Thursday, April 28, 2022

Tons done in two days

Serendipity! We're docked right outside
a local brewery.
Having a car is handy. On Tuesday, while the weather was still nice and warm, we ran a bunch of errands and did chores. We took all the bulk bedding (comforter, mattress pad, and sheets) to a local laundromat. From there we did a Costco run -- first time since Sarasota. That afternoon we sat on the deck and redid the anchor marks on our chain. We gave up on the little inserts and went back to our old way of adding little ties at the 25, 50, 75, and 100 lengths. Russ had confidence issues about how much scope we had out, which is not something you want when anchoring.

Working on the anchor chain
Wednesday the temps dropped as predicted. We didn't get the brunt of the storms that passed -- a little rain and wind -- but it got much cooler. We decided to play tourist and go visit the Virginia Triangle of History: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown.

First Jamestown, the start of it all. Turns out that while everyone knew it was there it had to be rediscovered. The first settlers (all men) came in 1607 and built a fort. Women and children didn't come until that had been established. But the area was almost cursed for these poor people. Between harsh winters and drought summers fresh water was a constant problem. It was the original seat of the state's capital. But by 1699 that honor was moved to Williamsburg so most folks left, saving the two plantations that were there. Those continued to plant and grow and eventually covered any town remnants over the next 200 years until, in 1895, they too were abandoned. It wasn't rediscovered until nearly one hundred years later.

Most of Jamestown looks like this. 
Buildings marked by small brick foundations
that were recreated.

Given this building lasted until the late 1800s 
it's in decent shape. It was the house on a plantation.

Excavation continues in a number of places on the site.

Small replica of the fort, the first buildings put here.

The Virginia Company, that which founded the creation
of Jamestown, wanted a settlement about 100 miles
from the bay. Jamestown is about 55. But given issues
with fresh water, then maybe should've explored a bit more?

Next came Williamsburg, which was a stark contrast to Jamestown. Still the home of William and Mary, a prestigious university made infamous by Steely Dan's My Old School -- which has been stuck in my head since visiting -- the historical town is nearly completely intact and maintained. You can stroll the main road, Duke of Gloucester, without paying, but you'll get to go inside nearly all the buildings for a fee. The DoG is wide and closed to car traffic, so the walk is wonderful. We're not in the tourist season yet but folks in period dress were everywhere to answer questions and help tourists. I imagine come June the place is packed. That said, it is worth the visit.

Quaint street in Merchant's Square

Duke of Gloucester.

The road is wide, and the structures are amazing.

Rant: THIS is an armory, where all the guns were kept.
You know... for that "well regulated militia."
'Nuff said.

The Capitol building at the end of DoG.

At one end of the DoG is Merchant's Square. Since it's near the school it's filled with eateries and stores. We had lunch there.

Quick pic from the Colonia Parkway.
The road IS a Nation Park.
Leaving Williamsburg we headed by the Colonial Parkway to Yorktown. That is the best driving to be done in the area. The road is a park. It reminded us of the Natchez Trace, another park that connects Natchez to Nashville. Both are worth driving... although the Trace is a lot longer.

We wandered the small waterfront of Yorktown which had a marina. It wasn't well sheltered for the winds we knew were coming, so we didn't use it. It too had a well maintained downtown, though smaller than Williamsburg. It's best known for the battlefield that ended the Revolutionary War. However, we'd been out and about since 8:30 in the morning, and by 3 pm we were too tired to visit. We saw Hamilton, so we get the gist.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Chesapeake to Hampton, slip

While the winds that are coming aren't the worst we've experience, we are now on the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay. We know from experience it can get very bad. So we decided to not go too far but get to somewhere we hadn't been. Thus, Hampton.

Our original plan was to explore the small waterways around here, the ones that are the most historic. Towns like Jamestown and Yorktown are all right here. Fun fact: while these towns were settled by way of ships there are no nearby marinas for boats. There are a few anchorages, and we thought about that. But we also need to reprovision a bit (haven't been to a Costco since Longboat Key). We opted to stay for 5 or 6 days, rent a car, explore the touristy areas and shop.

The bustle of Norfolk
We didn't get an early start because the day would be short. But it's slow going through Norfolk. It's kind of funny that you spend a couple of peaceful days on the Dismal only to be dropped into one of the busiest ports on the east coast. Norfolk. Between a myriad of container ships that come to swap goods to the military vessels here for repairs or upgrades, it seem like all we did was glue our eyes to the live charts looking for AIS signals of ships coming or going.

Downtown Norfolk!

Peeking out under a RR bridge

Yep, even here, derelict boats.

Hampton ahead
The slip we're in is along a wall. We sterned in so we could get on and off easily. It wasn't too tricky but it took us 2 attempts. Wind... again.

PS. I had no idea Newport News wasn't a rag.



Sunday, April 24, 2022

Elizabeth City to Dismal Swamp to Chesapeake, slip

Day 1.
Two days of travel in one blog, but that's because we were on the Dismal Swamp for 2 days.

Since we'd done this section of waterways a couple of times now we knew how to pace it. It's not long mile-wise, but it is best to do slow. It's one of the prettiest sections you see, so no reason to go fast. But mainly it's both narrow and thin; We saw depts below the keel of 2 feet in sections. Going fast can pull up some logs and make issues. Add some old fashioned locks on top of that (one to get you onto the canal and one off), and there's no reason to hustle.

It's just not that dismal!
The locks are a bit of a thing. The section between the locks are called pools. This pool does not have a lot of water in it. Moreover, it only gets replenished with rain water -- it doesn't get flow from the bays or ocean around it. So when the locks open they are adding or removing a million gallons of water from the pool. As a result the Coast Guard will only allow the lock to operate 4 times a day, and they must do so together to keep the pool level. 8:30, 11, 1:30, and 3:30. That's it. Come early, you wait. Come late, you wait.

Getting The Perch docked behind us.
We left Elizabeth City around 8:30 am to be at the lock at 11. We were joined by Long Recess and the two of us headed to the Visitor Center for the night.

The crew of Long Recess were some folks we met last year on the rivers and a docktails in Marietta. They are doing the loop this year. We're hoping to bump into them a couple of times as we head up to New York before we turn off to head to Maine.

While at the Visitor Center we were told 2 more boats were coming, one of which was The Perch. This is a bit of a celebrity vessel as the AGLCA's very own Kim Russo is aboard doing the loop. We all got together in the evening for a wonderful docktails.

Day 2

Left to right: Karen, Tony, me, Michael,
Margo (the Cockatoo), Kim and Russ.
Next day, engines on, and we all continued up the creek to the northernmost lock. We got there about an hour early, so we all rafted on the wall. Russ made us a second breakfast. Our 11 am lock-through got held up a bit since they locked up 3 boats first. Everyone sat out and chatted, so we enjoyed the extra time.

From there we all went our separate ways. We headed for Top Rack to fuel up and dine at the restaurant there, The Amber Lantern.

All rafted at the wall below the Deep Creek Lock.

Officially the ICW had come to an end. Onto the Chesapeake!

Friday, April 22, 2022

Belhaven to Elizabeth City, town dock

Long day. We keep saying we won't do those anymore, yet, when the weather is great and the water is amazing, we feel we have to take advantage of that.

We left Belhaven around 6:30, and were the first boat up and out. We were rewarded with a glorious sunrise. Love those.

Despite the early departure we were among many, many boats out today. Apparently everyone knew this was a banner day to cross the Albemarle Sound. Among those with us a fair number of boats were sailboats from Canada. I suspect there's a migration to get back to the home land before the 6 month limit is up.

Sunrise on the Pongo River
We got on the Albemarle around noon. It could not have been better. Small swells on the beam, but the biggest risk they presented was making us fall asleep with the gentle rocking. The crossing was followed by a long run up to Elizabeth City. Usually we dock at the town dock downtown, but this time we got through the low drawbridge first, saving us from having to get it open tomorrow, and docked at the city college. They have a navigation department complete with very decent docks.

Seriously. It doesn't get better than this.
It was a quick walk to town to visit the newest brewery there, 7 Sounds. All in all, a wonderful day.

Bald watching the boats go by.

On the dock at the college.



Thursday, April 21, 2022

Cedar Creek to Belhaven, marina

Up and out early while the wind was calm we continued north and onto the Neuse. Despite our efforts the seas, which rolled in off the Atlantic from the northeast, were not exactly calm. We get solid 2s with occasional 3 footers. 

We ran faster than normal which smoothed out the ride a bit. About 2/3 the way along the port side bilge pump came on, meaning we were taking on water. Russ went below to the engine room and discovered a small leak in the engines raw water intake. He tightened all the clamps but one wouldn't tighten. He assumed it busted and he'd need to replace it. We slowed down, watching the engine temps, and once we made it around the turn so our backs were to the wind (smoothing out our ride) we shut off the port engine. Russ replaced the clamp within a few minutes. The engine came on without hesitation and we were off. Nothing like on the fly mechanics.

On the River Forest pier
We cruised along the Goose Creek until we got to the next big body of water, the Pamlico.  Crossing it was a little choppy. Despite the predictions of calm winds we were having steady gusts over 15 knots. The ride smoothed out on the run up into Belhaven.

Lots of views like this today.
Wide open to the Atlantic.
We've been here a couple of times now. The dockmaster even recognized us. The last time we were here we docked just after a thunderstorms, and winds were 40 to 50 mph. Thankfully, they largely have a single pier you sidle up on and not slips to negotiate. He, too, remembered that storm and our docking. It was an event for us all. This time, it was cake.


The spread at River Forest. The building on the right
is an old home, now an event center.

Dinner at Spoon River Artworks

We had Ginger crusted tuna and pesto pasta with scallops.
And will for the next 2 days!



Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Beaufort to Cedar Creek, anchor

I was frustrated last night, and Russ was frustrated this morning. By 9 am nearly everyone on our fairway was gone. So... no one to tangle with now! No wind and very little current made Russ just want to leave. We'll be back. Hopefully with less drama. 

Getting out was trivial -- the big boat was easy to avoid and the boat on the other t-head was gone. From Beaufort we go northward, headed for the Neuse River. The trip only takes 2 hours to reach the river but in that time the calm winds got gusty. 20 - 25 mph, gusty. Moreover, the river's orientation runs northeast/southwest. The winds were coming from the northeast, and that meant big chop on the water. While it's never happened to us we've heard stories of the Neuse having 9 foot seas. The winds weren't that bad, but the chatter on the radio called the water "lumpy." We opted to drop a hook. Tomorrow (and the weekend) would be fantastic. We could use a little fantastic.

More derelict boats!
We already have reservations at River Forest in Belhaven, and we're planning on dinner at Spoon River Artworks (one of the best stops on the ICW). We're both looking forward to it.

Calm doesn't mean without hazards.
Lots to avoid on the Cedar Creek.

This is one of the advantages we have for knowing
our height AND being less than 17 feet.
In the distance, you can see the bridge is up. It comes down
and we simply go under. Russ takes down all the antennae
and our radar (which is hinged) just so we can do this.
Otherwise, we'd wait. For an hour.


Carolina Beach to Beaufort, slip

Beaufort NC (pronounce bOHfort) as opposed to Beaufort SC (bEAUfort). You can stop in both on the ICW. Go figure.

All in all, not our best day. There were a number of factors that contributed, and 99 % of the day was fine, but it's always the finish. Today ended in an insurance claim. No one was hurt, and our boat is completely undamaged. But the sailboat 2 slips down got damage on a davit. Stay tuned... story a-comin'.

Given we stayed in Carolina Beach for 3 night we were ready for a long day. We wanted to get Beaufort. The weekend forecast is looking spectacular so crossing the Neuse and Albemarle would be awesome. But long days, even if we arrive at a decent time, are just tiring. So that is probably the first contributor to what happened.

Quiet dawn in Carolina Beach
Keeping in the theme of the trip so far the day got windy. We saw gusts over 25 knot throughout the day. Even by 4:30, when we were docking, they were still around 15. We planned for that.

As we approached the marina I noticed a number of sailboats anchored outside of it. All were pointed at the marina which indicated to me neither the tide or wind were having much of an impact. We'd be entering the marina in the same direction they were pointed.

We were asked to take a slip down a fairway. Here's where it get fun: The fairway is bounded by 2 t-heads, each of which had boats on them that overlapped the pier space of the t-head; on the right, by 5 feet, and the left by nearly 15 feet or more. A HUGE sailboat on the left. The pier of the t-heads was 100 feet, but that boat was well over that (PS: Kaizen is the boat, and is 160 feet long. We could see its mast from way far away. I thought it was a radio tower.). So challenge number two (number 1 being winds) was getting inQuest into that fairway whose entrance was reduced by 20 feet at least.

Getting out was a panic since we did NOT want to hit
the big boat. We didn't, thankfully.

Pointing into the fairway the winds were on our port. The slip would be on our starboard. So we set up more to the port side, expecting winds to blow us to the right.

Get the scene? HUGE, SHINY,EXPENSIVE boat in the left, other boat hanging over on the right, winds coming from the left. We set up closer to the left...

We enter. As we're heading slowing forward we notice we are not being pushed to the right at all but rather to the left. Towards the danger! And within moments, we had no room to turn or maneuver. We cleared the big, shiny boat but within a few more moments we were up against another sailboat's stern (Note: it was in the slip just beyond the big one, but it, too, was also 10 feet longer than the slip, otherwise we'd have just been on the pilings). One of its davits got caught in our rails and got twisted. Russ managed to push us off. By then the dock hands realized we were in distress and ran to an empty slip just ahead of us. Once Russ freed us we bumped forward and could twist ourselves around a piling and get into that empty slip.

Just for reference, this was its bow.
Boats on this side also complained about
how difficult it was to dock.
But the damage was done. We didn't notice that the current was stronger than the winds, and pushing us towards the left, but because of the crowded situation on that side of the channel, once we did realize that we had no room to maneuver.

I was so upset I went to bed immediately without dinner. That left Russ to deal with the marina and the owner and the insurance company. He was frazzled by morning. We planned on staying 2 nights, but once everyone left this morning we weren't in the mood to stay. No boats to damage now! Of course we left without a hint of issue.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Hangin' in Carolina Beach

Eating donuts! The only make one, a glazed
similar to Krispy Kreme. Very fresh and warm.
We moved daily. From the ball we went to a t-head at a small marina. That allowed us to do laundry, get pumped out, and get some shopping done. And get donuts. The storm and wind came last night so cruising a distance didn't sound like a wonderful idea, but staying on the dock wasn't necessary either. We moved back to the ball.

On the t-head, watchin' the boats go by.
And the pelican just bobbin' around.

We'll put in a longer day tomorrow. This storm will have passed. More importantly things look really nice Tuesday, and that would be a great day to be on the Neuse, a very wide body of water that can be snotty.

My windy app. All that red stuff on the right
is coming right at us! The worst, however,
is over.




Saturday, April 16, 2022

Calabash to Carolina Beach, ball

Getting to be the routine: Up early, out by 6:30, and off we go. Lovely day today. Kinda overcast, calm winds (that changed later but we were already moored), good water. 

We crossed a larger body today, Cape Fear River, which is a shipping channel. Most times we've been there some freighter was coming in or out, and today was no exception. Those ships are truly awesome.

Pretty dawn
We got on the ball early, around 11:30. We dropped the dinghy and headed into town, which everyone says is cute. Carolina Beach is a throwback to old beach towns. It's small, but has all the tourist favorites: restaurants, ice cream shops, fishing tours, and chachkas shops. We ate in a Mexican place that had "camarones al mojo de ajo" and while it was good, it wasn't that. Unless they confused "ajo" with "champinons" (garlic for mushrooms). 

If you look close someone took half a boat
and made it a shelter on their dock.
Tomorrow we have reservations at a marina here on a t-head. We'll move early so we can enjoy the day. There's a donut shop in town, Britt Donuts, that must be something -- they had a line out the door and down the block. I'm hoping to give those a try.


The ride on the Wackamaw, yesterday.


Friday, April 15, 2022

Butler Island to Calabash Creek, anchor

This is a test.
Let me know what you think of the new map.

Sunset in Butler Creek
While there were some stiff winds today we had an added benefit that the tide was always with us. Our average speed all day was over 9 knots. Which was pretty exciting for us.

Weighing anchor around 8:30 in the morning we got back on the ICW and headed north. Unlike yesterday, a journey full of skinny waters and shoals, today was deep and easily navigable. Also, gone are the flat grasslands of the south. Gorgeous trees line the channel. This stretch is the loveliest of the ICW, most believe.

A pretty sailboat went by. But this was the 
best shot of it I could get.
Fridays are the start of busy boating weekends in these parts. The wind and the cool air kept some folks home but it was enough to motivate us to get were we want to go tomorrow as early as possible. We have reservations for a mooring ball. We hope to be there by noon.

Turtle on a rock. He's waving at us.

Went through a section called "The Rock Pile."
Not very wide and, as you guessed, bounded by rock.

Pretty waterways.