Coinjock and Belhaven

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Sue walking to the restaurant along the Coinjock dock. Boats all the way.

We left Norfolk at 7:30 to continue south on the Elizabeth river. Our marina is right at the junction of the “Eastern Branch Elizabeth River Inlet”. Since I turned left to come into the marina, I turned left going out and went east on the branch instead of south on the main river. It seemed pretty much the same. Lots of ships up in dry dock, parked navy ships, service yards, cranes, containers, etc.

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Outside the Coinjock restaurant. Regionally famous for steaks.

After two miles and several bridges two guys in a small service boat waved their arms and yelled at me “Are you sure you want to be here?”. That made me take a close look at the chart, turn around and proceed down the main river. I didn’t think about any of this when we were here in spring of last year because we were going northward and you would not make that mistake going that way.

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Star Gazer at Alligator River marina.

I had allowed extra time to get to the Great Bridge on the hour at 10 and its preceding lock on the half hour at 9:30 and we still made it fine. We hit the following two swing bridges at their half hour opening times with no delay and so made it to Coinjock marina in NC around three.

The Pungo river – Alligator river canal on the way to Belhaven.

We tied up to a completely empty 1000’ dock at 3, but it was full by 6, including several boats considerably larger than ours and a 140 foot yacht as well. The big one turned around in the canal to dock and just barely had enough room. They did it quickly enough to indicate they must do it often. We had seen nothing but a couple of barge tows the entire way and had no clue where all these boats came from. It was Friday night, could all of them left from Norfolk after us to get there in time for dinner? Their steak house is very well known (we always each have a New York steak when there). Anyway, when we got up at 9 the next morning everyone had gone – we were the only ones left. Where did they come from and where did they go? It did appear the big one came from the north and was returning there, apparently just a day (and night) trip.

Belhaven from the water. We’re docking behind the condo building on the left.

Closeup of some homes appearing in the above picture.

We left at 10:30, crossed a calm Albemarle Sound and went on to Alligator marina with no incident and finally outstanding weather. We had great weather the next day when we went on to Belhaven marina as well. These last two years have had a lot of cloudy rainy weather. The years before it seemed we hit sunny days most of the time.

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Norfolk

Just a bit of sun along the way on homes along the west bay shore.

Things were better on Tuesday. The wind was nonexistent, down from very noticeable the day before. We started out a bit before 7 and found the bay calm all the way. Following waves just barely noticeable the last part of the trip before we went into the Elizabeth river at the south end of the bay.

Missionaryridge, named after a Civil War battle, must have been on a training mission. It circled and zagged about a mile in front of us while it transmitted AIS unencrypted information. First time I’ve seen that.

It was still overcast but no rain. A lot of the bay is shallow and a lot has crab pots and other things set up for fishing, so it was easier just to keep near the main shipping lanes. We did keep a watch out for logs and swerved to avoid one just as we had when traveling from Annapolis.

Just coming out of the Elizabeth river, they called to ask what I was doing. I answered “I’m holding the course you see on your AIS”, which seemed to satisfy them.

Our last hour of travel passed more navy and commercial ships, most undergoing repair or other work than we’ve seen anywhere else by far.

The super carrier Abraham Lincoln.

We’ve been in downtown Norfolk at Waterside marina again for three nights with tonight being our last. It’s usually been on the verge of rain but never quite gets around to it. Dillard’s dept. store at the MacArthur mall has been selling out its summer clothes, which will be just right for winter in Florida, so Sue has had a great time shopping there. They had a Barnes & Noble there as well, so I was happy. I was just able make the 4 block trip carrying back her purchases tonight.

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At Barnes and Noble. Couldn’t find anything to show me how to work on the other side.

We’ve seen a lot of the sights in Norfolk just last year. We’d have liked to go to the botanical gardens here again, but the weather was just not right for that

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It’s Rough Out There

Can’t use the camera when really crashing, but took a few pics when calmer. There were a few sailboater (it is Sunday) who maybe like this weather. This one had more sail up than most of them.

We made it 90 miles down to Chesapeake Boat Basin in Kilmarnock where we stayed a few nights last year. Not quite in the middle of nowhere but close. The trip was pretty close to our expectations from the weather and waves report.  They all leave this marina at 1 on Sundays, so we got in and tied up at the gas dock, the only place left. They left the keys to the borrow car for us so we drove into Kilmarnock and went to McDonalds for dinner and then to Walmart to stock up the boat.

The forecast for Monday was 3’ waves for the first half to Norfolk and then 4’ for the second. We decided that would be too much and got permission to stay on the gas dock Monday. The dockmaster said “If it’s that bad outside no one will be coming in for gas anyway.”

Traveling at twice my speed, this guy is not affected by the current weather.

There was no change when I checked the weather/waves before going to bed, but when we got up it had backed off from 4’ to 2 – 3’ for Monday and Monday night, so we decided to go. Only 60 miles total so leaving at 9 was not so bad.

We had a smooth ride 4 miles out on the Indian river, but when we entered the main bay we got plastered. I had not gotten around to opening up the flybridge yet which was lucky when we went head on into some big ones. The bow crashed down and water sheeted up to the flybridge roof. Had I opened up the first crash would have completely soaked us. As it is it only knocked both our full coffee cups off the front dash making a huge mess. We had already locked things downstairs so no damage there. Sue did start to get up to check on things downstairs but quickly sat back down. No way she could stand or walk in what we were getting. She yelled “we have to turn back”. I am the captain, but the admiral is permitted to overrule me in some circumstances. That suddenly seemed like a great plan, so we quickly got back into the quieter river and made our way back to the gas dock.

This could not have been more different than when we left Kilmarnock in May of last year.

It’s not often we have gone out and then had to turn back. I think there was only one other time in 5 years, but I can’t remember what it was. The violence of what we hit was quite a surprise.  Of course inlets can be tricky, the wave predictions are not always right, and technically the prediction was for mid day Monday and Monday night. Maybe it’s been getting better out there. The Tuesday prediction was for 2’ waves all the way, and still holds as I write this. I assume that will still be the prediction tomorrow morning, so we will get out early and hopefully find things better.

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Quick Stop in Annapolis

Saturday evening downtown Annapolis is behind and on both sides of us.

We wanted to stop by Annapolis, so we left Baltimore, took the short trip here and stayed 3 nights. We are leaving tomorrow morning (Sunday 23 September) early. It was good we got in just after noon on Thursday to find plenty of space on the wall. We dock in the center of downtown here and Friday and Saturday have been wall to wall people.

Looking up Main Street. Lots of people, cars and boats all around.

The wall filled mostly up on Thursday and was full on Friday. Saturday was a zoo with boats continually coming in, even after dark, finding no place, turning around in barely enough space and going back out. One time six boats came in in a string with three of them bigger than us.  They had to get pretty close, but no one hit us.

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Star Gazer is below the dome. We thought flooding on Thursday & Friday was from the big storm, but it’s just some local issue.

There are so many great places to eat. We went to the officer’s club, Chick & Ruth’s deli and Middleton Tavern. Mission BBQ across the street from the boat has the best baked beans ever and Sofi’s Crepes are great for breakfast. We’re really hitting cities this time. We next want to stop in downtown Norfolk but have to get to the south end of the bay for that. We hope to do that with just one stop along the way.

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Midshipmen (midshippeople?) on an academy residential street.

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We ate Saturday lunch upstairs in the back at Chick & Ruth’s deli.

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Down the Chesapeake

Backing out from our dock in the Inner Harbor. It could be tough to get a place here before the Freddy Gray incident.

We arrived in the Baltimore Inner Harbor on 8 September and left on 20 September (Thursday). That was a really long stay, especially after our 12 nights in NYC and over a week with the boat being fixed at Cape May. This time we were waiting for the North Carolina waterways to get sorted out. Before the storm hit there was a small chance of it coming north and hitting the south end of the Chesapeake, so we decided just to stay where we were and in nearby Annapolis.

One last view of Baltimore before we left.

From Annapolis we will try to make it 90 miles down to Chesapeake Boat Basin in Kilmarnock VA. We wanted better weather, but it appears we have 2 foot waves in the north part of the bay building to 3 as we go south. The small craft warning was originally only for today but was recently extended to tomorrow. The wind is from the NE at 10 – 15 mph so I’m assuming following seas, my least favorite.

As we left the harbor area, these looked like navy supply ships.

We’ll see how it works out. If things get too rough as we progress southward we’ll duck in at Solomons and wait it out a bit.

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Once out on the bay, we had our third inspection. We were fine. I’m glad they don’t stop me in a car this often.

The waterway is fine at least as far as Belhaven Marina in NC, so we will head there. If we can get as far as Cape Lookout (Beaufort NC) we can jump outside and avoid the Cape Fear area which was hit hardest. Going outside before that would mean the Chesapeake mouth to Cape Lookout, 225 miles with no safe (for us) inlet along the way.

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Missed It!

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From the free MyRadar iPad app at 1:50 PM Sep 12. Rain not shown more than a few hundred miles offshore, but winds are shown.

We were delayed nearly two weeks with that hull damage, so we are in Baltimore when we might have been in North Carolina by now. If we had gotten down there I wonder where we would have run to get away from the storm. It’s hard to find a good place when everyone else is looking for the same thing. Getting hauled out of the water is a possibility if the boatyard is not already full from all the locals getting the same idea and knowing where to go before we do.

We go 10 mph, but normally not more than 7 hours a day when we are traveling. That’s an average of 3 mph over a 24 hour period if we travel every day. Besides, if we stay on the ICW we may not travel in a straight line. Hard to get away from a hurricane moving at 15 mph.

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Zooming out shows three more storms. The southmost seems weaker than when I last looked. The northeast wasn’t there last time.

As it is we are 200 miles or more north of even the tropical storm warning area. We don’t anticipate more than a few inches of surge. Of course with 2″ pier clearance at high tide that may still be significant, but a minor nuisance compared with what folks down south might be looking at.

So maybe getting our hull dinged was not such a misfortune at all. Sue does say I complain too much sometimes. Could she be right? Besides, after unending rain since Saturday the sun was out today, but it was still raining! It was a light straight down rain, so we went walking around the inner harbor anyway and a great time.

After the storm is over will there be anywhere at all for us to stay along the way down there? I suppose we can anchor out if need be. Will the ICW be choked with debris, be too shallow due to washed in sand or mud or even closed down? Maybe we can travel outside, but what will it be like out there? Zooming out that view I show at the top, I can see three other storms further out. No telling how they will affect things. Boating can get pretty interesting.

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Rain to Baltimore

Could hardly see those buildings when we landed yesterday.

The current in the C & D canal over to the Chesapeake Bay can get to 3 mph, so we did time our passage there, leaving at 9 to get into the canal about 9:30. We started out with little help, but soon were getting a 1½ to 2½ mph boost. After leaving the canal we kept this boost half way to the entrance to Baltimore harbor.

I rechecked the weather when we woke up Saturday and found that the small craft warning out for Sunday had been extended back. We decided to leave anyway, since the specific wave and wind predictions didn’t seem bad for a boat our size, and most of the rain was predicted to end by noon.

Once on the Chesapeake waves came at our back corner making us wallow back and forth more than I like. It’s called “following seas” and can be dangerous in some cases but was just pretty annoying in ours.  The rain was still with us when we arrived in the Inner Harbor at 4. That made coming in a little wet because I keep things opened up for visibility in a busy and constricted harbor.

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What a coincidence! The Baltimore pier at high tide is the closet to the water of any we have ever encountered. 66″ from the side door to the dock. This also shows the sorry state of our railing. Got to get that refinished.

The biggest surprise came when I went to get on the dock to tie us up. The back stairs down to the swim platform were gone, lost while crossing the Chesapeake. We just get the boat fixed, and then this! Once I thought about it, there was an obvious design defect that allowed a wave we hit at 10 mph to swirl around the back corner and slap just right into their underside, tearing them off their mounts. We’ll have to replace them, but this time with a side panel to prevent water from channeling in underneath.

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Starboard side back stairs ripped away from mounts. Mounts not that beefy, but nice that the stairs tore, not the back of the boat or swim platform.  I know more now and will get that replaced correctly.

In the meantime the aluminum steps we carry normally enables Sue to get to a low dock, but the docks here can be the closest to the water at high tide for anywhere we’ve gone. We’ve timed things OK so far, except for one rather undignified entry at 3/4 tide when we came home from grocery shopping. Didn’t think to get a picture of that. I’ve ordered a new higher set of foldable steps from Amazon which should arrive at the visitor center here at the end of the week.

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