The Route South

Monday, June 6, 2011

From Charleston to Solomons

Wednesday, May 25, 2011
0730 – Late start (for us) but we wanted to wait for the current to calm down a bit.  Ten minutes after warming up the engine, we were out of the slip and into the Cooper River, where we rejoined the ICW by 0800.
The flies are terrible.  We broke two fly swatters already.  Fortunately, the hardware store had an ample supply and we were able to get two more.  We put them right to work.
Georgetown was only a 64 mile trip and we were alongside the dock at Hazzard Marina by 1530.  It is stinking hot so we retreated to the boaters’ lounge and sat in the air conditioning.  The last two hours of the day, before the sun goes down, are the worst time of day.  Fortunately, we were invited to a potluck tonight on Steve and Ruth’s 48’ Krogen Whaleback, “Sequel”, for dinner so we will be in the cool air conditioning until dark.  Al and Suzanne Knezavich, from the KK42 “Mon-Amie” joined us and we had a very nice evening.

Thursday, May 26, 2011
Its air conditioner day!  But first its laundry day.  Actually, since the bikes were down, we first rode into town for breakfast, then laundry day.  Fortunately, the laundry facilities are in the same building as the Boaters Lounge so we set up our laptops and did computer work in the air conditioning.  Hope, from the A/C company called to say that she had tracked down the UPS driver and picked up the A/C unit.  Dave was finishing another job and would be with us then…guaranteed today!  About this time we were informed by the dock-boy that we had to leave after lunch.  We originally told them we would probably be here for two nights when we signed in, but only paid for one night.  Now, for some reason, they needed our space and we have to move.  Fortunately, a quick phone call found us another, albeit more expensive, dock at Harborwalk Marina so we moved shortly after lunch.  Of course, running the engine heats up the cabin even more than it already is, but we have a 20” box-fan that will really move some air.  The problem is that when its 90° outside, its unrealistic to expect the inside temp to be any less.  We sat up on the big porch at the marina office in the shade and enjoyed the seabreeze until Dave showed up just before 5 PM.  He was late, but he was true to his word and didn’t leave until we had a working air conditioning system at 6:45PM.  Yeah Dave!!

Friday, May 27, 2011
Today’s run should only be about 60 miles to Myrtle Beach and a large portion of it is through the beautiful Wacamaw River.  This river is perhaps one of the most lovely on the East Coast, second only to the Pasquotank in NC. 

Wacamaw River

The beautiful Wacamaw River

0710 – The engine is running, warming up while we disconnect the electrical cord and untie the dock lines.  Twenty minutes later we have rejoined the ICW and are northbound.  At 8:30 we pass by Butler Island, an anchorage that has been recommended to us.  It looks great and we might have to try it in the fall.  We arrive at tonight’s stopping point, Coquina Harbor Marina, just north of Myrtle Beach.  It was another warm day and we are looking forward to testing out our new air conditioning!

Hmmm.  Golfers in ski-lift chairs.  Must be Myrtle Beach.
Really?  A purple house? Really?

Saturday, May 28, 2011
After a 0645 engine start, we are under way 10 minutes later.  By 0730 the North Carolina State Line has been crossed and by 1145 we are past Southport, NC and heading north up the Cape Fear River.  One of our favorite stops in previous years was Carolina Beach State Park.  They closed a few years ago to renovate the marina.  We called them on the cell phone to see if they could take a reservation or if they even had room.  We are breaking one of our rules – traveling on the weekend, a holiday weekend at that!  Imagine our surprise when they told us that our boat was too big and wouldn’t fit.  As we went by there were only three small boats tied up!  I think that the ranger was mistaken and there are slips that we will fit in, but we will have to fight that battle another day.  There was lots of boat traffic when we entered Snow’s cut and we had a 1 knot current on the bow.  At 1400, we were anchored behind Marsh Island in Carolina Beach.  Nice anchorage to and an easy 51 mile day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011
0645 – Our usual start-up and warm-up time.  We like traveling early in the morning.  As we approached Masonboro Inlet, we took a short detour to recon the anchorage at Wrightsville Beach.  There were several boats at anchor there and it looks like a nice stop so it will go on the list for the fall.  Its close by the ICW and we were northbound again before 9 AM.  At noon we passed through the old Surf City swing bridge and by 1415 we had the anchor down and set in Mile Hammock Bay, at the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejune.  HOO-RAH!!  A nice day’s run of almost 53 miles and the rest of the afternoon to read, nap and do chores.
Anchored at Mile Hammock Bay - Camp Lejune, NC.

Monday, May 30, 2011
Today we will most likely pay for traveling on a holiday.  Anyone who has boated much will understand that EVERYONE who owns a boat goes out today.  They are frequently rude and discourteous and some are downright careless and dangerous.  0615 - After warming up the engine, we pulled the anchor up and were away by 0615.  We arrived on time for the 0700 opening of the Marine Corps’ Onslow Beach Swing Bridge but had to wait for a cruise ship to arrive before he would open.  Oh well.
Cruise ship "American Star" in the ICW.

By 0830 we were passing Swansboro but the traffic wasn’t too heavy.  By 1130 we were at Morehead City and the traffic was frantic.  We saw a 28’ boat that had run aground at high speed. Paramedics were assisting the Coast Guard, loading people off the boat with backboards and transporting them to awaiting ambulances.  Their Memorial Day will be memorable.  We decided to press on to Oriental, NC.  When we arrived at 1530, the free town dock was full so we anchored in Greens Creek, having done over 66 miles today.  We immediately started the generator and air conditioner.  We ran the A/C until about 8 PM.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - Chip’s Birthday!
0645 – Up and at ‘em!  The anchor is up and we are back in the Neuse River by 0700, rejoining the ICW an hour later at Gum Thicket Shoal.  By 1100 we enter the Pamlico River and 35 minutes later, the Pungo River.  It is HOT!!  By 1345 we were at Dowry Creek Marina, backing into our slip in a stiff crosswind.  It didn’t take too long to tie up, plug in, turn on the A/C.  We did a respectable day of almost 52 miles.  Dowry Creek Marina has a “courtesy car”…an old beater with no A/C, no seat belts and a hot- black interior.  Oh well, it was a ride to the Food Lion for a bit of reprovisioning.  I don’t know how much of the stuff we bought was really needed but Food Lion’s air conditioning was greatly appreciated.  After unloading the car and putting the groceries away we spent the next hour in the pool.  Heaven! 
Most nights Dowry Creek Marina has a BYOB cocktail party with potluck apps at 5:30.  It’s a great way to meet our fellow travellers and the apps were great!  We didn’t have room for dinner!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011
0815 – Start-up and warm-up.  Late departure due to fog and smoke.  We can barely see from one end of the boat to the other!  In Maine, this would be a real Pea-Soupa’!
We are away from the dock at 0825 and have rejoined the ICW ten minutes later.  The running lights and radar are on.  By 0915 the fog is gone but the smoke is still with us as we enter the Alligator-Pungo Canal.  This land cut connects the Pungo River to the Alligator River, allowing the ICW to avoid the sometimes nasty Pamlico and Albemarle sounds.  These large, shallow bodies of water have a bad reputation when the wind is wrong.  Our original destination was to be an anchorage at the north end of the Alligator River.  This would position us for an early morning trip across the Albemarle Sound, when the wind is usually lighter.  As we passed through the Alligator River Swing Bridge, the bridge tender told us that the smoke was being caused by a forest fire on the Outer Banks.  It was bad enough that it was starting to give me a sore throat.  It was really hot but the Sound looked benign and we decided to press on to Elizabeth City, where we hoped we would be out of the smoke.  It took two hours to cross the Sound and another two-and-a-half hours to run up the Pasquotank River to Elizabeth City, one of our favorite stops.  The slips were full so we side-tied to the wall at the City Park.  We were met by fellow boaters who graciously took our dock lines and helped us tie up.  Eleven-plus hours and almost 84 miles later, we are exhausted.
Elizabeth City waterfront.

Thursday, June 2, 2011
Since the bridge opening is timed and won’t open for us until 0830, we walked to Colonial Restaurant for breakfast with Gary and Joan Davis from the Mainship 34, “Tight Fit”.  We met in Dowry Creek Marina at the cocktail party and were dock-mates last night.  They are also going up the Dismal Swamp Canal.  We have been to ‘Liz City several times and enjoy the town.  The bakery was open and we stopped in for a look around on the way back to the boat, but much to my surprise, we bought nothing!
0815 – We are a bit early when we untie from the wall so we have to wait in the river for the bridge.  The bridge tender was anxious for us to crowd up to the bridge and we passed through quickly when he opened at 0830, entering the upper reaches of the beautiful Pasquotank River.  Of all the rivers we have traveled, this is my favorite.  It is lush, wild and beautiful.
Pasquotank River scenes.
Approaching South Mills lock - Dismal Swamp Canal

The throttle had to be pulled back to barely above an idle in order to time our arrival at the South Mills Lock for the 1100 opening.  Even so, we got there ten minutes early.  By 1130 we were locked through into the beautiful Dismal Swamp…hardly dismal.  We set the throttle to time our arrival at the Deep Creek Lock for their 1600 lock opening.  We weren’t even close on our timing and were fully a half hour early.  We tied to the seawall next to the bridge and “Tight Fit” tied along side for the wait.  The temp was 103°!  Our destination for the night was to be the free dock at Portsmouth, VA, but there is no electrical power, which means no air conditioning.  Plan “B” is going to Top Rack Marina in Chesapeake, VA.  It’s a mile in the wrong direction, but they have far and away the best price for fuel, and if we eat in their restaurant, The Amber Lantern, our dockage is free.  This is a real no-brainer.  By 1625 we have locked through and by 1700 we are tied into our slip at Top Rack and plugged in to the electric.  Fuel tomorrow when the temp is cooler!  We did 44 miles today and had an unbelievably excellent dinner with Gary and Joan.  And to think that they are bribing us with free dockage to eat here!  When he learned that we were visiting on our boats, the chef came out of the kitchen to check on us.  Great stop and we will be back!

Friday, June 3, 2011
The weather broke last night and the temp is delightful.  Today should be a short day since we are only going 22 miles to Hampton, VA.  At 0930 we pulled out of the slip and went to the fuel dock where we took on 176 gallons, our fuel for the summer.  By 1000 we were away from the marina, traveling north to wait twenty minutes for the Gilmerton Bridge to open.  By 1030 we were through the bridge and traveling past the exciting, busy Norfolk and Portsmouth waterfront.  Lunchtime found the  ICW passing by the Naval Shipyards as well as the commercial ports.  The radio was a constant chatter of tugs, container ships and warships.
Warship refitting in Norfolk.

Floating drydock - Norfolk, VA

At 1245 we entered the Hampton River and at 1325 we were tied up to our slip at the Hampton City Piers…just in time to help celebrate the Blackbeard Pirate Festival!  We were lucky to get a slip for the night.  We had to promise to vacate by 10 AM the following morning.  We checked in with the dock master, paid our slip rent and immediately headed out to see what Pirate Days were all about.  The Virginia Air and Space Museum has an IMAX theater that was showing the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie in 3D, so that’s where we started.  What a gas!  (If you think Keith Richards is scary looking, you need to see him in 3D!)

Apollo Space capsule.

Hanging from the ceiling at the Air & Space Museum.

The town closes off several city blocks to auto traffic and vendors set up tents to sell food and everything pirate.  At one end of the venue is a park with a small bandshell where the York River Symphony put on a concert.  We sat and listened for an hour and watched the kids playing in the grass in front of the orchestra.  At the other end of town a portable stage was set up and a great R&B group was playing.  We stood and watched for over two hours before heading back to the boat.  We sat in the cockpit, enjoying a glass of wine before bed and chatting with the “pirates” who wandered by along the waterfront.  ARRGGHHH!!

Hampton pirate.

Kids play while the York River Symphony tunes up.

Street party in full swing.

Hampton Public Pier.

Saturday, June 4, 2011
0650 – Start-up and warm-up.  We sure hate to leave Hampton and will be back!  We are underway before 0700 and by 0730 are passing inshore of Thimble Shoals.  We are finally back in the Chesapeake Bay!
0845 – The wind is gusting over 20 kts. across the deck and Morning Star is starting to complain, pounding and throwing spray.  We decided to alter course for the Poquoson River and try anchoring in either Chisman or Bennett Creek. 
0940 – The wind is fickle.  It’s dropping off and the chop is subsiding so we alter course again, heading toward our original destination, Jackson Creek, off the Piankatank River, near Deltaville.  We cross the York River, passing between markers #9 & 11.
1130 – The wind has continued to go light as we pass west of Wolftrap Light and we altered course once again, this time heading to Anti-Poison Creek off Fleets Bay, north of the Rappahanock River.  We took a side trip up Anti-Poison Creek before setting anchor in Little Bay, having made 52 nautical miles for the day.

When they decided to “Swallow the anchor” and give up living aboard their boat, our old friends, John and Mary Black, built a small house off Anti-Poison Creek.  Mary painted a small water-color portrait of Chip that is one of Cindy’s most cherished possessions.  We visited them by car once, probably twenty-five years ago so we made the sightseeing trip up the Creek in Morning Star in homage to our old, departed friends.
Anti Poison Creek.

Sunday, June 5, 2011
The weatherman lied! 
0635 – Start-up and warm-up.  The anchor is up five short minutes later.  We are getting rocked and rolled big-time.  At 0730 we decide that we aren’t having any fun and turn back.  We are immediately hailed by a Grand Banks 36 trawler who has been following us out.  When they saw us going out, they figured they could do it too.  They were glad we turned back and are following suit.  We ran up Indian Creek and cruised as far up as Kilmarnock before turning around and going back to Pittman Cove to anchor for the rest of the day.  By 0845, it was all over!
We noticed a diesel fuel odor in the forward bilge and some fuel on the bilge water.  A trip into the forward hold where the generator told all.  When I got there and opened the sound shield, there was a goodly quantity of diesel fuel laying in the tray under the generator.  It was apparently leaking when we last had the generator service because the mechanic decided that all he needed to do was to place some absorbent pads in the tray and close her up.  What an a**hole!  Now we have a mess to clean up and the leak still needs to be fixed.  Apparently when we were rocking and rolling earlier today, the fuel that had accumulated in the pan sloshed out.  Remember, cruising is repairing your boat in exotic locations!

Monday, June 6, 2011
What a difference a day makes.  We have mopped up and cleaned up the diesel mess and the Chesapeake is calm as a millpond.
0555 – Start-up & warm-up.  The anchor is aboard five minutes later.  It took forty-five minutes to get out of Fleet’s Bay and into the Chesapeake again,  where we altered our course to the north, toward Solomon’s.  In one hour intervals we are checking off waypoints; 0645-Fleets Bay; 0745-Great Wicomico River; 0845-Smith Point Light.  By 1115 we are passing one mile east of Point No Point light.  We have crossed the mouth of the Potomac River, frequently a rough piece of water.  The Potomac is a very large river and the water flowing out of it has to mix with the waters of the Chesapeake.  The Bay has quite of bit of tidal current and the intermixing of the tide, river current and a bit of wind can make crossing the Potomac a sporty ride.  Not today - it is as flat as a pool table.
At 1320 we alter course as we turn into the Patuxent River at marker #PR.  A half-hour later we are abeam Drum Point.  Cindy has tears in her eyes and I’m not too far behind.  Its quite an emotional time for us.  There was a time in the not-to-distant past when we weren’t sure we’d ever make it back.  At 1415 we tie up to the floating dock at Calvert Marina.  It was a 50 mile day that we waited three-and-a-half years to make.  We are home!!