Friday, June 10th: Up to this point we have been rushing along, trying to get north and to the cooler weather as soon as possible. This has meant lots of trips with multiple overnights, which is exciting but exhausting. So now we plan to slow down a little and try to do more day hops, or trips with just one overnight.
Bright and early on Friday morning we said farewell to Morehead City and set out along the ICW towards Belhaven. We had heard that there were free town docks there, but just in case, we found a nice anchorage near the town. As we were coming to realize on this “sailing” trip, the weather is hardly ever perfect for sailing – if there is enough wind, it is coming from the wrong direction, etc.! Today was no exception, though we did manage 30 minutes of sail alone, among the 11 hours that we traveled! The ICW between Morehead City and Belhaven was beautiful.
On arrival at Belhaven, we stopped first at the River Forest Marina to refuel, then moved over to the anchorage. The town docks did not look too inviting and with no services available, it seemed to make more sense to stay out in the anchorage. There were a number of other boats there, including one being single-handed by a 74 old lady!
Saturday, June 11th: The plan for today was to continue along the ICW to Camden, where there were a couple of nice anchorages. There are 2 ways to take the ICW North, either through the Dismal Swamp or the Virginia Cut. Both legs go through water that is heavily tinged brown, we are talking coffee brown.
This is a result of the tannic acid that naturally leeches from dead and dying vegetation on the river bank. This leads to the famous waterway mustache that boats get at their waterline after some time in these waters.
That day we chose the Virginia Cut which would take us through the Albermarle Sound, where we had heard that the bugs could be bad. BAD???? They are diabolical! It wouldn’t be so bad if they were “just” flies, but these were monster horse flies and they were biting! Moray was on bug swatter duty while I steered. When it was impossible to keep up, despite the heat, we pulled down the enclosure curtains, just to slow them down a little. It was so bad that he wore out the fly swatter (we have a spare, thankfully).
At this point the plan changed – again! There was no way I was spending a night at anchor, with no air conditioning, dripping with sweat and being attacked by man-eating bugs! So we called Coinjock Marina, just a little past our planned anchorage. They were actually full but found a spot just outside the marina where we could have power and, water. They saved my (and therefore, more than likely, Moray’s) life that night! The marina is small but is right by a restaurant/bar, where there was a live band playing. Moray met a very interesting lady who had been all round the world with the Navy. They had a great conversation about Key West where she told him how “colourful” it has become!
Sunday, June 12th-Tuesday June 12th: The next stage of the journey was to continue along the ICW to Mile 0 – Portsmouth, NC. ActiveCaptain had information about the free town docks there – you can stay for free for 36 hours. There is no power or water, but the docks are safe and convenient. Our concern was that this was the end of the Norfolk Harborfest and maybe they would be full, so we had an anchorage picked out too. It was a relatively short day – just 9 hours – but as we approached Portsmouth, it started to rain heavily. As we approached the first of the two free docks, we had to stand off for a while to let the ferry depart, but that gave us time to figure out that there was plenty of room. There were already two boats there – s/v Pearl and s/v Dream Catcher. As we came in, Bruce from s/v Pearl, came over to help us dock. We were just getting settled in, when Sandra Foppiano, from s/v Stephanie Dawn (a former neighbour from Kemah), came along to say hi. She is staying in the nearby marina. After a quick catch up, and making arrangements to meet for dinner the next day, we settled in for the night.
The ferry that I mentioned earlier runs every 30 minutes and stops at the two town docks and across the river in Norfolk. For $4, you can buy a day pass that covers the ferry and the local buses. Great value and available from a machine at the kiosk you are supposed to check-in at near the High Street Dock! We could see that, although Harborfest was over, some of the tall ships were still docked over in Norfolk, so we took the ferry over and went to take a look. Then we took a walk around the old town, looking at the historic houses, and finally, went to Nauticus . This is a very interesting maritime museum, and well worth a visit. It has exhibits regarding the oceans, sea life etc., as well as the naval history of the area. The main reason for visiting, though, is that the Battleship Wisconsin is sited there. This is now a museum and you can walk through the ship, either a self-guided tour or with a guide. Several of the guides are men who served on her and they have great stories to tell.
We took the ferry back over to Portsmouth, where we were greeted by Bruce. It turns out that he also knows Sandra, having met her and Rick in Florida several months earlier. The sailing community seems to be like that – everyone gets to know everyone else very quickly! Dinner at the Lobscouser, followed by a drink in the The Baron Pub, was a perfect way to round off the day.
Technically, we should have left the free dock that day, but no one seemed to be in any hurry to move us along, so we decided to stay for one more night. We walked around Portsmouth, looking at the beautiful old houses, a light ship, and following the self-guided tour brochure that the tourist office provides.
Wednesday, June 15th: I walked to a grocery store and stocked up for the next few days, while Moray checked the weather forecast and planned our route. It seemed that this would be the best day to leave. If not, we could well have to wait for another week. So we decided to head out through the Chesapeake Bay, and take the offshore route, via Assateague Bay and Atlantic City, to New York. Once we got out to the Bay, the seas were horrible, nothing like the prediction, so we decided to follow Plan B and take the Chesapeake route instead. This would mean an overnight trip, but the second night we would take on more fuel at Tolchester and then anchor in Worton Creek, MD. As we were approaching the anchorage, at about 4:30pm the next afternoon, a Coastguard alert was issued that the bad weather was coming. We anchored in a beautiful, protected anchorage, with three other boats and waited for the bad weather to come. It appears we had made the right decision to leave when we did. The storm hit Portsmouth really badly that night, and all we got was a little rain.
Friday, June 17th: Today’s trip would involve continuing up the Chesapeake, along the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, down the Delaware and then offshore to Atlantic City. This would be another overnight trip, finishing at anchorage just across the river from Atlantic City. We had to plan the timing of the trip carefully, because the currents around these various bodies of water can be up to 4 knots, which can leave us standing still! So we left at 7am, and headed out. Shortly after our departure, we passed the Grazela Primeiro, one of the tall ships we had seen in Norfolk.
She was on her way back to her home port in Philadelphia. She really is a sight to behold!
One thing we have seen recently is a lot of is ospreys. From Morehead City all the way to the C and D canal they seem to have made every other marker into their own nesting site. They are quite a sight to behold on the wing and feeding their young
That day we made good time and arrived at the anchorage in Brigantine Cove at about 8:15am on Saturday. We would have arrived earlier, if I hadn’t run us aground twice getting into the cove 😦 No harm done and we got free in the soft mud pretty quickly. The anchorage is well used, although it was a bit of wake action, as lots of people ride their jet skis and power boats through it. After taking a nap, we decided to take the dinghy over to the nearby beach, where lots of people were gathered, sunbathing, fishing, swimming etc. We started talking to Jen and Camilla, two awesome women who live in the area. We hit it off with them straightaway and arranged to meet up later, to go to a nearby bar at the Golden Nugget that had live music. That night it would be the British Invasion, with three tribute bands – the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who! Awesome! They also gave us information about where we could get our laundry done and get showers – always welcome information!
Just a side note – now that the dinghy motor is operational, we are able to anchor out. This is giving us so many more options and best of all, saves us money, so we can afford to do other things. It has taken a while to get into the swing of things, but finally, we feel that we are beginning to get the hang of this cruising life. There are a couple of things that have to be considered when anchoring or using a mooring ball. First of all – power. We have solar panels and a wind generator, so as long as there is sun and/or wind, we are fine. Most things on the boat are 12 volt, but we have an inverter for the few items that need 110 volts. Next is water. We have a watermaker which converts sea water to potable water. That can be used if the water is clean, so we have to ensure that it is done before entering marinas or enclosed bodies of water, which tend to be dirtier. Finally, there is laundry. If we don’t have access to a laundry, handwashing is the order of the day. We have to be frugal with the amount of fresh water, but hand washing is perfectly acceptable. One luxury we have is a spin dryer. The clothes dry a lot quicker when we use that!
Monday. June 20th: We spent one more night, so that we cod just relax, before the next overnight trip. This again would involve strict timing, because the currents going through New York can be horrendous. So at 9am, we left Brigantine Cove (no groundings this time!) and headed back offshore. We needed to arrive at the Verrazano Narrows by 5am so that the current would be in our favour. This gave us a strange dilemma, as we had never had to slow the boat down before! So we spent a lot of the day and night under sail, to ensure that we would be there at the right time. We approached the bridge just at dawn, which was an amazing sight.
From there, as we turned towards New York, we saw Lady Liberty, and realized what a fantastic sight that must have been for people who had been several weeks at sea, coming to look for a new life. We came along the East River, past the Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building, and then turned toward the part of the trip we had most trepidation about – Hell Gate. The currents here lived up to their reputation – we had over 4 knots of current and were flying along at 10.4 knots! Once again, we got very lucky – we heard a weather alert for severe storms with 30+ knot winds, but it was for an area we had left a few hours earlier.
Tuesday, June 21st: we arrived in Port Washington, Manhasset Bay. There is a great anchorage here, but best of all, the town of Port Washington provides mooring balls to transient boaters, the first two days for free. There is also a water taxi service that will pick you up from your boat, which is great. We are planning to make this home for the next few days. Having been in 10 states in the last 6 weeks, we need a break! Also, we want to take a look at Manhattan, and meet up with our friend, Karen, while we are here.