At least once a week we ask ourselves, “Is it a cruise or is it a delivery?”We want to take our time going down the ICW, but if we stop and see everything we’re interested in, winter will overtake us before we get to Florida.As it is, weather delays have resulted in our being much farther north at this point than we had originally planned.Heck, we thought that we would be in St. Augustine, FL by the time we needed to return to Connecticut for Jeff’s doctor appointments.Where were we in reality?Hampton, VA.That’s a long way from St. Augustine!
As we left Oriental we decided we needed to start making some tracks south and switch from cruising mode to delivery mode.
We started off well, sharing an anchorage for the night by Morehead City with our friends from S/V Lone Star and S/V Duchess.The next morning we sadly waved goodbye to Lone Star as we headed off in different directions.They were going to wait for a weather window to make the seven day passage straight to the Bahamas, while we were continuing to take the slow route down the ICW.We are very much looking forward to seeing our good friends somewhere in the Bahamas!
After waving goodbye to Lone Star, we saw our first dolphins!
A weather window finally opened up so it was time to say goodbye to Belhaven until the next time. And there WILL be a next time.After doing one final load of laundry and taking our last unlimited hot showers for awhile, we set off on a nice, sunny morning to get as far as we could towards our next destination – Oriental.We were side tied and had to back out of the fairway which was entertaining, but Jeff ably fended us off from the power boat behind us that had a raised outboard partially blocking our way.
We had been looking forward to visiting Oriental for literally years.Several years ago I read about the town on one of the internet sailing forums and we had done a bit of research into it to see if we might want to retire there someday.Calling itself the “Sailing Capitol of North Carolina”, Oriental has a population of approximately 900 people and over 2,000 sailboats.An entertaining and informative website, www.towndock.net, gives a glimpse of the local flavor, so after all of this time we were primed to finally check it out.
In order to continue down the ICW from Elizabeth City, you must first cross the Albemarle Sound. With a depth of about 15 feet, this can be a nasty bit of water if the wind is over 15 knots because of the chop that builds up, and people have been known to wait for quite some time to get the right weather window.
It had been pretty windy in Elizabeth City on Saturday but the winds were supposed to die down and be 10-15 knots on Sunday. Monday was supposed to be even lighter, but a weather system was going to move in later on Monday with strong winds for several days. Given that, we decided to head out on Sunday and hope for the best. The wind direction was going to be mainly behind us, so we hoped that would help.
After enjoying a peaceful night with the dock to ourselves, we were able to sleep in a bit before untying the lines and continuing our journey down the Dismal Swamp Canal. All of the people we had entered the first lock with on the previous day had traveled farther than we did, allowing them to make the 8:30 a.m. exiting lock. With 14 statute miles to go there was no way we could be there in time, so we puttered down the waterway enjoying the feeling of having it all to ourselves.