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Thursday, 2 May 2013
FL to CT Day 23
Virginia Beach, VA to Portsmouth, VA
Spending the night at the closed Pungo Ferry Marina was uneventful… no one came and told us we had to leave or anything but the abandoned boarded up building by the dock was a little creepy after it got dark… I had to take Beecha for her evening walk… Susan was a little wary to venture off the boat after dark.

We departed at 0730 and headed towards our first obstacle for the day… the North Landing Bridge… it opens on the hour and half hour so timing was not a real big issue… brought “Sails” up to speed and according to the GPS we were not going to make the 0830 opening I had hoped for… we really needed to pass through at 0830 for the remaining bridge scheduled openings to work well… I kicked the speed up a little and we were still arriving 5 minutes late… so I backed off rather than push really hard for an hour. We arrived to the bridge at just before 0900 and were there with two other boats that had passed us before reaching the bridge.

The bridge opened about 4 minutes late and this was going to cause us not to be able to make the next bridge at its 0930 opening. The Centerville Turnpike Bridge just 5 miles away also opened on the half hour and hour… but for us it takes every bit of 30 minutes to reach it. After going through the bridge I brought “Sails” up to speed plus a little just to be sure and we could not make it within the 25 minutes left before the 0930 opening. I slowed down and to reach the bridge at 1000 opening… REAL SLOW… almost idle speed.

We reached the Centerville Bridge at just before 1000 and again were joined by three new boats that went through the North Landing Bridge at 0930. I hung back and let them all get ahead of us as they were much faster boats than us. 1000 came and we passed through the bridge and headed toward our next bridge… the Great Bridge Bridge… it was not far ahead of and it only opens on the hour so we again moved at idle speed to time our arrival at their 1100 opening.

We arrived at just before 1100 and all the boats that were with us at the Centerville Bridge were there waiting and a couple of others that pulled away from the Atlantic Yacht Basin docks adjacent to the bridge… so we had five boats plus us waiting for the bridge to open. It opened right on schedule and we passed through fourth in line.

Just past the Great Bridge Bridge is the Great Bridge Locks… they hailed all the north bound boats and gave instructions on entering the locks… the starboard side is steel and concrete walls and the port has large rubber fender system. I responded to the lock that we were not proceeding through and would be docking on the bulkhead between the lock and the bridge. Susan wanted to run to the grocery store to pick up some items and the store is a very short walk from the bulkhead. We pulled in just in front of two sailboats already docked there and were secured at 1110. Susan hopped off boat to the grocery as soon as we were tied up. We wanted to try and make the next locking at 1200… Susan had 50 minutes to do her shopping and get back… it wasn’t a big deal if she didn’t make it backing time but it’s what we were hoping for.

1200 came and the bridge started it’s opening… the bridge and the locking are on synchronized schedules so when boats pass through the bridge they can enter the lock with no delay. I checked back toward the direction of the grocery store and I did not see Susan in sight anywhere… I figured we were not going to make the 1200 and would go through at the 1300 locking. I took Beecha out for a walk and was watching the boats that came through the bridge pass by… however, they were not heading directly into the lock… they were pulling off to the starboard side and stopping. What was going on? Then I saw it… a tug and barge was passing though the bridge and heading toward the lock. This was going to delay the locking for sure… I looked back to see if Susan was anywhere in sight and there she was 1000 yards from the boat.

She got back aboard and asked “are we going to be able to make the lock?”… I hailed the lock on the VHF and asked if there was going to be room for us in the lock with the tug and barge in it… they said for us to remain tied to the bulkhead and they would let us know after the tug and barge were secure in the lock. Fingers crossed now that there would be room… there was a sailboat, a large motor yacht and a good sized trawler waiting… they had come through the bridge.

We watched as the tug and barge moved in and secured itself to starboard lock wall… the lock hailed the sailboat to enter… they wanted to put it between the barge and the lock wall on the port side… said they had 20 feet of space… sailboat said he was 15 foot beam and would give it a try… he made it in… :) The lock then hailed the other two boats to proceed into the lock and then they hailed us and said there would be room for us and to proceed toward the lock. We tossed the lines and headed toward the lock.

The large trawler had gone to the starboard side behind the tug and the large motor yacht was moving to the port wall abeam and astern of the tug. We were instructed to pull to the port wall behind the motor yacht. I moved in behind him and stopped… There was no lock person to assist us so I went to the bow to get a line onto a cleat on the lock wall. I secured a line and started back to pilothouse when I noticed that “Sails” was no longer parallel to lock wall and the stern was moving away from the wall fairly fast. I got back to the pilothouse as quickly as I could and before I got back “Sails” stern had swung away from lock wall and we were now almost perpendicular to the lock wall. I turned the rudder full to starboard and pushed the throttles forward... the wind had caught us as well as a current running into the lock… we slowly started to spin back toward the lock wall… I sped the spinning up by putting the starboard engine in reverse… we soon were back parallel to lock wall and secure. I had never experienced a current like we had in the lock… I have seen turbulence before but never a current flowing into the lock… talking to the lockmaster while locking through he informed me that the large tug and barge transiting the narrow canal from the bridge to lock and entering the lock causes this… not quite sure about the physics of this but I know there was a current and it twisted the stern of “Sails“ around quickly.

The locking was soon over and the sailboat was first out… then the tug and barge exited… next the motor yacht in front of us and then the trawler to our starboard side… we exited last. I hailed the tug and asked what his speed would be heading up to Norfolk. He said about 6 knots. I told him we would not pass him and would follow him through to Norfolk… he acknowledged no problem Captain.

Following the tug gave us the “Bridge Priority Pass”… no bridge schedules to contend with… just follow the tug and the bridges open when they arrive… very nice. This gave us passage with no delay through the Steel Bridge… I thought it would also work for the Gilmerton Bridge… however, when we approached I was surprised to see the new bridge that was under construction last fall had been completed and the clearance was 35 feet… compared to the old Gilmerton Bridge at 15 feet. The tug and barge still needed an opening but he had hailed the bridge and was asked if he could slow down so the bridge tender could get traffic to clear up a bit… so we passed the tug and barge and went sailing under the new Gilmerton Bridge… not even having to lower our antennas… very cool!

The rest of the trip to Portsmouth would not be a problem… the Jordan bridge had been replaced by a high rise a couple of years ago and the RR bridge past it is always open… NOT THIS TRIP… as we approached I saw it start to lower… it’s a lift bridge and very slow opening and closing… we slowed and waited for the train to pass and the bridge to open… we had been going slow all day so it seemed appropriate.

We had now decided to stop in Portsmouth for the night… it had been a long SLOW day with the bridges and lock and stopping for groceries… we had thought to continue on to Hampton Roads and anchor but at this point the free docks in Portsmouth seemed much more appealing and were only a few minutes ahead of us.

We pulled into the Portsmouth downtown basin and the space we normally dock in was open and we pulled right in… secured the lines and settled for the day/night at 1445. Our location for the night is N36°50.128’, W076°17.773’. We traveled for 7.25 hours covering 24 nm averaging 3.3 knots. Average speed way down… did not deduct our layover in Great Bridge... :)
Posted at 5:11 PM
Wednesday, 1 May 2013
FL to CT Day 22
Columbia, NC to Virginia Beach, VA
We had a quiet evening at Alligator River Marina… since we had cruised for over 12 hours yesterday we decided to sleep today… alarm set for 0700 rather than 0600. The extra hour of sleep felt good and we did not jump up and get underway we did take our time this morning… Beecha went for a long walk with Susan and Susan came back from the walk with breakfast in hand… two breakfast sandwiches from Ms. Wanda’s Grill.

We finally got underway at 0830 and headed out toward the Albemarle Sound… winds forecast today for NE 10-15 knots increasing to 15-20 knots in the afternoon… 1-2 waves on the sound… should not be too bad… takes about 2 hours to cross the Albemarle to North River and with the NE winds the conditions would improve as we crossed the sound.

Of course the wind forecast was off as usual… winds were already 15-20 knots with gusts to 30 knots… seas were 3-4 to begin with and diminished as we crossed to 1-2 as we entered the North River.

From this point all the way to Coinjock there are several shallow areas… we were passing through on a rising tide and it was very close to high tide… did see some 8-8.5 spots that would have been touch-and-go at a lower tide. The areas were all noted in Active Captain as a shoaling hazard… popped up and surprised us.

In the North River the winds picked up quite a bit… blowing over 25 knots steady and a lot of gusts at 35 knots plus… fairly protected waters so the high winds did not cause any significant waves… just made it a pain to navigate. My autopilot is not working correctly so I am steering all day manually and the high winds make it a little more work.

Came into the Coinjock area about mid day… was surprised to see one of the American Cruise Line ships docked there… the “American Glory”… we had seen it in Florida when we were in Fernandina Beach. Thought maybe they were just moving it north for the New England summer season but they had passengers aboard.

We had just made the slight turn to port leaving Coinjock when we heard the horn of the “American Glory” blast… they were leaving the dock… they followed us across Currituck Sound and up the North Landing River… the winds were still blowing 25 knots plus and the Currituck was pretty stirred up… 2-3 waves with a few larger ones... nothing uncomfortable at all.

We planned to check out a new free dock I read about on Active Captain… the Pungo Ferry Marina… it had been closed for a couple of years and people were reporting stopping on their old fuel dock… We arrived there at about 1520 and spotted the dock… it was maybe 125 feet long and in fairly good shape… behind it was the old Pungo Ferry Marina building… showing a lot of weather and covered in graffiti. Pulled in and found 7.5 of water at the dock at just below mid tide so there was plenty of water. It by no means is a 5 star resort… but the dock looks solid and it’s free. It also puts us ina good position for tomorrow and the day of bridges. I think we have 7 or 8 bridges and a lock to contend with.
I wanted to follow the “American Glory” all the way to Norfolk today and suggested it to Susan but was voted down. Following the cruise ship would of given us a “free priority pass” through all the bridges… no opening schedules to deal with… would have been nice but I was out voted.

We were securely docked at 1530 at the Pungo Ferry Marina fuel dock. Our location for the night is N36°37.086’, W076°02.894’. We traveled for 7 hours covering 49.4 nm averaging 7.0 knots.
Posted at 4:21 PM
Tuesday, 30 April 2013
FL to CT Day 21
Oriental, NC to Columbia, NC
We had a great dinner at the Toucan Grill located at the Oriental Marina. I had an awesome burger called… Dragons Breath Burger… habanera jerk sauce, pineapple, roasted red peppers, and provolone cheese… I opted to hold the pineapple… just did not sound good to me on a burger… Susan had one of the Monday specials… 4 burger sliders... French fries and several cold beers… it was fantastic. For dessert we both had a huge mud slide and was it good. When we got back to the boat it was straight to bed for both of us.

We woke a little later than normal today… think the beers and mud slide may of caused that… anyway, we did manage to get away by 0730 and headed out to the Neuse River. The winds were forecast for 10-15 knots out of the NE producing maybe 2 foot waves making the cruise up the Neuse River a very comfortable ride.

I tried hailing “Sanctuary” several times on the VHF… they had spent the night at River Dunes Marina and I thought they were heading out with us today. Found out later in the day that they had decided to stay another day at River Dunes. So, we were cruising alone today. Although, I did hear from “Serendipity”… Peter called on the cell phone to inquire about any troubles we might have had with shoaling for the area they were cruising through today… told him I had not experienced any shoaling and found there to be plenty of water in the notorious trouble spots.

We had planned to cruise to the top of the Pungo River and anchor just before the A & P Canal… however we arrived at 1400 and it seemed far to early to stop. I had read on Active Captain about Tuckahoe Point Anchorage at the northern end of the A & P Canal. We had never tried this anchorage due to not having any place to take Beecha to land, However, today when I was researching an anchorage location I saw a note about a boat ramp up a small canal that the locals use to access the Alligator River… it was just to the west of Tuckahoe Point… so, we decided to continue on for another 20 nm to Tuckahoe Point… 2-1/2 to 3 hours more making it 1700-1730 when we would arrive.

We had not seen much boat traffic today at all… heard a few on the VHF but never really saw anyone until the A & P Canal when we were passed by a high speed ferry out of Boston… they hailed for a slow pass and I slowed to idle… it was a fairly large vessel and I could see the wake it was putting out behind it… just did not feel like rolling around… thus the slow to idle… didn’t help… he still came by putting out a 5 foot wake and talking to me on the VHF that he was passing us as slow as he could to not wake us… NOT! It was not terrible but just very discourteous… :(

We reached the end of the A& P Canal and the Tuckahoe Anchorage was just off to our port side… I had done some further research on the anchorage and was not thrilled with everything I had read and the forecast for winds tomorrow was not the best… the Alligator River can be nasty with 20-25 knot NE winds… and after that is the Albemarle Sound… NE winds are never good on it… Anyway, change of plans again…. Continue on… to Alligator Marina…. Only another 20 nm further.

There was no cell phone signal so I hailed Alligator Marina on the VHF to find out if they had room for us and to let them know I would be arriving around 1930. Ms Wanda was on the VHF and said… “Not a problem… we close at eight o’clock… see you when you arrive.”

As we exited the narrow portion of the Alligator River and started heading north up the river we became fully exposed to the winds... which were now blowing over 20 knots… so much for the 10-15 not forecast… anyway, it did slow us down and checking our ETA we were arriving closer to 1945 now… not leaving us a lot of leeway for when Alligator Marina closed… even if we arrived later than 2000 we could still dock. Just wanted to make it before Ms. Wanda left… she sort of a reputation of sometimes being.. how do I say it… “Difficult? “ anyway, I did not want to upset her by arriving late.

Only one more thing to deal with before the marina… the Alligator River Swing Bridge… we had to have it opened to get to Ms Wanda’s marina. We were still on schedule for arrival at 1945. Just about 3/4 of a mile away from the bridge I was hailed by bridge tender on the VHF. He asked if I could slow down… he had a commercial tug southbound and wanted to open just once for us and the tug. What could I say… No? I responded that I would slow my approach. Shortly, the tug hailed the bridge and informed them that he was 8 minutes away… I was sitting at the bridge at this point waiting. We informed Ms. Wanda that we had been delayed by the bridge and we would be there as quickly as we could.

The bridge tender did not wait the full 8 minutes and opened the bridge earlier and we were able to pass through before the tug reached the bridge… we had to make a 90 degree turn to port directly after the bridge to enter the channel to the Alligator River Marina… but the tug was too close for us to cross his bow in front of him… so we waited till he passed and then made our turn to port and headed toward the marina. Plenty of time to make it… had 5 minutes to get in.

We arrived right just before 2000 and was met by Ms. Wanda at the dock… she was giving us docking instructions… her way… not ours… we have a system to our docking… Susan knows what lines we need first and where they need to be placed… Ms. Wanda also has her system and her and Susan were not agreeing…what did I say… “Difficult”… anyway, we made it in on time and we were securely docked at 2000.

Our location for the night is N35°54.344, W076°01.762’. We traveled for 12.5 hours covering 85.2 nm averaging 6.8 knots.
Posted at 10:37 PM
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