ICW - Day 3 - Mile 135.9
28 October 2007 | Belhaven, NC
We've had 3 days on the ICW - the Intracoastal Waterway that runs just inland all the way from Virginia to Florida. There are actually other parts of it - starting way back on the New Jersey Coast, but mostly, when people talk about the ICW, it's this part. The ICW is measured in statute miles rather than the nautical miles in which we usually count for our daily log. One statute mile is 5,280 feet, and one nautical mile is about 6,076 feet. Mile 0 is in Norfolk - at Hospital Point, and Mile 1097.9 at the junction of the Biscayne Channel in Florida.
All this is to say that we travelled 56.5 statute miles on Friday - plus the mile or two to get to the start from Thursday's anchorage. We averaged about 5.8 nautical miles per hour and had to wait several times for bridges and the lock ...and it all added up to almost 11 hours. It rained some, the sun shone some, and the wind blew more or less all day. We anchored with a couple of other boats off Buck's Island (Mile 101.1)just off the channel. It turned out to be a good thing we were definitely out of the channel because 4 barges and tugs (that we heard or saw) passed through during the night. Those sure are wide barges, and I am always impressed by the way the tugs maneuver them around the corners.
Day 2 turned out to be a long one again with similar weather, but no locks and only one bridge to open. We started off about 0740 and made almost 50 miles again. This time we anchored in a big bay off the channel. We were well out of the way of passing barges, but definitely not well positioned to handle the north wind that came up overnight. We knew it was coming to the general area, but I thought perhaps it wouldn't be as strong inland. Wrong! We woke up about 4 am to feel the boat bouncing all over the place. We weren't dragging, but Jim decided to let out some more chain just in case. It took two of us to release the snubber line (that takes the pressure off the chain and windlass), release the trip line (attached to the anchor to assist in pulling it up if it got caught on any of the debris that is supposed to be underwater all along this river), and then release the chain. At the end of all that, we were securely reset, closer to the boat next to us but well dug in. We each got another couple of hours of fitful sleep, and then it was time to pull the whole darn thing up again.
This time, Jim brought up a log along with the anchor! With that untangled and dropped back in the water, we headed out into the Alligator River/Pungo River Canal where it was calm and still. I hoped to see more wildlife there, but a bald eagle, a heron and a few kingfishers were the extent of it - not that I turn my nose up at any of those amazing birds. The flora of the area is completely different - loblolly pines with their tall straight trunks, bald cypress with knobby knees just above the waterline, and all manner of shrubs and bushes that I have not yet learned to identify. I did learn a catchy rhyme from my Managing the Waterways book - "sedges have edges, rushes are round and grasses have leaves that grow up from the ground" to help with my identification efforts.
It was an uneventful few hours of straight ahead motoring until the engine started doing a little sputter now and then. The rpms would drop and then pick up again, and these incidents increased in frequency till they were happening every few minutes. We breathed a sigh of relief as we arrived safely in Belhaven Harbour where we dropped the anchor near Strathspey, Sapphire (last night's neighbour - a 40 ft Bayfield) and several other boats. The wind was blowing about 20 knots from the north again, but it was not nearly so bouncy.
Jim went straight to work changing the primary fuel filter and sleuthing out the problem. I even watched carefully in case I ever need to know how to do these things. We hope that will fix us up; he's a little worried that the fuel we picked up yesterday might have been dirty - which would require a bigger fix. I guess the engine performance tomorrow will tell the tale.
We dinghied into town with a plan to meet Blair and Mary at an interesting sounding place - Wine and Words - for some food, drink and fellowship, but it was closed up. We walked to River Forest Marina but their dining room was closed too and the woman at the desk was less than welcoming, so we took ourselves off to Strathpey where the hospitality was warm and the food was plentiful.
On Monday we will head out again, weather permitting, with plans to arrive in Oriental on Tuesday. We've heard from a couple of people that it's a great stop. We're always pleased to hear recommended places from readers, so if you have a favourite, please let us know.
For all you fans of Eileen Quinn, singer-songwriter of salty, witty and downright funny nautical songs - with some poignant ones thrown in just when you least expect it - she has a songbook available now on CD. Check out her website - www.eileenquinn.com. We met Eileen and her husband, David Allester, last year in Belleville, ON when they pulled in on Little Gidding - a sister ship to ours. After spending several years cruising, they are up to new adventures now so even though we may not see Eileen on the water as much, we can sing along with her.