Heading South in the ICW

October 16th dawned cloudy with the promise of rain. A cold front was predicted with strong winds behind it. We elected to motor through the rain for two hours to find a more protected anchorage than Hospital Point in Portsmouth, VA. We were the only boat to anchor in a small cove at statute mile marker 10 in Chesapeake, VA. The highest wind we saw in this protected anchorage was less than 20.Picture courtesy of Tammy Merritt from her house

There are two routes south at the beginning of the Intracoastal Waterway or ICW. You may recall last year we chose the Dismal Swamp and suffered propellor damage when a thirty foot tree was kicked up by the wake (waves created by a boats forward motion) of the boat in front of us. The depth of this man-made canal has shrunk over the years from ten feet to perhaps six foot deep as there are years of debris from the overhanging trees.Dismal Swamp 2018

The width seems narrow in spots, especially for sailboats with masts; due to the overhanging trees. We’ve read that there is a large amount of duck weed floating in the swamp this year. Engine raw water filters have to be cleaned often.

This year we chose to transit the ever so slightly shorter route, sometimes referred to as the Virginia Cut. We found depths from 10-16 feet most often and the shorter canals merged with rivers and were often quite wide. There were a lot more birds this year as well. Larger flocks and more of a variety of species. Great Bridge Lock is only a 2 foot rise, quick and painless.Great Bridge LockLooking back to the lock entrance, this crane was dredging near the entrance. Don’t you think the below picture of the winding North Landing River looks wider than the Dismal Swamp?North Landing River

We anchored in Shiloh, NC after nearly 9 hours and 50 miles. It was a long day at the helm, too narrow and many twists and turns to use autopilot. We had the engine on all day. Though the jib gave us a boost with the wind behind us for about 10 miles in Currituck Sound. I was surprised that there were so few boats migrating south at this time of year. However, our night time anchorage had about a dozen boats.

The next day we sailed downwind across Albemarle Sound and down the Alligator River. This Alligator river swing bridge was closed for a couple weeks this fall. So glad it was repaired by the time we arrived. It’s a long way around this stretch of water! We anchored for the night just before the Alligator/Pungo canal and enjoyed this beautiful sunset.Alligator/Pungo CanalMorning fog in the beginning of the canal.

We chose Pungo Creek rather than Belhaven Marina for our next stop-over as the remnants of a tropical storm was predicted to race by. We found good holding near the Marina and enjoyed a walk on shore before the blow. Locals were extremely friendly and the neighborhood was filled with very friendly dogs.A TriStar 46 docked in Pungo Creek. Similar design to our Lone Star which is a TriStar 39.

On Monday, October 21 we sailed south to one of our favorite spots: Oriental, NC. This historic town is so welcoming and we love the unusual and practical supplies at the local consignment store. Last year we sold a Porta-Bote that was too long for our davits. This year we dropped off a gasoline outboard and a series drogue. They were replaced recently by a Torqueedo electric outboard and Shark drogue (sea anchor.)Bringing the Series drogue to the consignment store in Oriental, NC. We also enjoyed a delicious lunch at the restaurant behind Tom.

We motored the remaining 24 miles to Beaufort, NC two days later. We completed our southern trek down the ICW in only a week. So excited to have reached our final destination before heading offshore to sail south to the Bahamas!

Next up Preparations and Passage to the Bahamas.

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