Tuesday, 3 July 2012

No 21 ICW to Virginia

Hi from Clare,                                                                 Monday 2nd July 2012

The town of Beaufort was our first stop when entering the ICW (Intra Coastal Waterways). It's a small holiday town with an excellent museum mostly centred on "The Golden Age of Piracy". The recovery and restoration of artifacts from Blackbeard's ship "Queen Anne's Revenge" is the corner stone of the museum.

Houses in the back streets of Beaufort

In the back streets of Beaufort I enjoyed looking at the beautifully restored 18th Century homes. I discovered late Sunday that it was an 'open day' for some of the period homes and gardens and so I missed out on a real treat.

Rain and sun along the ICW
We left Beaufort Monday morning with the flood tide pushing us up the ICW. We made it under our first 65ft bridge with about a three foot clearance. What a scary experience, I was sure we were going to hit the bridge. I planned on taking a photo but at the last minute I ducked for cover and blocked my ears. Then the heavens opened and we were pelted with torrential rain. In no time the boat was squeaky clean and so we filled our water tanks with the run off. We were glad to have full tanks as the water in the ICW is dark brown or black/ brown. A few days later we tried making some water in the ICW and blocked the water pre-filters within the first hour.

ICW housing

The ICW runs for 1200 miles from Texas to the Chesapeake Bay and beyond. The channel has been dredged out but it is very shallow on either side. Sometimes we traveled up through a canal and sometimes we were in open bays. Regardless of location we still had to follow a magenta line on the chart plotter with very little deviation. It is not possible to stay on course using the auto helm and so one of us has to be in attendance at all times.
We also downloaded some software called "Active Captain" onto our Ipad.
This has recent information provided by the many captains traveling the ICW. It covers hazards like shifting sand banks, fallen trees, temporary buoys, bridge heights, opening times, free docks, marinas and relevant VHF radio frequencies and phone numbers. We found this information invaluable, for example in one area it said "Don't follow the magenta line here or you will run aground" and sure enough when we got there we found a yacht aground and waiting for a tow boat. We paid $25 and joined Tow Boat US as towing costs can run into the hundreds for non members. So far we haven't run aground but we think we may have grazed the muddy bottom. We were motoring in 2 to 2.3 metres of water and our speed dropped from 6 knots to 5.4 knots then went back to 6 knots - that's close enough.

More ICW housing

As you can see by the photos the ICW is a lovely spot. The houses face the waterway and most properties have a jetty, some jetties have haul out facility. They houses look to be pretty safe from hurricanes - the further up the river the better.

One of the many opening bridges

We stopped for two nights just north of the Great Bridge about 12 miles south of Norfolk. By this time we were having a heat wave. We dripped perspiration all day and on the first night it was 40 degrees in the boat at 9pm. On both nights we experienced thunder storms, torrential rain and on the first night 40 knot of wind. In the day we went to the air conditioned shopping centre for relief. Apart from the heat we had a great stay there with a nice park alongside with the farmers market on Saturday morning. Beautiful fresh fruit and vege right next to the boat. There were also some clubrooms in the park that had a hose attached. We stood under the hose a few times a day, it took me back to my youth when on a hot day Mum used to say "If you are hot, go and run under the hose". Before leaving we hooked the hoses up and filled our water tank.

Great Bridge and the park alongside the ICW
We are currently in Portsmouth which is directly opposite Norfolk. Thanks to the info in Active Captain we have found a free dock. It is only a short ferry ride across to the city of Norfolk. We are with Carol and Steve from "Innamorata" and Merryl and Walt from "Flying Cloud" (they caught up this morning). Yesterday when we arrived it was extremely hot and so we made a few trips to the ship chandlers for an Air Con break. By the end of the day were quite friendly with the owner. He is a very nice Scottish chap with an American wife. He said the heat wave was unusual for this time of the year and offered for us to bring our beds over and sleep in the shop overnight. We said thanks but we will stay on the boats. He then supplied free beers all round from his office fridge and we sat around being entertained by one of the locals telling jokes - he was a very good story teller and had us in fits of laughter.

So far we have found the American people to be extremely hospitable. We have been offered visits to houses and the use of cars. When we arrived here yesterday an employee from the ship chandler came out to handle our lines. He then came back with an information kit with brochures, maps and local magazines. The also offered to drive us free of charge to the supermarket and liquor store for provisioning. We are not used to such generosity and when I said so the response was "hospitality is what it's all about, isn't it"?

We will stay here for the 4th July celebrations. The fireworks over the city of Norfolk are best seen from this side of the river. If we want to catch the ferry over the last return trip is 11pm.

The weather today is a little cooler and at least we have a breeze. Later this afternoon we will have a walk around town. This morning Andrew installed a fan in our cabin so I am quite looking forward to going to bed tonight.

Thursday or as soon as the weather permits we will continue north to New York. We will leave the ICW and do a two-day passage on the outside.

Love Candy xx

At 3:01 AM2/07/2012 (utc) our position was 36°50.13'N 076°17.80'W

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