I am a grandmother paddling alone over 2,500 miles from Maine to Guatemala. Along the way I will be:
- telling the story of the children who live in the Guatemala City garbage dump community
- honoring their entrepreneurial mothers
- talking about the success of the Safe Passage model school and
- raising funds for additional grades for the school.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Paddle Day 63: Start of the ICW, Close Encounter with LPG Tanker, Fierce Winds, & Best Tale of Water Ahead

Way too close to an LPG tanker!
I am exhausted after today's tough and exciting paddle.
Everyone tells me stories of what the waters just ahead of me are like.  But last night Ann told me a story to top all others.   A women met a guy at a fundraising party in Norfolk.  He offered to drive her home, and he seemed very nice so she accepted.   But he had come to the event on a pleasure boat, so they joined the boat driver to head back up the Elizabeth River to his car.  It was dark, and they strayed outside of the channel.  The boat ran into a submerged barge.  The driver was killed.  The man and women ended up in the water.  He had a badly broken ankle, and she had a broken leg.  Holding onto each other in the cold water, they both had bones sticking out of their legs.  After waiting a long time to be noticed and rescued, the woman said she was ready to give up, and just die.  The man held her in his arms and said: "I met you.  I fell in love with you.  I will marry you."  They both survived.  They are now happily married.  What a romantic tale of ship wreck.  If they had had a Delorme inReach Explorer with them, which would have contacted the coast guard right away with their coordinates, would they still have ended up married?

Last night I was doubtful about being able to paddle to Chesapeake today.  A local kayaker had told me how high winds just get funneled down the ICW, so the forecast of strong headwinds and a small craft advisory did not sound good.  By using the Chesapeake Bay Operational Forecast System (CBOFS) I could see the predicted wind speeds by the hour.  If I left at 6 am, I would only have winds above 15 knots for the last hour of the trip.  So I set off early in the fog.

Ship at nearby dock just visible through the fog
It was good I was listening to the talk between captains (VHF Channel 13), as that was the only way I could keep track of what ships were close to me, as the visibility was so bad.  It was also entertaining listening in on the local tug captains working with the tug captains of barges from other ports.  I got a lot of information about what was up ahead as the local captains described the routes.

Watching the activity in this huge port was fascinating.  I saw coal from West Virginia being loaded onto a Chinese freighter.  I passed ships from Hong Kong being unloaded.
Too close to the ship from Hong Kong.

A great milestone was reaching Mile 0 of the IntraCoastal Waterway.
Mile 0 ICW
I marked my passage on the charts by locating the many bridges I went under.
Under a closed railway bridge.
Because of the head wind, I couldn't hear ships come up behind me.  The narrow river, and all of the docking ships on either side meant I couldn't avoid the shipping lane.  I was able to sneak under the many bridges using the sections closer to shore where the clearance was too low for the ships.  But as I emerged from under one such bridge, I looked up to see the bow of an LPB tanker looming over me, and about the cut me off!  I quickly headed closer to the ships docked on shore, as the tanker was being maneuvered around around a tight corner by two huge tugs.  When one tug rapidly moved from the starboard side to the port side, again right in front of me, the enormous power of the engines was transferred to the water - into whirlpools!  This was my first experience with tug twirls, as my kayak was swung around.

The paddling was intense, but not overwhelming for the first three hours.  The current was against me, but never over 1.5 knots.  The wind was against me, and gradually increasing.  I was glad to be wearing my calibrated kayaking hat.  At 15 knots the brim flipped up.  Things were tough, but I was still making good progress.  I was making sure I was eating and drinking enough to get me the final few miles to the marina before the wind became too strong.  But I had miscalculated where the marina was.  It was further along.  The winds picked up to over 20 knots, with higher gusts, and my hat was blown backward off my head, and choked me with the cord.  The gusts made the kayak lean over.  It was all I could do to paddle the final mile to the Top Rack Marina.  I was so pleased to see Brian, the marina guy, there on a dock to welcome me and help me disembark!

I made it!  Great marina!  The restaurant has a chef from Sardinia and the food is excellent!  And you get free docking overnight when you eat at the restaurant.  Check them out!

Later in the day Brian called to let me know that the locks three miles further along the ICW are closed for maintenance Tuesday through Thursday during daylight hours.  Now I have to come up with another Plan B!  Paddle at night?  Not with this traffic!  Get a portage around the locks?  Maybe.
Wait until Friday?  Can't because of my speaking schedule.  Stay tuned...

Having a great time with Ann Sullivan and Steve Burgess.  Gracious souther hospitality, great conversations and a whole lot of fun!  Had a chance to speak at the Norfolk Rotary Club, and a great tour of the area by Rotarian Julie Kessing.

Deb, Steve and Ann - back from the Norfolk Forum

Paddle Day: 63                                                        Date: Nov 17, 2014
Start: Norfolk                                                          End: Chesapeake
Distance: 15.7 miles                                                Total distance: 860.3 miles
Max speed:  5.4 mph                                                Moving ave.: 3.5 mph
Kayak storage:  Top Rack Marina                              Hosts: Ann Sullivan and Steve Burgess

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