We depart River Dunes Marina at 9 AM on Monday morning. The south wind is on our bow as we enter the Neuse River and within minutes, the foredeck is awash in seawater. In hindsight, yesterday’s boat wash is an exercise in futility. Our course today takes us through Hobucken Cut, across the Pamlico River and into the Pungo River. The small town of Belhaven passes to port as we follow the Pungo River to the entrance of the Alligator – Pungo Canal. With 36 miles under our keel for the day, the anchor is down near the entrance of the Canal. The wind is still blowing 15 to 20 knots from the south, making for a bouncy ride at anchor. At dusk, the wind subsides. We are in store for a quiet night on the hook.
With great expectations for a 60 mile day on Tuesday, the anchor is up before sunrise in the Pungo River. The first order of business is the Alligator River – Pungo River Canal, a distance of 18 miles. As we enter the Alligator River, storm clouds begin to gather on the southwest horizon. Thunderstorms are in the forecast for today. Rain begins to fall as we approach the Alligator River swing bridge at midday. Instead of pressing on, we decide instead to call it a day after 36 miles, securing an overnight slip at the Alligator River Marina. With high humidity, intermittent rain showers and nearby salt marshes, the mosquitos stage an assault on Cutter Loose and her crew. We retreat below to the air conditioned comfort of the cabin where we pass the afternoon and early evening playing dominoes and dining with buddy boats Island Spirit and Catspaw.
On Wednesday morning, Cutter Loose is underway at 6 AM. The mosquitos have been patiently waiting for us all night. As we untie our dock lines and ease away from our slip, they treat themselves to an early morning breakfast. Instead of returning to Norfolk via the Dismal Swamp Route, we decide instead to follow the Virginia Cut. While the distance is about the same, the Virginia Cut provides deeper water, one less lock and a wider variety of anchorage possibilities. The 15 mile section of the ICW that crosses the shallow water of Albemarle Sound can be rough and challenging in windy weather. But today, wind and seas are benign. With Albermarle Sound on our stern, we pass under the Coinjock Bridge, leaving North Carolina and entering Virginia at 1 PM.
Our destination for today is Great Bridge lock, a journey of 52 miles. En route, we manage to make the 3 PM opening of North Landing Bridge, which sets the stage for the 4 PM opening of the Centerville Turnpike Bridge. While circling for the 5 PM opening of the Atlantic Intracoastal Bridge, we are besieged by intense lightning, thunder and rain, but thankfully, no wind. By 5:15 PM, Cutter Loose is through the bridge and docked along the southwest wall of the Great Bridge Canal where we will spend the night. Within easy walking distance of this location in the City of Chesapeake are restaurants, shops and a grocery store. We enjoy dinner ashore at a Mexican restaurant with our buddy boats. When we return to the boat after dinner, we are treated to another gorgeous sunset…the perfect ending to a long day on the water.
The 9 AM opening of the Great Bridge Lock is our first accomplishment on Thursday. Unlike the locks on the Dismal Swamp ICW route, this lockage lifts Cutter Loose just a few feet into the Elizabeth River. This 20 minute procedure is fast and efficient. At this location, we are just 10 miles from Portsmouth, VA, mile zero of the ICW. By 11:30 AM, Cutter Loose is docked in the City of Portsmouth’s South Ferry Basin, having transited the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from mile zero to mile 1193 in Marathon Key, FL and back.
The continuation of our journey north into the Chesapeake Bay is delayed for several days by persistent 20 knot northerly winds. Rather than bash our way into wind-driven waves on the Bay, we decide instead to remain docked in the ferry basin, availing ourselves to the urban amenities of Portsmouth and Norfolk, including dinner and a movie at the historic Commodore Theater, the Nauticus Museum, the General MacArthur Museum in Norfolk, scrumptious morning pastries at the Artistic Bread Company, strolls through the Olde Towne Historic District and Sunday morning services at First Pres. Click on the pictures for an enlarged view.
Winds are expected to shift to the east overnight, facilitating a Monday morning return to our home waters of the Chesapeake Bay.