Sailing to the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean 1500

Portsmouth and Tidewater Marina

Click on the picture to launch Google Maps and display an annotated map of the Portsmouth area, showing some nearby points of interest. Use your browser's "back" command to return here.   Click on the picture to display a chart for the Elizabeth River by Portsmouth and Norfolk, excerpted from NOAA Chart 12253 - Norfolk Harbor And Elizabeth River. (160 kb) Use your browser's "back" command to return here.

The barquentine Gazela, which is Philadelphia's tall ship ambassador, moored alongside the Portsmouth waterfront. In the background at left are the huge dry docks operated by Norfolk Ship Repair.  

The Caribbean 1500 traditionally leaves from Bluewater Marina in Hampton, Virginia. After Jeff brought Night Heron down from Rhode Island, he stopped at Bluewater Marina, among other things to ask about getting work done on the boat. "We don't work on sailboats" was the reply, after which Jeff promptly cast off the lines and motored away. He wound up at Tidewater Marina, more than 10 miles away on the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth, Virginia.

This turned out to be a fortuitous move. Not only was the marina staff helpful, but the on-site crew of technicians had the expertise Jeff needed to fix up Night Heron for an offshore passage. (I have more details on the boat work in the Preparing For The Voyage section.) Once all the boat work was done, Jeff had planned to move the boat to Bluewater Marina, but as it turned out, the weather that day was very unfavorable and Night Heron stayed put. The boat never did make it to Hampton, and when the Caribbean 1500 started, we left from Portsmouth.

Tidewater Marina in Portsmouth turned out to be an interesting place to hang out. It's located on the western shore of the Elizabeth River about nine miles south of Hampton Roads, which is where the James River enters the southwestern corner of Chesapeake Bay. This part of the Elizabeth River is a major commercial river dominated by the Navy, with huge shipyards and bases nearby. In fact, you might consider the river to be a "marina" for the Navy, but instead of 50' slips for sailboats, they have 1,000' slips for aircraft carriers. The river carries a lot of recreational traffic as well, since the Intracoastal Waterway starts just north of the marina at buoy "Red 36". While we were at Tidewater, I saw numerous snowbirds motor past the marina as they headed south along the ICW.

The marina had the usual amenities, including clean restrooms with showers, a laundry room, a swimming pool, an on-site restaurant ("The Deck") with outdoor and indoor dining areas, a well-stocked (though pricey) ship's store with some groceries, and a fuel dock (Shell). Located in a corner of the marina was Full Throttle Marine, an excellent group of boat technicians who had a Travelift and a miniscule boatyard; adjacent to the marina was a Holiday Inn with a bar and restaurant. The marina was a short walk from downtown Portsmouth including the historic Old Towne section and the Post Office (though boaters could receive packages at the marina office/store). The one marina amenity that came up short was the wi-fi, which was very expensive and had incredibly poor performance.

I have more pictures and information about Portsmouth and Tidewater Marina on the next few pages.

The transom of a boat in the marina; I thought the name was funny.   This is the popular anchorage just north of Tidewater Marina on the west side of the Elizabeth River. The anchorage is adjacent to buoy "Red 36", which denotes "Mile 0" of the Intracoastal Waterway.

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