Strangers in the Night

Sunday, November 5, 2017 was another new beginning for us.  I know, we keep referring to ‘firsts’ along our big adventure, but that is what is so amazing about this life, it is full of firsts! The Intra-coastal waterway (ICW) is the route we are using to take our Floating Home to Florida.

Here’s a brief description courtesy of Wikipedia: The ICW is a 3,000-mile inland waterway from Boston to Florida and even on to Brownsville, Texas.  Some sections of the waterway consist of natural inlets, saltwater rivers, bays, and sounds, while others are artificial canals. It provides a navigable route along its length without many of the hazards of travel on the open sea.  From Norfolk, VA to Miami, vessels can travel entirely inside, without ever going out to the ocean.

We met friends for lunch in Portsmouth, VA and then at 1:00 pm we brought in the lines and headed on our way – mile marker zero.  The plan was to get to Coinjock, NC, about 50 miles away, a very common first night stop for many ICW travelers.  

The travel was slower than we had expected. Sailboats and tugboats required that we bring our speed down. Typically, a 50-mile trip would take us two to three hours.

However, as the sun started setting we didn’t think we could make it to Coinjock before dark so we decided to pull off the canal and anchor for the night. Anchoring is something we’ve shied away from because of having to take Blue ashore to relieve himself.

Leaving the ICW canal can be tricky as the depths are unknown. Our Floating Home needs at least 3 feet 5 inches of clearance. The charts show that the area we pulled off into had depths of 5 to 6 feet. Still, Jim motored slowly as I looked for a beachy area where we could take Blue in the dinghy.

Unfortunately, all I could see was marshland with tall grass. Off in the distance we could see some lights from houses. Slowly heading in that direction watching the depth finder and the chart, 5 feet, 6 feet, 5 feet, 4 feet…nothing, ugh, we were stuck in the mud!  Jim tried to back the boat up and then go a few different ways to get out of the low water, but no luck, we were stuck.

Blue hadn’t peed in quite a few hours and he was also anxious for dinner. We dropped the anchor, not totally necessary, but of course we did it to be safe.  Jim unloaded the dinghy from the boat and Blue was wrapped in his life jacket.

The 3 of us got in the dinghy and headed for shore, in the dark! The closer we got, we could see that there were a few houses. I looked to the right and it seemed like a business so I told Jim to go that way.  But it was fenced off with signs stating Restricted Area, No Trespassing.

So back we went in the other direction. There were nice houses with docks and we certainly didn’t want to take our dog to poop on someone’s front yard! The other challenge was the land had bulkheads and it would be a bit of a challenge to get up on the land. We continued to slowly motor along and then I spotted a small concrete boat ramp. Jackpot!

Quietly Blue was lured out of the dinghy and given the opportunity to take care of business. I continued to walk him around this area that seemed to be between two houses making sure he did all he could do, because we weren’t going through this again tonight!

Then, not very far off, we started to hear voices. And see flashlight shining out in the cove at Floating Home.  I could hear a little of what they were saying…”Do you think it’s stuck?   I wonder if they’re okay.  Do you think anyone could be hurt?”

We felt like we were sneaking around their neighborhood.  Blue & I got back in the dinghy.  When Jim started the dinghy motor back up lights were aimed in our direction.  “Are you going out to check on that boat?  We replied “We are from that boat.”  “Get over here” a woman yelled.  “Are you okay?’  “Yes, we’re fine.”  “Come Here!”  “We’re okay” “Get over here., how are you going to get the boat off?”  “We’ll wait for the tide.”

We motored back to the boat, laughing but also a bit creeped out! Flashlights and car headlights shined on us the whole way and as we climbed back aboard Floating Home.

Now on to figuring out how to get the boat in deeper water…

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