Monday, December 27, 2010

East River, Chesapeake Bay to the ICW


After relaxing for an evening in Portsmouth we set off at 0800 for the intra-coastal waterway. It had been over a year since we had traveled its picturesque, wandering waters. It felt odd to be so excited to pass ICW marker #1, after emphatically swearing off the ICW only a year ago. But we had gained so much confidence over the last year that re-entering the ICW brought only feelings of happy anticipation. We even decided to take the shallower but more scenic dismal swamp route south, rather than the virginia cut we had taken previously. A choice well rewarded! The dismal swamp was a place of tranquil beauty, boasting unusually high water and not a single navigational challenge aside from occasional floating debris.

We went through several locks and bridges that were actually rather enjoyable. I derived so much pleasure hailing bridge tenders on the VHF radio again. I can't emphasize enough, that I was back in my element. I love radio protocol. I wish phone conversations were as formal. The only hiccup throughout our two day leisurely jaunt to Elizabeth City, North Carolina was a brief confrontation with--you guessed it!!--a power boater.

He had anchored in front of a lock waiting for it to open, whereas we timed our arrival perfectly with its opening. I hailed the lock operator and he gave me the go ahead so we motored straight into the lock. Meanwhile the power boat (who hadn't even hailed the lock operator to announce his arrival!) was frantically trying to get his anchor up. As we passed him, he angrily motored his anchor up and drove right at us trying to cut us off. Being a sailboat, we can't stop or turn that easily so we just held our course and he used his bow thrusters to back down. He ran to the bow and started shouting at us, "You must be really anxious to make that lock! Are you scared? You had to cut in front of me, huh? Well go ahead if you're in such a hurry!" I was really confused at this point. The lock was open, his anchor was down, so we just went on in. I didn't really know what else we were supposed to do, motor around in circles waiting for him to get ready saying, "oh no, after you, sir." We've never been in a situation where you are allowed to anchor in front of a lock or bridge, so we didn't know what protocol was. I yelled from the cockpit a sincere and confused apology and he shouted back, "oh no you're not! You're not sorry at all." I responded, "um...I actually am sorry, we didn't mean to be rude." But by this point Patrick had heard enough and called him an asshole, very loudly. This really undermined my apology so then I started yelling at Patrick, while he yelled at the power boater, while the power boater yelled at me. Then we entered the lock, tied up RIGHT next to each other and awkwardly travelled in tandem, through every lock and bridge all the way to Elizabeth City together. SOOO weird.

(inside the lock, they raised the water 10 feet!)
He never looked at us or spoke to us again, even when in the next lock, all the other boats were introducing themselves to each other and cracking jokes, this guy acted like we didn't exist. That will teach you, always be nice on the ICW!!! There's no escaping each other.

All in all, the trip was a dream! We left Swift Ranger looking like a dapper dandy, putting all the other boats to shame (except of course Pearl of Eastport, elegant as ever!) at the Pelican Marina. I felt like we were handing our pride and joy over to a foster care program. We still feel like bad parents and plan on moving her somewhere else no later than March.


I will leave you with a short, sloppily done video we threw together of the last couple days of our trip.
Amateur camera work: Alaina
Amateur editing: Patrick
Original score recorded on an old 4-track: Tennis (Patrick and Alaina)
video