Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wrightsville Beach

This stretch of the ICW is awful. (I guess I say that a lot. Shows how much I like the ditch.) This leg took ten hours, during which it rained and drizzled much of the way. There are 4 bridges from Swansboro to Wrightsville, and timing them so that you don't have to slow down and mess around with the current has been impossible for us. The final bridge at Wrightsville Beach opens only on the hour, and if you arrive early, be aware that the current here will take over, and at least at one side of the ICW (port side South bound) it shoals rapidly, and of course I know this because I found its bottom.

After the Wrightsville bridge you take a port turn into the Motts Channel. Hold your breath, it is shallow, we saw 6 1/2 feet but nothing less. The favored anchorage is north of the channel by the bridge, where the public dinghy dock can be found. We came in late so took the south side. Holding is great.

At the dinghy dock, you can walk over the bridge to get to the post office, or go right to get to "the strip", where you will find Roberts Market (which had nearly bare shelves on our visit and a broken frozen food case, so no ice cream), a great Mexican restaurant, and the Wrightsville Beach, where water sports abound.
We will hang here for a few days waiting for the weather to improve to go offshore. Enough of the ICW hassles.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Markers on the ICW

I am some what sure that at one time mile markers were evenly spaced and prevalent along the ICW. With the neglect of the waterway, it seems that the markers are few and far between. Most cruisers carry an ICW guide that leads you along the way, identifying anchorages and marinas and the like by the mile marker it is located at or near. Our electronic chart has no such identification, although the papercharts do indicate the mile marks. Incidentally, the ICW is based upon statute miles, and a nautical mile is approximately 9/10th of that measure.

Along most bridges (but not all) you will find markers indicating the height of the bridge clearance. In this picture, a mast higher than 65 feet will clear under. Most fixed bridges are 65 feet, with the notable exception of a Florida bridge that we never pass under, and the Wilkerson Bridge in North Carolina, which is said to be 64 feet. Strong southerly winds can blow water into the ditch, decreasing the clearance. So, if you are 62 1/2 feet like First Edition, you should have nothing to worry about except in those conditions.

And you wonder why I was scared?

A picture speaks a thousand words.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Swansboro via the Bogue Sound

We skipped Beaufort this trip much to my dismay. No Aqua Restaurant, no shopping at the charming shops, and no new friends made dockside. But, alas, we hurry on with a marginal weather window to make haste to Georgia.

Last year, we hated the Bogue Sound. It was shallow and we ran aground twice, once, hard with a ferocious bump, and without warning. Needless to say, as we approached the same spots this year we had fear in our hearts. But not to worry, it looks like some one found some tax money to dredge, and the entire way, we had no problem.

We took on fuel as Caspar Marina at Swansboro, after I mortified myself upon losing control on the approach due to fierce currents, which had not been obvious. No harm done other than a bruised ego. We anchored out and once again found that despite the literature, the holding here is very good.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

South River by Oriental

We arose early, again, in time to watch the mist rise from the waters and the sun rise. We had hoped to grab one of the two free dock spaces in Oriental so we could see our friends Kim and Steve on Fine Lion. But, having missed that opportunity, we headed to the South River where we expected to stay for a few days to sit out 25 knots, rain, and thunderstorms. Anchoring at Oriental harbor might be OK, but the winds from the South precluded that.

South River is shoaling on the red side, but there is lots of room if you prefer port on entering. We had hoped to hug the shore for good protection, but our charts are way too generous with depths, and we ran out of water well before the indicated datum. We did have a comfortable anchorage though, and the predicted wind and rain joined us. The tstorms stayed west, and we had a good two days doing chores and watching rainbows.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Pungo River

Eleven hours after departing Coinjock, and having managed to make it through the Alligator Pungo Canal unscathed, we anchored in the lovely Pungo River. This is the kind of anchorage where you can arrive late and know you will still have a spot. It was a beautiful evening and another awesome ICW sunset.

Passage through the Alligator Swing Bridge was uneventful. This bridge upons on request, and we have always heard how uncooperative the bridgetender is here. We never find it to be the case. I always enjoy watching the sailboats pass through a bridge and I wonder how these guys felt watching our procession.

Several boats had had difficulty in the canal. We saw a trawler run out of control for about 50 feet, enough to run smack-dab onto a partially submerged tree trunk. We later heard a catamaran calling for Tow Boat US, having bent its shaft, and some one we suspect was a powerboater lamenting the root he had twisted around his prop.

Despite the solitude of this part of the ICW, every once in a while the quiet was pierced with the boom of a fighter jet, doing maneuvers and circling us several times. I think these soldiers had as much fun watching us as we did them. Another opportunity to be proud of being an American.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Great Bridge Lock on the ICW

Day One headed down the ICW is fraught with stress. There are five bridges that you need to time (some open on demand, two on the hour, two on the hour and half hour). This is not counting the railroad bridges that may or may not be passing trains when you arrive. Of course, everyone starts off early and fights for position. The Great Bridge Lock fills up quickly, and sometimes you get bumped when there is no room at the inn. Then you have to circle around and fight other boats and the current. It is important to know that everyone hates this, you are not the only one feeling that valium could become your best friend.

We had a surprisingly easy time of it this trip, or perhaps I am finally calming down. I even brought the boat into the lock and did not rip off the engine or add scuff marks to the hull. 18 boats locked through with us, and the locktenders were friendly and patient, not always the case.

Heading South, the right side of the lock is rubber lined, thus preferred over the left side which is concrete and steel. Guess where we were. Hang your fenders and approach slowly until the lock tender is ready to accept your lines.
You should have two long lines (25 feet or more) attached to a cleat and ready to hold up, he will take with a boat hook and wrap around a cleat or a piling on shore. He will hand you back the end and you attach to the cleat, or hold while the water falls. This is not a dramatic event, usually I don't even know that the rise or fall has happened. For First Edition, this is the tricky part, as it seems the dinghy always wants to hit the side of the lock; this time the motor cleared by a hair's width.

We ended our day at Coinjock Marina, rafted to a catamaran. This is the busy time of year, so marinas fill up fast. You should make your reservation at least two days in advance, more if nasty weather is predicted. Docking at Coinjock at both marinas is alongside the waterway, so no hassles with slips. There is a decent restaurant at Coinjock Marina which is known for its 32 ounce cowboy prime rib. We tried this last year and found it inedible. But the homemade potato chips served before dinner make it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gearing up for the ICW

We left Mill Creek in the daylight and more than 11 hours later anchored at Mile Zero, Hospital Point at Norfolk. I anticipated the anchorage being overcrowded, but we found sufficient space to comfortably anchor. We understand that this is a great spot to anchor for movies, provisioning, and restaurants, but we are always just passing through. We never seem to be bothered by the wakes of passing craft, but then again, we are in and out pretty quickly.

After a few innings of the Yankees, we retired while up 4-1. An early morning rise is planned as we begin the stressful day 1 trip down the Intracoastal.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Solomons to Mill Creek, By Boat this Time

We left a sizeable donation at Zahnisers, and around 1:00 dropped our mooring to head for wherever we felt like, thinking we might make Norfolk. The winds were lighter than forecast, so we relied upon Mooch the Yanmar to make way, and decided to choose the recently visited by car Mill Creek our destination.

Upon leaving the Patuxent heading South you will run into these obstructions, which are bombing targets for the nearby naval base, we are told. I wonder when in the hell they practice?

Six hours later in the pitch black darkness we reached the Great Wicomico, full of unlit buoys, fish traps, and crab pots. I eventually figured out that if I worried about the crab pots, I would convulse, so I left that to Peter, who did an admirable job of it. Fortunately, I had created a route into the creek the last time we were here, so it was an easy journey for me on the wheel, while the Captain managed to fret and shout orders the remaining 7 miles or so in to the anchorage. There were many boats already settled in, some showing feeble solar anchor lights. These just don't work if it is all you are using---I nearly clobbered one guy who barely showed a flicker.

In the morning we arose before sunrise to make an early exit and found that we had chosen a lovely spot across from our property. We also found that it was 39 degrees outside, and not much warmer within. Try this without a heater.

The bald eagles have returned to Virginia, and we found the eagle pictured above enjoying a healthy breakfast as we were departing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Big Doings on Mill Creek

Instead of visiting our property and Kathie and Jimmy by boat, we decided to rent a car and drive from Solomons during the four days of nasty weather while Zahnisers completed some repairs to our rigging. Apparently the yard that replaced same two years ago left off some things and used hardware that has not held up, so, Break Out Another Thousand.

On our way back from Newport News, Jim and Kathie decided to follow us to Mill Creek to plant a pecan tree for us (hoping that their squirrels would be enticed to follow their car and leave their pecan tree alone). While there, it turned out our friends and future neighbors Vickie and Len were meeting a builder on their lot, so we got to visit with them for awhile before undertaking our 2009 trek down the ICW.

We have heard from so many cruising friends in and about the area, as we all become like Canadian geese, congregating in the popular spots (but without the poop), waiting for good weather to take flight, and exchanging the lead position as we begin our march together to warmer weather. Come join us, or let us know where you are!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Moving Day for the Gil-Forgosh Family

Our timing was great for Willow and her parents' move around the corner to a larger home, as we got to help out and be the last to sleep in the old home and the first in the new. Things went relatively smoothly for a working family with an almost four year old, except when Dave almost didn't record the Yankee game. (Almost. We missed Texeira's pie in the face as the tape cut off right after the homer. Phew. It would have been sad to have a dead kid on our hands in a brand new home. Especially since we successfully transported four goldfish and one kitty.)

Willow got to experience her first champagne uncorking while Grammie got to show off her multiple chins.

How adorable is my granddaughter?

Good luck kids. You done good.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Solomons Island

We spent two days at Weems Creek and then had a pleasant sail to Mill Creek off of the Patuxent River, where we anchored for one night. We actually head up to Lusby Point, a little ways up from where most boats anchor, depending on wind direction, anchoring off of someone's rip-rapped shoreline. You will have better swing room and a terrific internet signal from some local if you don't have broadband.

The following morning we headed to Zahniser's to pick up a mooring ball ($40 a night) while we did our land duty. We get a rental car from Enterprise who will pick you up here and is the best rate around. (We actually changed our reservation to pick up the car a day earlier than planned, and wound up with a rate $100 less. You really need to recheck the rates if you make a reservation in advance.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

RA Means Really Awful

A very welcomed scheduled appointment with my rheumatologist, Dr. Kramer, resulted in another Cortisone shot (heaven, I'm in heaven) to reduce the inflammation in my knee and my hands, which then resembled eagle's talons, all crooked and prepared to gouge. Doc told me that my body is hot, not in a good way. The RA is very active, accounting for my general feeling of malaise.

We are going to change the Methotrexate from pills to injectables, and Peter got training, with trepidation. I am scared s--tliss to think of him sticking a needle into my body. But, metho injected is so much more effective and less of a strain on the liver. Do I sense an alcoholic beverage ahead?

I am now feeling great, and probably will for a week or so as my blessed cortisone improves my demeanor while turning my bones to mush. Right now, I don't care. I am on my way to see my granddaughter and her parents, and their new home.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weems Creek, Annapolis

We ended our long push from "Up North" at the Sassafras River in the Chesapeake, anchoring out near the mouth, after 32 hours underway. The next day we battled wind on the nose gusting over 25 knots to get to Annapolis, and chose to anchor up the Severn in Weems Creek. Here you will find several moorings owned by the US Navy and used by them only during hurricanes, available to us guys other times. Of course, by the time we got there all were taken. There is ample anchoring room however.

There is a public dinghy landing, and within walking distance is Graul's Supermarket, Navy Bagels, a Laundromat, and the scene of the crime where unobservant young-thing driving a Volvo smacked right into me last year while I was bike riding. I should have seen this sign before taking to the streets here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Heading South, Finally!

Having rid ourselves of kidney stones and many dollars, we departed City Island and began the long slog to the Chesapeake. Leaving the NY harbor to get to the Delaware Bay takes about 20 hours for us. It seems like most of the trip we are staring at the lights at Atlantic City (as shown). While this is an exaggeration, it is not much of one! This trip the wind was howling with wind gusts to 25, but miraculously, nearly flat seas. We sailed from 0930 until nearly midnight when the wind dropped (of course, during my watch, the engine Mooch gets started), and we have been motor sailing for nearly 12 hours. We are now in the God-awful Delaware Bay, doing what one should never do, ride the favorable current with an opposing wind. But we are trying to get to the Chesapeake, our granddaughter, and rental cars for a ride back to NJ for the rheumatologist. Speaking of which, I awoke this morning rating the pain in all joints less than 1. This is a big day!