Sailing Islands aboard Rovinkind II

The best of the best: Norfolk & Portsmouth, Virginia


A very “Top Gun” anchorage in Willoughby Bay Inlet

The rhythmic “wop-wop-wop” sound grew increasingly louder, becoming almost deafening, as two twin-engine helicopters approached low and made a graceful turn towards the harbour directly over our boat, then circled past the 2 enormous aircraft carriers at the mouth of Willoughby Bay Inlet. Tonight we would be sharing this large anchorage next to the US Naval Station Norfolk with about 10 other boats, half of which were fellow Canadians like us bound for warmer weather.

Norfolk, Virginia is best known as the home to the 4,300-acre Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world. Norfolk shares the harbour of Elizabeth River with Portsmouth, reminding us of our twin cities of Halifax and Dartmouth at home in Nova Scotia. We had a great time as the sun set capturing photos and enjoying the show as dozens of helicopters and planes and listening as US “Warships” talked over the VHF radio. It truly felt like we’d sailed into a screening of the movie Top Gun.

aircraftcarrierOne of four aircraft carriers we counted.

After inquiring at a few local marinas by cell phone about where we could get our anchor mast light fixed, Fred had reached Ralph, Service Manager, at Tidewater Yacht Marina, located right at the Mile Marker “0” for the ICW, or “the ditch” as cruisers often refer to it. He said he could do it the next day, so the following morning we headed into Portsmouth.

The buoy that is unofficially “Mile Marker 0” of the ICW just outside Tidewater Marina.

Right from the initial phone call, Fred had felt confident that we found a place that would take care of us. We pulled into the floating service dock of Tidewater  to two smiling staff who grabbed our lines and helped us pull alongside. The crew at Tidewater couldn’t have been nicer or more professional during our longer than anticipated stay. We needed to have two new parts ordered which wouldn’t arrive till the next day, so Ralph graciously let us stay at on the service dock for two nights without charge while we waited for the work to be done — with access to power, water, showers, and free Wifi (a cruiser’s dream)! We found the marina very welcoming to transients and understanding of their needs and timelines, which differs from those of locals and members. The marina staff always greeted us with a smile and asked if there was anything we needed, and offered plenty of valuable advice and recommendations.


 The wonderful team at Tidewater Yacht  Marine Services with Fred.

One of the things they recommended (and which we would in turn recommend) was Portside Taxi Service as we needed a hardware store and there wasn’t one within walking distance. We actually met taxi driver Helen before we needed to call them, who joked that we could remember her by her nickname, “Hell on Wheels”. She and her husband Bob own the business which services marina, and occasionally hotel, guests exclusively. Marina guests are “projects” explained Bob when he drove us to Lowes; they need more than just someone to drive them from point A to B. Therefore, he’s become a problem-solver, a concierge and a tour guide all in one. He recommended the Commodore Theatre, which after hearing what it was all about, Fred and I quickly agreed deserved a date night!

The Commodore Theatre is a historic, art-deco style theatre on High Street in Portsmouth that does a twist on “dinner and a movie”. Guests are seated at tables with comfy pub-style chairs where they can order from a menu by a phone at the table an assortment of appetizers, entrees, desserts and wine and beer in addition to traditional movie theatre fare. Then during the movie the meal is delivered to your table. We saw The Judge with Robert Downey and Robert Duvall and thoroughly enjoyed the entire unique experience.

As we left the theatre, we realized that even though we were in a city we’d never been in, thousands of miles from Halifax, we were actually walking home – home to our tiny floating house where our puppy was waiting for us with lots of love and kisses, and a home one which goes everywhere with us.


Just around the corner you can catch the ferry across the harbour to Norfolk for $1.75.  In fact it feels very much like Halifax/Dartmouth.

Check out my big guns.

FredStrollingWisconscin Touring the USS Wisconsin at the Nauticus Museum in Norfolk


View from Nauticus in Norfolk towards Portsmouth and the Tidewater Yacht Marina.  You can see our two masts sticking out over the building on the waterfront in the center of the picture.


  1. Fantastic. glad to hear all is well.
    Have fun!


  2. Fantastic trip you two are embarked upon! Looking forward to more tales of adventures on the high seas.

  3. Hello Fred and Patricia,
    Just went thru your blog site–looks and sound like you are having a great trip–We just had our first snow flurries and temps in the 30’s so we will escape on Dec 1 for the warmer weather of Florida.
    Hope to get over to see you before you kick off for the Islands.
    Keep up the blogs

    • Hi Terry,
      We arrived in Florida yesterday after a 164 mile off shore passage. It is going down to 0 degrees C here tomorrow night so you are not missing the warm weather yet. I think the cold weather is following us down. We would love to see you both before we head out to the islands. Let us know as you get closer and we will arrange to be in a place we can meet up. Stay with us when you come by…. it is not luxury but our bed and breakfast is the best price on the east cost.

Leave a Reply