RI to FL - Day 19
Portsmouth, VA to Coinjock, NC
Today is the day that I call the day of bridges… I think there are eight of them and the timing is critical between them… We departed from the South Ferry Basin in Portsmouth at approximately 0825 hours… this gave us plenty of time to make the first critical bridge… the Gilmerton Bridge… it is only 3 miles south of our starting point but this three miles can be frustrating… there are two railroad bridges before it and they are typically open and never a problem… BUT, today the second railroad bridge… the Old Virginia RR Bridge was closed for train traffic… and when they tried to open it for the boat traffic to pass… NO GO! The bridge tender informed us via VHF that the bridge was experiencing a problem and he could not open it but had people on the way to repair it… 30 minutes was his estimate. Well 30 minutes came and passed and still not working… at about 45 minutes we saw two men walking across the bridge and 5 minutes later the bridge started to open… problem was that it was now 0920 hours… the Gilmerton bridge opens every hour on the half hour or 0930 hours… 10 minutes to go 2 miles to the bridge… this was not happening… luckily the Gilmerton Bridge tender hailed all the boats waiting at the Old Virginia RR bridge that he was going to delay the opening about 10 minutes… that would work giving us 20 minutes to make it to the bridge.
We arrived to the Gilmerton Bridge and saw 5-6 boats waiting… then add the 16 boats that were held up at the RR bridge… 21-22 boats sat and waited… problem was that the RR bridge directly adjacent to the Gilmerton was closed… Norfolk RR bridge #7 I think is the name of it… well we sat for another 30 minutes waiting here… finally at about 1015 hours the bridge opened and all of passed through.
Next bridge was the Steel Bridge and it only opens on the hour… we had about 40 minutes to get to it… only 3 miles ahead so making it for it’s 1100 opening was not an issue… we had to go real slow so as to not have to sit and jockey the boat at the bridge… it was very windy 15-20 knots so we did not want to get there too early. She opened the bridge and 1100 on the nose and I heard her give the exact count of boats to our next obstacle… the Great Bridge Lock… she told them… “sending you 12 motors and 9 sails coming your way”… so there were 21 boats all headed for the lock.
We arrived to lock at about 1120 hours and were able to drive right in and tie up to the wall… we were the 4th or 5th boat to enter and tied to the port side behind a large 100 foot motor yacht. Then we waited for all the other boats to enter and get tied up… not everyone made it in as they ran out of room… 3-4 sailboats were left to wait for the next locking.
We exited the lock at 1145 hours and headed maybe a quarter of a mile to the next bridge… the Great Bridge Bridge… it only opens on the hour so we had 15 minutes to wait for it’s 1200 opening.
Next bridge was a RR bridge that I have never seen closed and it was open this time as well… following it was the Centerville Turnpike Bridge and about 3 miles past Great Bridge Bridge… it opens every half hour so we made it through it at it’s 1230 opening.
Now we have a decision to make… next bridge is the North Landing Bridge… 5 miles past the Centerville Bridge… so do you push it and try to make 5 miles in 30 minutes or do you just take it easy and transit the 5 miles in 60 minutes??? You have to average about 8 knots between the bridges to make the distance in 30 minutes. We cruise at 7.5 knots… just not quite fast enough to make it in 30 minutes… so do we push it and hope that the bridge tender is nice and holds the bridge open for a couple of minutes longer… also the volume of boats ahead of us that would be at the 1300 opening would take a few minutes to go through the opening… Well, we decided to go for it and push to make it in 30 minutes… I pushed slightly above cruise RPM and we were able to make 7.5 to 7.8 knots as long as we had 15 feet of water depth… when it drops below 15 feet we slow down… anyway, we were 1 minute from the bridge when I could see the last boat ahead us pass through it… I hailed the bridge tender and asked if he could hold it and he said NO… not a nice bridge tender today… so we had to wait at the bridge for about 30 minutes and the 1330 opening… bummer!
Good thing was that this was the last bridge to deal with for the day… tough part was that it took us 5 hours to travel 20 miles… not a very good average speed.
The rest of the trip was fairly straight forward… about 3.5 hours to Coinjock, NC and our stop for the night at Midway Marina… we were securely docked at approximately 1725 hours… located at N36°21.131’, W075°56.839’. And the majority of the 21 boats we left the Gilmerton Bridge with were also docked here in Coinjock.
We traveled today for 9 hours covering 41.91 nautical miles averaging 4.66 knots.