30/10/2007/7:22 pm, Oriental, NC
How things do change! The wind was up and nobody else seemed to be moving when we crawled out of bed on Monday morning so we decided to hang out in Belhaven another day. I made biscuits to take the chill off the cabin and our tummies, and then we hopped into the dinghy for another trip to town. This one was much more successful. There was a different lady at the desk of the River Forest Marina who was extremely helpful in tracking down a spare part Jim was after. While he enjoyed some comical interaction with her as she handled customers at the desk and on the phone and on the intercom, I spent my time with her son, Mathias, checking out his drawings and stories of imaginative vehicles and creatures - "even larger than the planet! See? This is the planet!" What a treat to dip back into that wonderful child's world where the imagination can stretch wide open and everything is possible.
Next on the agenda was a good long walk to the spare parts store and the grocery store - a couple of miles away. It felt really good to stretch our legs and expand our lungs, and we met a few other cruiser types doing the same thing. We never did get into the hardware store but heard reports that it carried cheese and wine and who knows what other goodies along with the hardware.
We were delighted to get together with Mike and Kathy from Sapphire, the Bayfield 40 ketch with whom we had shared a couple of anchorages. They're a great couple from Michigan who are on their way south as well. We did some back and forth visiting as we checked out each other's boats and discovered that even with very different layouts below decks, all the typical Bayfield touches are there - the gorgeous wood, fiddlework on the bookshelves, attention to detail in handrails and cabinetry, good storage - and narrow beds!
To finish off a very pleasant day, Jim and I watched a movie (Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt in The Devil's Own) as we munched on homemade burritos.
On Tuesday we were up bright and early and were the second boat out of the anchorage - bound for Oriental. The wind was with us and we made really good time, arriving in Oriental at Mile 180 by about 2 pm. Anchoring was tight in the little harbour but we found a nice spot just inside the breakwater near the bridge - but too far from the town dock for the webcam to pick us up. That's a neat little thing Oriental has going. The webcam picks up the action at the tiny town dock and makes it available on www.towndock.net.
The town has a convenient and well-built dinghy dock with trash cans handy - we've found that is the first indication of a boat friendly place. That friendliness made itself apparent everywhere we went. I could have spent a couple of hours prowling through the wares at the Waterway Provision Company that was filled with all things nautical - both the practical and the fun, for both boats and their crews. I found a new jacket to replace the one that washed overboard in the Chesapeake (and very nearly lost it again when I left it in the coffee shop the next day!) We spent a good while chatting with Jane, who gave us a map and told us about restaurants and where to do laundry and looked up the weather for us. In the midst of that conversation, Claude from Montreal came along. Claude sails a Bayfield 29, Merope, and is not only familiar with our usual cruising waters, but knows the Bayfield crowd in that area. (Hello to Rick and Judy on Home, and to Pierre - former owner of Tradition - both Bayfield 36's.)
Mike and Kathy, Jim and I got together for a great evening at Steamers, a local restaurant where "all-you-can-eat-shrimp" was on the menu. They all enjoyed the steamed shrimp, while I tried shrimp with grits - a very tasty dish of shrimp with garlic and mushrooms and bacon bits served over cheesy grits. Deee-licious!
There was no trouble with wind overnight so we slept reasonably well (well...I did but Jim had heartburn for some reason - maybe all those shrimp?) and then went ashore again in the morning to have coffee and cinnamon buns with the folks gathered at the Bean - the coffee shop on the water. With good coffee and folksy atmosphere all happily absorbed, we reluctantly packed ourselves up and headed out. It was only at about 15 minutes out of the harbour that I started to feel chilly and looked for my jacket. Oops, it was hanging on the back of my chair at the Bean. A quick U-turn back to the harbour- drop the dinghy- drift slowly around while Jim rowed in to get it and then back out again- lift the dinghy- and depart again took about 45 minutes. A woman at the Bean who had seen me buy the jacket the day before told Jim he should have made me row in to get it! There is much to be said for the chivalrous behavior that Bissell men possess is abundance!
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!