As most of you know we spent a few months away from our beloved motor yacht Angelique to have some precious time with our family and friends. We were able to spend time with so many folks while we were in Portland and we are grateful for that! We surely had mixed feelings about leaving, as we were enjoying so much quality time with those we love, it was hard to leave. But Angelique is our home and we were glad to be back on her and we were starting to make our plans to go south again.
After arriving back on Angelique, we spent a bit of time talking about the plans for the following week. As always, our plans well layed can change in a moments notice. We are really good at being flexible when something demands change from us, ie; weather, waves in anchorage spot, unsafe situations, mechanical problems, heath issues, etc, etc. This is a key trait when sailing or cruising, folks that have hard dates or plans eventually get themselves in trouble by pushing on with risks looming.
During the first week back aboard Angelique, we spent time cleaning and provisioning, in addition to our planning activities. It is amazing how much dust and grime settles into and the boat when it is just sitting. With those tasks taken care of we welcomed our friend Deb on board on Monday evening. We had invited Deb to join us on our trip south in the ICW. She was interested in learning and traveling along with us to experience the challenges with the ICW.
We had the pleasure of meeting Deb on our way north and kept in touch as the months went by. She has another big Hatteras, “Mad Hatteras” that lives in New Bern NC. She is fairly new to boating and we welcomed the guest and extra crew along.
Tuesday morning we hit the fuel dock at Atlantic Yacht Basin before leaving the marina. This marina sits right on the ICW next to the “Great Bridge” and the park by the locks. After fueling we headed south on “The Ditch”. This is a slang term used to reference the ICW “Intracoastal Waterways” Being that we are from the West Coast, us Pacific Northwesterners don’t really understand the footprint and construction of these valuable waterways. I had to do a bit of research and have had some comments back to me regarding terms I used in previous blog articles. Thank you Readers!
Here is a link ⇒ ICW Wiki for some good information about the Intracoastal Waterways and below some of my comments regarding this wonderfully, beautiful, complicated and useful waterway.
The IntraCoastal Waterway, also known as ‘America’s oldest highway’ ‘ICW’ or ‘The Ditch.’ This body of water consists of bays, lagoons, rivers, natural inlets, and sounds with canals some man made and lots of bridges. Some bridges are high enough to go under and many requiring you to stop, call on VHF and wait for it to open. (some have scheduled times that you must wait for) This waterway acts as a highway for traveling boaters, commerce and coastal trade. The ICW provides a safe and navigable passage along the Atlantic Coast line without hazards of traveling a long distance in the open ocean. This waterway was no accident and started shortly after the Revolutionary War (early 1800’s). States along the coast began to build canals in order to move goods seamlessly from one city to another. In 1909 Congress passed the Rivers and Harbors Act authorizing the US Army Corps of Engineers to complete a survey for an Intracoastal Waterway System. In 1913 the Corps proposed a plan for the Intercoastal waterway to go from Beaufort NC to Key West Florida. Today, The Army Corps of Engineers are still responsible for maintaining the waterways.
The ICW has nautical mile markers, Norfolk VA at mile 0 to Key West FL at mile 1243 with an average depth of ~10 feet. It is commonly stated amongst boaters travelling these waterways, “that it is not if you will hit bottom, but when” To not complicate things more with just shallow channels, markings are also complicated. Normally it is said that “Red Right Returning” meaning that you always keep the red marker on your right when returning from sea. The ICW runs parallel with the ocean, so which way is returning? This adds complications with understanding the exact spot to be in the channel. Thank goodness for our electronic charts that mark the channel. (well, kinda — see our mishap later in article)
Here is a snippet I copied from BoatUS Article about how the ICW is maked:
“Here’s what to do: Going south on the ICW from New Jersey to Texas is considered a “return.” In fact, if you consider the ICW going in a clockwise direction (from north along the East Coast all the way south to Brownsville, Texas), the red is on the right. Following the same clockwise direction, boaters going north on the West Coast also keep the red on the right. But there are channel markers and then there are ICW channel markers.
ICW channel markers always have a yellow rectangle or square, and in the event two markers offer conflicting directions, the yellow colors supersede the colors of the actual red or green marker on which they appear. When traveling southbound, markers with a yellow triangle should be passed by keeping it on the right (starboard) of the vessel while markers with a yellow square or rectangle should be passed by keeping it to the left (port side) of the vessel.”
SOOOOO…. with shallow channels, difficult markings, many bridges, and much attention needed for traveling with its twists and turns. There is still one more item to understand! Passing another boat in the channel or being passed. It can be a very narrow passage in some places, so what is the correct way to pass a slow moving boat? Etiquette is: hail ahead to the boat you would like to pass and ask for “a slow pass”. What is being asking is to do a controlled pass of the other boat. After notification, as you get close to the stern of his boat you will slow down to not wake him and he will slow down so you can actually pass with some speed. Both boat hug the channel of opposite sides and as soon as the pass is completed, you will both go back to our normal cruising speed.
With all the difficulty of the ICW, It is still an awesome adventure to see the sights and towns along the way! But you must always keep your alertness and attention on your driving and navigation while enjoying the calm water and beautiful sights. We take this knowledge along on our trip south.
Our first stop was a marina on the ICW just about 30 miles south called Coinjock Marina and Restaurant. We picked this location because we heard the Prime Rib was the best! We were not disappointed, though the smallest piece of prime rib was too big for anyone to finish. Leftovers were brought back for sure. We stayed one night.
Map of our stops along the way
Our plan was to anchor out the remainder of our trip towards New Bern. Which is what we did. Our second day we traveled through the Alligator River to anchor at the lower turn of the river. As Dan headed into the river mouth the chart we were following and the buoy’s were not lined up as we would have thought. The channel maker were way off the channel and Dan didn’t follow the buoy’s and we hit bottom… (Not IF, but WHEN was now) Luckily the bottom was mostly sand and silt and easy to back off of. Dan did a couple maneuvers until we realized what we did wrong. The channel had actually moved from what was on our plotter (see Phone Navionics Screen shot of a better chart to the right) and he didn’t notice it…. boy was I glad I wasn’t driving or I might be swimming in that muddy bottom river after a toss overboard of his first mate!
We always have a target in mind of where we might anchor, but we watch as we get close and maybe anchor earlier or further by a few miles as we are able to see the lay of the water/land and other boats anchored. We anchored a few miles early this night… as the sun was going down and we found a nice place where we felt safe. We had a nice dinner and evening and took off for the next location.
Our next day we spent traveling to Belhaven NC up the Pungo River. Dan and I had been there before and really enjoyed the small town. We had stayed at the River Forest Manor and Marina marina. But this time we just anchored out in the bay. It had a nice breakwater so it was very comfortable. We planned on staying two nights so we could visit the town the next day and have dinner at the most marvelous restaurant in town, Spoon River Artworks and Market. We had eaten at this spot on our way north and thought that Deb would enjoy it. Us girls also spent a bit of time walking around town meeting shop owners and learning about what keeps their town afloat. One of the nicest ladies was owner of @dillyjeans ⇒ find her on Instagram! She also sells online! We loved the little town and we got a personalized tour of the River Forest Manor where they hold weddings and events. This manor was built by John Aaron Wilkinson in 1899 who was president of the J.L. Roper lumber company and VP of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad. This 13,000 Sq ft mansion took 5 years to build and it is the most stunning property I have ever seen. We totally enjoyed ourselves in this town.
The last stop was New Bern NC, well actually we stayed across the river in Bridgeton Marina. This is where Deb keeps her Hatteras “Mad Hatteras.” It is a nice marina and a bit quieter than over at the city marina. We planned on staying 2-3 night but the weather got bad and we had the tropical storm Eta move past us. It was a few miles out into the ocean and we were in a very protected area back off the coastline. We just had pouring rain for 2 days and quite a bit of wind. But it settled down quickly and we enjoyed the sun the next couple days.
A few more pics of our travels along the ICW
If you haven’t done the Intracoastal Waterway, We highly recommend it. But take your time and enjoy all the locations along the way!
Down the coast again… to see more of The Ditch!