Norfolk, Virginia is generally considered the northern start of the AICW (Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway) which continues all of the way to Key West, Florida. Officially, it begins in Boston, but since much of Boston to Norfolk is open water, Norfolk is commonly referred to “Mile 0” of the AICW.
Transiting thru Norfolk is both fascinating & challenging, as it is one of the world’s busiest harbors. Not only does it handle the most & the largest cargo ships on the east coast, it is also home to Naval Station Norfolk – the largest naval station in the world! The warships, of course, are the most difficult challenge to avoid & avoid you must. Blasting on the VHF radio “Warship 75 is entering Norfolk channel inbound to pier #6 – All vessels must maintain a 500 yard security zone at all times”. Not so easy, as the channel narrows, they are zooming at up to 16 knots, then suddenly slow to maneuver or wait for tugs to assist, all awhile other boats of all types/sizes are zipping about & wait – did I mention some of the largest cargo ships in the world?
This year we were able to go fast & pass wide around this warship as they slowed for their tugs & yet get far ahead of the large approaching cargo ship which had “slowed down” to 12 knots. In the photo above you can see the 2 powerboats attempting to outrun the cargo ship.
Fortunately after only 12 miles, a few bridges & the Great Bridge Lock, ahhhh … peace at daybreak. No more naval vessels or cargo ships – just the occasional tug & barge.
We are spending a few days enjoying Beaufort awaiting better weather to continue on. We usually head offshore from here to Wrightsville Beach, but we’ll see what the weather brings.
Departing the C&D Canal, we headed down the Chesapeake for the nearly 200 miles to Norfolk, Virginia, where the ICW officially begins at “Mile 0”.A new stop for us along the way was Rock Hall, Maryland, complete with a great marina sunset. A nice little town, but as now so common, many stores & restaurants were closed for much of the week due to insufficient staff. Next was a few days at Solomons, Maryland where we had a fun visit with Mike & Ann, former cruisers, who now live there in a condo (but another boat may soon be in their future!).
With one more stop needed on the way down to Norfolk, I decided to stop at an anchorage we had stopped at our first year near Gwynn Island. The name of the entrance should have been clue: “Hole in the Wall” – should be called “Thread a Needle”! Even though there is an “official” channel marked with buoys, it has really shoaled in! While this chart view shows an extremely narrow break between the sandbars, our Navionics SonarCharts displayed a more generous path with decent depths … but nope! Our depth display of only 3.5 feet had me ready to turn around (we draw 3 feet), but we were coming up to a pair of new-looking buoys marking the channel & SonarCharts showed an area of much deeper water just ahead. But BUMP – BUMP – BUMP – AGROUND! Fortunately we had been at nearly idle & the bottom was just muddy sand, so we could easily power off, but where to go? Not being foolish enough to continue into the unknown (& having to repeat our track leaving in the AM), I attempted to carefully turn around back onto our track we had taken in (SonarCharts on my iPad was recording “breadcrumbs”), but we could only make a few feet every time before bumping once again. Lori to the rescue! “Let’s lower our dinghy – that will rise up the stern an inch or two” That was just enough to let us power back to our track & get the heck out of there!
Going aground is definitely not a good feeling (& can be extremely expensive!), but at least it’s been nearly 6 years since the last time, so I’m not too embarrassed!