Atlantic ICW: Miami, FL to Norfolk, VA / February 24-April 12, 2003
February 24, 2003 / Miami, FL to Delray Harbor Club Marina, Delray Beach, FL
We were ready to go at 0710, and we headed into Biscayne Bay and a brisk northerly wind--too brisk for running offshore, so we hoped we wouldn't encounter too many bridge delays on the ICW. Today's cruise would take us almost 56 miles, a much longer distance than we've been used to the last couple of months, but it felt good to be moving up the map.
We counted 25 bridges on today's route. Fortunately, we needed to have only six of them opened. It's puzzling how many boaters apparently don't have--or consult--a chart or cruising guide that gives information about the bridges. All Florida bridge tenders respond to calls on Channel 9, yet we kept hearing radio calls made on Channel 16. A surprising number of boaters call to ask when the next opening will be, even though the schedules are published, even posted on the bridges themselves. The opening times vary--some bridges open on request, some open every 15 minutes, some only twice an hour--the differences are no doubt due to the volume of traffic each bridge bears. Often such calls to the bridge come only a few minutes after it has closed, which means that the boat is going to have to wait a while, while trying to stay in place against wind and currents. With just a little advance planning, however, it's pretty easy to adjust your speed and timing to match the opening schedules.
We pulled into Delray Harbor Club Marina (telephone (561) 276-0376) at 1528. We stayed here in January on the way south, and we were pleased with this BoatU.S. cooperating marina's facilities and its proximity to a nice shopping center. Gas prices are rising, so we were glad to get the BoatU.S. discount on fuel (5 cents/gallon). Tomorrow is going to be another long day of cruising, so we had a quiet supper, watched some TV, and turned in early.
February 25, 2003 / Delray Beach, FL to Pirate's Cove Resort and Marina, Stuart, FL
It's been interesting to watch the weather patterns in this part of the country. As the major storm fronts make their way across the United States, the winds in Florida begin to shift. Yesterday they came from the north; today they hit us from the northeast. As the front gets closer, they'll become southerly and southwesterly, and the air will get more humid. Today was warm and muggy, and the next couple of days should be even warmer and wetter. Today in Little Rock, however, they got 15 inches of snow. Our neighbor Larry Jones e-mailed us a picture of our backyard. Glad we did not have to go down to the dock and shovel snow out of the boat!
We left Delray at 0729, with a 55-mile float plan that would take us to Manatee Pocket in Stuart, Florida. Today we also passed under a bunch of bridges--seventeen in all--but again, needed to wait for only six openings. One of those six, the Royal Park bridge in Palm Beach, could pose a problem for wide-bodied vessels: Only the west span will open, and no one knows how long it will take to get the east span functioning again. Not long after transiting the Lantana bridge, we waved to some friendly southbound sailors, who hailed us on the radio to ask if we were really from Maumelle. Turns out they are from Little Rock, UAMS radiology professor Ed Stringer (hope I got his name right) and his family. It is a small world.
We arrived at Pirate's Cove Resort and Marina (telephone (561) 287-2500) at 1530, where we were greeted by cheerful and helpful Dockmaster "Bones." This is a quiet, modest-sized, and very friendly place (and we refer to both the staff and the resident boaters), with a good restaurant on site, as well as laundry, pool, and ship's store. Maggie enjoyed walking in the adjacent park and quiet residential streets outside the marina, although the fixed docks were a little hard for her to negotiate--two squirrels for Pirate's Cove. We paid $1.75/foot, plus $7.00 for 50-amp power--better than South Florida prices, but still higher than we'd like. Remember Goosepond in Scottsboro, Alabama? Fifteen dollars a night, which included electricity, water, and cable--sigh.
February 26, 2003 / Stuart, FL to Fort Pierce City Marina, Fort Pierce, FL
Today's run was short, only 23.7 statute miles, so we dallied a bit in the morning, not leaving until almost 0930. Running on the ICW north from Stuart puts you into the Indian River, which is wide, but shallow. Hutchinson Island separates the waterway from the Atlantic Ocean. It's one of the longest islands in Florida, stretching 22 miles from north to south. Today you can see nice homes and condominiums lining the shores on either side of the waterway; a hundred years ago, this land was all pineapple plantations.
All the bridges along today's route were high enough for us to easily pass under. The cruise was uneventful and relaxing. We arrived at Fort Pierce City Marina at 1300. They say Fort Pierce's currents can be tricky, but the dockmaster's clear and accurate instructions guided us in at low tide with no trouble at all. We docked at a fixed wooden pier, but when the dockmaster saw that our best way to get on and off the boat was via the swim platform, he asked us if we'd prefer to tie up at a floating dock. Yes, we would, and we did.
We cannot say enough nice things about Fort Pierce and its city marina (telephone (772) 464-1245--note the new area code, as the cruise guides would have you call 561). The marina is adjacent to downtown, which is clean, picturesque, and inviting. The public library is just south of the marina. Several restaurants are in easy walking distance. A large, well-landscaped city park is to the north, and dogs are not forbidden! Between the marina and the park is the Manatee Center, aptly named and placed, as it overlooks a warm-water discharge outlet from the power plant, the manatee equivalent of a community center. The main marina complex features a Tiki-themed restaurant, a ship's store, large laundry area (6 washers and dryers), and computer/phone line desk for boaters. For boats on the north docks, where we were, they've built an annex with laundry (2 washers and dryers), showers, pay phone, and barbecue grill. Oh yeah, before we forget--the BoatU.S. discounted dockage rate is $1.00/foot, which includes cable TV hookup, plus an additional $6.00 for 50-amp electric service. And they provide doggie poop bags. Maggie liked everything about this place--easy on/off access from the boat, friendly dogs from the other boats, lots of grass, the park, and lots of seagulls and pelicans to chase off the docks--so of course, she'll give it four squirrels.
February 28, 2003 / Fort Pierce, FL to Melbourne Harbor Marina, Melbourne, FL
Last night we were sitting in the Manatiki in Fort Pierce, eating good seafood and drinking beer. One of the ways you can tell you're in a boater's bar is that the TV will be tuned to the Weather Channel. We've certainly kept our eyes on the weather as we head north in the waning days of winter. We're far enough north to get the effect of the cold fronts sweeping down, which slide under the warm tropical air and bring heavy clouds and rain.
We left Fort Pierce at 0725, under cloudy skies and northwesterly winds. North of Vero Beach, the ICW winds through a number of islands, which is the only part of the run between Fort Pierce and Melbourne that puts you in close range to land. The rest of the run has little to capture your imagination, unless you like to fantasize about what's been captured in all the crab pots that crowd the channel. The Indian River is so wide through here that you can't see either shore in much detail.
We arrived at Melbourne Harbor (telephone (321) 725-9054) at 1430, refilling our gas tanks at $1.98/gallon (probably the last under-two-dollar price we'll see on this trip). This medium-sized marina is located just off the ICW in a protected basin near downtown Melbourne. There is very little tidal fluctuation, so even though the docks are fixed, it's easy for us to get on and off the boat from the swim platform.
The weather forecast for the weekend doesn't look good, so we'll stay here until Monday. There are several restaurants within easy walking distance, as well as a couple of small parks, one of which has a pair of squirrels that Maggie enjoys treeing, over and over again. She's giving Melbourne Harbor a three-squirrel rating .
Maybe it's because we're out walking the dog, making us look like locals, but we get stopped a lot and asked for directions. Maggie was sniffing a bush, tethered to Coleen by her leash. Gary was about a hundred feet away, waiting for his girls to catch up. A couple stopped their car and asked Gary how to get somewhere. He replied that he was from Arkansas and didn't know the area. They glanced over at Coleen, as if to inquire whether she might know. Gary told them she was with him and wouldn't have directions either. They responded, "Guess the dog is with you too?"
March 3, 2003 / Melbourne, FL to Titusville Municipal Marina, Titusville, FL
The rainy weather persists, but there were no thunderstorms predicted for today, unlike the weather we experienced over the weekend. We decided it would be safe to press on toward Titusville. We left Melbourne at 0735, finding the Intracoastal waters to be a little choppy and the wind rather brisk. Scarcely fifteen minutes underway, we both jumped as we heard a loud SLAM! No, we didn't hit anything; it was the negative pressure of the wind pulling the portside wing door shut.
Intermittent showers kept the vinyl curtains spotted with water drops, but they also kept the boat traffic down. The heavy clouds made the view of the NASA complex on Cape Canaveral too hazy to photograph. Seeing the launch structures brought back the sorrow we felt when the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated last month, when it should have been landing here.
We arrived at Titusville a little after 1300, heading for the municipal marina just north of the Max Brewer swing bridge. The municipal marina (telephone (321) 383-5600) gives BoatU.S. discounts to members, which brings the dockage rate down to $.95 foot. and there are floating docks, a plus for us. Gas prices here were $2.08/gallon, and there's no fuel discount. Glad we filled up at Melbourne.
The disappointing thing about Titusville is its unfriendly attitude toward dogs. Even before Coleen had checked us in, Gary had been chastised by a marina employee for letting Maggie pee on the grass. We didn't know that dogs must do everything off the property; it would have helped if the sign telling pet owners what to do (or what not to do) had been legible. Most of the lettering had peeled away, so we didn't know that Maggie was breaking the rules. She refuses to award more than one squirrel to Titusville, but Gary says if it were his rating, it would be zero.
March 4, 2003 / Titusville, FL to Halifax Harbor Marina, Daytona Beach, FL
Vrooom, vrooom, vrooom!! No, it's not that car commercial. It's not even the Daytona 500. It's Bike Week here in Daytona Beach, and we are talking about thousands and thousands of them, roaring around the city streets under the steamy Florida skies, roasting--and probably basting--their leather-jacketed, black-T-shirted, bandana-tied riders. One thing we don't understand is why Bike "Week" lasts from February 28 to March 9--whoever puts together the schedule must have crashed without a helmet on.
Looking over the schedule of events, we noted that the local liquid refreshment establishments had organized many cultural gatherings that nicely complemented one another. For example, the Broken Spoke Saloon held a "Loud Pipes Contest," after which deafened bikers could go to Froggy's Saloon to enjoy the sounds of "Animal Bob and the most powerful sound system on the East Coast!! 34,000 Watts!!" Jackson Hole Saloon sponsored a "Hot Wing Eating Contest," while Gilly's Pub 44 was holding a "Blowout Party." The Cabbage Patch featured "Coleslaw Wrestling," and visitors to Thunder Gulch Campground could participate in "The Great Cleavage Contest." If you want to be here to experience it all next year, Bike Week will be held February 27 to March 7.
But we digress from our regular mission, which is to tell you about the cruise. The run from Titusville to Daytona Beach is 48.4 statute miles. We finally left the Indian River, transiting the Haulover Canal, a mile-long cut across an island, into Mosquito Lagoon. We were glad to avoid encountering the lagoon's namesakes, but suspect that summertime boaters might not be so lucky. Tidal currents on either side of the Ponce de Leon inlet were very noticeable, as they tried to pull us out of the channel. The cruise guides warn boaters to be very cautious in this area, as vessels frequently go aground on the shifting shoals. We've been advised to heed any floating buoys in preference to what is shown on our chartplotter, as they will indicate the present best channel through the shallows. It must be true, as the Local Notice to Mariners indicates twenty-nine "temporary changes" to lights and markers between Canaveral Harbor and Murphy Island.
We called ahead to reserve a slip at Halifax Harbor Marina (telephone (386) 671-3600) in Daytona Beach. Even though this is a very large marina, with more than 500 slips, it's very popular and is often full. We can understand why. The facilities are superb--floating docks, multiple bathhouses with showers, laundries, and phone lines for us computer/e-mail junkies. Dockage is $1.25/foot, with additional small charges for electricity and cable TV. The on-site restaurant (Marina Bar & Grill) is closed, but appears to be in the process of renovation. There is a West Marine store on the northeast side of the yacht basin, and it's a short walk to the historic district, antique shops, and cafes of downtown Daytona Beach. The huge liveoak trees bordering the streets near the marina shelter lots of squirrels, so Maggie greatly enjoyed her walkies. The whole Barger crew thinks that Halifax Harbor deserves four squirrels .
We enjoyed meeting Neil and Sue Cline, from Cushing, Oklahoma, who keep their boat Won't Be Home at Halifax. Neil gave us several good tips for the Georgia and Carolina portions of the ICW, which they regularly cruise.
March 6, 2003 / Daytona Beach, FL to St. Augustine Municipal Marina, St. Augustine, FL
After two days of intermittent rain at Daytona Beach, we were glad to have a drier forecast for the day's 53.8-mile run to St. Augustine. When we left Halifax Harbor at 0750, the mild winds were from the southeast, but as the day progressed, wind velocity increased and the direction shifted to southwest and then west. Several northbound sailboats took advantage of the breezes, putting out their sails even as they powered against the currents. We needed to have only one bridge opened, the fifteen-foot-clearance L.B. Knox bridge. A sailboat was there well ahead us, but its captain asked the bridge tender to wait for us to get there before opening for both vessels. Thank you, Gypsy Ark; your courtesy is well appreciated.
Would that other boaters were so considerate. Two northbound sailboats waiting for the Crescent Beach bridge to open were stunned when a huge southbound cruiser powered through the rising spans, never radioing the bridge, never determining who should have right-of-way. The sailboats had to maneuver out of his way, endangering themselves in the process. The bridge tender apologized profusely to the sailors for not stopping the cruiser, though we're not sure how she could have done so. We met the owners of one of those sailboats, Ted and Alice Harper, aboard Spray, when they docked near us at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina. Ted and Alice live in Severna Park, Maryland, but originally hail from Ruston, Louisiana. We'll all be cruising north toward Chesapeake Bay in the coming weeks, so we expect to see Ted and Alice again along the way.
The St. Augustine Municipal Marina (telephone (904) 825-1026) is located immediately south of the Bridge of Lions. The floating concrete docks are not fancy, but they are sturdy, which we appreciated as a storm blew through on Friday. Just north of the bridge, a sailboat dragged anchor and was in danger of being dismasted as the winds and current took it precariously close to the bridge's western spans. Several men in small dinghies tried to help, but it took a TowboatU.S. powerboat to pull the sailboat to safety. If you stay here, try to get a slip on the south side of the docks, as you'll be more protected from the strong tidal currents, even though you'll still be exposed to winds from all directions except the west. The marina charges $1.15/foot, plus electric.
The municipal marina is conveniently located in the heart of the historic district, many of whose old houses date from the 1700s. We preferred strolling in the area south of King Street, as it seemed less commercial and touristy. It certainly possessed more trees and squirrels, which made Maggie happy. She's giving three squirrels to St. Augustine Municipal Marina.
March 10, 2003 / St. Augustine, FL to Amelia Island Yacht Basin, Amelia Island, FL
We waited for the fog to lift, leaving at 0800 and heading north again. While our chartplotter correctly showed it, it would have been easy to miss the navigational red nun "60," which takes you well into the inlet, but away from a dangerous shoal. Be careful when you cross this area.
Within an hour, we had blue skies and beautiful conditions for cruising. We are not sorry to say goodbye to the palm trees and hello to pines. Two southbound tows--"Sun Chief" and "Sun River City"--passed by us, a sight we haven't seen for a long time. We appreciated the friendly response from the second tow, who gave us plenty of room to pass in the narrow channel.
Note for your chart: The 9' bridge at mile 758.8, the Palm Valley bridge for S.R. 210, has been replaced by a new 65' fixed bridge. No one will have to ask for an opening now. And there is a new high bridge under construction south of the St. John's River, right where the power lines cross the ICW near mile 741. This construction was not mentioned on our charts nor in any of our cruising guides.
We arrived at Amelia Island Yacht Basin (telephone (904) 277-4615) at 1530, docking easily in the protected harbor. This friendly small marina is not located within walking distance of stores or restaurants, but they do offer a courtesy car, concrete floating docks, clean showers, and a laundry. Many cruisers prefer to go a little farther north, to stay at Fernandina, but if you'd like a quiet, clean overnight stay in calm waters, consider this place. We were not the only visitor who seemed glad to be there. A huge manatee swam slowly around the docks, checking them out, lifting his snout to breathe every few minutes. See him on the Leg 8 Photos page. The residents said he was the first manatee this year. Maggie didn't find any squirrels, but considers the manatee to be a reasonable substitute for doggy interest. She is glad to give a three-squirrel rating to Amelia Island Yacht Basin.
March 11, 2003 / Amelia Island, FL to Jekyll Harbor Marina, Jekyll Island, GA
We eased out of the Amelia channel at low tide, but had adequate water (6-7 feet) to head back out to the Waterway. The skies at 0750 were partly cloudy and the water was calm, but as we approached Fernandina, the calmness became enveloping--we were in dense fog. We slowed down, turned on the radar and navigation lights, and activated the automatic fog horn. We were out of the fog in about fifteen minutes, only to encounter a couple more patches that morning as we headed north.
The USS Nevada was moored at the Kings Bay Submarine Base. Naval patrol boats made sure we stayed far away, but our passage was a bit complicated by the presence of a dredge at red marker "50A"; we had to work our way around it while staying away from the sub and within the ICW channel. We noted a second dredge a short way north, at red "74." Use caution as you go through here.
Today we left Florida and entered Georgia. We were ready to finally enter a new state on this trip. The cruise past Cumberland Island and through the salt marshes of coastal Georgia were beautiful and a welcome change of scenery.
We arrived at Jekyll Harbor Marina (telephone (912) 635-3137) at 1230. This small facility reminds us of some of our favorite marinas on the Tenn-Tom. You'll find floating concrete docks, low fuel prices ($1.85 for gas, $1.-- for diesel), a phone line for your computer, laundry, showers, a restaurant (it's open!), and bicycles. If you don't have a bicycle with you, borrow one from the marina and take it riding on Jekyll Island's miles of (mostly) paved trails.
You can easily bike to the "Millionaire's Club," the Victorian-era private resort used by the great tycoons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, whose "cottages" dot the grounds. It's a short ride east to the Atlantic beaches, or if you like history, bike north to see the ruins of Georgia's first brewery and the island's first plantation house. We simply enjoyed being able to bicycle among the huge liveoak trees and alongside the marshes, in a serene setting, with no traffic worries. Maggie found several Georgian squirrels to chase, lots of doggie company on the dock, and even an alligator--which Coleen would not let her pursue. Four squirrels for Jekyll Harbor Marina.
March 13, 2003 / Jekyll Island to Golden Isles Marina, St. Simons Island, GA
Today's cruise was a short one, which turned out to be a lucky decision, as a fierce thunderstorm whipped across us not long after we reached our destination. We left Jekyll Island at 0940 and arrived at Golden Isles Marina at 1105.
Golden Isles (telephone (912) 634-1128) is highly recommended by many, but we were disappointed in some ways. It advertises its dockage rate as $1.25/foot in the brand-new 2003 edition of the Mid-Atlantic Waterway Guide, but in fact, raised its price to $1.50/foot in January 2003. We called for gas prices while we were still at Jekyll, and they quoted us $1.85/gallon. Today, however, the price was $1.94, though they do give a 4-cent discount if you pay by cash or check. Two of the three on-site restaurants were closed, one for the season, the other permanently, There are no other restaurants in walking distance. We appreciated being able to use the courtesy car to get to the grocery store, but felt rushed by the one-hour limit on its use, and of course, no one could use it for going out to a nice restaurant in a single hour. The laundry charges $1.50/load, the highest price Coleen has seen in a marina since leaving home last July. Floating docks were appreciated, but there was no good place to walk Maggie any distance, unless you were willing to brave the traffic to cross the bridge to access the island, and to boot, no squirrels to be found in the marshes around the marina. She limits Golden Isles to two squirrels in the dogworthiness department.
March 14, 2003 / St. Simons Island, GA to Kilkenny Marina, Kilkenny Creek, GA
Skies were just a little cloudy as we left Golden Isles a little after 0700. We were pleased to receive the morning newspaper and two blueberry muffins from marina staff, which mitigated yesterday's letdown feelings.
The favorable conditions did not last, however. Winds had picked up considerably by 1100, and by the time we reached Sapelo Sound, a little before 1300, they were downright nasty. Nasty winds in a coastal sound make for very uncomfortable cruising, unless one enjoys slamming on big waves. We do not. Conditions were not improved when we crossed St. Catherine's Sound, but at least it was not as big a body of water to cross.
We were relieved to make our way to Kilkenny Marina (telephone (912) 727-2215), located up a creek on the west side of a marsh bordering the ICW. Several other boats also called Kilkenny for haven, so we were rather crowded at the small wooden floating dock that parallels the shore. Maggie wanted to hunt squirrels under the enormous liveoak trees that fill the grounds, but cold winds and whipping rain did not inspire us to endure long walks. We made a pot of chili and hunkered down, planning to watch the Lakers on DirecTV, but finally giving up, as the rain and wind kept interfering with the satellite signal. Maggie figures Kilkenny is worth at least two squirrels.
March 15, 2003 / Kilkenny Creek, GA to Delegal Creek Marina, Skidaway Island, GA
We didn't plan for today to be a short cruise, but it turned out that way. It was raining as we left Kilkenny at 0822, and the rain just would not quit. By 1120, fog was developing. We didn't want to endure another day of crashing waves, so after crossing the Ogeechee River, we opted to stop at Skidaway Island, at Delegal Creek Marina (telephone (912) 598-0023).
The entrance to the creek does not look like what you see on the chart, so call the marina before you enter and get their directions to lead you in (hug the reds). Try to come in at mid-tide, in daylight. The nuns that mark the channel are not lighted, so you would risk grounding if you attempted to come in when it's dark or very foggy. At high tide, the marshy shoals will be concealed. At low tide, the cut is so shallow that mud flats are exposed, and there's not a lot of water to float your boat. If you can get in, however, you will be rewarded by a very friendly, very scenic, very hospitable locale. Delegal (pronounced "Del-Egg-Al") features floating docks, easy access to fuel, showers, laundry, and a courtesy car, if you'd like to drive on the island.
The marina is located in a gated community whose attractive homes are set in the midst of ancient liveoak trees and palmettos bordering the marshes. We felt like we had walked into the pages of Southern Living; it was that pretty.
A wooden tower, complete with old metal telescope, rises over the boater's lounge, inviting you to climb the stairs to see what's out in the marsh. Coleen counted eleven wild pigs grazing in the marshes, one nervous looking deer in their midst. And there's wildlife on the grounds as well--Maggie encountered her first otter on a walk around one of the ponds. Let's not forget the squirrels, either. Yeah, she'll give three squirrels to Delegal Creek.
We really did try to visit Savannah. Really. But it's St. Patrick's Day weekend, and we could not get a spot at any of the Savannah-area marinas. Savannah takes its St. Patrick's Day very seriously, and they party hard. We thought about stopping at Isle of Hope, as we've heard good things about its marina and the small town that's on the National Register of Historic Places, but they are constructing new docks and won't accept transients until the end of April.
There are many statutory no-wake zones along this part of the ICW, but they are easy to spot, as they are well marked with large signs. Only a couple of bridges on today's route, Skidaway Narrows and Causton Bluff, both of which open on request, and both of which have strong currents around them. We were low enough to scoot under both, but one sportfisherman thought he needed the Causton Bluff bridge to open. Sally Sue called the bridge repeatedly on Channel 16, with no response (bridges in Georgia answer 13). After the second radio caller told him to switch to 13, he tried again. The bridge tender said, "Where are you?" Answer, "Under the bridge." He was so close the bridge tender could not see him.
With no storms in the forecast, we decided to press on toward Hilton Head, whose Harbour Town marina had plenty of dockage and was happy to make a reservation for us. We pulled in to the circular yacht basin at Harbour Town (telephone (843) 671-2704) at 1330 and were met at our slip by an able dockhand, who checked us in and presented us with a complimentary bottle of wine. We will stay here for a few days and relax a bit. Navigators' note: The Harbour Town lighthouse is being repainted and is presently a dull beige, surrounded by scaffolding, so you won't see its distinctive red-and-white stripes for another couple of weeks at least. Maggie gives four squirrels to Harbour Town, in recognition of its squirrel-rich grounds and dog-tolerant attitude (thanks, Marina staff, for the dog biscuit!).
March 19, 2003 / Hilton Head, SC to Downtown Marina, Beaufort, SC
After three days of alternating rain and sun, with rain in the majority, and being unable to rent a car without taking an expensive taxi ride to the airport (Enterprise would have picked us up, but had no cars), we decided that it was time to move on up the coast to Beaufort, SC before the next round of severe weather hits the area.
We stopped at Outdoor Resorts at Hilton Head, which was selling gas at a volume discount (100+ gallons) for $1.959/gallon, diesel at $1.629/gallon. A couple of months ago, we would have thought those prices outrageous. We filled up.
We crossed Port Royal Sound and cruised past Parris Island, thinking of the Marines in the Middle East who must have trained there. Heading up the Beaufort River, we arrived at the Downtown Marina (telephone (843) 524-4422) at 1430. We were instructed to back down the inside of the T-head dock, against the wind and current, a distance of at least 300 feet. Maggie jumped off the boat while we were backing, in order to chase some mallards into the water. Coleen was nervous, and irritated at Maggie, but managed not to hit anything or scrape the sides of the boat or knock the dog into the river. We happily tied up and prepared to spend a few days seeing the old town of Beaufort between rain showers.
Maggie likes hunting for squirrels in the neighborhoods of the 1700s-era historic district. She enjoyed her reunion with Cosmo, the big Rottweiler who cruises on Shell y T, with Great Loopers Tim and Michelle Smith (we met at Jekyll Island). She appreciated the easy access to the dock from our swim platform, but hated sliding backwards while trying to ascend the steep dock ramp during low tides. She will give three squirrels to Downtown Marina.
Note to unattached female readers: If perusing this journal makes you yearn for the cruising life, we may have found you a partner. The following personal ad was printed in the March 2003 issue of Southwinds:
LIVE ALONE SAILOR with unique cement boat looking for relationship with foxy lady with lots of money. Exotic dancers whose family members work for law enforcement are tops on the list. Women from Keokuk, Iowa need not apply. Woman I am looking for must know how to sail, cook and clean, in that order. Send your best recipe and acknowledge which gourmet markets you prefer shopping at. Am drinking Cribari by the gallon now, but would like to know more about bottled wine ... snap-cap or corked, it makes no difference. If you like to sail and don't mind a few roaches in your life, this may be your golden opportunity. If you know how to sew and have your own fishing gear, so much the better. No rap music fans, please.
March 23, 2003 / Beaufort, SC to Bohicket Marina, Seabrook/John's Island, SC
The rains have stopped, and the skies, although cloudy, are calm. We spent a very quiet six hours cruising the 48 miles from Beaufort to Bohicket Creek. Today's destination was Bohicket Marina (telephone (843) 768-1280), located between Seabrook and Kiawah Islands. We're meeting our friend Martha from Little Rock, who's going to play golf for the next few days and meet us on the boat each afternoon.
The marina is farther south of the ICW than advertised (ad says 6 miles). Our GPS indicated that we traveled 9.15 miles from ICW mile 497 down the North Edisto River and up Bohicket Creek before we reached the marina. Maybe you can shave off three miles by not staying mid-channel and by trimming corners, but given the tidal range in this area and the extensive shoaling, we would not risk trying a shortcut. We had read high praise for this marina, but it has deteriorated somewhat since at least one guidebook was published. The wooden decking on the floating dock was severely weathered, with more holes than concrete patches, and even some grass growing between the planks. The shoreline boardwalk has recently been rebuilt, so we hope that equivalent work is planned in the near future for the Bohicket docks. At present, overnight dockage costs $1.15/foot plus $8 for 50-amp electricity, but you can get a BoatU.S. discount on dockage if you're a member. The ship's store was poorly lit and poorly stocked, but shipping boxes stood to one side, so perhaps they are getting ready to restock before the spring migration of snowbirds. Don't plan to do laundry here unless you are willing to pay $1.50 per load in both the washer and the dryer. The local boaters were extremely friendly, however, and made us feel quite welcome. We also enjoyed a wonderfully delicious dinner at one of the marina complex restaurants, Rosebank Farms Cafe, one of the best meals on this trip!
The place seemed dog-friendly enough, but Maggie found no squirrels and got into a snarl fest with one of the local dogs. Add to that a too-steep ramp from dock to shore at low tide, and you'll understand why she limits her squirrel rating for Bohicket to just two .
March 24, 2003 / Seabrook Island, SC to Ashley Marina, Charleston, SC
Martha headed for Kiawah and we headed for Charleston, both getting underway about 0745. The winds have picked up, but the skies are clear and blue, and there's no rain in the forecast for the next few days. Maybe now our gills will begin to recede.
We wound our way through many water bodies, all part of the ICW--Bohicket Creek, the North Edisto River, the Wadmalaw River, Wadmalaw Sound, the Stono River, Elliott Cut, and finally, the Ashley River. We arrived at Ashley Marina at 1255, and working against a brisk easterly breeze, Coleen deftly parallel-parked the Poet between a sailboat and a trawler-catamaran (see Leg 8 photos), not getting weak-kneed until it was all safely over. If she could dock the boat in the same place every day, she might be pretty good at it by now.
We are going to spend the next few days exploring Charleston, visiting with Martha, and enjoying the local hospitality and fine Southern cooking (you gotta go to Hyman's Seafood!). Ashley Marina (telephone (843) 722-1996) has modern and comfortable facilities, with boater lounges both on the transient dock and in the marina building (beside the laundry). A courtesy van will take you wherever you'd like, but you can also catch the local tourist trolley quite close to the Marina. It's a dollar per ride, or buy a day-long pass for three bucks. Dockage is $1.30/foot, plus $6 for 50-amp service.
Maggie has no squirrel trees nearby, but we can walk about ten minutes to get to a dog-friendly park near the medical center. She seems to like it here, and despite having to go to the vet while in Charleston, will give Ashley Marina three squirrels. The vet visit was not a big deal; it was time for Maggie's annual rabies shot and checkup, and while she didn't particularly enjoy being pricked and poked, we thought Dr. Doug Berger and his staff at All Creatures Veterinary Clinic were first-rate and very friendly. They welcome all and any boat dogs--and cats, too (telephone (843) 579-0030, at 239 Calhoun St., a short walk from the marina).
March 27, 2003 / Charleston, SC to Isle of Palms Marina, Isle of Palms, SC
We left Charleston Harbor at 0920, under cloudy skies and a fresh breeze. By the time we got out of the South Channel and into the ICW cut leading to Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms, the wind was wicked. The only good thing about it was that it was blowing straight down the narrow channel, so it didn't push us off course.
We arrived at Isle of Palms marina at 1125, where the wind pushed us around as we worked to dock the boat, bursting a small fender when we bumped hard to a halt--better the fender than the topsides, we say. The sailboater who docked just ahead of us (Sigi VI) said he clocked winds at 30-32 knots in the channel, with gusts to 35 knots. Think we will stay put until this bad weather passes, and at any rate, we're expecting more visitors, our buddies Mike and Marijean from Little Rock, who are traveling this way with their dog Shadow and new travel trailer. Now we'll have an excuse to drive back over to Charleston for more sightseeing!
While there are extensive docks at Isle of Palms (telephone (843) 886-0209), there is not a lot of room for transients, and it's too far from town for walking. Fortunately, if you need them, you'll find a convenience food store and a restaurant on site; and for golfers, you're right beside the Wild Dunes resort. Transient dockage is $1.25/foot, with an extra $5 charge for 50-amp electricity. You'll get cable TV, too. The laundry is a bit pricey, at $1.50/load. No squirrel trees that we could find, but both Maggie and Shadow were able to get on and off the floating dock without too much trouble, even when it was so windy. They say two squirrels is an appropriate rating for Isle of Palms.
March 29, 2003 / Isle of Palms, SC to Georgetown Landing Marina, Georgetown, SC
We had fun seeing more of Charleston with Mike and Marijean, even if the plantation house at Boone Hall (advertised as the oldest working plantation) was only constructed in 1935. At least the trees are old. They do a good business at $12.50/head to get you on the grounds; after you pay, they tell you the dates. When we visit Charleston in the future, we'll just hoof it through the historic district with an architectural/historical guide book.
We left early, at 0705, under clear skies and calm air--a nice change from our last cruising day. No remarkable scenery through here, unless you are really into marsh grass. Gary did spot an alligator sunning itself on the banks; at first he thought it was an old tractor tire. Then it moved.
We didn't find out what they were charging for diesel, but oh man, if you need gasoline, get it at Georgetown Landing. It was $1.69/gallon! Lots of room for docking at Georgetown Landing (telephone (843) 546-1776). The long floating face dock for transient boats has been extended to the north, making a full T, although the new section didn't have power stations installed as of yet. The winds were blowing the paper mill emissions away from the waterfront, so apart from the chop hitting us on the transom, we had a pleasant enough stay. Not much area for dog walking and no squirrel trees, but again, easy access for Maggie and Shadow, who guarded the boat very well when we left them to have dinner at the River Room. Two squirrels for Georgetown Landing, say the pups.
March 30, 2003 / Georgetown, SC to Osprey Marina, near Myrtle Beach, SC
Another rainy cold front is passing through, but it's not windy, so we decided to press on northward. The Waccamaw River north of Georgetown is flooded, so at high tide, the water level is very high, obscuring the banks and tree roots. As we passed Wacca Wache marina, we could see that its boat ramp was almost completely underwater.
Another milestone accomplished today--we passed the 5000-mile mark. Just a few more to go . . .
We arrived at quiet, sheltered Osprey Marina (telephone (843) 215-5353) at 1235, pulling in easily to the fuel dock in the rain. This attractive, small marina is on the east side of the waterway, down a narrow but deep channel. The wind can't getcha in here, Coleen noted. What a pretty place, although it's out in the middle of nowhere. Dockage is $1.00/foot, electricity is $5.00, and cable TV is $2.00, if you want it. If you're a BoatU.S. member, they'll knock ten cents off the $1.99/gallon price for gas (we still had plenty in our tanks from our Georgetown refueling). The only gripe Coleen had was that laundry is $1.50/load and dryers run only for 45 minutes, not enough time for towels and bluejeans. They do want your business, giving you a $5-off coupon for next visit, plus a basket of goodies, including a package of doughnuts, a drink coozie, a floating key holder & whistle, and even some dog biscuits(okay, says, Maggie, three squirrels!). There's not a lot of room for transients here (2-3 boats, max), so we'd recommend that you call ahead to reserve a spot, if this is where you want to stay.
March 31, 2003 / Myrtle Beach, SC to Crickett Cove Marina, Little River, SC
The temperature has dropped dramatically--40 degrees this morning. Why are we heading north?? Still, spring (and its most visible reminder, yellow pollen) is in the air, and good weather will arrive before much longer. We left Osprey Marina at 0800 and headed up the dreaded "Rock Pile."
The "Rock Pile" (from mile 365 to 347) is so named because the ICW becomes quite narrow and lined with rock ledges, many of which are below the waterline. It's not a place you want to meet a tow. With water levels so high after all the recent rains, we saw few rocks, yet knew they must be there. All the cruise guides tell you (wisely) to stay in the middle. In addition, most of the stretch is marked "no wake."
The most remarkable aspect of today's cruise, however, had to be all the new bridges that have been built across the ICW in this stretch, yet which are not reflected on the charts or in some of the guidebooks. Most are 65-foot clearance bridges. One of these, just south of mile 360, however showed only 63' of clearance when we passed. A very attractive bridge around mile 359 marks the site of a new marina under construction, Grande Dunes Marina Village, which will have 130 slips, according to its sign. Near mile 353, just south of red daymark "22" and close to Barefoot Landing, you'll encounter a new swingbridge, which showed about 31' of clearance as we passed under. Two of the old swing bridges, Socastee Highway Bridge (at mile 371, clearance 11') and Little River Highway Bridge (at mile 347.3, clearance 7'), were partially covered by tarps and had construction crews working on barges alongside them. It wasn't clear whether these two bridges were simply undergoing maintenance or whether something more dramatic (like their removal?) was going on. In either case, take it very slow as you transit these two bridges.
We arrived at Crickett Cove Marina (telephone (843) 249-7169) at 1150. This small facility features concrete floating docks, an onsite restaurant (closed on Mondays), a captain's lounge (with laundry, Internet-access), and a courtesy car. We were surprised at the dockage rate, however--$2.00/foot, which we were able to knock down to $1.50 with our BoatU.S. discount, but still had to pay an additional $5.00 for electricity. And no goodie basket?? Oh well, we won't stay too long. Maggie found no squirrels, nor any place to hunt them, but she enjoyed rolling in the grass on the little island beside the north dock--she'll allow two squirrels to Crickett Cove. On to North Carolina!
April 1, 2003 / Little River, SC to Southport Marina, Southport, NC
Away we went at 0750 under sunny skies, and pushed by winds from the southwest, which would build in intensity as we progressed. By 0900 we were waiting for the Sunset Beach pontoon bridge to open. This is a zero-clearance bridge--wait for the bridge tender's signal before you proceed, as it's opened by a cable. The bridge is supposed to open on the hour, but it's rather slow, and it was 0910 before we went through.
Our speed varied as we alternately found ourselves cruising with, or against, the strong tidal current, augmented by tailwinds. Even keeping the engine rpms low, we averaged about 7 mph, arriving at Southport Marina at 1245. The wind and current were jointly strong enough that we had to pass the marina channel entrance and turn around to enter so we wouldn't be pushed onto the shoals. We docked along the floating face dock, in front of the tug T. Crosby. Even though the dock is out of the channel, we still caught wakes from the ferries and passing powerboats. Southport Marina (telephone (910) 457-9900) charges $1.15/foot, plus $7.00 for 50-amp power. The laundry room has a phone jack for boaters to call their Internet providers, but the washers and dryers are out of order. We were told they will be replaced later in the week.
From our dock, we could see both the Oak Island and Old Baldy lighthouses, and we were glad that we didn't need their services to find our way from the Atlantic into the Cape Fear River. From the exhibits we viewed in the Southport Maritime Museum, we learned about the scores of shipwrecks on the Frying Pan Shoals, as well as many wrecks caused when ships met hurricanes. The hurricanes won. Okay, we'll stop complaining about the puny winds we're experiencing, as we think the Boating Gods may be waking up from their winter hibernation.
Maggie didn't care about the shipwrecks or the wind. She only cares about suppertime, walkies, and squirrel-hunting. Not only was she able to easily get on and off the boat, Maggie was enthusiastic about her strolls down the sidewalks of Southport. She didn't see many squirrels, but that didn't keep her from sniffing for them. She'll give two fuzz-tails to Southport.
April 3, 2003 / Southport, NC to Harbour Village Marina, Hampstead, NC
The sun is rising earlier and earlier, so it felt quite late to be leaving at 0720 (Daylight Savings Time will soon take care of that phenomenon). As we headed north on the Cape Fear River, we overheard, on our VHF radio, the Coast Guard interrogating a sailboat that was coming in from sea. Why did the Coast Guard need all that information--last port visited, today's destination, eventual destination, documentation number, owner's birthday?? Then we remembered that President Bush is visiting Camp LeJeune today, which is about 60 miles up the ICW from here. Later in the morning, we heard another vessel being hailed and questioned. We imagine that security is rather tight.
Another sunny, windy--oops, breezy--day. We were able to cruise underneath both the Wrightsville Beach bridge (showing 19' on the gauge) and Figure Eight Island bridge (showing 23+') without waiting for their scheduled openings; both bridges are listed with 20' clearance on the charts, so you can see how much the height of the tide can make a difference. North of the Figure Eight bridge, we saw three homes in close proximity that featured odd but interesting sculptures in their yards--a metal mermaid, an ultra-long-necked flamingo, and a giraffe. Is there a local legend that would explain them??
Today's destination was Harbour Village Marina (telephone (910) 270-4017), in a protected basin in a golf course community. You won't find any stores or restaurants nearby, but you will find a quiet, pretty neighborhood, well-maintained and attractive marina facilities, including a huge boaters' lounge, Internet access, laundry room, and commodious showers. It's a long hike to the marina building from "A" dock, but we needed the exercise. The printed price sheet indicated dockage at $1.20/foot, nothing extra for electricity, but said it was subject to change. Must be true, as we were charged $1.10/foot. This is an excellent place to stop if you don't mind cooking dinner on board and don't need to reprovision. And Maggie thinks it's worth three squirrels.
April 4, 2003 / Hampstead, NC to Beaufort Docks, Beaufort, NC
Another sunny day was predicted, so we decided to take advantage of it and travel a few more hours than we've done lately. Neither the Coast Guard nor the Marines accosted us, or even radioed us, as we cruised the ICW through Camp LeJeune, but the Prez is back in Washington and security must have returned to normal levels.
Even though security levels are normal, ICW levels apparently are not. As we approached Craig Point, near mile 244, we saw a Hyatt 53 motoryacht aground, with a small towing service boat trying mightily to get it off the shoal. The big boat must have cut the corner at green daymark "65A." That bend in the ICW needs a red buoy to warn boats off the shoal, but until the Coast Guard agrees, be careful coming through here, and favor the green on the outside of the bend. Farther north, in particular north of the Onslow Beach Bridge and in Bogue Sound, we saw several dredges--but we also saw a barge aground, and we heard another boat on the radio calling SeaTow for help. Be very, very careful, mind the markers, and keep an eye on your depth sounder if you come this way.
A fellow cruiser had told us that New River Marina (mile 247) had good fuel prices, and he was right--diesel was selling for $1.28/gallon, gasoline for $1.58. We thought it was well worth a stop!
Strong currents and southwest tailwinds helped us cover 66.5 miles in about eight hours, and we arrived at Beaufort Docks (telephone (252) 728-2503) at 1615. Although some floating docks are present and others are under construction, we were directed to a fixed dock where the winds--oops, breezes--keep us pushed well off the pilings. Dockage rates must be paying for the new construction--$1.65/foot plus another $6 for electricity. They do give you a couple of tokens good for beers at the Dock House, and you can borrow the courtesy car for a grocery-store run. We'll tie securely and spend a couple of days here, exploring the third-oldest town in North Carolina, its streets lined with eighteenth-century homes of sea captains, merchants, pirates, and fishermen, the Old Burying Ground, and the North Carolina Maritime Museum. Maggie is searching for squirrels, but since she has to be lifted on and off the boat, she won't give more than one of hers to Beaufort Docks.
The Boating Gods are back in business for this boating season (did they winter in the Keys?), and they are ready to teach a few new lessons to those who think they're getting experienced at and comfortable with this cruising lifestyle. How do we know? Well--first, we ran aground. We should know better than to write of others' tribulations, as we did a couple of days back, because we are certainly not immune. It happened not long after we left Beaufort, NC, taking the Russell Slough channel north of the Beaufort Bridge. Two other boats had stopped, puzzled over the channel markers, as the Chimney Island Channel runs parallel to the ICW channel. We were following a channel marked on our chart that purportedly connected to the ICW, but we slowed down to see what was going on. The so-called channel we were following is unfortunately silted in; while we were idling, the wind blew us onto a shoal. We radioed the other boats to warn them away from us--"Don't come close to us; we're aground." Before either boat could respond, we were hailed by both TowboatU.S. and Seatow. We have a Seatow membership, so we were glad to have such a quick response. We were free and on our way in 15 minutes, no damage done to hull, props, or shafts.
Boaters' note: To those who plan to stop in or come through Beaufort, we recommend you consult the color-coded diagram in the 2003 Mid-Atlantic Waterway Guide, which will help you make sense of the confusing channels. Unfortunately for us, it was the one cruising aid we did not consult before we headed out that morning.
But let's get back to the Boating Gods and their cruel sense of humor. We had barely gotten underway again, when a large sportfisher approached us from behind, throttling back much too late to prevent his large wake from rolling us what felt like 45 degrees. We heard multiple crashes from the cabin below. Coleen found cookbooks, the stainless steel spice rack, and the contents of the vegetable basket rolling around on the galley floor. She stowed away everything breakable and made sure nothing else could fall, as we were headed for the Neuse River and Pamlico Sound on an increasingly windy day.
The northeast winds made the Neuse River a nightmare to navigate; we pounded, bucked, and rolled for almost three hours, waves crashing over the bow and salt water finding every opening in the canvas enclosure for the bridge. Little Maggie couldn't stop trembling, and there was no way we could find to tell her it would eventually be over. We didn't think we would encounter worse waves than on our Gulf crossing, but here they were. At least nothing more crashed to the floor down below. Coleen held Maggie tight and tried to make her feel secure.
We finally turned off the Neuse and were able to relax a little. The Pamlico and Pungo Rivers were choppy, but nothing like the Neuse had been. With the weather steadily deteriorating, we opted for shelter at the Dowry Creek Marina (telephone (252) 943-2728) on the Pungo River. Dowry Creek is a few miles east of Belhaven, and it had been highly recommended to us as a sheltered, comfortable, friendly stop. And it was, in most ways. First, the dockage rate is only $1/foot, and no extra charge for electricity. Nice laundry room and showers; well water (strong iron taste; you'll want to filter it). As for shelter, you won't be protected when the winds come from the north or the southeast, as they did from time to time during our eventual five-day bad weather stay, but from any other direction, you should be okay. As for comfort and friendliness, we can't think of any place we've been that had a nicer boater's lounge (this one's a clubhouse) or nicer owners and marina staff (thanks, Ted, Mary, and Suzanne!). The marina is situated five miles east of Belhaven, in a small residential development out in the boonies, but you'll have access to a courtesy van to shop for basic necessities in Belhaven. Apart from the fact that we could buy beer and wine at the grocery store, we were reminded of our marina stays in Kentucky, as we had no Sprint cell phone signal (even though Sprint is the local land-based phone company!) and no local AOL number to call for e-mail and Internet access.
Maggie gives three squirrels to Dowry Creek, as the rising floodwaters floated us high enough for her to use the swim platform at the fixed dock, and as there were so many interesting smells of wildlife in the vicinity, even though she spotted nothing more challenging than some Canadian geese.
Oh yeah--the Boating Gods weren't through with us. When the fishing boat waked us and the spice rack went flying, it must have hit and gouged one of the knobs on the electric range on the way down. Upon our arrival at Dowry Creek, we plugged in our electric lines and water hose, as usual, and then took Maggie on a long walk, knowing she needed to decompress from the stressful voyage. Upon returning to the boat, we noticed the smell of burning wood in the cabin, but couldn't figure out its source. Then Gary found a box of Triscuit crackers on its side on the range top, with the burner on HIGH. Fortunately we came back to the boat before the cracker box might have burst into flames; they say these crackers have a lot of fiber--we guess they do, and the fiber is sawdust, or maybe wood chips. We haven't figured out what we need to sacrifice to the Boat Gods to get them to leave us and the dog alone, but if anyone has a suggestion, please send it quick!
April 11, 2003 / Belhaven, NC to Alligator River Marina, Alligator River, NC
At last night's potluck dinner in the boaters' clubhouse, most of us decided to try to leave today if the weather was merely rainy and not gale-force winds, as we've endured of late. And so it was--Calypso Poet was the last of the group to leave, and it was still only 0730. We never caught up with any of them, but we were passed by several boats in the Pungo-Alligator River Canal; they must have been waiting out the weather at one of the marinas back in Belhaven. The flooded canal had more than its share of branches, brush, and logs. We watched carefully for deadheads (submerged logs) below the surface--no one would be grateful to meet one of these.
Meeting or passing a tow in such a narrow canal can be difficult, but if you hail them ahead of time and call them by the right description, they tend to try to work with you. The southbound tow Mary Bennett made room for a one-whistle pass (port to port), and the northbound tug J.D. Cottrell cheerfully told us to pass on either side we chose. We admit that we had already heard the captain of the latter vessel using a less friendly tone to boats who tried to call him on Channel 16 and who addressed him as "The Barge" or "The Dredge." He had testily explained to them that boats hailing him needed to use Channel 13 and needed to identify themselves and their location (e.g., "This is the northbound sailing vessel at mile 75"). Moreover, he was a "Tug Towing a Dredge," and people should use the right term when they called him. So forewarned, we apparently used the right procedure. And now you know.
Rain fell and north winds blew down the Alligator River, but neither was close to the nastiness we endured a few days ago on the Neuse River. We were still glad, however, to arrive at Alligator River Marina (aka Miss Wanda's, telephone (252) 796-0333), to stop for the night. Dockage is $1.00/foot if you are willing to go into a slip, but $1.25 if you want to tie alongside the face dock (why??). This small marina is also a highway truck stop (with decent cheeseburgers from the grill; the main restaurant is closed), but we were disappointed to pay $1.889/gallon when vehicles on the other side of the building were charged 40 cents less for the same stuff. Maggie has no squirrel rating for Alligator River Marina, as the steady rain deterred her normal desire to go exploring.
April 12, 2003 / Alligator River, NC to Waterside Marina, Norfolk, VA
North Carolina's Albemarle Sound is notorious for its winds and waves, so we left Alligator River at daybreak in order to cover as many miles as possible before the winds picked up and turned the shallow waters of the Sound into a mixing bowl. It wasn't too bad, so we throttled up to get it over with sooner. As we rounded Camden Point, one of the boats who had docked near us at the marina and left a few minutes ahead of us radioed to say we were "looking good going across the Sound." Wasn't it Billy Crystal who said, "It is more important to look good than to feel good"? Getting across Albemarle Sound without incident felt mahvelous, just mahvelous.
Going fast burns more fuel, so we stopped at Coinjock Marina, at ICW mile 50, to fill 'er up, again paying $1.88/gallon for gas (the pumps weren't marked, so we can't tell you diesel prices). Wish we had waited until we got to Virginia, as prices were much lower: At Pungo Ferry Marina, ICW mile 29, gas was $1.67/gallon and diesel was $1.159; at Atlantic Yacht Basin south of Great Bridge Lock, mile 12, gas was advertised at $1.79, diesel at $1.60.
Once you get into the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal, watch your time and pace yourself, as the bridges open only on schedule, even on the weekend. North Landing Bridge at mile 20.2 opens on the hour and half hour; Centerville Turnpike Bridge, at mile 15.2, is also on the hour and half hour. Great Bridge, at mile 12, which is synchronized with the lock, opens strictly on the hour. Therefore your best bet is to catch North Landing on the hour, Centerville on the half hour, and you won't have an hour's wait at Great Bridge. The only bad thing about arriving at the bridge and lock shortly before they open is that you may find yourselves, as we did, at the end of a long line of boats waiting to enter. They all want to tie up on the south side of the bridge (portside if you're headed north), as the lock is lined with fenders on that side. Great Bridge Lock drops you just a couple of feet, so it's no big deal to tie up on the north (starboard) side, particularly if you are experienced with river locks, as we are.
A good reason to arrive in Norfolk on the weekend is that the bridges below the city will open on demand, although the bridge tenders prefer to let boats through in groups, even to the point of calling ahead to the next bridge to tell it what's coming: "Six motors and one sail."
Heading into Norfolk past Portsmouth, we passed a number of Navy ships, including the USS Enterprise, making Coleen think, "If we ever find ourselves heading south from here, can Scotty beam us on past North Carolina?" The skies were blue and cloudless as we approached Waterside Marina at 1600. Waterside Marina (formerly known as the City Marina, telephone (757) 625-2000) is ideally located for first-time visitors to Norfolk--right on the downtown waterfront, within easy walking distance of Town Point Park, the Waterside Festival Marketplace, the MacArthur Center, the Nauticus Maritime Museum, the Elizabeth River ferry to Portsmouth, and scores of restaurants, shops, and stores. Boaters' note: For those who need charts, W.T. Brownley Co. has moved from its former location on W. Plume Street to Main Street, right across from the Marriott Hotel.
At Waterside Marina, both floating and fixed docks are available, as well as laundry, showers, and cable-delivered satellite TV. Dockage is $1.30/foot, but we took advantage of the off-season long-term rate, as we plan to stay here at least a week, maybe two, and begin to plan Leg 9, our cruise up and around Chesapeake Bay. The city is getting ready for its Azalea Festival and Virginia Arts Festival, and it looks like everyone who works in downtown Norfolk is strolling along the docks and riverside enjoying the mild sunny weather. Maggie salutes Norfolk and Waterside Marina with four blooming squirrels.