It’s taken four years, but we’ve finally learned to slow down and relax.

So far this has been our best trip along the ICW – even though it’s been more chilly than we would prefer!  One of the things we talked about last winter was slowing down on the boat and taking our time.  Don’t rush unless weather is forcing our hand.  There will always be another window.  While this comes naturally to Jeff, it was much more of a challenge for me.  But I think I’ve finally got it down.  We’ve been poking along, riding the currents whenever we can – even if it means a shorter day – and all in all it’s been working out great.

We knew leaving Norfolk that it would be four or five days before we had a good window to cross the Albemarle, so we poked along the Dismal Swamp.

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Another state down – goodbye, Virginia, hello North Carolina!

 

We had a short, ten mile day to Elizabeth’s Landing where we spent the night after stocking up with groceries at Food Lion.  Then it was another quick eight mile day to Taylor’s Landing (another free dock on the Dismal).

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Cruisers leave their boat name on the wall as you wait to enter the lock. It fades pretty quickly. We couldn’t find our name from 2018.

 

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Waiting for the lock to close to exit the Dismal Swamp. The green is from duckweed.

 

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The stretch between the Dismal Swamp and Elizabeth City is quite scenic.

After exiting the Dismal we had a slightly longer day to Goat Island, and then a quick six mile trip to Elizabeth City where we did laundry and had the best barbecue we’ve EVER had at Currituck BBQ.

Our patience was rewarded with a smooth as glass crossing of the Albemarle Sound and down the Alligator River.  

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THIS is how we like to see the Albemarle Sound!

Normally I find the Alligator-Pungo canal to be pretty boring, but this time Mother Nature entertained us.  In the first few miles we approached a fog bank:

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After the fog we had some rain showers, followed by this beautiful rainbow:

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To top it off, we saw a deer swimming across the canal almost directly in front of us, but I couldn’t get a good picture of it.  I really need to get a real camera.

We had originally planned to skip Belhaven (gasp!) for reasons that I can’t remember any more.  Fortunately common sense prevailed, and we remembered we were taking it slow this time, so we made a spontaneous decision to anchor for two nights in one of our favorite small towns.  From there we had a short day, stopping at RE Mayo for the first time.  

RE Mayo has the cheapest diesel in the area, the freshest and cheapest shrimp straight off of the boat, and VERY rough docks where you can tie up for 40 cents/foot.  We go by every year saying we’ll stop next time, and finally next time arrived.  I don’t know if we’d stop overnight again (the barges going by overnight kick up quite a wake, even though they are moving slowly), but we’ll definitely pull up in the future to top off our diesel tank and buy more shrimp!

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That’s a dockage fee you won’t see often, but honestly it wasn’t worth more than that.

Waking up the next morning, we were keeping our eye on a strong weather system coming in a few days that, combined with a very late hurricane/Tropical Storm, was going to make things pretty snotty for awhile.  Keeping that in mind, we made a reservation for a week at St. James Marina near Southport, NC and put the hammer down.

We skipped Oriental and as we were crossing the Neuse, I saw “Aphrodite” pop up on our AIS.  It was going over 25 knots, and I said to Jeff, “Could that be THE Aphrodite?”  I’ve blogged about Aphrodite before.  Basically, anyone who boats in Fishers Island Sound knows Aphrodite.  She’s stunning.  We decided it couldn’t be – we were a LONG way from Southern New England – and a few minutes later we discovered we were wrong:

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Apparently she heads south to Florida every year.  Lucky delivery captain!

We were hurrying, but we still enjoyed the scenery along the North Carolina ICW.  It’s a stretch I really enjoy because the inlets are so short, leaving you with a great view of the ocean every time you pass one.  Of course the flip side is that you fight the currents part of the way, no matter when you leave.

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You can tell the current is against us from the direction the can is leaning.

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Given the amount of liquid gas this cargo ship was carrying, we thought the size of the “No Smoking” warning was appropriate!

A few short days later, we arrived at St. James Marina.  We’ve stopped here a few times before, always for weather-related reasons.  It’s the most protected marina in the area – a true hurricane hole – and we’re glad we planned so far ahead because they were sold out by the time we arrived.  

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We spent a week barely feeling a breeze as the wind honked at 25-30+ knots.  Our fingers were crossed that once the weather passed we could get a window to hop outside to Georgetown or farther, but the window was much too sporty for our taste.  Time to continue down the ICW!  

And just like that, the weather turned.

We had been at the marina in Belhaven for a week and had a one-day window to get up the Alligator River and across the Albemarle. If the weather was accurate, we’d be in Elizabeth City by the end of the day. If not, we’d be at the Alligator River Marina for at least three nights – if not longer.

Albemarle Sound is 50 miles wide (from east to west) and anywhere from 5-14 miles long (north to south).  It’s deepest water is only 25 feet, but the route cruisers follow to get to Elizabeth City or Coinjock is generally about 10 -15 feet deep and 10 miles across.  Because it’s so long and so shallow, any wind over 15 knots creates a nasty chop and tends to be a no-go for most boaters.  On our first trip south we had 15-18 knots from behind and we surfed our way across, making a note never to cross it in winds over 15 knots (although we’d be willing to bump it up a tad once again if the wind was on our stern).  Our forecast was for 15 knots from the northeast and dropping throughout the day, so with a reservation in hand at the Alligator River Marina in case it proved necessary, we set off with all of our fingers crossed. Continue reading “And just like that, the weather turned.”

A no-brainer.

After leaving Oriental we made steady progress north.  We reluctantly decided to skip our beloved Belhaven, which is the first time we’ve missed it.  Unfortunately Covid cases were increasing in North Carolina and from what we could observe on Facebook, Belhaven residents weren’t fans of masks.  Sadly, if that attitude remains Belhaven will have to be a pass for us until Covid is somehow resolved.

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Looks like there’s no point in swimming for respite on the Pamlico Sound in late June – the water temperature was 100 degrees!

We had a sporty ride across the Albemarle (it’s a large, shallow body of water so every time a gnat farts a nasty chop kicks up), spent several days sweating it out in the Dismal Swamp Canal, and rode out the Fourth of July weekend anchored at Hospital Point by Portsmouth, VA.

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The Saharan dust cloud turned the sky steel gray crossing the Albemarle.

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Wandering on a path at the Dismal Swamp park.

Continue reading “A no-brainer.”

It’s true what they said.

As we talked to various cruisers about our plans for heading north, everyone assured us that it would take much less time than the trip south.  The weather would be better, and with the additional daylight we could make more progress each day.  Well, they were absolutely right.  Going north is MUCH faster.

Granted, we’ve done a few passages in order to get some miles under the keel, but there’s no question that this has been a quicker trip for us.  There have been very few weather delays, and the warmer temperatures leave us less fatigued so we can put in longer days.

Readers of this blog know that typically we move along very slowly.  We like to take our time and poke along.  So why the big hurry?  Well, we would like to spend some time this summer cruising in southern New England again.  But before we can do that, we have a few projects that we want to do on Pegu Club, we have some medical appointments to take care of in Connecticut, and we want to visit family in Rochester and the west coast.  We also want to leave to start heading south much earlier this time – ideally by mid-August.  Between all of those things, if we want to have ANY time to cruise our home waters we need to put the pedal to the metal and get north.  If we went at our usual slow pace, we’d have to turn around and leave as soon as we arrive!  

Honestly though, this pace is working out just fine for us.  We wouldn’t want to do it both ways, but we do think that we’ll stick with this strategy in the future – take our time going south while moving quickly north.

Continue reading “It’s true what they said.”

The Dismal Swamp and Elizabeth City, NC.

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.

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The tannic acid from the bark of the trees in the Dismal Swamp Canal give the water a distinctive coffee color. 

 

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Pegu Club enters another state!

We arrived at South Mills Lock around 10:30 a.m. so we tied up to the wall just before the bridge and relaxed for a bit.  This also gave us a chance to leave our mark, which is apparently a cruiser tradition. Continue reading “The Dismal Swamp and Elizabeth City, NC.”

Two months later, we’ve passed mile zero.

I forgot to mention in the last post that on our way from Deltaville to Hampton, a yellow warbler came and joined us for a little while.  The winds were in the high teens and all of a sudden this cute little bird landed on our coaming next to where I was sitting.  We figured he was looking for a break from the wind.  He hopped off the coaming and onto my leg, and then onto my arm.  I don’t think he realized that I wasn’t a piece of furniture, and I stayed stock still.  

He flew inside the cabin, much to our dismay, but then a few minutes later he flew out and tried to land on the engine shift lever.  That didn’t give him enough grip, so he headed for the other coaming when – WHOOSH! – he got a bit too close to the wind and he blew away.  Poor little thing.  I wish I had my camera.  He was really quite cute.  Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.  

We had a good trip to Connecticut, albeit a long drive.  Jeff received a six month reprieve from the cardiologist assuming nothing changes, and we had a great time visiting my aunt in Charlottesville and several friends in Connecticut.  I was a little concerned that after sleeping in a queen size bed, enjoying daily unlimited hot showers, and hanging out in something larger than our Pegu Club we might be reluctant to go back.  That didn’t happen though.  We missed her and the lifestyle that we are rapidly adjusting to, and were quite excited to be heading back on Tuesday.  After spending one additional day in the marina, we were off bright and early on Thursday to officially begin our journey down the ICW.   Continue reading “Two months later, we’ve passed mile zero.”

Solomons and south.

There wasn’t as much VHF chatter on our way from Annapolis to Solomons as there had been on our previous leg.  At one point on our way to Annapolis someone (presumably a fishing boat) was calling for a radio check and when no one responded he asked, “Am I all alone out here?”  “I can hear you.  You’re not alone” came a response.  After a few beats someone else came on and said in a solemn voice, “We’re all alone.”  That cracked us up. 

Anyway, after motor sailing for 45 nm from Annapolis, we were happy to drop the anchor in Solomons, MD.  Solomons is an extremely popular destination for Chesapeake boaters, but being late in October we didn’t get a real feel for it.  It’s kind of like being on Block Island after Labor Day compared to the height of summer.  A lot of places were closed for the season, but it was o.k. because we knew we would definitely be coming here again.  

One place that wasn’t closed was the Calvert Marine Museum.  The museum had several great exhibits, including many fossils, an outdoor habitat for river otters (so cute!), the Drum Point Light (which had been relocated from its original location), and indoor aquarium exhibits.   Continue reading “Solomons and south.”