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ICW and the Chesapeake

July 11, 2018

Wow, I guess time has moved very quickly as I see I have not written anything on my blog in over 2 months. Not only has time flown by but there has been quite a bit of water that has drifted by the keel. Those miles are not the miles achieved offshore but rather slowly accumulated mostly under power.

Having been caught offshore of Southport, NC by virtually no wind we motored our way the last 100 miles and since Southport have had very little sailing. Connie refutes this claiming that we sailed 40% of the ICW but by my reckoning most of that was motor sailing i.e. with what little wind being from the south I would raise the drifter and pretend to sail along the ICW. The reality being that the sail did little to move us along and the engine really accomplished the virtual sail.

Yes, we went all the way up the ICW from Southport NC to Norfolk VA. I can’t say I would do it again but in many respects it was very interesting. We usually only made 25 miles/day as I couldn’t stand the motor any longer. That was OK as we stopped at some beautiful spots while other boats roared by trying to motor a minimum of at least 60 miles/day.

Lots of opportunities to launch the kayak and paddle some of the backwaters if the ICW 

The ICW meanders its way north through mostly man-made cuts intersecting the low-lying lands. There are some occasional open areas but one cannot stray off the channel which is generally wide enough for two boats to pass each other going in opposite directions. It may be enticing to wander off the channel to explore what may be beckoning but with most off-channel areas being less than 5 feet Sage cannot risk drifting off the marked channel.

Home Sweet Home

                                                        Dinner on the fly

There’s no relaxing when moving along the channel. To take your eyes off the channel risks either wandering off to the sides and going aground or colliding with another boat. One must follow the markers and each one is numbered. Each one also has a resident osprey who screeches at all the boats to keep them away from the nests.

           What – this one must be on a trailer being pulled along the road

There is never any problem pulling over and anchoring along the ICW. Most parts of the edges of the channel allow boats enough depth to pull off and anchor out-of-the-way of moving traffic especially if one anchors bow and stern. Otherwise there are lots of areas for anchoring off in side bays and outside of the markers. In the picture above we are anchored in quite a large bay (enough for 15 boats) where the main channel allows others to keep on moving.

Calm yes but it’s the calm before the storm. Just another wild summer lightning storm arriving with buckets of rain. Never have had problems collecting enough rain for the tanks

Most traffic along the ICW is recreational. There are few commercial barges in active service but one always has to be ready to make way for them. In the one and only lock we went through we were placed in between the walls of the lock and a barge. Everything moved like clockwork and the workers helping maneuver the boats knew exactly what they were doing in the Great Bridge Lock just south of Norfolk.

The barge to starboard and the concrete lock wall to port. Not too much room to maneuver

Being the one and only lock we went through I can’t say there are many more on the ICW. But there are lots of bridges. Most of the bridges have a 65 foot clearance but if they don’t then they are staffed and generally are swing and/or lift bridges which open on demand or on the 1/2 hour or hour.

Just don’t swing that shut when I am halfway through

There’s one other hazard on the ICW. We anchored for the night in Hammock Bay, NC. It’s actually part of Camp Le Jeune a Marine Base. For most of the afternoon noise of the airborne death jets scream overhead from the local airbase. The sonic sreams silence the natural sounds of lapping water in the anchorage. The might of America is on display.

The next day we continue up the ICW and come to a large sign indicating a firing range which crosses the ICW and the large traffic lights let you know if it’s safe to proceed for the next 5 miles. The light was green. It was eerie – on both sides of the ICW one could see the military had planted derelict tanks, planes etc to use for target practice. They were all riddled with bullet holes and missing sections. The wildlife was incredible but all I could think of is what does the wildlife do when they are caught in the crossfire of the firing range?

No longer an APC (armoured personnel carrier)

This was our first sighting of the US military might but it wasn’t the last. Norfolk was not far up the ICW. If you ever want to be impressed by military strength then Norfolk is the place to go. It has the largest naval base in the world.

The ICW enters the Chesapeake at Norfolk. The lock is just south of Norfolk and once out of the lock the navy makes its presence known. I think, as we went through Norfolk, we saw 4 aircraft carriers; not the biggest ones but large enough to make one quake at the fire power.

USS Wisconsin — a WWII destroyer – just a small ship by today’s standards

After a few days in Norfolk getting some much-needed supplies and getting a little culture (Chrysler Museum) it was time to head out into the Chesapeake.

Part of the Chrysler Museum’s glass collection of Tiffany lamps

The Chesapeake is a vast low-lying collection of rivers and inlets with very little rising more than 15 metres above sea level. It’s shallow making it arduous as it takes a while to get out into the open water and into enough depth to more north. Then when one comes to the end of the journey one has to spend another 1-2 hours motoring up a river or inlet to get to an anchorage or town.

The towns are tiny and services very limited. Those towns we do visit don’t even have a grocery store within a couple of miles so it’s always a struggle to replenish stores.

Our only schedule for the season was to join the Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) rally in Reedville. We’re recent members and joined as we thought it would be a good way meet people on the NE coast of the US. It’s proved to be well worth while and the 4 day rally was our first connection with an OCC sponsored event. 4 days spent together with almost 30 boats visiting Reedville, St. Mary’s and Leonardtown.

Only a few of those boats that joined the rally

The end of the rally saw us 1/4 of the way up the Potomac. Instead of going all the way to Washington DC we went back out the Potomac and north to Annapolis and here we are….

7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2018 15:13

    So, according to Google, ICW stands for Insane Competitive Wrestling…a new occupation for you both?!


    • July 12, 2018 14:46

      We’ve been doing that for years with no clear winner!

      Tony GibbOnboard SageMoving North Slowlywww.sageonsail.com1-910-209-2207

  2. July 11, 2018 15:39

    Great to hear from you…was getting worried.
    Awesome photos!

  3. Louise permalink
    July 11, 2018 16:22

    Great blog as usual, Tony. And brings back memories of my own time in the ICW. You didn’t mention any alligator encounters – were there any?

    • July 12, 2018 14:45

      No alligators except for those marina owners charging $2.40/ft/night! A tually they are crocodiles not alligators!

      Tony GibbOnboard SageMoving North Slowlywww.sageonsail.com1-910-209-2207

  4. Wayno permalink
    July 11, 2018 20:11

    Nice one you old barnacle.. fantastic bird pics. Thanks mate!

  5. Darrel and Loretta Smith permalink
    July 11, 2018 23:56

    This brings back such wonderful memories for us. Thank you!

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