Sunday, November 07, 2004

Norfolk Virgina � Beaufort North Carolina Nov, 2004

Norfolk Harbour

We have made it to Norfolk, Virginia, Mile 0 of the ICW (intercoastal waterway affectionately known as "the Ditch"). We arrived yesterday afternoon, and motored through the immense harbour -- over five miles of Navy dockyards, on both sides. Many of the docks are empty, presumably the ships are elsewhere, but there were at least 3 aircraft carriers, and about a dozen other ships, some obviously mothballed, and others in stages of retrofit.

We had seen several "warships" as they call themselves on the VHS radio, in the Chesapeake, and they appeared to be on training exercises. The military presence in Norfolk is actually less than we expected, certainly less than what we had experienced in New York. We have seen a couple of small high powered grey inflatable boats, and a couple of grey patrol boats guarding the ships, but they stayed on the sides of the channel, no up close inspections as we experienced in New York.

Norfolk Harbour

Based on what we have seen so far, Norfolk is a dichotomy of military/commercial ships in all repair, docked next to cruise liners, beside five star hotels and regenerated waterfront cafes, across the river from lovingly restored 1800's houses and buildings, next to marinas, and a canopy covered theatre. Last night we walked around historic Portsmouth, the west side of the Elizabeth River where we are anchored. They were having a Ghost walk, where they had reinactors performing in front of many of the historic buildings. All were in costume and carrying oil lamps. Lots of people were following the activities, and in the several restaurants, but otherwise the other streets were empty, and the only stores were antique stores and pawn shops.

We are anchored off the Hospital Point, beside the Naval Hospital, in a wider section of the river/channel. In this small anchorage, there are about 30 pleasure boats, mostly sail and this morning we woke up to find out that a 700 ft cruise ship, 8 stories tall is tied to the dock on the Norfolk side, less than 300 feet from us. It is all decked out with lights, and sounds, lots of bells & loudspeakers giving boarding instructions. (Another similar ship, is just down the river about 1/4 mile, being renovated). As we sit in the cockpit, tugs and barges, container ships & ocean going ships, water taxis & small ferries, continue to pass by. Always something to watch, and be rocked by. It is still hard to get used to being anchored (for free) in such close quarters.

Today, we are going to explore Norfolk, and try to find a place to refill our propane tank. We have been told we have to walk/taxi about 4 miles to find a filling station. This has so far been the only problem we have had in finding things. Because so many land people just tank swap, places that will actually fill our specialty aluminum tank have been difficult to find, and rarely close to where we are anchored. We have 2 tanks, and the last time we had one filled was in Sarnia, we are getting 6-8 weeks out of each tank, so it is not an emergency, but we don't want to pass up an opportunity.

Historic Lightship permanently docked in Portsmouth

Tomorrow, we plan on starting down the 1000 mile trek down the ICW to Lake Worth. We expect we will be traveling 40 - 50 miles a day (8-10 hours of motoring) so expect it will take us about a month. We are still traveling with Ron Marshall & Larry Webb (on their own boats) and Ted and Gail on RagtimeII.

RagtimeII and Inukshuk docked at Great Bridge

Great Bridge: what at great overnight stop. Free dock just south of the lock, complete with picnic tables. We walked over the bridge to the mall, and found that if we would have been better off to do all of our shopping here. Within an easy walk were groceries, restaurants, Radio Shack and a place to get propane. If we ever do this trip again!

Coinjock is our next stop, and we are in our first marina since Castleton. Here we treated ourselves to a meal out, and we have met Chris & Deke, from New Hampshire (boatname Chris-Deke) and it looks like they would like to join our group.

Sharing the ICW with a barge

Tues. Nov. 2/2004 Election Day, but since we are Canadian, we aren't looking for a place to vote. We motored across the Albermarle Sound, for once we appreciate the lact of wind, as this is a part of the trip, that can be rough. We even got through the Alligator Swing Bridge before there was a car accident on the bridge causing delays! Must be our lucky day. Anchored at mile 105, entrance to Alligator Creek.

It is so hard to keep track of time, during the day, night, day or date. Sunrise, sunset, tides, winds and weather are more important than watches and calendars. The other morning in Bellhaven, we woke up at our normal time -- sunrise, did our morning routine, and set off to town, to do our errands and gather supplies, but found out that nothing was open yet!! Also happy hour ends, it is dark, and time for bed -- sometimes as early as 1900.

Another Word about Bellhaven, it is impossible to walk there. Everytime we left RAFT with our yellow raincoats and backpacks, you hardly had parked the dinghy and started walking when someone offered you a ride, and the same thing when you left the store to go home. We had rides in pickup trucks, cars of all descriptions and everyone wanted to take up right back to our dinghy. It is just amazing how nice people can be to strangers. All of the cruisers recognize that we have to change and be more friendly when we do get back home.

Everything else is great. Have had no more problems with RAFT, Ross has been doing his routine maintenance, and we are learning quickly what salt water does to freshwater boats -- who made up the name "stainless steel"?

Nov 6/04 Beaufort, North Carolina We continue to see porpoises on our trip, this time as we enter Beaufort. Adams Creek is a very popular anchorage and it is full when we arrive. We anchor off the town, just inside the markers for the main channel, along with a lot of other boats. We see a wild horse on the island, so we go over to investigate. While we are away from RAFT, the Coast Guard board RAFT and post a bright orange notice, telling us we must move from the main channel. It is getting dark, about 20 other boats including ourselves are being forced to reanchor into a smaller area. This is really unfair, and could be dangerous. Some of the boats who were posted had been anchored in the same location for a couple of days, and are upset that they have to move. After we got settled, a catamaran, 40 ft. square, anchored right beside us! It wasn't their fault, but we did have a difficult night keeping the boats apart as we swang together with the tides.

Beaufort Anchorage

Apart from this we had a great time in Beaufort. We were going to go to do a side trip to Cape Lookout, but weather didn't cooperate, so we had breakfast out with Chris-Deke instead. Beaufort has a free marine museum, and if you are going to be there awhile, you can arrange to borrow their courtesy car and go shopping.