Dolphins and monkeys

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.


How we felt about leaving.


One of our projects: a bag to hold our charts, coffee, snacks, binoculars, and navigation supplies while sailing. I first hand stitched it and then finished and reinforced it on a machine while we were in Philly.


Another project: we screwed a length of bronze half-round to the bottom of the dinghy, so we wouldn’t have to worry about damaging her while dragging her to shore.


We also screwed some bronze to several spots on the boat where ropes have begun to chafe through the paint and wood. This is where the anchor is tied to the bowsprit.


The dock at Mike’s house on the Corrotoman River.

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!

052In Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world, this. is commonplace.


The lovely free dock in the town of Portsmouth, VA, which is across the canal from Norfolk. If you’re in Portsmouth, go to the movie theater, which is also a restaurant where you order food by phone while you’re watching. And it’s cheap.

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.

067Naval artifacts like this were everywhere on the way from Norfolk to the beginning of the Dismal Swamp Canal.


Soon after making that turn down the Great Dismal Swamp Canal, everything started to look like this. The canal is a 50-mile long, 30-foot wide street of water.


Going through the Deep Creek Loch in the Dismal Swamp Canal. This is the oldest loch system in the country, and the first we’ve ever been through. The loch tender was a Dismal Swamp historian and played the conch shell like a flute.


The swamp is filled with cypress trees that grow straight out of the muddy water.


Putting fenders on at the Visitor’s Center in the Dismal Swamp, after a low hanging tree attacked our backstay while we were trying to turn into the dock. The decks were covered in leaves, but we won the battle with the tree.

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.


Patrick, Kasy, and the crew of Finest Kind in Elizabeth City

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.


Sunset in the Pamlico Sound. Sometimes this is like being offshore.


Early morning on the Pamlico

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.

130Anchored at Silver Lake, in Ochracoke.


Lily and I hanging on the beach in Ochracoke

Fools in a tree on da beach

Fools in a tree on the beach


Fools at the Ochracoke lighthouse.


Finest Kind, all sail ho!




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.


On the way to Oriental, after things calmed

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!



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3 Responses to Dolphins and monkeys

  1. podeva says:

    love the story, the photos, and you both! Continue to enjoy your adventure and share with us landlubbers!

  2. Pingback: Best Sailing Blogs 2016 | Art of Hookie

  3. Emmanuel says:

    You met a MONKEY!

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