After an uncomfortable night's sleep, three across in the tent, we departed Fair Point Marina. The water was rough, again, but we tried to take it slow to build conficence in the new repair. Joel still suspected damage may have occurred to the other side of the boat.
In addition to rough water, buoys and fishing nets scattered the sides of the channel and seemed to booby trap the water for boaters. We made sure that the front passenger kept an active look out and alerted the driver of hard to see obstacles.
Eventually the water calmed out, but 10 miles from Annapolis the waves picked up again and we began seeing water from the other side of the boat where joel suspected we might.
We decided to head to shore just south of Annapolis and ended up at South River Marina.
Gerry, one of the first people we met, gave us a ride down town to the a little bed and breakfast located above Chick and Ruth's Deli. It's a cute place with lots of history and character.
We spend the evening walking and exploring Annapolis.
Despite more rough water, we made it to Reedsville, just 50 miles North of Hampton, by about 1:30pm. We heard later that the waves reached 5 feet by 2pm.
We pulled into the Fairport Marina and Mary helped us fuel up for tomorrow's trip and showed us to our slip. We ate lunch at their crab house and asked for suggestions on how to spend the rest of our day in Reedsville.
We took our boat over to the other side of the inlet and walked Reedsville's main street. After one and a half miles we saw an out of place gift shop. We asked the owner how much further away town was, but apparently we had missed it! Town was one ice cream shop, two B&B's, and a closed gas station. The area was quiet, very nice and definitely a sleepy fishing community.
Fairport had a strong fish stench from the processing plant just south of the town. One advantage to staying at the Fairport Marina is that the majority of the time the wind blows the odor in the opposite direction.
We spent the evening with a young couple on their sailboat. Nick is a pilot, and Lucy is a preschool teacher. They are both learning and perfecting their skills as new sailors. Just a few slips down were Bill and Lisa who live aboard their 43' sailboat. We used Nick's extra bright lantern to try to catch crab. The crabs are attracted to the light, but we were unsuccessful.
We all squeezed into the tent for bed.
After launching the boat, we tied up, secured our belongings, and drove back into Hampton to return the rental car. We shoved away from the dock around 10:30 – a late start for us. It was Joel's first day on the boat since he left us weeks ago in St. Louis. The water conditions have changed and so has our confidence in the boat. We've come a long way since the mild flow and calm waters of the Midwest river systems. We have since overcome the challenges of heavy port traffic; severe weather, abuse of open water conditions, and the apprehension of navigating with land barely in sight. Gradually our confidence in Duroboat and our own boating skills has improved.
Joel has been dropped in to these new conditions without the building assurance of the prior experiences. His nervousness makes me nervous, and he's made me question whether we've pushed the limits too far and run the boat too hard. His apprehension is a healthy reminder of the importance of staying safe and reasonable, so as to avoid accidentally going beyond our limits.
I've also realized how much I love boating! Four more hours of rough water is not everyone's cup of tea. While, I certainly appreciated calm water conditions, long hours of cruising day after day have been fun. We've had our share of hiccups, but in the grand scheme of the trip this summer has been amazing.
We'd never heard of the Great Loop until this year, but now half way through I would definitely recommend the Loop for anyone seeking big boating adventure. For smaller adventure, one weekend at a time, boating is still the way to go! It's unbelievable how much of the country you can explore by boat. Plus, the boating community, as vast and diverse as it is, is remarkable. Nearly all of the boaters we've met have been amazingly supportive of our trip.
Williamsburg and Hampton Marine Service
We returned to Hampton Marine Service. Once again Jeff was very helpful in getting us set up in the shop, and making sure we had everything we needed. Joel's diagnosis was a testament to how comfortable Katie and I have become in the boat. Between the big water, our willingness to run the boat hard, and the added weight of our customized set up and gear; the sub-support stanchions under our storage needed to be replaced. Duroboat has sent some stanchions which will arrive on Friday. Joel added extra sealant to a portion of the joint, and we were on our way back to Williamsburg. We grabbed some dinner in Colonial Williamsburg and walked around the historic homes. We visited Jen, Jon and the kids one last time before we see them the end of August. Hope to get the boat shipshape on Friday and be moving again on Saturday.
7.21.09 Tuesday and 7.22.09 Wednesday
Williamsburg to DC via car
Katie and I started for DC in a rental car. We pick Joel up from Dulles Airport late afternoon, and headed into the city to stay with Nick, my friend from High School. He had just moved to DC for a research fellowship in the medical field. Lucky for us, he had moved into his apartment the day before our arrival, so we had a floor to sleep on. We walked around and saw all the monuments lit up at night.
The next morning we went to The National Air and Space Museum, The Lincoln Memorial, The Vietnam Memorial, and The American History Museum. On our way out of town we stopped at the Coast Guard Warrant Office to talk with Ed Swift to see where we could tie up the boat if we are able to visit DC again via boat.
We returned to Williamsburg to see Jen and family –again, and get a hotel room. We were ready to make a visit to the boat the next morning.
Norfolk to Hampton Marine Service
We ventured into the Chesapeake around 8 am. We later found out from Alan, our now official weather resource, the waves we were battling were close to 4ft. We had noticed it was getting pretty rough, so we decided to duck in just north of Hampton. Unfortunately the area we had stopped at did not offer food within walking distance. The idea of turning around to Hampton did not sound appealing, but there was no way we could continue going forward. While we were deciding what to do, we noticed the bilge pump was periodically turning on and off. Water was slowly creeping in from somewhere. Unfortunately this made our decision pretty easy. We needed to get the boat pulled to see what was going on.
We called Hampton Marine Service who towed us out and brought us to their shop. Jeff from Hampton Marine Service was more than willing to help us out even though they work on fiberglass boats. We did find a breach of metal near the chine.
This was a stroke of bad luck but at least the timing was right. Joel who had assembled the boat and designed some of its unique modifications was planning on meeting us in DC to ride along for the DC - New York portion of the trip. We communicated what we could do about the leak back to Duroboat and a quick kit of parts to fix the boat was prepared for Joel to carry with him.
Still unsure of when we would be moving again, we decided to hitch a ride to Williamsburg, VA with Jeff to crash Jen's family reunion.
7.18.09 Saturday and 7.19.09 Sunday
We stayed with Katie's college roommate Miranda and her brother in Norfolk. Saturday morning we went kayaking with Miranda and Stefan, and then spent the day relaxing around the city. Sunday afternoon we went to Tidewater Marina to fuel up for our departure the next morning, and find some maps for the Chesapeake. The guys working in the marina office were very helpful. They gave us a chart free of charge because it was slightly outdated. It will do the job for us. After a boat ride and a visit to the marina's restaurant, we said our goodbyes to Miranda who was flying home to Chicago that evening. Coincidentally, Katie's other friend from college happened to be in the area for a family reunion. That night with stayed with Jen, Jon, and their two kids Jonathan and Jade.
Elizabeth City to Norfolk
We encountered rough water on our way to Elizabeth City. Because we had to make Norfolk by the afternoon we were stopping to walk around town, and so I could take a picture next to the Elizabeth City sign. When we arrived the Mayor of the town (Daniel Evans) happened to be at the city dock. The Mayor suggested that we talk with the city's newspaper and check out the visitors' center. We did both, and in the process met Michael and Nancy another couple doing the loop. While there the Mayor also told us that the state of North Carolina is promoting its own loop for cruisers. For those of you east coasters interested in cutting your teeth on a slightly shorter loop maybe you should check out info on the NC Loop.
Because our time in Elizabeth City lasted longer than expected, we missed the scheduled 11:30 lock opening. We had plenty of time to get the next one at 1:30 so we ate some lunch and cruised slowly.
Our cruising guide had noted the color of the water as a deep brown, like ice tea. Katie preferred to describe it as the color of Diet Coke. The stretch between the first lock and the second lock is called the Dismal Swamp and is a no wake zone. When we got through the first lock we thought we would have no problem making it to the second one by 3:30 the last opening of the day. We miscalculated, and found ourselves strapped for time. We slightly increased our speed because we couldn't spend a night on the boat in the Dismal Swamp. The area was beautiful and the trees were reflected in the water the whole way. We made it to the second lock just in time, and were happy to see the lockmaster was unaware of our early arrival from the first lock. Instead he was more concerned about the storm that we were about to be caught in.
After passing through the lock, we quickly made our way north. We had about 10 miles to Tidewater Marina, but only got as far as three miles north. We were in a very industrial area with bolts of lightning on both sides of us. The man controlling the bridge just ahead said over the VHF radio, "girls you better get off the water quick". We turned around in hopes of finding the wake boarders we had seen as we came out of the locks –maybe they could let us tie up to their dock. A boat launch came first, so Katie tied up while I went to ask some fishermen for a ride. Jeremy and Rodney gave us a ride to Wal-Mart so we could wait out the storm. After our drop off at Wal-Mart, Katie and I decided Applebee's might be more comfortable. Soaking wet, Katie and I walked to Applebee's to watch the weather channel and use a gift card I had been carrying around. When we called Jeremy and Rodney, they returned to give us a ride back to the boat. We got back on the water to complete the last seven miles of our day. It took a very long time to navigate around huge ships and under bridges. Our hearts sank when we encountered a bridge that read "closed to pleasure craft" during our exact time of arrival. I called on the radio to ask if we could go through. The answer was, "Duroboat, I can't tell you what to do. But if I fit under, I know what I'd do". We interpreted that as an "ok". And we arrived at Tidewater Marina around 8:30pm. From 3:30 to 8:30 we traveled approx. 10 miles.
This morning we ran aground going about 20 mph. Somehow we missed a channel marker and went right into a shallow sandbar. Prior to the mishap, I noticed boaters nearby staring - but that not unusual since we are in an unfamiliar yellow boat.
We both jumped out into shin high water and started walking the boat back into the channel. As we pushed we were fighting the current, and I thought maybe we were still trying to drag the rudder through sand. I started to use my foot to gage the depth of the water under the rudder. A wave came, lifted the boat, and dropped it back down on my foot. Dumb move, but lesson learned.
When we got back into 3 feet of water we hopped back into the boat and powered the rest of the way into the channel. Only seconds after getting back on plane a stingray wider than our boat flew out of the water, flapped in mid-air for a moment and dove back in – a live version of a clip you might see played in slow motion on the nature channel. I don't exactly know the consequences of startling a stingray, but we were both happy to be back in the boat and out of the water.
The rest of the day was rough – lots of open water, pounding waves, and water splashing over the gunwales. We were literally counting down the miles and minutes until we reached Alligator Marina.
Unfortunately our arrival wasn't the relief we had hoped for. We were not especially welcome at the Marina. This response is perplexing – they have lots of open slips and we always buy gas. Our boat may be unusual, but we don't require anything special. In fact, we never use electrical or water hook-ups and we require half as much space as most transient boats.
At first we were told we would not be allowed to leave our boat there. When we politely explained that we didn't have a trailer and that docking was our only option, she reluctantly agreed with an "Okay, but you'll pay." Their minimum slip rate worked out to nearly $2 a foot. The marina discouraged us from camping on the boat and seemed worried that we would try to sleep in their shower area.
Besides no desire to sleep in a shower, there were quickly approaching storms. We called the closest motel, still more than 10 miles away. While trying to arrange transportation, another patron overheard our story and offered to give us a lift. He had a delivery truck with only three seats in the cab. His passenger graciously offered to ride in the utility portion of the vehicle. This was much appreciated, because for security reasons Elizabeth and I draw the line at be shut in the back of a moving truck.
The driver was very friendly, and he was impressed by our travels. His co-worker had recently made the trip from here to Norfolk – the leg of the trip we will complete tomorrow.
We checked into the motel, walked to the gas station (the only dining option within walking distance), and ate cup-o-noodle and fried chicken for dinner. Early to bed.
We left the dock in Myrtle Beach at 7:55, and after a quick stop for fuel we were well underway by 8:15. We typically estimate our arrival time based on 20 mph. We are often traveling faster than that, but no wake zones and occasional stops slow us down. Based on this math, we would arrive in Swansboro, NC around 2pm.
The mornings have been considerably colder than we became accustom to in Florida. Temperatures are still warm compared to Seattle summers, but I find that if we are at speed, my sweatshirt stays on until almost noon. This is okay because the long sleeves offer extra sun protection.
We took a lunch break at Wrightsville beach. A very cute beach community, which from what we could tell, attracted people of every age. We made it a quick stop and were back on the water by one.
Before shoving off the dock we called ahead to make accommodation arrangements. Lately we have been arriving so late that the dock masters have already gone home for the evening. We were determined to try and plan ahead this time.
No such luck. Upon arriving in Swansboro, we decided to press on another 20 miles and stay in Beaufort, NC.
When we pulled up in Beaufort we realized we had made the right decision. The waterfront was lively and beautiful boats of all sizes were docked right downtown. There was live music playing in a park near the Beaufort Docks.
As Jebb the harbormaster was helping us get settled he introduced us to a couple strolling the dock with their dog. After hearing our story the friendly couple, Mike and Corliss, offered to let us stay with them for the night. We were once again spoiled by the kindness of strangers.
We rode, via boat, back to their house and Mike pulled out a map and recommended travel options ahead. Mike is very involved in the North Carolina's boating industry. He is a consultant and was involved in efforts to recruit boat builders to North Carolina. We understand he has in the past pitched NC to Duroboat and is again taking up the challenge.
The state now has more than 100 builders, 40 some of those are custom sport boats, and our route will pass by nearly 80 builders. Mike told us Carolinians are very committed to locally built boats, and pointed out the flared bow style that is typical of North Carolina boats.
Corliss made a delicious pasta dinner, and Elizabeth and I were happy to have a home cooked meal. After dinner we walked downtown to the Dock Street Bar for another night of live music. Despite a healthy Wednesday night crowd, Mike and Corliss tell us the economy has slowed down Beaufort too.
Always a fishing community, Beaufort was once a whaling town. Now known for sport fishing and recreation, we happened to arrive just as the town we gearing up for a tournament. Huge boats were being cleaned and prepped for the upcoming weekend. The fancy boats lining the docks dwarfed our little dinghy. Their underwater lights created a romantic looking green glow and gave the dock a ritzy exclusive look.
It's amazing to me how wide the term "boating" is. The only common denominator is water. Countless different boat styles, sizes and purposes make boating as distinct as the individual at the helm. I wonder how other boaters would fare on our trip and I on theirs.
We met more young people at the dock that night and told them our story.
We began the day with a large breakfast from the restaurant next to the City Marina. We met with the Channel 5 news in Charleston, and then we headed out of town. Along the way we passed through a lot of 'no wake' zones. Some of the signs read, "You are responsible for your wake". Because we have passed so many trawlers with huge wakes, I can see why damage would be a concern for floating-dock owners along the intercoastal. No wake signs are frequent as you pass waterfront homes, but the signs are not enforceable unless they have been posted by the Coast Guard. Only the Coast Guard's are posted in the middle of the channel. Marinas also have no wake zones that boaters should follow. All of the slow areas between Charleston and Myrtle Beach delayed our arrival time. We think an exemption should be made for Duroboat which even at full speed has almost no wake.
We arrived in Little River just north of Myrtle Beach. We tied up and walked to the marina next door for some dinner. A man playing acoustic guitar was the entertainment for the evening. He told us he had learned to play at the age of 27, which inspired Katie. I guess learning guitar is next on her to do list. We tried to walk around to see the town a little more, but there really was nothing to see from our location. We went to bed early only to later have a group of partygoers intentionally disturb us. While we could hear them trying to talk to us, we thought it best that we ignore them. After they shook our tent and went on their way, we were free to fall back asleep.
Monday July 13th
Today was a long ride – 130 miles in total, but the slow zones made it feel like 230.
The Duroboat likes to run and so do we. Our one advantage over the more luxurious cruisers with real beds aboard is we can move faster and cheaper. We hate losing that faster part to imposed slow zones.
Cruising was easy, with smooth calm waters and lots to look at as we crept through the dockfront areas at idle speeds. We made a quick stop in Beaufort SC . . . . we are still unsure how it's pronunciation differs from Beaufort NC. We grabbed lunch and an ice cream cone and once again asked around for the Skipper Bob books we've missed since our last copy ran out in the gulf. No such luck. Why are these books are so easy to find out in Seattle and impossible to buy along the ICW? Skipper, get your presses and your delivery team running.
It started to sprinkle just as we arrived to the Charleston City Marina. Both Elizabeth and I are getting frustrated with the thunderstorms that hit us every evening just as we are trying to get ourselves settled into a new town. It all dries out the next day, but our belongings get stored overnight in wet compartments that don't always smell so great the next morning.
Amanda, one of the boat crew at Charleston Marina, was extremely helpful, and she seemed excited about our adventure. We were impressed by Amanda's VHF radio skills as she radioed back to pleasure yachts approaching the marina. "Roger Capt, this is the Charleston Marina, over"
We walked downtown to explore Charleston and try to find WIFI to finish our blog. After a couple hours of bloging at a Hooka Bar, we wondered Eastbay and other touristy streets in the same neighborhood. The homes are huge Southern style houses. The straw market which was once the slave market, is long stalled building that now houses a daily art fair.
We had lounged a bit waited out the rain and then walked back to the boat to set up camp.