Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wrightsville Beach, NC- Beaufort, SC

Beaufort, SC 32 25.81 N 080 40.47 W

This past week we have had perfect weather with daytime temps in the 80’s and evenings in the 60’s. Since our last post we have traveled 260 miles further down the ICW and are at the mid-way point to our Delray Beach destination in Florida. So here is a little re-cap of our travels.

We left Wrightsville Beach, NC last Thursday, 10/21 leaving North Carolina to stern and entered South Carolina. That night we anchored with about 9 other sail & trawler cruisers in the narrow, swift flowing Calabash Creek near the mouth of the Little River Inlet. As we make our way further south we are experiencing strong currents in the anchorages as most are in creeks with swift flowing waters and 6’-7’ tidal ranges. We have been told that this is the case all the way to the Indian River in Florida. We are grateful to have lots of heavy chain and a reliable anchor. For the past few days we have been traveling southbound and sharing the same anchorages with another catamaran, Lipari, a Fountaine Pajot 410. Randy from Lipari dinghied over that evening to introduce himself and chat awhile. He and his wife Janet are also making their way to Florida and then the Bahamas.

The Wacamaw River
 We upped anchor on Friday and traveled past Myrtle Beach with its many golf courses and resorts then through the remote cypress marshes of the Wacamaw River. We anchored behind Butler Island along with Lipari.This is also their first time down the ICW and we enjoyed sundowners onboard Carina as we discussed plans and anchoring options for the next few days.

Bald Eagle perched in a tree
along a river bank
Saturday we motored through the rest of the Wacamaw River and into the relatively open waters of Winyah Bay before the ICW turns back out into canals, rivers and coastal marshlands. We followed Lipari into our agreed upon anchorage behind Dewees Island near Isle of Palms.

Sundowners were interrupted while
anchored off Dewees Island to aid a
disabled power boat
 We were closer to the ocean than we have been for quite some time and were entertained by many dolphins that swan around our boat. Cocktails this evening were aboard Lipari. Shortly after arriving on Lipari, Mark and Randy assisted some local boaters whose engine was disabled – towing safely to the nearby dock.
We docked for 2 days at downtown
Charleston Maritime Center Marina
We arrived in Charleston, SC Sunday. Lipari continued on to Savannah. We decided to splurge and stayed 2 nights at the Charleston Maritime Center. Anchoring in Charleston is not recommended due to strong currents, poor holding and heavy boat traffic including large freighters and cruise ships. The Maritime Center Marina was very convenient to downtown historic sections, marine aquarium and groceries. We played tourist for two days while enjoying this beautiful city, touring historical buildings, mansions, graveyards, churches and the market area.
In the formal gardens outside the
Calhoun Mansion

The Circular Congregational Church.
and graveyard. Founded about 1681
by Charles Towne's original settlers.
Waterfront walk along Rainbow Row

We left Charleston on Tuesday traveling through what the locals refer to as “Low Country” down here. Down one river, through a canal cut, up another river…. so forth and so on. We anchored on swift flowing Wimbee Creek – that night the current competed with a strong southerly wind making us ride over our anchor with the tide changes. Once again we are thankful for heavy chain and our big anchor.

Kathy at a farmers market near the
Beaufort docks.

On Wednesday we traveled a short distance down to Beaufort, SC (pronounced Bu-fort …. not to be confused with Bo-fort, NC). This is a beautiful town on the Beaufort River that welcomes transient boaters. We reserved a slip at the Downtown Marina to make it easier to explore the town.
Typical Beaufort street scene:
Antebellum home with Live Oak tree
and Spanish Moss.  
We took a horse carriage tour of the town which was very interesting. Beaufort has the largest number of antebellum homes in SC and is the second oldest town only to Charleston. 457 homes & businesses have national historic recognition requiring a federal permit for any house improvements… even changing the color of the home. We enjoyed a delicious pizza at Panini’s on Wednesday night and then another great lunch at Plum’s on Thursday - both restaurant's outside dining decks overlooking the waterfront park.

The Beaufort waterfront park and the
Ladies Island Swing Bridge over the
Beaufort River (& the ICW) in back.

Tomorrow we depart Beaufort and make our way into Georgia as the miles and memories add up.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Norfolk, VA - Wrightsville Beach, NC

Wrightsville Beach, NC
34 12.47 N 077 47.95 W

On Wed. 10/13 we drove back to Carina at Waterside Marina from an absolutely wonderful wedding.... a Mark quote: “The best friggin’ wedding I’ve ever been to!”). Since Jay & Veronica had essentially rented the OBX beach house for the entire week, we stayed for a few days after the weekend wedding to enjoy some time off the boat. Thursday was spent using the rental car to run errands around Norfolk…. refill a propane tank, fill dinghy gasoline tank and re- provisioning at a grocery store.

Leaving Norfolk at the start of the
ICW at Mile 0
 We departed Norfolk to continue our southbound journey early last Friday morning (10/15/10). Coincidently, just outside the Waterside Marina, on the south branch of the Elizabeth River also happens to be mile marker 0 for the start of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The ICW, also referred to as "The Ditch", runs south 1240 statute miles (not nautical miles) to Key West, FL It comprises both manmade and natural canals, rivers, bays, and sounds, offering a protected inside passage for those transiting along the Atlantic coast rather than going outside around Cape Hatteras. There are many highway or RR bridges to pass either through or under while transiting the ICW… swing, bascule, pontoon bridges as well as fixed bridges that are mostly 65’ clearance height (a few exceptions). Carina's mast height is 62'. 

Southbound boats lined up to pass
through the Great Bridge lift bridge
That Friday was the day before the Nor’Easter forecasted for the NE US and there was a mass exodus of boaters leaving Norfolk moving south to beat the strong winds. We passed (sometimes having to wait for scheduled openings) through 9 different highway & RR bridges as well as three 65’ fixed bridges.

14 boats squeezed into the Great
Bridge Locks
We also transited the Great Bridge Locks that day. The winds increased that afternoon on our stern as we crossed Currituck Sound. We arrived at Coinjock, NC Marina & Restaurant at mile marker 50 on Friday evening where we once again tied up and plugged dockside. We had dinner at the restaurant that night with two other southbound cruising couples we had met that day.

On Saturday Jay & Veronica stopped at by on their way home from the OBX. By the time they left Carina at 1PM the wind was blowing strong so we decided to stay a second night at the marina waiting for more settled weather to make the crossing of Albemarle Sound. This body of water can be one of the most treacherous on the entire ICW in any winds greater than 10m knots. We took advantage of another day on land and went for a nice long walk. It got chilly, into the 40’s both nights and it was nice to be plugged in dockside to enjoy the heating.

Along the Pungo/Alligator River Canal
 Sunday (10/16) dawned clear & calm. All the southbound boaters awoke before dawn and we were all underway before 8AM. We traveled down the North River, across Albermarle Sound, then down the Alligator River and through the 22 mile long Alligator / Pungo River Canal. This section of ICW is extremely remote with nothing but swampland & marshes for miles and miles but absolutely wild and stark beauty.

Sunset anchorage on the Pungo River
We exited the canal around 5PM into the headwaters of the Pungo River where we anchored with about 9 other southbound sailboats & trawlers in a quiet bay at ICW mile marker 127. It has been nine nights since the last time we dropped an anchor and that the two cats were very happy they could finally get out and walk the decks. We don’t let them out on deck while tied to docks – Barnacle for sure would make a run for it.

On the Hobocken Canal
toward the Neuse River
Monday we traveled down the Pungo River across the Pamlico River, through Hobocken Canal and into the Neuse River. We anchored in Cedar Creek at mile marker 187. So far on our adventure we have had the pleasure of meeting many interesting folks.   

Wayne welcomed us to Adams Creek
sharing his local knowledge.
This afternoon is a great example. We were having afternoon cocktails in the cockpit when a large (39' Tartan) sailboat ghosted along just off our stern. As we were anchored in extremely shallow water (1.8’ under our keels) we commented that he must be a fellow with local knowledge. We exchanged hellos and he asked if he could tie up stern to stern to talk & share his local knowledge. Turns out, Wayne is another "Damn Yankee" transplant from New Jersey who moved to North Carolina about 7-8 years ago. He said he sails around the anchorage every day and tries to help out transient boaters by giving them advice on the local area. We spent about an hour talking and he was a wealth of knowledge with regards to restaurants, anchorages and shopping. We parted ways with an invitation to meet up with him in the spring on our way north for dinner out with him and his wife. This would never happen back north!

Coastal marsh view along the
ICW near Bogue Inlet
We are trying to make 50-60 miles each day down the ICW so on Tues. we departed just after sunrise down Allen Creek and through Beaufort- Moorhead City. The ICW leaves the inland rivers, canals and follows an inside passage along the barrier islands of the coast here. We could smell the ocean again and the water is noticeably less tea colored. We have commented that since traveling the ICW we have not paid as much attention to the weather as when we were sailing the ocean. Today we had a 15-20 knot head wind with flat water and it was very comfortable. It would not have been so if we had taken the outside route.

Choppers buzzed overhead on training
runs all afternoon & evening while
anchored near USMC Camp Lejeune
We anchored off the ICW mile 245 in a basin called Mile Hammock Bay which is within the bounds of Marine’s Camp Lejeune. We were greeted by Marine patrol boats and had helicopters flying training runs overhead at various times throughout the afternoon & evening.

Jim & Sue from Pipe Dreams

We invited some new friends, Jim and Sue from Pipe Dreams over for sundowners and snacks. We first met them up in Coinjock. It seems like we see many of the same boats everyday as we travel down “the ditch”.

Wed. 10/20 – left early again but only put on about 40 miles as this stretch of waterway has 3 bridges with scheduled openings that slowed us down considerably. After making it through the Wrightsville Beach Bridge we hung a left  at ICW mile marker 285 into Mott’s Channel and took on fuel and water at Sea Path Marina before heading into the anchorage area.

The past two days feel like we're finally getting south as the day temps have been in the 80’s. We’re seeing more palm trees in yards and pelicans and dolphins. We're also once again opening ports and putting on shorts!! We expect to be in South Carolina tomorrow.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Annapolis, MD - Norfolk, VA

Waterside Marina, Norfolk, VA
36 50.61 N 076 17.51 W

Over the past 2 weeks, since our last post, we have continued to slowly travel down the Chesapeake Bay en route to Norfolk. Thankfully we were not in any particular hurry because we ended up sitting out quite a few rainy days at the three anchorages we visited.

After the SSCA GAM we remained anchored on the Rhode River Monday & Tues. waiting out rain and strong southerly winds along with many other south-bound cruisers. There was a brief weather window to continue south on Wed. 9/29 before that tropical depression that everyone on the east coast experienced the week before last was forecasted to bring heavy rain & winds for us the next day. It was a cloudy day and by mid-morning scattered rain arrived (earlier than NOAA weather predicted of course) so we motor-sailed to keep up our speed and make our intended destiation of Solomons island, MD about 60 miles south as quick as possible. We stayed dry inside our enclosed cockpit while Carina’s sails got a washing.

Our anchorage on St. John's Creek
in Solomons Island after the sun
returned following 2 days of rain
 We anchored in a very nice protected area of Solomon’s - up St John’s Creek with excellent holding for predicted winds. And even better, we had an excellent wi-fi signal from one of the shore side homes. It ended up pouring for 48 hrs and the town of St. Mary’s – about 10 miles south of us recorded over 12” of rain fall. We stayed snug & dry aboard Carina reading, surfing internet, playing daily Gin Rummy & Scrabble games. With no sun to charge the solar panels we fired-up the generator to charge our house batteries and make hot water for a few hours each day.

Morning view of Jackson Creek ,
Deltaville, VA 
Under a clear sunny sky we finally raised anchor on Sat.10/2/10 traveling further down Chesapeake Bay (still along the western shore), crossing the 10-mile wide mouth of the Potomac River and then the Rappahannock River, to the town of Deltaville, VA. Similar to St John’s Creek, we again dropped anchor in another quiet, protected anchorage on Jackson Creek. We enjoyed our afternoon cocktails looking out over modest homes and grassy lawns that ringed the shoreline. That was the last sunny weather we saw for 2 more days as more rain and strong winds passed.

View down Jackson Creek with 
Deltaville Boatyard distant left.
By this time, we had not been off the boat since the Rhode River – 9 days before, so with the sunny skies on Tues. 10/5 we finally lowered the dinghy and went to shore to explore the town of Deltaville. We walked 6 miles all around town and had lunch at a marina tiki-bar-type restaurant called Cocomo’s. The locals were extremely friendly and we experienced our first taste of southern hospitality. People from just about every car we passed waved as they drove by. Two locals actually stopped along side to ask if we needed a lift anywhere. Apparently the townsfolk can spot cruisers and are more than willing to help in anyway they can. One fellow stopped and asked if we needed help, directions or a lift anywhere. We ended up talking with him for about15 minutes. It was clear to him by our northern accents that we were “Yankees”. He turned out being a transplanted New Yorker who simply fell in love with the area and stayed.

He jokingly remarked that while we would be labeled as ‘Yankees’ by the locals because we’re just passing through, he has been labeled as a ‘Damn Yankee’ because he ended up staying.

Fall was definitely in the air over the past week with much cooler temperatures getting down into the 40’s overnight. Mark succumbed to swapping shorts for jeans and has said repeatedly “it’s time to head south”. We also resorted to firing up the generator to use the reverse-air heat system to warm the boat up in the morning before jumping into the shower.

Wed 10/6 we traveled further down the Bay anchoring in Chisman Creek, off the Poquoson River. We stayed here for 2 days as we were timing our arrival at Waterside Marina in Norfolk for the afternoon of Fri 10/8.

Battle Row at Norfolk Naval Base
Friday’s travel was only 30 miles out and down to Norfolk passing the sprawling Norfolk naval base docks along battleship row and then the commercial cargo docks of Portsmouth on the opposite side of the Elizabeth River. We docked at Waterside Marina ( right smack in the downtown harbor front.

Carina in condo-mode dockside at
Waterside Marina, Norfolk, VA
Carina instantly went into condo-mode…. connected up to shore power, city water and secure to docks. The hustle, bustle and noise of a city marina is something we (and the cats) are not normally used to. There was a beer festival and band playing until 10pm right off the docks. The marina location is short walking distance to restaurants, shopping & museums. We had a wonderful sushi dinner at Domo’s on Friday night. 

Kathy, Jason, Veronica, Mark
Saturday we left Carina snug and secure at the Marina, hopped in a rental car, picked up Mike (Kathy’s youngest son) at the Norfolk airport and then drove down to the Outer Banks of Corolla, NC for what was an absolutely perfect beach wedding on 10/10/10 for Kathy’s 2nd oldest son Jason and new daughter-in-law Veronica’s wedding.