28/10/2007/8:45 pm, 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.
25/10/2007/11:04 pm, Lafayette River, Norfolk, Virginia
It's been a long two days but we made it safely to the Norfolk area. We left Solomons Island yesterday morning with winds from the southeast and were making reasonable time. Then all of a sudden the wind changed to the north - as predicted - the temperature dropped and we flew! We were lucky to have the wind and current going in the same direction as we were for most of these last two days.
I lost my jacket in one gust that just blew us over sideways and ripped everything that was loose out of place. Fortunately my jacket was the only thing that was lost, and Jim handily brought the boat back upright. It was a good reminder that things happen all of a sudden! The rain started the last while and by the time we called it a day, we were thoroughly soaked.
We saw our first pelicans on this leg - great creatures flying low over the water - and more little terns just skimming the surface. As we left Solomons Island I spotted one white egret standing on a rock - first one of those for the trip too.
Last night we spent a few waking hours in Jackson Creek - Deltaville. It seemed very pleasant, but we anchored, dried out, ate, played a game of crib and hit the sack. The rain fell off and on all night, and the thunder and lightening continued for quite a while too.
This morning dawned grey and damp again and the forecast was for 15-20 knot winds from the north and seas 2-4 feet. It's interesting that at one time we might have said, "Let's wait till tomorrow" but we joined the parade of sailboats that were taking advantage of the wind to blow further down the bay. We heard one power boat on the radio saying that he was turning to come back in, and we met another one waiting to get through the narrow channel. Indeed, I would not have wanted to be out there in one of those top-heavy motor cruisers.
We were fine, although the seas were at least 6 feet, and the wind rarely dropped below 20 knots. Jim clocked our speed over ground at 10.2 nautical miles per hour for an instant or two - more than Madcap can do on her own. We were surfing! The worst bits were getting out into the Bay proper from Deltaville, and then getting into Norfolk. That's when we had that corkscrew motion that does funny things to the stomach. We are always happy that Madcap has such a nice deep cockpit when we have a following sea like this one. Although the spray flew up and the rain fell down, we never got the wash of sea into the cockpit that can sometimes happen. We were back into full foulweather gear - and thankful for it. It was one of those days when we felt pleased with ourselves for handling the boat in rougher weather, and mighty uncomfortable at the same time. At least we weren't beating into the wind with the tide running opposite us, as we have heard so many stories about. We were counting our blessings.
It was an interesting experience to come past the long line of warships and aircraft carriers in Norfolk. Lots of power and might displayed there.
We've had a terrific time in the Chesapeake Bay these last couple of weeks, and will certainly look forward to exploring the lower part next year. For now - it's onward and southward. We met up with Strathspey again here, and tomorrow will start our journey down the ICW. After much debate, we have both decided to forgo the Dismal Swamp this trip and take the Virginia Cut. The swamp is supposed to be much more beautiful - despite its name - but its depth is 6 feet, and we draw just about that. Perhaps there will be more water in it when we come back up in the spring.
It feels like we are starting another chapter in this journey. We're in a new state - Virginia - and about to embark on yet another trip neither of us has ever taken before. There are bridges to go under or through, a lock - we haven't been in one of those since Cape Breton - and, we expect, a whole lot of boats traveling the same route. More people to meet and stories to swap, new food to discover and sights to see - yippee!
25/10/2007/10:10 pm, Solomons Island
We were certainly in luck when we made the decision to tie up in Solomons Island and get a professional to take a look at our starter. The idiosyncratic behavior of that necessary little gadget has been wearing on both our minds. Jim has poured over the manual and poked around behind the starter panel and all around the engine itself. I even dove down through the locker to brush off a corroded ground connection on a hard to reach place - all to no avail. The engine always started...but sometimes it took 4 or 5 twists of the key, along with curses or mantras depending on who was doing the twisting.
We checked the Waterway Guide and discovered that Zahniser's Yachting Centre had a Yanmar certified diesel mechanic on staff so that is where we booked a space. Imagine - Madcap on a dock twice in one week! This was a very professional place. Terry expertly took our lines, welcomed us to the facility and gave us a quick rundown of what was where. Within ten minutes - yes - 10 minutes, Jim Franklin, one of 5 licensed mechanics on staff, was on the boat and starting to figure out the problem. The short story of the fix up is that he installed a "solenoid assist" to give more power to the starter. Some of the Yanmar engines have this, but the older ones don't. The funny part of the short story is that once we had the engine starting well, it wouldn't stop! It turned out that the arm was stiff and not responsive, so he cleaned that all up got it working freely. In the process of all this fixing, Jim also gave Madcap Jim a great education. He now knows how to start, stop, forward and reverse the engine without using the controls in the cockpit, so if anything goes wrong in the cockpit panel, he can huddle over the engine and make things happen from there.
We had picked up a gadget called Algae X to polish the fuel in our system, and Jim F. installed that too. Another good piece of advice he gave us is to not ever use any fuel additives that do not say they are specifically for diesel engines. We had been told one time to use STP to clean the fuel, but this is a no-no.
On the recommendation of some local yachters, we trekked down the road to the CD Café for dinner. It is an easy walk and served delicious and innovative food with entrees in a variety of price ranges. We enjoyed conversation and wine with a local sailor, Emory, at the end of the evening - topping off a very satisfying day.
On Tuesday, while the Jims were finishing off the engine work, I borrowed a bicycle from the marina and set off to find the little village of "Lusby". My cousin, Russ, had told me there was such a place near Solomons Island, and sure enough - there it was. The Lusbys (originally from Lincolnshire, England) arrived in Nova Scotia in the 1700s with the Yorkshire settlers. I tried to find out if this was when the Maryland Lusbys arrived here, but I couldn't find out anything further back than the late 1800s.
I picked up groceries on the way back and I surely wish I had gotten someone to take my picture. One huge bag was in the basket on the bicycle, two more bags were dangling from the handlebars and the pack on my back was bursting at the seams. I must have looked quite a sight as I pedaled back to the marina - saying little prayers all the while that I wouldn't lose my balance and topple over! (I did that once in Wapoos on the way back from the winery - did damage to my pride and my knees but saved the wine)
We moved away from the dock to anchor out for the second night, and as we went exploring around the harbour to see where all the boats with the red maple leafs were from, we met up with a number of fellow cruisers from the great white north. My pencil was busy as I took notes on all the suggested anchorages and other choice bits of information that were so freely offered. We were delighted to share happy hour on Suncast with Barb and Bill from Toronto, and were joined there by Iain and Jan (Jocks Lodge). I met up with Colin and Patty (Island Song II) in the grocery store, and we stopped by Patience V, anchored next to us, to chat with Don and Heesook and their little son Christopher from Kingston ON. There are far more Canadian boats gathered here than we have seen so far and it is so much fun to get to know them. It feels like we are starting to build a community of friends - a mobile community that will ebb and flow just like the tides. The regular travelers have their favourite stops and are always willing to share their experience with the newbies. And we have developed a fair bit of experience ourselves by now that we are able to share with others.
We'll head out tomorrow morning on a long run south. We hope to be in the Norfolk area on Thursday night, to meet up with Strathspey and start the next stage of our journey - the ICW. It is still very warm here, but the wind is building and they are calling for some showers over the next couple of days. The rain is badly needed so we won't grumble about it.