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ICW South to Fort Myers – July 2013

Trip Day: 1                                    Begin: 1145 Harbour North Marina,

                                                                                           Chesapeake City, MD

Date: Tuesday, July 23              End: 1845 Bay Bridge Marina,

                                                                                       Kent Island, MD

Engine Hours Today: 7.0                                Total travel Hours: 7.0
Engine hrs since oil chg: 7.0                          Distance today: 55 miles
Engine hrs this trip: 7.0                                  Total trip distance: 55 miles


Approaching Bay Bridge Marina

We left on the high tide, as Harbour North is really no place for a sail boat.  Dragged the keel from time to time until we got to the channel in the Elk River (not the first time that happened.)   We then turned left and followed the channel markers south.

We had a thunderstorm pass by at about 1300.  I had to stand up under the bimini to remain dry, but it worked pretty well.  Windy all day – S winds increased to about 20 kts at 1500 – not fun.  Put the jib out, and it steadied the boat nicely – a trick that we used for much of the trip.  Really too windy for the main sail, though.  We could see the Bay Bridge miles before we got there.  Seemed like we weren’t moving at all for a while, with the wind coming over the bow, but we did get our 50 miles in.

Bay Bridge Marina didn’t answer my VHF call, but there was someone at the fuel dock when we arrived.  The wind made getting into the slip a bit difficult.  We paid $56 for the night.  Bathrooms and showers were nice, though.  There was a restaurant at the marina, but we just ate boat food.

Monica started feeling sick when the wind picked up, and had to come up on deck.  With the boat rolling like it was, staying below was out of the question.

Wind and rain greeted us on the first day of our trip.  I hope that it gets better.



Trip Day: 2                                                Begin: 1015 Bay Bridge Marina,

                                                                                             Kent Island, MD
Date: Wednesday, July 24                      End: 2045 Point Lookout

                                                                                            State Park, MD

Engine Hours Today: 10.0                            Total travel Hours: 17.0
Engine hrs since oil chg: 17.0                        Distance today: 75 miles
Engine hrs this trip: 17.0                               Total trip distance: 130 miles

This guy passed us….

Mostly Cloudy today. Sailed with the jib up for most of the day for stability. Tried sailing with the main up for about 30 minutes, but couldn’t maintain 5 knots (we were on a run) so we put the diesel back in service for the rest of the day. Purchased 3.5 gallons of diesel at Bay Bridge before leaving.

Planned to stop around 1900 at St. George’s Creek – chart showed 3 marinas there. We were grounded in the approach to the creek and took about 30 minutes to free ourselves. Someone offered to help pull us out with a motorboat, but the pig head captain insisted on doing it himself.

Used the “closest marina” feathre on the chartplotter to arrive at Point Lookout State Park, neat the mouth of the Potomac River. This is a state park with a boat ramp and some floating docks. Bathrooms (no showers) were open. Like idiots, we anchored in their channel, just outside of the floating docks. We should have just tied up, but we didn’t know if we were allowed, as the place wasn’t tended.

Really crappy night. Winds were high and kept us awake much of this night. It was really nice to be in this secluded channel, though. We lost our rug to the wind – we left it drying on a lifeline.

The ARB fridge stopped working overnight on DC. It has a low-voltage shut-down feature, but the batteries were still showing 12.6 volts. It does work when the engine is running, so for now, we’ll plug it into the inverter and use it on 120v when the alternator isn’t charging.


Trip Day: 3                                         Begin: 1130 Point Lookout State Park,

                                                                                       Scotland, MD
Date: Thursday, July 25                 End: 2200 Compass Marine,

                                                                                   Mobjack Bay, VA

Engine Hours Today: 10.5                              Total travel Hours: 27.5
Engine hrs since oil chg: 27.5                          Distance today: 50 mi
Engine hrs this trip: 27.5                                 Total trip distance: 180 mi


Rain and wind in the am. Left when things cleared up a bit. Wind continues – from the North all day at 15-20 kts. Motorsailed with the jib up for stability. Helm was a bitch – every wave picked up the boat and set it down off course – couldn’t let go of the wheel for a minute. Saw a dolphin (first one!) near Rappahannock split. Nothing else eventful until 1800, when we were heading for a marina on Gwynn’s island.

Although we were in a marked channel, we grounded and couldn’t immediately get free. Each wave picked up our little boat and pounded the keel into the sand. Monica didn’t like it much. Between the wind, the waves and our six-inch prop, I had little control of what I could do with the ship. The track feature on the chartplotter was turned on, so my best bet was to leave that area on the same track that I approached it. It took about a half-hour of pounding before I was back on the line that we approached the area and the keel came free. We left that area as fast as we could.
Unfortunately, the pounding that we took messed up the rudder. It took both hands to turn the wheel in ½ inch increments. We could control the ship, but just barely. Using the nearest marina feature, we headed for the next closest marina that we could get into.
We grounded in the approach to that marina we well, but were able to get out quickly. If I had thought about this, I might have realized that a couple of days of north winds may have had an effect on the tides, but at that time, it didn’t occur to me. Next closest marina was in Mobjack Bay, which offered us us some protection from the wind and waves. However, it was already completely dark, and the clouds kept the moon from helping us see. We used the chartplotter, almost completely blind, following it to Compass Marine, which, fortunately, was just where it was supposed to be. Compass appeared to be a private marina, but at the time, we were tired, upset and the boat almost couldn’t be steered, so we didn’t care much. Also, since it was about 2200, there wasn’t anyone there to bother us as we picked the first available slip and tied up.
I woke up with the sun and went over the side to look at the rudder. The grounding had bent the rudder post back and the back of the rudder was binding on the hull. The rudder, being made of fiberglas-covered foam, could likely be trimmed to allow us to steer again, but we decided to leave Compass as we were and do the repair at the next stop. We had looked around the facility and determined that we likely weren’t supposed to be there.


Trip Day: 4                                      Begin: 0630 Compass Marine,

                                                                              Mobjack Bay, VA
Date: Friday, July 26               End: 1230 Tidewater Yache Basin,

                                                                            Norfolk, VA

Engine Hours Today: 6.0                  Total travel Hours: 33.5
Engine hrs since oil chg: 33.5           Distance today: 35 mi
Engine hrs this trip: 33.5                  Total trip distance: 215 mi

Navy Stuff in the background
Navy Stuff in the background

Left Compass Marine in Mobjack Bay to much improved weather. We have a plan to deal with the helm problem – will need to trim an inch of foam off of the top of the rudder.
Saw another dolphin surface just past the Bay Bridge Tunnel.
Much less drama than yesterday. Arrived at Tidewater Yacht Basin in Norfolk at about 1230. This is the official beginning of our trip through the ICW, and from this point, I can use our books to help with the daily planning. We have a bit more information available from this point on.
As we were pulling into our assigned slip at Tidewater, the transmission cable beoke as I was shifting into reverse to stop the ship dead in the slip. Fortunately, the marina sent someone to help us tie up and they saw the cable break and were able to stop us with a dock line hastily wrapped around a piling. We were barely moving, anyway. This is a great illustration why docking should be done at the slowest speed possible….. also demonstrates that I live a charmed life.
The nice folks in the office at Tidewater called a local mechanic (One Source Marine) to assist us with the cable, but as it was Friday afternoon, the repairs would have to wait for Monday, when the cable would be available.
Tidewater is a nice place to spend a weekend. They have a nice restaurant, a swimming pool, it’s in the middle of town and there were some nice places to visit within walking distance.
Oh, I was able to go over the side and remove about an inch from the top of our rudder – I sawed it off with the serrated part of my cool sailing knife, which did not survive the effort. The wheel turns freely now, so we can steer once again. There’s some slop in the steering because I am sure that we stretched the cable, but it does work now.
Btw, Mike’s limeade is great when frozen!


Trip Day: 5,6,7                         Begin: Tidewater Yacht Agency,

                                                                         Norfolk, VA
Date: July 27, 28, 29           End: maintenance stop

Engine Hours Today:                                Total travel Hours:
Engine hrs since oil chg:                            Distance today:
Engine hrs this trip:                                   Total trip distance:

Hacked up rudder....
Hacked up rudder….

Spent the weekend in Portsmouth at Tidewater, slip F4.
We took the municipal ferry over to Norfolk and the Waterside mall, which only had about half of the stores open (economy sux everywhere).
Walked around the Portsmouth historical area – short walk from the marina.
Found a Dollar General (close to the marina) and a Food Lion (farther) and we were able to restock our fresh food and beer supplies. The beer almost didn’t make it back, though – I probably should have used a cab to go that distance.
We had our wedding anniversary dinner at the Crave restaurant at the marina.
Big thanks to the folks at One Source Marina, who showed up as promised on Monday and replaced our transmission cable for a reasonable price.
Restocked and repaired, we even pumped out the waste tank.
We’re ready to go in the am.


Trip Day: 8                                      Begin: 1030 Tidewater Yacht Marina,

                                                                                         Portsmouth, VA
Date: Tuesday, July 30

                                                               End: 1830 Pungo Ferry Marina,

                                                                                     Virginia Beach, VA

Engine Hours Today: 8..0                         Total travel Hours: 41.5
Engine hrs since oil chg: 41.5                   Distance today: 28.1
Engine hrs this trip: 41.5                       Total trip distance: 243 mi

Going through the lock
Going through the lock


Bridges, bridges and more bridges….

After departing late due to a restricted highway bridge, a railroad bridge descended as we approached it. We waited for the train to cross, but the bridge didn’t go up. Another train eventually came, and the bridge allowed us to pass. This set the tone for the day, as each bridge required a wait of 30 minutes to an hour before it would open for us (usually on the hour.)
We had considered leaving very early to avoid the restricted bridge time, but we slept in and had a nice, long shower, instead.
We had no problems with the Goat Bridge Lock, and the bridge behind it. First time that we went through a lock! We only went up about 18 inches, though.

We stopped at Atlantic Yacht Basin (an impressive-looking marine repair facility) to check out their marine store and walk Bonnie. The store was much more likely to carry engine or steering parts than the replacement grill that I was looking for. It was bounced off of the grill and into the water while we were being pounded by the waves during last Thursday’s grounding. We can still heat up pots, but we can’t cook any meat on the grill until I can find another one. I’ve seen them at West Marine, maybe we’ll find one on the trip somewhere.


What was once Pungo Ferry Marina
What was once Pungo Ferry Marina

Our scheduled stop for the night, Pungo Ferry Marina, turned out to be abandoned (since 2008!). The building had lots of neat spray-painted grafffiti. We tied up to their dock, anyway. We’ve got batteries – we’ll be OK.  We met Steve, who left from the same marina that we left from and is heading to Ft. Lauderdale solo in an old McGregor with an outboard.  Cool guy.  We’ll run into him later.

Trip distance today was disappointing. I have decided that it is significantly more work keeping the boat still (or noodling around upstream) while waiting for a bridge to open than it is to just drive the boat towards Florida.


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