Saturday, January 5, 2019

Starting Home

This morning started out chilly and raining as we began our journey to bring Division Belle home to Georgia. But the weather had actually warmed in the last 24 hours. It was in the low 40's today compared to yesterday morning when it was around 30 degrees with icy spots on the docks. We departed from Herrington Harbor North Marina in Deale, MD at 7:15 am, and we are now underway in the Chesapeake Bay. We plan to stop at Reedville, VA this afternoon, about 2/3 of the way to Norfolk, our destination tomorrow.

I actually thought about turning back this morning, due to fog. Visibility was less than one mile and I am not an expert on the radar on this boat. However, we decided to run for awhile and the fog gradually lifted as we moved south. The weather is clearing now, but wind has picked up to 15 to 20 knots from the west, so it's a little bumpy in the bay. 

It seems a very long time since spending my first few nights on the boat in October. I have promised to avoid writing about maintenance and repairs because they are boring subjects -- but let's just say a lot has been done to the boat, including a shiny new paint job for the hull. The paint work and numerous other tasks were handled by Zimmerman Marine at their Herrington Harbor location. They did beautiful work and were a pleasure to work with.

The lovely Laura Lee and I drove a rental car from Savannah to Annapolis last weekend so that we could bring more "stuff" to the boat. We spent the New Year's holiday in Annapolis and the boat was launched on Wednesday, January 2. After a couple of days provisioning, and one brief sea trial, we are finally underway.

The plan is for Laura Lee to fly home from Norfolk and my friends Jim Trolinger and Paul Hamilton will join me there on January 11 for about a week to help bring Division Belle part of the way home to Georgia. It is the nature of traveling confined on a boat that we shall either be much better friends after the trip or not like each other at all. I predict the former. 

It is normal in a deep-draft seaworthy boat to want to get out in the ocean on delivery trips. There are few worries about shallow spots, it is not necessary to hand steer all day, and there is little traffic to dodge. The boat can be set on autopilot and it is a relaxing journey just keeping a lookout. But moving down the coast from Norfolk, Virginia into the Carolinas presents three significant obstacles to traveling offshore: Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout, and Cape Fear. Each of them juts out into the Atlantic and requires getting well offshore to go around. The outside trip also requires long legs with nowhere to take shelter if the winds and seas pick up. As a result, the inside route is preferable to most people, and it is shorter by about 50 nautical miles from Norfolk to Southport, NC, south of Cape Fear.

There are a few options that can be considered on the inside routes. Norfolk is Mile Zero of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), and one can just follow it for the entire route, or if the weather is good, it shortens the route a bit to go outside from Morehead City to Wrightsville Beach and rejoin the waterway to Southport, just south of Cape Fear. At the beginning of the trip south, it is also possible to shave some distance by going outside by Virginia Beach and back into the sounds at Oregon Inlet, but the inlet is notorious for shifting shoals and shallow spots. Finally, from the Albemarle Sound, there is a shortcut across the sounds to rejoin the ICW in the Neuse River. If the weather is good, our route will be down the waterway from Norfolk to the Albemarle Sound, the shortcut across the Albemarle, Croatan, and Pamlico Sounds, and then rejoining the waterway at the Neuse River and down to Morehead City/Beaufort, NC. From there, weather permitting, it will be out in the ocean to Wrightsville Beach and then back inside to Southport. That would put us almost to South Carolina and close to home.

I have no idea how far we will get in a week, but the joy of a slow 8-knot boat is that it doesn't really matter. It's all about the journey, and we shall enjoy every minute of it.

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