This blog is for all those sailors in the Saint John area that are wondering what it is like to travel the Intercoastal Waterway. I will frame it in comparison to travels along the Saint John River.
A day on the ICW is like leaving Saint John and traveling to Gagetown…. every day for 5 days in a row.
It would also be like going through the entrance to Grand lake, washdamoak and Bellisle all in a row… for 8 hours, including going over the flats near Shampers, with 1 foot under the keel.
It might be like traveling through grand lake and then going up the Salmon to Chipman, and then back again.
Some parts, like the “Great Dismal Swamp” would be like going along Manawagonish road, as if it was a canal. … for two days. The trees in many places almost touch over you….. and … there might be alligators.
Then you anchor and have supper and get up at 0600 and do it all again! After about a week you pull into a marina and pay your $1.50 to $3.00 per foot and have a chance to take a long shower, have a courtesy car, see some sights, have a meal out, do some shopping and then return to 5 or so more days as above.
The history that you will see and experience will rewrite so much of what you were told in school. We have spend hours in museums and reading monuments and talking to locals. There is something to learn at every stop along the way.
If you have ever dreamed about doing this… go for it!
Val has left for a visit at Kait’s and I am hunkered down here in Charleston SC until I head up to Toronto for the last week of November. I do have to say that the “Southern weather” can be a bit fickle! We get one day where we comment that we have “beaten winter” or “turned the corner”… and then 5 days of overcast, wind, rain and cold tempetures. I guess we will need to press on as quick as possible when we resume our trip!
In the mean time the boat is docked at the Cooper River Marina, a state park facility on the grounds of an old Navy Base. The staff is extremely helpful and the facilities are modern, clean and well stocked. It is in the middle of nowhere but the staff will always give you a lift to do some shopping or run to the airport. I have met a couple of my neighbors and they are great people.
Found a small new church plant to attend on Sunday and made a couple of connections. We were amazed at the similarities in our walk in the church and theirs! Definitely a sense of connecting to what God is doing. I will return there for sure this Sunday.
I have begun a long list of boat projects for the time that I have on the boat alone. There are a number of “leaks” to be tracked down and fixed, some improvements to the living space as well as some electrical/mechanical issues to deal with. It is great to be located in one place so that I can order stuff and recieve it. I have found that even though we are in a major boating centre it is cheaper, easier and faster to find things on line either at Amazon or an independent dealer and have them shipped directly to the marina. I have ordered some new gaskets for the ports, a new Alternator and a spare drive belt for the Autohelm.
Here is the complete list so far and the status:
Jobs while Val is away
Remote switch for Anchor windless – done
Charging circuit for Anchor windless Battery – done
Battery Box for Windless Battery
Clean drinking water filter -done
Lift and clean dinghy. Store on deck – done
Reinstall and seal windless. – Done
Clean and mark anchor rode – on going (need to let the rope dry out, before I can paint the marks on it!)
Clean and fix oil sump and extractor pump – done
Shop for food – ongoing
Get new spare alternator – ordered
Get spare autohelm belt – ordered
Get spare oil filters ordered locally – he will call
Get oil – done
Find and fix leaks
1 Front left Staunton on pulpit done
2 Windless and foot switches. Done
3 at helm station – still a mystery, but I have some ideas!
Clean deck with hose – ongoing
Organize Vberth –
Add Velcro to screens in preparation for a climate where bugs can actually survive
We did do a day of exploring the history of Charleston when we first arrived. Spent 90 minutes on a city tour and went to the Museum. Very though provoking and informative. When Val returns we will go on a Plantation tour. I will let Val blog about this aspect of the trip as she will do it so much better then I.
Val and I have just booked our tickets for a mid November break. I have meetings with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Toronto the week of the 26th and she is going to visit Kait and the kids in Sask. I have found a place to keep the boat in Charleston for the week that I am away and the rest of the time I will Anchor in a couple of places and do boat projects.
Yesterday we arrived in Myrtle Beach and got a marina slip. There was a bit of a mix up first thing as the marina that I had originally booked, had never heard of the booking service that I used. We were trying to make an 11:00 service at a nearby church that sounded really great. Check out Barefoot Church in North Myrtle Beach SC.
We are within striking distance of Charleston and still have about 10 days before we need to be there for Val’s flight. There are a good number of anchorages along the Wackama river that we will make use of and only go 10-15 miles each day.
Yesterday we enjoye walking on the Beach. I was talking to a local guy today that said there are 60 miles of beach! The sand was like white powder and it squeezed under Val’s bare feet!
Two days ago I had to change the Alternator back to the old one. Remember Cruising is really just boat repairs in exotic locations! The new one that I had bought this summer and installed in Maryland, failed. I spent some time with the guys at Autotec on Duke street on the phone to arange to ship it back to them when I get to Toronto. When I get to Charleston I will look for a replacement.
For the first time we are feeling that we can slow down and enjoy the “South”. Yesterday was reasonably warm and today it looks like it will be warmer still. Seeing Palm trees and Pelicans is now a regular thing, so we must be headed in the right direction.
After we left Beaufort and the Homer Smith Marina and Fish processing plant, we continued South on the ICW to “Mile Hammock” Anchorage. This is owned by the US Military and is a favorite for people traveling between Beaufort and Wrightsville. Just about exactly half way. I think by sunset there were 19 boats anchored. We were lulled to sleep by the sound of light Artilery fire and other military operational sounds. This part of the ICW is also used for live fire exercises and is sometimes closed for obvious reasons. We saw several of the “Targets” scattered along the shore as we went along.
We also passed by a Navy base where they were practicing vertical take off and landing with their Jets. Reminded me of Arnold Schwarzenegger “Your fired!” Those Jets. Very loud.
As there were several bridges that operated on a scheduled we have learned the art of keeping in a neat row without moving but very carefully using FWD and REV and a tiny bit of rudder to maintain our position in line abidst the wind and current. A couple of small z drives attached to a geo stationary controller would work well here!
We are in the south now. Virginia that is. Let me recount the Journey from the time we left Easton (accross from DC) to our entering the Canal known as the Dismal Swamp.
Spending a few days in Easton was a good battery recharge (Literaly as I needed to purchase some batteries for our electrical needs). It was now time to move on and press south to find some of that elusive warm weather that has been teasing us. We make a series of hops down the Chesapeake Bay and are now “in the Ditch” as they say. No more waiting out bad weather warning (we hope).
The first day was delayed a bit as there was a small boat advisory that kept us in Easton until about noon. That did calm down and we cruised down the Trend Avon River and out into the Bay. Having only a half day we only went about 20 miles to a place called Solomons Island. We were able to anchor in a harbor and get fuel that next morning and head out again.
From Solomons we went to a place called Reedville where we went up a creek and anchored in a nice protected basin as yet another cold front was moving through and we would need to stay put until about 10 or so. As we were coming in we noticed that there seemed to be the remenents of some kind of industry there. There were also some very large fishing vessels there with small tenders that looked like they were in some kind of seining operation. As val researched the community we found out that it was and still is a huge fishing community with a significant ocean going fleet. There were two Smoke stacks there. One had been demolished and the other (still standing) had a plaque on it. This may have had something to do with the fish processing industry.
From Reedville we sailed most of the way to Fishing Bay, another beautiful anchorage that we did some ziging and zagging to get into.
After leaving early we put in a full day and arrive at the Hampton Public Piers where we take a Slip, have a drink in a Brew Pub on the Dock, visit a museum and watch “First Man” on an iMax screen.
There is talk of some more snottty weather coming our way and some of our neighbors are talking about staying on in Hampton for two more days to wait it out. I see that there is going to be a bit of a break the next day before it returns to Gale force so we decide to make a break for it and head out accross Hampton Roads, through Norfolk harbour and onto the Elezebeth river and then to the Dismal Swamp Canal. It sounds long but it was only 20 miles. The first ten were against 20+ knots on the nose with a 5 mile fetch. Slowing going and keeping a sharp watch as we are in the home of the Atlantic Fleet for the US Navy. We have never seen so many Navy Ships. Some in use, some mothballed, some getting built and some getting rebuilt.
After the Elizabeth river was Deep Creek which leads to the lock that lifted us up about 9 feet to the level of the Dismal Swamp. We locked through and are tied to a free dock for the night. Tomorrow we head down a very long hand dug cut. Google Dismal Swamp, there is loads of info on it and its connections with the Civil war.
So after a 3 hour sail in windy choppy swelly water we have arrived in one of the prestigious sailing ports on this coast. We passed 2 12 meter yachts as we entered the inner Harbor, and as we walked up the hill to the grocerie store we saw the Church where JFK was married. They were selling tickets on re-enactment displays and live music to relive the Camelot era event. Hopefully tomorrow the Small Craft Advisory will be down and we can make the run to Mystic.
As I reflect on what got me to the point of being ready to set off on this journey I realized there were many influencers and helpers along the way and I want to hold some of those up. Some are people, some are resources and some are ideas. I will try to begin at the beginning and talk about the people in my life that have inspired and instructed.
My Father, Garnet Phinney: From the very begining he was there pointing me in the right direction and providing instruction and experience around sailing, boat building and maintenance. He very much gave me the understanding that if you want it, you can have it, but you might have to do it yourself! He also introduced me to many people along the way who could help.
Bill Fearnhead: my fathers best friend and never very far away. Many of the instruct-able moments came with Bill. He was certainly my greatest influencer with respect to electronics and communications, outboard motors and general technical things.
My Grandfather, Reg Barbour: I supposed the first boat I ever saw was this flat bottom rowboat. He himself had a history of owning, repairing and sailing a number of boats. One of which we actually bought years later, rebuilt it and sailed it for several years.
Gerry Peer: If anyone knew how to do something right it was Gerry. He always set the highwater mark for craftsmanship and seamanship. The fact that he cruised his boat to the Bahamas and build several boats may well be part of the reason that I am doing it and have build several small boats. These things are doable, and should be done.
Stan Bustin: One day after spending several hours at Peers Cottage on Kennebecasis Island, we came home and decided to build a boat. This happened because Andrew had spent all his time rowing a boat back and forth in front of the cottage. I had not been on the water for years and this moment was an inspiration to get back to it. After I built the “Bill and Garnet”, and made a sailing rig for her, Stan approached me and said that any time I wanted to I could take his NorthWind “Seadog” out sailing. I must say with Stan’s encouragement I sailed his boat more than he did. I remember the summer before he passed away taking him out for one last sail. He was really not able to use the boat himself and it was a great privilege to sail with him down past Sandy point where he pointed out his old cottage and told many stories of sailing on Kennebecasis Bay.
It has probably been 10 years since I last ventured up the creek to the Mount House Ruins. My memory served me well as we paddled up the creek and found a likly spot to put to shore. We were only about 200 feet away from the old homestead.
Finding out our way back to the boats was a different story. I missed it be about 200 feet , Val found them