A New Life In 100 Cold Miles
• C25 • Black Pearl
Sailing is as addictive as a narcotic, or maybe it is a narcotic.
One sail and you can be hooked for life. There is nothing quite like
the magic of sailing – the gurgle of water rushing by, crackling
canvas, soft murmurs of a breeze, and the special sense of catching
the power of the wind. I learned that on a Hunter 34 I once owned
and enjoyed sailing and racing, and the memories stayed through the
intervening years when I traded sails for engines.
Recently, while fishing from my pontoon boat, I saw a sailboat
slip by; I started dreaming again. My heart warmed, and my desire
rose. I started checking the classifieds. I was hooked again. A
Catalina 25 in Hampton, Virginia caught my eye. It was October, and
with winter approaching I reasoned that it might be a good time to
buy. There is always a good reason.
I contacted the owner and we agreed on a price, but there was no
trailer. That meant my reintroduction would be a 100 mile sail and
motor from Hampton, Virginia to Hertford, NC via the Intracoastal
My son had just had surgery on his ankle, but he agreed to go
with me. He didn't need a functioning foot to steer.
We left Hampton, Virginia on a cold December day. Wind from the
NNW at 12 MPH and a temperature around 30.
I served 22 years in the US Navy and sailing past the carrier and
destroyer piers at Norfolk Virginia brought back more memories. We
were motoring south past the Naval Station en-route to downtown
Norfolk, VA. As we arrived at Norfolk amid the busy water traffic we
went past the battleship Wisconsin, and berthed in front of
the battleship was the schooner Virginia.
After passing between Norfolk and Portsmouth, we continued south
to the ICW split. The passage to port (East) would take us down the
Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal to Coinjock, NC. This is a stopping
place for boats waiting to cross the Albemarle Sound on their way
south via the ICW, but the Albemarle Sound is rather shallow and can
get very rough in a hurry. Also, a Nor-Easter would put waves on the
beam. Leaving Coinjock, you travel down the North River into
Albemarle Sound and cross to the Alligator River.
Since I wanted to stop in Elizabeth City, NC, we chose a
starboard turn to the Washington Canal and Dismal Swamp, a passage
reportedly originally surveyed by George Washington. It's a winding
passage until you get to Deep Creek, where you enter a lock and are
lifted eight feet before exiting into the Dismal Swamp Canal. We
tied up for the night after clearing the Deep Creek Bridge. The
overnight temperature of 19 degrees had left a coating of frost on
our decks for our early morning exit from Deep Creek.
Fifteen miles of motoring down the Dismal Swamp Canal brought us
to South Mills, North Carolina. After passing through the South
Mills lock it put us on the final leg of our journey for the day and
an open bridge to welcome us to Elizabeth City, NC.
Elizabeth City is a very friendly port of call. They provide 48
hour free docking and the "Rose Buddies", dockside greeters who
bring a rose to every lady on board, but only the ladies.
After leaving Elizabeth City the next day we had to break ice
passing down the Pasquotank River. We actually got to sail for about
15 miles with a light wind from the west. Upon reaching PR1 (The day
marker at the entrance to the Pasquotank River) we turned west, into
the wind, and that was the end of sailing. We motored from there,
and upon reaching my entrance canal at Holiday Island found the
water was low. I needed 2' 10", and it was a little lower than that.
With the 9.8 Nissan running wide open and my son on the bank
pulling, I found if I went to the bow the boat would move some.
After some time we made it inside the opening and from there it was
a slow ride up the canal dodging overhead trees. I knew I would have
to come back in my pontoon boat and trim trees later.
Although she started the journey as Day Dream, Black
Pearl earned her new name and new life in a hundred cold
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