We have closed the circle and are once again back in Clubfoot Creek off the Neuse River in North Carolina. More on that later.
It was Thursday, 10/22/20, and we are ready to move on. We dropped the mooring and started down Mt Hope Bay crossing under the bridge into Narraganset Bay and motored down to Newport. Once there we pulled up to a fuel dock to top off the fuel and water tanks. From there we moved over to the anchorage and dropped anchor for the night. Friday we spent getting the boat ready for the next leg. We have two options, we could go up Long Island Sound and go through New York City and wait for another weather window there or we could make the passage to Cape May or to Norfolk. We opted for the shorter of the two and after waiting out some weather in the morning we headed out. Our first waypoint would be Block Island and if conditions were not right we could stop there and wait it out. When we left on Saturday the wind was on the nose so we chose too bypass the island by tacking east of it then tacking west when we cleared the island. The winds were forecast to clock around from southwest to west then to northwest and finally from the north and dying out. By this point we should be close to Norfolk. We were sailing with 15-20 knots of wind and holding a steady 5-7 knots. We got hit with a few rain showers as the front moved through but we were comfortable in our enclosed cockpit. By Monday morning the wind died and we motored for a few hours until it came back up. Several hours later it was too light to sail and we continued motoring. Tuesday morning, about 4:30 am, we arrived Hampton VA where we planned to anchor. We normally try to not arrive at a harbor at night but the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay is well marked and with the chartplotter and our radar we made our way up to Hampton. We chose to drop anchor outside the anchorage but out of traffic and wait until daylight to go in. Mid-morning we moved into the anchorage and we spent the rest of the day resting and organizing. We had traveled 385 nautical miles (443 statute miles) in 66 hours. The next day Cori's brother picked us up and we made a run to Sam's Club to restock. Thursday we pulled anchor and moved to Hospital Point in Norfolk to wait out some weather. There were strong winds forecasted and we would be better protected there.
Friday we spent on the boat riding out the windy condition and listening to the chatter on the radio. About six miles up the river there was a barge that broke loose from it's moorings and drifted down on a railroad bridge. We watched a number of tugboats rushing by to go get it under control again. The downside of this is that we would have to go through that bridge when we leave. It ended up that the bridge was damaged and closed for the next two days stopping all train traffic and boat traffic on this part of the river and Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). Sunday they had the bridge partially repaired and they were able to open it to allow boats through and trains to cross slowly. We pulled anchor and headed out.
We have three options when going south from Norfolk. First we could go outside and sail down around Cape Hatteras, second we could motor down the ICW (the most common route) or we could take an alternate route following the Dismal Swamp Canal and joining up with the ICW down in North Carolina. We had done the Dismal Swamp route one other time and decided to go that way again. It is a lot prettier trip then the regular route. After clearing several bridges we made the turn towards the Dismal Swamp and continued up to the first lock. There are two locks controlling the water level and they are on a set schedule. We dropped anchor for a bit until they opened the lock for us to maneuver in. There are a lot of stories about this lock, all centering on Robert the lock operator. He was a legend among cruisers for his outgoing personality and the way he treated the people passing through. This included his blowing of many conch shells that he had been given over the years. He was also the first one to call Cori "Admiral" and letting her know that she ranks above the Captain. We had heard the reports that Robert had a heart attack and died this summer. We wanted to pass by and pay our respects. Now a little history of the Dismal Swamp Canal. It dates back to the 1700's when they were looking for an inside route to move goods up and down the east coast. George Washington was one of the first to survey the route. Currently there is a highway that parallels it and near the North Carolina border is a rest stop and welcome center that both the canal and the highway share. There is a dock so that the boats can stop and spend the night if they choose. That is what we had planned. Once we were locked up we continued down the canal being aware of staying in the middle to keep the mast from hitting the overhanging trees. When we arrived at the Welcome Center we found the dock was full and no-one was offering to let us raft up to them. We continued down the canal for about another mile before it got too dark to continue. We dropped the anchor in the middle of the canal and turned in for the night. We were up at sunrise to move on so that we wouldn't be blocking the way for anyone that got an early start. We arrived at the next lock early and dropped anchor to wait for the 8:30 am scheduled opening. We were the only boat to lock through and anyone coming behind us had to wait for the 11:00 am opening.
Once through the lock we continued down the Pasquotank River to Elizabeth City. We were planning to continue just a bit further then Elizabeth City and anchoring for the night but since it was just mid-day we continued down the river with 20 knots of wind behind us and we sailed across the Albemarle Sound to the Alligator River. We had such a fast sail, 6-7 knots, that we were able to continue up the river until we reached the drawbridge. We pulled in the sail and motored through the bridge. Once through the bridge we turned off the channel to anchor for the night near the west shore just as the sun set. In the morning we joined several other boats continuing up the river and into the Alligator-Pungo Canal. Once out of the canal we moved down the Pungo River and crossed the Pamlico River to anchor in Goose Creek for the night. In the morning we continued up Goose Creek to the Hobucken Cut and moved into the Bay River. We motored down the river to where the Neuse River joins Pamlico Sound and started up the river. Just a point of interest: at this spot the Neuse River is the widest river in North America measuring seven miles across. We continued up the Neuse to Broad Creek where we turned in and moved up to our where our friends, Jerry and Donna, on Bluejacket have a home and a dock. With the long days and some favorable winds we had arrived a day earlier then we had expected. Also spending time on their dock was Persephone and Ada, two other boats we had been quarantined in the Bahamas with. Jerald and Karen were waiting for a weather window to make the passage to the Virgin Islands and Brandon and Dustyn are working on projects before they make the jump to the Islands also.
We were close to closing the loop but we decided to stay for several days visiting and taking care of some projects while we were tied to a dock. The very same dock we had left four months before and the only dock we used on this trip. After a week we bid everyone a good-by and headed off to Clubfoot Creek, about a five hour trip. Once we made the turn to head up the river we had 20-25 knot winds on the beam pushing us in one long tack to the creek. Along the way we were passed by another boat that sounded familiar. We called them and it turned out to be Akka, a German couple we had met two years ago while in Trinidad. The cruising world is a small community. We motored up Clubfoot Creek, pass the marina we lived in for ten years and dropped the anchor. We had closed the loop we started when we left the creek in June. We launched the dinghy and headed ashore to catch up with old friends.
This is the end of our Summer of 2020 cruise. We traveled 2077 nautical miles or 2390 statute miles in a little over four months. About the same as driving from New York to Los Angeles except we do it at 6-10 miles an hour. We got as far north as Northern Maine, stopping about forty miles short of the Canadian Border. We stopped and visited many friends and made a number of new ones along the way.
What's next? We are not sure. We will be leaving to start the winter cruise in a week or so. We intend on staying warm. We don't know yet if the Bahamas are on the schedule, it will depend on what their rules are for containing the Covid-19 outbreaks. If not the Islands then we will spend the time in various parts of Florida. Once again all we know for sure is that plans are written in sand at low tide. You never know what will happen after the tide washes them away but there will always be a plan B and plan C.