Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Long Run Through the ICW

We awoke in the Alligator River pretty much where we had left the boat, the winds were still from the southeast...albeit at a lesser velocity than the night before.  Checking the anchor alarm, it showed we were 31 feet from where we had set it (with an accuracy of 14 we could very well be in the exact same spot). The goal today was to try and make it to the Great Bridge Lock, about 62 nautical miles away. This meant we needed to get an early start so we would have a little time buffer to deal with the 3 bridges that would need to open so we could pass. Of course the Alligator had different plans.

As we started to haul up the anchor, I discovered why I should have paid more attention to the length of the trip line. Instead of our anchor being stuck, it appeared that the trip line had caught something and at one point the anchor rode and trip line were pulling tight in opposite directions. I guess the boat swung a bit during the night after all. I had to attach another line to the trip line so I could use one of the sheet winches to help break the trip line free. Although we considered cutting the trip line, we were eventually able to work it free by applying tension on the line and rocking the boat back and forth with the motors. After freeing the initial snag, in our excitement to retrieve the trip line I accidentally ended up hauling the anchor up with the trip line. We pulled up the remaining anchor chain, secured the anchor and we're on our way.

After dodging several lines of crab pots (why do these genius fishermen use black, blue, and dark green for the buoy can barely see them in the water even on a bright and sunny day), we made our way to the Alligator river bridge. This bridge has always fascinated me because the road on either side of the bridge spans quite a distance before it reaches the shore. It is a long stretch of highway on stilts hovering about 20 feet over water. We call the bridge tender and he has the bridge opened for us as we get there so we don't even have to slow down. As we clear the bridge, I thank him for the opening and we head out into the Albemarle sound.

The Alligator River Swing Bridge

The forecast from the night before seemed accurate as we were only getting light winds from the southeast and at best one foot seas.  Not the greatest conditions for sailing (unless you want to go really slow), but a much more comfortable ride and that is a good thing. We sailed some and motor sailed some so we could keep on schedule on this long leg of our ICW path.

After crossing the Albemarle, we were forced back into the narrow winding streams and man-made trenches that would make up the rest of this day's leg of the trip. We were able to motor sail some, which added a knot or two to our single engine cruising speed.

Unlike the Alligator bridge that opens on demand, the next bridges as well as the lock operate on a fixed schedule. And as usual, I arrive at the next bridge in our trek just about exactly mid way between the scheduled openings. Fortunately the two engines on a catamaran that make it maneuverable, also make it easy to keep a fixed station in a current while waiting for the North Landing swing bridge to open. The bridge opens on schedule and we are on our way to the next bridge.

The Centerville Turnpike bridge is just over 4 nautical miles from the North Landing bridge and opens on the half hour.  That means we need to do better than 8 knots to make the next opening (unlikely without a good wind...which you don't get in a tree lined man-made channel) or throttle back to about 4.5 knots and resign yourself to make the opening in an hour. And, since it was 5pm and there would be no 5:30 opening anyway, we settled in for the lazy 4.5 knot trek to the next bridge. We arrive at the bridge with about 5 minutes to spare and are ushered through at 6pm. From there it was a short trip to our destination for the evening.

Our destination was one of the free docks that surround the Great Bridge bridge in Chesapeake, Virginia. Since I had stayed at the one on the north side of the bridge when I came through last fall, I opted to try the brand new one on the south side of the bridge. 

The dock is brand new and in very good shape and can fit 5 to 7 boats, depending on size. It is attached to a nice park with a walking path and currently has a porta-potty in case you are in need of one.  Both docks are within walking distance to restaurants and a grocery store. It is a great place to stop if you are in the area. The only bad thing is the park has some marshy area and the mosquitoes come out in hunting packs around dusk and dawn.

We tied up took the dogs for a walk, did a little reprovisioning at the store and treated ourselves to dinner at a reasonably priced local Mexican restaurant before calling it a day.

P.S. Sorry for the infrequent posts, but internet has been quite spotty of late. The signals aren't that reliable and it has taken me several days to get this to post.  I promise more are coming.  In the meantime, I have some better success getting small posts out to Facebook, so you can always check out the page there.

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