play big­ger than the cus­tom­ary bang- up af­fair. I wan­dered the piers by Water­side in a for­est of square-rigged spars, an ex­pe­ri­ence that took me back to the Age of Sail. I am lucky that the news head­line the next day didn’t read, “Bald­ing man with beer wan­ders off pier while look­ing up­ward with mouth open.”

Tug­boat Chore­og­ra­phy

An ar­ti­cle in our lo­cal daily news­pa­per, The Vir­ginian-Pilot, alerted us to the ar­rival in Hamp­ton Roads of a Chi­nese heavy-lift ship car­ry­ing a 500-by-140-foot float­ing dry dock built in Tur­key for Colonna’s Ship­yard in Nor­folk. Af­ter semisub­merg­ing to float off the ship, the dock was towed and nudged across the Bay, es­sen­tially to my front win­dow on the south- ern branch of the El­iz­a­beth River. From there it was guided through the Berkley Bridge on the east­ern branch of the river to Colonna’s. A quick look in my chart book showed a hor­i­zon­tal clear­ance of 150 feet at the Berkley Bridge, a space that, ac­cord­ing to my ad­vanced math­e­mat­i­cal train­ing, left 5 feet on each side.

A mar­velous photo of the tran­sit, taken from a he­li­copter, was on the Vir­ginian- Pilot web­site. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing ar­ti­cles show the heavy-lift ship with the dry dock aboard. The Sound­ings he­li­copter was in the shop, so my pho­to­graphs aren’t nearly as re­veal­ing.

We see tugs daily, deal­ing with ships, barges, cruise lin­ers, Navy ves­sels and the oc­ca­sional square-rig­ger. No mat­ter how many times you’ve docked your own boat or how many thou­sands of miles have passed un­der your keel, watch­ing this dry dock tran­sit and the daily op­er­a­tions of these tugs il­lus­trates that most of us are mere am­a­teurs in the grand dance of ships.

Sea­side Restau­rants

In the fun­ni­est book ever writ­ten, Sail­ing: A Sailor’s Dic­tio­nary by Henry Beard and Roy McKie, one en­try de­fines ac­cept­able names for dock­side restau­rants. I was re­minded of this while look­ing out my win­dow at the sign for the new restau­rant in our ma­rina: Fish & Slips. Af­ter many years of chang­ing ten­ants, the ma­rina op­er­a­tors landed a well-known lo­cal res­tau­ra­teur to op­er­ate a seafood-fo­cused restau­rant to com­ple­ment their highly rated Man­nino’s Ital­ian Bistro, which has sev­eral lo­ca­tions in Hamp­ton Roads, in­clud­ing one within walk­ing dis­tance of the Tide­wa­ter Yacht and Ocean Yacht mari­nas in Portsmouth.

Nearby, we find restau­rant names such as Surf Rider, Water­man Surf­side Grille, Tau­tog’s and Mahi Mah’s, plus the usual chains and friede­v­ery­thing em­po­ri­ums. If I can find my copy of Beard and McKie, I will re­visit their hi­lar­i­ous list; it is filed at home us­ing the screwy dec­i­mal sys­tem. For a com­pre­hen­sive guide to sailors’ wa­ter­ing holes, check out the Mary­land and Vir­ginia edi­tions of Crab Decks & Tiki Bars of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay ( crab­deck­sandtik­

Best of What and Where

Dur­ing spring, var­i­ous mag­a­zines around the Bay pub­lish “best of” lists, os­ten­si­bly a read­ers’ choice award for re­tail es­tab­lish­ments and ser­vices. In a pre­vi­ous job, I watched my

em­ployer get out the word to vote for us. Self-pro­mo­tion is a good thing in a com­pre­hen­sive mar­ket­ing ef­fort, but I re­al­ized that the sur­vey re­sults do not spring or­gan­i­cally from ap­pre­cia­tive con­sumers.

My first dis­il­lu­sion came when the “best restau­rant” named in the Port­land, Maine, mar­ket was a mid­dling spot that spe­cial­ized in eggs. Port­land is a foodie des­ti­na­tion for many good rea­sons, but not for a menu based on eggs. The forced, in- restau­rant mar­ket­ing ef­fort to gen­er­ate votes was even­tu­ally un­masked.

Still, I would be pleased to re­ceive an award for Best Bald­ing Yacht Bro­ker at Tide­wa­ter Ma­rina. Please vote early and of­ten; I can pro­vide a list of de­ceased pa­trons to cover your tracks.

Bud­get Blun­ders

For the wa­ter­shed states that are part of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Pro­gram part­ner­ship to clean up the Bay to its for­mer health, Pres­i­dent Trump’s pro­posed bud­get is a ter­ri­ble blow. It would elim­i­nate the fed­eral con­tri­bu­tion to the ef­fort, cur­rently $ 73 mil­lion. Re­ac­tions to the pro­posed cut and public out­cry were widely re­ported; I read a good sum­mary ar­ti­cle in Ch­e­sa­peake Bay mag­a­zine. The gov­er­nors of Mary­land and Vir­ginia, in par­tic­u­lar, have called on the ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­store this fund­ing and pre­serve the progress made.

Ch­e­sa­peake Bay quoted Wayne Boyn­ton, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Mary­land Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Science’s Ch­e­sa­peake Bi­o­log­i­cal Lab­o­ra­tory, say­ing it’s “the first time since Capt. John Smith came up the Bay in 1608 that nu­tri­ent lev­els are fi­nally on their way down.” All the noise about loos­en­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions and bud­get cuts for such pro­grams as the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Pro­gram should be of great con­cern to those of us who trea­sure clean coastal en­vi­ron­ments, and their broader im­pli­ca­tions to hu­man health and the safety of the food chain.

A nice Hinck­ley Ber­muda 40 passed by yes­ter­day, a cou­ple of Sabre mo­to­ry­achts today. Makes me want to get “up ta Maine” my­self.

It’s never dull at Mile Zero. See you at the bot­tom of the Bay, the top of the Ditch.

There was a for­est of masts at Mile Marker Zero when tall ships tied up for Nor­folk Har­bor­fest.

It was a tight fit when tugs fi­nessed a float­ing dry dock through the Berkley Bridge, bound for Colonna’s Ship­yard.

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