You know how it is when your computer is spitting up, nothing is running quite right, it is way slow…often it gets much better if you just re-boot. Well a total re-boot was necessary for High ZZ’s upon leaving the friendly confines of the Pamlico Sound. Our best laid plans: 30-50 mi per day, warming by 5 degrees each week (based on long-term averages), arriving in FL by March 1…all dashed. You see bridges only open at certain times, the ICW is too shallow, even for our 5 ft draft, in many places to get through except at 1/2 tide or even higher, and the weather…well we already covered that issue. And then the ultimate happens…Shep lost his grounding virginity! Never, in 52 years of sailing had we needed to ask for assistance to get off of the bottom…until Lockwood’s Folly, an infamous ICW trouble spot that was being dredged as we passed. Two hours before low tide we ran up on a “sand ridge”, as the tow operator called it, built up by the barges pushing their way though shallow inlets. We were hard on it, tide flow pushing us on harder, with no way off for 4 or 5 hours (past sunset). At least we got back some of the towing insurance money we have been paying TowBoatUS for 30 years! It was at that point, everything wrong, stressed out (in retirement, really?), that a re-boot was called for. So here we are, enjoying a layover in Charleston, SC, thinking of all of the neat little places we can visit on the way if we just slow down and ignore “the plan”. You see the bridge operators, the weather, the tides don’t really care what your plan is, you just have to “go with the flow”!
After a week held hostage in Oriental NC by this winter’s horrible weather, we are finally off again! We have recorded 17 in of snow on the deck on our trip so far; please, please let there be global climate warming. And that brings us to Lesson #123 -condensation…High ZZ’z is no lady. According to Miss Deb, ladies glisten. Well High ZZ’s SWEATS! With a difference of 50 to 60 degrees, inside to outside, the condensation in a boat is unbelievable. Everything that touches the hull is wet…can’t wait for warm, inside and out! We also recorded a low of 9 F; if only the daily high would raise up to the long-term average low (and now we are not talking tides here). But we can’t imagine what it would be like without our full enclosure. Lesson # 124 – never, never travel on a boat in winter without a propane space heater! The space heater, combined with the evening sun beaming though the enclosure windows makes sundown libations in the cockpit…well….nice! Here we are in Swansboro, enjoying the sunset and a walk around this quaint little town. Too bad it is Sunday, as the sidewalks were all rolled up last night and none of the little shops were open for Deb to explore; just the craft beer, ice cream and espresso bar, what a great combination, and Lesson #125 – always go out for ice cream on the coldest day of the year. That tradition we started when we lived in West Lafayette, IN, has allowed us to laugh our way though many a cold winter…and it still serve us well.
We are finally off! The journey began with a splash and a dash just around the bend to Norfolk….Norfolk you say? We thought you were stuck in Norfolk? Yes, we were struck in Little Creek (Atlantic side) but on Tuesday we struck out for Norfolk…the western side…Waterside. Tough sledding at first, wind on the nose and 3 to 5 ft. seas left over from a small craft advisory Monday (good thing we are not a “small craft). The splash and bash lasted only 1.5 hr until we made the turn at Thimble Shoal…it was all down hill, or down wind, from there to Waterside Marina. Wednesday was a big learning experience, from learning about rail road bridges that, according to all the cruising guides are “usually open”, but can be closed for repairs for 2 hr. past the usual opening for Gilmerton bridge. From there south, to learn about uncharted, unlit, un-announced pipelines. What looked like a reflection in the water of the bridge we just passed under turned out to be a 2 ft diameter floating pipe completely blocking the canal. I realized what it was with only 2 or 3 boat lengths to spare…we learned how fast High ZZ’s can stop when needed! The contractor and captain of the tug that came to move the pipe were most apologetic. But that, and N&S RR, made us miss our first “Lock Date” by 20 min. Ah, “locking through”, another big learning experience we can discuss over a stiff drink when you have an hour or two. A very cold night at the Dismal Swamp Visitor Center guest dock…and yes, there is a very good reason it is called the Dismal Swamp, especially in winter (another hour, another stiff drink). And now we are finally tide (did you get the first one in the last blog?) I mean tied up at Pelican Marina in Elizabeth City, NC enjoying that stiff drink, the warmth in the cabin that only a 120V/30A hookup can provide feeling quite proud that we made the “big ditch” with nary a scratch on the gelcoat, all bits and pieces still attached, and still keeping the water out and the rig facing up.