Great Bridge Bridge Free Dock – Chesapeake, VA – Thursday, 5/13
It was cold when we woke up this morning…..way too cold for a mid-May day in the South.
We were up early and off the docks by 6:30 am. We had checked the weather update when we got up to confirm what we saw last night: the wind would be at its best for us until about 9:00, then it would shift, making for chop. We wanted to be ahead of this and knew we could run close to shore if it stayed out of the north and became stronger.
Once we left the docks and secured all the lines and fenders, we headed out the narrow channel into the Albemarle Sound which was easier to do than it was coming in on Sunday.
Initially we had the generator going to keep our heat on, but as the sun came up and warmed the boat we turned it off; it ended up being a nice day on the water. Once leaving the AP channel, we headed southeast in order to get around the restricted zone of Harvey Point. This is a Department of Defense Military testing and training area, and we learned while at AP that it was where they rehearsed the actions for the takedown of Osama Bin Laden.
Once around these marks we headed in a northeastern direction and although we could have run closer to the coast to block the winds, the waves were not bad so we made a direct course for the entrance to the North River. At 8:05 we rejoined the ICW and turned due north. For the next 5 miles we were in somewhat protected waters with low lying bushes and trees, and lots of shallow open water. Soon we entered the narrow canal that took us past Veterans Memorial Park, the Coinjock Marina (where we have stayed before), and the old Midway Marina (now owned by Coinjock Marina but no improvements made).
As we entered the area of Coinjock, we noticed another Back Cove ahead of us and wondered if we would catch up to it, as it was going slower than we were. Shortly after leaving the Coinjock area and as we were entering the Currituck Sound we noticed it had come to a stop. Then we heard out his call on the vhf radio to the Coast Guard that he had run aground and was piloting the boat without crew. It was clear he was out of the channel, and here it gets very shallow. Having heard the way he conversed with the CG, we knew he was an inexperienced boater and clearly needed to take a safe boating class. We passed by him slowly and would have offered assistance if needed, but the CG gets paid to deal with such individuals and we do not.
We moved on and entered the very shallow and narrow channel of the Currituck Sound. The north wind that had brought the cold front also pushed the water to the south end of the Sound, thereby making the channel a little shallower (10 feet) than normal (12’ – 14’). There were almost no other boats on the water here and we were making great time, so we were relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful day it had become.
And at 9:30 we entered the state of Virginia and (finally) left the state of North Carolina behind us….at least until October. Then we once again were in the narrow waters of the North Landing River and now had to deal with the timing of the bridges. Each one opens only on the hour and half hour, and are spaced just far enough apart that boaters sometimes miss the opening of the subsequent bridges. For this reason we like to be in the lead since we go faster than most of the trawlers and all the sailboats. But today we got lucky and were able to pass the slower boats right after the North Landing (first) Bridge, and easily make the opening for the Centerville (second) Bridge.
Normally, we would be then pushing to make the opening of the Great Bridge Bridge that opens only on the hour to coincide with the opening of the Great Bridge Lock to its north. However, today we were not going any further. We were going to stop at the free dock near the Great Bridge Bridge (GBB). There are actually 2 free docks here; one on the south side of the GBB, and one between the GBB and the Great Bridge Lock. We chose the one on the south side near the Great Bridge Battlefield Museum and tied up to the south end of the dock. There was one other boat already there (a sailboat) and we wanted to leave space for at least 2 – 3 more boats. It was 11:30 and we had already covered 70 miles today. We could have continued on and easily made Norfolk, Hampton or other parts of the Chesapeake Bay. But, we are not in a hurry and it is still too cold for us Floridians.
After we settled the boat we ate our lunch, and then decided on an outing. We had read the reviews about the area and knew there was a Kroger grocery store on the other side of the bridge, about a mile away. We garnered the backpack and headed out to go get a few things. This required us to walk through the Memorial Park near the museum and across the GBB. Here are some pictures we took along the way:
On our way to Kroger we noticed that the three gas stations were out of gasoline. We are grateful our boat takes diesel and hopeful this issue is resolved in the next week before we need more fuel. We also saw that there are many other stores (Dollar Tree, Hallmark Cards), restaurants (Chili’s, Panera Bread, Chinese, etc.), and a laundromat in the shopping plaza near Kroger. This is a great stopover spot for any cruiser coming up the ICW and needing supplies as well as dining out options.
We returned to the boat to get some work done for our clients. It ended up being a busier than expected afternoon with phone calls. As a result we missed our opportunity of visiting the museum as they closed at 4:00 pm.
Throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening we were entertained by the boats that came up and queued for the GBB opening at the top of every hour, including the Back Cove we had seen run a ground just outside of Coinjock. We also got to see all kinds of other activities including rowers in the ICW, boats docking at Atlantic Yacht Basin (across from us), numerous Canada Geese and their chicks, and the people hanging out at the GBB Museum Park. Also two other boats came into the free dock, filling up the open spaces. We were glad we got here early.
As the sun went down the weather started to get colder and we decided not to venture back out for dinner. We had considered going to one of the restaurants we had walked passed earlier in the day, but changed our minds and ate dinner on board. We spent the rest of the evening talking on the phone with family and friends, and doing some reading.
Tomorrow we will leave and go the 20 miles to Norfolk were we will spend the weekend.