Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Weather hold

Notwithstanding my last post, wherein I said we would leave here Sunday morning, we are still in Chesapeake, Virginia, tied to the free wall at South Battlefield Park, between the lock and the bridge.  We made the decision to stay at our morning weather conference on Sunday.  The weather here, of course, was just fine -- the delay was due to forecast weather further south on the route.

The many boaters who now follow us here well know this drill, but a few words of explanation may be in order for our even larger readership of RVers and other landlubbers.  That explanation starts by saying we have a very slow boat -- in open water we cruise at around seven knots (about 8 mph), and that might go up to 8 knots in excellent conditions, but often goes down to six knots or less (less than 7mph) when we are restricted to narrow channels.

To put that in perspective, that's only about twice as fast as an average walking speed, and less than half as fast as a comfortable bicycle ride.  We absolutely love seeing the scenery go by at this speed, but it does mean that it can be a long day between safe places to stop, and it mandates careful planning.  Complicating matters somewhat is our six foot draft, which precludes us from accessing many anchorages, harbors, and marinas accessible to boats with shallower draft.

So, for example, once we leave here, there is no place at all for us to stop for the day until we reach Coinjock, North Carolina, where there are exactly two marinas across the canal from one another.  Coinjock is 38 statute miles from here.  Including the time it takes to shove off and tie up, we have to budget at least six hours of running time to get there, and we need to add at least a half hour to that figure due to the timing of the three bridge lifts we need en route.

If anything goes awry on the way, our only real options are to press on or to return here.  Our charts and notes do show an abandoned dock about a third of the way, with reports of eight foot depths, but a small abandoned dock with unverifiable depth reports can not be relied upon -- it could be full (two boats), the dock's owners could now be enforcing "no trespassing", or the area in front of the dock may have shoaled to less than six feet since the last report.

So before we begin such a leg, we need to be sure that the weather will be favorable for the entire run, including both endpoints, and that the boat is ready for it as well.  In this particular case, the run includes a transit of Currituck Sound, an extremely shallow body of water with a narrow channel to which we must keep.  I remember crossing the sound on our way north in decent winds, crabbing the whole way.  While it is somewhat arbitrary, we've set a limit for ourselves of 15-20 knot winds and two foot waves in Currituck for the crossing, just to be comfortable and to keep from being worn out from hand steering by the end of the day.

The weather on Currituck Sound was fine on Sunday and even acceptable yesterday, although today would be dicey.  But this sort of planning happens not just for the immediate next leg, but rather for the next several legs as forecasts permit.  So while we would have had a nice ride to Coinjock on Sunday, it was the next leg that caused us to reconsider.

We want to skip the Alligator River and the Alligator-Pungo canal, and, instead, take the route across Croatan and Pamlico Sounds before rejoining the ICW at the Neuse River.  We'd rather not push through those bodies of water in high winds and chop -- we'd prefer to enjoy the ride and the scenery.  As the forecast called for rough conditions on Pamlico Sound today, we opted to hold off.  We chose to stay here for an extra three days, where dockage is free and we have access to myriad shops and restaurants, rather than push on to Coinjock, only to have to hold there for an extra two nights at over $90 a night, and where the restaurant charges a captive-audience rate as well.

We've been planning to shove off first thing tomorrow, but the forecast for Currituck Sound has been deteriorating.  At this writing we are still "go," but when we read the weather report over morning coffee tomorrow, that may well change again.  With the lock operating at an extremely reduced capacity, the wall here has never filled up since we arrived, so we don't have to feel bad about acing anyone out of a spot.

Speaking of the lock, it was closed all day yesterday, while divers carried out parts of the repair on the valve.  They finally opened it briefly around 1am, and by then boats had stacked up all the way to the Steel Bridge, including two giant tows, with many pleasure boats anchored in the channel.  Our entertainment was listening to all this on the radio, with some sailboats having to scramble to raise anchor to get out of the way of the towboats, and at least one boater who was still asleep below decks, anchored in the channel, as the lock opened.  It's been closed all of today, too, with a plan to let some traffic through around 4pm, and we can see the boats stacked up on the north side.

Vector behind the Hatteras 48 LRC Concrete Idea, with a Corps of Engineers crane sitting in the lock chamber in the background.

The extra few days here gave me some time to tackle a few projects, and it's handy to have some stores in walking distance.  I just came back from Auto Zone with new wiper blades -- the old ones gave out completely on our way here.  I also did some grocery shopping, and Louise got her hair cut.  Yesterday we walked across the road to Atlantic Yacht Basin, the marina and boatyard on the other side of the Great Bridge bridge, where most of the southbound traffic has been tying up en route.  We went to check out their covered storage for our friends, who are thinking of storing their trawler there in the off season.

I have my fingers crossed the forecast holds and we can get under way in the morning.  As pleasant as it has been here, I'd like to get south of Cape Hatteras before winter truly sets in.  With any luck my next post will be from Coinjock or even further south.

1 comment:

  1. Love your blog Sean. I don't think I have the patience to cruise. I'll stick to RVing, thank you. I hope the weather window coincides with the lock schedule soon.


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!