Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Day in Beaufort (N.C.)

Well, as much as I hated moving on this time around, it was time to leave my friends at Dowry Creek marina outside of Belhaven. The storms have passed (for now) and we have a few places we can stay as we continue south. Still don't know what our final destination is since Matthew did so much damage, but we will figure it out.

Bright and early Monday morning we untied the lines and motored away from the dock, heading down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), another step toward the end of our cruising journey. We left pretty early in hopes of making it to Beaufort, North Carolina.  In case there is any confusion, there is a Beaufort in both North and South Carolina and both are reported to be boating friendly towns.  To distinguish the two, I guess someone decided they should be pronounced differently.  So we are going to the one pronounced like "Bow-fort" and not the one "B-eww-furt" (sorry, I don't do phonetic spellings, but you get the idea).

Docked in the harbor north of Beaufort.

With the recent storm and flooding, we were concerned about two things on this trip.  First was what might be floating in the water, washed out by the storms.  Small debris we can probably deal with, but we definitely don't want to run over any partially sunken trees or house parts or whatever your imagination might come up with that could poke a hole in a fiberglass boat. Fortunately we only had one minor thud as a 2x4 that wasn't visible above the water bounced off the hull.  I was actually a bit surprised, but thankful, for the lack of debris we encountered.

The second issue is getting under the two fixed bridges that cross the ICW in this area.  They are supposed to be 65 feet above mean high water, but that doesn't take in to account for rives and canals that are inundated with the runoff from the storms.  We could see that the water was a foot or two higher than normal at Dowry Creek and I scoured the internet for any reports of water levels along our route.  I found that Oriental was a couple feet high and didn't find much else.  Since our mast is just under 60 feet above waterline, and the radio antenna puts us at 60 and change, we figured we should be good to go.  Most of the time bridges have a gauge at water level that tells you how much clearance you should have.  Since these areas aren't subject to normal tides, I guess the bridge builders decided this was unnecessary.  When we got to the first bridge we looked at the shoreline for indications of how high the water was relative to "normal".  The adjacent docks were above water but we couldn't see a normal high water line on the shore.  Needless to say, we went very slowly and luckily had no problems clearing the bridge.  Just after we made it through, a boat behind us called us on the radio. He watched with binoculars to see how we did and then called to ask how high our mast was so they would know if they should try it.  I guess we had at least three feet of clearance (what I had estimated), so they proceeded and no masts were damaged. The second bridge had a gauge and we were comforted to read 65 feet on it.

The historic main street shops in Beaufort, N.C.

It was a long day of motoring down the ICW.  There were two places where we could have sailed, but the wind was generally on our nose.  There were short segments where we put out the head sail and gained 0.3 knots or so, but it was our Westerbeke engines that kept us moving along.  We made pretty good time thanks to an out-flowing current from the second canal and arrived in Beaufort around 5PM. A little confusion with the entrance channel thanks to a new high-rise bridge they are building, and again with our slip at the marina, and by the time we were tied up we were beat.

One of the historic houses spotted on our walk through town.

The next morning, we did do a little exploring in town.  The marina we are at is on the north side of town and most of the touristy shops (and the more expensive docks) are on the south side of town, but it is a nice 4 block walk. Beaufort seems like a nice little town, far less industrial than its neighbor Morehead City.  It is a bit more of a tourist trap with waterside cafes and tee shirt shops, but still cute. The few people in town we met were quite nice.  We decided to go out for breakfast and the employees at Homer Smith's marina even let us use one of their cars to drive to the cafe.

Later that afternoon we continued our journey south.  Instead of risking possible issues with the ICW along the North Carolina coast, we departed for an overnight hop on the outside to Southport.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

More on the Albemarle Loop

This post is out of sequence thanks to the interruption of hurricane Matthew. I don't believe any of these facilities were damaged by the storm, but please call if you think you might go there sometime soon.

After a nice stop at the Albemarle Plantation marina, our next stop was Edenton, NC. It was less than a half day trip up the Albemarle to the dock at Edenton. The Edenton town dock is a relatively small facility with about a dozen slips and one small face dock (which is the only place a boat our size will fit and has a power pedestal).  The marina is protected by a sea wall that also serves as a fishing pier and was reportedly created with some old sections of a local highway bridge that had been replaced.

Edenton from the water.
The impressive part of this stop is what you get for free.  Two nights dockage is the norm in the loop. This marina also includes electricity in the offer, mediocre internet access, and has a courtesy car in case you need to go somewhere (like the grocery store) that isn't within walking distance. Like many courtesy cars, this one isn't the best vehicle but it does its job well enough.  The dash lights didn't work, but neither did the speedometer, so I guess the light isn't really needed.

The dock is adjacent to a public park, but there is a building that contains the dock master's office, public restrooms, and locked shower facilities reserved for boaters.  The facility is basic, but I've paid for marinas that have had much worse. The historic main street dead ends at the park, so the dock location for access the downtown shops and restaurants is ideal.

Edenton is a neat little town with a fair amount of American history.  It had a number of historic buildings including the oldest courthouse in North Carolina. The ladies of the town in the late 1700's were politically active and formed their own Tea Party (not to be confused with the current so called political group of the same name). The old Roanoke river lighthouse has made its home in the harbor right next to the docks.

The lighthouse and our boat at Edenton.
I really liked Edenton.  I've always heard Oriental was a great boating town, but I have to say that Edenton was more of what I had envisioned of Oriental and is certainly giving them a good run for the money as a boater friendly town.

After two nights in Edenton, we were on to our next stop.  Unfortunately, bridges deny us access to a couple of the stops on the loop as they are not 60 foot tall sailboat friendly. The next accessible port of call for us was Columbia. It was another half-day trip or so and is located across the Albemarle from the Albemarle Plantation marina. We arrived late on Sunday and Columbia is known to be pretty quiet on the weekends.  There was just enough space on the face dock to fit us (after a small motorboat that didn't use a slip left the spot). After looking around we found an after hours number posted on the bath house and were able to get the WiFi password so we could check on the weather and the status of Hurricane Matthew.

The Columbia Docks.
It didn't take us long to decide that we would have to cut our visit to Columbia short and seek a more sheltered location for the potential storm.  We walked into town and found a winery that had a coffee and sandwich shop for a quick dinner. As we walked back to the boat we noted a sign at the dock that marked the height of the water, a good foot and a half above the dock, from another hurricane that had visited the area in the past. Similar to Edenton, the dock is situated at the end of the old main street.  Unfortunately most shops were closed and we left early the next morning so we didn't get a good feel for this particular town.

View of Columbia main street from the docks.
We left early the following morning in order to make it as far south (and inland) as we could before the storm was to possibly arrive in the area.  We headed out of the Abemarle and into the Alligator river, through the bridge (that doesn't open if the winds go above 35 knots), down through the Alligator-Pungo canal and down the Pungo to Dowry Creek marina near Bellhaven.  As you have already read, this is where we ended up weathering the storm.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Dealing With Hurricane Matthew

As I previously mentioned, we were exploring some of the stops of the Albemarle Loop when we decided that hurricane Matthew was likely to become an issue for us.  We were at the dock in Columbia, North Carolina with internet access when we looked at the weather, and forecasts seemed to show that Matthew was likely to come up the coast and make landfall in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  The Albemarle is known for being unpleasant in bad weather, so we decided we should try to head a bit more south and inland.

We made a run south, through the Alligator River Bridge (that closes if the winds go over 35 knots), down the Alligator-Pungo canal, and into the Pungo river.  We stopped that evening at Dowry Creek marina with the intention of making our way on to Oriental where we had a car waiting for us.  We figured a car would be a good thing if we needed to evacuate.  When we got to Dowry Creek, we kept an eye on the weather and by the following morning the forecasts seemed to be turning to follow us. We decided that Dowry Creek and the Pungo river were better protected (and a bit more inland) than Oriental, so decided this is where we would stay.

One of the live-aboard residents was gracious enough to give us a ride to retrieve our car from Oriental.  Then we began preparations for the potential storm.  We gathered up important paperwork and packed enough that we could leave for a few days if necessary.  The winds at the dock were not cooperating and were blowing up to 30 knots across the beam of the boat.  On a slightly less windy day, we ended up tying bow-in to the face dock so we would point into the wind and could remove the sails and stack pack.

The marina we were at, as is the case with many fixed-dock marinas in the area, does not allow boats to remain if a hurricane is expected to hit. There is normally no tide here, so pilings are not all that tall, and a large storm surge could easily cause problems. Instead, a number of the boats chose to anchor in one of the more protected creeks in the area. We watched the forecasts and, for a time, it appeared the storm may veer off to the east before it was this far north.  Then the last couple days, the forecast started creeping north again.

On Friday we decided to anchor the boat as far up Dowry creek as we could, bring the dinghy back to the marina, and then take the car to a hotel well inland. We left the dock and motored up the creek, keeping an eye on the depths as we went.  We found a spot we thought would work and then circled around to verify the depths anywhere the boat might swing during the storm. We dropped our anchor in about 5 feet of water. Since the storm surge was expected to be around 5 feet, we decided a bit more than a 10:1 scope for a 15 foot depth would be the best we could do and still allow adequate swing room. I know that some use multiple anchors for a storm, but lacking multiple Mantus anchors (I have a Bruce and small Danforth along with my Mantus primary), I decided a single anchor approach would work best.  After watching a video on Youtube of a Leopard in the Bahamas swinging wildly at anchor during Matthew after its bridle broke, I did use two dock lines to rig a backup bridle that would take up any slack if the main bridle failed.  We secured everything as best we could and then bid Rover a temporary farewell and headed back to the marina in the dinghy.

After securing the dinghy at the marina, we drove to Raleigh to a hotel we had booked several days before. After a long day, despite the nervousness of leaving the boat, we crashed soon after arriving at the hotel.  The next day it rained like crazy in Raleigh. Apparently Matthew was interacting with a local front to create an obscene amount of rain inland.  In a bit of irony, when we called the marina they reported that the weather was reasonable and they were getting last minute preparations done. That night was a restless night for us. The storm grazed the area, with peak wind gusts around 70 knots and sustained winds in the tropical storm force range. When we checked the weather on Sunday morning, the storm had passed by and was finally dying as it head out into the Atlantic.

The weather was nice that morning, almost eerily nice. The problem was that all the rain was now causing severe flooding in between our location in Raleigh and our boat near Belhaven.  We called the marina to see if everyone and everything was OK. We were told everyone and all the boats, including ours, were doing fine. It would just be a day or two until we could get back. We ended up making a trip up to Virginia to retrieve our other car and from there were able to find clear roads to get us back to the boat.

Approaching Rover after the storm.

When we arrived back at the marina, we drained the water from the dinghy (it was left upright so it would fill with water and hold it down when the winds picked up) and reattached the motor.  We made our way back to Rover and found her where we left her.  One of the lifeline gates had come loose but the netting held it secure enough.  Otherwise, the boat was in great condition!  We removed the secondary bridle (it was never actually used) and fired up the engines.  It took a bit to pull up the anchor as the winds apparently helped it dig in pretty well.  When we deployed the anchor, I added a trip line with a float attached (to mark the anchor location in case any other boats thought about anchoring near us after we left) and used that line to help coax the anchor out of the creek bed.  It came up with a good amount of mud and some decaying wood branches on it. I used about 6 buckets full of water to clean the mud off of the anchor and chain as we pulled it in. I'm very happy with the performance of my Mantus anchor, it has held the boat everywhere I've put it.

A short motor back to the marina and we were once again tied to the dock and plugged in.  Everything turned out about as well as it could have regarding weathering the storm.  What happens next is still up in the air.  With all the destruction to the south of us, we are wondering if it makes sense to try and continue going south.  Will we be able to find marinas and fuel along the way?  Will there be new shoaling or missing markers?  We simply do not know at this time.  So, it is unclear if we will be continuing the trip south soon or if we will need to stay put a while longer.  These are the questions we will need to answer in the coming days.

But for now we are just happy that everything is well and we are once again back on the boat.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Plate of Matthew Spaghetti

From my aviation days I've learned not to trust the local weathermen and their presentation of the weather.  As a result, I tend to look at the raw data myself.  Until I moved onto a boat, I never looked at hurricane models, but I can completely understand why they are called spaghetti models.

Plot from the website.

With a plate like that, all you need is a little marinara. I guess some of those are what the NWS uses when they come up with these charts.

[Image of 5-day forecast and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]
National Weather Service current forecast for Matthew.

No wonder those "uncertainty cones" can get so large.  On the bright side (for us), the forecast is looking a little better.  Feeling sorry for the Bahamas, Florida, and Georgia as well as all of those that have already been hit by this storm.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Running for Cover

Sorry for the lack of posts...I'll get back to writing about the Albemarle Loop when I have more time. We made a bit of an early departure from the Albemarle when Matthew started looking like it might come up the east coast somewhere and figured we did not want to be in that particular sound if we might encounter a storm.

Current Forecast of Matthew from NOAA/NWS.

We are a bit further inland right now, near Bellhaven, North Carolina.  Naturally, that now seems to be right in the crosshairs of Matthew so we are busy preparing for the storm.  Most of the marinas in the area do not allow boats to stay during a significant storm, so we will likely be doing as many others around us are and anchoring the boat out in the best hiding space we can find.  We will prepare the boat as best we can to ride out the storm, anchor her in as safe a place as we can, then leave her there to ride out the storm as we seek shelter inland.

It is a bit of a nerve racking time and we are quite busy, but I wanted to put out a quick note as a number of folks have already inquired.  With good preparation and perhaps a bit of luck, we should be back to normal in short order.

Stay tuned...more to come.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Starting the Albemarle Loop

Tuesday morning I get up and check the local weather on the radio and local TV broadcasts.  It sounds like there is a good chance of rain and thunderstorms, but most of it would be in Norfolk and north....good thing we were going south.  After breakfast we prepare to depart the free dock at Great Bridge.  Apparently everyone else had the same idea as two boats were already gone and the rest departed along with us.

The Centerville Turnpike Bridge was the first bridge south of Great Bridge and is closed between 6:30am and 8:30am. Those of us that departed together made our way to the bridge and rejoined those who had left a bit earlier as we all waited for the post-rush-hour opening of the bridge. We had about a 10 minute wait and made it through the bridge.  From there it is about 5 nautical miles to the North Landing Bridge.  This means if your boat can do better than 10 knots, you can make the next opening in half an hour.  For a trawler, 3 sailboats and us, a semi-leisurely 5 knots will get us there in time for the 9:30 opening.

The North Landing Bridge has some ongoing mechanical issues and has some opening restrictions.  I guess they are currently unable to raise both spans of the bridge at the same time, so most of the openings are of only one span.  For larger ships, there are specific times where the bridge tender will raise (or partially raise) the other span.  9:30 was one of the latter openings and there was a barge sitting on the other side of the bridge waiting to head north.  As soon as the first span was open, all of the southbound traffic proceeded through, and we passed the barge just as the other span was opened enough for the barge to proceed. It actually worked out pretty well...almost like it was choreographed that way.

Approaching the North Landing Bridge.
Once through the bridge, everyone resumed a normal cruise speed as there were no more time restricted bridges in the near future.  The trawler at the head of the group (which happened to be docked next to us the night before) headed off at what was probably around 8 knots.  We passed one monohull sailboat in front of us and made way at a comfortable 7 knots.  The other sailboats lagged behind us just a bit, probably in the 5 to 6 knot range.  It definitely isn't a NASCAR race on the ICW.

We all make our way down the North Landing River and out into Currituck Sound. We bid farewell to Virginia and enter North Carolina.  A little after lunch we passed by the town of Coinjock and the two marinas that, as best I can tell, are the only businesses in the "town". Some folks like to stop here, but I find it to be a bit overpriced for what it is.  I guess the restaurant at the Coinjock Marina is supposed to be decent, but I've never tried it so I don't know.  If you need provisions, you might be able to find some basic staples at their store. Since we didn't need anything and wanted to make it a bit farther this day, we kept moving on.

We made our way down the North River and headed west just before reaching the Albemarle.  Broad Creek is a well protected anchorage, and that was where we intended to spend the evening at anchor.  When we arrived at the mouth of Broad Creek, we found the gentleman in the trawler, which was docked behind us at Great Bridge, anchored just outside the mouth of the creek.  We made our way into the creek and quickly realized why he was anchored outside the mouth of the creek.  The light wind that could be felt at the mouth of the creek was completely gone in the protection of the creek itself.  We decided that a little breeze would help keep things cool and hopefully less buggy, so we went back out and anchored near the mouth of the river, giving as much room as possible to those already there.  Good thing we did as the wind died during the night.  The boat stayed cool enough but was covered in bugs in the morning.

We pulled up the anchor and made our way to the Albemarle. Our original first intended stop along the Albemarle Loop was Elizabeth City.  Since we couldn't take the Dismal Swamp route and have stayed at Elizabeth City on two other occasions, we decided it wasn't worth backtracking up the Pasquotank River for a third visit. Instead, we planned to make our way to Albemarle Plantation Marina.  As we entered the Albemarle, we found the forecasted 5 to 10 knot winds from the east were at the light end of the scale. Even with the spinnaker up we would only be able to make 2 knots.  So again we motored along.

The Albemarle is littered with crab pots.  The lines and marker floats dotting the waters surface make for an interesting navigation challenge at times.  You definitely don't want to wrap one of those lines around a propeller. I do wonder about the fishermen sometimes. I understand that they are just trying to make a living and supply the world with crab, and I don't begrudge them for that.  But when they use black, dark blue, or other low-visibility floats, you have to wonder what they are thinking.  In addition to the damage it can cause a boat, losing their equipment when it gets entangled in a boat and has to be cut away can't be cheap for the fishermen.  Or when the wind or currents cause the equipment to move from the original location I can only imagine that these nearly camouflaged buoys are impossible to find. Yet it seems that at least half the fishermen use these hard to see markers.

Orange floats work...but can you see the other two?
The other issue with fishermen is placement of gear in known narrow boating channels.  This seems to happen a lot in the Albemarle.  The two ICW routes are charted and yet I've seen numerous lines of crab pots criss-crossing the route and, yes, sometimes with the very difficult to see floats. The rather narrow and shallow entrance into the Albemarle Plantation Marina had several crab pots littering the navigable part of the channel.  This behavior makes me seriously rethink the idea of adding line cutters to the prop shafts.  Originally my thought was that fishermen were just trying to make a living, but now my thought seems to shift to the idea that, if you are mining a known boating channel, then losing your pot when the float and line is cut off to protect a prop shaft seems reasonable.

In addition to the crab pots, we found the channel leading to the Albemarle Plantation Marina to be a bit narrow and shallow.  Luckily it wasn't too bad, and we were able to maneuver our nearly 22 foot beam through OK but did see depths around 5.5 feet in spots. I know the Albemarle has a bit of a reputation for being rough when the winds pick up so I probably wouldn't want to navigate that channel in my beamy boat on a rough day.

When we arrived at the Albermarle Plantation Marina, we docked at one of their T-heads and were met by their dockmaster Richard, a very nice and accommodating fellow. He helped get us tied up and situated.  The power pedestal was a bit away from the T-head so he let us borrow a power cable to use as an extension.  After we got settled, he gave us a tour of the Plantation on his golf cart.  As a guest of the Plantation, you have access to the bathhouse (with a free washer and dryer), WiFi, clay tennis courts, the swimming pool, and the restaurant at the clubhouse. The only issue is that the facilities are rather far from the boat, with the pool, golf pro shop, and restaurant being around 2/3 of a mile away.  The plantation has golf carts and they used to be free to use by loopers, but some bad apples apparently made a mess of a couple carts so they now charge $25/day.  Given dockage is free and 30 amp electric was only $4.25, even if you go with a golf cart, it is still a reasonable place to stay for a day or two. There is no place to provision in the area, even with the golf cart, so you need to plan accordingly.

The Albemarle Plantation T-head dock.

The restaurant at the club has a main dining area and a "grille".  The main dining area is probably a bit more formal than the average cruiser as slacks and a nice shirt are required.  The grille allows for casual dress and serves many of the same items, if not exactly the same menu.  We did have lunch at the Grille and found the prices to be reasonable with sandwiches and salads in the $8 to $10 range. The posted dinner menu appeared to be in the high teens and up, and they have an early bird special on Wednesday and Thursday that included a selection of several entrees, salad, and desert for $16.

Albemarle Plantation Marina docks. The harbormaster
office in in the distance on the right.
Overall this has been an interesting stop.  Other than a place to do some laundry or to drive around and see the mostly-retirement community, there isn't a lot to do.  It is more of a relaxing stop for when you need a day or two off (or to catch up on your blog posts. :-) ).  Today we should be heading to our next stop, the town docks at Edenton NC.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Making a Break South

Well, the Dismal Swamp route has been closed for about a week now.  Announcements could be heard daily on the VHF radio that the "South Mills Lock is closed due to high water levels". We decided to take the more heavily traveled Albemarle-Chesapeake canal route.  While we wanted to stop at the Dismal Visitors center, the real highlight of that route is Robert. We have always enjoyed visiting with the lock and bridge tender at the Deep Creek lock. If you ever decide to give the Dismal a try, coffee and a chat with Robert is not to be missed.

We left the marina at York River on Sunday. We were actually able to sail...for a little while.  A close reach, then beam, then broad before the winds finally calmed and we were left motoring the last bit into the Hampton Roads area.  One more time by the big gray military ships at the military docks and Naval Shipyard in Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Ships of old and new in Norfolk.
We stayed at the free docks in Portsmouth once again.  Although the wooden docks of the north landing are not in as nice of shape as the south location, we chose it. The north landing docks are a couple inches higher so don't tend to go underwater as often at high tide.  The north landing is also closer to the public restroom at the visitors center, the water spigot, and free pump out.  It amazes me that more people don't take advantage of this dock.  The only reason I can think of is that they are scared off by the "No overnight mooring" signs at the entrance...that I think only apply to the dolphins and structure around the entrance to these locations (newer signs with the rules about overnight docking are now posted in various locations inside the basins of each of the free docks). The only negative is that all the local hotels have finally secured their WiFi so we only had limited internet access via our phones.

The Portsmouth North Landing free dock. Plenty of
free space at this location while we were here
The next day was a very short trip with the goal to re-position for better timing of the next few legs and to give us plenty of time to make it through the gauntlet of bridges south of Portsmouth and Norfolk. I remember my first time through here I overlooked the Gilmerton bridge and arrived there sometime around 5 pm. I didn't know the name of the bridge (I still don't understand why they are not posted in charts or on the actual bridge, but they usually are not) and it was just dumb luck that there happened to be a commercial tug with an opening reservation. Monitoring the name during the radio conversation, we were able to get through with the opening for the tug.

We left the free dock late enough that we wouldn't have an issue with the typical urban area rush-hour closures. But the craziness in Norfolk didn't disappoint.  Not long into the trip we came across one of the "normally open unless there is a train" bridges.  Was it open...nope.  Was it closed....nope.  This was a lift bridge that was about half-way up.  Now, I know some pretty large boats come through here and there is a good chance that half-way up was over the 60 feet of clearance I would need...but from the boat it can be really hard to tell, particularly when everything around the bridge is of a larger scale than you are used to (remember those big, gray, military boats). I had to look up the name of the bridge (in a list I had downloaded from Blue Seas a while ago) and try to hail them.  I was successful and found that the bridge was at 80 feet...plenty of room to pass.

Not a lot of clearance under one of these when closed.

Two bridges later I found another lift bridge that was not completely closed.  But this time it was only a few feet from the closed position.  I definitely could not get through it.  So, once again, the search for the bridge name in my list of all the bridges of the ICW and give them a call.  No response. Then I remember reading somewhere that one of the bridge operators doesn't tend to respond to current name of the bridge, but instead responds to it's old name.  I look it up in my offline Active Captain database and find that sure enough, the "Norfolk and Western" bridge was the one that apparently prefers to be called "Old Virginia" so I give it a try.  They immediately responded that they were running some tests and the bridge would be opening in a few minutes.

The final bridge issue was my old friend the Gilmerton.  Funny how I don't need to look this bridge up, it has been ingrained in my memory since that first encounter. As we approach, I see a boat waiting but it is farther away than most usually wait.  I give the bridge a call and they tell me to come to the closest day marker and they would open up.  Of course, about the time we get the mark I see the railroad bascule bridge that is just on the other side of the Gilmerton start to close. I knew what was next before the bridge tender even made the radio call.  She said that the railroad bridge was closing and she would open once the train bridge went back up (no point to raising the Gilmerton if you cannot pass due to the train).  No train, just a railroad work pickup crosses.  I guess it must be maintenance time for all the area railroad bridges.  Oh well, it was only another 20 minute delay or so.  Once the railroad bridge and the Gilmerton bridge opened, we were on our way.

The last obstacles are the Great Bridge lock and bridge.  A short wait for the lock to open (and only one powerboat that had to push his way past everyone else to be at the head of the line) and we were in the lock.  The Great Bridge lock is the least eventful of the locks and it seems sometimes it only raises or lowers a boat by inches. So, before you know anything happens, the gates at the opposite end of the lock open and you are on your way...the few hundred feet to the bridge.  Fortunately the lock operates in concert with the bridge so there really isn't much of a wait.

The free dock at Great Bridge.
There are two free docks at Great Bridge.  One is on the south side between the bridge and the lock.  It was empty.  The other is on the north side just past the lock.  We couldn't see it before we passed under the bridge, but once through, we found that it was pretty full.  There was enough space for us, but only if a boat that was already there moved down a bit.  So, after pulling over toward the dock, I spin the catamaran around.  I think a large boat spinning 180 degrees in a channel gets a little attention, and the owner of the one boat figured out I wanted to dock and offered to walk his boat down a few feet so we would fit.  After getting our boat tied up, I went down and thanked him for moving down.  There was still enough space for about a 25 foot or smaller boat, but otherwise the dock was full.  I can understand as this new dock is definitely the nicer of the two.

Boats at the Free Dock and Atlantic Yachts at Great Bridge.
Tomorrow the plan is to make our way south, past Coinjock, and then on to an anchorage just north of the Albemarle.