Fleeing Southwards from the Cold 

(Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolinas)

12th October -  2nd November 2004

Unaccustomed as we now are to the cold, as we made our way south from Annapolis, we had to take boat apart to track down our thermal underwear, winter hats and foul weather gear.   Whatever happened to our plan to stay between 30 degrees north and south of the equator?    

At our first stop we arrived just before dark in Solomons and left just before sunrise, without setting foot ashore.    Strong winds were forecast and Deltaville, another day further south, seemed like a good spot to wait out an improvement in sailing conditions.    

We had seen most of the sights of Deltaville on our previous two hour visit, it's that big a place!   Little did we know the excitement that was in store.  

The Captain feeling the cold.

We were told by some of the other cruisers at anchor that Deltaville was to be the venue for a rally of the Ocean Cruising Club.    As we both met the membership conditions (an offshore non-stop passage of at least 1000 miles), the gathering members not only proposed us as new members, they also invited us to all the weekend's parties, giving us the opportunity to meet many interesting members, eat, drink and be merry!  The local yacht club also kindly allowed the use of all its facilities, so we were able to thaw our chilled bones in the hot showers before freezing them again on the dinghy ride home.

When the time came to head out of Deltaville, the tide was extremely low and we were worried about running aground in the narrow channel out of Jackson Creek.  Another boat, Kairos, with a shallower draft left first and told us they found a spot with only 6 feet, so we waited another half hour or so for the tide to rise, before heading out ourselves.  At one point in the channel we went over a hill - a new first for Anju, who actually drove right over the hill, we felt her rise up and go down the other side!   

Out in the Chesapeake the wind was strong, 15 - 20 knots, and we were at 30 - 60 degrees off the wind, so it was a hard and cold trip.  We had current against us all the way, so despite the strong wind, we only managed about 5 knots. We cut every corner we could, across the shoals near the entrance at Hampton Roads, so we wouldn't lose any ground against the wind.  The entrance to the channel was tough with both the current and wind against us, so we crawled along at about three knots for a while.  We were finally happily anchored just before dark at Hospital Point in Norfolk. 

Ralph, Jeanette, us, Nancy and Dean at Uncle Louie's.


In Norfolk we were able to catch up with friends old and new.   First we invited Jim and Joanne Matthews, OCC members we'd met in Deltaville, to visit Anju and try Phil's famous curry.    We spent a lovely evening until it was time for them to head home, when a thunderstorm started with torrential rain.   They survived their trip back to shore in the dinghy and Joanne kindly took us in her car on a provisioning trip later in the week.

We also got together again with "old" friends (OK, we met them in July), Dean and Nancy based in Norfolk and Ralph and Jeanette from Cape Charles, who treated us to an evening out in a local deli/restaurant called Uncle Louie's.

We made a late start from Norfolk (late on the Intracoastal Waterway means 8 am), to catch all the bridges after the rush hour restrictions.   Our next challenge was to make the Great Bridge lock in time to catch the hourly opening. We needn't have rushed because when we got there, the lock was broken and we had to wait in the narrow canal with around 20 other boats for about 2 hours.   When we finally entered the lock and it was crowded, the boats had to raft up but at least almost everyone got into the first lock.    After the morning's stresses, we spent the day and night tied up on the free dock at Great Bridge.

The wind was blowing us onto the dock, so we struggled off next morning, which was was tricky with all the other boats milling around waiting for the bridge opening.  A couple of hours later at North Landing, we had to move over in the channel to let a tug boat go past and were nearly aground!   Later we fuelled up in Coinjock, another dock which was hard to get off with the wind blowing us on.  It was quite a traumatic day but worse for another boat at the fuel dock who accidentally filled their diesel tanks with petrol!   After another couple of hours we anchored south of Buck Island in a place which could have aptly been named The Middle of Nowhere!   We snuggled up warm inside Anju with cold north winds howling outside and we psyched ourselves up for the Albermarle Sound crossing next day (our experience crossing northwards was still fresh in our minds).

Luckily on this occasion our crossing was uneventful.  The Alligator Bridge on the far side even waited for us to arrive and delayed its opening for us, which was friendly.  The next part of the trip up the Alligator River Canal was long, straight and boring, about 20 odd miles in the drizzle with only trees to look at.  At one point we hit a submerged object but luckily were undamaged.  Many tree stumps litter the edges of the canal and lie invisible just below the surface!   Just before dark we anchored in Pungo River.  The ICW was beginning to feel like a forced route march and still the weather was no warmer!

Worn down by the rigors of the ICW,  we'd planned a short trip next day but ended up doing over 50 miles, with a long stretch up the Neuse River.  We anchored, just before dark again, in Cedar Creek.   The next day we would finally reach Beaufort, North Carolina.

Strangely as we approached Beaufort next morning, with an escort of dolphins, we both simultaneously decided not to stop in Beaufort but to carry on to Swansboro instead.  As we approached Swansboro, we decided not to stop there either and carried on to try the anchorage at Mile Hammock Bay, close to a military base.  We were nervous about the depths in the channel into Mile Hammock Bay but we called on the VHF radio to boats already anchored and "Orient Express" came back and told us there was plenty of water.  They were right and there were already several boats anchored in there.  It seemed idyllic and over sundowners, we watched fascinating incoming helicopter/planes, when flying they were planes with propellers but when they wanted to land, the propellers rotated to become rotor blades. Unfortunately when they continued coming in until around midnight it made the anchorage somewhat less idyllic!

In Wrightsville Beach we went to thank Bruce and Gail on "Orient Express" for their help the previous evening.   Bruce asked Phil if happened to know how to fix a water leak on the water pump on a Yanmar 3QM30 (H).  Not only had we actually found somebody with an engine as "experienced" as ours but we'd spent a good deal of time recently in Venezuela finding out how to fix the very same problem, so were able to give him the parts lists and one of our spare water seals and explain what had to be done.


From Cape Fear we decided to take the shorter, straighter and deeper offshore Atlantic route to Charleston, it would make a change to navigating by the numbered buoys of the ICW.  However, we had to be sure to get our tidal calculations for the Cape Fear inlet right this time, as we'd painfully punched against the tide the last time and learned our lesson.   It only took about half a day of pouring over the charts and nautical almanac to work out the best timing but it certainly paid off!   We surfed the tide out through the inlet at speeds up to 8.5 knots.    The trip went unbelievably smoothly while we waited with baited breath for something to go wrong.   After a calm and beautiful night at sea in the light of the full moon, we also managed to time our arrival at Charleston to surf the rising tide into the harbour and arrived at the bascule bridge for its first opening of the day with two minutes to spare - how is that for timing?!

Sunrise at Wrightsville Beach - time to hit the road again!



This Atlantic route may be straighter but it's no warmer!

From Charleston south, the ICW was new to us.  It didn't help when after the first half hour, we found ourselves in thick fog and crept along at about a knot, relying on the radar for help.   We were very pleased that the electronic charts on our PC have been so accurate throughout!

When the fog finally lifted, we passed a peaceful day motoring through the swamps of South Carolina, past huge houses with very long docks, where it must have been a quarter mile walk from the house to the boat.   It must be pretty shallow outside the main channel!  

We decided to be adventurous and head to a recommended anchorage off the ICW at Mosquito Creek, where we hoped we would be able to buy some fresh seafood.  The anchorage was reported and charted to have 7 foot at the entrance at low water but when we arrived two hours before low water, we ran aground, so opted for plan B instead, finding ourselves anchored in another "middle of nowhere" creek.  

We spent a peaceful night aboard, hiding from the vampire bugs, until we were awoken at around midnight by a loud bang, as one of the dolphins which had been swimming around the boat all afternoon, collided with us!

It was ironic that the day we switched our clocks to winter time was the first time it began to feel warm.  Of course the downside to the hour change was that now we had the opportunity to get up even earlier every day, as dawn came at around 6 am.

By lunchtime next day we were safely anchored in Beaufort, this time the one in South Carolina, pronounced "Byoofort", just to avoid confusion with the one on North Carolina.   The town was smaller than we'd expected but very attractive with streets lined with shady trees draped with Spanish Moss.   Apparently early settlers had stuffed their mattresses with the moss, it was so springy, and rumour had it that Mr Ford used it in the seats of his first cars, until it was discovered that the itching they all experienced was caused by the bugs inhabiting the moss!   After our initial exploration, we returned to Anju to find new neighbours, the yacht Scorpio with Finnish Ocean Cruising Club friends Henrik and Malla.   Later, it didn't take a lot of persuasion for Henrik to join us for Happy Hour on the riverfront.

Birthday Boy has his cake and eats it!

The folks at the Municipal marina were very friendly, letting us use the showers and download our e-mail for free.   Phil was very happy as he was able to receive his birthday greetings from home and the staff even gave him a birthday doughnut.   

It was also election day in the States and we were alarmed to discover that we were unable to replenish our dangerously low gin stocks, as the liquor stores were closed for the event.   This was presumably to make sure that you weren't voting under the influence!   We'd been hoping to celebrate the disappearance of the irritating candidates' TV advertisements.   After about six months of them, we still weren't sure what anybody's policies were but we certainly knew that all the candidates didn't like each other much!

Now we had Georgia on our minds.........

Return to homepage     Return to index 2004