It’s about 60 degrees here in Oriental, North Carolina, so instead of the holidays getting closer, it seems as if time is reversing. It worked… we headed south, and now it’s sort of warm!
Last time I wrote, we were in Philly visiting family and friends. Now we are in our sixth state of the trip. When we got back to Virginia, we spent a ridiculous amount of time at our friend’s house before we managed to leave. We had a serious case of “leaving tomorrow”, which is a highly contagious affliction that particularly affects cruising sailors. Our only excuse was that we needed to get some projects done, which we did.
So we finally managed to leave, and two days later we were in Norfolk/Portsmouth, which mark the end of the Chesapeake Bay and the beginning of the Intracoastal Waterway. I suppose it took us long enough to get out of the Chesapeake, but its flaky winds, steep choppy waves, and shifting shoals made us much better sailors and navigators.
There were dolphins swimming with us when we came into Norfolk in the rain. That made up for being cold, wet and surrounded by tankers and submarines!
In Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world, this. is commonplace.
We woke early and started motoring down the Intracoastal Waterway, navigating through railroad bridges and drawbridges. Pretty soon we were at a fork in the road: one led to the “Virginia Cut”, and one led to the Dismal Swamp Canal. Both branches lead back to the Intracoastal Waterway, but the Dismal Swamp is notoriously quiet and beautiful, despite it’s strange name. So we chose that one.
Naval artifacts like this were everywhere on the way from Norfolk to the beginning of the Dismal Swamp Canal.
While going through the swamp, we met some new friends. Brother and sister Elias and Lily of Finest Kind started in Maine and went offshore for almost all of the trip down here, skipping the whole Chesapeake Bay. They say that their boat name is an expression people use in Maine, but it’s really because they are truly the finest kind of people.
At the end of the Dismal Swamp is Elizabeth City, North Carolina, a small town that is notoriously friendly to boaters. We spent a few days hanging out there meeting the interesting locals that frequent the city docks. Among the most colorful of people there was a man with a pet monkey who loved to steal credit cards and chew on Kasy’s ears.
We also got to hang out with Patrick, who has the same boat as us, and has been Kasy’s Internet friend for three years. He drove over from the Outer Banks to meet us in the city, and we had a great time. He also convinced us to bypass the next section of the ICW and go out to the Outer Banks instead, so we could avoid motoring and see him again.
From Elizabeth City, we headed east through the Albemarle Sound into the Pamlico Sound, bound for Ochracoke Island. The Pamlico Sound is a large expanse of water at consistent depths of 10-15 feet, so there is no boat traffic and very little civilization. I would recommend sailing through here AS LONG AS the wind is less than 15 knots. Anything beyond that and the shallow water will kick up into steep, short waves that will absolutely suck.
We ended up making it from Elizabeth City to Ochracoke in two days (about 80 miles), which was a stretch for us, and we had to navigate to some anchorages after dark. However, we now have the aid of our GPS chart plotter. While in the Chesapeake Bay, we did not have the chart information (the micro-chip) for that area, so the GPS was basically just good for determining our speed, latitude and longitude, and we navigated by plotting positions on our paper charts. Now we have the micro-chip for the coast from Norfolk to Florida, so we can navigate after dark by looking at the GPS screen. This is not a preferred course of action–we don’t like to depend that much on technology. But it definitely came in handy.
Anchored at Silver Lake, in Ochracoke.
Ochracoke was FUN. About 80% of the establishments were closed for the winter, but it was unseasonably warm and we went to the beach a lot, hanging with Elias and Lily. After two days, we left Ochracoke in some, shall we say boisterous weather, proving the theory that the Pamlico is awful in anything above 15 knots.
After the wind calmed a bit, we ran on an enjoyable beam reach and then downwind to Oriental, another super friendly small town. Everyone here seems to have sailed long distances and ended up here because it’s so low key, beautiful and comparatively cheap for waterfront living. Needless to say, we like all of those aspects.
We are headed to Beaufort, NC and then probably offshore. Will update soon!