We are woefully behind on our blog but certainly not in our adventures! We last posted from Southport, NC, where we were delayed for 4 days due to high winds, in Week 15 of our journey. After our briefing from Hank and with one day of long awaited cooperation from the weather, we successfully navigated the Cape Fear River (Yes, I did buy a t-shirt!), stopped in the lovely town of Swansboro and got to Morehead City, NC where we were HAPPY to get off the boat for a week (we are SO over the unrelenting, high winds) to travel to the North Carolina mountains for our pseudo son’s wedding. Jimmy has been a member of our family since he and Kristopher became best friends in Tiger Cubs (1st grade). It was wonderful see this young man pledge his future to his bride. They were both glowing with happiness as they exchanged vows and we were so honored to be part of the celebration. We wish them decades of happiness together!
We got to do some hiking in the mountains, exploring Catawba Falls, Chimney Rock and Tom’s Creek Falls and reveled in the mountain laurel and other flowers that were in full bloom. The May Apples and Jack in the Pulpits were some that I hadn’t see since I was a child in NJ.
It was a great week away but we were happy to return to Morehead City and the boat when the week was up. We explored, ate AMAZING seafood and did lots of appreciating the spring flowers. Azaleas, Cherries, Dogwoods and lots of others were in full bloom and in an old town, where these plants have had time to mature, the sights were often breathtaking!
We re-provisioned the boat and pulled out at dawn to a day of NO WIND!!! As we pulled out of our slip, I happened to catch these photos of a couple of boats that prove that hoarders are not only found on land but on the water as well! One didn’t survive the storm that happened while we were in NC!
We had a lovely day of cruising to end up anchored out near Belhaven, NC for the night. The next morning we navigated the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal without incident and were really happily surprised to encounter little to no traffic on this narrow ditch of a canal. Not sure what we would have done if a commercial vessel had been coming the other way as there was little room for forgiveness on either side, but we made it!
We have heard horror stories for months about how rough the Albemarle Sound and the Currituck Sound can be and we had tried to plan our approach accordingly, waiting for good weather but honestly I have to say we were lucky as well. The day dawned amazingly clear and lovely and we were off at first light when we thought we would have the calmest conditions. The Albemarle was unruffled by wind or waves and when we got the Currituck, it looked like a milk-pond it was so calm.
WOW! 2 of our scariest crossings are now in the books and we only hope that Cape May will be the same way for us!
It turned into a very long day but we have learned that when the weather is favorable and the wind is down that it is a good idea to prolong the travel day and get as many miles covered as possible as the next day can blow up on you, regardless of what the weather man says! We have become pretty good amateur meteorologists by utilizing amazing apps that are available like Windy (shows you wind direction and strength for any location in the world) and some others!
So, we continued up the North River to the Virginia Cut. This was a really pretty trip, though again through a VERY narrow river. This time we did encounter commercial traffic in the form of a tug and barge. We followed them through a little swing bridge and then held our breath as we passed them, hoping not to hit any of the ubiquitous, submerged stumps or free-floating logs/trees that were everywhere. I actually was up on the roof of the flying bridge to watch out for them! (Don’t tell my mom, please?)
Successfully passing a tug and barge is pretty satisfying until you find out that the lock that is ahead of you will take them first. So, we and 8 other boats had to jockey in place waiting for the lock to open and then hold our tenuous positions as the tug and barge squeaked past us and into the lock. Then we waited as we were each directed to take our place in the lock by a lock master who had obviously had the worst day of his life and was taking it out on all of us.
My captain is a master at putting our boat into challenging places that give me a heart attack just contemplating their size and the weather and current conditions. But he calmly maneuvers us into spaces I would swear were too small as if we were destined to be there all along and this time was no exception. He skinnied us in alongside the tug without a problem until the lock hand started berating us for not being 100% set up with lines on the port side of the boat (we had been sure we would be set up on the starboard side and then came the last minute directive to set up on the other side- typical!). I was proud of Jerry for not throttling the guy.
We were fine until the sailboat behind us, captained by a crew of non-English speakers, got their vessel sideways in the lock behind us and had no clue how to remedy the situation. The tug captain was up on his bridge watching and stifling giggles and the lock hand was having a full-blown screaming hissy-fit! The poor people on the boat really had no idea what his problem was or what to do about their own problem. Finally the tug captain was able to demonstrate hand commands that the sailboat captain put into play and they got the boat long-side against the lock wall and secured. All of this to drop us a whopping 2 feet. I think the whole production took about 2 hours from start to finish! Sorry no pix of this as it was stressful enough to prevent us from even considering that!
Once clear of the lock, we passed the barge again and after waiting on a train to cross the river on a train bridge, we cruised into the Naval Shipyards of Norfolk, VA! What a sight, all of these HUGE aircraft carriers and battleships are lined up along the river in various stages of repair or refurbishment (yes, you do see shrink-wrap on some of the tops of them).
Our guidebook said to stay 500 yards clear of any Naval vessel and there were intercept boats with machine guns that looked capable of taking out any boat that hadn’t gotten that memo! We anchored off Hospital Point in Portsmouth, VA until we could get into our slip the next morning. The sun was setting and the moon was rising and it was a glorious evening to be aboard a boat in a beautiful city.
The traffic through this port is amazing. We have seen big tankers and cargo boats in Savannah and Charleston but nothing like the commercial traffic that goes 24-7 through this port. Even in the wee hours of the morning, you can see tugs moving all kinds of barges and ships through the dark waters, it’s really pretty neat to see.
We explored the city yesterday and I got to check an item off my life-list (no, I don’t use the term “bucket-list” – too depressing). One of the first pieces of writing I had published was a unit study on lighthouses, which included lightships and while I have been in many lighthouses, I had never even seen a lightship. (For more info on the history and highlights of lightships, click on: http://uslhs.org/history/lightships)
When lightships were decommissioned in the 1970’s, the coast guard gave these ships away to any willing takers and the City of Portsmouth had one towed down here, dug a canal into the city for it, pulled it in and then cemented it in place. Now there is an elderly gentleman who is the docent during the 3 days a week that this museum is open and he does amazing tours of the Lightship Portsmouth. It was so cool and I was SO happy we were here on a day when it was open!
So, I think this catches you up to where we are now. We will head out of Portsmouth tomorrow, up the Chesapeake towards the Potomac – gotta do DC by boat!
We had a Y-valve fail in the rear head last week, which means that when you flush it, its flapper thingy doesn’t work and it recycles the contents of the black-water holding tank…YUCK!!! Fortunately, Jerry has replaced the one in the forward head so he knows how to do this AND we have the part! We had the tank pumped out yesterday and did a very thorough job of flushing all the hoses in the process to minimize yuckiness of the job. So, while I would rather continue writing, I feel that it is unfair to the captain to have to tackle this alone and so I leave you for an odiferous yet pressing duty that is part of living aboard!