22 October 2012

ICW Day 1

Our fridge quite working.  Just not acceptable.  We lost a little meat, but most importantly we realized that we could not go on like this.  Lucky for us, it could not have happened in a better place.  In one day, I had diagnosed the problem, found a part and actually had it delivered to the boat... all in time to have a shower and go out for dinner.  In the eyes of the girls, I had earned it.  I wish all problems worked themselves out that easy.  While I was in fixit mode, I also connected the GPS to the VHF.  A 'project' that I have been working on since we left.  You know... Knot Yet.

A day of boat maintenance was rewarded with a kid day.  We dinghied around the USS Wisconsin (a 887ft Iowa Class Battleship) and then went inside Nauticus, a waterfront US Naval museum/exhibit.  Then ended the day at once again at Joe's Crab Shack.  They have a Snow Crab and cob of corn meal on the kids menu!  And they have a kids play area were Macara got to hang out with other kids.  All good!!!

The next morning we were up and gone bright and early.  We have another 1000 miles to go to put us in the heart of Florida, that means we have to keep moving.  But, this is a fresh start, a new beginning, Mile 0 of the ICW.

As we pull anchor and begin our day a couple other sailboats and a trawler pull out of various marinas.  The first few miles is speed controlled, so the four of us glide along together on a beautiful morning.

The first bridge that we encounter was Gilmerton Bridge.  Under construction, this bridge only opens once an hour, at the bottom of the hour.  Not by request, as was her usual habit.  And, you guessed it, we arrived at 8:40am.  So, we wait.  While we wait and the boats mill about, I get a moment to talk to the other skippers.  The lead sailboat appears to have done this trip many times.  He appears happy, relaxed and confident with the routine.  I talk to the trawler and we discuss our speeds.  We agree on a speed for in the canal, but I said that we would likely pick it up for a short while once out in the sound.

We continue to wait and the boats that had the 9:30am opening timed start to arrive.  A lot of them.  And this is when the day started to get a little weird, at least for this ICW newby/polite Canadian.  A couple 100' yachts slowly, but surely allowed themselves to drift to the front of the pack.  9:30am arrives and still the bridge does not open.  9:45am and still no opening.  I call the bridge tender on the VHF and he informs me that just on the other side of the bridge is a railway bridge and they are expecting a train.  He won't be opening until after the train comes through.  I thank him for the info.  The wait is always easier when you know what is going on.  Finally, a power catamaran, that was late for even the 9:30am opening starts to snake his way through 16+ boats.  You could hear a few snide comments floating around and he just gestures, what are you going to do about it.

Here is a link to one of the 100 footers that we ran with for the day:


ICW day 1 is loosing some of it's lustre.

The next several miles are packed with more bridges and a lock.  All of the bridges are low and require opening and none of them open on request.  We seem to be stuck in a bit of a rat race.  Boats are over taking other boats and then milling around as we wait for the next bridge.

Having thought about it for a couple days, I suppose it makes sense that the faster boats leave the bridge first.  It saves them overtaking a slower vessel under power and waking them.  It just didn't seem right at the time seeing the powerboats glide to the front of the line when others had been there well before them.  Maybe it's just me.

Enough of that.  The ICW offers two choices leaving Norfolk, Dismal Swamp or Virginia Cut they are both the same distance and will meet up again in Abermarle Sound.  In our pack, I don't think anybody took the swamp route.  With the bridges now behind us, the group is starting to thin out.  The Virginia Cut is a nice mix of marshy canals and sounds and rivers.  There were duck blinds everywhere.  There was one little opening in the marsh grass that was so packed with mallards that I don't think another would fit.  But, nothing will top the duck blind we say back on Wye River.  It had a boardwalk from the house out to the blind.

Our destination for the evening... Buck Island, just south of Coinjock, VA.  I didn't see the posted fuel price, but I had heard that is a good place to top up.  Unfortunately/fortunately we didn't need fuel, but I pretty sure everybody else stopped for fuel.  I even noticed a couple stopped for fuel and then pressed on.  Buck Island is just another 6 miles south of Coinjock, VA.  The description in our cruising guide stated that you can get well off the channel and charts displayed a nice 8' cut in behind the shoal that ICW passes around.  In theory, it sounded great.  When we got there, there was already one sailboat anchored.  This will be home for the night.  What wasn't in the guide, that nice 8' cut well off the ICW was littered with crab traps.  There was no room to swing back in there.  Instead we anchored up close to the sailboat, just off the channel.  So, close I felt obligated to go join them for a quick drink before dinner.  Nice couple with plenty of stories.  They made one comment that now sticks with me about this anchorage.  They wanted a spot with a nice breeze.  I thought they wanted to leave their hatches open for the night.  As soon as night fall came, those words took on a whole new meaning.  We were soon inundated with bugs.  They looked like a mosquito, just slightly bigger and they didn't bite.  I knew they were out there, but I had to go outside and pull up the dinghy.  One quick opening of the door and our cabin was full of them.  Soft and squishy they made a mess of everything as soon as you touched them.  A vacuum soon made short work of them.

Next stop Manteo, NC.  I had been to the Outer Banks in my early 20s on a windsurfing trip.  I had always said that that was a place that I would like to take Kerri back to some day.  Ocracoke, NC looked like a natural stop.  But, while in Solomons Island we chatted with a gentleman that insisted that we would love Manteo as well.  So much so, that we came back a second time to give us the dockmaster's personal cell phone number.  Manteo was a perfect break in a bit of a long run to Ocracoke and with that kind of a recommendation... next stop Manteo.

The ICW proper leaves the North River, makes short work of Abermarle Sound and heads for the Alligator River.  That's where everybody else went.  I guess we are taking the scenic route.  The sounds have a reputation for building up an annoying chop.  As soon as we got out in the sound, that 20 knot northerly did what they said it would do.  I guess that is why everybody went the other way, for the protection.  The sound is also very shallow everywhere and too shallow in a lot of places.  And surprise, it is full of crab traps.  I did here on the VHF that another boater, that day, had got one caught in his props.

Mike, if you are reading, thanks for the Manteo tip.  We just booked a second night.  We arrived on a Sunday and all the shops were closed.  There is a kids playground right by Manteo Waterfront Marina. Macara made some friends there.  Soon, the two girls, dad and their uncle were aboard visiting.  So much for washing the boat, there is always tomorrow.  Well, today is tomorrow.  Those bugs back at Buck Island, when mixed with water their droppings turn green.  It looks sort of like bearing grease.

The next few days look pretty nice.  I think we will enjoy the Outer Banks for a little while.

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