Conditions: Cloudy with occasional showers. Light winds, calm seas.
Distance traveled: 48.5 miles (mileage will show in statute miles as we travel the ICW)
Time underway: 6 hours 3 minutes
Average Speed: 7.5 kts
Max Speed: 18.3 kts
Fuel used: 46 gallons
The first day on the ICW is always accompanied by a shift in mentality, whether you anticipate it or not. The run through Norfolk keeps you on your toes and if you’re traveling during migration season, there are inevitably additional challenges, foreseen and unanticipated. We shoved off from Waterside Marina as planned at 8 am. When you leave from the Norfolk area headed south you have to time out your arrival to the Great Bridge lock which is coordinated with the on-the-hour opening of the Great Bridge bridge (yes, Great Bridge is the town). We have learned that we need to leave the Norfolk area at the top of the hour to time out our arrival to Great Bridge for the openings two hours later. We could leave a bit later but there are any number circumstances that could cause delays, from the Norfolk railroad bridge closing to commercial traffic blocking the channel or boats going very slowly in areas where it’s difficult to pass. We’d rather arrive a bit early and wait than just miss an opening and idle for an hour.
We decided to shoot for the 10 am opening as the 9 am opening is the first of the day and inevitably jams up with a lot of slower boats looking to get a jump on their travel. Our departure from Waterside was easy despite having to back up several hundred feet before we could spin around. We got underway just behind Wait ‘n’ Sea, a Grand Banks with a lovely couple on board who we had met the night before. We quickly found ourselves behind Prince Of Tides, a 100′ Cheoy Lee that was docked across from us for a bit last season at Stock Island Marina in Key West. Also in the convoy was the 53 DeFever Stacy Lynn that we first encountered on the previous day out in the Chesapeake. And this is what happens on the trip south – you ride along with a familiar crowd and inevitably bonds are formed.
It’s easy for good boaters to bond over bad boaters and the day two “Hall Of Shame” had three of them… and surprise surprise, two were sportfish boats displaying some of the worst seamanship we have seen, passing boats closely while throwing a massive wake with no radio call or whistle to make passing arrangements. It’s not just awful seamanship, it’s terrible humanship. We’ll never understand it. But we won’t waste too much energy on the ignorant.
It was an otherwise easy ride with a nearly full lock at Great Bridge. At this point in the season, you don’t expect this much traffic so that was a bit of a surprise.
We had one unfortunate incident when just after clearing the Great Bridge bridge we were approaching the Albemarle and Chesapeake railroad bridge which is normally open if a train isn’t coming. It appeared to not be fully open but wasn’t apparently moving and Prince Of Tides had just passed through. As we passed under the bridge, which we expected to have ample clearance for our 35′ air draft (the top of our antennas), we heard the awful cracking sound of our starboard antenna striking the bridge. Fortunately, the damage was minimal but it’s a terrible feeling and bummed the captain out quite a bit. Stacy Lynn radioed from behind to say that after they passed under the bridge, it closed and the sailboat and trawler behind them had to come to an abrupt stop. It was some unfortunate drama but a loud reminder that as much as you think you are on your toes, you can always step up your situational awareness.
Once through the only other bridge, we had to open it was smooth cruising through a few rain showers while Sirius XM’s Bluegrass Junction played, seemingly appropriately, in the background. As we approached Coinjock Marina we got a warm welcome back on the radio from Louis, the owner of this iconic ICW spot, which wasn’t going to have a foot to spare with all of the boats they were bringing in to their massive seawall right along the waterway. Now that we’ve been through there so many times it always feels a bit like coming home.
We’ll say it every time we speak or write about Coinjock: Louis and his team do everything in their power to provide excellent service, quality fuel from a fast pump, a good meal or two and a great selection of Coinjock-ware (yes, there’s a t-shirt that says “whereinthehelliscoinjock?”) in addition to a well-thought-out variety of boat supplies and provisions. And every boater is given the First Class treatment, whether in a 25′ sailboat or a 120′ megayacht. All of this at a marina in a town that covers less than a square with a population of around 350. It is a critical location on the AICW and Louis does not take that for granted for one moment.
While they have to pack em’ in tightly to maximize the space, they handle lines and settle your boat in with the highest level of expertise we have ever seen and even the most timid captains should be put at ease by their professionalism.
We’ve repeated one of our boating mantras on our blog many times: “the worst thing to have on a boat… is a schedule.” And while we say that, it’s also easy to just want to keep moving, even on days when it’s less than desirable to be out on the water. On this trip, we have made a commitment to travel on days that will be comfortable, not simply tolerable. When you leave Coinjock you have to cross the Albermarle sound. With the forecast calling for winds gusting from 25 – 30 mph we knew that could mean an unpleasant hour and a half+ that we’d rather not endure. When we woke up the next morning to the high winds we knew we made the right decision – for us. We were the only boat that stuck around (other than a few with mechanical issues). It’s always wild to see the place so cleared out only to watch it fully fill up once again as the day wears on. We had a terrific day of catching up on some life and boat stuff and then wandered in to grab lunch, hoping to find one of our favorite servers and friend, Kendra, who we met last year. Lucky for us, she was there to greet us with a big hug!
Belhaven, NC is next. See you out there!
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