July 10, 2007

I Love the ICW!

We just finished a mad dash north from Beaufort, North Carolina, to Hampton, Virginia. All of it was inside on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), and once again I think that is my favorite stretch of the Waterway. In 205 statute miles you get a taste of everything: narrow channels with opening bridges and locks to negotiate, historic and welcoming towns, free docks, wide-open bays and sounds where the sails go up, deserted anchorages where you wonder what the rest of the world is doing, and endless bird and wildlife viewing.

We made our record day ever on the ICW--99 statute miles. I didn't add it all up until after the hook was down or else I might have tried for that last mile to get to the century mark. There are advantages to a motorsailor. Minke cruises at a comfortable 7+ mph, and we can crank it up to near 8 mph at times if we need to catch a restricted bridge opening. Plus, we've got the tankage to go more than 500 miles without refueling, which speeds things up too.

It's great to see that in general this stretch of the ICW is just as beautiful and just as friendly to boaters as it was 22 years ago on our first trip. We anchored out in Beaufort, in a somewhat shrunken anchoring space, enjoying the free use of a nice dinghy dock right in the center of things. The maritime museum has discontinued their free courtesy car, but we found that a taxi ride from the grocery store was only about $5, which is different than in Florida where you might be better off renting a car in most towns.

Then we went up to Goose Creek, just north of Hobucken. After a last few hours in blinding thunderstorms (our pilothouse kept us cozy and dry), we anchored for the night in Campbell Creek. We were the only boat in there, but I could see one other sailboat over in Eastham Creek and one trawler anchored further north on Goose Creek--a crowd for that part of the ICW.

We had a calm trip across the Pamlico River and up the Pungo River, where I was happy to see a dredge working on the shallows around the Wilkerson Bridge. The Alligator River was a nice motorsail and we just squeaked across Albemarle Sound before some brief thundersqualls swept by. We then anchored north of Buck Island just before sunset. That was the end of our 99-mile day, and it was fun!

We stopped at Coinjock to get cheap diesel, and we spent some bucks on nice stuff in the Coinjock Marina store. My daughter bought a fleece jacket, guaranteeing blazingly hot weather, which I am now melting in here in Hampton, Virginia. All of the bridge and lock restrictions are a pain in the Norfolk area, with the timing of the Centerville Turnpike Bridge and the Steel Bridge (only once an hour!) really boloxing up your schedule. We ran through on a Sunday, which helped, as some of the bridges aren't restricted on weekends and holidays. 

As usual in Norfolk we had to dodge huge ships, tugs, barges, and Navy vessels, while helicpopters and jets swooped overhead. There were reports of an airplane down in Norfolk harbor and an 83-foot boat adrift near the bridge-tunnel. A typical day in Norfolk.