And away we go! Our maiden voyage. Mile marker 7 on the ICW. Leaving Chesapeake, VA took us down the Virginia Cut towards Currituck sound. Our first big water. Having grown up on the Great Lakes I was thrilled! Finally our blue water boat would get to stretch her legs and we’d see how she handled. As it turned out the trip was very – nice. Calm seas and beautiful weather gave us time to enjoy the thrum of the diesels and take in the scenery. At 7-8 knots, we had time to truly savor the ride.
Along the way we passed huge marshes alive with waterfowl. Nestled into the back of some sloughs were half sunken abandoned boats of all types. What on earth? Why would someone try to navigate into such an obvious dead end? Later we learned this is the wet version of that long gone farmer’s field. Littered with old cars, rusty plows and refrigerators. Boats, on their last prop taken to that eternal rest nestled in the marsh grass.
Our first stop on this maiden voyage was Coinjock, NC. Coinjock, really there’s a town by that name? Indeed. Coinjock with a face dock, whew! Face docks are just that, long stretches of tired timbers lined against the shore. Face docks are easy. Nestle up alongside, toss the lines and snug her up. Nothing to it. Face docks in calm water with no current and no wind – nothing to it. Thankfully this afternoon we’re at slack tide and light winds as we ease up to the dock. Jan has the fenders out, ready with the lines. She is anxious to give instructions to the dock master. “Throw me a bow line.” he says. And it begins.
During our Captain’s training we learned that we alone are responsible for our ship. We alone decide what line goes where. We alone are in charge. “Dock masters will call you captain from now on,” declared our licensed Captain trainer. A seasoned commercial vessel captain who spent considerable time coaching and testing us on handling Shangri-La. And indeed they do. Jan is ready, as I inch closer to the dock. “Take this spring line and tie it forward” she says in response. Without pause the dock master does as he’s instructed. She looks up at me on the bridge and smiles this huge smile. Once secured to the cleat I can ease the stern into position where Jan finishes handing out lines.
After waiting a bit for the engines to cool down, we shut her down. We’ve done it. Traveled barely 20 miles this first day and now we’re safely docked at our first port of call. We are ecstatic! High fives and a big hug to celebrate. This is a big deal. “We can do this!!” we declare! After our initial celebration we hop off onto the dock and are told we will have to move the boat “up a bit.” We’re now about 5 feet from the cruiser in front of us. “Define ‘up a bit'” I ask. “We want that anchor hanging over their swim platform,” we’re told.
I look behind and there’s 200′ of empty dock. “Well ok then. . . ” we untie and tug Shangri-La forward until our anchor is dangling precariously over the stern rail on the vessel in front. As you might imagine, my mind is racing. Seriously? Who can turn 35,000 pounds of 14′ wide boat out of a spot this close? We secured the lines and headed off to the marina office to square up the bill for the night.
Coinjock is famous for one thing among boaters. Prime rib. There is a restaurant at the water front. Inside one can order a number of sizes of prime rib, along with a full menu. We enjoy a wonderful meal and are fussed over by true southern hospitality. Now as we make our way to our boat we are excited about the prospect of spending our first night on the water, on our way – away from home. As we stroll down the dock I stop dead in my tracks. Jan asks what’s wrong, and I simply nod ahead.
Lined up like shopping carts behind Shangri-La are another half dozen boats of all shapes and sizes, nose to tail the length of the dock. As we approach Shangri-La we see that a rather large sailboat is behind, anchor dangling over our cockpit. Holy crap! I look at Jan and share, “you can plan on sleeping in tomorrow. We’re not leaving until they do.” Can we do this??
It would take months before I could get comfortable maneuvering in that kind of close quarters. And that’s not the right word – it would take months before I could even consider it without my sphincter twitching madly the whole time. As it turned out, when we came up top with our morning coffee, we were the last boat on the dock. Wow, are these boater dudes early risers or what??
Tide. We’ll chat about the tides in a bit. It’s all about the tide.