Sunday, October 29, 2023

Still surfing the window

Our fantastic weather window for moving south has persisted, and thus today finds us in Pamlico Sound, at the very tail end of the favorable weather. This route bypasses a rather tedious section of the ICW, and cuts a dozen miles off the journey. The open water affords me the opportunity to post here while Otto handles the helm. We have ten hours under way today.

Vector in the basin at High Street Landing. Noise from the shipyard in the background is ever-present.

Thursday, after I posted here, we arrived to Hampton Roads to find ourselves back in the middle of the wolf pack. With a decade of experience, we run the inside of every corner, shortening the route and also keeping us out of the worst of any opposing tide. Several boats that had left ahead of us took a much longer path, putting them well outside the harbor entrance with two knots of current against them, and we caught up to many boats that should have been well ahead of us.

It's generally a bad idea to travel inside ship channels, the preferred treatment being for small pleasure craft to cross them at something close to perpendicular. But I remember being a rank beginner and not trusting any water outside the marked channel, and being overwhelmed by a very busy harbor entrance all at once. So I understood why most of the pack was making its way into the harbor more or less inside the channel and directly in line with it, even though that had them working much harder against the tide.

I always enjoy passing the navy yard, even if I have to be on my toes to squeak between the security zone and the edge of the ship channel. Here we have just passed the carrier George H. W. Bush, CVN 77.

The navigable water here is nearly a mile across, and we headed straight for the opposite site, near Fort Wool, as soon as we passed Old Point Comfort. That made us the stand-on vessel to the group of cruisers now trying to claw their way into the harbor, and I safely made an agreement with two of them to nevertheless pass astern. That put us crossing ahead of the third boat, whose name we could not see and who proved not to be monitoring the bridge-to-bridge channel, really a requirement in the Hampton Roads entrance.

By the time I reached them on the radio they were less than a hundred yards, still headed right for us with no apparent change in course or speed. That's really too close for comfort in a constant bearing, decreasing range situation, especially in open water. At the last yawning instant they understood they needed to pass astern of us, missing by a boat length, but seemed put upon to do so. I'm hoping that after some reflection they realized their mistake.

Arriving to High Street to find a tugboat in our spot. The nerve of some people.

One of the reasons we fully cross the channel at the narrows is that it puts us on the inside bend, where the adverse current is much lower. I would estimate we got a half knot of relief by running south outside the green markers. We were in Portsmouth before 3pm, where we found our "usual" spot inside the High Street Basin still available (map). Good thing, because there was a tugboat in our backup spot on the outside wall.

A new eatery has opened next to the dock.

After getting the boat secured I headed ashore with the recycling and to see what had changed since our last visit. A new restaurant has opened in the old Legends Brewing space right by the dock, called Thyme on the River. It looks pretty good, with several beers on tap, but they are still in their soft opening with a very limited menu. I walked past all the old standbys, and a new placed called District.

From the front this place is much more appealing than its predecessor.

We ended up walking to High Street Pizza and Pour House for dinner. This place opened up in the former Humboldt Steel location, a joint we ate at precisely once, in the height of the pandemic, because they had an outside table available. The new place is much more high-zoot, serving up tasty Detroit-style pizza. They also had a decent salad and a nice selection of drafts. 

Hard to count in this into-the-sun photo, but there are 17 boats ahead of us waiting for the bridge. To our port is the tug Aries and you can just see the head of his barge.

Friday morning we got an early start off the dock to catch the last of the favorable tide down the Elizabeth River. We came around Money Point to find 20-odd boats stacked up waiting on Railroad Bridge #7, next to the Gilmerton lift bridge, including a tug and barge. When the bridge finally opened it was only going to stay open for a few minutes, and it seemed like all 20 of us squeezed through at once. The entire throng ended up in the lock together, whereas we peeled off to the Top Rack Marina to fuel up for $3.89/gallon, the best price we'd see for most of the east coast.

This glare-filled shot is the best I could do to capture the chaos through the bridge, as I needed both hands for the helm.

I had planned to take on a full load, putting in 1,000 gallons at this price, but I had somehow forgotten they do not accept American Express here (in my mind, it was Discover Card they did not take, but that they do). We paid our final yard bill by maxing out our Discover and Visa cards -- with no cash discount, we wanted to rake in all those cashback points -- and AmEx was the only card with enough headroom. We were able to cobble together enough between another Visa and what we had left on Discover to put in 750 gallons, which was good enough, and in a little over an hour we were back under way with a full water tank and plenty of fuel.

This was my view just after the bridge. All these boats went to the lock together. Several were not monitoring the radio, even in these close quarters.

We were glad to have missed the giant crowd, and we locked through Great Bridge with just four other boats. We were tied up at the free bulkhead in Great Bridge (map) before noon. That gave me plenty of time to run an eBay sale down to the post office on the e-bike, and load up on provisions at the Kroger on my way back. This is our first big provisioning stop since leaving Mamaroneck, and we really loaded up. We walked to dinner at Vino Italian Bistro, right next to the dock. which has become our go-to place here since El Toro Loco moved away.

One of the things I miss from Mamaroneck is the Half Time beer store. This porter from Greenport reminds me of our many visits there, where I enjoy it each time.

Yesterday we dropped lines for the 0800 bridge opening, figuring to end the day in the North River just short of the Albemarle Sound, a usual stop for us. We had unusually lucky timing for the Centerville Turnpike and North Landing bridges, owing in part to following a tug through the latter. Once I overtook the tug, Island Lookout, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. Currituck Sound was uncharacteristically calm, and we were in Coinjock at lunch time with a projected finish in the North River by 3pm.

Conditions on our Albemarle crossing. Ideal.

That would have been fine, and we would have had a pleasant Albemarle crossing this morning, but we would not have enough window for the Pamlico route, and right now we'd be in the Alligator River. With such perfect conditions, we instead opted to make it a long day, cross the Albemarle, and drop the hook in Croatan Sound between the bridges (map).  We noted on our way into the anchorage that seiche had the water level down by at least a full foot. The weather was so beautiful yesterday that we spent some time driving from the fly bridge, for the first time in what feels like forever. It's more pleasant up there now with the fresh paint.

This calm sunset shot over Croatan Sound from our anchorage belies the weird wave action we experienced there.

The same seiche that had all the water stacked up at the other end of the sound made for weird conditions in our anchorage. We clocked around several times in one direction, and every time we looked up the full moon was on a different side of the boat. Lots of small wavelets splashed up against the boat, making for a somewhat noisy night.

Moonrise over Manteo from our anchorage in Croatan Sound.

This morning, keenly aware of the low water level, we took a little detour around the shallowest part of the marked route, taking us under a side span of the Virginia Dare bridge and 300 yards west of the marked channel. We had less than two feet under keel in a few spots, but otherwise no issues, and I have saved the track for future use.

Gratuitous sunrise shot over Manteo as we departed the anchorage this morning.

We are now on our final heading of the day, which we will be on for nearly seven hours and which ends at our anchorage just north of Cedar Island. Tomorrow morning we will continue to the Neuse River and Adams Creek, which will bring us to Beaufort and Morehead City. Sadly, there is no window on the horizon to take us outside to Wrightsville Beach, so it looks like we will be on the ICW for the foreseeable future.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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!