Friday, May 20, 2011

Back Home

Leaving our anchorage right before the Albemarle Sound, we headed for what I have coined "Foggy Bay" (idea soon to be submitted to Dozier's Cruising Guide).  It is the perfect anchorage where you can go over a mile back in the anchorage and still be in 10-12 feet of water.

The next morning was a 5:45 am departure with a sunrise that was beyond explanation.  By time we got to the Bay River and Neuse River junction, it was a beautiful sunny day and we rolled out the jib and the main and enjoyed a cockpit shower.  We made such good time with the wind slightly off the nose, we were able to make it all the way back to New Bern by 6:20p.m. (over 70+nm).

It was great to be back in town but our sleep was predominated by dreams of ICW channel markers and the feeling of moving along, only to wake and realize we were docked.

As Steve and Stevie left for their trip back to Tennessee, Baxter and I worked on closing up Stella Blue and headed to Utah with a layover in Atlanta.  This summer should be great with lots of ideas in mind but who knows what the next blog will include.  We look forward to seeing Stella Blue in a couple months (avoiding hurricane season and the hot southern summer) and will be planning our winter.  We welcome friends and family to join us on the boat or in Utah!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Virginia Cut

Norfolk Harbor

Leaving Sunday morning, we hoped to get as far as Norfolk and expected the weather to be soggy and Chesapeake bay to be choppy. With the wind on our nose, we plowed through and after 8 hours arrived in Norfolk harbor and decided to keep going. This time we opted for the Virginia Cut on the ICW since we did the Dismal Swamp on the way up. The Virginia Cut only has 1 lock but a few more draw bridges to coordinate so our timing might work out better.

Great Bridge, VA
We made it all the way to Great Bridge, Va, mooring at the city dock just past the lock. Being that it was 6:00, there were a couple boats already there who had info on the lay of the land. The best part was they knew where a good Mexican restaurant was...and a grocery store. We had 4 boats who all thought dinner together sounded good. One of which was Jerry and Melissa on Drake's Dream who are from New Bern and live in Breckenridge when they're not on the water. After indulging at dinner, we picked up a few provisions at Farm Fresh Market and stopped at Dairy Queen for a dipped cone before going back to the boat. Needless to say, everyone went to sleep happy.

The Virginia Cut was a slog. With - you guessed it - the wind on our nose we channel marked our way through it. Between the two routes, I definitely preferred the Dismal Swamp but every adventure offers something rewarding and the marshy wetlands had a simple serenity to them.

We found a nice creek to anchor in with Chandara and Drake's Dream, had a beer together and enjoyed a beautiful NC sunset.
NC sunset at the end of the Virginia Cut, ICW

Saturday, May 14, 2011

On The Nose

This is an all too familiar sight for Baxter and I on this trip.  It is our windex, located on the top of the mast.  It indicates which direction the wind is coming from.  The tab on the left and right represent the "no go" zone where you can't sail.  For the last 9 days, we have sailed about 350 miles and we have only had about 3 days where the wind wasn't directly on our nose. When we went north in the Chesapeake, the wind was from the north. When we went south - guess what direction the wind was from? Not that it matters - Mother Nature deals the cards and we play the game.

I digress...We headed to Urbanna, Va on Friday the 13th. It was one of the few days that we were going downwind.  We took full advantage and set the sails in a "wing-on-wing" configuration.  It was a gorgeous day and we even had a pod of dolphins escort us out of the Deltaville channel.  When we got to Urbanna, we walked around town, had dinner and meandered back to the boat.

The importance of a dinghy cannot be understated.  It is the only means of going from your sailboat anchored somewhere to land.  It is the family car.  With the leak in our dinghy floor, we managed to take advantage of our pontoons and make do.  It will need to be replaced, but we were able to get by on this trip.  Our little outboard motor is working well - all we needed was a floor to stand on.  Steve has a great Caribe dinghy but needed more work on his big 15hp motor. So, we set off back to Deltaville.

Looking at the forecast, there were thunderstorms predicted for the next 7 days. We planned to get an early start Sun a.m. and have the foulies ready on standby.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chesapeake Bay

When we left New Bern last Thursday, we didn't know where we would end up or when.  We have to be in Salt Lake by a certain date but other than that, things are flexible.  After crossing the Virginia border and going through the craziness of the Norfolk Harbor, we just pointed the bow north and looked for a place to stop, away from the industrial feeling of Norfolk.  We thought about going to Yorktown where Cornwallis and the British army surrendered to George Washington ending the Revolutionary War, but it was a bit of a stretch.  We anchored in the Poquson River, arriving about 10:45 p.m.

At 7 a.m. we were off again heading for Deltaville, Va.  For those who have not traveled on a sail boat, it is not as simple as saying "Today, I would like to go here.  It is x miles and will take me x amount of time."  So many factors effect time and distance, such as wind speed, wind direction, obstructions in the water, depth of the water, current (and tide).  We expected to be in Deltaville by 1 p.m. since it was only about 25 miles from the Poquoson.  With the wind on our nose and the shallow depths along the edge of the bay, we tacked, we motored, and we reefed until we pulled up at the fuel dock at Deltaville Marina about 3:15.   The marina is fantastic!  They have bicycles for cruisers to use to get around town, maps of the town stores and restaurants, complimentary vehicles, laundry, showers, a pool, big fields of grass for Kala - what more could you ask for?  We anchored in front of the marina and then walked over to Cocomo's for dinner.  We found the perfect table on the patio where Kala could sit right next to us and then the restaurant even gave us a ride back to the marina after dinner.  I could see how some boaters might plan to spend a day or two in a place and find themselves still there a month later.

We have heard rumors about an Oyster Festival somewhere in Virginia that we may try to find this weekend before heading back to New Bern....or not.  Taking it as it comes is what the adventure is all about.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Locked and loaded

Sunday morning was rainy and dark but we pulled up the hook and found the free docks in Elizabeth City.  The docks were tight but there were plenty of others who had been through it standing by onshore to help us tie up.  We called our mothers to wish them a Happy Mother’s Day and then we found our way through the city to a tasty breakfast at Andy’s and an Autozone for some Rotela 30W oil.  Since the locks in Dismal Swamp only open at certain times, we decided to leave Elizabeth City to get to South Mills and anchor right in front of it, being ready for the opening at 8:30 a.m. 

Going through the lock was a new experience and very cool  They basically tie your boat up to the side wall and then they raise the water 8 feet, and you pull through the other side and carry on.  In the lock, they had mileage posted for cities North and South.  After seeing that D.C. was 230 miles from where we were and we only had 10 days before needing to be back in New Bern, we decided to consider other ports on the Chesapeake as options and maybe coming back another day to D.C.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Albemarle Sound Sailing

On Thursday p.m. as we were taking Kala to shore in the dinghy, the bottom separated and water started leaking in the boat.  So Friday morning Kala and Baxter went alone at sunrise.  They made it back okay but that was probably the last ride until we could make some repairs.

Stepping our way through “crap pot havens” we meandered back to the junction of the Neuse and Bay rivers.  As we followed Steve in Chandara, his Valiant 40, he stopped moving.  His 6 foot draft hit the muddy bottom but after an hour of back and forth, he managed to wiggle her out. Once out on the Bay River, we sailed on a fast-moving beam reach and then across the Pamlico River to the Pungo River.  We stopped at mile 127 before the Alligator River since it is just a channel for 5 more hours and we couldn’t find any obvious anchorages on the chart. 

Saturday we had wind on our nose and our only option was to motor up the Alligator River.  That changed as soon as we got to the Albemarle Sound which turned out to be the best sailing Baxter and I have had with Stella Blue.  We were doing over 7 knots with about a 12 knot wind on the port beam.  As the wind faded, we thought the fun was over until it instantly picked up to about 15 knots directly on the starboard beam.  We continued across, dodging and weaving the crab pots and making up some time lost from motoring.  At about 7:30, we pulled into a great anchorage right next to the Coast Guard Air Station, in Davis Bay, just south of Elizabeth City.   Steve came by Stella Blue and picked up Kala, Baxter and I and we joined him and Stevie for a couple beers on their boat before the rain moved in.  

Thursday, May 5, 2011


We returned to North Carolina Monday afternoon, picked up Kala and made way to the boat to see how she weathered the storms.  We had a few maintenance issues and provisioning to take care of and then we plotted our route up to Virginia from New Bern.

As we left the dock Thursday at 11 a.m. there was a loud squeak from the rudder that made us look at each other and think maybe the fuel dock at the marina was as far as we were going to get.  We loaded up with diesel and decided that we would go out on the Neuse and see what happened.  Worse case, it would have to be hauled out anyway so we would at least get to Oriental (4 hours) if she would let us.  As soon as we got on the river, the noise was gone.  I told Baxter that maybe she was just whining that we left her tied up too long and it was her way of telling us she wanted to get back on the water. 

The winds were shifty and gusty and we ended up motor sailing for the afternoon.  Not having gone up the ICW North, we looked for an anchorage that was reachable before dark at moderate motoring speed and well protected from southwest winds.  We anchored in Broad Creek north of Oriental and were joined about 7:45 by our friends Steve and Stevie, neighbors from Northwest Creek Marina.