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November 4, 2004

Location: Oriental, North Carolina

Norfolk was a fun place to visit. Contrary to the guidebooks' descriptions, we found the free anchorage at Mile 0 of the I.C.W. to be quite pleasant. There was a constant stream of southbound cruising boats arriving and leaving, which was fun to watch. The holding was great, it was pretty sheltered, a quick dinghy ride across the river to Norfolk's dinghy dock placed us in the very clean, recently rejuvenated downtown area. There's a maritime museum, Nauticus, right there with a free tour of an old battleship, which Neil and Olivia visited with Liv's new friend Martha and her parents from Taku. We needed to get charts: there was a chartseller a block away. We needed to get Daisy to a vet for her shots, and Neil and I needed to find someone to administer our last dose of Hepatitis B shots, and we found a free electric bus which took us almost all the way to the vet (it would have been a 45 minute walk!) As we walked the last few blocks, we passed a staffing office for home-care nurses. We stopped in and the very nice nurse agreed to give us our shots, FOR FREE! Everyone was so nice..... There's even a free courtesy van from the far-away grocery store that comes to pick you up at the waterfront and drops you off with your groceries afterwards! (Sailors, see "Skipper Bob's Anchorage Guide to the ICW" for this information.) It was fun being tied up right next to the busy channel. War ships, aircraft carriers, and cruise ships constantly sailed alongside us. Here are some pictures of a cruise ship right behind the anchored boats...

The Saturday before Halloween, Liv and the other cruiser kids (and their parents) joined the town of Portsmouth "Safe Trick-or-Treat" walk in the city. Here's Liv in her witch/sorceress costume, the kids petting a policeman's horse, and the cruiser kids all trading candy at the town dock where we'd tied our dinghies...

It was a very urban experience, and while it was fun, it was not what Olivia was thinking of for Halloween. So, the next day we left Norfolk/Portsmouth and proceeded a few miles into the I.C.W. to the town of Great Bridge. It worked out very well, since the first bridge past Norfolk has restricted opening times on weekdays: it is closed for several hours for commuters. On Sunday, there were no restrictions, and the bridge opened on request, which was much easier. We were a little bit anxious about our first miles in the I.C.W., and how it would be to pass tugs-and-barges in narrow channels, ask for bridge openings, and not run aground! It was actually quite pleasant, and we soon got the hang of talking to the other boats and bridges on the VHF. We also went through a lock at Great Bridge, was very anti-climactic since the water only rose a foot or so! Here are some pictures of our first ICW miles: mothballed war ships outside Norfolk; Liv in the lock at Great bridge; and the sign in the Great Bridge lock...


We'd been told by other sailors and locals that Great Bridge was a nice, neighborhood-y (and SAFE) town. It was PERFECT for Halloween! The town allows sailors to tie up alongside the canal. Liv and Neil carved her jack-o-lantern and that night we trick-or-treated in the nearby neighborhood. Liv was thrilled with her huge and weighty candy haul, and we visited some fun houses, including one that took Halloween VERY seriously, all decorated as "Lord of the Rings" with a fun house to go through and everything!

We left Great Bridge and had a long day of motoring to a remote anchorage at Buck Island. There was nothing there but marsh and huge mosquito-looking bugs that left green spots of bug-poop all over the decks! When we turned off the engine, though, we had a nasty surprise. The bilge pump was running far too often to account for simply a dripping stuffing box. Neil soon found that there was a sizeable hole (from corrosion) in the bronze stern tube. The water was just squirting through the hole is a very disconcerting manner. What to do? After several hours, Neil succeeded in hose-clamping a piece of packing flax over the hole. It's a temporary fix, but has slowed the water leak enough to get us through to Beaufort, where Neil plans a more substantial repair. Here he is working on the leak: notice the completely unacceptable access he has- one hand only can fit in there to work on it!

Buck Island wasn't all bad, though. We had a beautiful sunset and Neil rigged a swing for Olivia to play with. Daisy also discovered the joys of the side decks. She was racing around the decks at full speed! We got nervous that she'd fall in and not know how to get back out, so we considered having her "swimming lesson" that night (we plan to introduce her to the water, so she knows what it's about, and help her to find the netting we stream over the stern while anchored for her to climb back aboard on). However, Liv and I saw and heard a rather LARGE splash as something big broke the surface nearby.... whether it was an alligator or a big catfish, it did not seem like a good place for Daisy to go swimming!

The next day (Election Day) we had a log slog through the Alligator River canal, and met up with our friends from Taku at the anchorage on the other side. We watched the election coverage on their TV that night, and went to bed feeling very sad. The next morning, in a black mood about Bush's re-election, we set off down the Pamlico and Neuse rivers. Here's some scenery:

We came into Oriental, hoping against hope that the free town dock (with space for only 2 boats) would have room. It was full, of course, so we circled around the tiny, shallow harbor sounding the depths to find a spot to anchor. Just as we were setting the hook we saw one of the 2 powerboats that had been at the town dock coming out! We quickly raised anchor and took their place. The guidebooks say there's 6 feet at the docks, but they are wrong! As we nosed in we ran aground. It's soft mud, and it was low "tide" (mostly wind-driven changes here) so we just tied up with our stern hanging off the dock a bit in slightly deeper water. A few hours later the wind changed direction, the water came up, and we were no longer touching bottom. We love Oriental!!! The people are so friendly, and it is very sailor-oriented. There's a great shop called the Inland Waterway Provision Company that is incredibly well-stocked. They actually had the two obscure parts for our head and steaming light that we'd had to order and have sent to us in Beaufort....amazing! They also have courtesy bikes that they lend to cruisers for going to the grocery store (a mile away), which I used. It's a very pretty little town. At the dock, we discovered that there is also a free internet "HotSpot" for wireless access, which we are taking advantage of to upload these updates to the web site. To top it all off, Liv met a little girl named Virginia and has a new playmate. It's almost enough to make me forget how depressed I am about the election and how mad I am at America for re-electing this administration that is ruining America as we know and love it.

Next: North Carolina

Next: North Carolina