Friday, November 2, 2007

Day One, The ICW

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We left York Haven and anchored in Willoughby Bay by Hampton Roads, Virginia. On November 1 we headed down the Intracoastal Waterway. The ICW, nicknamed “the Ditch”, was constructed “to provide a protected route for vessels that otherwise would have to travel on more exposed bodies of water”. From the author’s lips to God’s ears, read on.

On Day 1 of our ICW passage, we needed to pass under 13 bridges and through one lock. We had good training for the bridges at our former marina, as we had to pass through two to get to the Raritan Bay. Those bridges are very close together, and we often got caught in between the two as one would close as the other finished its opening, and I swear, the bridge tenders got their jollies watching way too many boats trying to avoid each other in very close quarters. Add in high winds and the stress level increased ten fold. On the ICW the bridge tenders give anyone hanging back (to avoid crashing into other boats in similar tight quarters) major crap. One guy upon answering the tender that he was only trying to navigate safely was told to get a motor home. We frequently were chided, but most everyone was so we didn’t feel too picked on. Our locking was uneventful; we had locked before on our friends Shar and Bill’s boat in Seattle. N.B., Uneventful does not mean stressless.

We had planned to spend our first night at a marina, as there seemed to be no suitable anchorages that we could get to by nightfall. The intended marina did not take reservations. Upon contacting them this day, we were advised every single one of their 140 slips were taken, and the dockmaster was kind enough to tell us that all the marinas within traveling distance were booked. Why? Hurricane Noel.

We improvised an anchorage by Pungo Ferry, Virginia. We have a scope out of 7:1; 10:1 would be better for the conditions to be described, but there is insufficient depth to permit that. (Scope is the ratio of anchor rode to water depth.) Hopefully Buster, our Queen Mary-sized anchor, will do his job well.

Apparently there is some fluky combination of cold front and high pressure system combined with the offshore effects of Noel passing through that it going to cause winds gusting to 50 knots today and this evening. Last night neither of us slept as winds were forecast to blow 35; anything over 20 can be unnerving at anchor.

Having said all this, it is beautiful here. It is swampland (and thus very little in the way of trees to block the wind). We helped two other boats anchor last night, as we had tested the water depths all around. They have weighed anchor but we could not reach them on their radios to find out if they knew about a better anchorage or had slip reservations. So we decided to sit it out right here in Pungo Ferry.

I am scared and keep trying to remind myself that no matter what happens, it is not likely I will die tonight. I just might want to, though.

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