Well here we are, finally on the ICW!
We spent a freezing night (28F) at anchor off Hospital Point in Norfolk, Virginia, which is almost exactly Mile 0 for the Intra Coastal Waterway. Invested in a $5 emergency thermal blanket and added it to our bedding, which was a great solution to the chilly nights. It does rustle a bit so you feel like you're in a giant lolly bag, but that's a small price to pay for being able to feel your toes again.
The Norfolk stretch was very industrial, including vast navy repairyards. The whole Australian Navy could disappear in here and never be seen again. Just after Mile 7, an important decision needs to be made, to continue with the mainstream cut or fork off to port through the Great Dismal Swamp. Well, who could resist that? The Swamp it was. The GDS is a historic bit of engineering, undertaken by George Washington and others who had land interests in this part of Virginia/ North Carolina. It's actually a canal cut through swampy land so that timber and other produce could be transported up to the northern cities. Pretty much all of it was constructed by slave labour, and interestingly, it became a haven for runaway slaves who had got to know the area well, and set up communities there during the Civil War period.
Our journey through the 'Swamp' was a pleasant one - the weather was great, the trees still had some autumn colour and we met up with some very friendly fellow swampers when we tied up for the night. We had a pretty good Mexican meal at the only restaurant in Deep Creek with Imre and Giva from The Fat Lady and Sandra and Alain from Satori. Our only real difficulty was faced when we were waiting for the second lock to open, trying to keep Common Sense from drifting into the shallow mud on either side of the channel, entangling her rigging in the overhead branches, or colliding with the other meandering vessels in this very restricted space.
Out of the swamp we headed into Lamb's Marina, just before Elizabeth City. It's not exactly a resort marina, but the folks here are friendly and helpful and they have everything we need, including the elusive propane for our stove. I'll post Terry's email as a continuation of the story, for anyone who hasn't read it yet:
We’re in Lamb’s Marina in Camden, just out of Elizabeth City in North Carolina. It’s part trailer-park, part marina and we have the best boat by a mile. Many of the boats and trawlers tied up here are going to be fixed up in someone’s mind but in reality it ain’t gonna happen. Many are such projects that it would take forever to finish them. Most of the trailers have Corvettes or Dodge Trucks outside them. It’s a self-contained community, with either your boat or your trailer, the gas station out front that rents it all out and a reasonable grocery store inside. They have the big 24oz Yuengling Lager cans so I’ve bought some of them for the trip ($1.59 each).
We set the dinghy up today and went into Elizabeth City, about 4 or 5 miles down the Pasquotank River. With the 20hp on the back, it sure flew along.
We docked at the town dock area and went for a walk around Elizabeth City. Very sad, with many retail spaces empty and for lease. Life’s a struggle for sure for many here with their incomes and dreams taken away.
While we were sitting in Grouper’s Restaurant (St Louis baby back ribs were good) we saw two boats come through the Elizabeth City road bridge and turn into the free docking slips. One of them was my friend Roger Long whom I’d corresponded with for about 10 years but had never met. I knew it was Strider from the many pics of it I’ve seen so I went down to meet him. He knew it was me as soon as I spoke, as he doesn’t know anyone else with an Aussie accent.
We also met a couple on a Bristol 38, Lee, an architect from NY and Lynn, a paediatric physiotherapist, both had enough of working and headed for the south and the Bahamas and then the Exumas. We also met a guy called Doug on a small yacht called Sequoia from Baltimore. He and his wife have bought a place in West Florida and he is taking the boat down to their dock there. She’s doing the road part. He’s a bit over the struggle, as it’s not a large boat and he’s on his own. Nice guy, ex-Navy, from DDG993 US Barry. Most the people we meet who know Perth/Fremantle/Western Australia are ex-Navy. Those people (and it’s girls as well as guys) are better placed than most in this environment as they retire from the service on (say) 40% of their pay and only need to work part time to maintain a decent standard of living. The guy who filled my propane tank tonight ( who told the girl at the cash desk “it’s only a ittle bitty one”) spent 18 years in the Navy from the Antarctic to the Arctic and Germany to Japan and was most disappointed that he didn’t make it to WA as his friends all raved about it. Most Americans say that it’s a place they want to see before they die.
Well, tomorrow we’re down the Pasquotank to the Albemarle Sound. We’re not looking forward to this as it’s a bit of a bastard stretch – shallow and about 30 miles. There is weather coming in and if we don’t get over tomorrow it may be Friday before we can. Roger’s friends have invited us to stay for Thanksgiving with them but as nice as that would be we think we’d rather make some South while we can. We have to get from the exit of the Pasquotank to the entrance to the Alligator River on the other side. We’ll probably stay in the Alligator River Marina and not go through the bridge itself as there’s nothing on the other side for another 18 miles and it’ll be well dark before we get there. Wednesday is supposed to be bad but if the bridgekeeper opens we are only ½ a mile from the bridge. If we can make the next lot of anchorages, we might stop there and then tackle the Alligator River/Pungo River Canal. You can’t, or shouldn’t, enter the canal if you can’t make the other end as there’s nowhere to tie up or anchor for 22 miles.
Boat is running well, with most systems working (shower drain a bit patchy) but all the things I put on have made it better by a mile. Dinghy cut out on me before we left the back of the boat this morning and I thought it might be another $300 to get that ethanol crap out of it (@$@# greenies and their fuel fixations!) but it started again after much pulling and swearing. It ran very well into Elizabeth City, up on the plane and about 20kts easy on a half throttle.
We have power on the boat in the marina so our airconditioner is running and we are in t-shirts for a change.
Hope you are well and please send us updates from your end. We’ll have wi-fi in the Alligator River Marina but not for a while after that.
Hoges out of the Swamp.