Saturday, November 05, 2005

Heading South on the InterCoastal Waterway (ICW)

The intercoastal waterway is a combination of natural rivers and sounds coupled with man-made canals that connects Norfolk Virginia with Miami Florida. Just over 1000 miles!

We began this long trek from our marina in Portsmouth which is just across the Elizabeth River from Norfolk and right at mile 0 of the ICW. At mile 7 you have to make a decision: Virginia Cut (big boats and lots of power boats got this way) or the Dismal Swamp route (losers in slow sailboats go this way.) Of course we couldn’t resist something with the word ‘dismal’ in its title so we followed that course noting that none of the boats in front of us went that way. Makes you wonder if you are taking a wrong turn or not. The fact that 2 boats behind us followed our path could just mean they are as clueless as us but are willing to follow!

No problem however. This was the correct way and on through the dismal swamp we went. At about mile 12 you come to a lock. Oh man…all the boats that left ahead of us this morning were there waiting in the lock. I counted 12 boats all rafted off of each other in the lock. When we were all in and secure the lock closed and up we went…8 feet. Now you see all the boats are together and it is just about impossible to pass on this narrow cut. If you do try you are liable to get your mast in the trees that are growing very close to the sides of the canal. From this lock there is virtually no place to stop until you get to the visitors center at about mile 28 which of course is what every body did! Later in the day 5 more boats came through and joined the fleet. 17 boats making one huge raft and yes the way to shore is to clomp across the boats that are between you and shore.

Sue and I disliked being in such a tightly packed trailer park and we figured that most of these folks were going to go all the way to Elizabeth City on the next day. We decided to anchor just a mile from Elizabeth City, let them scoot the next day and then take one of the free slips that is offered in Elizabeth City for visiting boaters. One good thing about the raft was that the boat tied to our starboard was our boat's twin! Learned a few things about the rig from Ferdy and Jutta as they had been cruising aboard their Endeavour 40 for 5 years out of San Diego. Better yet, Ferdy had just the evaporator I needed for my 12 volt refrigeration for less than half of what it would cost new. Good deal and thanks to Ferdy and Jutta!

It was a fine night on the anchor just outside the yacht club - only joined by 2 other sailboats and less than a mile from the drawbridge into Elizabeth City and it was my first chance to enjoy having a windlass to lower (and later raise) the anchor. Also a secure feeling to have an all chain anchor rode instead of chain and then rope as I am used to.

Our plan worked to perfection! We got up and had a big breakfast and waited until 0900 when the draw bridge would again open for boaters. They don’t open during the massive Elizabeth City rush hour. Imagine! When we got to the town free dock there were many open slips! Friendly people come down to the dock to help with lines. Now we have an entire day to enjoy Elizabeth City (not the least of which is the free wi-fi right here in the harbor!) Tomorrow we begin to head across Albemarle Sound. Depending on weather there might be an anchorage half way across toward the Aligator River or you just keep on and do the entire ~50 miles to the other side.

Sailors reading this blog we are looking for a good yard either in Charleston or all the way down in the Keys where we can lay up for a few days, maybe even haul out, and take care of some of the bigger projects we have in mind for this boat. We are especially in need of a good canvas shop to build our new dodger/bimini. Let’s hear from you!


Brian said...

Scott- I heard that Otis Elevators has a canvas shop somewhere on the InterCoastal Waterway. You should probably be able to find it on the web.

Brian said...

Another thing - I haven't read anything about mice problems in any of your blogs. I'd like the Chariman's thoughts on that.

Gracie Liberation Front said...

Brian --

Gracie can easily handle any mouse that comes her way. Large rats, however, are a more vexing problem. For that, she would hire "Rats Be Gone." This is a new business opened by the recently unemployed Scooter Libby.

Right On!

Chairman Meow