These are the voyages of the sailing vessel Pétillant. Her original eight-month mission: to sail from Baltimore to France via Florida and the Bahamas, to successfully navigate the shoals of the French douane, to boldly go where few Maine Coon cats have gone before was completed in 2008. Now she is berthed in Port Medoc and sails costal Spain, France, and the UK during the summer months.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Backstory - Part 3 - Down the ditch

The first day into the ditch was quite an experience. We had to leave the marina at 5:00 am to be able to make two bridges that are normally closed during Norfolk rush-hour, so we made the initial part of the trip in the dark, and it was also quite foggy. It was challenging, trying to figure out where the marks were, and which way to go, but we worked quite well together, with jlm looking out for lights, while rxc steered and navigated. We had an interesting conversation with one bridge tender who said that she would "try" to open the bridge, but was not sure whether it would open(!). We also had to duck a few freighters who were coming out. Luckily, we did not meet any warships. The chartplotter was also a great help.

We had originally wanted to take the Dismal Swamp route, but it is closed for the winter because of low water in the swamp, so we had to take the Virginia Cut. All of the guide books say this is a miserable, monotanus(sp?) route, with no redeeming qualities, but we found it quite interesting. Maybe we have a low threshold for amusement. We saw lots of birds, few boats, and the low-lying marshes were quite interesting. The wind was on the nose most of the way down, except for a very few moments. We tried to sail, but quickly gave up.

Because of the lack of anchorages, this was a long day. We made it all the way to the mouth of the Alligator river, where we anchored in deep twilight. Luckily, there was NO wind, so we kind of drifted around the anchor all night, and we up before dawn the next day to keep heading south.

The second day out of Norfolk was up the Alligator River and down the Pungo River-Alligator River canal, which was not exciting, but again quite pretty with fall colors. We tried to find some fresh shrimp for dinner at one spot that had a number of fishing boats and was noted to have fish, but none were available. We think it may have had something to do with being the day before Thanksgiving. We also got to do some nice sailing down the Pungo River, which was a change from constant motoring. Calypso drooled but less.

The third day was a bit shorter than the first two, because we really pushed the first two days (82 miles each day). We wanted to get to Moorhead City early in the afternoon, and we were successful, arriving about noon. We tied up at the town docks in Beaufort NC, which is right across the inlet, and it is quite a charming place. A very nice “Main Street” with lots of interesting shops (all closed on T-day), restaurants (for a nice seafood lunch today), and nicely maintained old houses. Many of the houses seem to be for sale (prices from $400K to $1.5MM). They even have free Wifi available along the docks. We had T-day dinner at the Backstreet Pub, where the town threw a party for the cruisers, with turkey, ham, desserts, and all the fixins (except for liquor). Because the wind was a bit strong, we took take a lay-day to finish up some projects and rest.

We hoped to go off-shore (25-50 miles) for the next leg, down to Charleston. We wanted to leave in the early AM, getting in on Sunday mid-day. The plan was to stay in the City Marina there for a few days before continuing down the ICW to Savannah. jlm wanted to see one of her contractors who was supposed be at Fort Pulaski in Savannah, and we should have been able to make this all work, if the weather cooperated. But it was not to be...

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