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.

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