Summer motor-sailing up the East Coast and through the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW)

The middle of July, and Mira was on her way again. We pulled out of Charleston Harbor just before dawn. The harbor can be a little tricky with currents and tides – so we timed our exit to coincide with slack current.  The “outside” sail from Charleston SC to Beaufort NC was about 18 hours for Mira. We left at 6 am and arrived in Beaufort about noon the next day.  It actually wasn’t a sail, but more of a motor. Another overnight passage under Pam’s belt! We were quickly learning that there is not much wind (other than squalls) during the summer along the East Coast.

We did have an amazing pod of dolphins greet us in the ocean. They had the most fascinating stripes and markings.

We were also rudely disturbed during the night by a school of flying fish. One little guy even managed to fly through the port light on the starboard side and scare the daylights out of a soundly sleeping Glenn! They were scattered all over Mira – on the bimini, tramps, sugar scoops, and in the dinghy. I’m sure they were as startled as we were!

Beaufort, NC, is a scenic waterfront town with charming shops, restaurants and an iconic main drag, Front Street. We enjoyed wandering and exploring and were even able to catch up with friends from our Caribbean travels – Fletcher and Kris from s/v Lovely Cruise!

We were excited to explore the ICW after leaving Beaufort. The ICW can be a bit tricky for some larger sailboats. One – the depth varies greatly from section to section, and in some places the depth changes frequently with storms and tide.  Mira only draws 4 feet so we aren’t so worried about that.  Two – there are many bridges along the ICW.  Some are “swing” bridges that open either on schedule or on command, and others are fixed. The lowest height for fixed bridges on the ICW is supposed to be 65 ft.  Antares quotes the mast height as 63 ft, but since we had heard that there is at least one bridge along our route with a posted height of 64 ft., we needed to measure Mira’s mast for ourselves. While Mira was tied to a stable dock in Brunswick, up Glenn went with a long tape measure. We needed an exact mast height including antennas before we attempted to scoot under the ICW bridges. Verdict? 63′ 3″  OK – we are gonna give it a try!

We ventured out of Brunswick Landing Marina early one morning and had a lovely first day coasting up the ICW. It was exactly how I had imagined – quiet, peaceful – almost like going down a river.

We stayed just outside of Oriental, NC, at the River Dunes Resort the first night – relaxing!

We never get tired of the sunsets off the back porch!

The next day dawned grey and cloudy with some rain and a rough ride down the Neuse River. The wind was whipping up and we had an incredibly stormy night in Belhaven at the River Forest Marina. Our amazing dinner at Spoon River made up for the bad weather!

We snaked our way up the Alligator River – barely making it under the first fixed bridge. Luckily a very nice motor yacht went ahead of us and radioed back the height. The water was rising rapidly from the Noreaster – so we needed to get moving if we were going to make it under the bridges!

 

This was our first swinging bridge on the ICW. Just after this we stopped on a concrete dock loosely called the Alligator River Marina.  An awesome black bear greeted us across the way the next morning at dawn.

We left the Alligator River early the next morning to sunny skies. No storms, but little wind, which was great because we needed to cross the infamous Albemarle Sound.  The Sounds is a large body of water that opens to the ocean – notorious for choppy waves and wind whipping up easily. The wind didn’t start to pick up until we entered the North River. We wound our way up the North River and arrived in infamous Coinjock early afternoon. Again, tied up to a concrete dock – loosely called Coinjock Marina. Their restaurant is famous for their 32 oz. prime rib – Glenn couldn’t resist!

It poured and stormed all night in Coinjock, and Glenn was up at 0 dark 30 prowling around. He was nervous about the water rising, and we had 4 bridges and a lock to make it through that day. We were off before 7. The first bridge was a swing bridge, and the water level was getting precariously high. The operator warned us to go very, very slowly so as not to splash water in the electrical system. We later learned that this bridge was forced to close early that afternoon for 5 days because the high water shorted out the system. We were SO lucky to get through!!

This was the next fixed bridge we came to – the river kept rising, and we were barely squeaking under each bridge. The sign shows the current bridge clearance to be 63’6″ or so – we are 63′ 3″ – nerve wracking!!

We were excited about going through our first lock near Great Bridge, VA. The actual height of the water doesn’t change more than 15 ft or so, but it was still an experience.

The Lock at Great Bridge on our way to Norfolk.

In the Elizabeth River nearing Norfolk, we encountered lots of military ships and construction cranes and freighters. A very busy place!

We stayed for a few days in Little Creek Marina in Norfolk, VA. Finalized plans with the Volvo dealer for the engine recall that we would do later in the summer, and had a chance to see my very best friend from college, Babs, and her sweet husband, Bob! They hosted us at their home and explored Virginia Beach and Norfolk with us.

A few days later, we were headed for Annapolis, but took a quick detour to visit a good friend. Jim sailed with us to the Bahamas earlier in the year, and was the source of great sailing experience and MacGuyver-like talents. We were happy to stop in downtown Yorktown to explore and visit with him.

The beautiful Coleman Memorial Bridge on the York River – lit up at night.

We were off by noon, headed up the Chesapeake Bay to Annapolis. It was a very interesting motor up the Bay – amid staggering thunderstorms and bolts of lightning. As each squall passed through – the wind would whip up to 30 knots or so – then completely die until the next storm.

Finally a peaceful sunrise as we approached Annapolis – the tankers lined up waiting for their time to dock in Baltimore.

We arrived in Annapolis around 6 am or so. We were able to cruise up the Severn River, around the Naval Academy, and Annapolis Harbor – before we could head into Bert Jabin’s Yacht Yard. It was the end of July and little did we know it – but, this would end up being the farthest point north of our East Coast Tour.

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