Intracoastal Waterway USA

Beaufort, North Carolina to Norfolk, Virginia

22nd  - 26th June 2004


Beaufort, North Carolina had a wonderful maritime museum, one which not only was free of charge but also so welcoming to visiting yachtsmen, that they provided a complimentary courtesy car for provisioning purposes.   

After our visit to the museum with Jim and Ruth from Delphin Salar, we signed up to borrow the car next day to stock up our boats a little.    The car was an elderly Oldsmobile, with huge seats like armchairs, a real American classic with the fake-wooden exterior paint job we'd often seen in the movies.  It was very helpful to be able to use the car, with the supermarkets being located far out of town, as they are in many American towns.

Beaufort's Wonderful Maritime Museum


Provisioning with Jim and Ruth with the museum's courtesy car.

It was during our stay in Beaufort that we had our first real experience of the severe thunderstorms, common during the summer months in that area of the States.    Our first warning was the eerie beeping noise accompanying the warnings issued by the National Weather Service on the TV and VHF radio.    The beeping was followed by a list of towns in the direct path of the storm, where tornado warnings were being issued.   Next came the advice that, "if you are in the direct path of the storm, you should take shelter immediately" and that "if a tornado is approaching, you should take shelter in your bathtub and drag a mattress over your head".   Boats are warned to seek safe harbour immediately, however when you only move at 5 knots, just above walking speed, immediate is not a word in your vocabulary!    Not having a bathtub aboard, all we could do was remove all superfluous items from the deck, wait for the storm to arrive and pray that our anchor would hold!  Luckily when the storm passed over, at around midnight, we were ready and had our engine running just in case.  The lightning was spectacular and the rain torrential but we were glad the heat of the day had subsided and the storm brought no tornados with it.
Next day, as we continued our trip up the Intracoastal Waterway, through the secluded rivers and creeks of North Carolina, we were amazed to hear a familiar voice on the VHF radio.   "Anju, Anju, this is Vitrain", friends we had last seen in Trinidad, who spotted us motoring past the creek where they were anchored.   It really is a small world!

We anchored that night behind a breakwater in a town called Belhaven and were sorry that we didn't get the chance to go ashore, as we spent an interesting evening watching a TV programme all about the town and their family doctor, who has been mayor there for 31 years or so.   Hopefully we would be able to visit on our way south again.

Next day we had planned to travel in the morning and find an anchorage on the south side of a wide open stretch of water called Albermarle Sound.   However when we approached the sound, the weather forecast seemed fine and our friends on Delphin Salar were pressing on across the sound, so we were persuaded to join them.   This proved to be a big mistake!    

The open stretch of water was about 10 miles and the river entrance on the opposite side narrow with shoals on each side.   Delphin were about five miles ahead of us and we were more or less in the centre of the sound when suddenly a severe storm warning was issued on the VHF radio.   We scanned the horizon and the sky was blue but not for long!   Suddenly ahead of us the sky grew black and the clouds were going to cross our path, so we decided to turn around and head in the opposite direction until the storm had passed by.   After several minutes motoring south again, the sky grew dark ahead again.   Now we had storms both sides of us!     We were becoming very worried. 

Albermarle Sound is shallow and with the strong outflow winds that the storms produced, the sea quickly became very choppy.   As we debated whether to return to our original course and continue heading north, as nothing was now to be gained by heading south, the sea on our beam began to rise up to meet the sky!     We found had three waterspouts on our beam, heading our way.    Next minute our lifejackets were on and we turned around to head north.    Unfortunately as we turned, with our minds on the storms, we managed to pick up the rope from one of the numerous crab pots around our propeller.   We found ourselves stopped dead in the water, the sea rough enough to dunk the dinghy into the water with each wave, even though it was raised high on the davits, with one storm was passing directly ahead and one directly behind us and strong winds funneling in between the two, directly where we were stuck, unable to move.    Seeking safe harbour immediately was not an option.    At this point we decided we'd like somebody to know of our plight, in case things got worse, so we tried to raise the Coastguard on the radio.   With the lightning all around, interfering with our signal, we were unable to get a response but our friends on Delphin Salar managed to pick up and relay our call.   They were already in the narrow channel at the mouth of the river in winds of 40 knots but did a fantastic job of passing our information to the Coastguard. 

Gradually the sea state eased, the wind began to drop, so we managed to raise some sail to enable us to move again.   Unfortunately the wind was now around 20 knots from the direction in which we were trying to head but we could at least move.    Miraculously the rope which fouled our propeller must have parted and we suddenly found we had propulsion again, which was a great relief.    The Coastguard called us on our mobile phone and we were able to tell them that we were now underway again and thank them for their support.    

That night we finally reached the anchorage in the river at around 8.30 pm, just as it grew dark.   We dropped our hook next to Delphin Salar just as the next severe storm began to approach.    We were very relieved to be anchored, even if we only had a foot below our keel.    Although we had been in an inland waterway, the experience had been our scariest so far in all our travels!     As we listened to the pounding of the rain on the deck and watched the lightning, we downed a much needed G & T! 

The next day dawned grey and rainy, so we delayed our start for a while.    We called in a a town called Coinjock, which is famed on the ICW for cheap diesel and topped up our tanks.   The friendly marina owner even gave us a free fly-swat to fend off the horseflies which attacked us on our way to the dock!   

By late afternoon we were tied up on the free dock at Great Bridge, between the bridge and the lock.  The town proved great for helping us with our chores.  Nearby was a launderette, a supermarket and a petrol station which would fill our British propane bottles for us.    Before we left, Phil braved the murky waters in his dive gear, to check that our propshaft was unscathed after the crabpot incident.

Anju resting in Great Bridge after her Albermarle Sound ordeal.

Waiting in the lock at Great Bridge.

On completing our chores, we entered the lock at midday.   We were entertained during our wait by turtles and crabs swimming by and the antics of power-boaters trying to tie up in the lock! With seven bridges to negotiate on our way into Norfolk, we were pleased we happened to be arriving on a Sunday, when the bridges would open on demand!   The approach to Norfolk was very interesting.   We passed through the Naval dockyards, where work was being carried out on all kinds on Navy ships.    

One of the bridges was a type where the centre span of the bridge slid up rails on the two pillars, allowing you to pass underneath.   We'd never seen that type before and spent some time debating whether it was high enough yet for us to pass below with our masts.   

Delphin Salar approaching Norfolk.

Waiting for the bridge to lift - just how tall are our masts?

By 3.30 pm we were anchored off Hospital Point, right in the centre of downtown Norfolk and there seemed to be a party going on.....
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