approaching the "double bascule" style
bridge just North of Thunderbolt, Georgia, ICW statute mile
number 580. Mile Zero on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW)
is in Norfolk, Virginia and the miles count up all the way to
mile 1,094 in Miami. We'll be counting em' down as we
May Continued - Arrival in the USA!
- As the ships faded in the distance heading up the Savannah
River with their cargo, we penetrated deeper into a world 100%
different from the last 48 hours at sea and 99% different than the
last six months in the Caribbean. The calm world of the
Intracoastal Waterway or "ICW": rivers, creeks, bridges,
and sparkling bays. All of a sudden our focus shifted from the
GPS position and the weather to trying to make sense of the ICW
waterway charts to keep from going aground and stay headed in the
right direction. It didn't take long and pretty soon we were
cruising along towards our first bridge.
scenery. Spanish Moss covered oak trees, stately homes out of Gone With the Wind (or the Wind
Done Gone if you are following the controversy), waving boaters
passing by. We are ready for this. Again, what a
contrast to the Bahamas.
around 0800 we approached the Savannah suburb of Thunderbolt and
started calling on the VHF for a marina slip. The second call
hit. 70 cents a foot and free water? We're there.
No shopping. Time to tie up and clean up. Which we did
at the friendly Tidewater Boat Works.
must have looked like we had just sailed all the way from Honk
Kong. Several people on the dock asked where we were coming in
from. One asked if we were "the Redwings"
with the website? Yes! Wow, the second person we have
met in one month who had found and followed the site before we met
Amazing. His friend Richard gave Colleen lots of
tips on where to shop and eat. I
headed off to call US Customs, who said they'd send someone right
down. They did. And the took our garbage and all of our
fruits and vegetables. Can't be too careful with people coming
in from foreign parts.
then crashed out till 1600 when I crawled out to walk to the store
to buy cat food and some human food as well. Richard saw me
walking out and drove me both ways to the store. Southern
hospitality. People really have been so nice here. Great
pace and atmosphere. What a relief to have arrived.
Feels like a major accomplishment. Seems like it will be all
downhill from here to Maine....
May - Thunderbolt (Savannah), Georgia - ICW Mile 582
- What a great sleep! Cats and humans all piled in
the aft cabin in a heap and slept through the night. Finally rejuvenated, we attacked the boat cleaning inside and outside.
Its amazing how cruddy it can get inside after three days at sea:
crumbs in cracks, salt stains on cushions, last 24 hours'
dishes. When cleaning the outside of the boat, we found
seaweed stuck under various bits of rigging and in the dorade
vents. I even found a crab under the dingy on the
foredeck. We really were taking a lot of water over the decks
coming in here! Colleen took four bags of laundry across the
river to another marina and had fun with a roll of quarters. I
cleaned out lockers, rinsed and hung out foul weather gear, cleaned
the sails, and tided the rigging. These tasks took all day and
we were pretty whipped by dinner time so we dingied across the river
to "Despisito's" seafood restaurant.
Fantastic. Tables covered with newspaper overlooking the ICW (Intracoastal
Waterway - "the river") on a screened in porch, heapings
of fresh shrimp, fresh corn on the cob. Beautiful
evening. Cool, long light of early summer. Not dark till 8:00
May - Thunderbolt (Savannah), Georgia - ICW Mile 582
- "Robbie" a woman on a 50 foot houseboat called
"Mouse House" that pulled in behind us last night, came
over for coffee in the morning and picked our brains on our
trip. We are a huge attraction here having sailed all the way
from Hong Kong "in that?" Robbie has some sort of
radio show in DC and wants to interview Colleen when we get up that
then headed into Savannah proper on the local bus (75 cents each -
good value) and took a two hour tour of the city on a motorized
trolley. Savannah is one of the oldest cities in the US.
Many beautiful homes. Savannah surrendered to Grant's troops
during the Civil war and paid them off with lots of cotton so the
city was not burned - thus lots has survived. Trees
everywhere. So quiet and peaceful. We spent the
afternoon walking around and looking for an internet cafe or
library. Finally found a library, but it was closed due to a
then threw our efforts into finding a mobile phone solution.
There must be at least one service provider who will sell a phone
with national roaming and e-mail capability to somebody without a
local billing address? Yes. Sprint via Radio
Shack. We spend two hours at the shack trying to get the final
details of our contract firmed (credit checks etc.) but then it
turned out that the deal we were initially offered (no roaming
charges) was not longer offered and we would have huge surcharges
outside of Sprint areas even though it is supposedly
"national". Forget it. At least they let us
use their phone to upload / download. God we spend a lot of
time frigging around trying to get on-line.
May - Beaufort, South Carolina - ICW Mile 536
- The trip so far on the ICW (one day...) seems
lovely. Such a relaxing pace compared to all our cruising so
far. We gently motor along the rivers and creeks in calm
water. The weather is nothing short of ideal; a warm spring
day. We left Georgia this morning at the crack of dawn.
that part wasn't ideal... We were trying to make a bridge that we
needed to open for us before it closed to restricted opening hours for
the morning traffic rush hour. Racing up there, we cut a
corner short and went aground. Already! Only one day in the
ICW. I was meaning to get tow insurance which everyone
suggests, but forgot to do it yesterday. Luckily Aaron was
able to back us off the mud shoal. We missed the bridge opening,
and had to wait a half hour. Killed time taking a few pictures
of the kittens, now aged 12 weeks. Click
here to see them.
the morning we motored up through the marshes full of mist and wildlife
(dolphins, pelicans, shore birds, sea birds, horse files!). It was really peaceful and lovely. We went by
Hilton Head and saw huge homes lining the waters edge. By 1pm,
we had made it to Beaufort. We ate lunch and fell into a
"quick nap". After the nap we put our bikes
together. Though we bought them at Christmas, we haven't been
able to use them yet, as we've always been anchoring in rather rough
dingy ride to shore places that would make bringing the bikes in too
biked around the town, which was really nice. Beautiful old
southern homes on sleepy streets shaded with oak trees and
hanging Spanish moss. We went to the "Piggly Wiggly"
supermarket (which I had thought was only a fictional name created
for the movie Driving Miss Daisy) and biked our groceries back to
the dinghy dock.
May - Charlestown, South Carolina - ICW Mile 469
- Another perfect day on the waterway: sunny skies, 75
degrees, light breeze. Up at 0600 again, we left with the
sunrise and chugged under our first bridge at 0630. Wave to
the bridge guy. What a totally different boating experience!
made good time moving through and across various rivers and
cuts. Hand steering is required 100% of the time (no auto
pilot) and one needs to steer from visual marker to marker so the
time passes pretty quickly. There is always something to see
as well and boats passing. Having said that, after eight hours
of travel, I'm ready to stop. No naps. One person
navigating, one steering.
arrived in Charlestown at around 1600 and quickly found a great spot
to anchor right across from the marina. I dingied in to the
marina to get info on sail repair and communications, and saw OZ,
the boat from Maine we met in the Bahamas at Conception Island, but
no one was on board.
the 100 yard trip back to Redwings.... BUSTED.
The SC Fish Cops pulled me over for a "routine"
check. Ahhhh of course this is the US and I need to have a
life jacket on board. Never even thought about it. Not
required anywhere else we have ever been. Apparently, by law
one also needs to have a device that can make a noise heard 1.5
miles away (my lungs? no - whistle or horn). According to the Smokey, he gave me a big break by "only" hitting me for
the minimum US$75 fine for the life jacket "infringement"
and I got off with a warning on the noise maker.
May - Charlestown, South Carolina - ICW Mile 469
- Our big "lie in" till 8 am felt good. We
went ashore and caught a bus downtown to tour Charleston. We
walked and walked through the city streets. Aaron insisted we
go through the city history museum. I thought it was kind of
boring, but then I'm not a Civil War freak, which I think you kind
of have to be. This town is totally obsessed with their "Hunley"
submarine recovery (sub from the Civil War that was missing at sea
until it was discovered just recently), and that is all we seemed to
hear about. We enjoyed some gourmet pizza for lunch, but in
the late afternoon it started to rain. We took a bus back to the
docks and relaxed for the evening.
May - Georgetown, South Carolina - ICW Mile 403
at 0630 for the 0700 fuel dock opening. We loaded up with
diesel and water before taking off for a day's northing. We
carelessly didn't check the bridges up ahead and had to wait for 40
minutes for one a few miles outside the harbor to open, so including
the fuel-up process, we effectively did not get moving till 0900 -
our latest start yet on the ICW.
- The 60 mile trip to Georgetown was pretty quiet. North
of Charlestown, there were few homes along the waterway and the
track included many long, straight passages through grassy marshes
with few defining features. Very little traffic today - I
don't think we passed one cruiser all day, though there were many
locals out in their runabouts for a Sunday spin.
had the current against us most of the way so we made only 5-6 knots
over the ground for the most part. This, and the late
start, resulted in a fairly late (6 pm) arrival in Georgetown.
What a sweet harbor. Shrimp boats lined up at the docks and a
quiet place for anchoring in 15 feet just off the town hall's clock
dingied in for a walk and to find a place to eat. Great walk
in the cool golden early evening light, but this town is D-E-A-D
dead on this Mother's Day Sunday. Nothing was open, so back to
the boat for scrambled eggs and carrot sticks.
May - Barefoot Landing (Myrtle Beach), SC - ICW Mile 354
spent the morning in Georgetown which was a bit more bustling than
last night, but still pretty quiet for a Monday morning. A
fax/photocopy place let us print out our (tardy) tax returns off the
computer as well as do e-mail and upload the website for free which
was great. Starting to get on line a bit more consistently and
cheaply these days. Then it was off to the post office to mail
that check to Uncle Sam followed by stop at Food Lion to buy as much
food as we could fit in our backpacks.
we went into town, we herd Noel on Keneschunich on the SSB radio and
gave him a shout. Last we saw him, he was in Georgetown with
the gang waiting for a break in the weather. He was just today
crossing the Bahama Banks after 23 days in Georgetown! He said
the day we left was the only reasonable day to get out of there in
three weeks. Hundreds of boats will probably be arriving in
the US from the Bahamas over the next few days.
took off at around 1300 on the high tide which meant we had a pretty
quick 50 mile trip to Barefoot Landing which is near the beach
resort community of Myrtle Beach. The landing consists of a
500 foot "free" dock adjacent to a Freeport-like factory
outlet mall with steak / seafood houses at either end. All of
the space was pretty much taken up, so we ended up rafting up next
to a huge barge. We tied our lines to cleats that were almost
as long as Redwings is wide.
May - Southport (Cape Fear), North Carolina - ICW Mile 309
underway at around 0700 and quickly got in a bit of a muddle as to
whether or not to crank up to try to make the next bridge's 0900 or
to slow down and go through at the 1000 opening. At 0715 we
had over 14 miles to go and I thought no way would be make it as we
were doing "only" about 7 knots at fairly high rpm.
So we slowed way down to 4.5 knots through the water (6 over the
ground), but somehow, at 0800 we were only about seven miles
away! Impossible! So I cranked up the engine and we were
soon making eight knots with the help of the current, but as we got
closer, the current lessened and the speed over the ground dropped,
so we had to go faster and faster to keep the speed. I then
made a wrong turn up a little creek with ICW markers leading to the
ocean and had to spin around and retrace 1/4 of a mile back to the
main channel. No way we can make it... but it's only 4
miles away and we've got 25 minutes to go.... I cranked the engine
up to 2,000 rpm (we have a slow rev engine) and was going almost 8
knots through the water (and over the ground - no more current) for
15 minutes stomping towards the bridge - this is the hardest I've
ever pushed the engine for an extended period of time - but nothing
blew and we got there somehow with five minutes to spare.
These ICW miles must be shorter than the ones our GPS says we cover!
arrived in Southport, North Carolina, at around 1300 and tucked into
the small harbor and anchored just off the town docks. We were
the only boat anchored here and there is really just enough room for
1-2 boats to swing so we are lucky. We took the bikes in and
spent the afternoon touring and telecommunicating: our two primary
land-based pastimes. Another quaint town with an almost New
Englandy feel about it. Southport is nestled near the mouth of
the Cape Fear River (where it empties into the Atlantic near said
cape), just downriver from the "big city" of
Wilmington. Free internet hook up at the marina we did not
stay in to download our messages and free surfing at the library.
inexpensive seafood dinner at The Provision Company. The Co is
right on the docks and actually has four free slips for
"transients". We could have grabbed one I
guess. While eating, I saw a guy come back to one of the boats
that had two cats on it and scold one of his felines for venturing
on to a neighboring boat. The cat went to jump off his illicit
perch and fell into the water in his confusion. The guy
followed the cat around looking down from the dock and his
boat. As no resolution to the "situation" was achieved
quickly, I ran over to help and was able to lean over and grab the
fat cat by the scruff of the neck and haul him to safety.
Apparently it was puss' first time overboard. It was about the
5th time I had plucked one from the drink. Our current guys
have stayed dry so far though, cept when we plopped them in for swimming
May - Swansboro, North Carolina - ICW Mile 228
spoke too soon. Today ended with a splash - for Manny at
least. We made a long 80 mile run to Swansboro, and with
several bridges and a bit of negative current on the way, did not
make it in till dusk. We ended up having to move in the middle
of the night last night as a 180 degree wind shift swung us to close
to comfort to several boats tied to the pier. Didn't want to
re-live that experience, and with little time to experiment
anchoring, we headed for a marina. Soon after we tied up, the
cats were avidly taking detective steps around the dock with noses
wiggling and psycho looks in their eyes. We thought we were
keeping an eye and ear on them, but sure enough all of a sudden Fats
plopped into the cockpit soaking wet. I grabbed him and we
headed for the shower for a fresh water rinse. He actually
seemed really calm about the whole thing so perhaps the swimming
lessons on Conception Island paid off. I followed the wet paw
prints down the dock and it seems like he fell in near the boat and
was able to climb up one of the wooden dock pilings. Glad to
know he has the concept down! There will be a lockdown tonight
figured out why we are moving so fast up the ICW: it is of course
marked in "statute" miles which are normal bog standard
miles like ya'all use on land. They are about 10% shorter than
the Nautical Miles we think in - and in which our speed log and GPS
measures our movements. Duh.
today was pretty event-less (apart from two momentary groundings -
one each). Made up a batch of homemade ginger
under way, but otherwise just motored along and listened to tunes.
minor excitement was cruising
through four miles of US Marine Corps firing range at Camp
Lejune. It was very difficult to get info as to whether or not
the range would be "Hot" when we were transiting ("Ah
wouldn't know anything about that sir"). It was
cold. In fact, we felt like we were freezing all day - it was
70F and 60F with the wind chill, but we are not used to it and had
double fleeces on.
night was a bit of a thrill though when the wind shifted and cranked
up at 1130 and we were a boat length from several other new
arrivals. We probably would have been ok, but I could not have
slept and we already had dock lines and fenders in place, so we
hauled anchor and weaseled into a slip at The Provision Company
where we had dinner last night. Glad we were there to scout
out the spot. Very tight fit and I must say our driving and
line handling were superb (ly lucky).
May - Beaufort, North Carolina - ICW Mile 202
spent the morning tied up at Dudley's Marina. Great little
stop in fact. 75 cents a foot, cheapest diesel we have seen
(1.06 per gallon), free water, free courtesy car, free internet
access. Its not much to look at, but it was definitely worth
the 33 bucks we paid to tie up. We were the only
"transient" cruiser there so had the use of car (a 1980
Buick station wagon with fake wooden paneling on the sides - a true
"boat") for the whole morning. Put in a good run to
the Piggly Wiggly, but not much else to see and we wanted to get
going to Beaufort so we returned, put the groceries away, and putted
off into the cold misty rain at 1200.
in Beaufort at around 1500 after a cold, but low key trip. Its
60 degrees out, but breezy and rainy. We feel like we need
hats and mittens! Not used to it yet. Tired and possibly
depressed by the weather. Ate soup and stayed hunkered on the
boat. Early to bed.
May - Beaufort, North Carolina - ICW Mile 202
in and took the bikes ashore to check out the town. Very easy as we
are anchored right in front of the town dock. Another
pretty spot. Lots of convenient boaters and tourist shops
along the main drag with a board walk along the water fronted by restaurants
and marinas (which are a rip off at 1.50 per foot considering the anchorage
is great). Made our requisite stop at the Visitor Center for
map and scoop and then tooled off on the marked five mile bike route
around town. Nice day and good to get a bit of exercise.
Feeling better after the glum weather we had yesterday.
Dockside Marina has an e-mail hook-up outside which is
"free" for boats in their marina, or a $2 donation from
others to use as many times as you want during the day.
Deal. Had lunch there and then spent the rest of the afternoon
in the library catching up on the news, surfing the net, and working
the phones trying to line up health insurance coverage for ourselves
- a very, very expensive prospect. I will have to get a real
job just to get the insurance! Maine Blue Cross wants US$1,000
a month just for me and that's with a $250 deductible. Yikes.
in the afternoon as we were strolling back through the Dockside
Marina, a short scraggly guy walked up to me and was almost upon me
before I realized it was Rasmus from May-Britt! Kersten was
right around the corner. We left them in Staniel Key in the
Exumas (Bahamas) a couple of weeks ago and did not think they would
ever catch up to us. They just got in after making a fast two
day passage from Palm Beach all the way to Charleston and then
hopped outside to Cape Fear and came up the ICW to Beaufort
today. Wow. Great to see them. Drinks, dinner, and
drinks with them before finally heading back to Redwings to quickly
prepare for an early morning departure.
May - Alligator River, North Carolina - ICW Mile 102
at 0630 for an 0700 start. Beautiful day - clear blue sky and
80 degrees - bit hot actually when the breeze was not up.
Though we started off in narrow "cuts" as the one in the
picture to the right where we are passing a tug, as the day wore on
we found ourselves passing through the relatively open areas of
Pamlico Sound. The depth throughout the sound is 10 to 20 feet
we were able to engage the auto pilot and relax in the hot
Some boats were sailing through the markers in the 10
knot easterly breeze, but we were too lazy to bother with the
sails. I am committed to motoring the ICW, fixing the main
sail in Norfolk (mile zero and entrance to Chesapeake Bay), and
start sailing again from there.
were originally going to stop in the town of Belhaven, which would
have been a run of about 65 miles, but we arrived there at 1530 and
were making good time so decided to push on to try to make a 100
mile day so we can arrive in Norfolk tomorrow evening. The ICW
has been great, but I think we've got a good feel for the towns
along it and general scenery so we'd rather get up to the Chesapeake,
get the boat in order, and have more time up there and further up
arrived at our planned anchorage in the Alligator River at about
2000 just after sundown. Nothing for miles but swamp, dark
water, and tree stumps. Didn't see any alligators today, but I
did see one swimming along the bank somewhere a few days ago. There were about five other boats in
the anchorage, which is just outside of the channel, but there was
plenty of room and good holding and we got a good night's sleep.
May - Norfolk, Virginia - ICW Mile Zero
let Colleen sleep in (so I could have a stronger bargaining position
on naps later) and hauled anchor at 0545. It was getting
steadily lighter, but it was overcast and misty and hard to see the
unlit markers clearly. Luckily I managed to stay in the
channel and we were soon cranking through the wider Alligator River
proper towards Dismal Swamp (no we are not making up these names).
Weird how the weather changes. Two days ago it was wet and
cold. Yesterday was hot and sunny. Today is again wet,
cold, and blustery.
were cranking along at about seven knots through the water trying to
make sure we could make it to Norfolk before dark (102 miles in 14
hours, meaning we had to maintain a pretty fast average speed) and
right in a cut... "putt, putt", quiet and coasting.....
the fuel ran out of the tank we were using. Wow. Must be
burning an average of two gallons per hour at these high speeds -
almost twice our normal burn rate. We had so much way on
Colleen was able to keep the boat coasting forward and out of
traffic for just about all of the five minutes or so it took me to
bleed the fuel system and switch tanks.
the day wore on, civilization started to re-emerge along the banks,
and we again began to encounter bridges. We engaged in a
several mad dashes to make openings - two were successful one not
(missed it by 2 minutes and had to wait another half an hour).
At around 0615, we finally made it to the lock at Great
Bridge. Our first lock ever. We had to tie up alongside
and "handle" the lines, easing as water flowed into the
lock raising Redwings and the other boats in it up
about two feet. The
lock "gate" opened with a "ding" and we all
steamed out like thoroughbreds rushing for the next of several more
bridges spanning the remaining 12 miles to Norfolk.
we got closer to Norfolk, the trees and swamps were replaced
by cement and steel mills and eventually huge ship and naval
yards. The ships to the left look like Lusatania-era
troop transport ships - I guess mothballed for some future war
when we gotta get a lot a boys "over there".
Norfolk is the biggest naval base in the world. The old troop
transports gave way to aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines as
we neared the main harbor and - ta da - all of a sudden we burst
into it and were surrounded by modern hotels and greeted by the
twinkling lights of the financial district. This is a lot
bigger city than I thought.
the day's last light, we found a secure spot to anchor just south of
the ICW Mile Zero marker across from downtown and the USS Wisconsin
- the largest battleship ever built. Another leg of the
journey successfully completed. Time for bed!
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