Days 300 through 305:
We are in Virginia! Actually we crossed the NC/VA line some point in the Dismal Swamp. We have heard that there is some sort of gigantic festival (Tall Ships, fireworks, 500,000 people expected) going on this weekend in Norfolk and start calling around about dockage to no avail. It is a Saturday morning and as we emerge from the Swamp, we decide to stop at Chesapeake Yachts just off the main ICW channel. Not much there but a face dock and a launching ramp, but a very friendly owner who takes pity on us and drives a bag of ice over to us from some convenience store (no amenities here) this afternoon . We spend the night (exhausted from no sleep last night) and watch as the pleasure boat zoo starts up. Jet skis, tons of power boats zooming around creating wakes, police boats ticketing people right and left, administering sobriety tests on the dock. We are glad that we are not trying to negotiate Norfolk Harbor with all these partying boats. And we are worrying about them hanging in Norfolk for the fireworks and then coming back to this launching ramp area to pull their boats at all hours in the dark. Normally VERY conservative re: light usage, we have every light imaginable lighting up Katannah so that these yahoos don't clock us on their way home tonight.
Virginia's Intracoastal Waterway is actually a history tour spanning two hundred years. No other 34-mile section intersects so many important events in the emergence of our nation. The rivers and canals are all central to America's early conflicts. The Revolutionary War was fought along the banks of the Waterway, as Loyalists and Patriost battled for control of stratgic routes. Pretty cool to observe from the water.
Off across Norfolk early the next AM while things are still quiet and on into a spot at the friendly Hampton Yacht Club in Hampton Roads. We are looking and feeling REALLY dirty from the leaves, silt, yuck of the Swamp so we spend a couple of hours scrubbing the daylights out of the boat, bleaching our cockpit cushions, hosing down the screens, just major cleaning. It feels really good to be clean. A walk about town finishes the day.
We are pulling out of Hampton Roads at 6 the next morning and S remarks "There's your Bermuda 40." He recognizes "Glide" from Marblehead who I have been looking for since I met its owners Sara and Stewart Tubbs both in Beaufort, NC and out of the blue on a ferry dock in Marsh Harbour in the Bahamas. They recognize Katannah and arms are wildly waving. We chat on the radio and exchange destinations. We are off to Deltaville (Piankatank River on one side of town and the Rappahannock on the other) and into the Deltaville Marina and they are pushing to get a bit further North.
We pull into our favorite Deltaville Marina after an easy motorsail and set out to do our boat chores--refueling with our jugs, refilling the jugs, shooting into town in the loaner car to West Marine, filling our propane tank outside of town, etc. Deltaville is a very boat-oriented place and almost anything that you should need for the boat and could find in Annapolis or Solomons you can find here. There is a Corinthian Yacht Club cruise in here at anchor who party it up till sunset. Steve blows his conch shell at sunset, as is now our custom. A nice dinner, movie, and turn in early for the push to Solomon's Island tomorrow.
The next day we see "Glide" again ahead of us on the horizon. We communicate when we get closer, and it turns out that they had turned into Deltaville as well into a marina on the Rappahannock River side of town. They are heading for Solomon's as well. About half way through the day the skies start to look weird, S checks the weather, and they are predicting violent thunderstorms in the afternoon. We switch gears and alter our course so as to go up the Potomac River not as far up as St. Mary's City but into Smith Creek which is a protected, attractive backwater. We tie up at a marina face dock, and sure enough in comes "Glide" behind us. Sara and Stewart walk over later in the afternoon in an attempt to check out the now-closed restaurant at our marina and we have a fun time chatting until the sky eventually starts to turn dark purple and we both retire to our respective boats. The storm comes through and cools things off a bit--not as violent for us here as in other parts of the state.
Off to Solomon's the next AM bright and early. In the early morning mist we pass a square rigger anchored in the Potomac, probably on her way back from the Tall Ships show in Norfolk. What a beautiful sight. You can just picture a ship like that sitting here full of English men and women heading for what they would settle as Jamestown centuries ago. This area of the country is so chock-a-block full of history, and we love it.
After yet another motorsail, we pull into Solomon's in the early afternoon, and "Glide" pulls in an hour or two behind us. Both at moorings (a relief for us), we spend a pleasant afternoon and then head into a waterside restaurant for a fun dinner together. We feel like we have many "new" Marblehead friends from this trip alone!
The next AM dawns REALLY cold and grey. We haven't been this cold since November and it feels awful. "Glide" has taken off early to head for Annapolis where Sara will jump on the train to go home and Stewart will do the delivery from there with a crew. We are up and ready to go and S switches gear and decides to wait it out for the day as it is so cold. It would have been freezing out in the Bay and we are trying to cross over to Cambridge. We do the requisite dinghy to a dinghy dock, hit the post office and the grocery store, get a ride back to the dinghy from the friendly grocery store and dinghy our goods back to the boat. By the time we stow everything, it's dinner time, and another day has gone by. And we are in Maryland!
See corresponding album for pix.
Days 299 through 300:
Elizabeth City is the start of the Dismal Swamp Canal route to Norfolk. We took the outside route on the way down and want to see the Dismal Swamp now. Up really early and request an opening at the bascule bridge before their rush hour closing (7-9AM), and we are off to wait for the opening (four times daily) of the first lock at South Mills which lifts you and the other locked boats (there are three of us) up and into the Swamp.
Boy, this place is wildly beautiful. Everything from birds and slithering reptiles (we see our first snake), black bears, otters, bobcats, winged insects and mammals (including a few scattered people) live in this primeval forest. George Washington was the first to propose draining the swamp, harvesting the cypress for shipbuilding and cedar for shingles. He and other prominent businessmen purchased 40,000 acres of the swampland and slaves HAND DUG this canal. Yikes, what a horrendous task. The Swamp was also an important part of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War.
Mostly trawlers and sailboats traverse this swamp, as this is a no wake zone and the go-fast sportfishermen want nothing of going slowly. At some spots along the way it becomes VERY narrow and the trees grow almost together overhead, so we are continually looking up to see that the mast is clearing them! The Army Corps of Engineers clips overhanging tree limbs and does a pretty good job of keeping it passable. The water is BLACK in color, caused by the tannic acids from the bark of the juniper, gum and cypress trees. Actually it is chemically pure, as bacteria cannot grow in it. Before the days of refrigeration, water from the swamp was a highly prized commondity on sailing ships. It was put in kegs and would stay fresh a long time. People also spoke of the magical qualities of the dark colored water and how, if it were regularly drunk, it would prevent illness and promot long life. I think it's pretty gross....give me the Bahamas turquoise water any day. Nor would I drink a drop, never mind put one toe in this ditch, no matter how terribly hot it is...too many critters in here for me.
We are crawling along with a trawler in front of us and one behind and the fellow ahead radios back to us that he has just struck a submerged log and it was quite a whack. I lurch up onto the bow and we inch our way past the spot where he had hit it...no sign of any log. Not that you can see anything anyway in this almost black water. After this we are pretty paranoid. In addition, the day starts becoming VERY hot. We decide to pull over to the Dismal Swamp Visitors Center dock as do the other two boats with us. By the time we get squared away it is midday and we are so overheated that we feel like we have sunstroke. We head up to the Visitors Center with four others on these boats to hide out in the air conditioning. Two of the three boats (the first one has air conditioning) decide to stay put for the night, as we are truly drained from the heat. It is approaching 100 degrees and the boat cabin is like a blast furnace.
We nap and do computer work in the Visitors Center all afternoon and when they finally (apologetically) close up we head back for cold showers on the boat and try to make a cold drink (the ice melts before we get up to the cockpit, REALLY!) and head to a picnic table in a shady area to try to get some relief. Not much....we are so hot we cannot eat much and don't get much sleep this night even with our fans going full blast. Please let it be cooler tomorrow.
We are off the dock on a VERY still and hot morning (we need a thunderstorm) and slowly and carefully head up the narrow canal towards the second Deep Creek lock. It is 51 miles from Norfolk to Elizabeth City and we feel like we are going forever today.
At the Deep Creek lock we meet what has to be the world's friendliest locktender. "Robert" comes alongside to help us rig our lines and asks where we have been this winter. When S replies "To The Bahamas", Robert asks if we found any conch shells or made any horns. We show him our two specimens (I have shipped all our other shells home) and he goes ballistic over our horse conch. Then he proceeds to play "When The Saints Go Marching In" on our horn and to give me some lessons. He is waiting for the lock doors to close as all this is going on. He even gives us advice on our needing to dremel out one horn a bit more to sweeten the sound and then, low and behold he takes the horn into his office and does it for us! He says he has over 100 horns. We have truly met the Conch Horn Meister in this guy.
We are finally locked through and off we go towards Norfolk. Nice to see The Dismal Swamp but glad to check it off the list. And we need to cool off.
Dismal Swamp pix in corresponding album.
Days 292 through 298:
We leave North Myrtle Beach and power through the Rockpile, the narrow section of the ICW with banks of submerged rocks on either side. We didn't like this much on the way down and don't like it much more now. We power across the Carolina Beach Inlet, Lockwoods Folly Inlet and the Shallotte Inlet. With the reduction of dredging funds, shoaling has become a serious issue in some sections of this stretch of the Waterway. You've got to be constantly vigilant (not that we aren't always)..one goof and you're aground.
We pull into Southport, NC on the Cape Fear River at the end of this day and explore this quaint, pretty little town. Southport has apparently been "discovered" by retirees, and the real estate prices have taken off. We walk the town and find a barber shop. S is really needing a haircut. He is starting to look like a hillbilly. But, hey, we are gypsies after all!
On to Topsail Beach the next day. The Beach here, Topsail Island, Topsail Creek and Inlet comprise the area south of Bogue Inlet, and it is riddled with small tricky inlets between barrier islands. History says that ships approaching the inlets looked over the barrier islands for the topsails of hidden pirate ships. If pirates' topsails were spotted, the ships moved along the coast to a safer inlet. Topsails clearly served as early warning systems in the days of sailing ships.
Then on up to Camp LeJeune, where we are just a bit too late for the opening of the Onslow Beach Bridge. Some nice marine manning the bridge sees us coming and holds the bridge open for some 10 extra minutes to let us get through. Steve gets on the radio and gives a thanks for the hold and a "Semper Fi". Up come the bridgetender's binnoculars to check out Katannah's skipper.
Across the New River Inlet and past Swansboro on a grey day in rough Bogue Sound past Morehead City, across the Beaufort Inlet, and on into our spot in Town Creek, Beaufort, NC. We wind up spend two days in Beaufort as it is blowing like the devil.
By Monday, June 4th, we are heading up and across the Neuse River into Oriental, where we stay in the Oriental Marina in the heart of the village. It is now pretty hot again, so a swim in the marina pool is welcome. Walk around the village, pick up some marine supplies in the local chandlery and hang out at the Marina Tiki Bar for some free hor d'oeuvres. Back to the boat for a movie and turn in early. Does this sound like a pattern? It very much is.
Next we cross Pamlico Sound and head on up to the familiar Dowry Creek Marina in Belhaven. Again in the pool to cool off, and I take the marina loaner car into town for some supplies. We are off the next morning and up through the dark brown water in the wild cypress swamp that is the Alligator/Pungo Canal and up the Alligator River to the lovely (?) Alligator River Marina. Mistletoe (which we are thankful to see boxed in the Northeast at Christmas) and Spanish Moss decorate the Cypress and toweing Tupelo trees. This place is nothing but a long dock with slips, shower facilities and a truckstop diner serving hearty flapjacks and grits breakfasts to truckers crossing over the bridge here to and from the Outer Banks. It is a convenient place for us to stop, however, and we are grateful for it.
On across Albermarle Sound and up the Pasquatonk River to Elizabeth City, which boasts its claim of being the friendliest city on the ICW to transient boats. We grab a free slip at the municipal dock and walk around the city's six neighborhoods on the National Historic Register. The cruising guide describes this place as a spot which "stirs memories of a time when Blackbeard sailed the waters, trains were still a way of life and Wilbur and Orville Wright stopped for provisions on their way to Kitty Hawk".
And then there are the "Rose Buddies". At the end of the day, a golf cart pulls up driven by an elderly gentleman who proceeds to give a rose to each woman on every cruising boat at the dock. This man is so very sweet. He heads down to this dock each and every night for this ritual which was started by him and a buddy after their wives passed away. We are told that the Rose Buddies occasionally host a wine and cheese party for visiting boats at the dock. This place really is hospitable! We head out to the Carolina Dinner Theatre this night to have dinner while watching a movie, which is a nice treat.
All in all, Steve is not impressed with the coast of North Carolina along the ICW. He thinks that it does not have the "softness" of South Carolina, and I wholeheartedly agree. The Outer Banks are probably stunning and the little towns like Edenton way up the rivers which we do not get to see are beautiful. And the inland mountainous areas like Asheville are said to be stunning. We'll see them by car.
Sorry that this is not so complete (or maybe even inaccurate) an accounting of the North Carolina Coast. S is so preoccupied with moving the boat that he has fallen behind on his log, and I am so preoccupied trying to get this blog back up....well that's another story. This coupled with the fact that after x-number of days consecutively in "The Ditch", it all starts to run together and you forget where you have been and what you have done. Either that or we are just plain getting old or sunstroked. Maybe a little bit of everything. If I did not have our daily travels marked in my calendar, we'd be out of luck trying to decipher it all in retrospect.