Georgetown, SC to Norfolk, VA

By aaron.axvig, 6 June, 2019
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway mile marker 200

As we attempted to leave our anchorage on the morning of May 26th we observed that the we faced a 3 knot current for the 10 mile trip up the river to Georgetown where we would get fuel. With a 6.5 knot through water cruising speed this would leave us with a grueling 3 hour trip with a minor doubt about how much fuel we had left. Instead we dropped anchor again, then dropped the dinghy and took Louise to the beach. It was a pretty stinky beach with a lot of flies so not very enjoyable. Also dropping the dinghy in a three knot current is a serious endeavor!

We arrived at the fuel dock in Georgetown and took on 37.5 gallons. That marina had beat up wooden planking and they even made their own cleats using bolts and pipe. This was a stark contrast to the no-expenses-spared docks we had been seeing all over Florida. Their rates reflected that they do pass these savings onto the customer! We motored on in the ICW for 30-40 more miles. This was a neat stretch as a lot of it was pretty wide lake sections, and it was memorial weekend so plenty of families were out on the water. We had a sail up for most of it to gain a tiny bit of speed (usually something like 6.2 knots bumped up to 6.6 knots).

Our destination was Osprey Marina since there was no end to the heat wave in sight. Highs for the next 6 days were all forecast to be high 90s or even over 100, and even if we put on 50 miles every day it would be 3-4 days before we escaped the heat. So we pulled up to their dock and plugged in our AC. They only charged $1 per foot so $37 plus maybe $7 for electricity. Boats are generally poorly insulated so the next day as the temperature climbed and the sun beat down the temperature inside still rose to 92 degrees with the AC running constantly. The cooling loop in the main living area doesn't get as cold as the one in the aft cabin so it could probably use a recharge or something but it still does OK. Then we had the idea of putting all of the cockpit cushions on the cabin roof to insulate from the sun, and we even used 4'x4' piece of foam that we had left over from constructing the cushions. This helped a lot!

The weather was still hot as we left on May 29th. We had briefly met another young boating couple at the marina so we watched on AIS as they followed an hour or so behind us on their sailboat Vega. As we approached Southport, NC it was still really hot and we found another reasonably priced marina. They had free laundry and a pool! We met one guy on the dock who gave us a tour of the boat he had been working on for a few years. He was really impressed with how Louise could go up and down his companionway stairs. Another guy by the pool talked to us for a while, giving some good tips for our journey north. He had a 72' mast on his 50' sailboat, so does most of his traveling in the ocean (most fixed bridges on the ICW are 65').

We did a short trip the next day to Wrightsville Beach. This is just east of Wilmington which we had visited while living in the camper and promised ourselves we would come back and visit by tying up on the wall right downtown. Unfortunately that will have to wait for our trip south as we needed to continue making progress north. We ended up anchoring near Vega and both left at the same time the next morning. They went out the inlet into the ocean and we proceeded up the ICW.

We made it to Morehead City before a thunderstorm developed and we anchored a few hundred yards off the channel to avoid driving in the rain. Vega made it to an anchorage out in nearby Cape Lookout which sounds amazing and we plan to check out on our way south in the fall. They stayed for a few days there…maybe we will meet up again with them in the future.

On June 2nd we proceeded up the ICW north of Beaufort, NC. This was our first section of the ICW that cuts off a significant chunk of land rather than just sort of paralleling the ocean. Mile markers started appearing and we saw number 200, meaning 200 miles to Norfolk, VA where the ICW officially starts.

The canal fed us into the Neuse river which is a mile or two wide, and we motor sailed down that and then up into the Bay River where we anchored for the night.

The next morning a tug pushing a large loaded barge snuck into the canal just before us. We followed for a while but then eventually made the pass. It took about 30 minutes as we were only going about 0.5 knots faster. We arrived in Belhaven in the early afternoon to take on fuel and water and planned to go about 10 miles further. Louise hadn't pooped for about three days so she made a break for it and ran down the dock. Then she pooped on the dock and ran onto shore to poop a few more times. Anna pursued with no shoes on. Aaron was busy filling the water tank and followed 5 minutes later with poop bags and Louises collar and leash. Tempers were high so we decided to just stay there for the night.

Right across the street was an old building that is now used as an event center. A popular place for weddings, wine and cheeses, etc. We enjoyed looking around there and then took the marina's golf cart down town. Not much was open since they do a schedule like Wednesday-Sunday and it was an off day. But the Waterway Guide had foretold of an Ace Hardware that was much more than a normal Ace Hardware. They did have a lot of stuff. Aaron had some ice cream, a Slim Jim, and a root beer while Anna spent 2 hours in the clothing section (like a boutique in a corner of the store). Eventually Aaron found the bar nearby (no signage outside, except an illuminated Open sign behind a heavily tinted window and it was daylight still) and hung out there until the hardware store closed. Anna came over to the bar with 4 new outfits (important preparations for the wedding in Boston). She was even wearing one and looked quite dashing.

The bar was interesting in that they allowed smoking. We got to talking with some of the local people there. One guy ran a shrimp boat. He had his kid there and we played some version of pool with him that didn't involve pool cues. A couple of guys our age worked at the local acid plant which apparently is a major employer in the area. Hi Cameron and Lee!

Before we departed the next morning Aaron checked the oil and decided to add a half quart. As we got about 1/4 mile away the motor RPMs increased and the exhaust got pretty smoky. We shut down and anchored just outside the channel to investigate. The discovery of motor oil dripping out of the air intake confirmed that the oil was overfull and spraying through the crankcase breather hose into the air intake (as designed). The dipstick does weird things. If the engine has sat all night it just has a tiny drop of oil at the end when pulled out. Then a subsequent insertion and removal will show a level towards the bottom of the OK range. Further checks show a level a little higher each time. Hence the confusion resulting in overfilling it. A positive deduction from this is that the motor doesn't burn any oil, or at least less than a half-quart in 150 hours. And since we were at that 150 hour mark again we decided to just change the oil there instead of guessing how much to suck out and then changing the oil a day or two later anyways. Anna dinghied to town to get some oil and filters then we were on our way an hour later. We anchored at the south end of the Alligator River.
The Alligator River is a large bay about 3 miles wide and 12 miles long. It is legendary for having large steep (uncomfortable) waves when the wind is blowing straight down it from the north or south. The winds were out of the south but I think about 15 knots so not crazy. Still we were a little worried as we set out. I think we hit a log shortly after raising the anchor as there was a thump. We saw the boat Serenity who we had been passing the last few days (his boat is shorter so slower but he departs earlier than we do) on AIS toward the north end and he radioed back to us that conditions were fine up there. Then we made it across the Albemarle Sound with no trouble and tied up for the night at Coinjock Marina. They have good marketing and word of mouth for the prime rib at their restaurant. We had a very nice dinner with Serenity’s owner Brian, who shared lots of knowledge with us.

The next day we made it all the way to Norfolk, VA. We missed any markers for the official start of the ICW if any exists.

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