Shore Excursions – Norfolk

Hello fellow adventurers and virtual crew members!

Captain John Smith
Captain John Smith

Captain John Smith here providing Eric a much deserved sabbatical after chronicling the travels of Still Waters II up the Atlantic ICW.  He also ran into his son Leifr Eiriksson at the Newport News Mariner’s Museum and has decided to hang with him for a while.  Since I have explored most of the area the crew is headed, I agreed to take over the reporting on the adventures of the crew.

Leifr Eiriksson
Leifr Eiriksson

In fact, there is now a Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail that recreates the adventures of 1607 – 1609 as I mapped 3,000 miles of the Bay and rivers.  Visit smithtrail.net to explore more of the trail on your own.

Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

The Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System was launched back in 2007.  The buoys are placed along the water trail that we will be following.  The first buoy placed was the Jamestown marker to commemorate the 400th anniversary of my initial explorations of the Chesapeake Bay.  There are a total of ten markers now that make up the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.  The crew is planning on cruising all ten locations.

You can access the information from the buoys anytime by dialing a buoy (877-Buoy Bay) and follow the prompts or log on to the website (buoybay.noaa.gov) to learn more about the areas that we will be cruising together.  If using the website, then select a buoy, and then select the “information” to read or listen to the info.

Norfolk Buoy
Norfolk Buoy

The first buoy we encountered was at Norfolk.  The Norfolk buoy gives some history of my explorations of the Elizabeth River back in September 1608.  There is also a piece on the war of 1812, Geography info, and some seasonal information.

The second buoy we encountered was at First Landing.  I first stopped here back on April 26, 1607.  We tried to establish Fort Henry here but were unsuccessful.  We decided to move further upstream and finally settled at Jamestown on May 14, 1607.

The third buoy we encountered gives the history of our struggles to make a go of it at Jamestowne.  The crew visited historic Jamestowne and got to walk the same ground as I.  Initially 104 colonists started the settlement.  The walls of our fort made a triangle with two walls 100 yards long, and the third wall 140 yards long around the river front.

Pocahontas
Pocahontas

An additional 600 colonists migrated to the fort by the end of 1609.  In 1610 an additional set of colonists arrived to find only 60 survivors.  The visitor center hints that the area was in an eight year drought.  Living on the island with little to no fresh water took its toll.  Interesting to note that until 1610 all colonists were men.  The 1610 colonists included 90 unmarried women.  Seems things started to go better after 1610, go figure.

Monument at Jamestown
Monument at Jamestown

Jamestown may have been the birthplace of America, but Yorktown was where she won her independence.

The Visitor Center gave a superb overview of the build-up and eventual siege that took place at Yorktown.  After viewing the displays and films at the Visitor Center, the crew took the driving tour of the actual battlegrounds.  Many of the trenches and battle areas are still preserved.

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The wheels finally came off in 1781 for the British when they concluded that they would lose the northern colonies but would make a run at saving the southern colonies for the crown.  The British believed that if they built a port on the lower Chesapeake and controlled Virginia that the remaining southern colonies would stay with British rule.  Cornwallis decided on Yorktown for the port, and began to fortify the area.

Escape route over the York River
Escape route over the York River

Unfortunately for the British, the French had joined with the Americans.  The French Navy defeated the British Navy at the mouth of the Chesapeake and prevented additional supplies for Cornwallis.  With this victory, the Americans began a troop build-up with the aid of France.  Cornwallis was basically surrounded with only an escape route over the York River.  Standing on the shore of Yorktown, it is about two miles across the river to the north shore.

A few of the many siege cannons
A few of the many siege cannons

After two days of heavy cannon pounding, the British tried to escape over the York River.  They lost most of the boats and the men in them on the first crossing.  The weather and wind were not in the favor of the British.  With no escape route, Lord Cornwallis finally surrendered.

Location where French buried their dead
Location where French buried their dead

A couple of interesting things about the surrender that the skipper had forgotten from days gone by:

  1. Cornwallis negotiated the terms of the surrender for him and his men.  However, on the formal day of surrender, he claimed he was sick and stayed in his tent.  He sent one of his Junior Officers to represent him and surrender his sword.
  2. The troops were made to march about two miles outside of town and surrender their weapons by laying them down in a field.  Each man was allowed to carry one round of ammo.
  3. As part of the surrender agreement, the British had to pay the Americans room and board for all the new prisoners of war that had just surrendered.  Since the formal Peace Treaty was still about two years away, that was a pretty smart move on George Washington’s part.
Atop the victory memorial
Atop the victory memorial

On Sunday, September 6th, the crew set out on a mermaid hunt.  The city of Norfolk has made the mermaid their official mascot.  Originally about 130 mermaids were created and auctioned off by the city.  Now 25 of these mermaids are within walking distance of the waterfront.

Blind Justice at the courthouse
Blind Justice at the courthouse

The crew was successful in locating 22 of 25 mermaids.

Go Diva in the mall
Go Diva in the mall

On Monday, September 7th, the crew went to visit the Newport News Mariner’s Museum.  To do this collection justice, it is probably a two day visit.  The crew only had one day so they skipped a couple of 3D movies and exhibits.

The museum did reinforce a belief of the skipper though….”the victors get to write the history books.”  In this case the north gets to tell the story of the Navy battle between the Monitor and Merrimack.  The Virginians running the museum are quick to point out that the battle was between the Monitor and the CSS Virginia.

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The union troops sank the Merrimack as they were leaving Norfolk at the beginning of the war.  The south raised her and re-fitted her as an iron clad.  Also gave her a new name, the CSS Virginia.

The museum does a superb job of telling the story of the battle that changed navy vessels and navy warfare.  The two day battle shaped navy vessels (no more wooden ships) and navy tactics that are still used today.

Does anyone notice a family resemblance?
Does anyone notice a family resemblance?

With the Labor Day weekend winding down, the crew returned to their ship and began making plans for the next leg of their journey.  Weather permitting, they plan to cruise the Chesapeake Bay up to the northern reaches.  They will start with a side trip to Washington D.C. up the Potomac River.

The skipper got all excited when he saw the inside of a submarine
The skipper got all excited when he saw the inside of a submarine

Chesapeake Bay Fun Facts:

  1. The name Chesapeake originates from the Algonquin Indian phrase “K’che-se-piak” meaning “land along the big river.”
  2. The Chesapeake Bay is about 200 miles long
    1. Narrowest width – 2.8 miles
    2. Widest point – 30 miles
  3. The bay and tributaries stretch out to 11,684 miles of shoreline
    1. 7,213 in Virginia
    2. 4,471 in Maryland

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