The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway stretches 1240 miles down the east coast starting at Norfolk (mile 0) and ending at Key West (mile 1240). We started at mile 536 in Beaufort and have made it to mile 0….a mini accomplishment in our book! The terrain through these miles on the ICW is so vast from swamps with dead heads (floating logs) to crystal clear ocean water that is reminiscent of the Keys and most recently, the passing of battleships in the river. The ride so far has been quite an adventure and the entry into Norfolk did not disappointment this tradition.
We arrived in the Elizabeth River which travels between Norfolk and Portsmouth in the afternoon and pulled into the Portsmouth town docks to catch our breath and determine our next steps. We decided to stay at the Waterside Marina, which is located across the river in the heart of Norfolk. As we pulled away from docks, we felt a jolt and then smoke started to roll out of the engine compartment. Bryan was at the helm and I was in the cockpit at the time. We immediately grabbed the girls who were down below and strapped on our life jackets, as well as cut off the engine. With a call to TowBoatUS (again), we were instructed that it would be about 20 minutes until they would be able to reach us. In the meantime, we were adrift in the middle of a MAJOR river with barges and navy ships traveling by. Oh and our VHF radio stopped working earlier in the day, so we had no radio contact except the secondary unit in the navigation station which is inaccessible due to the smoke in the cabin. I have to say, in this moment, instead of tears, I kept laughing! Quickly springing into action, we raised our sails to hold our position until TowBoatUS reached us. Also, the Coast Guard was notified and came and checked in on us to make sure no one was in danger. It was actually a pleasant sail back and forth in the river….Bryan was disappointed he was unable to dock the boat under sail (we will save this for another time!). After about 30 minutes, TowBoatUS showed up and towed us to the marina where we stayed for a week determining our engine problems.
It turns out we needed a new starter, which has since been installed, and we are now on our way again! For those who do not know what a starter is (I had no idea), it is the electric motor that starts the diesel engine. I’m definitely learning to roll with the punches and make the best of every situation.
We were docked at a beautiful park that the girls were able to run around in and play in the water fountains, as well as meet some friends.
And we met two lovely couples who were our neighbors for a couple days and shared some wonderful knowledge of their cruising experiences in the Cheasepeake, which has gotten us excited about exploring the area. As an added bonus, we were able to see the USS Harry S. Truman, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, pass by and it was immense. The entire town of Portsmouth, on the opposite side of the river, was eclipsed by this enormous warship….the pictures really don’t do it justice.
We would love to get to Annapolis before we turn back south, but our short term sights are set on Solomons (halfway up the Cheasepeake) where we will get our CNG tank switched out.