Thursday morning we left Morehead City Marina with an overcast sky and a slight wind blowing. We traveled the Adams Creek canal where we saw lots more homes along the ICW like we have through the rest of NC. But according to the guide book we have, these are more middle-class homes then those seen near Wrightsville Beach, or Myrtle Beach.
It was in this canal that we watched a hawk circle around several times to look for “breakfast”. He skirted the tree line looking for fish hiding out, but was not successful. Eventually he left to the land, probably looking for a field mouse. Too bad we could not get a picture as it was a beautiful bird with about a 3 ½ foot wing span.
The weather forecast was not bad for the day, but as it progressed we realized that it was going to deteriorate. We successfully navigated through the Neuse River and the Pamlico Sound with the wind on our nose and 2 foot chop for about 2 hours, and it was not fun.
But our experience as sailors helped us to tolerate the discomfort, knowing we were doing 15 knots and would not have to endure it long.
So our original intent was to go to Belhaven, NC, spend the night, and then today go on to Coinjock, taking the “Virginia Cut” route up the ICW instead of the “Dismal Swamp” (more on this below). But the wind was forecasted to go from 8-10 to 25 knots on the Albemarle Sound (much more open than the Pamlico Sound) by mid-morning. There is also a swing bridge at the end of the Alligator River and just before crossing the sound that closes down if the winds go above 30 knots. So, we made the decision to get through the bridge and stay at an anchorage (South Lake) tucked in from the wind last night, then get up at first light (6:00 am) this morning and make is across the sound early. And that is exactly what we did.
Last night’s anchorage was about a 1-hour slow drive off the ICW, but it was well worth it. It was protected from the wind out of the North and it was completely desolate. We were the only boat there and did not even have a single boat pass us all night long. The cruising guide said that on a clear night you can see millions of stars as there is no light pollution, but it was so cloudy all we could see were military helicopters and planes going by.
The most interesting thing in the anchorage is the wooden structure located off our port (left) side. Mark believes it to be a “duck blind” used for hunting waterfowl. Although there are a lot of birds in the area, we did not see any ducks.
We did however encounter numerous crab pots to get in and out of the anchorage area; it was literally like a mine field. Come to find out, in NC they are allowed to put these pots anywhere as long as they run in a line either North to South, or East to West. So the trick is to find your way in one of the “lanes” and stay put as long as possible. However, in the ICW it is more important to stay in the channel or you run the risk of running aground. This is not a sport for the faint of heart!
Last night we also had to have the generator run most of the night in order to run the heater. Yes, us Floridians were freezing, despite long pj’s and blankets on the bed. It was cold!
This morning when we crossed the Albemarle Sound, it was only blowing about 10 – 15 knots and we had 2’ of chop. By the time we got to Coinjock (at 9:30 am) it was blowing a good 20kts with gusts to 30. Now as we sit here, it has rained horizontally and we are being bounced around, despite being tied to a dock. We spoke with a boater who came in around 13:00 hrs (1:00 pm) who clocked 40 knots in the Sound. We DEFINITELY made the right call!
Because of the wind, we will most likely sit here for today and probably tomorrow, then make the last 45 miles to Norfolk on Sunday.
Dismal Swamp vs. Virginia Cut:
There are two routes to take when transiting North Carolina to Virginia on the ICW. Both routes have their pros & cons and we had to decide which way to go. We chose the Virginia Cut for several reasons. The main reason is that the Dismal Swamp was supposed to host a kayaking event on Saturday and over 200 kayakers are supposed to be in the canal. Since it is already known to be narrow and taking this route requires slow speed (5 knots), timing of several bridge/lock openings, and 6’ depth, we decided it would not be fun.
The Virginia Cut is a little more open and you have to cross Carrituck Sound, but after Pamlico and Albemarle, this should be a non-event. This part of the ICW also has much more commercial and tug/barge traffic, but they generally run in the evening hours so we should be ok.
Both routes require our first encounter with a lock and we are going to have to time it perfectly as they have restricted openings and have to be coordinated with the bascule bridge opening just after the lock.
To say we are anxious to leave the terrible weather of NC is an understatement. It is cold, rainy and the wind is howling. We miss the warmth of SC, but not the heat of FL. Now we are anxious to see the predicted improved VA weather.
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ICW sites yesterday & today: