The year of new stops and mud flats

Approaching Norfolk/Portsmouth area (VA Beach lies east of the ICW) the trip is still quite rural with marsh and cedar stumps lining the ICW. Tuesday saw the re-opening of the Alligator River Swing Bridge just a few hours before we got close. I became a believer of how strong the wind really was when we left the relative protection of the Alligator-Pungo Canal and got smacked on the nose with 24kts and 2ft waves. Ugh. Guess our comfy spot for the past 3 nights gave us fantastic protection.  The bridge swings from a center pivot with a span wider than most. Boats can pass through on either side of center. Once through, we had to leave the channel and head east toward Durant Island where we’d anchor for the night just behind it in East Lake. During the evening the wind died to nothing and surprise! ..morning fog.

Our saildrives, the port especially, are misbehaving and the props often don’t unfold as quickly as they should. Reverse has become touch and go, with no go happening half the time. Barnacles? Old age? Who knows? Unless we get hauled out no way to know for sure, so looks like we’ll keep fingers crossed until July.

Crossed into Virginia Wednesday afternoon heading for Blackwater Creek, our usual spot before taking on the bridges and lock the following day. The creek is lovely to look at, delightful if found, but if you draw more than 4 ½ ft you’ll soon be aground. 🙂  Deep enough inside, but with an entrance hump of 4- 5ft that varies when strong winds blow water in or out of the creek. No surprise that we found ourselves alone, having only 4ft at the entrance. A low pressure system, aka a cold front, was headed our way yet again. We anchored where the creek bends, positioning to allow room to swing from pointing south now to pointing north when the front passed by.  Two other boats had anchored off the channel before the creek entrance, umm we hadn’t thought of doing that, except when the nightly tug and barge comes along and they fail to negotiate that turn……crunch time!

We do love our creeks and their sunsets

We do love our creeks and their sunsets

The front waited until 6:30am, sparing us a midnight ordeal. The wind increased rapidly (we can always hear that certain sound down below) and Russ got up to look around.  “You need to get up”, he says. Well, if we weren’t stern into the mud shore. Jeeze, not again!  Turns out the port daggerboard was stuck and lifting it a few inches allowed us to float free. Now what? Pulled in some chain but that didn’t do much; no choice but to re-anchor or leave. No, not leaving yet. Re-anchored easily- phew. The forecast indicated a gradual decrease in wind speed with each passing hour after 10am, so we kept to our 8:30 departure and hoped for the best.

This is the home stretch of the official ICW; the last 30 miles to Mile 0 at Norfolk/Portsmouth with 5 scheduled opening bridges and one easy lock.  We try to adjust our speed so that we arrive on time without too much wait time. With such a strong headwind, both engines barely kept our speed to 5.5kts. Amazing.

A new stop we’d hoped to make was the free dock nestled between Great Bridge Bridge (the town name is Great Bridge) and Great Bridge Lock. Happily, the stars aligned and the dock was not only empty (it holds 6-8 boats) but the wind was way down with just enough power to blow us right onto the dock. So, 3 down today, 3 more to go.  Such a great spot to watch the world pass by on the waterway, plus you can walk no more than a few blocks in both directions and find just about anything you need. Chili’s called out the us; the best lunch I’ve eaten in weeks.

Funky sign inside Chili's at Great Bridge, VA

Funky sign inside Chili’s at Great Bridge, VA

At the state-run ABC liquor store we stopped for wine. They do not sell wine, only a few that are native to VA. Hard stuff only. You want wine or beer, get it at the grocery store.  All the liquor stores in VA are state operated and every store has the same prices and the same sales. Easy. CT seems to be among the few states where you can’t buy wine in the grocery store.

The quiet section between the lock and bridge is put to good use

The quiet section between the lock and bridge is put to good use

A tug and barge pass by headed for the lock, the bridge still open behind them

A tug and barge pass by headed for the lock, the bridge still open behind them

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