Grand East Coast Tour – 3rd installment

Day 4

As I suspected the weather was less than inspiring.  We crept out of the Waterside Marina in the rain; rain that got steadily worse and worse.  Fortunately the wind wasn’t bad and as we were driving from inside – which the huge windows on the F48 make it a pleasure to do – we were all snug and warm so it really didn’t matter too much at all.

There were going to be a number of bridges to negotiate on this section of the ICW and thankfully the kind folk at Waterside Marina had furnished us with a list of bridges and locks, plus the opening times, VHF call-signs and the distance between them.

It wasn’t long before we got to our first bridge.  There was a flotilla of boats drifting around, trying not to bump into each other and waiting for the bridge to open.  As if by magic, as we pulled up the bridge opened.  This was the way it worked all the way down this stretch of the ICW.  Bridges just opened as we approached, our timing must have been absolutely perfect.

Not long after we passed through the first couple of bridges I noticed a sign saying ‘The Great Dismal Swamp’.  Apparently, this route is regularly travelled by those making the trip up and down the east coast but generally only by those hardy folk who don’t mind brushing away overhanging trees as they pass by and who also don’t worry about the odd snake falling on the deck – I breathed a sigh of relief as we steered to port, away from what should be renamed, ‘The Trial By Death channel’.

We snaked (sorry) our way down the channels and bit by bit covered the 35 or so miles to our next stop Coinjock, which was for fuel.  Handy tip: Don’t use your last drops of fuel getting to Waterside Marina in Norfolk…

© Richard Corbett 2012

Coinjock is in the middle of nowhere.  There’s a long straight stretch of the ICW, with a high bridge in the distance (if you’re going south, that is) and a huge line of moorings to tie up to.  I guess this is a well-known and equally well frequented stopping off point.

As well as that all important fuel, there’s also a small shop and a restaurant.

The shop sells Coinjock t-shirts, would you believe.  I was sorely tempted to get one but then I remembered I’d already lashed out $25 on a Stars & Stripes hard hat I found in Home Depot, that was enough reckless expenditure for one trip:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It wasn’t long before the tanks were full and we were on our way again.

Mile after mile we wound our way south. Then all of a sudden the channel started to widen and open out into the North River, closely followed by a huge expanse of water which turned out to be over 40 miles wide and 15 miles across.  This massive ‘lake’ is known as Albemarle Sound.  I still find it weird to be almost able to touch the trees at the side of the channel one minute and then to be on a body of water so large that it has an horizon the next.

On the opposite side of the sound is the start of the Alligator River.  I’m not certain whether there were alligators in this river and I certainly wasn’t in any hurry to find out but one thing I can tell you for certain, the water was the most amazing colour.  I pondered on this for a while and came to the conclusion that it must be to do with the process of decay and petrification that was happening to all the fallen trees in the river.

© Richard Corbett 2012

The great hazard on the ICW, that nobody seems to mention, is the tree stumps lurking just beneath the surface. These must surely be the result of the clearing that took place to create the waterway in the first place – never go too close to the edge; stay in the middle!

All of a sudden the river becomes a canal.  Straight as a die for almost 10 miles and then, after a sharpish left, straight as a die again for nearly 10 more miles – surreal!

Eventually, we came out into another ‘ordinary’ river, the Pungo River.

A short distance down the river and we had arrived at our night stop, ‘Dowry Creek Marina’.  We had a lovely welcome, made extra special by the free bottle of Black & Tan beer which we had thrust into our hands.  The ‘marina’ backed onto a wood of epic proportions.  It seemed to me that these kind folk were the only human beings for miles but apparently we were welcome to borrow their car and go into town if we so desired – TOWN!  There was nothing there; we might as well have been on the moon!  Well, that’s how it looked from the dock.

© Richard Corbett 2012

Fortunately, Chris knew the captain and crew on another boat which was just behind us and they were stopping here for the night too.  We had an invitation to dinner and this was one invitation we were not going to turn down.

After a wonderful evening swapping tales of the high seas and the low ICW, we dashed back to our boat – raining again – and went straight to bed.  We had an early start and a long day ahead of us if we wanted to make some decent progress the next day.

Day 5

And here’s the sunrise that greeted me as I stepped onto the dock the next morning…

© Richard Corbett 2012

And another shot for good measure!

© Richard Corbett 2012

Our new friends had left early.  Yes, even earlier than us!  The best speed they could make without using a serious amount of fuel was 9 knots, so it’s only to be expected that they were keen to get going.  We knew we’d catch them up and over take them again – it had become a mutual challenge!

It wasn’t long before we’d left the marina and were heading towards the end of the Pungo River.  Part of the way down another amazingly straight stretch of canal, we came across the RE Mayo Co, Inc.

© Richard Corbett 2012

They don’t seem to sell much there but the signage advertises the fact that you can buy fuel and seafood; unlikely bedfellows I reckon, but hey-ho.

The Bay River eventually came into view and ordinarily there wouldn’t be much to say about this stretch of the ICW, just another bit of river.  However, as we rounded the last bend we saw our friends stopped in the middle of the river and hanging around at the stern of their boat was a US Coastguard boat with its blue light flashing.

This was too funny.  There had been some friendly banter going back and forth between our two boats, as you might imagine and this was going to be material worth its weight in gold!

© Richard Corbett 2012

As we glided past, exceptionally slowly of course, trying to disguise huge grins and nodding sagely at the same time, the VHF came to life, “I wouldn’t go too far, you’re next”, came across the airwaves.

DOH!

© Richard Corbett 2012

As it turned out, the Coastguard officers were stopping everyone for a routine safety check; which we passed with flying colours of course!

Mind you, Chris couldn’t believe it when I stopped them getting off our boat to take a picture!

Once we had said our goodbyes and waved a hearty farewell to the USCG, who Chris insisted on giving our last Snicker bars to, we quickly made our way down to Morehead City.  A short fuel stop and a bite to eat and we headed out into the Atlantic once more.

Cape Fear is notoriously rough, in much the same way as Cape Hatteras is.  However, the sea was virtually flat and this was an opportunity not to be missed.  Frankly, any more driving through ditches would have driven me nuts.

Chris was determined that we needed to go around the bottom of the Frying Pan Shoals and I was happy to defer to his local knowledge but as we got closer it became apparent that the sea was so flat it wouldn’t hurt to go across the shoals; so we did. We stayed out quite away – far enough down that we wouldn’t fall foul of any underwater obstacles but high enough up that we could claim to have defeated the ‘monster’.  OK, it’s not really a monster but it’s surprising what banal conversations you have when you’ve just spent 4 hours driving in a straight line at 20 knots!

Anyway, we rounded the cape and headed into Bald Head Island Marina.  This is a beautiful and exclusive island, only reachable by water. Everyone drives around in golf carts and looks as though they are having the time of their lives – what a splendid place to pull up for the night.

So, a quick re-cap:  Thus far, we had travelled from Connecticut, passed through New York, along the New Jersey shore, skirted Delaware, stopped in Maryland, run through Virginia and now we were moored up in North Carolina – 7 States in 5 days and we’re feeling pretty smug!

I don’t have a picture of Bald Head Island marina as it was dark when we arrived and dark when we left but as we’re celebrating how about a picture of a very colourful house where the owners look as though they like to celebrate too?

© Richard Corbett 2012

Into the Carolinas and onwards to Florida – check back in for the next exciting installment!

Grand East Coast Tour Part IV

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.

Grand East Coast Tour – 2nd installment

At the end of the channel, waiting for us, was the Atlantic Ocean.  From where we were sitting it looked fairly flat but as we got closer it soon became apparent that the rest of the day’s journey was going to be less ‘spectacular’ and more ‘bouncy’.

In actual fact, it became very bouncy indeed.  We soon adjusted our plans and decided Ocean City was a none starter and Atlantic City looked a much better prospect besides which, there is a very nice restaurant in the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City – mmm, food!

A few hours later and the mountainous waves started to get smaller.  We eased the throttles forward a tad and managed to get to 18 knots for all of 10 minutes!  Then, for an unfathomable reason, they suddenly got a whole lot bigger and we had to back off to 9 knots.  Our planned TTG (time to go) suddenly shot up to 3 hours.

Chris and I glanced at each other and our plan changed yet again.  There was no way either of us relished the thought of rattling around inside the F48 on a sea like this for the next 3 hours, that was for sure!  Thankfully, just 5 miles to the right was an inlet, which lead onto the ICW (Intra-Coastal Waterway).  The inlet was the Barnegat Inlet and the feeling of bliss as we entered the channel and the pounding stopped was palpable.

There was another feeling now though, a new and equally tangible feeling, one of apprehension and uncertainty.  The depth gauge seemed to be telling us that we had less than a metre under the props! This issue was easily solved, we adjusted the depth instrument to read in feet – these figures were much bigger numerals and made us feel a whole lot better…

Atlantic City was still 30 miles as the crow flies but as anyone who has travelled down the ICW will tell you, crows tend to fly in reasonably straight lines and they don’t have to keep stopping every time the depth sounder says 0.00 feet – aaaargh!  I’m not sure how long it took us to get to Atlantic City as we were both concentrating like mad on the channel, the markers, the plotter, the depth sounder and watching very carefully for birds standing up in the water.  Apologies for the lack of pictures but we had other things on our mind.

When we finally arrived in Atlantic City we both virtually collapsed with exhaustion.  We had been motoring for 12 hours non-stop and the only thing we wanted to do was eat and sleep, so we did!

Day 2

Today we were definitely going to get to Ocean City.  It was to be the first stop on my planned route and come hell or high water (apt, don’t you think) we would make it before the end of the day.  The sea had subsided enough for a run down the outside and so after re-fuelling we headed out of the channel.

The distance to Ocean City wasn’t huge and within a few hours it came into view, the buildings appearing as silhouettes against the moody sky.

Ocean City

We made our way in and tied up at White Marlin Marina for the night. This was where I first encountered ‘Noseeums’.  Please excuse the spelling if I have it wrong but as far as I am concerned the correct spelling of the name is irrelevant.  These invisible little monsters set about munching their way through my arms, legs, face and any part of my body that was exposed as I stepped off the boat!

Alongside in Ocean City

Here we are tied up in White Marlin Marina

Fortunately, the ‘Noseeums’ weren’t the only wildlife in the Ocean City inlet.  We glimpsed a brief but beautiful sight of some dolphins making their way against the fast flowing tidal stream that runs past the marinas.  In fact, during the trip I saw quite a few dolphins and porpoises.  I also saw a whale and even a turtle, swimming for all it was worth just under the surface.  But these were all glimpses and in accordance with ‘Sod’s Law’ I only had a camera in my hand on one of these occasions and that was for the whale.  A whale which happened to be so far away that it appears as a small hump in the middle of the picture I took.

Here is the shot – don’t laugh!

Whale

I’m no authority on whales but I do know that Right Whales migrate along the east coast of the United States at this time of year, so you have to wonder if this was a Right Whale.

 

Day 3

It was an early start today, as we had a good distance to cover.  The sea was flat enough for an ‘outside’ run, which was just as well because our target was Norfolk in Virginia.  Norfolk is one of the US Navy’s bases. It supports a staggering number of ships and planes and takes up what appears to be miles of waterfront.

The trip down was pretty uneventful and after about 5 hours running we turned into Chesapeake Bay, we could see the Chesapeake Bay Bridge ahead of us and the gap we were going to pass through.  This gap runs over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which excitedly for me, I have driven through!

It seemed to take for ever to get to the gap in the bridge.  From the moment we first saw the bridge, it turned out to be over six miles distant, it took us nearly half an hour to reach.  Distances at sea can be so deceptive, especially at night.  If you’ve ever tried to approach a buoy at night you’ll know exactly what I mean. (Maybe I should have re-phrased that – ho, hum!)

Once through the bridge we made a left and aimed the boat in the direction of the Naval dockyards.  Obviously, we were careful not to aim too directly at the warships and we slowed down in very good time – let sleeping dogs lie.  These particular sleeping dogs have guns and some of them are huge!  Creeping past at 6 knots we were in awe of the size of these ships and the activity going on all around the dockyards.  I thought that the military area would finally come to an end as we headed down the river towards our stopping point for the night but it just carried on and on.  Finally, we arrived at the Waterside Marina, which is on the Norfolk side of the river and would you believe, we were still in the heart of the military zone.  Exactly opposite was a dry dock with a massive ship in it…

Dry dock in Norfolk

The marina was only small but right on the edge of the city.  We ‘parked’ next to a lovely couple on their home built yacht, which they had sailed all the way down from Canada.  They too, were ‘en route to Florida’.  I had a sneaking suspicion we would make it before them.  To my embarrassment, I uttered a derogatory comment when retying the lines to the dock – something about the knot being unconventional, a ‘Canadian Snow Hitch’ I believe I referred to it as… this was before I noticed the Canadian flag flying on their backstay.  They took it well and we made amends by showing them around the F48.  You know, everyone says the same thing, “Are you sure this is 48 foot, it feels so much bigger?”

Moored in Norfolk

The highlight of the early evening was a free concert playing in an adjacent park and actually, the music was pretty good. The highlight of the late evening was a splendid bar on Granby Street called Mo & O’Malleys Irish Pub.

The live entertainment was very enthusiastic, almost as enthusiastic as the audience at times!  One little tip if ever you find yourself in this establishment, when the clapping stops, don’t be the last one clapping…

After we’d finished clapping and singing (mostly out of tune) we made our way back to the boat and hit the hay.

The next leg of journey would take us down a part of the coast which is notorious for being rough and worse still, there would be no ducking into the ICW and therefore, little in the way of assistance if we had a problem.  Instead, we intended to pass Cape Hatteras on the ‘inside’.

It was going to be a long slog down the ICW and the weather was going to be ghastly too.

Keep checking in for the next instalment of the Grand East Coast Tour and some more of my world famous ‘Skipper’s Tips’

Grand East Coast Tour Part III

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.