top of page

ICW Norfolk to Carolinas

ICW November 3, 2014

We had a nice stay in Portsmouth VA, just across the river from Norfolk. We were able to sneak into a town landing that had dock space open, and is FREE. First come first serve and we ended up getting a coveted spot. We sat out a nor’easter for two days that brought winds up to 45 knots.

Our first night we went out to the historic Commodore Theatre to take in a movie and dinner. It is an old theatre converted into a restaurant/movie theater. So we enjoyed pub grub and beer at our table with oversized leather chairs and watched a movie. After we hit a German bier house and then crawled back to the boat in the late hours. The dock however was interesting as it was completely submerged with the high tide, no wonder its free. I was able to carry the princess across the mote to her humble abode and only I had to brave the submerged dock. We also visited the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk. Another freebie. We love freebie anything.

Monday afternoon we departed south into the beginning of the ICW. We ended up making just about 10 miles to get to our first anchorage, Deep Creek Basin. There are two routes at the beginning of the ICW, you can take the Virginia Cut or the Dismal Swamp route. Both meet back up in Albermarle Sound. We chose the Dismal Swamp as it has less bridges and sounded a bit more scenic. The first 10 miles or so were very industrial. First off you have a huge repair facility for the Navy's War Ship fleet. Then past this area is all industry. It starts to get nice about mile 10. This dismal swamp route is a historic canal built by man in the 1760’s by slaves. The area once was the largest Baldcypress and Atlantic Pine forests in the country. Now it is largely left wild and, according the guidebooks, a rather unspoiled 107,000 acre national wildlife area.

ICW November 9, 2014

Well, the Dismal Swamp is just that, dismal. Not completely. We stopped in a couple of nice spots but getting through the portion of the canal that is in between the locks was stressful. There was at times as little as 5’10”-6 ft which was close or below our draft. We hit “snags” as their called which are, we think but not sure because we never saw, large submerged logs.

They make a thump on the keel that raises the hair on your neck and leaves you waiting in suspense for the next hit. Also you are traveling in a canal that is about the width of a 3 lane highway. Recognizing that you have to travel down the middle lane because the outside lanes are too close to the shallow shore, but also overhead tree branches force you to the middle. With our 63’5” mast we are concerned about height as much as depth. We made it out of this portion unscathed and after the south lock, things opened up and got deeper. We made our way to Goat Island and anchored just a ways off the channel. Very pretty, and secluded spot in swamp type area.

The next morning we took our time before leaving to go the short 2 hour hop to Elizabeth City. Jess painted for a few hours while I got in a workout and shower and some route study. We pulled into the free city town dock and were greeted by the dock mayor, Gus, and a couple other townies helping to tie us up. Very friendly people. This town is known for its hospitality to cruisers in the migration north or south. We were looking for a nice town anchorage for a few days as I needed to make a quick business trip out to Portland Oregon. The dock space, wifi, bikes, bathrooms all free thanks to the town. Mayor Gus totally hooked us up with allowing us to stay well past the 48 hour policy of free. Jess made him some banana muffins so he was handsomely paid off and looked the other way. There were several other docks in the area that were free as well. Looks like they are trying to help out the local restaurants etc and the cruisers fit the bill for it. We ate at a sushi place, Toyama, that from the outside looked like a little hole in the wall but once inside was enormous and packed. The sushi was very fresh. We left there and went to Coasters and became members of their club, $1 each, and went in to another place that looked awful from the front but was great inside. There was a huge bar with a ton of small craft brews on tap. We ended up hanging out with a bunch of Coast Guard guys playing darts and having a good time. We were both over served and stumbled home late that night. The next morning I needed to get my car rental, drive 2.5 hours to New Bern and jump on a flight to Portland OR. I was in Portland for just under 24 hours and caught the red eye back. We stayed Saturday night again in Elizabeth. Right across the parking lot from our boat the town had a Brews and Blues in the Park thing going on. All North Carolina craft beers on tap and a bunch of bands. We met some nice folks there and had a great night.

Oh, right before the little concert we met funny character who pulled up next to us. Marty from Sweden was in his brand new, to him, boat that he just bought 8 days ago. He was 6’7” and all of 250lbs. Big guy. We invited him over for dinner. He was 39 years old, just sold his candy business in Norway and apparently wanted a change of pace/life etc.

He had never sailed in his life. Bought the boat in Baltimore for $6800 and was heading to Florida, then either Cuba or the Bahamas. He knew literally nothing about sailing/boating but planned to learn quick. We had a nice time with Marty and hope to catch up to him going South somewhere.

Sunday morning we made our way through the Albermarle Sound and are know in the Alligator river in a very remote place. Have not seen any buildings or signs of man for probably 15 miles. We anchored again off Deep Point right before the canal starts. Tomorrows trip sounds dicey as we have to go into another tight canal and also have a low bridge at the end that we are a bit stressed about. So more to come.

ICW November 17, 2014

So the bridge that we were worried about, Wilkersons Bridge, was as tight as expected. All bridges are supposed to have a minimum 65’ clearance. Someone measured wrong here and its will documented in our guides we use to help navigate the river. This bridge is 64’ and there is no tide in this part of the ICW. When you pull up to the bridge there is a height board that tells you what you have. This height board read 65’ plus. The video tells it all. check out the video section.

We ran into our friend Marty again and he rafted up with us for the night in a pretty spot called Campbell Creek. The next morning we left for Oriental NC which was not to impressive, perhaps being out of season it was just quite but we decided to vacate early the next morning for Beaufort NC where we would spend several days. We have stayed in Beaufort before so we know the town a little, good restaurants and stores for provisioning. We ran into Marty again here as he stopped to make some repairs to his leaky vessel. Beaufort is the third oldest town in NC and has a rich history. In the 1600’s pirates used to hang lanterns around horses necks to lure ships from the sea onto the banks that flank Cape Lookout where the entrance to Beaufort is. There is one left over pirate ship remaining in the harbor and still has a threatening look. There is a part of Beaufort on the waterfront that has been preserved as a historical society with a small museum and folks who dress up and do tours of the area.

We stayed in Beaufort waiting for a weather window to make an offshore hop to Charleston SC to avoid many ICW trouble spots and put some miles behind us. The trip is roughly 200 miles and we try to sail no slower than 5 knots but average probably 6.5 knots. So we planned on a 30 hour passage. We left early in the morning and had good wind for the first 15 hours, than motored for about 8 hours and sailed the remaining 7 hours or so to get to Charleston.

We were racing bad weather that was predicted to hit the next day and we easily made it in and anchored up in front of Charleston City Marina where we would spend 6 days. The anchorage is a combination of sunk vessels with only a mast showing to live aboard sail boats that are barely floating to small yachts like Cadence. Not a very scenic anchorage as we are next to a busy highway bridge but we are right next to a large marina that has a courtesy shuttle, laundry, dinghy dock and where we would meet our close friends Dan and Cathy aboard Halcyon. Dan and Cathy live in Wyoming but keep Halcyon in Charleston for the winter and Wickford RI, our home port, for the summers. We also were able to meet up with Rich Walker, an old high school hockey team mate that spent the last 6 years sailing the Caribbean and lives in Charleston. He and his wife Kate were brimming with information we will need for our upcoming travels. They were kind enough to lend us their car while we were here which allowed us to get some much needed errands done.

We ate our way through the city and blew out our dining out budget. Every meal was fantastic as was the company and we look forward to having Rich aboard for some long passages and Dan and Cathy for some destination travel. After our fill of city life we left Saturday morning to make our way towards Beaufort SC. Not to be confused with Beaufort NC.

November 23, 2014

We made about 40 miles and decided to anchor up in Toms Creek. A very beautiful creek that is deep with good holding. The area seems very remote as you cannot see any houses or sign of mankind in the area we are. We took our dinghy up the creek and it goes on for quite a distance. There are several old southern style homes far off the creek with long pier docks that come to the water. The creek is full of blue herons, night herons, pelicans, cormorants, many unidentified birds, and porpoise.

A large storm front is passing over with some decent wind. There is also a 2 knot current in the creek so Cadence is swinging all over the place. We decided we would stay put in the creek as it provides good protection but we needed to do something about the swinging around so decided to put out a stern anchor. What should have taken 15 minutes took us 2 hours in driving rain and wind. I used the dinghy to take out our second anchor and Cadence danced all over the place so we ended up somehow getting the rode from this anchor underneath Cadence. Once we cleared that we somehow got the rode under our primary anchor chain. We cleared that then took all the rode off the second anchor and tied a large white buoy to the chain as to not loose the Danforth, as it is stuck in deep clay and mud. Finally things settled down and I took another swipe at securing the stern to eliminate Cadence dancing all about. Success. Now we are tied up centered in the creek and watching the lightning and thunderstorms pass through.

November 25, 2014

Its strange being in small space all day long but the days go by fast and we remain busy. Jess has been hard at work on a new painting which is coming out really nice. I was busy changing the oil in the genset, then messing around with the anchor and now working on the website photos and blog. Even inside the boat Jess was able to get in a serious 45 minute hard core work out. Space to workout is totally over rated and un needed. We have decided to stay in the creek for a third night but want to get off the boat for a walk so we plan on a dinghy trip somewhere to try and find access to a road where we can stretch our legs.

We took the dinghy into the Edisto river and pulled up on a little beach that on Google maps shows a road not far off the beach. We ended up finding a little dirt road after traversing through a very marshy area. Talk about the middle of now where. It is refreshing to know there are still places like this on the over populated east coast of the US. We walked through fields of fiddler crabs to get to a very over grown once used dirt road that hasn’t seen traffic ages. The trees were all covered in Spanish moss and covered over the road. We walked about a 1/4 mile and started to think about all the wild critters that were wondering who the intruders were. We were not sure if this far north has alligators, wild boar, or who knows how many variety of venomous snakes but we both started feeling like it might not be the safest of paths. We tucked tail and made our way back to the beach where we decided to have a work out and then head back to the boat. We are both ready to depart from Toms creek, one night turned into 3 both because of weather but also the natural beauty in the area. Today we leave for Beaufort to prepare for our Thanksgiving visitor, Patty Babe. We are planning on doing the full monty for turkey day. ​November 30, 2014We made an easy 30 miles to Beaufort South Carolina where we will spend Thanksgiving. We anchored out the first night and have a reservation at the dock for the next 2 nights. We had some some pretty big wind and heavy current so I am sweating the docking procedure that is going to take place. We waited until the tide ebbed and pulled into our dock space, could have used a shoe horn to get into this spot between two boats but with the help of 5 people on the dock we did fine.

Beaufort (buuffurt) is a charming little southern town with some very old homes and older HUGE trees all with hanging moss. Very pretty. Patty Babe joined us Thanksgiving mid day as she was on her way to Florida from Bolton NY. We were able to rig our TV in the boat so we could get Thanksgiving day football. Out of our little galley Jess was able to bake a 13b turkey, with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, asparagus, salad, cranberry, and topped off with pumpkin pie. We really don’t miss much when it comes to food living aboard. In fact I believe we probably or at least I probably eat better than at any other time in my life. The combination of healthy eating and the rigors of boat living have led to me losing 10lbs without even noticing. After dinner we had a very competitive game of scrabble. As much as I hate to lose, or see Jess win a game, it was very satisfying to see Patty lose the game as she claims to be the scrabble champion. I came in third place out of three for points, but the outcome was satisfactory for me. On a side note, I played Jess in a game of one on one scrabble a few days later and beat her bad. So this kind of makes me the scrabble champ at this point, we look forward to another match in Belize with Patty this winter.

On Sunday following Thanksgiving we fueled and watered up and made our way to Port Royal for a quick offshore leg to St. Augustine FL. We decided to spend a night next to Pinckey Island. There is a little river that meanders its way up along this nature preserve. A very serene spot with little sign of man with access to land and walking trails. After arriving and seeing how beautiful it was, we decided to stay for a couple of days before our offshore leg. We both enjoyed ourselves with great weather in this anchorage.

You Might Also Like:
bottom of page