Since our arrival in Beaufort, we’ve made pretty good time towards our destination in the Chesapeake. Thanks to Jordan joining us for the long passage north (and to Lindy, India, and Theo, for letting him join), we didn’t arrive completely sleep-deprived and were able to get back underway after just a couple of nights.
We decided to take a different route north than we’d taken on our way south in November. In addition to some new scenery, we were able to sail a bit up both Pamlico Sound and Albemarle Sound. Our first night out we overlapped our track, even stopping again in Cedar Creek, infamous, at least to Soren, for being the anchorage where he was attacked by biting ants on a (quickly abandoned) foray ashore.
We headed east out into Pamlico Sound, which turns out to be a pretty big body of water. The kids were chagrined to find themselves out of sight of land again so soon after our passage, but the wind filled in to the high teens just after lunch and we had a spirited broad reach up to the western shore at Long Shoal River. “Long Shoal” is aptly named as we ended up anchoring more than half a mile offshore in the broad, alluvial bay. I remember being reluctant to come down Albemarle and Pamlico last fall because they looked so shallow, but after four months cruising the banks in the Bahamas, this now seemed familiar and easy.
That said, after the arid, limestone cays and clear blue waters of the Bahamas, returning to North Carolina has been a bit of a climatic shock, with its lush, swampy pine & cypress shores and dark murky water that’s alternated between a brown root-beer color (the result of tree tannins leeching into the rivers) and a milky avocado green further out in the sound. I found myself thinking, somewhat indignantly, “What do you mean that it’s 22 feet deep and I can’t see the bottom?!” Apparently I’ve been spoiled by that aspect of Bahamian cruising.
We stopped Thursday near Kill Devil Hills, within sight of the Wright Brothers Monument at Kittyhawk and then, on Friday, just outside of the channel on the North Landing River, anchored all by ourselves.
Yesterday we woke up to wind that had backed to the southwest, allowing us to unfurl the genoa just after weighing anchor, and head for the Albemarle-Chesapeake Canal. Unlike the Great Dismal Swamp Canal route we took south in the fall, this was much bigger, more heavily traveled, and had many more bridges to clear. We managed the timing relatively well, only having to idle for about 40 minutes before the Great Bridge/Great Bridge Lock combination. (The latter was nearly a non-event, lowering us a grand total of six inches.)
Approaching Portsmouth, VA, just across the channel from Norfolk, Linda was reading ActiveCaptain reviews of the Hospital Point anchorage, which said that it could be crowded during Norfolk Harborfest in early June. Sure enough, it was scheduled for this weekend and instead of the five to ten boats that we’d expected to find, there were hundreds, some rafted together by the dozen. After the relative solitude of our Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) trip (not to mention the sparsely-populated Bahamas) this was another shock. Harborfest®, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, is Norfolk’s version of Seattle’s Seafair or San Francisco’s Fleet Week, with tall ships visiting from around the world, tugboat races, a sailing regatta, and concerts (Rick Springfield!). After a water-taxi ride into Portsmouth for dinner, we returned to EXIT for front-row seats to an enormous fireworks show. It was great way to celebrate getting (back) to Mile Zero of the ICW.