Heading down the lower Chesapeake in early November, we considered our North Carolina passage strategy. We leaned towards transiting the Tar Heel State using the Intracoastal Waterway which we bypassed in the spring on our way north when a calm weather window opened for us to go outside around Cape Hatteras. Now, the forecast raised questions about an ocean passage and we decided to use the calmer inland weather to take the ICW. One question remained, how had Hurricane Matthew and the other summer storms affected the Waterway. It took less than twenty-four hours to begin to find out.
A railroad bridge and canal slowed our first day’s progress through southern Virginia. While waiting vessels moving south circled and we became acquainted with the vessels that would be in the ICW with us. Two, Gypsy Soul and Drakka would feature prominently in the upcoming excitement. With shorter daylight hours and the two hours spent waiting for bridge and canal, we knew we would not make the preferred anchorage at Coinjock. Our cruising guide identified a couple of possible anchorages in a series of ox bows around ICW Mile 28.
As we rounded a bend, we saw Gypsy Soul nose into the oxbow anchorage and promptly go aground in the spot we had hoped to spend the night. We watched another sailboat pass on by and with light waning we circled back to see if we could help. Eric hopped in Schooner and rowed over to get their line. Once attached, Lal powered up Perkins, our faithful British diesel, and in concert with her crew pulled Gypsy Soul free. Drakka, with her shallower draft, probed the side channel in search of the the anchorage and it was Gypsy Soul’s turn to pull her friend free. It was clear that Matthew had removed one resting spot from the ICW. As the sun set, Elizabeth Jean pulled off the main channel a short way further and anchored safely in eight feet of water. Gypsy Soul and Drakka soon followed.
Albatross-eye-view of the Great Bridge Lock. Today the Great Bridge Lock is an important water link from Virginia south to North Carolina. In Colonial days, the Great Bridge was a strategic link north to Norfolk. In an early battle of the Revolutionary War, Colonial forces stymied a British march north leading to the departure of Governor Lord Dunmore and British power from Virginia.
Vessels cue up waiting for Great Bridge Lock to open.
We were still waiting for Elizabeth Jean to go down in the locks when we realized that she already had quietly descended a foot or two and that the gates were opening to let us out.
Drakka rests at anchor in twilight’s serene glow following our excitement in the ox bow.