Redwings Round the World

Intracoastal Waterway

7 - 20 May 2001

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Redwings 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 travel North. 

7 May Continued - Arrival in the USA!

Aaron - 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.

Beautiful 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.

At 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.

We 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 them. 

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.

We 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....

8 May - Thunderbolt (Savannah), Georgia - ICW Mile 582

Aaron - 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 p.m.

9 May - Thunderbolt (Savannah), Georgia - ICW Mile 582

Aaron - "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 way.

We 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 bomb threat!

We 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.

10 May - Beaufort, South Carolina - ICW Mile 536

Colleen - 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.  Maybe 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.

Throughout 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 cumbersome.  

We 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.

11 May - Charlestown, South Carolina - ICW Mile 469

Aaron - 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!

We 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.

We 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.

On 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.

12 May - Charlestown, South Carolina - ICW Mile 469

Colleen - 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.

13 May - Georgetown, South Carolina - ICW Mile 403

Colleen - Up 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.

Aaron - 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.

We 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 tower.

We 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.

14 May - Barefoot Landing (Myrtle Beach), SC - ICW Mile 354

Aaron - We 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.

Before 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.

We 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.

15 May - Southport (Cape Fear), North Carolina - ICW Mile 309

Aaron - Got 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!

We 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.

Awesome 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 lessons.

16 May - Swansboro, North Carolina - ICW Mile 228

Aaron - I 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 though.

Finally 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.

Overall today was pretty event-less (apart from two momentary groundings - one each).  Made up a batch of homemade ginger beer under way, but otherwise just motored along and listened to tunes.

Only 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.

Last 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).

17 May - Beaufort, North Carolina - ICW Mile 202

Aaron - We 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.

Arrived 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.

18 May - Beaufort, North Carolina - ICW Mile 202

Aaron - Slept 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.

The 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.

Later 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.

19 May - Alligator River, North Carolina - ICW Mile 102

Aaron - Up 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 sun. 

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.

We 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 the coast.

We 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.

20 May - Norfolk, Virginia - ICW Mile Zero

Aaron - I 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.

We 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.

As 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. 

As 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".

Apparently, 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.

With 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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Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved by Aaron Henderson and Colleen Duggan