A Slower Pace – Entering and Traveling the ICW

We left Charleston, SC on September 6, 2017 and headed offshore going north.  We had hoped to enter the Intracoastal Waterway at Charleston, but with storms coming our way, we decided to go ahead and get as far north as we could before entering the ICW.

There were storms and rough waters offshore.  The dogs stayed clipped in the cockpit on a beanbag for their comfort and safety, and the kids stayed inside the boat for the most part.  Benny had never enjoyed the beanbags before moving on to the boat.  Now they are his seat of choice.

We entered the ICW at Southport, NC (Cape Fear River) on September 7th.  Our pace immediately slowed and all sailing came to a halt.  The river was too narrow to use the sails, so we had to motor at this point.  But the waters were calm, and we were thankful for that.

Oak Island Lighthouse
Homes along the Cape Fear River
Homes along the Cape Fear River
Homes along the Cape Fear River

Our first drawbridge to come upon was the Wrightsville Bascule Bridge.  We called the bridge operator over the radio, and the bridge was opened for us.  There was a little bit of boat traffic at this bridge, but we were the only boat needing the bridge to open.

Wrightsville Beach
Floating Bar at Wrightsville Beach
Wrightsville Bascule Bridge
The inner workings of the Wrightsville Bascule Bridge
Benny checking out the situation
Wrightsville Bascule Bridge open as we passed through

An hour later we came to Surf City Swing Bridge.  We were alone when needing this bridge to open.  In fact, there was very little boat traffic on the ICW period.

Surf City Swing Bridge

We traveled a little while longer looking for a good place to anchor for the night.  We didn’t have any luck.  The water was shallow and the channel was too narrow.

It was dark by the time we made it to Sneads Ferry, NC.  Luckily, we had cell service and were able to locate a marina where we could dock for the evening.  The dock master led us in by flashlight and helped us tie the dock lines at Swan Point Marina.   The facilities were minimal, but it was a nice quiet location, and we slept well.

The next morning, we stopped next door at the New River Marina for diesel before continuing north.  The dogs were so excited to be able to jump off the boat and walk around in the grass for a bit while fueling up.

The trip was going well on the morning of September 8th until we passed the Onslow Beach Swing Bridge and entered the military testing area.  We weren’t sure what this meant, but we were stopped by a military boat and were told that we had to wait until testing was complete.  The timeframe for testing was unknown, so we anchored.  I did some laundry, and John worked on the boat.  We watched as helicopters passed overhead and dropped what looked like little bombs over the testing site.

It was about an hour later when we noticed that there was a break in testing, however, they told us that our boat was too slow and we wouldn’t be able to make it out of the testing area before testing resumed.  We had to wait for another round of testing.  This time, it was less than an hour, but when I went to pull up the anchor, the anchor remote got tangled in the manual override part of the anchor box and the power was cut.  It took some time to get the remote functional again, and we were working frantically hoping to not get caught in another round of testing.

I guess they decided that testing should be finished for the day and drove off in the opposite direction from where we were heading.  We were relieved when they left but still a little flustered with how the day was going.

We passed Swansboro, NC soon after leaving the military testing area.  There were kayaks, shrimp boats, and beautiful little salty houses everywhere.  It was a very picturesque place.

Colorful kayaks in Swansboro, NC
Foxy Lady Shrimp Boat

There was a definite temperature drop when we reached this area.  We were excited for the cooler weather and enjoyed putting on warm clothes for a change.

Glen dressed a little warmer
Liam enjoying the cooler weather
Erik playing indoors
Oliver soaking up the sun

We didn’t make it quite as far as we had hoped on this particular day.  We ended up anchoring near Beaufort, NC where we witnessed a beautiful sunset.

Sunset near Beaufort, NC

The next two days have us traveling the ICW without much to mention.  Beaufort to Alligator River to Virginia Beach is an expanse of wildlife.  We saw Bald Eagle after Bald Eagle during this stretch as well as some more shrimp boats and sunsets.

Shrimp Boats all in a row
John and Oliver keeping each other warm
Bald Eagle
Sunset in the Alligator River
Alligator River Tree with birds
Sunset in the Alligator River

The next day held more excitement than the previous two days.  There were more Bald Eagles.  I felt like they were taunting me by not coming quite close enough for me to get a sharp image.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle
This little bridge was just open for us to pass through

We came to the Great Bridge Lock and tied up to the dock.  There was a little park with bright green grass to our right.  I guess Benny couldn’t resist the sights and smells and made a great leap off the side of the boat.  With his long legs he didn’t have any trouble sticking the landing.  He quickly made his way to the end of the lock where he proceeded to relieve himself.

The lock workers were amused and wanted to keep him to ward off the gaggles of nuisance geese.  Although tempting, especially to John and I, the boys wanted him back.  Liam and Glen jumped off the boat with leash in hand to retrieve their Retriever.  Oliver watched all of this from the edge of the boat, and when the boat was high enough in the lock, he looked as though he wanted to make a break for it as well.  Erik quickly harnessed Oliver up and kept him by his side.

Once back on the boat, Benny was leashed but all smiles.  We made it through the lock and continued on our way.

Great Bridge Lock
Great Bridge Lock looking south – you can see the bright green grass on the left of the picture
Benny after his escape
Oliver wishing he had longer legs
The lock is opening
The lock open
Pilings near the lock

We continued on towards Norfolk, VA where we had a reservation for the night at the Waterside Marina.  We came to the Gilmerton Lift Bridge that opened at my request (I became quite comfortable with the radio while traveling the ICW) and stayed open for a shrimp boat that was on our tail.

Gilmerton Lift Bridge

We fueled up at Tidewater Marina where Benny and Oliver were given dog treats.  We then headed across the channel to Waterside Marina.  It was a tight squeeze getting into the slip.  John had to maneuver past a shrimp boat from Houston and two large motor yachts while making a left turn.  They had us dock right across from the American Rover Top Sail Schooner that went out on an evening cruise while we were there.

The Waterside Marina was in a very nice area with a ton of things to do.  John took a trip to the grocery store with an Uber while the boys and I walked the dogs in the large grassy area near the docks.  There were restaurants and shopping up and down the boardwalk.  The boys even had a chance to play ping-pong in one of the restaurants/bars.

Liam keeping Oliver warm in Norfolk

Norfolk was a busy place with the Naval Station, giant yachts, and evening cruisers.  There was a 150′ luxury sailing yacht named Christopher parked near us at the marina.  It made us feel quite small.  There were tons of people and lots to do.  For some reason, I am missing quite a few pictures that I took while we were there…very depressing 😦

After a night in Norfolk, we continue on the ICW towards Annapolis where more adventure awaits.

Three Boys Q & A

Me:  What did you enjoy most about traveling on the Intracoastal Waterway?

Liam:  It was calm, and the boat didn’t rock.  I also like that the weather was cool.

Glen:  I enjoyed being able to see all the interesting houses on the shore and use the radio frequently.

Erik:  I liked being able to play on the front of the boat and go through all the bridges.

Me:  What did you like least about traveling the ICW?

Liam:  There was one time where we couldn’t find a place to anchor.  We drove around for awhile.  It was getting dark.  We finally found a spot but didn’t know if it was okay to park there.

Glen:  I prefer to be out in the ocean where we can use the sails.

Erik:  I liked almost everything about the ICW.  I got scared when Benny jumped off at the lock.

Me:  Are there any memorable moments that you would like to share?

Liam:  We played King of the Hill on the anchor chain in the middle of the trampoline, and every time a boat wake would come by we would try not to fall off. 

Glen:  We wrestled on the trampoline and my wrestling name was The Rad Cucumber!

Erik:  I was able to leash Oliver before he jumped off the boat at the lock.

  • We received information during this leg of our journey that Hurricane Irma destroyed the majority of the boats that were tied up in the hurricane hole, Paraquita Bay, in the BVI.  This is where Varekai would have been had we not made the purchase.  We were saddened to hear that the company that we purchased the boat from had the majority of their fleet destroyed and would not be reopening in the near future.


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