Monday, May 3, 1999. Up at dawn (or a little before) for a very long day--we plan to make 110 miles and end the day in Beaufort (bow-fort) NC. This will allow us to take Tuesday off, and not travel at all and still make our objective of New Bern on Wednesday. The day begins normally, and before long we hear a boat hail "Choraules". Well there is only one Choraules we know and that is the Bardes' boat from SPYC. Sure enough, before long they are in the waterway dead ahead of us.
An aside on the waterway in NC. North Carolina has chosen to limit bridge opening to once an hour in many cases, and has failed to replace ancient swing bridges with high rises like most other states have done. As a result, even on a Monday morning there is heavy queuing of boats at each of these bridges. Since there is usually a current flowing one way or the other, it is a strain on everyone to keep boats in position and out of each other's way, as well as out of the mud banks while waiting for openings. Another implication is that some boats choose to run fast to make bridges, even at the expense of putting others at risk. (More on that below).
Anyway, we have a nice chat via radio with the Paul and Carole Bardes and discover we'll be in New Bern at the same time on Wednesday. We snap a photo of Choraules as we pass.
While we're in a procession moving from one bridge to another, we're passed by a large motor yacht by the name of Sea Dozer. Sea Dozer passes several of us roughly and way too fast as he's throwing a huge wake.
Another aside on waterway etiquette. Boats on the ICW seem to run in three speed groups. The first is sailboats under power (almost all sailboats run under power all the time in the ICW). They run in the range of 6-7k. The second group is the displacement hull trawlers which run in the 8-10k range. Together, these two groups comprise 80% of the boats in the ICW. The last group is the sportfish, small power boats, and some large motor yachts which are capable of 15-25k. Thus, there is a lot of boat passing going on. When passing any other boat, it is proper etiquette to announce your intention via VHF radio, agree on which side the passing will occur, then the overtaken boat slows to idle, and the passing boat decreases power to just enough to execute the pass. As a result there is a minimum of wake to put the overtaken boat in peril. Even Interlude can be knocked about wildly when passed at high speed by a large yacht. If a boat fails to observe this etiquette, there are many sarcastic and nasty comments shared with the rude boat over the radio, and quickly the boat is identified as a rogue. It does little to change behavior but at least makes one feel better to identify the rogue, and to identify with the other violated boats...
Back to the story, we were traveling in a "group" of three yachts: Kullen, Bonne Idee, and Interlude. We had just passed Kullen, a 44 Grand Banks, and were behind Bonne Idee, a 47 Grand Banks. We were discussing jointly on the radio whether we could make it to the next bridge to achieve the on-the-hour-only opening. Bonne Idee and Interlude felt that at 14k we could probably make it. Kullen said 8k was their limit, so they were going to fall behind. At that moment, and unannounced a 65' motor yacht passed us all in a rush, throwing the three of us helter-skelter. The boat, Sea Dozer, indicated to Bonne Idee that he was running at 20k and intended to make the opening. He was throwing a wake of 5 - 6 feet tall.
A few minutes later, and at almost the same instant, Bonne Idee and Interlude noticed a man in the water in the shallows perhaps 75 yards to our starboard side. He had been capsized by the wake of Sea Dozer. He was floundering but in shallow water and appeared OK. His boat, a 20' runabout, was still running in small circles near him but out of his reach. Within a moment, the man was standing, cold, wet, but he appeared OK. There was nothing we could do, since the water was only a couple of feet deep, so the two of us decided to report the incident to the Coast Guard, try to get the man some assistance, and monitor the situation.
Bill called the Coast Guard, gave them the GPS and daymarker locations, and provided a running narrative of the situation. At the same time, Bonne Idee called Sea Dozer on channel 16 and reported to him what he had done. Sea Dozer didn't reply. Within a few minutes, Bonne Idee and Kullen joined Interlude's discussion with the Coast Guard, added details to Interlude's narrative. The Coast Guard was sending help. Then other boats started to add comments about Sea Dozer and its outrageous behavior.
The Coast Guard requested the bridge (10 miles ahead) not to open in an attempt to stop Sea Dozer. Unfortunately there was an inlet to the Atlantic before the bridge, and Sea Dozer apparently "got away".
Within half an hour, another trawler had taken the wet man aboard once he had recaptured his boat, and was providing him with shelter (and an ear, no doubt) until the Coast Guard rescue boat arrived, and the incident was over. Except for this lesson: all boats make wake, and wake can do damage to moving boats, boats at dock, and people. It is essential to watch your wake (and your speed). Big boats have a bigger responsibility. Interlude, at the same speed, would have done the same damage to this small runabout and its driver. We run above 10k very seldom, and only in open water. We are taking more pains to pass boats even slower than we did before. Lesson learned.
At 5:30pm we arrived in Beaufort, a quaint town. Dinner is a free beer at a local pub and a hamburger. We're really tired. Tried to collect e-mail, but once again, these towns are too small to provide e-mail coverage for Wynd.net, our ISP. But, the marina does provide a phone line for computer access, so we'll try to update the Web on Tuesday morning.
Tuesday, May 4, 1999. A post script to Monday--We arrived in Beaufort about 5:30pm after a long day. As we came to the end of our trip that day, we entered Beaufort through the Moorhead City area. In Moorhead City there is a lot of dredging underway. Bill approached one of the dredges at dead slow and obediently (and blindly) followed a small boat to the starboard side of the dredge where there appeared to be room to pass not only the dredge but the extensive piping the dredge was using to move sand from one place to another. As we got close, a voice came over the radio calling "that big white yacht near the dredge..." Quickly we realized he was calling us, and we replied. He admonished us to immediately execute a turn to port and pass him nearby and on his other side.
We executed a tight maneuver and passed as instructed. Only a minute later we saw the small boat we were following extricated in the dredge's lines and plumbing. The small boat has not responded to the dredge's whistle signal, and had no radio. Lesson learned. A bit of an aside on etiquette with large commercial vessels. Always call them on channel 13 when passing or overtaking. Ask them how they want you to behave. They have less control, need to gauge movements to fit narrow channels, etc. In short, they have the right of way. In the case of this dredge--we should have called him and asked him how to proceed. Someone is always at the helm of a dredge in that situation who primary job is to keep other boats out of harm's way.
Tuesday has been a day off. We stay in Beaufort (bow-fort) NC to do some wash, clean up the boat, and walk the town. The dockmaster loans us the marina car so that we can run to the IGA for supplies. We buy steaks and grill them for a superb taste treat. Also opened a 1994 Ridge Pagani Ranch Zinfandel which suits the steak perfectly.
Beaufort is a beautiful little town spread along the waterfront. It has convenient and pleasant shops, very old and well maintained homes (some dating to mid 1700's), and nice people. We are tied up near a sightseeing boat that takes groups to an island on the Outer Banks. All day, hundreds of people are milling around. It's a lot different from the solitary life we usually have.
Wednesday, May 5, 1999. Today we move Interlude from Beaufort to New Bern. New Bern is about 20 miles up the Neuse River and that far off the ICW. This is our first venture off the Waterway. The Neuse River is huge, miles wide, and very tranquil, but it looks as if it could really work up stink if the wind was blowing in the right (wrong) direction. We dock at the Bridge View Marina at the Ramada Hotel downtown. Bridge View has very nice and brand new floating docks, so we're able to tie Interlude down tightly. That's good because at 6:00am tomorrow, we're off for St. Petersburg for meetings, and some social events.
We spend Friday afternoon giving Interlude a thorough wash down, and Jan works on the inside to finish a thorough cleaning. The dockmaster offers to drive us to the airport in the morning until he finds out our flight leaves at 6:00am. He brings us a list of taxi services instead!
Friday evening we meet Roger Weatherington, a local boat expert who has worked at the Hatteras factory in New Bern for years. Roger is going to supervise some changes we're making in the boat. We are changing the type of fuel filters on the gensets, adding monitoring meters for the gensets to the lower helm, separating the three windshield wipers and washers so that each will have its own control, adding ball valves to the genset exhaust lines, and a few other things. It is a pleasure to work with people who love boats, and know Hatteras' so well. The work will be finished when we return.
We'll also get a new bimini in New Bern. The old one was badly torn in the heavy wind we experienced in Melbourne, FL, and we shipped it ahead to a canvas shop in New Bern. Custom Canvas has had it for more than a week to use as a model. They assure us the new one will be fitted to Interlude in the next day or so, and ready for our departure on schedule.
Monday, May 10, 1999. We're back in New Bern after a few days in St. Petersburg. Our trip to St. Pete was for business and pleasure. A couple days at the office were an opportunity to catch up on what's happening with the business. Gratefully, everything seems to be rolling along fine.
We timed our return to attend the 90th birthday party for SPYC--a black tie affair which was fun--our regular crowd was mostly there, and we had a wonderful time, but that was only the formal party. Informally we partied with John and Pat Walsh in their lovely home; again at the Mason's where we could peer down from the 27th floor to see progress being made on our condo (up to the beginning of the 8th floor!), with the Meyers, the Burnettes, and the Birkenstocks. We are blessed with so many great friends. What a weekend.
Upon our return, we meet the construction crew and get caught up on the modifications which have been made. Almost all done. We also have a fine new bimini, so Interlude looks up to snuff. We called "a friend of a friend" by the name of Shirley and Bob O'Daniels. They are trawler-types and recommended to us by Henry Allen (whom we saw in Georgetown). The O'Daniels are wonderful people who showed us New Bern, the beautiful addition to their home (including a theater!), and other sights. We have a fine dinner and a wonderful evening. What a treat to meet such nice people along the way.
Tuesday, May 11, 1999. Up not so early, because we have only a short distance to go, and we're to meet the canvas guy early at the boat. He comes about 8:00am and we discuss the bimini, snaps in general, and the cover for the dinghy (which doesn't fit right, and is also very old). We decide to measure it for a new cover, have it made as we progress north, then sent to us in Baltimore. Custom Canvas will stop at our dock in Oriental, 30 miles from New Bern, on Wednesday, very early, and finish the measurements and fitting. A great solution.
We motor from New Bern to Oriental in about three hours, and spend the usual hour or two cleaning up and hosing down the boat. The trip down the Neuse River is windy, and we have a chance to try out the new windshield wiper system--fabulous! If you ever have a boat in or near New Bern and need any type of work done, I can't recommend highly enough the folks at Jeanual's Yacht Service (252/637-3361) and Custom Canvas. The gauges monitoring the status of the gensets work perfectly and provide us with insight into how things are behaving below decks.
We take a leisurely walk about the town of Oriental then spend the balance of the day getting caught up on chores, and other tasks like working on the charts for tomorrow's run to Belhaven.
Wednesday, May 12, 1999. Today we made another short (50 mile) move to Belhaven. Belhaven isn't much of a town, but we tied up at Robb's Marina in a strong cross-wind about noon, and spent the day sightseeing and getting caught-up on chores . We walked along the quiet streets and enjoyed some hours on shore.
We inquired about the best way to get groceries and discovered they have licensed golf carts which can be used on city streets for the 3-4 mile trip to the Food Lion. We got some strange looks, but it was great fun (see the photo) and we found one of the nicest supermarkets we've seen on the trip. Good to get stocked up on fresh vegetables and citrus (...to prevent scurvy! Scurvy is a problem among us nautical-types.)
Again, we were too far away from civilization for cell phones to work well, so Bill resorted to the satellite system to send a seven page fax to the office. We'll call tomorrow to see if the fax made it. This isn't the best technology around, so we have our doubts. We also ordered the U.S. Customs decal by fax. They faxed us the form. We filled it out, scanned it back into a file, pasted the file into a Word document, so that we could re-send it to Customs. We'll call them tomorrow also, to see if it arrived.
Thursday, May 13, 1999. Today we've been on the road for a month. (We departed April 13.) We've come more than 1000 miles, so that's not bad, and right on the rough schedule we've planned. Today we crossed Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds--Albemarle Sound is the largest fresh water sound in the United States. Bill took a photo (see new photos) of the view as we headed out, no land in sight. It was a huge body of water. At that, we had to follow a very specific course across the Sound because the water is very shallow even in the center and far from land. Our readings suggested that it can become quite rough if the wind is blowing, but we made the crossing in nearly flat water.
As we approached land, we saw thunderstorms building on the eastern horizon and used the radar for the first time to track the specific storm cells. The nearest was more than five miles away and we watched the worst of it dissipate on the screen. A good use for radar.
We have tied the boat up in Coinjock (no kidding), and discovered the lowest diesel prices along the east coast--65 cents a gallon, with discounts for purchases of over 500 gallons. (Five hundred gallons is barely a start for us!) Coinjock is not even a wide spot in the canal, but there are five "marinas" here and five or more gas docks. It confirms a theory about retailing that I've held for years...more competition is better than less, it generates a locus of activity that forms a critical mass that attracts more than its share of business. So much for marketing theory!
Tomorrow we pass into Virginia and dock in the Tidewater area of Newport News, Hampton, and Norfolk. That's also the end of the Intracoastal Waterway and the beginning of the Chesapeake Bay.
Friday, May 14, 1999. Well, faithful readers, we blew into Norfolk VA today, literally. Small Craft Warnings are up and bad weather is getting worse. This looks like it will be our first weather delay of the trip as seas are running 15' and winds to 35k and predicted to continue at least through tomorrow. So much for our run to Crisfield MD, first stop in Chesapeake Bay.
Today brought some art form to boat travel. We had only 46 miles to run from Coinjock to Norfolk, but there was a wide and mangy sound to cross, and more than 8 bridges to negotiate (all of which had to open), a lock, and a new marina in the heart of a busy city to find--all in the wind and rain. The bridge were a challenge since some opened only on the hour and half-hour, others only on the hour, and some on demand. Much of the "ditch" we were in was too tight to do much holding pattern, so we timed the bridges to be open when we got to them. This meant running at speeds from 19k down to 6k. Some adventure, and it worked pretty well, except for a railroad bridge that closed quickly right in front of us, but who is going to argue?
On our run across Currituck Sound (north of Coinjock), we experienced moderate seas and some rather gusty winds while running at 17k (the apparent wind was in the range of 30-35k). As a result, we lost our new bimini which had been installed only days before in New Bern. Bill was able to wrestle it down and below decks so it isn't gone, but it is badly torn. We called the shop that made it, and are sending it back to them for repair and reinforcement. That was a surprise to everyone involved. I suppose we should take the bimini down if we're planning a long run at planing speed, but still, that shouldn't be necessary. (I don't think!)
Norfolk is a fun town to enter by boat--we passed literally dozens of U.S. warships from submarines and small miscellaneous tenders to aircraft carriers, including one under construction. What an impressive sight. Our marina is downtown at the foot of the business district and between (again) two major tour boats--so we're on display to hundreds of people passing by Interlude on their way sightseeing.
We had planned on leaving early for a long travel day tomorrow to Crisfield, and then on Sunday crossing Chesapeake Bay to The Solomons where we plan to meet Lisa and JJ, but now the weather is going to keep us in port tomorrow, for sure, and we don't yet know about Sunday. The front producing this weather has stalled right over North Carolina. But since we're in a big city with functioning e-mail, it will give us a chance to catch up on long overdue responses.
Saturday, May 15, 1999. For the first time on our odyssey, we're weather-bound. Winds are blowing at 20-30k, and seas running 15-20 feet, so we're staying put. We use the day for cleaning up, catching up, and a little sight-seeing in Norfolk.
We have a broken stay in the radar mast. Actually, over time the four bolts that are holding the bracket have worn and snapped off. Not surprising since there is a bi-metal effect between the aluminum mast, stainless bracket and bolts. Since the mast is 1/2 aluminum plate, new holes need to be drilled and tapped. We don't have a tap set on board (Bill packed his for long term storage.) so we hired a cab and drive to the nearest Sears store in Virginia Beach. Skies are overcast, and by the time we leave the mall and find some lunch at Fuddruckers, it was raining. We got a taxi to the mall in five minutes but it took an hour and half to get one to return. The tap set worked perfectly, and the stay was restored.
A word about problems on the Interlude. Think about a boat for a minute. Interlude has all the systems in a house, plus all the systems in a car times two (we have two engines, etc.), plus we generate our own electricity, have the navigational system of an airplane, plus more. Then we subject it to salt water, and take it out and beat it to death. Every boat we've ever owned has required constant maintenance, almost from the day it was purchased. Interlude is ten years old--and we expect systems to fail. So far, we've had precious little to do--Interlude is exceptional and very sound.
Sunday, May 16, 1999. Socked-in another day. The front is stalled off the Outer Banks of North Carolina and doesn't appear to be going anywhere. So we start changing plans--we call Lisa and make arrangements for them to meet us in Norfolk instead of The Solomons. Docking reservations are updated. It's raining. We read, and take it easy. Not a bad way to spend a rainy day.
We leave the dock for an hour and move the Interlude to Portsmouth (across a narrow channel) for fuel. We want to be ready to leave early when the weather breaks. In the afternoon, Bill plots the navigation course for Interlude into the software.
We used a break in the rain to fold the bimini and box it for return to Custom Canvas in New Bern. It will be repaired and beefed-up to withstand the stresses better. We hope it will catch up with us in Baltimore.
Lisa and JJ arrive about 11pm having spent the day on an Amtrack train. The found a train direct from Boston to Norfolk. Not bad. We chat for an hour, then to bed. We watch the Weather Channel one more time, and it still seems questionable, but winds are a little lighter (15-25k) and Small Craft Advisories are still up. Our intention is to try and make a run for it in the morning.