Carolina to Boston

Leg Summary


This leg continues up the ICW for another 283 miles to Norfolk, Virginia. We then go out into the Atlantic for 3 days until we make a landfall at Block Island (just north of Long Island). After a days rest we have a day sail to Onsett where we over night before traversing the Cape Cod Canal and onto Boston the next day.


Vittoria will then be based at Marina Bay,, close to Boston, until her departure for Halifax, Nova Scotia on Tuesday, 3rd July.


Photographs are amidst the following text


Broken red line denotes our route from Wrightsville Beach, through North Carolina, last stop Coinjock and into Virginia.



Monday, 16th April


Slipped Wrightsville Beach Marina 0520hrs in order to catch 1st three lifting bridges and make Beaufort before dark.


My old mate, Glyn and Skip, a recently retired UN Operations Director, are the crew for this leg.

Took Estelle to the airport yesterday, a 400 mile round trip. Got pulled in by a speed cop on way back for doing 85 in a 55 limit. He threatened me with jail and a $2k bail bond (standard if 20 or more over limit) but let me off with a caution on account of me being such a nice Brit abroad!

Boarded by US Coastguard at lunchtime to check our boat safety etc. We passed but now have to display 2 notices on board regarding oil and garbage disposal procedures. We were sailing and on our 2nd bottle of wine at the time but hid it before they boarded. Same limit as driving a car, 0.8% over here.


Rounding the southern tip of Radio Island on our approach to Beaufort there was an almighty crash and Vittoria rode up onto a submerged groine and listed to one side. The chart had shown a warning post at the end of it. We had given the post an offing of over 2 boat lengths but the chart was wrong. We had been motoring at 6 knots and it was a shocking experience as we came to a crash stop. Using a lead line we gauged that deep water was behind us so (in order to get the boat to lean over and thus reduce our draft) we put our mizzen and fore sails up, swung the main boom out, leaned over the side and then put the engine in full reverse. We were stuck fast! Fortuneately it was a rising tide and gradually we started to move, crashing on the groine and tearing at the undersides. After half an hour we scraped off and motored on to Beaufort Dock where we tied up at 1830 hours near MM204.


The harbour master told us boats regularly grounded on the groine and apparently you need to go south of the No. 5 green post - a pity they couldn't have moved the warning post to the end of the submerged groine!

Lifting railway bridge, Beaufort.

Tuesday/Wednesday 18th April


The barometer is dropping as a cold front moves in and the wind shifts to a northerly.

Tuesday morning we left Beaufort before 7am, anchoring off Cedar Point, close to MM174 (174 miles to the end of the ICW at Norfolk, Virginia), and in the evening at Campbell Creek off MM154 in very shallow water - 0.7 metres under the hull. We called up the coastguard to confirm that the fall of tide was small.

We had briefly pulled into a shrimp boat dock at Hobucken, close to MM157, to buy shrimps and scallops off a fisherman. The next day we bought 10 live blue crabs off a passing crab boat. For lunch we anchored about a mile up the Pungo River, off MM127, a beautiful anchorage close to the shore. We baked parmesan and sun-dried tomato bread and boiled the crabs in water spiced with Old Bay - the Southern way. Pinot Grigio wine, Old Crow bourbon and a well earned siesta was upon us.

Even better at anchor that night, off Deep Point, near MM102, Skip was chef of the day. He produced an awesome local shrimps in garlic butter starter followed by local scallops wrapped in bacon with garlic butter, mashed potatoes and fresh green beans with parmesan. We retired early and contentedly to bed, unusually in the company of 6 other yachts. Normally in the ICW we anchor alone.

Thursday/Friday 20th April


Anchor away 0700hrs, Thursday and out into Alligator River and then Albermarle Sound.

Cold northerly wind blowing and the scenery getting less interesting.

Albermarle Sound lived up to it's reputation for short choppy seas and tedium.

However for lunch we found a sheltered spot to anchor, close to Camden Point off MM65 with a pretty shoreline.

Then another boring bit that gradually improved and narrowed as we approached the North Carolina Cut where we moored that night at Coinjock Marina, close to MM49.

Ate 3 fantastic prime ribs (you've got to ring ahead to order them) and soft shelled crabs in their restaurant.

A gale force 9 was forecast to come up from the south so we filled with water and diesel and decided to miss our next night at Norfolk, Virginia in order to keep in front of it.

0700hrs Friday we slipped the marina and headed off down the ICW in thick fog, grounding 3 times. Three hours later it cleared, we crossed into Virginia and at 1500 hrs we were approaching Norfolk and MM00 - the end of Vittoria's ICW passage, after 680 miles from entering at Brunswick, Georgia.


The ICW had been a great route to travel, with masses of wildlife, constantly changing scenery, beautiful, lonely anchorages, great seafood and amazingly freindly people. Grounding had not been un common but, apart from the trauma south of Radio Island, was easily dealt with. We set the Shallow Alarm at 0.5 metres under the keel. As soon as it alarmed we put the engine in neutral, took a quick guess at where the deep water was and turned 60 degrees in that direction. If it continued to shallow, we turned it back 120 degrees to try the other side of the channel. When we occasionally grounded we reversed back on full throttle, never forwards. In the ICW the bottom was nearly always mud.


An hour at a time on the helm is enough we found. It's mentally tiring because nothing is 100% certain. According to which branch of a river you are on Red posts may be on your port or starboard. They may be positioned in shallows where heavy silting has occured. Heavy silting sometimes makes the charted depths incorrect. The chart plotter sometimes shows the boat traversing the land! In the majority of cases the navigational aids are correct but you can never bank on it. When the Shallow Alarm beeps it's a snap assessment of the charts, the chart plotter, the physical environment and a bold change of course.


And so out into the Atlantic for 3 non stop days and over 350nm (nautical miles) to Block Island - with a severe gale force 9 chasing up behind us.

We left Coinjock in North Carolina and motored non-stop on the ICW through Virginia, to Norfolk, and then straight out into the Atlantic.


Aircraft carrier, Norfolk, Virginia. When I'd cruised the Chesapeake Bay way back in 1997, I was amazed at the mile after mile of US Navy boats moored in Norfolk. Nothing in the UK comes anywhere near to the mass of hardware there. This time more boats were out on operations.

Midday Saturday 21 April


Approaching mouth of Delaware River, about 30 miles to seaward. Light south easterly wind, cool and sunny day, but coasting along under full sail at 4-5 knots.

Excited to catch 6-7 lb bluefish 4 hours ago and Skip already planning his cooking.

240nm to go to Block Island.

Skip weighing our Bluefish.

Midday Sunday 22 April


Just passing 60nm seaward of New York, 95nm to go to Block Island. Cold, wet, grey and wind on the nose, but gale still not arrived.

Skip did excellent borsch yesterday. It was his wife Kitty's recipe. She is Georgian (USSR) and working in Kenya for U.N.. Skip phones regularly but not seen each other for three and a half months.

Bluefish for dinner ok but not great. Hoping gale does not stop us getting into harbour tonight. 


Midday Monday 23 April


We had our gale last night - peaking just under 40 knots.

I went off watch at 10pm but as I lay below I became aware of the wind increasing. Dragged on my wets, wellies and harness and by the time I got on the deck the wind was over 30 knots. Went on the foredeck and dropped the reefed main and then raised the mizzen - by which time the gale had arrived. By the time I'd finished Skip was being badly sea sick. Sent Glyn off watch so he could be fresh to take over from me later in the night. For about 2 hours tried to get Skip below to sleep but he kept coming back up to be sick. Finally, freezing and exhausted, he collapsed into his bunk for the rest of the night.

At 4am Glyn relieved me. He was badly bruised from being thrown against the cooker and had also been bouncing off the roof of the forepeak - not a good place to be in a gale! Despite the fact that he was also awaiting a hip replacement operation and could barely move around he was able to relieve me on the wheel. I was now exhausted and frozen and lay in my berth shivering with cold. Then Glyn called me up with concern regarding lights bearing down on him through the driving rain.

I quickly came up only to get my legs tangled around his safety line. I carefully unwound it and then looked up to see bright red and green lights bearing down on us on a collision course. Immediately swung 60 degrees off course and the large shape of a passenger vessel passed within 4 boat lengths of us - somewhat unnerving! I got called up twice again for confusing lights from a fishing vessel but finally put my track suit on top of my other clothes and was warm enough to get a reasonable rest. Glyn manfully carried on into the morning by which time the gale was abating and Skip was recovering.


Arriving at Block Island at 10.30am, Skip leapt ashore and shouted to the skies "I'm alive! I'm alive!" - it had been his first experience of a gale at sea! He said that "when he was 65 you wouldn't find him risking his life on the foredeck in a gale".


Block Island heaves with boats in the season but we are literally the only boat here and all the marinas are closed. No sign of life but we are off to search for it soon.


Tuesday 24 April


Last night we dined at the Poor Peoples pub. In season there are 54 eateries open on Block Island-now 3, 2000 yachts in Salt Pond Bay-now only us, 20 taxis-now 2. The highlight was Harpoon beer and local mussels steamed in beer and Old Bay. Lobster was dissappointing.

We had sleet in the afternoon and, to the south of us, New York had snow.

Slipped Paynes Marina at 06.30 this morning. 60 miles to Onsett before Cape Cod Canal tomorrow. Glorious 7 knot+ sail on reefed foresail alone. Wind SW 6/7. Waves large.

Wednesday 25 April


Tied up Onsett Bay Marina at 1730. It's a tricky entrance and the turn off from Hog Island channel is very confusing. You must turn between the two greens and, later, the final channel to the marina is un marked. The marina is very expensive and not really suitable for a 40 foot yacht. The only suitable berth for us was the fuel pontoon and that was difficult in a strong south westerly. Lots of mooring buoys that would have been easier.

Rang for a taxi to a restaurant to be told they all finished work at 6pm. Glyn was still pretty crippled from the gale so Skip and I walked 2 miles into Onsett to find one eatery open - Marc Antony's. Better than it looked. Had dish of the day, fresh Maine steamers. Live, large, local clams steamed and not cleaned. A bowl of hot water to rinse the flesh in and then melted butter to dip in and eat. Good. Bought Glyn ribs to take back. They did home deliveries so we got ourselves home delivered to the boat!

Strong tides, up to 6 knots, through the Cape Cod Canal so you need to time your passage accordingly. US Coastguard on channel 16 or US Army Corp of Engineers (see pilot) will give you info. on tide times.

Fortunately the east going started at 7am this morning. We got to the entrance at 7am and had nearly 3 knots of tide with us.

I think that Sandwich Marina, on the east side would have been a better marina for us.

Lobsters from a passing fisherman. Note canopy now up to reduce the cold.

The lobsters were soon cooked and eaten.

Thursday 26 April


Bought 3 lobsters for $20 off a passing boat yesterday and boiled them up with Old Bay for lunch. All agreed they were great.

Docked at Marina Bay, Boston at 4pm, 780 miles from start of this leg. Looks to be a very good marina, lots of bars, restaurants and a courtesy bus every 15 minutes into Boston.

Had a fun time last night with Skip's old school mates, Kim and Jamey, who joined us for drinks and dinner ashore and then departed with Skip.

Sat in cockpit this morning looking over to Boston skyline and a Canada Goose waddling down pontoon. 10am and Glyn still fast asleep, recovering from his bashing. Glorious sunny day and starting to warm up after 42 degrees previous morning. Trees only just starting to bud burst. 2 days of maintenance and then fly home.

Skip, Glyn and me at journey's end. The reason Glyn is so lightly clad is that we'd just dragged him out of his pit - at 6pm!

Friday 27 April


Vittoria lifted in travel hoist to discover damage done at Beaufort. Nasty gouges in the hull. Thank goodness she's got a fully encapsulated long keel with very thick fibreglass. If we'd had a fin keel I reckon it would have been ripped off and we would have started to sink.


Ah well, if we can survive a submerged groine at 6 knots we should survive an iceberg hit - famous last words!

Not very pretty!

Thank goodness for a thick layer of fibre glass. I suspect a modern boat would have easily been holed.