Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Greetings from Elizabeth City, NC! Along with everything else along the eastern seaboard, this place has some great history. There is a great commercial and residential city walking tour that we plan to check out while docked up. Free docks, free bikes - this place is worth checking out for a couple days and with the temps and winds looking as they are, we'll be here for a couple more days!

It's exciting to be so far south (or what seems much farther south then where we began!) We continue to make our way along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW), known to boaters as the ICW or "The Ditch". We flirt daily with winter conditions and temperatures dropping to 32 degrees at night, even during the day! We always pray for sun! We left Annapolis, MD (11/12) after a wonderful visit with friends and Nate's grandparents and took a 24-hour downwind sail to Norfolk, VA, arriving the following afternoon (11/13). And boy, has winter arrived on the east coast! With a sliver of morning sun, we welcomed Norfolk. We tied up to a free town dock in Portsmouth, VA across from Norfolk on the Elizabeth River and docked for 2 days. Wyatt loved the easy access from dock to land! As holiday decorations lined the waterfront towns, quiet has settled in for winter so not much happened during our stay. We lit some fires aboard Aletheia and wandered both Portsmouth and Norfolk. We left Norfolk (11/15) via the ICW instead of sailing under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge into the Atlantic for a few reasons: 1) sailing significantly offshore and putting up our dukes against the NE tradewinds, 2) avoiding the Cape Hatteras shallow waters, and 3) offers us a more sheltered waterway route. Just outside our departure city of Norfolk, there is the option to continue along the ICW, or make a coffee handle detour along the Dismal Swamp Canal...we took the swamp route! 

The Dismal Swamp Canal, the oldest and continually operating man-made canal, winds its way along southeastern VA and northeastern NC into Elizabeth City - where we are currently feeling grateful for the local bar with cheap beers and warm temps! Built completely by hand, the swamp seems to have more natural features including the Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge and less man-made stuff, than the ICW. The swamp has a unique history and a definite Huck Finn feel to it as you pass along the banks that children splashed in during their careless summers. The waters have a tea-like color to them and apparently there are peat beds underlying the swamp and tannins that surface to give the waters its tea-like color. It's like throwing millions of tea bags into the river and waiting 1,000 years to get a river full of tea. Wait 1,000 years and it might turn into oil! Not something I'd drink, but it's entirely safe to wash dishes. Again, check out some neat American history.

Due to the narrow and shallow nature of the Dismal Swamp, we motored the entire way, putting our generator and power supply to the test. It's still working great! Along our canal travels, we passed under 5 bridges, through 2 locks (Deep Creek & South Mills), rafted up 3-deep to a dock, dinner aboard Other Goose, helped a fellow sailor tie up to a wall after his transmission died without damaging our boat, and quickly set up an unplanned anchorage after going 0.0 kts into the wind. This is a beautiful part of the world and I'm really glad we took this route. We've also met some great sailors along the way, also heading south! It's been great to share stories with other sailors having completely different, yet relateable experiences about weather, the imprints of clothing worn, distances traveled, and how quickly we'd all like to head south, just to name a few.   

Elizabeth City is at Mile 50 of the 1,100 miles along the ICW route from Norfolk to Miami...we'll only be using the next 150-ish miles before entering the Atlantic to visit some southern coastal cities. After the wind is in our favor, our next plan of action is to move from the Pasquotank River --> Albemarle Sound --> Alligator River --> Pungo River to continue our route south through the ICW into warmer waters and air temperatures. Until then, here are some photos from our past week. We hope everyone is well!
Passing our first ICW bridge
Deep Creek Lockhouse

Aletheia relaxing in the Swamp Tea
My workout room
More scenes from the swamp
See the tea?
Approaching the NC border!

9 boats rafted at the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center!

Captain Nate!
Our calm anchorage looking at the windline at the green daymarker (we turned back here!)
Happy dog in cockpit
Entering Elizabeth City!
Aletheia at the Rochelle Slip (thanks donors!)
Striped Bass in the Chesapeake

Sun up just outside Norfolk
Stroll in Portsmouth, VA

Pancake foul

Love to All,
Nate & Jenn


  1. Lovely description of your latest legs of your journey. Very spectacular colorations of the trees (miss that aspect of eastern fall) and tea water in the swamp! Big love to you guys. DEJS

  2. WOW!I have been keeping up with your adventure. I love the Carolinas. The thought of seeing the sights of the holidays from the water sound wonderful. Enjoy and safe travels.