Banana Suits

Our arrival in Norfolk was immediately followed by lots and lots of rain. It didn’t help our moods any that we had to see our friend Braden off the following morning.

Wish you were here, Braden!

After a much needed west-marine stop, we suited up for some rainy repairs.


Needless to say Adam and I look ridiculous in our matching banana suits.. (they came with the boat, I swear.)

We tended to the last of the repairs, replaced the main sheet, sanding down the jib cars, and worst/best of all: fixed the marine head. The culprit was a small rubber duck bill one-way valve inside the Jabsco pump-handle that had a tiny tiny gap, allowing back flow from the pipes, AND sea water to come into the toilet. When they designed this boat they must have been in space or somewhere that gravity doesn’t exist, because they put the sea cock right above where the toilet sits.

The following morning we awoke to rain again. And thunderstorms. And lightning and wind. We procrastinated until it was obvious that we had to make a decision: do we stay or do we go? We opted to put our big boy pants on (and our banana suits) and motor our way down the ICW in the rain/storms.


Leaving Norfolk wasn’t as exciting as coming in, but we were met with dolphins all the same. I was delighted and surprised to see them so far inland, on the Elizabeth River!

In preparation for our first day on the ICW, I made lists and a maps of the numerous bridges and locks we would have to navigate. The first 15 miles alone were littered with over 10 bridges. Most of them were open, or had plenty of vertical clearance, but the rest required a radio call to the bridge/lock tender.

It was time to face our fear of the VHF radio.

I felt like a total dingus on the radio, but we seemed to get our point across and bridges and locks opened for our passing. All the tenders were very kind and obliging to our fledgling radio calls.

We made it a short distance south before calling it a night just past the Great Bridge in Chesapeake Virginia. There was a free dock on both sides of the bridge that allow 24 hour mooring. It was also alongside a park with a long sinuous trail that opens up to a beautiful expanse of swampy marshland. Exactly the kind of thing we were hoping to see on this trip.

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I went to sleep early and woke before the sun in preparation for a long long day of motoring.

The canal began to take on a more rural and swampy atmosphere, with great herons, green herons, ospreys and bald eagles all around us.

The morning view was breathtaking in its stillness.


Which was of course shattered by the jackhammer that is our motor.


I was insistent upon waking up at 530am so that we could make the 35 miles I had planned. Why the rush? Well, the weather is forecasting rain and storms everyday for the next 8 days, with the exception of tomorrow. And the Albemarle Sound is a tenacious beast that I am not anxious to meet unless the conditions are absolutely perfect. If we cover enough ground today, we can make the crossing tomorrow. If we don’t, we are stuck at Coinjock Marina (Coinjock, NC has a population of about 300 people) until we muster up the courage to cross the Sound in sticky weather.

The first bridge we came to was the Norfolk Southern Railroad Bridge, a familiar name that we see daily on the trains that pass through Asheville.



The second bridge however, was not. And I didn’t realize until we hailed the tender on the radio that they probably have regular business hours. And it was 630 in the morning when we arrived.

Luckily there was a marina directly in front of the bridge that was open and let us tie up to their dock. He informed us that the bridge doesn’t open till 830…. so much for getting up before dawn. Adam was not too happy about that.

We were informed shortly after tying up that a barge was coming in behind us with a reservation at 7am. So we were free to follow after him. Great luck!

I won’t go into the detail of all the radio nonesense that occured between us, the bridge tender, the marina, the barge captain, and another power boat that was trying to squeeze through at the same time, but I will say that it wasn’t pretty. At the barge captain’s request, we passed beneath the bridge in front, only to realize that he was going about 1/2 a knot faster than us (even the barge captain was in disbelief that we were motoring slower than him) and we had to let this elephant go around us somehow, in a channel so narrow he barely fit in it at all.

Again, it wasn’t pretty but it all worked it self out eventually.

The rest of the day’s trip was beautiful, and uneventful as we wound our way down the swampy Virginia canals and eventually into North Carolina.

Things got a little more interesting as we passed into the North Landing River, just north of the Currituck Sound. A very shallow body water with a tiny channel carved into the middle. The shallow and broad bodies of water in this area create some unique and choppy conditions. I am assuming that this will only be a minuscule fraction of what the conditions on the Albemarle Sound will be like.


They didn’t seem so bad at first but they were really rocking our boat by the end of our crossing.

We arrived at Coinjock Marina in the afternoon, just in time to catch another boat that had just made the Albermarle crossing from the south.

I almost wish I hadn’t met them! They looked so shook up.

They were driving a goliath of a power boat, going at least 8 knots, and still their nose was all but buried in the water during their crossing of the sound.

Not really what I wanted to hear given my already boiling anxiety level over this endeavor.

The wind today was about 10 knots, the same as tomorrows prediction. But the flip side of all this, is that they were coming from the south, and the wind was smashing them from the north east, giving them an uncomfortable ride.

The wind will be following us tomorrow, from the north east, probably rocking our boat some, but hopefully pushing us along with some semblance of ease.

All I know is that I don’t want to look as run over as this couple did when they stepped off their boat.


3 responses to “Banana Suits”

  1. Jan and Craig Scott Avatar
    Jan and Craig Scott

    Congratulations on your adventure! We remember Coinjock fondly. The marina has a reputation that cruisers swear by for a fantastic ribeye steak and homemade chips. If you have the time you should try. We have cruised where you’re cruising and are enjoying your blog. Have fun out there and keep,a,watch for those afternoon thunder boomers!

    1. Thank you Jan and Craig! I’m so glad you are enjoying the blog. We used that Chesapeake bay sailing guide book you gave us to the max. It’s barely holding on to its spiral binding! Come sail with us on lake Julian sometime when you come to Asheville.

  2. Love your stories. Oh please be careful. Love you, Sally

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