Sunday, May 06, 2007

“Bring it on, Captain Woody”

To exit the canal onto the main branch of the Elizabeth River approaching Norfolk is like leaving Walden’s Pond and stepping into the streets of Manhattan. A simple left turn into the channel and in an instant a colossal barge is upon us barreling head-on at 12-plus knots. Time for evasive maneuvers. After a slow three-sixty we head up river staring skyward in awe at the towering cranes, freighters, and Navy carriers. Look out! Another tug is backing into our path. We hold up and wait as it rumbles into the channel with a 70-foot tall crane barge cabled to its bow.

Though Norfolk harbor is only 6 miles distant, we must pass through five lift bridges and draw bridges, and we do not know their schedules. We theorize they will certainly open ahead of the crane barge, so Geert radios the captain of the tug, the Captain Woody, to ask if we might tag along in his wake. “No problem,” he answers, “over and out.”

And so we bobble along in the prop wash of the tug, listening like gleeful children as we hear the tug radio each upcoming bridge requesting an opening. The last bridge master responds to the tug with what will become the anthem for our day, “Bring it on, Captain Woody!”