We are heading
south and moving in to a new season. We fairly whizzed down the
Chesapeake Bay, partly because we were meeting people who wanted to see the Discovery 50 for a second time, but largely
because we needed to get around Cape
There is a
fantastic 3000 miles navigable NE/SW route called the Intracoastal Waterway,
which takes you from New York through the low
countries of the Carolinas and Georgia
Much of it is man-made, cutting through areas like the Great Dismal Swamp (I love the name) and then spilling out
into estuaries which are protected behind dunes and deltas formed from winds
and currents of the Atlantic Ocean.
‘What a fantastic route!’ you might think, but with our tall mast,
the bridge clearance of 64’ precluded us taking it.
whichever sailor or local you discussed cruising plans with, if you mentioned Cape Hatteras
it was always the same: a sharp intake of breath, hand raised over the
mouth and then an anecdote about a ship that had sunk there or crew that had
been swept overboard in some terrible storm. Some would advise not going until
after the hurricane season, others warned of the dangers of leaving it too
late. One person reminded us that there was a good reason for it being
called ‘The Graveyard of the Atlantic’.
It is a stretch of water where the cold Labrador Current churns with the warm
Gulf Stream and the swell of the Atlantic Ocean
breaks as it hits the shallow seabed that flanks the shoreline. As it
was, we had a lovely sail and for the last part of the 200 mile journey we ended
We had started
our journey in Yorktown, Virginia. It was the site of the last
major battle of the Revolutionary War, the Brits surrendering to the inevitable
Independence of America. Exploring the landmarks of the battle and siege
of this historical seaport town, we came to realise just how complicit the
French had been in the outcome. The fact that through Entente Frugale we are sharing an aircraft
carrier with the French, I think all has now been forgiven.
York River Yacht Basin provided a
fantastic stay with free breakfast and a courtesy car provided. Don’t get that in many English marinas!
Despite warm sunshine, the late autumn colours and Christmas
decorations were a good indication to head south. Names such as Alligator River
and Rattlesnake Shoal appeared on the chart, but as we sailed to North Carolina I saw my
first Pelican and I knew we were heading to a different climate.
North Carolina can claim the first successful powered flight by man when, in 1903
the Wright Brothers took off at Kill Devil
Hill. (Again, a great name.). The first English colony in America was located on Roanoke
Island, founded by Walter Raleigh. Pepsi was invented and first
served in the State in 1898.
All the way down the coast the significance of the
rich marine life is immense, both in terms of commercial fishing and the sport
fishing industry. The clear water and low-lying brackish marshes around Beaufort NC
teem with life, supporting gulls, guillemots, cranes, egrets and osprey and even
in the anchorage we enjoyed watching dolphins. The museum at Beaufort is
a real mixture of everything maritime: the overfishing of oysters, the
development of the outboard engine, snakes to be found alone the shoreline, the
types of shells that can be found and the effects of pollution.
It’s impressive how the American do take care of the environment
seriously: all boats have to have holding tanks for their waste, which is
either pumped out and taken to sewage treatment works or emptied more than 3
miles offshore; a harbour speed limit (to reduce wash) was issued by the
‘Natural Environment Police’. But I did think things had gone a bit
too far, when the sign on a toilet flush (you could elect to use a little or
more water) stated ‘This facility has fulfilled its obligation to the
In Beaufort we enjoyed cycling and exploring Carrot Island,
with its wild ponies and beach grasses holding the low sand dunes. We
haven’t yet tried the local ‘grits’ on the menu, but there are
plenty of shrimps and crabs to try. As we get down to Charleston, South Carolina
I am looking forward to going swimming again. The sea temperature is climbing steadily
- 13 degrees C when we left Georgetown
on 9th November and now 21 degrees C some 650 miles further south. I
am certainly packing away my woolly hat and getting out my t-shirts again.