22/11/2009/3:01 pm, Elizabeth City, NC
Around about 7:30 we were up and off from Lafayette River. It turns out it was a little early because we poked along some to time our arrival correctly for the 11 am opening of the Deep Creek Lock in the Great Dismal Swamp. In our laid back state, we gawked at all the military vessels, waved to the tugs, and generally enjoyed our trip. We waited for about 20 minutes for the lock to open. The water rises by about 6 feet for southbound vessels, and the lockmaster was really helpful, taking our lines and looping them over the bollards.
Three sailboats came through - Oz (Ken and Connie), McBeth (Fran and Charlie), and Madcap - and we all stopped at the Visitors Centre for the night. A bit later, Feelin' Lucky arrived with Betsy and Jim on board. We signed the guest book at the visitors' centre (no charge for mooring) and then in true cruiser fashion, chatted on the docks, comparing itineraries and boating experiences.
The swamp was not quite as exciting this time - perhaps because it is late in the season and much of the foliage is off the trees. We like our swamps to be swampier and hot and green with birds and turtles. We saw only one lonely little turtle on a log. The depth is no more than 6 feet in places. We draw just under 6 feet and the lockmaster said we might bump a time or two. We never did feel any bumps but I'm sure we ploughed through the mud on occasion because in a couple of places we saw 0.1 - around the 20 mile marker and again a little later. (Can't remember the mile marker). Oz was ahead of us and very kindly called back when they spotted deadheads or shallow spots.
Three of the four boats left Sunday morning to go to Elizabeth City to wait out the coming wind and rain. McBeth decided to stay put and do some maintenance work. We caught the South Mills lock opening (0900 for southbound boats). Feelin' Lucky was ahead of us by a bit, so we went right through the bridge as it opened and then right into the lock. We tried and tried to radio the lockmaster but he didn't answer calls (VHF channel 13 in North Carolina). He took our lines in the lock but he never did come back out to hand them off to us when we were ready to leave (that is the harder part because we had dropped 6 feet and couldn't just lift them off - they needed to be pulled around and off).
So we are now in North Carolina - we're knocking off the states and we're getting a little warmer - I think! I didn't have quite as many clothes on today but the wind has come up now and we've put up our enclosure. We took a walk about town with Ken and Connie, and will enjoy exploring it a bit more over the next day or two. The Muddy Waters coffee shop on Main Street has wifi so that's where I have come to get these postings up. We don't want you worrying about us!!
20/11/2009/2:54 pm, Lafayette River/Norfolk VA
Yeah - other Sailboats!, Norfolk VA (Lafayette River) Nov.20/09, posting #15
After a little windlass trouble, we left our anchorage in Mobjack Bay at 0800 hours. Lots of wind - then no wind - then lots again. We managed to sail quite nicely almost from the start until we had to change to a more southerly course for Norfolk, putting the wind almost behind us. We managed to motor sail with the staysail out till it finally just flapped around too much and we hauled it in.
Cruising through the busy Norfolk harbour is always interesting and this time was no exception. It wasn't awfully busy; a military ship came along through the channel and moved ahead of us (interestingly, we had to maneuver a bit to let it cross ahead of us as it came out of the York River, and we arrived here at about the same time.) An aircraft carrier was entering the harbour as we were coming down the coast, and by the time we came in past all the slips, it was disembarking long lines of crew. If you look closely you might see them in this picture. We also had four sailboats going through the channel at the same time - this after seeing none for the past 2 days! One was headed out and the other 2 kept going past where we turned off for the night, so maybe we'll see them later.
Just after we anchored in the little bulge of deep enough water here, another Canadian boat came in - the Oz from Toronto. We had a quick chat on the VHF and discovered the crew is Ken and Connie, and they are Bahamas bound as well. Ken blew his conch horn at dusk so we really feel like we are headed south now!
19/11/2009/2:50 pm, Mobjack Bay
We left Solomon's around 1100 on Wednesday under sunny skies and ENE wind. It wasn't long before we saw our first brown pelican of the season. I can still remember how excited we were to see our first wild pelicans ever on the last trip. It doesn't have quite the same punch this time but it is still fun.
We motor sailed for the first few hours because we had such a late start but the wind picked up to 15 knots on our beam and the current was with us so off went the engine and we had a real true sail for several hours. Oh boy - did it feel gooooood!
It was dark by the time we picked our way into an anchorage in the Great Wicomico River. We hadn't been in there before and it was a little tricky finding the unlit entrance buoys even though the Great Wicomico Light was clear. Jim cast our big spotlight around where we thought they should be and picked them out. (By the way, we consider a powerful hand held spotlight to be essential equipment.) Most of the other markers in the channel were lit and we worked our way buoy by buoy to a spot just above Cockrell Neck and dropped anchor in about 15 feet of water. I must say, it was a bit of a relief to get anchored. There is nothing like navigating and anchoring after dark in a new place to keep the adrenaline up - especially when there are shoals on each side of the channel so if we missed, we were in trouble!
Our plan was to leave at first light, but we woke up to dense fog and decided to wait a bit. We watched the menhaden (herring) fleet leave from Reedville as the fog was lifting around 0830, and by 0930 we were on our way too. We had thought we might stop in that part of the river but decided against it because it seemed narrower and harder to pick a safe spot. I'm glad we made that decision because I'd have hated to be sticking out in the channel when those 100 ft boats came through.
The Thursday trip took us to Mobjack Bay where we anchored - get this - on the West side of the East River on the North side of the Bay. How is that for convoluted directions? We ended up coming in just at dusk because we sailed as long as we possibly could before we turned on the engine. We started out under overcast skies - then mist, then drizzle and then the clouds lifted and we had sun for awhile. The wind didn't get much over 10 knots and unfortunately the current was against us until about 1500 hours. We debated stopping in the Piankatank River - Jackson Creek - where we've been before but it would have made for a very long day on Friday. We are not competing for space at least - we have not seen a single other cruising boat in these past two days.
Dinner on both nights was pork tenderloin, baked with sweet potatoes and onions. I had it in the oven while we travelled so we could have hot food quickly on Wednesday, and we ate leftovers on Thursday - with cole slaw added for variety. (Peggy - your mustard relish is delicious!!)
We are thrilled that the KISS wind generator is back to being its quiet self again. Jim and Richard checked the balance of the blades. They tightened up all the support struts and Jim added a few rubber washers where anything seemed loose and it worked. No more noise!