Posts Tagged ‘Chesapeake Bay’

Celebrating Op Sail 2012 On The Eastern Shore of Virginia- Part I, The Parade of Sail

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Op Sail 2012 was a big shebang, very big, celebrated in the US in the ports of  New York, New Orleans,  Norfolk,  Baltimore, New London and Boston.   Organized around the Bicentennial anniversary of the War of 1812 and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner,  the 2012 event is  6th  Operation Sail event.   Kicked off in 1964,  Op Sail was the culmination of worldwide efforts by the late maritime historian Frank Braynard and IBM executive  Nils Hansell to create an event designed to  foster international  goodwill by bringing together sailing ships from nations from all corners of the globe  to gather for  a fabulous parade of sail into New York harbor.  And so  in conjunction with the New York World’s Fair,  Op Sail was born, an instant huge success  which has been followed up by 5 additional Op Sail events, each tied to an  American historical event, each bigger and better than the last.  But Op Sail 2012  seems to have been the most spectacular of them all, especially in Virginia,  where the event was expanded for the first time to include not only the traditional port of Norfolk but also several small nearby ports including Cape Charles as part of the Tall Ships at Cape Charles Festival as well as the port of  Onancock on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Fortunately for those of us who live on the Eastern Shore, one of the main events of the entire festival is the “Parade of Sail“,  the magnificentfive mile long  flotilla  featuring of  scores of  international tall ships accompanied by military vessels from the US Navy and Coast Guard as well as literally  hundreds of local sail and power boats,  streaming across the water, escorting the international ships  to the tall ship’s main anchorages in downtown Norfolk and Portsmouth.  The ships overnighted in near Lesner Bridge in Virginia Beach and at dawn  prepared to parade from the Lynnhavenanchorage,  through the mouthof  the Chesapeake Bay and up the Elizabeth River  into Norfolk, a  spectacular fleet  which, if all the ships were placed end to end, would be an amazing 7700 feet long !

Happily, this Parade involves  passing  directly over the  first tunnel of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel which connects the Eastern Shore of Virginia to the city of Virginia Beach on the mainland !   Which meant that tickets to view from both the first and second Bridge Islands were available for this one-of-a-kind show and we were lucky enough to get  two tickets for the closest Island, One  Island at Thimble Shoal, rather than for Two  Island without  restaurant and restroom facilities.  So even though we are not normally crack-of-dawn people, by 5:30 am on the day, we were up and scurrying around,  grabbing hats, sun screen, a tiny cooler for water, binoculars, all the little comfort things, getting on the road before 6.  Seating was on a first-come basis and we were  hoping to get a front row seat on the bleachers, which, amazingly,  we were able to do  !

The day was simply beautiful- a sunrise of pinks and peach, cloudless sky, good breezes all morning long ( thank heavens, hard to sail without the wind gods behind you), water sparkling, everyone on the Island in sky-high spirits, thrilled to be there for this special, once in a decade or so, event.  The Parade was kicked off by the US Coast Guard ship, the USS Eagle. The 295 foot Eagle has an interesting history having been built in Germany, launched in 1939 as the SSS Horst Wessel,  but ending up in the possession of the United States after WWII as part of German war reparations.  A training ship for  Coast Guard cadets and a goodwill ambassador  for the US,  the aptly named Eagle gleamed in the morning sun, her 22,000 square feet of  white sails billowing,  proud as a mother swan with all her cygnets streaming along  behind her although probably those magnificent ships behind her might not like the comparison.

The announcer for the nearly 3 hour program was  Captain Sara Cole, commander of the Learning Barge. ( The Learning Barge was, of course, not in the Parade but it is a fascinating vessel in its own right. Winner of several national awards including one from the EPA,  this vessel was hand built over 3 years as a project between  the University of Virginia School of Architecture and the Elizabeth River Project, a local environmental group.  The Learning Barge is essentially a floating lab where students can sample water quality, identify pollution, learn about restoration of wetlands, grow algae, learn about sustainability, all hands-on. )  At any rate, Capt. Cole had amassed a great deal of information about each of the tall ships and military vessels participating in the Parade.

Thus I learned several new nautical terms including “dressing ship”  which she indicated means just what it sounds like- dressing  the ship to the nines, no diamonds or rubys  included there,  just every signal flag flying, weighted, an array of colors and symbols adorning these dramatic  ships, many like the Eaglefunctioning  as training ships and goodwill ambassadors for their countries.  Several Navy ships participated,  including  a helicopter escorted US submarine which was the concluding boat in the Parade.   From the US,  several well-known tall sailing ships including replias of the Bounty and Godspeed, the amazing Kalmar Nyckel from Delaware and the Pride of Baltimore as well as the 3 ships destined for Cape Charles, the Lynx, the Appledore and the Sultana.  In addition to  ships  from the US,  from Indonesia, Mexico, Columbia, Brazil, Spain, the Cook Islands, Bermuda, Germany, Canada, Denmark and the United Kingdom they sailed,  already having visited New York and New Orleans.  After the visit in Virginia, the longest visit of all, the fleet would be off to Baltimore, Boston and New London. And there they would no doubt wow their audiences,  just as all of us out on Thimble Shoal’s One Island that lovely summer morning  were thrilled by the 2012 Op Sail’s  Parade of Sail, serenely crossing  the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

Eastern Shore’s Independence Day 2011, Cape Charles Style

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

In towns small and large all across this country, very, very early on the Fourth of July,  organizers are out and about, getting ready for the big parade and after dark, the fireworks.  And the same holds true for the little coastal town of Cape Charles, Virginia,  but with several special twists.   Great fireworks, of course, set off from the Cape Charles harbor, with an audience not only watching from the shore but lots of boats gathered out in the Chesapeake Bay to watch amazing colors bursting high in the night sky.  And there is a parade  but there also is a fishing tournament, beach volleyball tournaments,  an  artisan show  and a corn hole tournament all steeped in the tempting aromas of the food vendors lined up along Bay Avenue.   Squash , broccoli and salads are mysteriously absent but behold the delicious crab cakes, clam fritters,  grilled Italian sausages with onions and bell peppers, hamburgers,  hot dogs and French fries, of course.  Funnel cakes dusted lightly with powdered sugar, ice cream, brilliantly colored snow cones and Italian ices are there in great profusion,  ready to help Cape Charles  celebrate the 4th of July.

Reeling In– Will It Be The Big One ?

Our first order of the day was the Fishing Tournament– not for adults but for kids, divided into  3 groups,  RED ( up to age  7),   WHITE  (  ages 8-12)  and, you guessed it,   BLUE   (ages 13 to 17).   The Kids 4th of July Fishing tourney is an annual 4th of July event sponsored by the  Northampton County Angler’s Club and its become a very popular event both with the kids and their parents but also with on-lookers, like my husband,  who love seeing kids having fun with something besides their video games and who also love fishing.  The event takes place on the impressive Cape Charles Chesapeake Bay fishing pier down by the beach and Charles Dumouchchelle, the 4 year past present of the Anglers,  was there overseeing all the action, registration,  rod and reel loaners, judges, the lot.   Awards are made by age group, three prizes for each group,  with a first prize of a rod, reel and tackle box.  While I was chatting with Charles, Jim Clark, who Charles describes as one of the best fishermen on the Eastern Shore,  came up to enthusiastically convey the news that his  young grand-nephew Zack had just caught an 18  inch flounder, the biggest catch so far by any age group– clearly  fishing talent runs in the family !

Uncle Sam, Cape Charles Golf Cart Style

By this time volleyball and horseshoes were  gearing up but I was a little hot.  After grabbing a couple of deliciously cold lemon Italian ices,  we  headed for Blue Heron Realty’s  Mason Avenue office for a little AC prior to taking a stroll down the street to see some of the art work on display along the sidewalk.  Just  about 2pm the parade kicked off with the Color Guard from the Cape Charles Coast Guard Station leading the way, marching in quick step down Mason Avenue and around and down Bay Avenue, throngs of on-lookers cheering them on, then the American Legion float,  followed by the Golf Cart Parade and the Bicycle Parade.  Cape Charles is one of the few towns in Virginia where golf carts are street legal and lots of residents enjoy ” going green”  and  zipping around town in their electric golf cart  rather than a gas powered car. Every year,  as part of the 4th of July celebration, the town sponsors a golf cart parade.  Owners can decorate their cart and enter it into the Parade contest and I’ve seen some very creative designs entered.  The golf cart contingent was followed by the Bicycle Parade– kids of all ages can gather down near the  Fire Station on Plum Street to participate in the parade, riding their bikes, some still with training wheels, all the way down Mason Avenue and  Bay Avenue, learning at an early age that in a democracy, participation is important.  So,  a long day but full of  fun, food, fireworks– an Eastern Shore Independence Day,  Cape Charles style.

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)