Friday, November 4, 2022

Gone to Carolina

We are under way southbound on the ICW, crossing Albemarle Sound as I begin typing. Yesterday we heard someone on the radio, whose first language was not English, pronounce a long "e" at the end and now we can't stop calling it the Bob Marley Sound. We be jammin'.

We had a few dolphins in our bow wave after crossing the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, our first in several months.

After last I posted here we pushed on a little further than usual to a new anchorage for us, in Dividing Creek, near Kilmarnock, Virginia (map). We tucked in just far enough behind Hughlett Point to get protection from the northeast wind and had a comfortable night. In the morning we weighed anchor with the tide for the run to Hampton Roads.

Sunset over Dividing Creek

The bay was flat, at least until we got close enough to the mouth to catch some ocean swell, and we had a nice Halloween cruise. We missed an outgoing submarine by enough time to avoid getting caught by the security zone, but we did have a brief episode with dredging equipment. It was a replenishment project for Buckroe Beach, and a tug pulled 300 yards of pipe right across our line. I needed to know if I could cross the pipe already in place, but neither the tugs nor the dredge answered the radio for nearly fifteen minutes.

I finally reached them at the very last minute and we crossed the pipe without incident. Later in the day we heard the Coast Guard control center trying to reach the same operation on the radio, and they, too, had trouble getting an answer. We only ended up detouring a few hundred feet, so all was well in the end.

What has become our usual spot at High Street. BAE shipyard in the background.

As we rounded Old Point Comfort we put the current behind us and the plotter projected a pre-dinner arrival at Portsmouth. We briefly contemplated making it a shorter day, stopping at a familiar anchorage near Phoebus in Hampton, but there were so many AIS targets already in the anchorage that we decided to press on.

We were surprised to find two spots still available inside the basin at High Street Landing when we arrived at 5:20. We opted to leave those spots for late arriving smaller boats that needed the protection, and tied up instead on the outside bulkhead (map). Sadly, the Legend Brewing location right there at the basin has closed, so I could not stock up on one of my favorite browns, and we instead walked to Gino's New York Pizza for dinner. We picked up a couple of items at the Dollar General on the way home, and I offloaded a huge bag of recycling at the dock.

I like Ike. Note the ever-present armed patrol boat.

We contemplated just spending a second night, with no agenda moving us along. But it was drizzing when we awoke and the forecast called for rain into the afternoon, reducing the appeal. On a nice day I would take the ferry over to Norfolk and spend the day. Instead we dropped lines on a fair tide and headed down the Southern Branch to Chesapeake.

If there was any doubt that we are now squarely in the southbound snowbird migration, or at least the tail of it, that was put to rest when we arrived to railroad bridge #7, at Gilmerton. The bridge was closed and we found ourselves at the end of a line of a dozen pleasure boats, with two tugs thrown in for good measure. Thankfully, only one of them pulled in to the Top Rack marina ahead of us for fuel, with the rest continuing on to the locks.

Ballistic missile submarine USS Sam Rayburn, long since decomissioned, being defueled and dismantled after her retirement as a nuclear training ship. If you look closely you can see a section of casing missing.

I had called Top Rack under way and they had told me they had just 1,300 gallons left. While we were fueling one other boat arrived to take 300 gallons; the sailboat ahead of us had taken just 30. We took the rest, adding just under a thousand gallons at $5.03, making this the most we've ever spent bunkering (but not the highest price we've paid). Dwindling diesel supplies are driving prices upward and even making it difficult for marinas to keep stock, so we wanted to fill up before things get worse.

A half dozen or more boats passed us at Top Rack heading for the lock, and by the time we arrived the south wall, where they normally lock pleasure craft and which is thus lined with rubber fenders, was full. The lock gave us permission to use our own fenders and tie to the north wall. That let us make the 12:30 lockage, and we were at the Great Bridge free wall in Chesapeake just before 1pm.

Vector squuezed in at the Great Bridge bulkhead, with a line of sailboats moored astern.

Normally this early in the day there is plenty of room, but today the wall was nearly full. We were able to squeeze in by going to the very end and overhanging the last piling by several feet (map). Uncharacteristically, the free dock on the other side of the bridge was nearly empty and was our backup option, but we had to know before the 1pm bridge opening. We were tied up with five minutes to spare.

I set out on errands, including picking up a delivery from the Amazon locker, some bagels from Panera, and a few items from the dollar store. Apart from the Amazon delivery, the important errand was to pick up a script for Louise at the Walgreens. But after waiting in the pharmacy for nearly a half hour, they informed me they were out of stock and would have to order it in, and to come back after 11 the next day. Fortunately, we were already planning on a two-night stop. In the evening we walked just a short distance to the Vino Italian Bistro for dinner, which has become our go-to since the relocation of our beloved El Toro Loco.

Sunrise over Great Bridge Bridge and a mirror-calm canal.

With the script not ready until mid-day, we decided to make a big excursion together at dinner time, trying a new-to-us place not far from Walgreens called the Court House Cafe. Then we'd pick up the script and finish off at the Kroger to reprovision at the most convenient grocery for a long stretch. This proved to be a serendipitous decision.

We've never tried this restaurant because it's really at the outer limit of how far Louise can walk. It's in a strip mall, and sounds mostly like a lunch place, so we had low expectations. That said, it is now our new go-to. Wood paneled, with a nice bar, they have prime rib on the menu every night, and on Wednesdays it's on special. We shared the discounted prime rib, which was excellent, and worth the extra walk. It was better than the much-vaunted item at the Coinjock Marina, which we always miss because we don't want to pay for the dockage.

We always feel welcome in Great Bridge, Chesapeake.

Yesterday we dropped lines for the 8am bridge opening, thus placing ourselves squarely in the middle of a pack of migratory boats, including the other five boats who also left the wall at the same time. The fast yachts left us in the dust after the 8:30am Centerville Turnpike Bridge opening, to make North Landing Bridge at 9. We putted along at just above idle for the four miles to make the 9:30 opening, with four sailboats behind us. We were in the company of those boats all the way to Coinjock.

Crossing Currituck Sound we had 15-20 knots of wind, mostly on the beam, and the sailboats all put sail up. At one point one of them caught up to us and requested a pass, which is all well and good, but under sail alone, when the channel made a dog leg later on, they slowed so much we nearly hit them. As the stand-on vessel I am required to maintain course and speed, but I had no choice and had to maneuver "in extremis," as it is known in maritime parlance. This is the same individual for whom English was not a first language, and so I cut him some slack when he passed me to port after arranging to pass to starboard. But the rules are printed in all languages.

A nearly empty Coinjock Marina at 2pm. The dock was fully booked and there would not be an inch of space come sunset.

We dropped the hook in the North River just a stone's throw from where it enters the Albermarle (map). A sailboat that had been right behind us on the dock in Great Bridge was right behind us to the very end, and anchored just a half mile away after consulting with us for advice. We had a calm night, and I grilled up one of the steaks we had picked up at the Kroger for dinner.

Last night's sunset during dinner from our anchorage in the North River.

Our preference for continuing south from there is to take the Pamlico Sound route, which is shorter and faster and requires less attention to the helm. But tomorrow's forecast on Pamlico is for stiff two-footers, which in the ocean is nothing but in Pamlico can be a misery. So instead we are taking the ICW route, and we're now on the Alligator River south of the bridge. With no agenda it will be a relatively short day, anchoring before the Alligator-Pungo canal around 3ish.

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