Morehead City has been my preferred stop on the route north and south since I started making the trips from Sarasota to Hingham and back (circa 2014 to 2018). Why you ask? The answer is simple. Morehead City is the last navigable port before Cape Hatteras and Virginia Beach, which as readers of this blog know is the most dangerous stretch of water on the eastern seaboard.
The stretch between Morehead City / Beaufort NC and Virginia Beach VA, which sits at the mouth of the Chesapeake, is 180 NM of open sea with no usable ports or harbors of refuge. Adding to the potential risk is the fact that you have to go out over 10 NM from shore to get around the impassable Diamond Shoal. However, due to Pamlico Sound and the thin barrier islands you are, in fact, closer to 30 NMs offshore as you round the shoal at R2.
The weather forecast as of Monday Morning (April 1) for this stretch was dismal with a prediction of winds out of the northeast of 25 to 30 knots with gust as high as 55 knots. Seas of 5 to 8 foot building to 9 to 14 feet were forecasted.
|Thunderstorms approaching from the southwest|
|Self explanatory and DISMAL|
|DISMAL through Wednesday|
|Orange represents big seas - more DISMAL|
- The Alligator River Swing Bridge, which will not open if winds exceed 30 knots.
- Middle Ground, just north of the Alligator River Bridge which is tricky due to shallow water.
- Currituck Sound, just north of Coinjock, which is even more tricky due to a narrow channel (which maybe as narrow as 100 feet in places) and the fact that high winds from the east push the water out of the channel.
- The bridges approaching Norfolk which have restricted openings along with the lock at Great Bridge.
We reached Pamlico Sound at 12:40 PM, The canal connecting Pamlico Sound to the Alligator River at 3:04 PM and the Alligator River / Pungo Canal at the Wilkerson Bridge at 6:36 PM.
|A large sunken vessel to starboard|
|Another sunken vessel|
|We pass a tow heading south|
|Approaching the Alligator River / Pungo River Canal at 5:00 PM on Monday|
|We approach the Wilkerson Bridge at 6:36 PM|
|Nautical twilight approaches at 7:46 PM|
Screens: Left: Chartplotter, Center: Night vision, Right: Depth
We exited the canal at 8:57 PM in pitch blackness and anchored in safe water just north east of the canal. We had covered 89 NM since departing Morehead City and out total distance covered was 1045 NM. Average speed today was 8.1 knots.
On Tuesday morning at 6:41 AM we hauled anchor and proceeded north reaching the Alligator River Swing Bridge at 8:29. Owing to the early morning, winds were below 30 knots (actually northeast at 22 kts). Another obstacle cleared.
|Approaching the Alligator River Swing Bridge|
|The bridge is opening|
|Middle Ground. Notice the AIS return of a boat behind us (a tug)|
|Rain showers overtaking us from the southwest|
|Screens: Left: Approaching Coinjock. Center: Showers overtake us, Right: 6 feet of water under the boat|
|Passing the Coinjock Marina with gas dock and restaurant|
|Left Screen: Avg speed is 8.3 NMPH, Distance traveled 49.3 NM since hauling anchor|
Total distance is 1095.7 NMs
Right Screen: Winds are ENE as 30.6 knots, the temperature is 46.7 degrees and the barometric pressure is falling
|We enter the narrow channel in Currituck Sound|
Notice the shallow water and spoil area to starboard
|We overtake the tug Justin in the narrow channel|
The next "obstacle" (or shall I say obstacles) was the Great Bridge Bridge (funny name) and The Great Bridge Lock. We reached the bridge at 4:32 PM. It opens on the HOUR - real convenient. We cleared the bridge at 5:00 PM and immediately entered the lock, which we cleared at 5:32 PM. IMPORTANT: The lock closes at 7:00 PM. Had we missed the 4:00 PM opening of the Centerville Turnpike Bridge we would have missed the Great Bridge Bridge / Lock and would have had to wait until the following morning.
|Great Bridge Bridge opening. We are following two tugs.|
|Approaching the Great Bridge Lock.|
|Norfolk area. notice the shipyard to starboard|
|Passing downtown norfolk|
|Deep low pressure to the southeast of the entrance to the Chesapeake|
|Sea conditions of the coast. Seas of 10 feet and greater.|
|Guided Discovery on the T-dock at Chesapeake Harbor marina|
|View of Guided Discovery as we leave the marina|
Side story: We did have a bit of a challenge securing the boat. It turns out that the T-dock did not have cleats so we had to secure the boat to the pilings. This turned out to be a challenge due to the wind that was pushing the boat off the dock. Initially, we had set up the lines with the loops on the boat's cleats. Thus the bitter end needed to be secured to the piling. This proved to be difficult due to the winds. No big deal. We secured the loop to the piling and controlled the tension with the bitter end on the boat's cleat. This required the cooperation of the dock hands and took a bit of time.
I spent the evening with Wayne and Catherine at their home.
Another Side Story: Catherine and I played a game of scrabble at the end of the evening. I lost. That said, I had the worst set of tiles I've ever had in any game. On the other hand, Catherine was a strong player. Note: to date I have played 4,920 games and have only lost 203 for a 95% win ratio.
Written by Les