Sunday, May 6, 2012

Up to Norfolk and the End of the Atlantic ICW

It is not unusual for me to wake up early. I usually roll out of bed about 5:00 am or so. That’s typical really. But the morning of May 5, 2012 saw me popping up about 3:00 am. We were in Coinjock and there was a good internet connection there so I made some coffee and sat down at the galley table and got all of my computer stuff done. I keep the ship’s log on an Excel spreadsheet so that was brought up to date. I uploaded all of the latest pictures to Picasa for the blog and wrote that day’s blog entry. I could hear birds nearby and the weather was pleasant so it was going to be a good morning.

I went out on the dock about 5:30 and things were beginning to happen. Crews were waking up and prepping for early departures. In short order boats starting peeling away from the dock heading in both north and south directions on the canal. I helped several boats untie from the pilings and get cast off. The big green hulled Krogen trawler directly behind us was able to drop back a half a boat length so he could get out easy. Bob Wilkins in Ocean Breeze, another Krogen trawler, directly in front of us was able to easily pull up and out as the long dock opened up in front of him. By the time 8:00 am came Lisa and I had a clear shot for a very easy time of getting away also. Jim and Dale in Sweet Pea took of just a few minutes ahead of us, and since they cruise at nine or ten knots compared to our seven-ish knots we did not expect to see them again until we came in to Waterside Marina in Norfolk at the end of the day.

We were at the upper helm on the flybridge for the day as the forecast was for very pleasant conditions except that rain would develop up towards Norfolk after 5:00 pm or so. In nice weather the flybridge is the place to be.  The only downside to being on the flybridge, at least at this time, is that there is not any navigation gear on it so Lisa did all of the navigation working off of charts and guidebooks which worked just fine for us down in Florida.
A room with a view.

There were several drawbridges and a lock ahead of us and it was due to this that we found ourselves surprised that we caught up to Sweet Pea and Ocean Rose at one of the bridges entering the Albermarle and Chesapeake Canal. They were both running slower so as to try to time their cruises to hit the bridges on or very near scheduled openings. So we were very content to slide in behind them and let them lead the way.

The Albermarle and Chesapeake Canal is long and I think very pretty with tall trees lining the way. The conditions were ideal: sunny, clear and calm. If we did get to a bridge early we could just come to a dead stop put the boat in neutral and sit there without having to dance around to stay in some semblance of a ready position. I had posted some time ago about the horrible hectic experience we had waiting for an opening at the Surf City bridge with its high winds, narrow shoaling channel and lots of boats franticly trying to stay safe and ready. On this day waiting for bridges was the exact opposite, being able to calmly sit very still without too many engine bursts or rudder corrections, if any.   

It seems that every daily cruise up the ICW there is something new that we would work through, accomplish and tuck away in our bag of learned experience. Today it was our first lock called the Great Bridge Lock. There is a drawbridge right in front of it. We waited in line for the bridge and the lock to open and as they did we slid in to the south (port) wall. Lisa went forward to hand the lock hand her line. I scampered down off of the flybridge to handle the stern. While every new experience has some nervous anticipation attached to it this turned out to be almost something of a non-event. The water level in the lock dropped maybe a whooping 18”. As the other boats secured their lines and got under way so did we.
Ocean Rose and Bob Wilkins

After a few more bridges and some twisties we could easily see that the complexion of the river was beginning to change. Trees were replaced by construction and loading cranes. Large wharfs and factories lined the shore now. It smelled oily and mechanical. We passed several navy ships including an aircraft carrier. We could see the predicted storm system starting to slide in from the west and there was a new sense of urgency in my intent to get to the marina before the rains came. By this time I had opened the throttle up as high as I have every pushed it. I don’t know what my speed was since the gps with that info was down below but I was keeping up with Sweet Pea. (Ocean Rose diverted off to another marina.) We did back our speed down as we passed a Navy security zone. Then as soon as we came around the nose of a frigate we could see the marina just up ahead and a bit to the starboard side of the bow. Sweet Pea radioed ahead and pulled in. We chirped in and told them we were there too. They asked us to stand by to be hailed in when they were ready for us. As soon as they did we slid into a nice piece of facing dock right at the entrance. The marina was very full which tightened up maneuvering room making a slip a non-option for us so they put us on a facing dock near the entrance which is just fine with us.

After getting settled in we went to the marina office to pay our bill. We then paid social calls on Journey with Rick and Margi, meeting another Rick and Betsy of Rick and Roll. We then stopped by Sweet Pea seeing Jim and Dale again and meeting Lynda and Bob of Erika Lin. Lynda said she felt like she knew us because she is a follower of this blog. Lisa and I then walked back to Why Knot for a rest before meeting everyone at 6:00 pm for dinner at Hooter’s directly on shore by the marina.

As a little funny aside, a few weeks ago Lisa ordered a new sleep number bed for the boat that was shipped to the marina awaiting for our arrival. So the marina was very glad to see us and give us our four large boxes of stuff as they had run out of places to keep them. As soon as they heard out boat name calling out they were very eager to schlep them over to us dockside and for us take them off their hands. This kind of became a marina joke as boaters wanted to know who was getting a new bed and the marina kept asking if the boaters were on Why Knot.

So we’re in Norfolk. We’ve reached the end. Well, actually we reached the beginning as the mile numbering system of the ICW starts here at Mile 0 and goes up going south. Its kind of like we’ve been going backwards the entire time counting down to zero. According to my log we have travelled 1150 statute miles since taking delivery of the boat. This includes the 1055 marked miles of the ICW from Pompano Beach, Florida, as well as a few daytrips and pump out station runs.

We started in narrow canals lined with high rise buildings giving way to multi-million dollar mansions and multi-million dollar mega yachts, palm trees and manatees, the vehicle assembly building at Cape Kennedy that we could see for days, porpoises, comical cormorants, lots of pelicans, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, marshes that seemed to go on forever, beautiful anchorages, quaint small towns, large inlets with crystal clear water, beautiful sunny skies that gave way to violent outbursts of fury, beautiful marinas with every kind of vessel imaginable, crab fishermen and their ever present floats dotting the water, an elephant playing in the ICW, the sounds of nature all around as well the splash off the bow of the boat and the Caterpillar 3208 humming peacefully beneath our feet, and horizons that would make us stop and stare. We learned to love our boat, Why Knot, knowing all of her joys and foibles. We learned how to handle her and how she would just keep giving and giving us more pleasure safely and surely. But most important and most enjoyable are all the wonderful people we have met and the new friends we have made. There are too many to name. We have learned to love Why Knot as our home along with everything that goes with it.

But from here a new chapter of our Great Loop cruise starts. We leave the mostly protected confines of the ICW and venture out into new things that we are confident will be even more glorious and challenging than what we've experienced so far

1150 miles down, 4850 to go.

This is awesome!