Skidding Past Norfolk

We left on Monday and motored north up the ICW in 15 to 25 knots. We made an easy six to seven knots without much tide help. As we progressed up and the tide started coming in it helped our speed even more. We had decided to take the ICW because there were bad storms predicted for the area for the next 4 days and we did not want to be stuck 50 miles from shore in bad weather around Cape Hatteras. You have to get that far from shore to be in water more than 15 ft deep!

Once we got to the canal we slowed dramatically – there was a counter-current of between 2 and 3 knots. Even with a 20 knot wind we were only moving three to four knots instead of 7 to 8. When we came out of the Adams River Inlet onto the Neuse River we passed a power boat in distress. We quickly dropped our sails and turned around to help them; thankfully they had just run out of gas. We hailed the Coast Guard and they called a tow boat and once we confirmed their location and that they were not in danger, we pushed on. The winds came up into the 20 to 25 knot range. We were on a deep broad reach headed down the river between 7 and 8 knots, a good sailing day. Waves were only 2 to 3 feet and were giving us a nice push.

At sunset we decided to start the motor so we could head into our planned anchorage and lo and behold – the motor would not start! When we turned the key there was no electric to the engine. We hastily changed plans and picked another anchorage that was sheltered from the wind yet easy to sail in and out of. We executed a perfect anchorage under sail, then posted some questions about our problem on Facebook and turned in for the night. Next morning there were a number of suggestions to try and as luck would have it, the first thing we did was check the fuse on the engine – one of the suggestions – and that was the problem! Once replaced we hauled anchor and decided to try and sail instead of motoring up the canal but there was no wind. Reluctantly we turned on the motor, hoisted the sails for any help they could give us and motored up the ICW.

With the sails and the motor running we were able to make good time. The area around the canals  was heavily forested and while transiting we encountered a swarm of horse flies which attacked us relentlessly for about an hour. We finally exited the canal to cross the Pamlico River and there we were attacked by a huge swarm of small flying ants! It took us a little longer to get those under control because they were literally hundreds of them all over us, the boat and the dog. When we finally wrestled that under control the wind came up a little bit and helped to push the bugs away and we had a brief respite.

The wind held for most of the day and we were able to make some significant mileage. We dropped anchor in the Alligator River around 7 pm. We both took hot showers and had a nice dinner before turning in. Next morning we awoke and our boat was covered in dragonflies AND we had a small green frog and a grasshopper that had moved aboard during the night. We have no idea where they all came from; we don’t know whether they came with us or climbed on board during the night. We did establish that the frog could climb vertical surfaces so I am thinking he came out of the water to find a place to rest to while we were in bed. We started early, we were on the road by 6:45 a.m. headed north towards Norfolk. It was cloudy, the winds were light and they only gave us a small boost with the sails so it looked like we would be motoring all day long again.

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Visiting tree frog

Shortly after we left the anchorage it started to drizzle. It was comfortably warm but the drizzle was the first rain that we had experienced in a long time, possibly months. We managed to dodge the rain all day until we pull in pulled into Coinjock. We stopped there for ice and to pick up a little something to eat. It poured. We left in the rain and by the time we got to our chosen anchorage spot the rain had thankfully stopped. We anchored just north of Coinjock off the small town of Currituck, watched a show and went to bed.

The next morning started off not so well. During my morning check of the strainer and the cooling system, I forgot to turn on the raw water system for the engine before starting and it burned out the raw water impeller. So instead of starting at 6:30 in the morning, I had to replace the impeller and we weren’t on the road until 7:30 p.m. It was a nice 10 to 15 knots, but with 60 miles to go we decided to motor sail and were able to make a good 6 to 6.5 knots with the wind and the engine. We joined a parade of seven other sailboats, most of them motor sailing, and headed north towards Norfolk. After crossing Albermarle Sound, we motored up the North River and into the Chesapeake canal.

The canal wound its way in a long straight line through heavily forested areas, passed a Jet Fuel Depot for Oceana naval air station, under a few bridges and then we stopped in the rain waiting for a bridge to lift. After motoring through there we made it up into Norfolk and motored past the naval shipyards and the Navy Docks and it was there that our luck finally ran out. We had been dodging rain all day. When it was coming towards us we would motor out of its way, when another storm came we would change course and narrowly escape its wrath. In Norfolk however it caught up to us and we were subjected to blinding rain and 30 knot winds for about 45 minutes. We both got quite cold but we slogged our way through, and eventually arrived at our marina in Bay Point. We spent the next few days shopping; groceries, West Marine Etc and then visited Robin and David and went out to dinner with them in Virginia Beach. On Monday Melanie went and spent the day with Robin while I installed our new V-berth hatch. We had it shipped to the marina and it was waiting for us when we arrived here.

Tuesday morning we left in a light wind and motored over to Hampton where we anchored in the Hampton river. We met up with Heike and Herwig again and walked around the old historic part of town before stopping for a drink and then heading back to the boat. There were storms all around us, but for the most part they missed us and it never rained until after we had gone to bed.

Next morning we packed a picnic lunch, borrowed bikes from the marina and went over to Fort Monroe. It was nice and windy and sunny so we thought it would be a good time to leave the boat open without the risk of it getting rained on. The museum was fascinating, and the fort itself is quite interesting. The barracks have all been converted into apartments and homes and people actually live there. It was like riding around a university campus.

Next day we headed over to the Air and Space Museum, a short block from our anchorage. We spent about 4 hours exploring and truly could have spent far more time there but felt it necessary to leave so that we could water the dog. That evening we headed over to a bar in the hotel and listened to some wonderful jazz and partook in a wine tasting, then went and met Heike and Herwing for a drink.

On Friday my parents came to visit and we had a wonderful time with them. We spent some time on the boat eating snacks and chatting, then went to a late lunch, after which they left to try and avoid the horrible traffic that starts in the late afternoon in this area. We took a short nap, then met our German friends for some appetizers and drinks. Tomorrow we head North into the Chesapeake…

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