Trip Report – ICW Week 1, Fall 2013

Rather than give you another day-by-day summary of the trip this past week – you should be seeing those on the Facebook page anyway, right? – I decided to talk about what’s the same and what’s different this time around on the trip.

What’s different this time around?

Doing Leg 1 on the Dismal Swamp

First of all, since we were holed up at about mile marker 7 waiting for the Great Bridge Lock for a day or so, we spent the first 50 or so miles on the Dismal Swamp route instead of the Virginia Cut.  This meant no Coinjock prime rib for us, but we were sick of sitting around, and while some people cautioned us about trying this way in a catamaran, others assured us that they had either passed through on their own cats without a problem, or they had seen them in the swamp.

Brian tying us up to the side of the first lock

Brian tying us up to the side of the first lock

The major difference was that it is much narrower than the other way around, and there are two locks to deal with (not something we have much experience with).  As it turned out, our issue wasn’t worrying about Summer being too wide for the waterway, it was the risk of snagging our mast on the overhanging trees!  It was very picturesque, but it was a tiring day as we had to be constantly alert to our position in terms of the banks, the trees, the boats ahead of us and maintaining proper distance, as there was no way we could pass anyone.  If there were any boats coming the other direction – not really an issue this time of year – there would have been a major problem!

In short, we’re pleased we gave it a shot, and it was beautiful, but we won’t be doing it again!

We’re more willing to stop at marinas than we were on the way north.

Back in the spring, we would have told you that we didn’t stop at marinas because we were frugal sailors who didn’t want to spend the money.  We were kind of fibbing.  We really didn’t stop much at marinas because we were petrified of docking the beast that is Summer.  Now that we have our docking strategy down – I’m at the helm using the engines to maneuver us in, and Brian is tossing the lines and getting the fenders placed (which I am terrible at) – we are definitely more comfortable pulling into a marina than we were 6 months ago.  In a way it’s great – we don’t have to worry about dropping the dinghy to get into shore (you know, between docking, picking up a mooring where there was water taxi service, and anchoring out and not leaving the boat, I don’t think our dinghy has been in the water since we left Nantucket!), we step off the boat and are right at the showers and restaurant options that many marinas have, and with the cold (more on that later), we can run our heat as high and as much as we want to.  Of course, it means we’re spending a bit more money, but when we get a good deal like we have this weekend at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club – $1/foot/night – it makes it an easy decision to pull in and tie up.

Docked in Myrtle Beach

Docked in Myrtle Beach

Docked in Belhaven

Docked in Belhaven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re COLD!  And the weather SUCKS!

This is the part that sucks the most.  We’ve really been struck with terrible weather – if we didn’t have our spiffy new enclosure, I’m not sure how we would have coped (thanks Brian’s dad, Alan!).  We end up stopped waiting for bad weather to pass, which means it is taking that much longer to get to warmer weather.  It’s also putting a damper on our plans to try taking some outside runs down the coast, as we don’t feel comfortable doing so unless the weather is really perfect.  Most places along the coast, you need to plan for an 18-24 hour run on the outside, otherwise it’s just not worth the effort of heading out and coming into inlets – plus, not all inlets are created equal, there are a limited number that are recommended for boats our size.  We also need to time it so we’re coming in and out during daylight hours.  As of right now, it looks like we might have a good weather window to go outside at Hilton Head, SC and come back in at Fernandina Beach, FL, if we get down to Beaufort, SC by late next week.  Fingers crossed!

What’s the same?

The ICW is still BOR-ING in a lot of parts

It’s just as long and tedious as it was the first time around.  We thought that we’d have more time to relax and “do stuff” when we weren’t on driving duty, but we’re still just as engaged when we’re on break as we were on the way up.  Scouting out possible trouble spots on the route ahead, checking for oncoming traffic, etc. etc.  It is easier in many ways than in the choppy waters off NJ and in the Chesapeake, but we’re still wiped at the end of the day.

Bridges are still nerve-wracking

Check out this video I took yesterday.  While the charts and tide boards may say the clearance is 65′, and we know our mast is 62′, we still, and will probably always, hold our breaths when we pass under.  And in Morehead City, NC, we were heading under two of them at high tide, with high winds, crazy current, and waves…and I am pretty sure the top of our VHF antenna hit the underside of one of them.

I’m still pushing to “go go go” and Brian wants to take it easy

I know that the most dangerous thing on a boat is a schedule.  And we really don’t have one this time (other than wanting to be in South Florida by mid-December), as opposed to the spring when we had to pick up Brian’s dad.  But I would rather churn out 50 mile days for multiple days in a row, and I’m still saying “I want to be in x place by y date”.  I don’t know why, I guess I’ve always been schedule/deadline driven (I was a project manager after all), and I feel like if we get to a specific destination in a certain timeframe then we WIN.  Yeah, I know, nuts, right?  So it’s still a learning curve for us as a team to make compromises – I’m getting a little better about not freaking out if we stop somewhere for longer than we’d planned, or we only do a short day mileage wise, and Brian does indulge me for a long day if it makes sense with the currents – for example, we made the long 57 mile run from Mile Hammock Bay on the grounds of Camp Lejeune, NC to just north of Southport, NC in the Cape Fear River, because we knew we’d be riding the current most of the way – and if we stopped short, we’d be fighting that current the next morning.  I keep thinking to myself this mindset of mine will improve once we get to the Bahamas, but…I’m going to really have to work on it.

I hope that didn’t sound like a whole mess of complaining.  We still love this life, although it is still, and will always be, more work than we ever anticipated.  Oh, and how could I forget some pretty pictures for y’all?

Sunset, Belhaven, NC

Sunset, Belhaven, NC

Sunrise...crap I can't remember where.  Pretty though right?

Sunrise…crap I can’t remember where. Pretty though right?

Moonrise over the Alligator River, NC

Moonrise over the Alligator River, NC

Buzzed by helicopters while passing through Camp Lejeune.

Buzzed by helicopters while passing through Camp Lejeune.

Passing through the Dismal Swamp

Passing through the Dismal Swamp

2 Comments
  1. Those are some great pics of Bellhaven! Glad you guys got into the Dismal Swap, I loved going through there last year, I found it beautiful. Probably one of the only pretty parts along the ICW. :)

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