11/13/2010, Belhaven, NC
Yesterday while Bud and Rick were crossing the Albemarle Sound, they were hearing conversations on the VHF radio that sounded like boaters in trouble with shallow water in the parts of the ICW they would be crossing today. As it turned out, they had no trouble at all. They had to watch the chart and buoys to make sure they stayed in the channel in both the Alligator and Pungo Rivers. The channel was generally 100 to 200 yards wide and about 15 feet deep. Another 50 yards outside the channel, it was 1 to 2 feet deep.
Because of the narrow channel it was another day of motoring, but they did fly the staysail in both rivers, although not in the cut between. The engine continued to run well, the staysail gave them an extra knot and they arrived at Belhaven at about 3 PM after racking up another 50 nautical miles.
They must have crossed some sort of line, because Bud called me at about 4 PM to ask me where the screen for the hatch was. They were having trouble with both flies and mosquitoes! Flies and mosquitoes when Friday morning they'd woken up to ice on the dock. Bud said it was about 70 degrees out.
Tonight is crew change night. Rick Sampson is coming in this evening. The guys are planning a good seafood dinner at a local restaurant, then tomorrow Rick Sindoni will take the rental car back to New Bern, NC, and after washing the only pair of jeans he brought, fly out Monday for Buffalo. Bud and Rick 1 did really well, pushing south almost 300 miles. And now when it's finally getting warm, Rick gets to go back to Buffalo. Fine reward, but thank you so much, Rick.
11/12/2010, Mouth of the Alligator River, NC
8 boats left the Welcome Center on the Dismal Swamp Canal. It was calm when they left. 8 boats locked through the last lock. 7 boats stopped for the day at the free dock at Elizabeth City after going 22 miles. Bud, Rick and Fuzzy on Earendil kept going south. They froze the night before, no power, no heat and they woke to frost on the boat and ice on the dock. They were definitely going south.
The wind was picking up as the water opened up into the Pasquotank River Inlet past Elizabeth City. The water was only 8 to 10 feet deep the whole way out to Albemarle Sound. The entire sound was only around 15 feet deep. The notes for the Intracoastal Waterway say some folks lay up several days waiting for calm weather to cross the shallow sound. Since Earendil is a sailboat again, there would be no waiting for our intrepid crew. The waves were about 4 feet as they entered the sound, by the time they got across the wind was up to 21 knots and the water was "pretty agitated".
At the other side of the sound they entered the Alligator River Inlet. There's a swing bridge over the inlet and a marina just before the bridge. That's where they were headed. The channel is shallow. Rick was at the helm and Bud was trying to contact the marina. They saw another sailboat ahead that was aground and being pulled out by TowBoatUS. When Bud finally got the marina on the VHF radio, he noticed the folks on TowBoatUS gesturing vigorously. He told the marina he had to switch back to channel 16 to see what they needed, he thought they might need some assistance with the other sailboat. When he got them on the radio they said, "Turn to port, turn to port!" So Rick did. It seems the channel was miss marked. Rick was a bit shaken up, but they didn't go aground.
Active Captain (a website where cruisers offer advice, updates and reviews on conditions and marinas) said that the entrance to the marina was shoaled to 5'. Bud found out that the Corps of Engineers had just dredged it that morning! Bud had the helm as they made the turn into the marina. He had to make a 90-degree turn at the swing bridge and parallel the highway to the edge of the inlet. He was trying not to go too fast, so if he went aground it would be a soft grounding, but he had 21 knots of wind on the beam. He had to go at least 4.5 knots to maintain steerage. As it was, he was angled at about 20 degrees from the direction of travel because of the wind. But they made it in without incident. The sailboat that went aground is now 2 slips down from them, so they ended up OK, also.
Bud says it is a beautiful marina, clean, well kept and inexpensive. Oddly enough, this is another marina and highway rest stop combination. Must be a North Carolina thing. But this one has power. I asked Bud if the heat was working again. He said the pump was working now and he intended to run it all night or until it started smoking. The crew wanted heat!
11/11/2010, North Carolina Welcome Center
They chose to take the Dismal Swamp Canal. Since Earendil only motors at about 8 mph, taking the route with all the boats going 25 or 30 mph and throwing off wakes reminiscent of the ride at the end of the Chesapeake was not appealing. So putting aside Bud's worries about depth, they took the slow route.
Early in the trip there is a lift bridge. It does not lift from 6:30 until 8:30 AM because of morning car traffic. Getting there before 6:30 meant starting in the dark. Bud didn't want to do that, so they arrived at 8:30. Unfortunately, that meant they arrived at the first lock at 9 AM and its next scheduled opening was 11 AM. The lockmaster told them they could tie off or anchor in the channel. They chose to anchor, and did so without too many problems. Rick did have to get a couple of kinks of chain out of the hawse pipe.
Before they got there, they went under a 65-foot fixed bridge. We measured our mast, twice, at Annapolis because Bud wanted to make sure we would make it under these bridges. We thought our mast was 63 feet from the waterline, but it actually measured less than 60, and when I looked up the brochure I have on the Norseman 447 it listed bridge clearance at 58 ½ feet. But anyone who's taken a sailboat under a bridge anywhere near the height of the mast knows it's a nerve-wracking experience. You have no depth perception looking up the mast and you're sure you will hit. Bud stood and watched the VHF antenna as Rick took the boat under. It never bent. Immediately after the bridge the Dismal Swamp cut off to the right. Bud missed one buoy and Rick had to turn a 360 right in front of the bridge. Gave the commuters a show.
When they finally made the first lock, there were 5 sailboats going through at once. The lockmaster put on a regular show for them. The lockmaster explains all the local attractions and even plays a song on a Conch horn. It took 50 minutes to clear the lock.
The 5 boats went on together. I asked Bud if he touched bottom, but apart from the initial turn into the canal there has been plenty of water. He said there was one snag but the group went around it. The problem turned out to be trees! At one place the Army Corps of Engineers must have been dredging. They had the pipes floating along the edge of the canal and where they were working they took up over half the width. Rick was at the helm and he actually touched one of the floats holding the dredging pipes as he was trying to stay out away from the trees. The branches hit the furled genoa, well below the top of the mast. No damage was done except some greenery on the deck, but Rick was pretty worried.
The 5 boats all ended up tying off for the night at the docks at the North Carolina Welcome Center. The center also serves the highway there. There were also 4 other boats at the center. The dock would accommodate 3 boats, so the boats are rafted 3-deep; Earendil is in the middle of one group. It didn't really matter because there is no power anyway.
Bud hasn't tried to run the air conditioner/heater because it hasn't been that cold. They were warm today, even though the temperature was still only 55 degrees. It was sunny and protected in the canal. The entire crew, including Fuzzy, enjoyed the change from yesterday. So it was a good day even though they only made 28 miles and if they want to get where they'd like to end up tomorrow, they are going to have to skip the free dock (with power) in Elizabeth City, as it's only another 22 miles along.
(Check out the Reedville entry, I added a photo. That may be the only one that gets posted until I get back, as Bud is having a hard time with the technology. Rick Sindoni was not much help. He suggested mailing the camera chip to me.)
11/10/2010, Portsmouth, VA
Bud said it was an awful day today. They were cold all day. The waves were about 5 feet and the wind was completely astern, so they couldn't get a sail to hold wind and stabilize the boat. Everything on the settees ended up on the floor. The bag of bread and bananas that had been tied to the grab rail above the dinette was sitting on the dinette because Rick and Bud had some of the bread for breakfast. When next they checked it had fallen on poor Fuzzy's head. To make matters worse, Fuzzy got seasick. Bud tried to get a Dramamine down him, but it was too late. Fuzzy remained "agitated" for the rest of the trip.
Despite all they pushed on for just under 70 nautical miles. I asked Bud if Rick was getting ready to jump ship. Bud said Rick says he's having fun. I think Rick is just a really good friend. Besides all the fun of being freezing cold and rolling crazily all day, Rick started out by braving the bathrooms at Reedville. He said they weren't that bad and he didn't really mind the cockroaches.
At least they are in a pretty nice marina for the night. Earendil is one of the little boats. Right on the end of the dock is a boat they said must be 120 to 130 feet. (I asked them to get a picture for you, Justin.) So things are looking up...except that Bud thinks the pump on the air conditioner/heater quit last night. He's hoping it just overheated and will work again; otherwise they are down to the little ceramic heater.
But they are at mile marker 0 of the Intracoastal Waterway. Tomorrow they have to decide if they will do the larger, more popular Virginia Cut, that has a lot of large boat traffic, or the smaller, more scenic and shallower Dismal Swamp Canal. They will probably touch bottom from time to time if they take the Dismal Swamp route, but there's a great free dock at the end of it. Stay tuned.
11/09/2010, Reedville, VA
The guys left Cambridge, MD at sunrise and pulled in to Reedville, VA just at dark. The log read 74 nautical miles. Except for the first trip when we sailed all night, I think this is the farthest the boat has made it in a single trip.
It wasn't a great sailing day like yesterday. They only sailed without the engine for about 2 hours. The wind turned light and went astern, so they did a lot of motor-sailing and just plain motoring. The tide carried them along for a good part of the day, and that helped, but mostly I think they made it on their own effort and determination. I'm not sure how many days like that they will be able to put in.
The marina they went to was rated by other boaters (on Active Captain) as easy to get to, easy to get in and out of, with cheap prices and good docks, but you don't want to use the bathrooms and showers. "Ah," says Rick, "We're not women." Thirty seconds later he was back out. I guess they will shower and use the heads on the boat. Oh yes, the other two notable things about Reedville are the best crab cake restaurant around...it was closed, and the fish processing plant, it evidently was not closed. Smell was not too bad so far. But Bud was determined not to get too far off the main channel no matter what.
Still no pictures.
11/08/2010, Cambridge, MD
This was my first day not on the boat. I left Bud and Rick at the pump out at Annapolis Yacht Club and took off for the Amtrak station at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. I spent the day going from one train to another lugging my very heavy suitcase, which I never was able to check. I also was the only person over the age of 8 that wasn't connected electronically through a laptop or a cell phone. I felt very alone. I never got to talk to Bud until Tuesday morning, so this update is late.
They spent the day sailing like mad down the Chesapeake. Rick arrived around 10:30 AM, it was about 11:30 before I left them at the pump-out dock, so I don't think they left the harbor until noon. Nevertheless, they sailed over 40 nautical miles (a nautical mile is 1 minute of latitude or about 1.1 statute miles). That's because for once they had great wind. Bud said they started the day with full main, full genoa, and staysail. They were doing over 9 knots (and the prop feathered immediately). They ended with a double-reefed main and a reefed genoa and no staysail. If anyone knows Bud and Rick, you know there was plenty of wind out there. I asked Bud how far the boat was heeling before they reefed. He wasn't sure, but said they were pushing a lot of green water on the low side.
They ended up in Cambridge, MD, which is quite a ways up the Choptank River. I had given Bud a couple of other marinas to call that were closer to the main part of the bay, but Bud being Bud, he just went for the one he knew would work without calling, not realizing until he'd gone a long way up just how much further it was. When I talked to him this morning they'd been out for over an hour and still weren't back to where they could sail again.
I realize I have no photo of the new crew. I will have to coach Bud on emailing pictures for the blog.