20 May, 2013

The Inter Coastal Waterway

I arrived from St Augustine after a downwind sail at Cape Hook well after dark. It was an easy entrance through the navigation buoys however the radar had difficulty picking up the sloping sandy shore. once past the hook of the entrance the bay opened up and I saw the anchor lights of Jack Tar and Eye Candy who had waited an extra day for me. Pedro came over in his dinghy to say hi and have a drink. I caught up on the news and local weather. The plan was ti take the ICW rather than the route round Cape Hatteris because there was some rainy weather forcast.
The next day we were up early and the three Ozzie boats were on their way into Beauford. It is quite a wide and well buoyd channel but has a sharp dogleg just at the narrow entrance. Eye Candy was a head and round the corner when JT and Malua reached the turning point only to find a large ship exiting the channel and requiring a wide turning space. The current was running strongly as both JT and I moved swiftly over to the starboard side to give the vessel room to turn out into the fairway. No panic but a well executed move. Then onto the place where Matadore ran aground. When I passed the spot the bouys were all in the right spot and I had adequate water under the keel but what of our first bridge with an air clearance of 63 ft. JT just passed under and I made it with 5 ft to spare.
One now entrers the ICW proper with the red and green navigation buoys and narrow channel, it would be a challenge as I could not leave the wheel for long to even boil water for a cup of tea but first I needed some fuel so I stopped at Jarrett Bay Boatworks at mm 198. It was quite trickey comming alonside with the current flowing so strongly but I managed and Malua was soon on the way again but some distance behind the others. The ICW in this section is very similar to the lower reaches of the Rhone but the channel is much narrower. The country side is flat and the water streaches for miles around giving you the illusion you could stray off the straight and narrow but you would soon run aground. In most places the channel is no more than 15 m wide and follows the original rivers that flowed through these parts before the ICW was built to take the barge traffic from NYC right south to Florida. It has silted and shoals have formed. Some dredging does take place but generally it is the traffic and water flow that keeps it deep enough for traffic.
My C-Map charts on the plotter where almost always right which was reassuring. With the wind over the stern I was able to pole out the genoa andincrease the speed almost up to 10 knots with the tide in my favour but dont run aground at that speed. After the initial channel one comes out into the wide expance of the Pamlico Sound. The three boats moved out of the channel into the Neuse River and pulled inti Bonner Bay off the Bay River for the night. We only traveled 49 nm on the first day. Drinks on JT.
The next day we were back in the narrow channel before exiting at Goose Creek which is in the Pamlico River/Sound. Here the navigation marks are wide apart and it is a good idea to put some waypoints into the chartplotter. Next into the Pungo River and more wide open water but no depth. The narrow straight channel of the Aligator River from mm 125 to mm 105. Strainght line motoring till we came out into the wide open space of the Aligator River just south of the East Lake swing Bridge. We decided to pull into the shore and find some shelter from the wind but the wind was blowing and the fetch long so no drinks tonight as we had covered 64nm.
Up early to get the opening of the swing bridge then through the dog leg and out into the Albemarle Sound a wide open body of water which is connected to the sea. Into the north river in a heavy rain storm. It was a complete white out with no visability so I had to slow down. Then through the swamps with it's dark brown water and into the north Carolina cut and then again into wide open water before entering the last stretch of the north Landing River before entering the Albemarle and Chesapeake canal. Most of the way it rained and rained with no wind. Long boring journey. Eye Candy stopped to help a vessel who lost concentration and went into the side and run fast aground. At this section of the ICW timing is everything as some of the bridges only open on the hour while other on the half while others are closed during heavy traffic periods. Malua and Jack Tar caught Eye Candy because he missed a bridge and had to wait almost two hours. We finally arrived at Great Bridge and pulled alongside - a 79nm day so many drinks where had in the park next to the yachts.
The forecast was for heavy rain so we moved through the bridge and tied three in a row along side on the port side of the river next to a grassy park. The retail people went off to do some shopping while the fellows filled the gas cylinders either at the service sentre or by decanting.
Only a short run into Norfolk and the dock at Mile Marker Zero basin but you have to get the bridge timing right. Malua had a dream run and was soon tied up alongside in downtown Norfolk right opposite a large aircraft carrier in a floating dry dock. This is one of the UUS navy's main harbours and I can now see why a good war stimulants an economy. We waited here for a few days to catch our breath, shop in the big city and prepare for the next leg up the Chesterpeake.
A magical moment on Malua.

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