Monday, July 12, 2021


The 2021 ICW Cruising Guide edition is now available in both paperback and eBook versions. It also includes a 25% discount coupon for charts for Aqua Map.

New in the 2021 Edition:
- 150 updated charts will guide you through the shallow areas so you can enjoy the ICW and stay out of the mud!

- Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) surveys have been added to all charts where available. Much of the Florida ICW did not have color-coded depths, no more, the FIND charts provide much needed depth detail for Florida waters.
 
- Max Parker, VP of Yard Operations for Zimmerman Marine, contributed a 6 page article on "How to ICW Proof Your Engine", what to look for and do before starting out and while underway. For many boaters, starting out on the ICW is the first time they've run their engines for extended periods of time, Max has seen it all. Prevention is the key but you've got to know what you're looking for.
 
- Hank Pomeranz's 23 page introduction to weather planning continues, it's an excellent start in understanding weather.

- Many updates have been made to all the chapters:
  • How to Prepare Your House for an Extended Absence (new, easy to use webcams and more)
  • How to Prepare Yourself for an Extended Absence (tips learned the hard way)
  • Outfitting a Boat for Cruising the ICW (calling a bridge, passing, getting off a dock when pinned by wind, how to tell an ICW buoy from a river buoy, and much more)
  • The Cook Speaks (we learned the benefits of an Instant Pot)
  • Staying Informed while Cruising (many good apps are out there, which ones do I find the most useful?)
  • Basic Knowledge on the ICW (I cover what you need to know when cruising the ICW)
  • ICW University (a deep dive into topics such as when to trust (and not trust) Aqua Map and the USACE surveys, Navionics SonarCharts, buoys, etc. 11 topics are covered and I'll go into more details as the July 15 date approaches
- Technology continues to advance and I cover what's new with many changes to previous recommendations. The Guide has expanded to 275 full color pages.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Zimmermans in Deltaville - at their work dock and "That's all folks" for this trip

Zimmermans has a big yard, super-sized travel lift

 The trip up from Norfolk was rather sloppy. The winds were calm enough, in the 5 to 10 kt range, but the boat never settled into a smooth routine. Compounding the problem was the 1 to 2 kt tide against us all the way north. 

Sitting comfortably at our dock at Zimmermans work dock - with WiFi!

Eventually, we reached Zimmermans in Deltaville which shares docks with Norview Marina. The place looks a lot bigger than where we kept Fleetwing last year at Stingray Point Boat Works. We needed some serious engine work on our 6000 hour Volvo diesel so Zimmermans looked like a good place to leave it for the summer. 

Does anyone know what these things are?? They
appear to just be a piece of plastic. They are on every post, both sides. 

Matt, our grandson, is due on Saturday with our car from Titusville and then it's on to getting Fleetwing ready for summer storage. The jib, bimini, and dodger all have to come down and will be stored inside the boat. I'll set up the dehumidifier inside which I've found to be the only effective deterrent to mold and mildew forming inside the boat. 

Adding to the chores will be a thorough cleaning inside, emptying the water tanks, doing a pump out, running the outboard without gas connected to empty the carburetor, and probably a few other things I can't think of at the moment. 

It's been a nice trip, not what we wanted since we didn't make it all the way to Key West - but still a good winter. Since we arrived at our summer home for Fleetwing, this will be the last blog entry until the start of our fall trip, probably around 10/1/2021, this time going all the way south to Key West!!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Norfolk Yacht Club - Chaos at the lock, stealth boats, dock at Norfolk Yacht Club

 

The day started out innocent enough, a 9:00 am opening at Great Bridge

We didn't have far to go since we only wanted to stage for Deltaville on Friday. We took the 9:00 am opening of the Great Bridge and proceeded to the lock with two other boats. There was no help. All three boats wound up drifting away from the bulkhead (there was some wind and perhaps a slight current). Fleetwing at one point was perpendicular to the bulkhead. The two powerboats faired better with one doing okay and the other only drifting at about a 45-degree angle off the side. 

After our lock adventure, we were greeted with this sight at the Gilmerton Bridge. ! No way through!

Eventually, one of the two dockhands (lockhands?) walked slowly over and offered to accept an aft line, and all the boats got straightened out. Are they still observing the "no help rule" of COVID-19 lock handling? It appears so. 

Always plenty of these guys on hand

Since we had done a 180, we backed out once the other two boats left. It really does help to have someone grab your lines from shore. We thought the excitement was over for the days - but we were treated to a train on the railroad bridge by the Gilmerton Bridge, oh joy. We lost an hour there circling, that bridge is incredibly slow in raising and lowering. 

Two of these whizzed by. Notice the camouflage, it's the 
latest design, a digital pattern

At last we're through? Well, not yet, one of the other two railroad bridges north of there also thought it was a good time for a train crossing, nice timing. I guess it was a send-off for the last bridges going north! We're presently at the Norfolk Yacht Club, a great facility. We like it since it's at the northern part of Norfolk and for us that makes a shorter trip to Deltaville the next day. It's also off the main channel so there are no wakes and no current to contend with. We have a facedock for the night which makes it very easy to dock, we like that. 

On Friday, it's off at 8:00 and we head north, the last leg of our trip. Our grandson picked up our car in Titusville for us and he'll meet us in Deltaville to help with decommissioning Fleetwing and the trip home. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Free doc by Great Bridge - the price is right and the docks are first rate

 

Four hours of following this guy and hoping he'll make it through all the narrow bridges

Just before we pulled out of Coinjock, a doublewide barge passed by Coinjock. We didn't think anything of it since they usually are faster than us, but not in this case. We wanted to do 7.3 kts and the barge was maxing out at 6.7 kts. That part of the ICW is rather narrow so we just idled along. 

A very nice park was adjacent to the docks, good nature walks

We watched as he maneuvered through some narrow openings in bridges, he didn't have much leeway on either side. I had visions of him pulling an Evergreen and blocking the ICW for weeks! Those things seem impossible to steer anyway, they are so massive. 

The docks were first rate

We were the first boat on the free docks just south of Great Bridge. They are fixed docks and very well made (they would put RE Mayo to shame!) Tonight, there are only three boats here, plenty of room for at least four to five more. 

Atlantic Yacht Basin was across the channel and 
provided internet via OnSpotWiFi

One of the attractions of the place, other than it's free, is the adjacent park with walkways through the woods. With such opportunities, I took Hoolie out for three walks this afternoon. He's still suffering from his culinary indiscretion at RE Mayo. Fishing bait left out in the sun for several days is really not prime food for a dog. Hoolie thought it tasted wonderful - his stomach did not agree - it came out both ways. Hopefully, he's on the mend but we won't know until tomorrow for sure. 

Tomorrow we're headed for the Norfolk Yacht Clube for an overnight dock, then it's a hop up the Chesapeake for Deltaville and Fleetwing's home for the summer. We have a couple of day's work to put Fleetwing to sleep for the summer and probably some work on the boat by Zimmermans. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Coinjock - we have the famous prime rib dinner

 

Outdoor dining at Coinjock - actually not bad

The Albemarle was tame today. With 8 to 10 kts of wind, the crossing was calm, even with the wind out of the north. We reached Coinjock by noon, ahead of schedule. The price increase disease has reached Coinjock too, it's now $2/ft when it was $1.75 in the fall. They have both gasoline and diesel available.

Great prime rib when served rare!

When in Coinjock, the first thing we do is make a reservation for their prime rib dinner. For us, it has always been a special treat, excellent when served the way we like it, rare. I finished mine but Ann had 10 oz left over for sandwiches tomorrow!

Well, we're not leaving bow first!

We ate outdoors, the restaurant added a huge outdoor tent that looks to be a permanent fixture from the way it's constructed. It at least doubles the capacity of the restaurant and the outdoor environment fits in well with current conditions. When we came through in the fall, the office was cordoned off with plexiglass but all that is gone now. None of the office personnel were wearing masks. 

Now more plexiglass - all is now open with no masks

When we came back from dinner, we found a ferry parked in front of us. I didn't think there was room but somehow he fit. We will not be leaving going forward! We'll just back out as usual. 

On Wednesday, we're headed to the free dock by the Great Bridge, a short run of about 32 NM. It's supposed to be another fine day.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Alligator River Marina - Non predicted winds, deep enough to get in, at a dock

 

There were seven boats in here tonight

The forecast for today was for 6 to 8 kt winds, including gusts from Dowry Creek to the Alligator River Marina. The first half of the prediction was true, in the canal. Once we rounded out and started up the Alligator River, the winds piped up averaging 15 kts with sustained gusts to 19 kts! It was not quite what the weatherman said, nor any of the apps! It was a wild ride with the wave build-up. 

Watch out for that board, unfinished dock work

We had heard that the entrance to the Alligator River Marina had been dredged so we weren't too concerned about making it in but after talking to the dock over the phone, doubts crepted in. It seems that indeed they had dredged it, down to 8 ft according to the owner but the sustained north winds of the last three days (unforecasted!) pushed a lot of water out and lowered the water level in the marina by at least one foot! 

All dredged material had to go somewhere

I recorded the water depths coming in and saw 5.6 feet in Aqua Map. Once at the dock, I saw that the usual level step off now required a foot high step from the boat up to the dock. So on a "normal" day, the depth over the bar on the way in should be 6.6 feet. There is ample evidence of the dredging since there's a large mount of dredged material by Wanda's old house. I guess they had to put it somewhere. 

I saw this double-wide barge headed my way on the narrow Alligator-Pungo Canal!
I met him right by the area with all the stumps poking out of the water!

We never miss having an ice cream cone at the marina! I order just one scoop but they pile it on at least two scoops high, very good. They close at 7:00 pm so don't wait too long. 

We head for Coinjock on Tuesday, hopefully, the weatherman has better luck with his forecast than he did with Alligator River!

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Dowry Creek Marina - At a dock

 

The marina office overlooks the pool!

We just took it easy today and didn't try to stretch the day to Alligator River Marina, we're glad we did. The weather was fine. It seems we've entered a period of calm weather and everyone is making tracks north. The winds were 4 to 10 kts but seldom did we see anything over 8 kts today, the water was flat. It was great for motoring, not good at all for sailing. 

The have great plans!

Dowry Creek was one of the few marinas in the area that had both gasoline and diesel for sale. Most marinas had diesel (since it can't be used on the road) but few places still had gas. Dowry Creek is a very nice complex. How many marinas have their own pool, Dowry Creek does. They also have a clubhouse and a small 7/11 type shop. 

The docks are fixed but very sturdy

They are also building a huge restaurant on site that's due to be completed by fall. The place will be like an all in one resort! The WiFi works well too, around 5 to 8 Mbps at our dock. 

They have a nice clubhouse too with a large TV

Meanwhile, we've been doctoring Hoolie. He found something rancid to eat at RE Mayo off the docks where people were fishing. I'm guessing it's bait fish that sat in the sun for several days. Hoolie thought it tasted great! Later that night, I think he changed his opinion and in the morning, it came out both ways! He's on a watered rice diet at the moment and we're hoping for improvement. He was certainly not himself today, not too perky. 

The on the agenda is Alligator River Marina to stage for Coinjock the next day across the Albemarle. So far, the weather looks good for the crossing, let's hope it stays that way!

Saturday, May 15, 2021

RE Mayo - Goes upscale!

An early morning view, unusual for us.

We watched another boat leave yesterday that went out of control and thumped into the powerboat next door. No apparent damage was done but it was a loud twack! We didn't want to do a repeat of that performance so we got up early and lef the dock by 6:20 am before the winds piped up - and the sun had barely risen. It's not Ann's favorite time to leave but sometimes we make exceptions. 

The ICW here is home to huge barges transporting gypsum

We had thought about motoring on all the way to the Pungo anchorage but that was 65 NM away and we would not have reached the anchorage until 4:00 pm, that's too late for us and too long a day. We did come alongside RE Mayo by 12:30 so we bailed out then. We were first on the dock and there's only one other boat here for the night. 

Noice the "new" docks, no holes! Pilings still in need of repair

RE Mayo is sold out of gas like everywhere else in North Carolina. However, they have plenty of marine diesel as does Alligator River Marina. I bought scallops and Maryland style crab cakes for dinner and Ann did them up just right. 


RE Mayo is just a dock but it has great frozen seafood just right for packing away in your boat's freezer. Since we've been here last, they have renovated their docks. They almost look like regular docks now except for the occasional piling that's broken off when one of the 60 ft shrimp boats lost control. At least now, there's no more holes in the docks for your foot to slip through as you can see from the photos. The electric remains problematic. It's one 30 amp line to be shared by however many boats stay for the night. Needless to say, it doesn't support multiple boats running A/C for the night but then it's cool this time of the year. It's fine for charging batteries. 

We'll aim for the Pungo anchorage on Sunday night and then on to Alligator River Marina on Monday. We are on the trunk line heading north!

Friday, May 14, 2021

Homer Smith - Last day (now approved by Google?)

 

What is that! It's ice. During the shrimp boat era, the room was filled with ice for keeping
the shrimp catch cold. Now it's just for transients, much less demand on volume.

The winds are finally starting to wind down but still in the 15 kt range. It's predicted to be less on Saturdayd so we're headed north. I took on water since there not good water north of here until you reach Norfolk. Much of the water you get at marinas on our trip homeward is well water and can be tained with tannin, giving the water a brownish look. Our Seagull filter takes it all out for drinking but less is better. 

This is the view from the front of the proposed new clubhouse. 
What you see should be filled with new docks next year. Home Smith 
knows where his future lies.

Homer Smith used to be a working shrimp dock but since the pandemic when all the restaurant closed, the business has gone away. They turned to transient dockage in a hurry and are expanding. They are adding docks in front of the old shrimp dock and plan on adding docks to the west of the large boat docks too. In adding the new clubhouse, they will have a first rate facility.

We saw a powerboat leave today that lost control in the high winds and hit the boat next to us. We don't want to experience the same problem so we're going to leave at first light before the winds pipe up. That entails an early departure which is not one of Ann's favorite things but this is an exception. The last thing we want to do is damage other boats! We hope to make the Pungo anchorage but it depends on what winds we encounter along the way. Then it's on to the Alligator River Marina the next day. 

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Homer Smith, Beaufort, NC - the winds continue!

 

Homer Smith's clubhouse plans

The winds just don't want to stop, 15 to 20 kts winds today but it has settled down tonight. The forecast is still not good for the Neuse River, northeast winds. So, we turned to other work, mainly such exciting things like laundry - oh joy. 

The winds actually dropped to almost normal - what a change!

I talked to Matt of Homer Smith today at some length. He forwarded the plans for their new clubhouse which they will start work on, hopefully, this summer but probably not due to long delivery times for critical parts like windows and siding. It will be nice when they get it done but probably not until next year.

We also discussed docks. When they installed new docks, the company insisted that the main docks had to be anchored with metal pilings, not wood. Wood pilings were okay for the ends of fingers, but not for the center section docks. Take a look at some of the marinas to see if the pilings for the mains are wood or metal. Even the sturdy construction here at Homer Smith can't withstand a Cat 2 hurricane with all boats in place. Arrangements would be made to haul the boats that had no where to go.

I asked about fuel and there's no problem getting diesel for marine use. It's dyed and not taxed for road use, only for marine use. The same restriction does not apply to marine gasoline however and there's some problems getting enough gasoline for the boats although it's enough for now.

So we are weather watchers for the Neuse River and Albemarle crossings. We hope to be able to cross the Neuse on Saturday. It was make it easy to reach Alligator River Marina on Monday. Then it's another waiting game for the Albemarle crossing, all part of boating in going north

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Homer Smith - Rain and wind all day long

 

The old shrimp house has been cut off - notice that "Seafood" now reads "eafood". 
The green lawn to the left used to be the receving area for shrimp. All that business
died off when the restaurants closed. 

The weather was terrible today, not a day for traveling the ICW - not at least for us although we did see three large powerboats leave today. With the weather forecast, we're staying at Homer Smith until Saturday morning when we'll leave for the Cedar Creek anchorage which is just below the southern entrance to the Neuse River. Sunday is predicted to be a good day for a Neuse crossing. 

On the way up the Cape Fear River the other day, we passed this dredge barge.
Where are the diamond shapes to show which side to pass on?

Then it's off to points north, probably the Pungo River anchorage on Sunday night and then on to the Alligator River Marina which we heard had just dredged their entrance. It was down to 4.9 feet in the fall. There's plenty of wate inside, about 8 feet but the entrance shoals periodically.

With all the cool, rainy weather, we're just hunkered down inside with the electric box heater going full blast to make the cabin a balmy 76 F when it's 54 F outside with 15 to 20 kts winds. I'm doing Waterway Guide work and Ann's painting in pastels. The day passed by quickly, fun on a rainy day - better than at anchor, at least for us. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Homer Smith - Provisioning at Lowes

 

A really nice courtesy car! One of two at Homer Smith - at no charge.

Homer Smith took an extra step for boaters and now has two courtesy cars! There is no charge for their use except you ought to replace the gas you use. We took advantage of the cars with a provisioning trip to Lowes supermarket. It is a first rate store with first rate groceries. Instead of rotisserie chickens, they had smoked, whole chickens, very good!

Home Smith is growing! The planned new clubhouse is the square shape at the bottom right.
There are new docks planned in front of the clubhouse. 

We loaded up since we intended making this our last provisioning stop but I forgot the ice cream, an other trip tomorrow or the next day. Meanwhile, Home Smith is expanding. They are adding dock where the shrimp boats used to dock. The seafood business pretty much went bust when the restaurants closed down due to COVID-19. They also plan a clubhouse for transients that includes two washers and two dryers, new restrooms and showers, a captains' loungue, and a work area for boat projects. The plans for the docks include pumpout connections and fuel at every slip. I'm familiar with pump out along a dock but I've never seen fuel availability at every slip. They have big plans.

The big discussion on the boat is when to leave. We need to cross the Neuse River but that's not a good run with the wind is out of the northeast - which is predicted for the next three to four days. I remember the couple that had a catamaran powerboat that went to the Bahamas and back. They reported that the worst experience they had on their 6 month cruise was going up the Neuse against a northeast wind! We are in no hurry to had that experience to our repetoire. We'll take it day by day. 

Monday, May 10, 2021

Homer Smith in Beaufort, NC - at a dock

 

Welcome to Homer Smith Marina in Beaufort, NC - one of our favorites!

We left Habour Village around 8:00 with the intention of taking a dock at Swansboro but when we turned into the ICW channel, we found a swift favorable tide, 8 kts! As the tid continued, we considered changing our plans and going for Homer Smith in Beaufort, NC - one of our favorite marinas. 

Official flag!

Onward we motored and we continued keeping the tide with us so we decided to bypass Swansboro and go all the way to Beaufort. We had wanted to stay just two days and continue our trek north but the weatherman would not cooperate. Winds are predicted to iincrease later in the week and switch to out of the northeast - the worst possible combination in going up the Neuse River. Now it's a wait and see game on the weather. We want a southwest wind at best but anything out of the north doesn't work for us. We may be here a while.

We'll make good use of the free courtesy car on Tuesday! A great feature of Homer Smith.

Pulling into Homer Smith, we took on fuel and had a pumpout. We had heard of the pipeline cyber attack making it inoperable, at least for a while. Fuel may become scarce after a bit so we wanted a full tank. Time for some boat projects. 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Harbour Village Marina - at a dock

 

Sunrise on the way north to the Cape Fear River

The current in The Cape Fear River was flooding north in the morning but only until 8:30 or so. With that, we decided to start north at daybreak, about 6:15 this time of the year. This was not necessarily a popular decision with the crew but it took full advantage of the northward flowing current and the calm winds of early morning. It also allowed for two bridges on the way that invariably caused up to a two our delay if you didn't arrive just at the right time. 

The party island by Surf City was in full swing Sunday

To our advantage, we carried the tide northward and all the way to Harbour Village so we made very good time. We were assigned a 60 ft slip so it was an easy docking. The marina was full as was the case for most marinas we've been at this trip north - everybody is out boating, it seems.

The marina's WiFi was great, no problems there. The docks here are almost new and they are among the best docks on the ICW. We had a qjuiet night, we needed it. 

Saturday, May 8, 2021

St James Plantation Marina - Last day

 

It's a beautiful facility

The St James Plantation Marina is beautifully well kept. It's part of the housing complex here and they pay attention to keeping everything in tip top shape. It's only $1.50/day if you have BoatUS membership, a bargain compared to the prices I've been seeing on my trip north ($2.00 to $2.50/day). The marinas are being bought out by large companies and the first thing they do is raise prices, not so here, so far. 

The smaller boats are packed inside a very large building - evidently strong enough to last out a hurricane

In addition to the marina, they have dry storage for over 300 boats in a fully enclosed building on site. You place an order for being put in the water, and they do the rest. The building withstood Hurricane Matthew so it must be sturdy.

On Sunday, we're headed to Harbor Village about halfway to Home Smith in Beaiufort, NC. It's just an overnight visit before leaving the next day. We plan on catching the last of a flood tide on the way north up the Cape Fear River - if all goes according to plan. With light winds predicted, it ought to be okay. 

Friday, May 7, 2021

St James Plantation Marina - we brave the Rock Pile, Shallotte, and Lockwoods Folly, now at a dock

 

This was near Socastee, want to buy a house here for 1.6 million? (do you like high water...?)

The weather was beautiful for us but in the last several days some strong storms have come up during the afternoon. They all missed us but some of the northern migration crowd saw one inch hail and 40 kt winds. 


"I don't understand, the consultant said they would sell like hotcakes!"

We passed by Barefoot Landing and sadly saw the new docks they put in. No longer are any docks available for us boaters transiting the ICW, they are all devoted to small powerboats supposedly for the day crowd to visit the "many" attractions of Barefoot Landing. You can see from the photo just how popular their new dock design is on a Friday afternoon. 

Stay inside those daymarks!

One can only imagine the conversation with a "consulant" on what they should do with their docks. Do you think a consulant would ever say, "Naw, what you have in place is better than anything I can come up with, bye". Synomonus with "consulatant" is "do it differently, do it my way and here's my fee"  (if I just said keep it the way it is, I wouldn't get paid...) The amazing thing is that people actually fall for this line (I used to work in manufacturing, the consultants would come around periodically, hired by upper management in the hope of finding "a better way". They never did).

The rocks in the Rock Pile are fascinating - but they are all outside the channel

Oh well, onwward to the Rock Pile which is no challenge at all with the USACE survey show exactly where the deep water is and where the rocks are not. The B423 track goes right down the middle. 

Entering St James Plantation Marina

Shallotte and Lockwoods Folly was no challenge either, both have been dredged and the B423 track once again goes down the middle, oh hum. We were behind one boat that suddenly veered off to the right at Little River where it splits with the ICW. He was headed out the inlet to sea. Pretty soon we saw him turn around, head back at us, then turn into the ICW. He mistook the red marker for the inlet as an ICW red marker - an all too common mistake I've seen before. He obviously was not following the B423 track.

St James Plantation Marina is one of our favorite places. The marina is protected by a 12 ft high berm on which sits three story houses. It is very protected and one year we sat out hurricane Matthew here as the eye passed over us. We came out to look when in the eye, very eerie. We'll stay here another day and then move again on Sunday to Harbor Village. A day of rest is fine with us.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Osprey Marina - at a dock

The Waccamaw River is a beautiful ride

 It was a short day today and it would have been even shorter were it not for the 1 to 2 kts of adverse current! We had the foul tide all day long. Apart from that, it was a great day with mild winds and warm weather without any rain. 

Typical oprey nest atop a daymark - all seemed occupied

The dockage rate here cannot be beat, it's $1.00/ft. That's lower than anywhere else I can think of (well, for a real marina - there's always RE Mayo at $0.40/ft and B&B Seafood at a flat rate of $25/night). We always used to refuel here due to their low prices but the cost of diesel has climbed in the last two weeks. It's now up to $3.09/gallon. It was $1.99/gal on the way down in the fall. 

The docks are first rate - ipe wood and new

We have our slip with elecctric and good WiFi (tested at 78 Mbps this afternoon!). Osprey still has their goody bag, Ann likes the hot pepper jelly best of all. With the good WiFi, I got some work done updating Waterway Guide alerts. 

We'll leave for St James Plantation Marina in the morning for a two day stay. We've noticed that although the days are still warm, the nights are starting to get cooler as we move north. It's been much warmer than we expected, no problem there.