Tuesday, 31 Oct 2017
After a month out of the water in Deltaville Marina,
Jackson Creek for maintenance and a nice long visit back to the UK, we are on
the move once again. Our final destination is Antigua but there will be a
number of stops before we get there.
Today we are heading down the Chesapeake to Hampton, or if we make good
speed Norfolk where SVs Aura and Tourterelle are expecting us.
It’s a very fine sailing day, and after a very windy and wet
weekend, everyone seems to be on the move.
We can see nineteen yachts sailing down The Chesapeake including
With the wind on our starboard side from the WNW, we are on
my favourite tack – the starboard tack. Firstly,
we have right of way over other boats on a port tack, and secondly, on a
starboard tack, the galley is on the low side of the boat. This keeps the stove low and stuff (me
included) is more likely to fall into the galley rather than out of it. Just in case you noticed a potential problem
with that, we have a crash bar in front of the stove to stop one from falling
As conditions are so good, and my stock of pecans is
replenished - with much thanks to Southern Cross (for the pecans) and Plover
(for use of their dock in the windy weekend weather and transportation) and to
both for their warm hospitality – I will spend the passage making Holiday Fruit
Drop Cookies using the recipe from my Mom’s Betty Crocker Cookbook. They are one of my favourites and we have
them every Christmas at home in Ontario.
It’s also an especially good day for baking as our diesel
heater is refusing to work and a hot oven followed by warm cookies will be most
welcome. When we crawled out of bed this
morning, the interior temperature was 14C/56F and its only up to 15C/60F now at
I know that in our last blog we had just left Maine, and I
am sorry about that. Much has happened
between then and now and I do intend to catch-up, but I’m intending to make NOW
the priority so as not to have all inspiration crushed by the backlog of
photos awaiting attention. When we have
time and good wifi, I will deal with posting photos past and present, but until
that time I will just be telling it as it is.
Friday, 03 Dec 2017
We did end up in Norfolk as did quite a few OOC boats. Simon, on Aura, celebrated his 50th
birthday yesterday and Kim, with the help of Ann from Tourterelle, laid on a
lavish afternoon spread of very substantial nibbles, followed by artisan pizza
and a magnificent cake from a local specialty bakery. An early start meant an early finish, which
worked very well for us as we cast off at 0730 this morning to catch the 0830
bridge opening south further into the ICW.
Norfolk itself rests on the banks at the very start the Intracoastal
Waterway, the ICW. We didn’t have do
much sightseeing at all, but were impressed by the grand houses and cobble
stone streets. The cobble stones were
brought from Liverpool as ballast in the 1700’s. Once the ship had unloaded the cobble stones
it was loaded up with American produce and products being sent back to the UK.
They really were beautiful, but made for a suddenly very rough ride in our Uber
taxi on the way back from the shop.
Most of our short time in Norfolk was starting the
preparation for our journey from Beaufort, NC to Antigua. It will take approximately 10 days to get
there, sailing due East at first until south of Bermuda until the easterly
Tradewinds arrive. At that point we hang
a right and head south to Antigua. So, the freezer is full to bursting with
made up meals and ingredients that will become even more meals as freezer space
allows. I soaked and cooked black beans,
chick peas and red kidney beans, which as well as making up the bulk of the
chilli, are frozen in packets for future use. I love cooking my own beans. I think they are much tastier.
As we’re talking food, I have to say that the Fruit Drop
Cookies I made on the way to Norfolk, are really
good. The recipe makes a satisfying
mound of cookies and I was initially quite generous with them, giving a packet
here and a packet there to friends and neighbours. These cookies are very like fruitcake in that
they get even better with age - the flavours of the fruit and nuts mingle with
the caramelly buttery biscuit. I’m now looking at our dwindling pile and am a
little more considering of who and what warrants a gift of cookies.
Without photos to make it easy, I’m going to have a bash at
describing our trip down the Intracoastal Waterway.
Around Norfolk the ICW buzzes with military ships: aircraft
carriers, destroyers, hovercrafts and even a submarine went by us and all the
while black helicopters buzzed past. The
area has huge naval dry docks and cranes with ships being maintained and
possibly built. We’ve assumed all this because, even if we’d asked, I don’t
think anyone would actually tell us all the things going on here.
We often heard warning messages from various ships and I
found the wording a little odd. The
radio operators would always say, ‘and keep 500 yards distance from my ship.’ I
could visualise them peering through their net curtains, ready to holler at
anymore who crept within 499 yards of ‘their ship’.
As we left the open water and approached the first lifting
bridge of the ICW, the area became more industrial. We amused ourselves, while waiting for the
bridge to open almost an hour later than scheduled, by watching a huge crane
with big pincers unload big rocks. It
was exactly like the penny games on piers in England where you use a little
grapple to pick up a toy.
There were lots of other boats waiting with us as the
conditions are finally good for heading south.
Many were sailboats but there were also power boats, working boats,
fishing boats, tugs and barges. Meeting
a barge being pushed from behind by a tugboat on a narrow waterway was a little
exciting at first time. We even saw one
tug pushing two barges attached at their bows.
The square stern of the lead barge pushed up a substantial bow wave and
couldn’t have done much for the tug’s MPG.
We passed by forested areas which gradually opened up into
grassy wetlands or savannahs. There was
a lock that lowered us, and probably twenty other boats, a few feet down to
continue on our way.
Considering it being just after Hallowe’en here in North America,
it was quite amusing to see sunlight glinting off long find threads streaming
from every bit of rigging, furled sail, stanchions and anything else remotely
vertical on the boat. We have often seen
tiny spiders on the boat, but we had no idea how industrious they were. Hopefully the photos I took will show how
spectacular it looked, but I’m doubtful.
It was a long day and we just got to our anchorage of choice
about a half hour before dusk. The
sunset was marvellous. The winding river
had opened up, and we picked our way through crab pot floats to a deeper part
that would have been the one of the outer bends of the original river before
they dredged a path right through it. Well
out of the main channel, we anchored up and moments after the sun truly set,
opposite it, a full moon rose over the nearby grasslands. It was absolutely calm, and we had an early
dinner and went happily to bed in anticipation of our six o’clock alarm.
Saturday, 04 Dec 2017
At about 0420 in the morning, I woke to the sound of the
wind blowing or possibly because the rope snubber, which takes the weight of
the chain so that the movement of the boat doesn’t snatch the chain, had fallen
off the chain, which needed Tim to go out and put it back on. I went into the
cockpit to check that all was well and our beautiful clear sky was replaced by
heavy clouds. As expected, all was well,
and we were still nicely anchored in the sticky black mud. I was just going below again when I noticed a
very odd vessel moving slowly down the main waterway. It was a large boat or tug with lots of blue
lights around the stern, the usual navigation lights and one huge spotlight
that was lighting its path down the channel. It didn’t occur to me that there would be any
traffic at night, so I watched it out of sight and went back to bed.
In the morning, we found that all the cobwebs had been blown
Most of the ICW is made up of natural waterways connected by
man-made canals and locks. Its spanned
every so often by bridges. There are
vertical lifting bridges, which are often railway bridges as well at the usual
one end lifting. Today we passed through the Alligator River Swing Bridge,
which was operated by the surliest North Carolinian accented man of few, but specific,
words. The opening bridges are all
operated a little differently – some open at a specific time, some on request,
some when they see you coming in the less trafficked areas. The Alligator River Bridge seemed to have
only one lane across the bridge, possibly due to construction, and so needed to
be shared three ways. We listened to the
power boats ahead of us asking about the bridge opening. They were asked their name, then how to spell
it, then how to spell it again, then they were finally told to ‘Standby’.
We were too far behind two power boats and missed the first
opening, so half a mile out from the closed bridge, Tim radioed to say, ‘This
is southbound sailing vessel Larus waiting for the next opening. Larus is
spelled L A R U S.’ After a short pause, where I picture the bridge operator
thinking really hard to come up with a question that Tim hadn’t already
answered, we were advised to ‘Standby.’
While we circled around in front of the bridge waiting, we
watched one side of the bridge open to road traffic. When everyone that side was on the bridge,
some radioed the other side with the make and colour of the last vehicle. When they were clear of the bridge, they did
the same thing in the other direction.
Once the last vehicle was clear, the bridge slowly rotated on its axis
and we headed through the starboard-side opening without a word being said by
There is a lot of radio chatter on the ICW. Faster boats telling slower boats that they
intend to pass on their port side and negotiate a ‘no wake’ passing. Boats tied along inhabited stretches of the
ICW will broadcast, ‘Slow down! No wake!’
Sometimes naming and shaming the culprit. And everyone thanks to high heaven
the bridge keeper who has let them through.
The British aren’t so chatting on the radio, so that sort thing doesn’t
come easily, and the Alligator River Operator who never responded to their
thanks, didn’t seem to appreciate it either.
It’s now 1700, and now we have traversed the long straight
Alligator River – Pungo River Canal and are anchored in a wide bend in the
river for the night. Hopefully we will be in Beaufort by tomorrow evening, but
it’s the longest day motoring and we shall have to see.
Sunday, 05 November 2017
We had an unexpected early start when we thought we were
getting up just before 7, only to discover the clocks had gone back an hour and
it was just before 6. This gave us a
brief feeling of having more time to get to Beaufort until we remembered that
not only did it get light sooner in the morning, it got dark sooner as well.
Another day of motoring, and one more night at anchor in the
ICW. Tim had planned to refuel during
that last stretch to Beaufort but as that would have given us only a half hour
of daylight to find a good place to anchor in a very busy area, we decided to
have an early stop.
Interesting things that happened today were - in order of excitement generated - 1) We ran aground briefly while moving out of
the channel to let a faster boat pass.
It was a very soft landing in all that lovely mud that we keep having to
wash off the chain and anchor, and we reversed off easily, but it does wake you
up. 2) I made Tim a very nice sandwich
for lunch. It was a faux Ruben with
shaved turkey, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and some mild yellow mustard on toasted
brown bread. 3) We anchored early just
outside the entrance to the canal we will take tomorrow. It is has turned into a beautiful sunny day
and we have a great view of all the big houses with great long docks with their
power boats raised up out of the water on hydraulic lifts. 4) For dinner we’ll have souvlaki wraps with
perfectly ripe Virginia tomatoes (Virginia is famous for its tomatoes) slivers
of onion and a dollop of tzatziki.
I’ve been doing a lot of cooking as we go. We eat half and
freeze the rest for an easy meal on passage to possibly Bermuda but definitely
Antigua. It will be nice to have
something not ‘stew’ based. I wouldn’t
want us to be tired of chilli, curry or spaghetti Bolognese before we leave.
What has surprised us along the reasonably well populated
waterways we’ve travelled, there hasn’t been the tiniest hint of wifi
anywhere. I really thought we’d be
posting daily using our phone data, but even a mere 20 miles short of Beaufort,
not a peep.
Mon, 06 November 2017
Hurrah for daylight saving time which means I’m now wide
awake at 5 in the morning rather than 6.
It’s been a very foggy passage, but we are now anchorage off
Town Creek Marina, Beaufort. We had
hardly got tea in our cups before the sun had cleared the fog completely at
It was a quiet trip and we stopped for fuel along the
way. As our tanks were full when we left
Norfolk, we only topped up with 24 gallons.
They have distance markers along the ICW and with Norfolk at the start
and Beaufort just at the 200 mile mark, we don’t think we did too badly to cover
that distance with only 24 gallons. US gallons of course. 1 US Gallon = everywhere else gallons = litres. There are lost of motor boats travelling the
same route and I expect they used quite a lot more.
At last check, we appear to have a good weather window for
starting out toward Bermuda/Antigua tomorrow evening. It would probably mean three days of motor
sailing in light winds, but getting across the Gulf Stream in the right
conditions is our priority. The Gulf
Stream is very close to the coast here so we can leave with the most current
weather report. As the Gulf Stream heads
north at up to 5 knots you don’t want to cross in a northerly wind as that is
blowing against the current and can make a very uncomfortable sea state. A southerly wind would be great but if that’s
not in the offing, no wind at all will do fine.
I spent the quite a lot of time underway doing all things
cooking and provisioning.
There is a big pot of spaghetti sauce in the fridge waiting
for when we can go ashore for the tomato puree I thought I had but obviously didn’t.
It reminded me very much of a lovely pasta dinner we had with Tim’s Mum. The
same thing happened there and the wait for the puree did not harm the sauce in
anyway. It was delicious and I'm hoping for the same result.
I made more of the Holiday Fruit Drop Cookies this morning
so that we will have something nice when I don’t feel like doing anything more
challenging that reaching into a bag for a treat.
I’ve also started to get properly into provisioning mode. I have four frozen chicken breasts I intend
to poach today, freeze and then defrosted and used whenever a bit of chicken is
needed. This means I don’t have to deal
with raw chicken underway, it just reduces the already slim chance of giving ourselves
To go with the chicken and use up the aubergine/egg plant
and ½ a butternut squash left over from the chilli I cooked two days ago, I’ve sautéed
onions till golden and added the diced aubergine and 2 large tins of chopped
tomatoes and continued cooking until it reduced down.
I’ve set aside half to freeze and have with some Puerto
Rican chorizo, which is frozen uncooked ground pork with spices and lots of
chilli. I’ll fry some of that up, not
too much as it really is spicy hot, and add the aubergine mixture to put on pasta,
or add some of my cooked beans and maybe some chicken for fajitas, or use it to
poach eggs in and serve with a soft tortilla or toast.
The other half stayed in the pan – and this is a stainless-steel
skillet that I bought on a day out in July with my parents in Maine from a second
hand shop. It’s been a really useful addition to my galley and I like remembering
when I got it. I added grated ginger and curry powder and fried it a little oil
in a bare patch in the pan. Then I added
the diced butternut squash, half a cup of green lentils and am leaving it to
simmer. We’ll probably have some for
dinner tomorrow night (tonight we’ll have spaghetti once we get the puree) and then
freeze the rest to have with some of the chicken or chickpeas from the freezer.
While I’ve been writing this, Tim has pumped up the dinghy
and visited the marina and got us a berth for the night. And it has free laundry facilities, so I know
what I’ll be doing this afternoon.