Solomons to Elizabeth City

Solomons To Elizabeth City

Solomons to Elizabeth City




It was cold, Northerly wind as forecast 14 to 17 knots and maximum temperature in the low 40s, less than 10C.  Once out in the bay the engine was off and we had full sail with 15kn off the aft port quarter as we headed about 160 degrees.  Before long with the wind up over 20kn we were doing 7 to 8kn and starting to shorten sail.  A storm had been forecast with weather deteriorating Wednesday, it was now only Tuesday.  An hour or so later, as Sasha was preparing lunch a small (30 ft or so) rather naval grey vessel with flashing red light was heading towards us from the South.  Using a loud hailer an officer informed us that we were in a Naval air bombing practise area and we must head West for a mile or so then we could resume our course.  We jibed and headed West with the Naval vessel following.  After about 10 minutes (over a mile at 7kns) I altered course from 270 to about 150, to get back towards our original course. When we were warned we were already a couple of miles from the practise bombing area shown on the chart so I was not too concerned.  The naval guys seemed to have other ideas as they came after us to head further West for another mile and to head South, not East of South.  We again altered course then heard 2 almost deafening explosions about a second apart, sonic booms I guessed.  We headed West then South as the wind strength built to 30kn and we further shortened sail. The storm front was forecast to come from the South but the wind was strengthening from the North. As we run before the strengthening wind we could see storm clouds from the South so with the breeze now well over 30kn and gusts to 40 we changed plan to head for shelter in Ingham Bay and the small town of Reedville.  It was starting to rain which with wind over 35kn stings the face. Although we had our thermals and all the foul weather gear on it was very cold. In approaching the Reedville entry we had to head North West which put the wind, that was now out of the North East, directly abeam of Ednbal.  I had been towing the dingy on a short line only a couple of feet from the transom in the previously following sea but now with, at times, 40kn abeam it flipped over. Luckily there are two tow eyes on the Aquapro inflatable and I had a bridle arrangement to them for tow so was able lean out over the stern, lift the windward side so that the wind would help flip it back up the right way again.  The dingy flipped twice more and I repeated the procedure before, in failing light, we came into some protection of Ingham Bay. As we turned almost into the wind I started the engine but at first something was wrong because I could not hear it. I just didn’t realise the wind was making so much noise. 








Fortunately Sasha had plotted the new course to the very well sheltered Reedville Marina. By the time we got through the river entry it was almost dark, although just after 5pm.  The last mile up the twisting river with no lit navigation markers was in the dark relying solely on Sasha's course and the GPS.  Eventually, half frozen, we came alongside the Reedville marina dock, behind another yacht that had left Solomons in the morning and had the same change of plan as us. Thankfully there was power outlets on the dock so after securing Ednbal we had the AC on full heat.








We spent the next two days inside the cocoon of Ednbal while it rained and blew gales outside. On the first day we installed all the cabling for the new 24 inch LCD mounted in the saloon.  First we attempted to run the video, USB and power cable in the duct that runs through the cabin coach lining but the radar cable we had already installed there left too little for them.  Instead we had to run them down, past the AC, under the bilge floor and up through the starboard cupboards to the power and communications panel adjacent to the chart table. It was no mean feat and took the whole day! Next day Sasha did the voyage plan all the way to Oriental while I "played" with the engine - just a slack day in general but an early night to be up before first light ready to leave as soon as we could see, for the 60 mile run south to Norfolk.






Reedville to Elizabeth City




The forecast was for 15 to 20kn northerlies, a cold but clear day with the wind behind us. Once out in the Chesapeake Bay we had sails up but with the wind directly astern soon had to fold in the headsail.  Sasha's voyage plan showed the current with us, then, by mid morning, turning to be against us until we reached the Norfolk harbour entry. Initially we were making over 7kn SOG (speed over ground) but as the tide turned we slowed and even as the wind strengthened (it was over 30kn at times) the difference in SOG to water speed increased.  To make our anchorage in Norfolk before dark (about 17:30 at the latest) we would have to average at least 6kn SOG,  Before long, as the wind started to drop, we had the engine on to maintain an SOG of 6kn even though our water speed was over 8kn.  Our speed kept the GPS showing an ETA of 17:15, not much to spare.  The trip was otherwise uneventful until we were heading down the shipping channel of Norfolk harbour.  A big container ship went past and, with the temperature dropping, we tried to call a marina on VHF channel 68 to book a berth with power to run the heating AC  but no answer.  A little later a couple of tugs came alongside the container ship in front of us as it slowed so we moved over and started to overtake it on the starboard side.  When just in front of it the ship gave one blast of its horn.  A few minutes later someone was shining a spotlight on us from the bridge.  I figured something wrong somewhere and grabbed the VHF radio to find it still on channel 68, not 16, the emergency channel we should have been monitoring.  I switched to 16 and called the ship.  The captain said he had been trying to call us for 10 minutes and because he did not know what we doing had slowed the ship almost to a stop as he had to berth to starboard.  He was a little pissed off to say the least. Of course the one blast from his horn had been the signal indicating a starboard turn (2 blasts is for a port turn).  We just carried on, somewhat embarrassed, to our anchorage. It was cold so we turned on the "heater" - gas stove burners with a small fan blowing over the top to distribute the heat.   The medication I received from Oz and had started in Solomons was kicking in and for the first time in many months I was without anti inflammatory drugs for my arthritis (Ankylosing Spondylitis).








During the evening (Friday Nov 24) we had a change of plan for our next leg of the trip South from Norfolk.  There are two ICW (inter coastal waterway) routes, the Virginia Cut or the Dismal Swamp Canal.  On our way North we took the Virginia cut, generally the deeper of the two, with only one lock.  The Dismal Swamp Canal has a "controlling" depth of 6 feet (Ednbal draws 5.1 feet, so not much to spare)  and two locks, one up 8 feet, the other back down 8 feet.  The man made part is about twice as long (a bit over 50 miles), originally built in the 1700s, and only 20 to 30 metres wide. It is reputed to be more scenic and "should not be missed". So, next morning, after refuelling we headed off down the Dismal Swamp Canal.










It was only a few miles to the first lock where we joined 3 other vessels waiting to pass at the 11am opening.  We tied up to the side of the lock and floated up 8 feet as the water was let in. All the vessels then headed a couple of hundred metres along the canal to wait for the lock master to close off the lock and drive to the bridge and open it for us.  So far so good, off we went into the canal.  It turned out to be a bumpy ride. For the most part the depth was between 8 and 10 feet but there logs and other debris on the bottom.  Every now and then there was a bang or shudder as Ednbal rode up over something or hit something in the water.  It is impossible to see anything as the water is the colour of a strong cup of tea due all the tannin from trees and leaves (largely from Cypress trees I believe). Occasionally, mostly when Sasha was at the wheel the echo sounder alarm, set at 7 feet would go off and we would slow right down.






The whole thing is quite nerve racking and went on for over 3 hours until we reached the South Mill lock at the other end.








By the time we were through the lock it was almost 4pm and with no where to anchor for at least 12miles we tied up to a couple of ""dolphins"" - posts in the canal just outside the lock - for the night. 




The area was rural with farm buildings on the opposite bank and we reminded that it is the god given right for Americans to have guns by the gun shots we could hear every now and then. At one point we went past a couple of houses on the edge of the canal and on the opposite bank was a metal human figure full of bullet holes.










It was a beautiful calm still autumn night with perfect reflections on the water of the tress, some still with a few autumn brown leaves. Although it was cold, about 9C, we sat in the cockpit with obligatory GnT a little concerned that someone may use us for target practise.








With 18 miles of Turner Cut Canal (change of name after the lock) to Elizabeth City we tried to get an early morning start but it was just too cold and foggy. We did not under way until 7:45, still quite foggy and although cold, 4C, there was no wind so not bitter.  It was expected that this canal would be similar to Dismal Swamp but to our surprise the water depth was mostly over 15 feet. After about 10 miles the canal widened out into the tree lined Pasquotant River with occasional picturesque houses on the river banks. 







By 10:30 we were in Elizabeth City and had Ednbal in one of the complementary city slips. Having been on board continuously for 5 days we were looking forward to stretching the legs.  It turned out to be a very friendly place. First a person standing one the dock helped us tie up in the slip, then as soon as we got off the boat a guy asked where we were from (Canada?) then asked if there was anything we needed. A little later, while at the hardware store we asked directions to the nearest grocery store and a lady that overheard us offered a lift to it as it was a mile or so away.  Then as we were walking, fully laden, back from the grocery store the same lady stopped and gave as a lift to the boat. It was a beautiful clear day and even warmish, in the sun and out of the light Northerly breeze. We walked around the main square, checked out the usual local architectural wonders but more importantly got some exercise.