Hampton, Virginia

Cruising — March 2002 — Hampton, Virginia

Cruising — March 2002
By Capt. Ken Kreisler

Hampton, Virginia

Located on one of the world’s greatest natural harbors, this historical city is also a jumping-off point for the southbound ICW.

Photo: Buddy Mays/Corbis
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When English settlers on their way to colonize the Jamestown encampment looked upon the land and waters of what would become known as the southeastern tip of the Virginia peninsula, some saw the perfect location to lay down new roots. Located inside a large natural harbor, it had access to the rich-with-life waters of the Atlantic Ocean and to the many rivers of the estuarial system of the bountiful Chesapeake Bay.

In 1610 a group of hardy and brave souls settled the town of Elizabeth City by constructing Fort Henry and Fort Charles, as well as St. John's Episcopal parish at the mouth of Hampton Creek. The town thrived on the abundant game and fish the surroundings provided, and by 1680 the settlers had changed the name to Hampton.

Because of its strategic location, Hampton played a crucial role in Revolutionary War activities, and when the conflict ended in independence, Hampton grew along with the new nation. Seafood processing and shipbuilding were two lucrative industries that many Hamptonians engaged in.

Fort Monroe--which today is the only active moat-encircled fort in the country--was built in 1819 and for a time during the Civil War was the only Union outpost in the Confederacy. The famous battle between the first ironclad warships, the Monitor and the Merrimac, was fought in the waters just offshore of Hampton. The city was burned down during the war by its own troops, who preferred to see it reduced to ashes rather than fall into the hands of Federalist soldiers. Thirty businesses were lost and more than 100 homes were consumed. And in another devastating fire that occurred in 1884, the entire downtown business district was destroyed.

Hampton today is a thriving community of more than 140,000 residents. Many of its historic homes, buildings, and downtown waterfront area have been carefully restored, and just as before, its proximity to the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean, and ICW makes it the perfect stopover for the visiting mariner.

The waterway is clearly marked, but the nearby naval base at Norfolk, the Newport News shipbuilding facility, and several commercial ports that form this nautical crossroads will have you keeping a sharp eye out day and night. You will need NOAA charts 12254, 12245, 12222, 12221, 12207, and 12205.

While there are Coast Guard-designated anchorage areas clearly marked on the chart, transients should seek dock space in the many quality, full-service marinas. Here are a few.

∑ The Downtown Hampton Public Piers (757) 727-1276 offers 28 slips for visitors and can accommodate vessels to 110 feet.

∑ Free pump-outs, a swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts, and on-shore transportation is available at Southall Landings Marina (757) 850-9929.

Salt Ponds Marina Resort (757) 850-4300 offers 70 transient slips, repair and diving services, and a nearby beach.

∑ Other marinas include Sunset Boating Center (757) 722-3325, Hampton Roads Marina (757) 723-6774, and Batten Pocket (757) 723-1855.

With historic Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown a 30-minute cab ride away and Norfolk a short ferry ride across the harbor, Hampton offers the visitor lots to do. Try some of these:

∑ Looking for some original watercolor art for your boat or home? Local artists Lisa Marie Samaha (757) 880-5156/5071 and Carol Chandler-Kenreigh (757) 865-4273 will take you through their galleries. And by the way, Samaha is Dr. Samaha, as in DDS, so if you need some dental work done, you can get both things accomplished in one painless appointment.

∑ Sightseers can relish the many fascinating points of interest the area has to offer. Fort Monroe and the Casemere Museum, the Kecoughtan Indian Village, the Syms-Eaton Museum, the Aerospace Museum, and the Mariners Museum are just a few. The Hampton Visitors Center (757) 727-1102 can steer you in the right direction. It can also give you information on the upcoming Blackbeard Festival, which celebrates the beheading of the opprobrious picaroon in Ocracoke, North Carolina, whose decapitated remains were put on public display in the town of Hampton to deter others from seeking the pirate way of life.

Next page > Hampton, Virginia continued > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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