We are in that hot and still, late-summer mode here at the bottom of the Bay, waiting for the weather to break into the fall pattern. Our big event, Norfolk HarborFest, has come and gone as I write this.
The weather was good, with one exception: A stiff easterly during the fireworks deposited a lot of debris from the pyrotechnics onto the boats and docks of Tidewater Marina on the Portsmouth side. Most was in the form of cardboard, but there was also a sprinkle of hot, sooty bits that marked up decks and, anecdotally, at least, caused a few burns. I haven’t heard any follow-ups about damage or injuries — it seems to have blown over, so to speak.
As a transplant to the Bay, I am often staggered by the summer humidity and triple-digit heat, whether the actual temperature or the “heat index,” which is the result of some special algorithm known only to meteorologists and bottled-water salesmen. The empty streets on those days remind me of 20-below days in Maine when nobody went outside, either. At this point you should be moved to reread “Fire and Ice,” by Robert Frost.
The Man from N.O.A.A.
The Virginian-Pilot, the local daily newspaper of Hampton Roads, reported on a topic that is close to our hearts — and stomachs — in this part of the world: the Atlantic blue crab. In the March issue, I reported here on the mislabeling of crab and crab cakes so as to pass off non-Atlantic blue crab as the real thing.
The report in the Pilot revealed that a Newport News seafood company, Casey’s Seafood, was being investigated for selling mixtures of foreign and local product as all Atlantic blue crab. It seems that agents of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had purchased crabmeat marked as Atlantic blue, sent it out for DNA testing and discovered that the majority of crab mixtures contained crabs from the western Pacific in addition to the real thing.
Casey’s has been here before; in 1997 it was selling Mexican crab as “Chesapeake Bay’s Finest.” That investigation sank when the investigators discovered that it wasn’t actually illegal to mislabel goods for sale. As one would hope, that has been fixed in Virginia law.
On the federal level, a task force — the Presidential Task Force on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud — released a plan to make mislabeling regulations tougher. Besides feeling good that watermen will get additional protection, I was more excited to learn that NOAA has special agents and that those who name presidential task forces are at the top of their game. How would you pronounce the acronym, PTFIUUFSF?
Go forth and become a boat nut
One of the fun aspects of the yacht brokerage profession is hearing how a boat you sold turned out to be everything the customer hoped it would be. Those of us who happily wear the sobriquet “boat nut” know that selling can be such an experience, and that working to enable that experience is very satisfying to a broker.
I recently sold an Elan 434, a bluewater sailboat built in Slovenia. She was purchased in Europe and sailed to the United States by the owners with a family crew. One of the owners was a New Zealander; the couple who purchased the boat were New Zealanders working on yachts in the States, and were looking for a boat to sail back to New Zealand. The transaction was complicated by the fact that the sellers had gone back to New Zealand for our winter season during the entire transaction. It all got sorted out, and at this writing the boat was nearing New Zealand with her new owners, having left North Carolina in the spring.
More locally, I worked long and hard to get a deal concluded on a Gulfstar 49 motor-yacht about a year ago. It cruised back into the marina after an eight-month, full-time, sweat-equity refit by the buyers. They did an amazing job and now have sold their house and cars to move aboard full time. I got brief reports through the process, but the real payoff was seeing the result. Pretty fun stuff.
Bonny Cape Charles
Across the mouth of the Bay in Cape Charles, Virginia, a deep-water megayacht-capable facility seems to be paying off. Although I like to think my perch is the center of the transient-yacht universe, the Baldwin family bet that there was an opportunity to catch megayachts transiting north and south that are either too big for the Intracoastal Waterway or simply don’t want to wind their way to the facilities of Portsmouth and Norfolk and out again to get to sea.
For sailors, Bermuda has been a convenient stop for years, but it’s expensive as a restocking and refueling point. Tucked just inside the Bay on the Eastern Shore, the Cape Charles Yacht Center is a perfectly positioned fuel-and-service stop. It is an economic boost for Northampton County, and it exposes more folks to the magic of the Eastern Shore.
In an article in the Eastern Shore Post in late June, reporter Bill Sterling noted that there were two 100-plus-foot sailing yachts docked end to end. The professional crews on both boats enjoyed the special experience of the Eastern Shore, and suppliers of fuel and marine services enjoyed business that didn’t exist several years ago. Time for another visit.
Hampton Roads is often the turnaround point for yacht club cruises originating up the Bay, which helps keep the marinas humming during the summer doldrums. It also keeps the visual feast going for us Mile Zero boat watchers. The Virginia Yacht Club came a few weeks ago (previous stop Cape Charles) and filled the transient dock with some great-looking powerboats from top builders, such as Sabre, MJM and Grand Banks, and a couple of lovely old Hatteras motoryachts in stunning condition. Unfortunately, we were also experiencing a heat wave, so there was a lot of cocooning in air-conditioned saloons.
This was in contrast to a couple of bluewater sailboats that came in soon after and promptly rigged their wind scoops and fans, sitting quite happily under awnings and Biminis. I have enjoyed both sides of that coin and make no judgment: Boat nuts are all equal under King Neptune.
Hot or cold, it’s always fun at Mile Zero. See you at the bottom of the Bay, the top of the Ditch.
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue.