Bryan's email is: SpamBlocker.firstname.lastname@example.org (remove SpamBlocker., of course)
Norfolk, VA 5-12-02
Dear family, friends, colleagues, and other notables,
This version of "As the Irie turns" finds us floating up the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). It is "intra" because it is an inland waterway that runs along rivers, bays and canals up the East Coast from Florida to the Cheasapeake Bay (and beyond, actually). It is a waterway cut thru through Americana, through marshes, small towns, fishing villages, and bridges. Very little of the ICW cuts thru metropolitan areas, most of the scenery is suburban, rural or natural.
The abundance of bridges was a major reason why we decided to skip the South Florida part of the ICW. Being familiar with condos and buildings, we decided to skip this bridge-intensive part of the waterway. So when we first headed out, we went out on the ocean and hopped on the Gulfstream to bypass South Florida urbana.
The Gulfstream, if you didn't know, is a ~3 MPH current running along the US East Coast. It is about 5 miles offshore from Miami, and gives northbound travellers a little push. It is probably hard for you to image the excitement associated with seeing your speed-over-ground reading on the GPS soar to 12 miles per hour! Whew!
We sailed all day and all that first night. Not having learned my lesson crossing from the Bahamas, the front hatch was left cracked, allowing the kids' room to get (mostly) soaked; so I spent the daylight part of the trip pulling sheets and mattresses out to hang dry.
We felt quite pleased with our astonishing progress when we raised Cape Canaveral that next morning. In 24 hours we had gone about as far as you might make driving a car for about 3 hours or so.
Coming into the Cape Canaveral inlet, we could see the rocket launching pads in the distance, and the gigantic hangers. Very impressive. Unfortunately, there were no launches scheduled for the immediate time frame. We had our first experience with a lock at Cape Canaveral; this one is not designed to raise or lower boats but acts as a tidal dam. I didn't notice much change in the water level. A couple dolphins and manatees joined the several boats going thru the lock, it was a shortcut for them too, I suppose.
Thus began our voyage up the "Ditch." The typical day consisted of motoring 5-8 hours each day, unless we were at a stop we wanted to look around to a day or two. The tedium of driving 5-8 hours a day is offset but the constantly changing view of nature and environment as it passes by at 7 MPH. Actually, for me, the tedium of driving 5-8 hours a day is offset by the fact that it is Art who does most of the driving. I'm usually preoccupied with the schoolin'.
Two things were immediately noticeable upon entering the intracoastal: No waves and brown water (giving our pretty white boat the "intra-coastal moustache). The days of beautiful clear blue waters were over for us (for awhile), but so were the rollers. I don't mind them, but they do interfere with school. "I'm sick" -- the time honored excuse -- obtains a certain credibility when the boat is rolling in the waves. The rolling is also unpopular with great masses of the crew. The wavelessness of the ICW made it easier to focus on school, and we had a number of double sessions to make up for the time lost in January.
We stopped at the major cities along the way: St. Augustine, Savannah, Charleston, Norfolk, and numerous smaller ones. When at interesting places we might take a day or two to walk around. A couple times along the way we stopped and went to the beach. Seeing the wild ponies up close on the beaches on Cumberland Island (Georgia) and Cape Fear (N.C.) was fun. But most days we would motor on up, and stop for the evening at an anchorage, or, every few days, a marina. Because we wanted to keep open the option of sailing to Europe this summer, we wanted to make it to Cheasapeake Bay by early May to give us at least a few weeks there. That meant we had to keep up the pace on the ICW. I'd estimate we averaged about 40 miles a day, sometimes doing 60-70. At 7 miles an hour.
I was surprised that I didn't see more boat traffic. I expected a hoard of winter snowbirds to be proceeding northbound for the summer. In general we met less people and less kids than we did in the Bahamas. Maybe that's because everyone is going somewhere instead of just hanging around. I had figured that Miami boaters were probably the rudest around, but the ICW boaters regularly sniped at each other over the radio, mostly over wakes. It seemed daily we'd hear the Coast Guard intercede: "Channel 16 is for emergency and hailing only."
As for the water, with the dirty brown color returned the abundant wild life that seemed strangely absent in the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas. We saw abundant dolphin all the way into Virginia, osprey make nests on channel markers all up the ICW, and various other kinds of critters abound.
One type of critter that was all too common on warm calm days was the horsefly. They are big flies and inflict an irritating bite. Their favorite pastime was flying around the cabin, buzzing the girls while they tried to do their school work, which would set them a-screaming. On several occassions we had to batten down to keep the pests out. Fortunately, horseflies are not terribly fast, and are big, and therefore are easy targets for the flyswatter patrol. When the girls were terrorized, "Flyswatter Man" would arrive in the nick of time to vanquish the filthy insects. One afternoon the girls joined in with an all out assault in the cockpit. At the end of the battle, the field was littered with scores of the dead; but despite having huge technological advantages, the enemy overwhelmed us with sheer numbers eventually forcing our retreat. Fortunately, the beasts left us alone in the evening, and we have been lucky that we have not been hassled by the skeeters.
Our only major mishap was running hard on a mudbank, and managed the loss of a propeller. It's fairly easy to run aground when you can't see any depth in the water, and the ICW shoals in various places. It was a big plus having two engines, as we were able to continue the voyage on one engine. To compensate for the lack of power we sailed more, which is tricky in some of the narrow ICW canals, particularly when the wind is on your nose. We ordered a new prop (through Marine Products 2150 W. King St., Cocoa, FL 32926 321-636-8950 fax:638-3668, who were very professional and helpful) and it was flown to us in Savannah. That was 450 buckos. We debated whether to haul the boat to change it or do it in the water, and decided to save several hundred dollars and do it ourselves in the water. Diving in murky brown water where you have difficulty seeing your hand was certainly different than floating in the transparent blue of the Bahamas, but we got the new prop on and continued on our way.
Everyone one is getting along fine -- usually. The girls get along wonderfully, like three sisters. The adults are also getting along, in fact, I was surprised when Eileen conscended to continiung the voyage in Europe -- but there are the ocassional irritations that you get being with anybody too long. Art and I are both stubborn guys, so we sometimes get on each other's nerves about how something is to be done, but it's minor things mostly. I have to keep the "it's all small stuff" rule in mind, tho' it's tough because you (I) want to do certain things certain ways on a boat. There are the occassions when it would be nice to have a separation module (like on Star Trek) were you could separate for a few days and then rejoin the mother ship. I'll suggest that modification to Fortuna, the manufacturer.
Tracie still is AWOL, trying to deal with the horse business in St. Martin. An interested buyer fell through. She is now trying find someone to manage the business while we cruise. The plan is for her to rejoin us in Portugal this July.
Interpersonal irritations are invariably increased by rough weather. On the last leg of the trip in Virginia, we had a section of the trip through the Alligator River and Albermarle Sound. Unlike much of the ICW, this part is a relatively wide body of water, wide enough to generate some chop. The weather forecast that day called for 20-25 knot wnds dying to 15. It stayed pretty much at 25 all day, however, coming straight us, of course. We sailed on a beat -- the five hour trip across the sound was one of those affair of bashing against the waves, some of which would wash over the top of cabin. I thought it was fun; but Colette threw up and Eileen swore she was getting off the boat at the earliest opportunity. Fortunately we had reservations at a quaint litttle marina, complete with hot tub (and calm waters) and a cable TV connection which helped everyone's spirits.
All in all though, the weather has been great, though gradually cooling as we gained latitude. Bad storms have been few. We did get caught on shore during one downpour in North Carolina, however. One piece of advice to any would-be cruisers: Close yer windows when you leave the boat. Art did not and his bed got soaked (it was his turn) as did half the couch in the main cabin. An emergency stop in the nearest marina turned up one washer and one dryer for Art to do his five loads. He was out til midnight that night and it wasn't for partyin'.
We arrived in the port of Norfolk, VA, on May 12th. Norfolk is a huge Naval port with scores of huge naval warships scattered about the place. We took Eileen to a Crab house in the trendy waterfront area (like a lesser Bayside in Miami) for an uninspired meal. Oh well, it was a touristy place, I know there will be better seafood places in the Cheasapeake, where we will be spending the next few weeks.
My efforts to conquer the great works of man have decayed embarrasingly; my latest readings included the "Harry Potter" series and "The Winds of War" I picked up at a book exchange (which is actually a pretty good book if you have any interest in WWII).
Well, that's it for now for the log. Next will be the "Cheasapeake" segment, and then the "What happens when you coop two in-laws up on a boat for a month in the middle of the ocean" segment.
Best wishes, and we always appreciate getting email from you all. Because of computer glitches, I can receive email on the boat, but cannot easily send messages (and have to do so from internet connections on land). Hopefully we will resolve this technical problem and I'll be able to respond to email more freely.
If you want to receive previous segments of these babbles let me know. If you want to be off the list (and who could blame you if you got this far) let me know (as long as you don't mind insulting me severely). Also, if you think crossing the ocean (at the beginning of June) in a 37' catamaran with two neophytes sounds like something that would satisfy your death wish, drop us a line, as we would consider another crew member.
Bryan on Irie.