We left Oriental very early on Monday, April 18th, with Cutting Class, the day the winds were finally going to lay down. The next two days are one of my least favorite sections of the ICW, perhaps the very least favorite. We just wanted to get it done.
It’s winding day in and out of rivers and canals. From Oriental the ICW heads into the Neuse River for a short stretch, and then cuts “inland” westward past Hoboken.
The original plan was to reach Deep Point, an anchorage on the Alligator River, north of the Alligator River -Pungo River Canal, stop there for the night, and then continue across the Albemarle Sound and on to Coinjock. But both boats decided to keep on going past the Alligator River Bridge and anchor at Sandy Point.
Tuesday, April 19th and we are up and going again, time to cross the Albemarle. Albemarle Sound can be quite rough in certain conditions. It is wide and shallow (15-20 feet at most so the wind can kick up the waves. Today was a good day. It is on the other side of the Albemarle Sound, that cruisers must make a choice – Dismal Swamp route or Virginia Cut?? In the fall we had “done the Dismal” taking that route from Portsmouth, Virginia into North Carolina. We decided that the Virginia Cut was the way to go on our northbound travels.
We reached Coinjock Marina on the North River in the Virginia Cut by noon. The docks at Coinjock is a singular dock– one long face dock, 1200 feet long! The marina’s crew knows just how to place the boats and are right there to assist as you come alongside. Coinjock is in the middle of nowhere, but that nowhere location is just right for stopping if you are on the ICW between the Alligator River and Virginia border. There aren’t many other choices.
It felt like a summer day in the 80’s, a little warm blip of a day in the midst of the cold days we have experienced. While Al changed the oil and washed the entire boat with fresh water, I did laundry and polished stainless steel.
The four of us reserved our slabs of beef ahead of time, but showed some restraint – each couple shared a “Mate’s Cut”, the 14-16 ounce cut rather than the Captain’s 32 ounce piece. It was delicious.
The day began in a routine way, casting off and heading north, just like the many days that preceded it. After crossing the Pimlico River, the Alligator River, Albemarle Sound, and the North River (Coinjock), you would have thought we were done with potentially rough waters, but Currituck Sound and North Landing River gave us quite a ride! There was more “traffic” on the water than we had seen since beginning of this northbound trip three weeks ago. The bows of sailboats were splashing up and down in the strong winds and very choppy water in Currituck Sound. The top of our flybridge may be 18 feet above the water’s surface, but the water sprayed up and over our bow all over Kindred Spirit. Much to our surprise, and Al’s dismay after his hard work, the “spray” was sometime more like a wave of water. She was so clean….. and this river water is so brown.
Once we were into the narrower stretches of the ICW, the waters calmed and we settled into following the ICW route into Pungo Ferry. Well, things were calmer, and narrower, but there was also more boat traffic as well as barges and tugs.
I call this part of the trip “Dances with Barges.” The drama began with this sight coming around a bend —
The ICW is narrow and winding here so the tugs and their barges aren’t visible until you round a bend. Fortunately, the VHF radios kept us in touch with each other. The barge captions were all patient.
Aries informs all of us that he will now move ahead and lead the pack to Great Bridge Bridge (not a typo, that’s the name) and then into the Great Bridge Lock. We are all aiming for the 12:00 bridge opening, because it only opens on the hour.
Great Bridge Lock is coordinated with Great Bridge Bridge. On we all go……… One tug and barge followed by 9 “rec” boats as the commercial guys referred to us on the VHF radio. At least I assumed they mean “rec” for recreational boats and not “wreck.”
A few more bridges (open railroad bridges and the Gilmertin Bridge) and we are in Portsmouth. Whew. What a day! We will reconsider the Dismal Swamp route next time. It may be longer and a bit shallower, but it requires no dancing with barges and bridges.
Instead of anchoring at Hospital Point as we usually do, we decided to try the free docks in downtown Portsmouth, two small cut-out harbors.. This one, North Landing, seemed to be roomier and no one else was there at that hour. The only thing we had to contend with was the constant in and out of the ferry boat. But it’s a free dock for the night, so who cares about noise and some wakes???
Not the most exciting segment of the journey, nor the prettiest for sure, but it was part of the journey and has been duly recorded. Done.