The Journey Home - Part I
By John Barbaro
Living on a boat is not something new to me. I’ve lived on many while working as a charter yacht captain in the early 2000’s and again when making my way to Florida the first time on a 35’ Oday sloop. This trip would be different, however. The boat this time was new to me as I just purchased it two weeks before making the journey South.
I bought the boat in Lancaster, Virginia, and ‘home’ was an unclear destination. All I can tell you was my girlfriend, and I wanted to be someplace warm over the Winter. Since the boat was new to me, I thought it best to enlist a knowledgeable friend about sailing and boating in general for the first day of the trip. He convinced his girlfriend to make the trip as well.
All excited about the journey and the new boat, we all provisioned and brought everything but the kitchen sink in the large SUV as we made our way to Lancaster. There was hardly room for my friend, his girlfriend, and the two of us. It was pretty comical trying to make room for everything we thought we might need for our trip.
We arrived that evening, unloaded everything from the SUV, stored the cold provisions, made up the berths, and crashed for the evening. We went for a bag of ice at first light, a couple of last-minute provisions from the convenience store, and off we went. Everyone’s teeth were chattering! Not from excitement, however. It was freezing on this late October sailing excursion. We departed Lancaster, making sure to take all the lines and fenders, knowing full well we weren’t coming back. Our first stop was going to be Norfolk, VA. We departed Yankee Point Marina down the Corrotoman River, which drops you into the Rappahannock River. The sun was shining, but it was cold and raw. As we made our way down the Rappahannock, the wind and the waves made for a very bumpy ride. After a few hours, I could tell the RPMs were not constant as before.
I looked down at the tachometer and could see the needle jump up for a few seconds and then back down. The condition didn’t improve at any RPM. Oh NO! I had my friend Dan turn off the engine, and as we were under sail alone, we bounced from one direction to the other. As I looked around the engine room, I could see the Racor filter meter was pegged. My engine was fuel-starved. Quickly I made my way to the spares bin and found a fresh filter. I pulled the old filter out and slapped in the new one. Primed up and ready to go, I asked Dan to start the motor. Vroooooom! She was alive and well again! We arrived at Rebel Marine with plenty of time to take the courtesy truck to dinner near Waterside.
The next day I took my friends to their vehicle back in Lancaster and readied the boat for the ICW trip to follow with just me and my girlfriend. My thought was I would teach Bridget just enough to keep her interested but not too much to overwhelm her.
Our second day on the water would be just Bridget and me, which meant we would be going through a lock only the two of us. Bridget would need to know how to throw a line to the lock tender or, worst-case scenario, to loop a cleat. As we approached Great Lock, the doors swung open. This lock was our first challenge as a cruising couple! I slowly crabbed over the lock wall as other boats followed behind us. There was no one there to help, so Bridget had to loop the cleat. On the third attempt, SUCCESS! Rule #1 learn patience! We passed Great Bridge, and we radioed Atlantic Yacht Basin. Oh no, it’s late, and there is no room at the Inn!
We found another marina right next to the Centerville Bridge (Centerville Waterway Marina). We were able to tie up at the fuel dock, get some ice, and get ready to cook our first dinner on the grill that came with the boat. The grill mounting bracket was a little suspect, so I placed the grill on an upside-down bucket and a cookie sheet on top of the bucket to keep the plastic bucket from melting. Yes, we quickly learned that buying a used boat requires you to be resourceful. For some reason, every meal seems to taste great when you’ve been on the water! Tomorrow we would head to Coinjock.
Everyone knows what Coinjock, NC, is known for before you get there! YEP! It’s known for the famous Prime Rib. It just so happened that there was a flotilla of large cruising boats making the trip South, and we were fortunate enough to be able to tie up on the same side as the restaurant. We cleaned up, had a drink to celebrate our second day on our own, and went out to dinner. Of course, I had to order the World-Renowned PRIME RIB! OK, I am typically not a fan of prime rib, but I have to admit it was pretty darn tasty. After Bridget and I devoured our enormous quantities of meat, we went back to the boat and enjoyed the evening in the cockpit to discuss our plan for the next day.
Our goal was to get to Beaufort, NC, by the weekend, and we had three full days ahead. We left bright and early the following day and slowly made our way to Alligator River Bridge Marina. A shallow entrance for some boats, but we only draw 5’ 6”, so no problem. There is a convenience store there, and some excellent facilities for doing laundry. The best part of this stop was the sunrise the following day. The view of the sunrise with our morning coffee was stunning.
The following day with our 50 mile-per-day goal ahead, we left early for Dowry Creek Marina. The marina is not far from Bellhaven, and the courtesy car was available for us to go downtown to pick up groceries. Keep in mind this is during COVID, so most restaurants are closed or require masks. The staff at Dowry Creek are so welcoming and friendly. It’s one of my favorite stops and my ICW trips, and the owners continue to build out with a new restaurant in the works. I would suggest stopping here if you ever pass this way. Tomorrow we would be bound for Beaufort!
Stay tuned for Part II!
Author: John Barbaro