30 May 2013 | Beaufort, NC, USA, 34’42.95N 76’40.04W – Hampton, VA, USA 37’01.43N 76’20.43W via Belhaven, NC, Aligator River, NC & Great Bridge, VA
Every time you cross the road you take a risk and everything we do in life has some form of risk associated with it. Some risks like crossing the road we take in our stride and others like crossing oceans we take on with some trepidation. As we entered America we were given an extreme lesson in risk assessment, but with that lesson nailed we have now been able to start to explore and travel in the land of the brave and the home of the free, America.
As always when entering a new country we had to check-in with customs and immigration and gain permission to step ashore. Duly we called customs and made an appointment for them to come to Ruffian and get everything in order. On board they stepped and while they checked our passports and laughed at our passport pictures we filled in the magic I95. With all the form filling completed it was time for the questioning. They didn't seem to be concerned that we could have entered the USA with bilges full of drugs or even imported lockers full of guns. Their primary concern was the risk associated with meat and courgettes.
So this is how the conversation went;
Customs: "Do you have any meat on board?"
Ruffians: "Yep we've some tinned steak."
Customs: "Tinned steak. What's that?"
Ruffians: "Err. Well its tinned steak. Steak in a tin."
Customs: "That's an illegal import and we'll have to impound it. Risk of mad cow disease from Europe."
Customs: "and we'll have that Fray Bentos meat pie too. That's from Europe."
So with Ruffian relieved of its high risk food, our passports were stamped and we were given free reign to roam the USA for the next 6 months.
Beaufort was everything we hoped that 'The South' would be. We walked around this all American town becoming more and more enchanted with every corner that we rounded. We saw monster trucks, clapboard houses covered in the star spangled banner, a classic courthouse and there were so many white picket fences that Huckleberry Finn would be have been kept busy his entire life. We even met a proper redneck who wanted to keep a rattlesnake as a pet! It was all just so perfect we could have been walking around a theme park.
As the evenings drew in the Americana continued and finally after many months on a red meat free diet we were able to indulge. We, along with Phillip from Rum Runner, found a proper American tavern complete with pool tables and sassy barmaids to boot, that served real beer that would be a match for the warm nectar you find in British pubs and most importantly red meat. We literally dined out. After filling our bellies with food and beer that was completely inaccessible in the Caribbean we now know why America leads the way in many fields including heart disease and obesity, and we loved it.
As we bid Phillip a fond farewell as he motored up the inter coastal waterway (ICW) we got to finishing all the jobs that were left over from the crossing. Out came the cleaning and sewing kits, and slowly a clean and functional Ruffian emerged ready for her next adventure following in Philips wake.
The ICW is a collection of rivers, canals and bays that link together to form a continual channel from the north in Washington & Philadelphia all the way to the deep southern states. It was initially conceived as a means to enable vessels to make safe transits north and south without being impeded by weather or the worst that the Atlantic often brings to this coastline. This was the perfect way for Ruffian to head north to Hampton where we had to meet a very important person. Jason Poole. The only problem with the ICW is that Ruffian would be forced to turn from on an ocean going sailing boat to an inland powerboat.
The ICW gave big highs and low lows. We were amazed at the ospreys and eagles soaring over us and depressed at having to motor in dead straight lines for miles on end. If nothing else the ICW, in some parts, gave lessons us in single point perspective. We were amazed at just how much land there is in America and just how unpopulated it is. We could go for miles and see no sign of mankind apart from the occasional F16 that buzzed overhead.
After spending days in the middle of nowhere, where the only noise that punctuated the silence was our hard working engine and the occasional call from the helmsman of "Errrr. Where's the channel?" we finally made it through the final bridge and sea lock and entered into the US navy capital of North America, Norfolk, VA.
We passed navy ship after navy ship, all armed with massive guns and thousands of seamen. The harbour was like nothing we had ever experienced and was simply a thriving floating metropolis. We quickly decided that if we were to start a war we'd not do it against the USA and certainly not by sea. The hardware on show was scary and that was only what we could see. It was the hardware that we couldn't see that really scared us. As we sailed through the harbour all our GPS devices stopped working and we had to resort to old school navigation techniques. Something was blocking us. Slowly as we cleared the harbour things started to get back to normal with things working again, but we knew as we'd be on time to pick up Jason things would not be normal for days and days to come.
The clean up after 1200 miles at sea continues.
Beaufort is a picture postcard all American town.
With clapboard houses American flags and monster trucks to boot.
The sand flats go on for miles and miles just a stones throw away.
There are literally millions of these little critters around and you can herd them like sheep.
Thug and Ruffian at rest.
A dawn start going up the ICW.
Wow. Over 10000 miles since we left.
We seem to have traded shimmering turquoise water for brown soup.
The man made cuts give a lesson in single point perspective.
Ruffian the land yacht.
If only there were teenage and mutant.
Going north on the ICW is all stress stress stress.
We had a serious spillage in the 'cooking cupboard' and needed to save our precious stores.
Channel markers make the perfect spot for ospreys.
There were hundreds of ospreys proving deadly to the local wildlife.
We've been bombed by tornadoes in Scotland, Hercules's in Spain and now F16's in America.
The deserted ICW gave way to the massive naval port of Portsmouth and Norfolk.