A Delay in Hampton, VA

I was delayed in my departure from Hampton Public Pier. Boaters must be flexible and not bound to a schedule.

When I arrived in Hampton on Oct 1st, the plan was to stay 4 nites. This would give the opportunity to sleep in a couple of mornings, reprovision, order and pickup some prescription refills, get a needed injection and take advantage of B3GO pricing for slip rental. “Best laid plans of mice and men” comes to mind. Oh, those tasks got done and done timely but 4 nites turned into at least 9 nites.

The boat snowbird parade to FL has already started. It’s beginning to be busy. There are 3 routes south from Hampton (red circle) in southern VA/northern N.C.

One is to exit the Norfolk harbor into the Atlantic and run the outside route (blue line). Pros – possible faster speeds with zero slow, no wake zones; Cons – distance (no real intermediate port til Morehead City -over 200 nm. Ocracoke near the Oregon Inlet is closed to pleasure boat due to Dorian damage and Manteo also was impacted by Dorian), need really good weather/wave conditions.

A second would be to take the ICW south to the Currituck Sound and then into the Pamlico Sound near Duck, NC – northern Outer Banks (OBX) and down the Pamlico back to the ICW and down to Morehead City (green route). Pros at this time – really not many or any. Cons – few ports, Pamlico Sound is long and shallow and can be rough with current northerly wind component.

Third would be the ICW the whole way (yellow route) to Morehead City. Pros – protected waterway from winds and waves except for short portion across Abermarle Sound, many protected anchorages and marinas and restaurants, quite protected from winds and waves; Cons – slower speeds. There is an offshoot for part of this route transiting the Great Dismal Swamp. At this time of year, it has a great accumulation of Duckweed in the surface necessitating frequent strainer cleaning and there are frequent floating logs. It is also very narrow.

So my choice, and that of the majority of cruisers, would be the yellow ICW route. But on Thursday, the 3rd, a problem cropped up some 50 miles south. The Alligator River Bridge linking Manteo to Columbia shut down. https://obxtoday.com/top-stories/control-failures-mean-draw-bridge-over-alligator-river-cannot-open-for-boats/ The bridge is a swing bridge with a clearance (air draft) of only 14’. Last Resort has a minimum air draft of 19+ feet. Most cruising power boats will have an air draft exceeding 14’ and all but the smallest sailboats do as well. A part (electrical, I’m told) was damaged during Hurricane Dorian and has now failed shutting down the bridge completely. Whatever it is, the new part needs to be manufactured and the bridge is closed until the part is made and installed.

Weather has not been cooperating. It has been cold, rainy and windy. The winds have been, for days, running in the mid 20’s for days, gusting higher – all out of the north. Waves even in the bay between Hampton and Norfolk are 4-6’ which would be on my stern and make for a miserable ride. Boats are filling up slip space in the marinas between here and Alligator River. The Atlantic and the Pamlico Sound are not feasible and so here I wait. The word is, as I type (Weds the 9th) is that they are testing a temporary fix today and if it works the bridge may be operational on a limited schedule on Thursday🤞🤞🤞

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