Southbound / ICW

Eighteen months of planning; now it is time to execute the plan.

We left Longport, NJ, on November 7. Very windy — 30 knots and gusting higher. Sailed most of the night under jib alone, under a bright moon, making good time. We stayed “outside,” meaning we did not go the more protected, but longer, route up Delaware Bay and down Chesapeake Bay. We all used scopolamine patches for seasickness, and glad we did. And glad our boat has a pilot house, providing shelter from the heavy spray. The morning brought a beautiful sunny day, but light winds, so we proceeded under power. NJ, DE and MD quickly behind us. Then into the mouth of Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk, VA.


Norfolk is a busy ship building port. Pretty amazing to see all the naval vessels — makes my local shipbuilding town of Bath, ME, seem puny. Norfolk also has a small boat anchorage at “Mile 0” of the Intracoastal Waterway (“ICW”). 1200+ miles to go from there to Key West.


After a peaceful night’s sleep we started down the ICW, turning into the Dismal Swamp canal. This was a new experience for me — motoring mile after mile through a straight ditch. But it was far from dismal; the trees and the water and the sky were pretty. We went through two sets of locks. The lock tenders could not have been more different. The first was gregarious, and told us about the history of the canal system, which was built in the 1700’s so that harvested wood could be floated out of the wilderness. The second lock tender answered questions with the fewest words possible, aside from adding “Captain” after the Yes or No.


We spent the night tied to shore in a “back alley” off the canal, now in North Carolina. We walked to a road, found a gas station that sold fried chicken with cole slaw, and had an easy dinner. Walking back to the boat, you see the mast emerging from among the trees. What a weird place for a big catamaran to be!

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We made an early start, hoping to get across Albemarle Sound.


It turned out to be a beautiful day with a following breeze, so we had a great sail across the Sound and made it in early to a marina on the Alligator River. Showers! And another dinner ashore. And wi-fi, allowing me to post to the blog.


3 thoughts on “Southbound / ICW”

  1. Fascinated by your picture of the boat in the tall grass. Reminds me of my favorite Andrew Wyeth painting — probably painted in almost the same spot! Interesting too about the scopalamine. Even the old salts know when to batten down their tummies!


  2. How did your fellow sailors who were going to attempt the Northwest Passage make out? I’m sure the Passage is closed by now! Susan


    1. Jimmy Cornell, who organized the Blue Planet Odyssey, tried to do the Northwest Passage route. The ice threatened to trap his boat for the winter, so he turned back. However, one BPO participant went forward, and did manage to get through the Passage.


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