Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The First Half of Our ICW Trip, in Photos

Although every time we travel the ICW is a different experience, and we learn something new on every trip, I'm not blogging a travelogue this time.  The mile-by-mile writeup of our first trip begins here, and then just keep clicking "newer post" if you want to see how we viewed it all through new eyes.  This time, I'm really interested more in the vignettes and the unusual experiences in port and at anchor and underway.  But it wouldn't be a travel/sailing blog without pix, right?  So here we go.

Check out the compass heading -- due south!

We're leading two other boats, both first-timers to the ICW. This is Seneca, a brand-new 37-foot Beneteau.

And at the opposite end of the spectrum, sturdy old 27-foot Catalina Catmandu. They are also writing a blog about their trip.

All the way down the Chesapeake, 3-1/2 days, the weather was warm, calm, and sunny.  Look at this glassy water near Wolf Trap light, we only unfurled the sails for a few hours one afternoon.  (BTW, I'm happy to report that the "Wolf" that was trapped here was a British ship by that name that ran aground on these shoals during the colonial era, and not a wild canine.)

At Norfolk, one of my favorite stretches because there's so much to see.  This Coast Guard cutter, much bigger than it appears in this photo, first appeared as a silhouette in the mist as we were crossing the Elizabeth River.  Silhouette of a warship on my stern?  A true Captain Ron moment!  It was fun to hail them and make arrangements to cross paths without colliding (partly as a teaching tool to show the boats following us how this is done on VHF, but mostly because I just like talking to professionals on the VHF).  And speaking of talking, as we were traveling we were hailed by another sailboat, Samara, saying hi.  We met these folks online several years ago and they recognized our name.  Phil and Kay on Catmandu said traveling with us was like traveling with a rock star, we're pretty well known on the ICW because of our online presence.  We plan our voyage and port stops around where we have friends (more on that later, and all part of the fun.)

Big as the Coast Guard cutter was, it was dwarfed by this container ship.

The famous (infamous) red daymark that marks the official start of the ICW, Mile 0.

Jean-Luc on Seneca following us through the bridge. 

Catmandu tied up to go through the lock at Great Bridge.

I always like stopping at Great Bridge, we stay at Atlantic Yacht Basin where the people are so helpful, and its a great yard for boat work if you need it.  There are also those things that cruisers look for - a good grocery store, clean laundromat, (liquor store).  And restaurants.  In this case a personal favorite of ours, Mexican food and big margaritas.  But, this was too much of a good thing.  We were trapped waiting out the high winds and rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Karen.  I kept thinking I had over-reacted in suggesting we wait it out, the winds weren't that bad ... until I stepped out from the shelter of the slip they had us in and went for a walk.  Yes, the winds were that bad; glad we stayed.  Making the most of our time, here's Dan giving rope-splicing lessons.

Finally underway again.  Love this picture of gray-hulled Seneca in the mist.  Catmandu had only 5 weeks to get to Florida so they went on ahead, while we stayed an extra day to let the winds abate further.  We caught up to them next night at Coinjock and they said that crossing Currituck was horrible, winds 25 gusting 30.  It was still 20 when we crossed.  But then again, I've never had a calm crossing of Currituck!  We ate at the well-known restaurant at Coinjock, then planned to leave the marina early next morning and anchor at the head of the Alligator River the next night.

Catmandu underway under gray skies.

Seneca, anchored at the head of the Alligator River.  This proved an eventful stop.  After a calm night, we planned a half-day travel then a marina break at Dowry Creek, an easy half-day away.  But Catmandu's engine wouldn't start.  They encouraged us and Seneca to go on ahead to the marina, while they called TowBoat U.S.  That was where we discovered that our VHF wasn't working properly, we were in a cellphone hole so our phone didn't work either, so we pretty much were out of communication.  After a cascade of errors, they finally showed up at about 10:30 PM, tired but safe.  They and Seneca stayed at Dowry for several days, Catmandu to effect repairs, and Seneca due to insurance restrictions (his coverage wouldn't let him go south of Cape Hatteras until after hurricane season.)  Meanwhile, we had to hurry ahead to Oriental, where we had appointments to keep.    

Shrimpers at the dock. 

And at work.  There's apparently some kind of rule, or convention, that they don't leave port before noon on Sunday.  By 1 PM it was like shrimper rush hour on the Neuse River.  But the weather was perfect, and we tied up safely at Deaton's Yacht Service in Oriental in time for our appointments.  

First order of business at Deaton's -- figure out why our VHF wasn't working!  This is a much more comfortable way to get up there to work on it than climbing the mast.  And that meant that the guy doing the work could focus on the job, not hanging onto the swaying mast.

Houses along the ICW.  Each comes with a pretty view, and its own boat dock.

Some of them are really boldly colored.

Port stop in Morehead City, NC.  Delightful opportunity to connect up IRL ("in real life") with fellow bloggers  and fellow Kansas sailors Tom and Sabrina (on left), and fellow maritime-history reenactor Robbie.  We joked that although we had never seen them before we recognized Tom and Sabrina from pix on their blog.  On the other hand, although we had met Robbie at numerous events, we were always dressed as pirates or sailors; we might have trouble recognizing him in plain old t-shirt and blue jeans!

Drinking local beer at the Ruddy Duck Tavern in Morehead City.  Tom and Sabrina made plans to connect up with Jean-Luc when they both reach the Caribbean.

Another colorful house.

My friend Dave is developing a webinar on the ICW and one aspect of it is VHF communications.  My contribution is to record conversations with bridges and barges we pass.  It took a while to figure out the logistics of having the cellphone in one hand and the VHF mic in the other.  We met this tug coming up the Cape Fear River as we were getting a fast ride downstream on its 2-knot current, and recorded our conversation.  I'll provide a link to Dave's course when it goes live.

Waterfront property is priced by the frontage foot, so houses tend to be rather like townhouses, tall and narrow.

Calabash Creek, our first anchorage in South Carolina.  This boat was anchored behind us.  In the morning, look who had decided his masthead would make a lovely fishing perch!  Back when we lived at Port Annapolis, we disliked it when birds as small as crows would sit on our windex.  But a pelican?? I can only imagine.

This was our view astern most days, leading several boats south.


  1. Seeing these photos was so much fun! Thank you for leading us and helping us along the way. -Kay, on Catmandu

  2. Thanx guys! More pix coming soon. And also coming soon ... we hope to be in St Aug by Sunday or Monday.