November 2017 –
We continue to plug along Southbound at a blistering (walking) pace and have now made it to Ponte Vedra, Florida, where we are spending Thanksgiving weekend with Karl’s cousin Alejandro, wife Vivi, and their three lovely kids, to whom Karl is godfather to the youngest, Massimo. In general, cooler and shorter days have dictated the pace of travel aboard Contigo (given her l-l-lack of heat). And if the weather wasn’t indication enough that we needed to get moving, we are often reminded that we are participating in a time-honored migration South by an instrument screen chock-full of other southbound sailboats (all those little grey triangles shown below right). And this was just a small sliver of the southern Chesapeake!
Our first stop in Virginia was Tangier Island, a fishing community right smack in the middle of the Chesapeake and reachable only by boat and small airplane. The locals were friendly and spoke with an Old English lilt. Although the town museum was closed for the season, an administrator saw us milling about and welcomed us in anyway. She regaled us with local sayings, such as if you ever meet a Tangierman and he tells you that you are “selling cakes,” it means your fly is down!
Tangier Island, VA
Our time in the Chesapeake would not be complete without one more trip up the Rappahannock to Irvington, where Conner’s parents joined us for a few days. Sunny skies made for a great bike ride through the grounds at Dog & Oyster Vineyard, where we enjoyed a wine tasting and cheese before a dinner at Merroir, another favorite.
Biking through Dog & Oyster Vineyard
Intracoastal Waterway (ICW)
Upon reaching the southernmost point of the Chesapeake Bay in late October, we hopped onto the ICW at Norfolk, Virginia, home to some serious US naval power.
Norfolk Naval Station
Boats heading south have the option of traveling from Virginia to Florida along some (or all) of the ICW, or going offshore and making more direct ocean-bound progress to the islands. Like many, we opted for a hybrid approach, starting with several full days on the ICW to bypass Cape Hatteras (which is not fun in rough seas), and then once at Beaufort, North Carolina, hopping outside into the Atlantic when the weather was agreeable. The ICW offers beautiful scenery, very easy access to marinas and provisions, and a placid backdrop that confers a productivity that we aren’t yet salty enough to fully enjoy while under sail (e.g., yoga while underway at the bow).
On the flip side, daily progress is capped on the ICW as we can generally only motor during daylight at six knots, though on average we have done more due to timing our trips with favorable current (where relevant) and occasionally motor-sailing when that is an option. We also aren’t enjoying the silent magic of power-by-sail, so where is the fun in that! We luckily have not had too many issues with shallow water, but boaters on the ICW are often glued to their depth-sounders, hoping not to run aground. We are also fortunate that our mast height of 55 feet is well below the 65(ish) feet clearance height of the waterway’s fixed bridges. The ICW can also be a bit monotonous, spurring such on-board innovations as our “improved” view at Contigo’s helm shown below-left, and inspiring the occasional mid-day catnap.
Some notable stops along the waterway have included Belhaven, North Carolina, where we spent Halloween, and which prides itself on being the Birthplace of the ICW. Apparently the final piece of the waterway’s puzzle was the nearby 20+ mile cut dredged between the Alligator and Pungo Rivers in the 1920’s. Oriental, North Carolina, was another cruiser-friendly stop that we enjoyed; the Inland Waterway Provision Co. had the best combination of organic groceries, boating supplies, and a cozy corner that invited cruisers to sit and enjoy free WiFi all under one roof (it’s the little things!). The town also included a free dock that we very much appreciated… until the next day when we noticed some sort of dried fish or bug residue had floated over and adhered itself firmly to the deck (and has subsequently proven very tricky to remove).
Belhaven, NC, Halloween Night
A few overnights later, we arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, and were greeted by a sunny 80 degree day. Finally, we thought, we had arrived at warm weather! Well, not so fast, as just a few days later we were treated to some of the coldest, wettest weather we’ve seen yet. While we waited for the sun to come out, we decided to inflict pain on the monthly budget at some great Charleston eateries (here, here, and here). We were also graced with free dockage and great company courtesy of Rick (with whom Conner worked in our prior NYC lives) and his wife Laura. Thank you again for your hospitality and congratulations on your new home in Charleston!
We were advised by several sailors who had previously transited the ICW that Cumberland Island in southern Georgia was not to be missed, and we are happy to report that it lived up to its reputation! Once the property of Nathanael Greene – George Washington’s go-to General in the South – and then later site to a series of sprawling Carnegie estates, Cumberland has a good dose of historic charm and outdoor beauty.
Plum Gut, Cumberland Island
Dungeness Ruins, Cumberland Island
From there, we rode the ICW down to northern Florida to spend the holiday and will resume our southbound journey tomorrow. That positions us to cross over to the Bahamas in early December (fingers crossed)!
Until next time, love,
Conner and Karl
Conner creates a buzz at Savannah Bee Company,
Karl admires a massive fennel frond