We were so excited to leave Norfolk, or to get underway on the ICW ,that we could barely sleep. Day one began with the infamous Gilmerton Bridge. Twenty boats circled for an hour but the bridge opened on time at 9:30, half peeled off on the Dismal Swamp route, the rest traveled with us to the Great Bridge Lock. Taking the Virginia Cut took a full day and one lock off of our trip. We connected with some of these new travel friends at Coinjock Marina for traditional Prime Rib dinners and a good night's sleep. The cool temps and strong northerly winds left us exhausted. Before we could feel sorry for ourselves, it was morning; clear sunny skies spelled even colder temps and stronger winds as we crossed Albamarle Sound and the Alligator River, all with following seas and 25 knot gusts.
One night at the Alligator River Marina was enough, we were off again at daybreak. The Alligator River runs to the Pungo River Canal where we had an experience of a lifetime. It's too cold for alligators but Miss Wanda at the Marina said it was bear season- and she was correct. In the middle of the canal Rick spotted a log, no wait, a young black bear cub swimming across the bow to safety on the other shore. By the time I came up to see the excitement, the momma black bear was following the cub to the northern shore, scrambling up the banks and into the woods. Each bear glanced back over a shoulder to glare, or at least confirm we were not chasing them!
There was little time left to wonder about the bears, it was time to prepare to clear the infamous Wilkerson Bridge, an oops by the Army Corp: the bridge is only 64 feet and we have a 63'10" mast. So what does one do to prepare? Run down the fuel (tank on the starboard side,) keep the starboard holding tank empty, move the sewing machine forward to port, then take long hot showers while underway to empty the starboard water tank. Last, we both sat on the port side and held our breath. In our estimation, we made it by just two or three inches, but that's enough!
It was a really nice day, until we crossed the Pungo River heading into Bell Haven and the Dowrey Creek Marina. Skies darkened, winds and waves kicked up and we began to dread docking. We have NEVER been this challenged, six tries to get in the slip from either approach! The staff here is great but they cannot change the winds.
We were in our slip by 2PM, more than ready to get off the boat and enjoy happy hour. Consensus is this blow will last until Tuesday and everyone changed plans. We spent all of Sunday watching football with other sailors, a good excuse to get land legs back and get off the rocking boat. It looked like our plan to reach River Dunes in Oriental and our rental car for the holiday was in jeopardy so Rick set us up to stay here for a week and moved our car reservation to this area. Thanksgiving guaranteed, we can relax. After the holiday it doesn't matter when we get anywhere else.
The world is really small, or we know too many people :). Returning from a day in Washington and Bath, NC, we came down the dock to find Braveheart and our friends Cynthia and Steve with their children on their way south! We will have a chance catch them again in Charleston.
High seas, strong winds and cold temps were not our favorite details about the trip. But before you "feel" for us, we remind you we chose this adventure, and except for the holiday, we don't put ourselves in discomfort and we never put ourselves at risk. But how do we stay comfortable, you ask. Start with heat on the boat and aim for marinas when weather is snotty. Wear your favorite pearl earrings and get a little help from your friends: Bobbie Brown, Jo Malone, Henri Lloyd and Sperry Topsiders. Above all, travel with a great captain who makes good decisions and enjoys creature comforts, too. This should be fun, and it is for us.
The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude.