Running on Empty (Saturday-Monday, November 9-11, 2013)

We leave Portsmouth, VA on Sat, 11/9, in the early morning fog and call ahead to have the bridge raised so we can go through it.



Portsmouth is mile 0 on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). We want to get down to the Florida Keys, which is somewhere around mile 1,050 (keep in mind we can only go about 5 miles an hour. Matt jokes that most people could walk faster than that). During the trip, one of our water tanks runs out. I lift the floorboard to switch to another tank when a cloud of steam comes up and water sprays all over. I quickly shut down all of the tanks and inform the captain. Matt says we will deal with it when we anchor that night. We stop at a Coinjock marina for fuel and continue on. We anchor after dark in the Buck Island anchorage, eat and go to bed. In the morning, Matt tackles the water line. We are thrilled when he fixes it, then dismayed to realize it drained all of our water tanks (Lesson #1: if you suspect a problem, fix it while in a marina). The good thing is that it means our bilge pump is working well. We are left with 4 gallons of potable water. There is a marina about a day away but it only draws five feet of water and our keel requires six. We have two more days to go until we can get to a marina and refill. In the meantime, dishes and messes are piling up. Matt reminds me we have a foot pump in the galley that brings in water from outside. He opens the seacock and gets it working. I fill up a white bucket with the water to check it out. It’s green. I show it to Matt. “Well, it’s just algae,” he says. “It’s not like it’s bacteria.” I am unsure of the basis for his assertion but this is what we’ve got. I start washing the dishes with it and begin the rationalization. “Well, it’s not that green” I say to myself. “Besides, when you really think about it, algae is just a bunch of tiny, tiny plants. I like plants. So, really, what’s the big deal about washing dishes with water that has plants in it?” [I can almost feel our pediatrician wincing as I write this]. Just to be safe, I decide I should heat it in the pressure cooker and rinse the dishes a final time. I search the pressure cooker manual for the proper cooking time but it contains no information on cooking the hell out of algae. I decide 10 minutes at high heat (250 degrees F) should be sufficient.

We continue motoring down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and see several bald eagles. We also cross from Virginia into North Carolina – progress!


We make it to the Albemarle Sound and decide to put the sails up. The waves are pretty high but I love this kind of sailing. I’m behind the wheel and one minute we are looking up at just sky and the next moment we have crashed down and are staring down at nothing but water. I start whooping and tell the boys it’s like riding a bronco (I have no basis for this comparison but that’s beside the point). We motor down the Alligator River (sadly, no alligators) and anchor at Bear Point on Sunday night. We had some trouble setting the anchor but it was late and it seemed ok. Matt woke up at 1:30 am and realized the anchor came loose. We had drifted across the channel and probably just missed hitting the buoy marker. We were then up for another two hours fixing it (Lesson #2: No matter how tired you are, stay up until you know the anchor is right). We continue down the ICW. I pump more sea water to wash dishes again and see that it is brown. A book says it is just the tannins in the water but I decide that one must adhere to some minimum standards. I let the dishes and mess pile up. We arrive at Dowry Creek Marina (NC) late in the afternoon (Monday, 11/11). I have never been so happy to see fresh, clear water come out of a faucet.