Friday, November 23, 2007

Motor Vessel Irie

For over two weeks now, we’ve been tugging along at a cruising speed of about 6.5 knots. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on wind and current. The distance we cover can be anything from 10 nautical miles per day (because we didn’t make our destination the previous day, or we have to sit out a storm in a more protected anchorage) to 60 (!) nautical miles (accomplishments we love). There’s not much room or opportunity to hoist the sails. Once in a while, we pull out the jib to push ourselves a tiny bit harder, to try to make a bridge opening for example. Not too many of these are on demand anymore and we really have to pace ourselves to get through at the right time. If a bridge opens on the half hour, it’s not too big of a deal. It’s when the opening happens hourly that we get in a bind. The dogs love this kind of traveling… The engine noise is monotonous and the boat stays steady. Ideal situations for plenty of naps. Except when a “real” powerboat passes us and its wake disturbs the peace. It gets all bumpy for a bit, before we get back to monotony. Kali doesn’t like that so much.

All this excitement is happening on the highway for boats, a waterway on the East Coast, also called Intracoastal Waterway (the ICW). This is a protected network of rivers and canals (shortcuts from river to river) all the way to Miami. There is an option to go south in the ocean, but the jaunts are pretty long (not recommended with the dogs and our lack of experience), and the conditions are less favorable. Now, we barely have to listen to the weather, plot our course, or deal with waves and wind. Boring? Not too much. We follow day marks and buoys, look at charts, check our depth, and observe the chart plotter. We pay attention to the route, take a few pictures, stare at the immense mansions and pieces of property, laugh at funny appearances (a fake giraffe in a yard, camouflaged hunters and boats, a “ski lift” with golfers crossing the ICW, silly boat names, inappropriate conversations on the VHF, …), enjoy the scenery, and be cold. That is still our one and only objective: get the hell south.

Along the way, we met some nice cruising people, and we ran into Josh and Matt (from Pier 7 marina in Edgewater). We also came across Mike and Patti (our friends with the same cat) and celebrated Thanksgiving on their boat. We still feel stuffed. What a great meal and afternoon!

The four of us spent some time exploring a few places as well. Some of them very friendly (Deltaville, Norfolk), some smelly (Reedville, Georgetown), others dead (Belhaven) or charming and colonial (St. Michaels, Beaufort, Georgetown), some quite OK (Oriental, Southport), but most of them are small, cruiser friendly and with some conveniences. Our favorite places to spend the night are the tucked away anchorages, though. To be surrounded by nothing but cypress trees and peacefulness (so quiet that you hear the leaves fall) is great! Our only requirement, other than enough protection, is the availability of a spot to take the dogs ashore. And so far, we’ve always been able to figure something out. Sometimes it’s a nice little beach or a wide open field, sometimes just a tree root or some mud, but it all beats having to go on a piece of fake grass.

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