Wednesday, November 4, 2009

And Another State Down...

We're FINALLY heading South again - not as fast as we had hoped but at least we are making progress - today we crossed the VA/NC state line - yippeeeee!! We've really been taking it on the nose from Mother Nature - literally - we had to sit out a day of nasty weather when we were in Solomons Island and then we had two enforced "chill days" while we were in Portsmouth, VA. We had a miserable run down the Bay on Saturday with the weather but finally we got tied up to a dock at a great little family run marina (Portsmouth Boating Center) to ride out the rest of the nastiness - it was cold and rainy and windy like you read about!!! We had 20-30 knots for 3 days!!! Each morning we agonized over whether we should tough it out or sit tight and wait for better weather (which we knew was the smart thing to do but we just want to get south NOW!!) I know this will be unbelievable to some, but we made the smart decision and hunkered down in Portsmouth to wait out Mother Nature's wrath. Wendy and Paul at the marina had a lot to do with it - they offered to drive us to and back from the local sports bar Roger Browns on Sunday so we could watch football - now that is way above and beyond the call of duty for a dockmaster - thanks tons guys!! We had a great afternoon belly up to the bar downing a few cold Coors Lites and some tasty (but incredibly spicy) Thai wings despite the fact our Patriots had a bye week - we contented ourselves routing for everyone that could help the Pats in the standings and cheering for everyone that was playing against a NY team (not that we're biased or anything). The bar was rocking as it is the only real sports bar in town and with all the volumes up on all 30 TVs we actually almost felt like we were at each and every joint!!
Beers, Apps and FOOTBALL at Roger Browns
Monday was just as miserable if not more so despite a forecast that had called for better weather - just teasing us I guess. Once again we made the decision to hunker down since the canvas on the boat next to us was all but ripping off - good call again (but now we were chomping at the bit to turn Gypsies loose on the ICW). To dull our pain, Paul connected us up with cable so we could watch a little ESPN and the Monday Night Football game - WOW - watching football in the comfort of our own home - call me spoiled!! While we made the best of our time in Portsmouth, the boat kitties flat out LOVED it - they got to cuddle with mom and dad under blankets for days!!! Kitty nirvana!!
Boat Kitties Try to Get as Close to Mom as They Can

We woke on Tuesday to something we haven't seen in such a long time - the sun!!
The Sun Shines Over Portsmouth Boating Center
Marker 2 - First Red Marker on the ICW
Along with every other snowbird getting a late start south, we headed out at first light wanting to make tracks while we could knowing we also had to contend with all the bridges in the Norfolk stretch of the ICW.
The Bridges of Norfolk
The Norfolk/Portsmouth area is not only a major commercial port but it is one of the largest naval stations in the world and the ICW runs right through all of it so we had a front row seat. We passed huge naval air craft carriers
Aircraft Carrier
The Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN-69) Gets Some Work Done
and destroyers in dry dock which are really very cool to see up close - we also passed lots of tugs with barges and container ships headed in to off-loading piers
Cargo Ships Offloading
(you should see the size of those cranes - makes our davit look downright tiny!!)
Now That's a Crane!
And then came the dreaded bridges.....but they turned out to be not so bad!! One of the really bad bridges that has screwed with us in the past by being locked in the down position has been permanently removed pending a new 65 foot bridge, the several railroad bridges were in the up position and the Gilmerton bridge we only had to wait for about 10 minutes - we all looked like the pied piper caravan going through the bridges - us and 20 of our newest bestest boat friends!
The Parade of Boats
Tammy Navigates the Steel Bridge
Yet Another Bridge and Caravan
So we were golden, right??? WRONG!! As we were coming up to the one lock on the VA Cut of the ICW (not to be confused with the Dismal Swamp cut), the Great Bridge Lock, we hear the lock tender over the radio tell us all that the lock is closed because of the high tide - HUH???? You have got to be kidding me...but no, he wasn't - there apparently was an exceptionally high tide so the lock was closed until further notice. Now picture this - 18 boats all within about 20 feet of each other with no place to tie up to wait. Most of us just dropped the hook where we sat, praying the anchor would set a little since we really couldn't back down on the anchor given the lack of maneuvering room and tried to make the best of it - at least the sun was out and it was finally warm!!! So much for making tracks!!
Boats Anchored Waiting for the Lock to Re-open

When we were finally able to get through the lock, we decided after checking out the weather to just tie up at the free dock in Great Bridge for the night - the next day was supposed to be back to 20-25 knots of wind so we knew we wouldn't be crossing the Albemarle Sound in that.
The Great Bridge Lock was Full
Tammy, the Lock Linehandler
The Lock Water Level Drops About 3 Feet
We had a great afternoon sitting out on the front of Gypsies in the sun reading, having a few coldies and waving at the boats going through the bridge.
Sitting Out on the Bow Enjoying the Sun
Boats Going Through Great Bridge
One advantage of docking was we were able to get out of the cluster f_ck of boats we had been in all the way since the start of the ICW. After that kind of a day, we of course had to treat ourselves to Mexican food at 3 Amigos - we didn't make any penny imprints under the bridge like last time since it just wasn't the same without Bob and Stephanie!!! After all, we don't want to go to jail by ourselves!!!

This morning we hit the Great Bridge right at 8:00 am since we couldn't get through the next bridge until 8:30 - we laughed at the big Sea Ray that went through at the 7 am opening who was still sitting there waiting for the Steel Bridge to open when we motored up (should've read the guidebook big boy!!!) Despite lots of wind, we made tracks (along with another caravan of boats!) through a very narrow stretch of the ICW lined with fallen trees, stumps and deadheads (logs or stumps that stick out of the water but extend down and could really cause you to have a bad day as they rip into your boat!!!)
Deadheads Along the ICW
Avoiding Deadheads in the ICW
down to Broad Creek where we are anchored for the night in a very protected little place - the wind has died down but it's still downright cold!!! To give you a sense of how badly we want to get south, Doug forfeited stopping in Coinjock for prime rib today so we could make an extra 15 miles south - now that is hardcore!!! Tomorrow morning the winds are supposed to be light (we're keeping our fingers crossed as the forecasts have been changing constantly) so we plan on being up at 6:00 am (thanks to the end of daylight savings time it is lighter earlier - yeah thanks a lot!!!) to cross the Albemarle Sound. Since the Sound is so shallow it can get really nasty even in 10-15 knot winds - we've had enough of nasty for a little while so we're really hoping for a nice calm (and warm - had to throw that one in) day!!! The goal is to get to somewhere around Belhaven, NC - we'll keep you posted!!

Click here to see our anchorage in Broad Creek.

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