The USS Wisconsin awaits us today. It opens at 10 so we wanted to be there before it opened to get some pics with the new camera and lens. Scott is very happy with the upgrade. He’s still learning what this new camera can do and it amazed at its capacity for the great photos.
The destroyer USS Wisconsin has a long standing history with Norfolk which is why it has been decommissioned and placed here. She was first used in WWII and saw many battles. She also had a stake in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. She was initially slated for decommissioning in the 80’s but President Reagan decided to have her upgraded as the world climate was changing. After that she was sent to Iraq in Desert Storm for her last mission. She was laid to rest after Desert Storm, decommissioned and then sent to Norfolk in 2009 where she is now part of Nauticus and the naval museum. The museum and the destroyer are worth the stop at this marina as it is within walking distance too.
After a day at the museum we found a great bar at the Hilton on the 5th floor overlooking the marina. To finish off the day we enjoyed a couple bevies in a trendy bar with plush couches, lights and great atmosphere overlooking the main streets of Norfolk. We completely recommend this new bar with its craft beers and appetizers.
It’s been a long day. Scott is out for a stroll with his new toy while I write the overdue blog piece. This marina and setting is well worth the time to stay here as a Looper. Finishing to the 0.0 mile is an end and a beginning as we now start the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware River, New Jersey rivers and then onto New York for the trek down the Hudson River to the Erie Canal. At this point we are about half way home.
Today will be a long day so are up and out by 7:00 am. We plan a long haul through the bridges along the Virginia Cut that have timed openings at the hour and half hour along with a lock and bridge in Great Bridge, VA. It’s another great day on the water as we pass along quickly.
We had a wonderful night on the hook in north Alligator River. The winds are a nice breeze as we pass through Palmico Bay to the other side and then onto the Virginia Cut. We travel uneventfully and nothing to report as we get closer to mile 0 of the ICW in Norfolk, VA. The depths are great and there is virtually no tide on Palmico until after the lock. The lock is simply a leveling lock and can be 2-3 feet. We have no idea what the difference is right now but will find out when we get there.
The day is filled with other traveling vessels some of which are more than 100 feet long. We always slow for slower boats so the passing of so many seems endless today. Crossing the Bay today was easy as the winds were kind. It is a shallow 12 feet in the channel and we bet that this bay can kick up a good wave if the winds are not so kind. It’s a long haul across even for us traveling at 25 mph. Other boats and the weaving of the channel account for the hour and a half crossing.
The Virginia Cut has bridges on her that account for some time loss. The good thing is that they do open every half hour so waiting for the bridge isn’t too bad if you time it right. We had to wait 10 minutes for the North Landing Bridge but after that it was smooth sailing with timing our arrival at the next bridge that was within the next half hour.
When we finally approached Great Bridge Bridge and then the lock they are timed together. So many boats were waiting for the bridge that we wondered if we would get through. No problem even with the 2 boats that were 100 plus feet in length. The water is high and I think that all we had to do was tie up to the bollard, wait until the doors closed on the south side and then the north opened. I don’t think there was a change in depth for the lock.
We made our way to Waterside Marina for a couple night’s stay. We want to pick up the replacement lens at Best Buy, go to Virginia Beach and stop at the Naval Museum called Nauticus and also tour the USS Wisconsin which is part of Nauticus.
Today we get situated at the marina and head to buy the lens and then hit the beach for some R and R. We contacted Uber for a quick ride to both places. Virginia Beach is so full of people. I don’t think we’ve seen this many people at a beach since years ago when we visited Hampton Beach. It was packed. Scott went for a run and then we took a dip in the ocean. It wasn’t cold but it wasn’t the 80 plus we’ve seen in Florida. We had a blast in the waves. As the night fell it was a lot cooler so we stopped at Lager Heads on the beach for a craft beer. Dinner was at Cactus Jacks on the Atlantic Blvd tourist strip. We took an Uber back to the boat which completed our amazing day.
We have a longer day today as we plan to travel to the north side of Alligator River and stop at an anchorage. We’re up early and head out toward the Neuse River for a day of open water passages that are seem more familiar. We are used to open water heing we travel on the Great Lakes so much. The Neuse is as calm as it could be as we head north toward Pungo River. There are many more sailboats and trawlers making their way north. Through The Pungo River and onto the Pungo Canal we can move at full speed.
The day is another hot, sunny one with a chance of a thunderstorm later in the afternoon. The vastness of this area is apparent as there are little to no homes, boathouse or structures in the water. The water is a caramel colour as well. The colour is due to the tannins produced by the rotting vegetation. It doesn’t harm you and the colour is simply unusual. It is still very clean but you don’t swim here as the alligators are present. It does feel like Northern Ontario as we travel through this area.
Alligator River is another vast open span of water. It travels north/south and resembles the outline of a gator. The water is so calm right now that a ripple is barely visible. Traveling is so easy. We stop in at the Alligator River Marina for a quick diesel fill as we will be traveling another long day tomorrow through vast open waters. We recommend this marina if you need a stop for the night. It is sheltered from all sides.
As we find our anchorage at the north of Alligator River the winds are getting stronger. We know this is normal here as the sun warms the air. It usually dies down at night and stays light until morning. The temps are higher than usual at this time of year so the wind is welcome. It isn’t really protected from the winds but our anchor is strong and the chop is light.
We start to see clouds forming and the winds are falling. The lightening and thunder is in the distance. It passes by us and heads out to sea. I wonder if we’ll see some rain yet. We open a bevy and watch the storm with tarps half up, ready for the rain to fall.
By the time we left Mile Hammock anchorage 8 of the 10 boats had already left. It’s a great day to travel. We have some open water to cross today to get to the marina that we have set up for the night in Oriental, NC. Another sun and not too windy day makes the open water bodies a nice crossing. There has been chatter over The Neuse River and its winds and waves.
The depths are favourable even at low tide so traveling is easily done and miles accumulated. Lots of homes, boathouses and structure throughout the travel today. We are seeing more traveling boats as well. A lot of insurance companies have a hurricane clause that boats have to be north, I think of North Carolina or Virginia by June 1. So these travelers are on the move being the date is coming and the destination is not far off.
There isn’t much to report today other than just clocking the miles toward Oriental, NC. As we approach The Neuse River we see several runabout boats enjoying the long Memorial Day weekend. The river itself is choppy but not too bad. Tides are .2 feet so the winds play more a roll on this area than the tides. As we cross the river towards Oriental the winds pick up. Several sailboats are now on the open water with their sails at full attention in the winds. Those little boats are not seen as much anymore. The trip across takes us about 20 minutes going at 28 mph. We have seen that the favourite marina outside the city is at Whittaker Pointe Marina. We have a reservation there.
The marina at Whittaker Pointe has a beautiful clubhouse, restrooms, shower facility. The laundry is available for $1.00. The docks are superior to most marinas as well. The drawback is that transients are put on the outside docks where the full winds of the Neuse River are upon you. I didn’t see that it was any different at the City docks either. They need a breakwall or to dredge the inside basin for the calmest waters and to be off that large river. We haven’t figured out why this is such a great spot. Our guess is that it is due to the fact that this area is just before or just after a cross on The Neuse. It’s about Convenience. We’ve had better anchorages.
The good thing about this marina is also that they have a courtesy car. So we jumped in and drove to the grocery store. Walmart, hardware, West Marine and restaurants are not far with the car. We drove through the town of Oriental and saw that “The Silo” was having a shindig. Open mic and country music for all locals. We did find that guy’s boat that rocked us so bad when we were gasing up the other day.
We also met Star Dust the sailing vessel. Richard came in about an hour and a half after us. We got to chatting later at docktails about each of our escapades. He is single handedly doing the loop in his sailboat. That is quite an endeavor. We hope to see him again once he lands in Tonawanda after doing The Erie Canal and on his last leg home to the Sandusky area.
The reset button has been pushed. The day started out with low winds and high tide. What more could a boater ask for? The trip past Wilmington Port was eventful again as we passed a massive Maersk container ship bound to the ocean with its goods. Each container is the size of a transport truck, just to give a relational size. She towers over the other ships in the port.
Now that we are back on course Scott contacts a camera guy regarding a lens for the camera to get us by. He has none. So the search is on for a replacement lens. Apparently the problem with the lens is a well known one by the forums and this fella. Canon has messed up on this one and it must be sent back for repair directly.
The trek up the New River is uneventful. Its good depth allows us to pass quickly with the slow down for marinas and structure. We pass several trawlers and sails along the way heading in the same direction. The rain has past as well with today being full sun and very few clouds. A welcome treat after 3 days of rain and the odd thunderstorm.
Passing through Snow’s Cut was easy. It’s narrow channel reminds us of the channels up north where the shore is just out of reach but the channel is wide enough to get through. Not much drama today. Depths are great, weather is great and we are enjoying the journey. We knew about the swing bridge at Surf City being opened only on the hour but we didn’t really believe it was true. So we arrived about 20 minutes too early and had to wait in the channel and go for a cruise back the way we came to waste some time. There is current around the basin by the bridge so the channel before the bridge is much easier with a bit of wind and the current. I make some lunch while we wait.
After that we stop in at New River Marina for the cheapest diesel yet. $1.74 per gallon is the cheapest we have paid. The docks aren’t as bad as suggested. Yes you tie to pillars but that isn’t so bad. It’s the big 40 ft boat that need to slow down while passing by on the ICW. We were rocked pretty badly by one of those boats we have been passing along today’s route. What moronic Captain who drives a boat with a massive wake keeps his speed up passing a marina? Four guys at the marina came running to our boat as soon as they saw that he wasn’t going to slow down. I managed the fender at our widest part of the boat keeping it between the boat and the pillar. The boat must have went up and down 3 feet in that wake. One guy almost fell off the dock trying to keep the boat off. I’m calling these Captains Sea Donkeys these days because the name fits, don’t you think?
Now we make our way to a favourite anchorage, Mile Hammock. It’s about 1.5 miles from New River Marina in a guaranteed 12 foot depth anchorage. The military owns the land and uses this basin for military maneuvers . A boat can be asked to leave day or night but this being the long weekend and the situations in the world we’re guessing it will be fine. There ended up being 9 other boats here with us. No getting to shore here. It’s strictly off limits. I put out Bruce, our trusty beaver. He’s been with us now for about 4 years. Aiden fixed his lantern the last trip and replaced his battery. He works very well and guards the back deck every night. He’s part of the family.
We will spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the tranquility of this lagoon, researching for a lens, and sipping some bevies. That’s not a bad reset button to push.
The day started out well. We wer up early to get going after sitting for a couple days and ready for the adventure again. The winds were strong. Expectations e\were that they were to pick up. Just outside North Myrtle is an infamous area know as The Rock Pile. I think the Floridians must have named it because it has rocks. The channel is about 2-3 miles long, stright and about 12 foot depth. It’s no biggie even at low tide. Apparently they haven’t seen the North Channel where rocks are a matter of which one you are going to ding your prop on. Lockwood’s Foley has been dredged and is now a straight line. The channel used to go just about to shore due to shoaling at the Inlet. It was 12 feet at 2 hours before low tide. The cruise was an easy one.
We were thinking of staying at the free dock at Provisions in Southport. A quick lunch or dinner restaurant that offers the dock overnight for free just for eating there. We decided to push on past Cape Fear. With the winds coming in the waves were about 6 feet on the Cape. We were going with the wind which makes a huge difference in the comfort and crashing feeling you get if you have to hit those sized waves head on. We passed trawlers and sails. I bet they were wishing they were us, no matter how much fuel consumption we use, as we would get around Cape Fear in about 45 minutes where it will take them at least 2 – 3 hours to get around. Those boats go at 5-10 mph and we do 28 mph. Plan this part of your journey accordingly because if the wind is strong you will be tossed around for a long time in big waves.
After leaving the big bend at Cape Fear we were heading north. I missed the turn to the ICW and Scott who usually reviews the plans didn’t have the time with all the repairs. In all fairness I did have a nice anchor spot all picked out. By the time I realized what had happened we were 12 miles up to Wilmington. a 15 mile cruise. With these winds we decided not to anchor and headed to the City Marina. The winds were way over 40 mph so this was a good choice. It would have been nice to be on the ICW and at a marina but apparently Wilmington was a side trip for us. Oh Well.
On the way today our camera died. Scott has been eyeing a new one that Canon has been promising to bring out for over 6 months with delay after delay. He wasn’t sure that he wanted the next model up because it was more than he needed. After much discussion, a few clicks of the mouse, a big sale and perks, we were in an uber cab heading to buy the new camera. I’ll never see him now. Scott just could not do the rest of this trip without a camera. He does love his photography.
The City Marina doesn’t have much to offer the transient boater but it does have power and water and is a great spot with a town nearby and a city available if needed. We managed to grab the wifi from the USS North Carolina across the water. The USS North Carolina is a battleship that was decommissioned and brought here in 1961. We jumped in the dingy to go and tour her but there are no docking facilities available and with this wind there is no chance of bringing her up to the rock shoreline. So we head back to the boat with very dark clouds that have been rolling in over the past hour and dropping buckets of water every 10 minutes.
As the weather clears into the evening we head to the town where we find a small, well equipped convenience store, bakery, breweries, and shops all along Front Street. It’s a cute town with a big city attitude. I’m glad we made it here. After a boat cooked meal we are heading back up for a flight of brew at the local brewery.
After an hour of “playing” with the new toy we have found out that the lens itself has also got issues. Now he’s disappointed because he cannot use the new camera properly. We only have a wide angle camera on board for the remainder of the journey. Mmmmmm…..
We have talked about staying another night here in Myrtle to install the GFI, fix the anchor visual ties (we use coloured zip ties to designate anchor lengths up to 200 ft), and get in some tourist shopping. It’s Atlantic Bike Weekend here this coming long weekend where 200,000 bikers descend upon Myrtle Beach and area. It’s mostly crotch rockets as they call them with the Harleys and other street bikes mixed in.
Today will be a bit of a work day. The ropes on the dingy davit have been coated in salt water and the mechanisms to drop “Low Voltage” have been stiff. The rain has helped to clean some of that but Scott is going to lube up the pulleys. Along with the anchor grid ties and fixing the GFI that went as well. But first play is in order.
We head across the channel to Barefoot Landing. Another marina directly across from this marina. It’s confusing because the one we stay at is Barefoot Marina and the one across the way is Barefoot Landing. They are not affiliated. By far Barefoot is the best marina going near Myrtle. There is a long dock where the Barefoot Princess takes tourists on a cruise down the ICW. Lots of room for other boats as well. We take Low Voltage and dock her for some shopping in the touristy boardwalk area of Barefoot Landing. It’s a large shopping mall with lagoons, alligators and snakes, boardwalks and tons of shopping and restaurants. Scott picks up some board shorts at Ron Jon’s Surf Shop and I grab some sandals which I forgot at home. It’s an overcast morning so the sun isn’t intense yet and wandering through is cooler. At lunch we stop in at a cute restaurant along one of the lagoons and watch the turtles and 3 foot carp come visit for some food. It was a lazy morning before we head back to chores.
After those mentioned chores we hit the pool. The sun is out and temps are running in the 80’s. The pool proves to be a nice reprieve from the heat which we are still climatizing to. The before dinner swim and hot tub was a welcome exercise break as well. Talking about the going north from here we plan our next few nights at anchor spots. Being this is the Memorial Day Weekend the marinas and waterways will be busy so that will mean slower travel.
The sun had left us and the clouds moved in. The winds picked up as expected so we headed back to the boat for those indoor chores. Scott updated the blog and I start dinner. It’s a dinner and movie date night as the rain falls down on us again. It’s great though because the salty boat keeps getting washed with little effort from us. All the dock lines are clean and the davit is ready.
Tomorrow we are looking at Wilmington, NC. It will be a longer run if we do make it. If not I have a lovely free dock looked at at Southport, NC some 30 miles away.
We decided to run early this morning to beat the impending massive rains coming this way. They are due by the afternoon. I think we were up and out before the shrimp and fishing boats this morning. We passed them in Georgetown Harbour and made our way to the ICW only 5 minutes away.
The course for the day seems like a nice ride. We were against the tide however, as it is just coming down, the ebb is still in our favour. We enter Waccamaw River where we are pleased to find deep water of over 20 feet. It’s a meandering river with little development so the trees are stunning. We pass several fishing boats and early ICW travelers. This river is so familiar. It has the dark waters reminiscent of Northern Ontario with high standing deciduous trees dotted with the odd palm. The tide seems extra high this morning as trees and low branches are in the water. It has been stated that some areas received over 2 inches of rain overnight and smaller rivers have flooded. Today there is an expectation that in the next couple days over 5 inches will fall.
As the travel down, the river we see more development and more small recreational boats. We passed our first tow and barge since leaving the panhandle of Florida. We plan to stay at Barefoot Marina in Myrtle Beach tonight. I’m loving this river a little too much and dreaming of an anchor spot along her many ox bows (small inlets along the rivers). Several folks have done just that as we pass many anchored travelers. We were a little surprised to come around a bend and see a Schooner banked and marooned. We are guessing it was put there by the small resort on the other bank. However, there is a little motorboat tied to her and a fellow is inside. Maybe a liveaboard in a unique ship and setting. Either way it is a very cute sight to see.
As we get closer to Myrtle Beach the houses become very distinctive. Some large homes, mansions actually, are on the high shores. Some with Spanish influence, some with very bright colours and some tiny next to those estate homes. It is obvious the city awaits us. There are several miles that we go slow past the boathouses, boats and structure along the shores as it narrows. Still very wide and deep but our wake is a bit too large to go fast. Closer to our marina the depths do dip to 12-15 feet on the river.
We settle into Barefoot Marina where we are tied down as the rain starts. Ken joins us stating that he and his wife did the loop a couple years ago. He offers some great advice of the waters north. It was nice to meet someone that has done this portion of the loop with so much knowledge and places to rest when needed. Ken offers to take Scott to West Marine to pick up some supplies including the inverter.
Today the sun was not out and the wind was low. The cloud cover is thick so temps are in the high 70’s today, but its morning. I’m sure with the up to 30 mph gusts expected and the rain things will change to high humidity and seemingly higher temps. Upon Scott’s return, inverter in hand, it turns out we have dinner plans. A nice drive around the city and area and dinner with Ken and his wife, Lois. In the meantime we decide to have a dip in the pool available here. It’s the largest salt water pool in South Carolina but the weather isn’t cooperating. The winds picked up and dark clouds were upon us. We did manage to make it to the hot tub just prior to it shutting down with lightening.
Ken and Lois picked us up at the marina entrance and we were off for the tour. Seeing the golf courses, downtown, the beach, and the home of the Masters Mini Putt course. Who knew there was such a following for mini putt? We had dinner at Flynn’s Irish Pub where the food was amazing and the prices were great. The company with our new Gold Looper friends, Ken and Lois, was exceptional. We cannot thank you both enough for the great hospitality, tour and indispensable knowledge of the north loop experience on the Atlantic.
Dewees Island was so much fun. Great shelling, sun, beach and a great anchorage. The only issue was that the wind picked up through the night and the tide runs fast here. Scott was up several times through the night to check the anchor. Not much protection from wind other than the east. We would have loved to stay another night.
We set our sights on Georgetown, SC. The tide was descending as we traveled. There were less homes on the banks of the ICW and significantly more fishing boats and commercial shrimp and fishing boats. I don’t remember passing even 1 recreational boat unless it was a sail or trawler moving north. The rains are threatening as well. Overcast skies with low hanging clouds were an indicator that today rain was coming.
With the inverter not working Scott was baking in the Captain’s seat. We can open the canvas but the chore to close them quickly and possibility of rain warranted not doing so. I use a wet hand towel and put it in the fridge and then put it around his neck to keep him cool. Our boat is not a great one for traveling distance. Searays are made for day tripping and then back to the marina for pampering. It is not set up for the distances, anchoring, and overall running that we use her for, but, she is so pretty.
A navigational issue for those boaters following is that the channel/canal cut prior to Georgetown is shallow. Much more shallow than charts and user comments. Shoaling is a problem. We ran at mid tide and sometimes saw depths of 7.5 feet overall. With a 3.5 foot draft that left 4 feet under our belly. Very unnerving when you don’t know what is lurking below. It is mostly on the last half south side. You will go slow and we recommend at least a mid to high tide depending on your draft. Remember that South Carolina doesn’t use federal monies on the ICW for dredging. At least that is the rumour. Shoaling is a problem. They focus on the open inlets to the ocean to get those majestic shrimp boats out for the desired catch. They remind me of a pirate ship.
Georgetown SC is a cute town. Very historic being the 3rd oldest city in South Carolina and where industry was the focal point for a very long time. I wouldn’t say the waterfront is the most picturesque we’ve seen. It’s more of a fishing town mixed with trying to impress the newcomer with the harbour. The harbour itself has many liveaboards and derelict boats. We couldn’t find a good swing area so we went in front of the old steel factory. Quiet and not so pretty but plenty of swing room and only a 5 minute run to the town dock.
We walked through the town and had our homemade ice cream The homes have that southern charm with the grand pillars. The town offers history with buildings dating back to the mid 1700’s , artisan shops, boutique shopping, restaurants, waterfront harbour walk, and nightlife. It’s a great stop. The only thing to mention is that the waters here are disgusting in this little harbour. It has a yellow overtone with an oily bottom. When the anchor comes up it is covered in a black, oily tar. I suppose it is from the centuries of industrialization that has occurred here in this harbour.
The rain has now come and we are expecting a lot overnight with thunderstorms. So glad the boat is getting washed!
We were up with the sun this morning traveling for the first time on low tide. Our goal is to anchor at an anchorage beside Dewees Island and find that illusive beach day. Leaving the river was an easy out at low tide with the ICW only 5 minutes away. It was interesting to see such a tide swing of 5.5 feet when traveling. Docks and boats are on the hard shore ground waiting for the swing up. It’s a hot, sunny day and our inverter quit. The inverter converts our electric fan to keep Scott cool from the morning east sun while driving north. Drats!
We traveled though some beautiful sights with the vast marshlands now in our rear view mirror. We traveled through Elliot’s Cut which is more like a ditch. The current is strong here and many Sunday boaters are out for the day. It’s a no wake zone anyway and gorgeous homes are here just as we enter Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston is right on the ICW and worth a stop. Not for us as our work schedule is still the priority. Next time round! Charleston has the grand southern homes on the shore with their massive Colonial pillars. They stand majestically amongst other buildings so their massive size is understated.
The UCW channel after Charleston more like a canal with homes on both sides. It is shallow. We were passing through many areas at 6.5 feet at low tide but the majority was 9-10 feet total water height. We were looking at our navigation, depth gauge and our trusty nav alerts to get through. We passed a 50 foot trawler boat that probably had at least an extra foot of draft than us and they made it through. Can’t imagine the conversations going on in that boat tat that time.
We made it to St. Helena’s Sound which is quite small compared to the many open Sounds we have passed through. Our anchorage is directly beside Dewees Island. This island has no cars, a ferry to take locals to and from their homes to several areas. The folks use golf carts to get around the island. We met a nice couple that told us that most people on the island are very eco friendly. There is a staff of 23 that keeps the island going for the residents. Most residents are permanent and not cottagers. This is even a bit too rustic for our taste.
The anchorage is just off the ferry dock and the beach is a 5 minute dingy ride. Today was a low mileage day as we prepped for some time off from driving. The beach on this island is so pristine that we found more intact large shells and conchs on the beach. We found 2 beautiful shells that were very large but upon picking them up we saw they were still occupied so we left them. They had conch in each of them. The beach has so many shoals that we were able to stand in the middle of them way off shore. It is still low tide and just rising. We watch the tide roll in all day and those shoals we stood on disappear.
The anchorage is a great spot and the tide does create some current. The winds are 10 mph out of the SW and the temps are comfortable enough tonight that we may not have to put on the generator for air conditioning. Up until tonight the nights are not falling much below 80F.
At this point we are a bit burnt, showered from the day and finally happy with the exercise we had on the beach. We are ready to go again but know that from this point there is not much opportunity for beach as the ICW starts to turn more inland.