It’s been a long while since I updated you on the voyage south. Apologies. I’ll try to get you caught up. In the process, you’ll understand a theme with this trip… catching up.
If you’ve been following us long on any of our journeys you may have noticed that we tend to have pretty ambitious ideas about what we’ll accomplish, only to have those ideas dashed by the reality of slow travel. When we were making our bike trip across Europe, it took nearly nine months to start to settle in to the fact that the plans we made in our living room were never going to be met. However, what we gave up in speed, we made up for in depth.
Since leaving New York, we’ve been trailing another vessel, Maitre D. we arrived in Cape May, NJ the evening of the day they’d left to head straight down to Norfolk, VA. We had bad weather, so decided to keep moving, but going through the Delaware Bay, the C&D Canal, and the Chesapeake Bay to get to Norfolk. It was a longer trip by days. But, we saw some interesting stuff. Large barges and freighters, dolphins, bioluminescent creatures, dealing with tides and tidal currents, and running obstacle courses of crab traps.
Arriving at, and cruising through Norfolk was a highlight. The US Navy is all lined up there… quite an impressive sight to sail past. Gigantic aircraft carriers, even one in dry dock, and the rows of lifeboats hanging from the side of them, made us feel tiny, knowing they were full cities on the water while we’re not even big enough for the family to live on. Norfolk is also where the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) begins, so that was another goal accomplished.
We started to have warmer weather, even, and on the day we sailed through Norfolk, with a nice wind bringing us up to hull speed, it was warm enough to go without a jacket and have bare feet.
We crossed the Albermarle Sound. It was quite rough and gusty. But, we had been getting more and more comfortable with TearAway and I didn’t have any anxiety about making the crossing. It may have been the roughest water we’ve been in yet, but we crossed it without incident. Because it was rough, I’d stowed my phone early on and had told everyone I’d be offline until we get across the sound… assuming there’d be cell service on the other side. Unfortunately, there was not. Thank goodness for our SPOT, because it was able to let folks back home know that all was well, we just didn’t have internet.
In the Alligator River we had our first experience of running aground since the trip in which we’d purchased TearAway. Fitz got a little too close to the edge of the channel and we hit once… BOOM… everything lurched forward. Then boom again a split second later. We were solidly stuck, unable to reverse out of it. We prepped the dinghy and dropped it overboard and Fitz ran the secondary anchor out toward the center of the channel. We pulled and pulled to get the boat to turn and move out into deeper water. Another boater came by and turned around to come back and give us a pull out, but in his turn he also got stuck a little ahead of us. Within a few minutes we managed to get ourselves free using the anchor. It seems we had hit a submerged tree, bumping over one branch and landing in the fork of two branches, so we had to move sideways out of the tree. However, we then spent nearly an hour trying to get the good samaritan freed from the sand bar he’d landed on. Eventually, we pulled his halyard hard to the side to tilt his boat far over to get the keel lifted off the ground.
We tied the boat up at the River Forest Marina in Belhaven, NC and were picked up by Jenn and her parents to go to her cousin’s house for Thanksgiving. It was such a pleasant surprise to be able to do this. Not only was it our family, but Jenn’s extended family on the Sutherland side. That weekend we even had a somewhat impromptu wedding ceremony for Jenn’s aunts Patty and Benita who’ve been together for over 30 years, but only recently have been able to make the union legal. In spite of being “late” in our trip plans, I wouldn’t trade a minute of these festivities for getting an extra day down the ICW.
The following week, Jenn rented a car and stayed with us. We moved forward, but met up each night with her. Each day, one of the boys would go with her for a special day. One day, the boys took the boat on their own and I went with Jenn. Unfortunately, they ended up in a spot on the ICW where the sand had shifted due to the hurricane, causing it to be impossible to navigate through. So, they ran the dinghy in to a marina and picked me up. Elisha and I moved around the inlet on the dinghy, sounding with the boat hook, finding a path through. Eventually we made it through and got in to the marina well after dark, but far before we would have if we’d waited for high tide.
We carried on, weaving our way down the ICW, astonished by the damage done by the hurricane. Not only were there several places where the inlets were completely changed due to shoaling, but there were boats on the ground all over the place. Wrecked docks caused challenges as well several places, where we’d planned to go to city free docks, but they no longer were usable.
Eventually, we got to Savannah, GA. This was one of the places in my mind that I was looking forward to getting to. We arrived early in the day and had arranged to stay at Thunderbolt Marine, just outside of Savannah, for two nights. We showered and went in to Savannah for walking around and to have a pleasant evening, with plans to see a Christmas festival and a free showing of “Scrooged.” The boys and I wandered around River St., getting praline pecans, and generally enjoying the festive feel. Then, I got a call from my dad, delivering the inevitable, but unexpected news that my grandmother passed away. She was a couple weeks away from her 97th birthday, on Christmas day, but was active and healthy, still living on her own. She was one of the most put together, generous, hard working people I’ve ever known, and I miss her deeply.
So, the following morning, we rented a car, arranged to leave the boat at the marina, and drove to Wisconsin. I want to give an extra good word for the people at Thunderboat Marine, Inc., who allowed me to leave the boat there, even after they’d made the decision that they had no more space for storage earlier that week. While we were on the drive to my parents’ house in Indiana, my goddaughter gave birth to her son. After arriving at 2am, sleeping a short night, we drove back south a couple hours to see the baby and mama, then headed back north to Wisconsin, encountering a blizzard on the way. We spent a full week away from the boat. Again, if we’d been “on time” with our departure and in the Bahamas like we’d expected, it’s unlikely we’d all have been able to make it up for the funeral, and I would have regretted that forever.
We continued to move south. Before the funeral, I had rented an AirBnB house in Daytona Beach for Jenn and Hannah to come down and meet us. It was right on the ICW, my thought being we’d be able to have the boat handy and easy to store while we’re having Christmas. However, there was no way we’d be able to get all the way down there. So, we left the boat at the Sunbury Crab Co. in Sunbury, GA and drove to Daytona Beach. We had a really great visit, and a wonderful family Christmas. And, since we were on the ICW, and since we’d moved ahead with the car, we met up with Maitre D. They anchored out not far from our house and we were able to hang out a bit, including Christmas dinner. We spent most every day on the beach, enjoying warm weather and sun.
Of course, we haven’t really “caught up,” and we never will. But, without the “delays” we’d never have been where we needed to be to do the things we did.