Beginning in the Elizabeth River at Norfolk, Va., an unbroken sequence of bays, rivers, inlets and canals called land Waterway (more formally the Intracoastal Waterway) stretches south to Miami. Starting from one point or the other a migrant yachts man can travel its entire length, rarely leaving salt water and never entering the unprotected ocean.
There is a popular belief—fostered in part by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the waterway, and in part by a dim yachting tradition—that the waterway actually goes from New York City to Galveston, Texas. Someday this may be true. At the moment it is a harmless fantasy that ignores some 150 miles of open water on the west coast of Florida, a 26-mile stretch of ocean just south of New York, and a muddy nightmare known as the Jersey Waterway (see map).
From Norfolk to Miami, however, the waterway really exists, dredged to a mean low-water depth of eight feet to 12 feet, buoyed for boats heading in a southerly direction, and wide open to any boat owner who has the time, the money and an aversion to cold weather.
A fast (12-knot) power cruiser can make the trip in 10 days. Moving that quickly, however, is a mistake. Here is too much to see along the way, and there are too many places where it is fun to lay over for a day or two. Two weeks is a reasonable time to allow for fast boats; and in two weeks a sailboat with a good auxiliary motor can make the whole trip, moving every day but not getting in after sundown.
In spite of the number of boats that travel on the waterway each year (the Bahia Mar marina in Fort Lauderdale serviced more than 1,000 boats last year), a trip down the waterway is still a rather unique adventure. It keeps its originality for two reasons: 1) most waterway travelers are perennials—professional skippers delivering boats to absentee owners, charter-boat captains following the fishing seasons, and semiretired yachting migrants who live aboard their boats most of the year; 2) no two trips down the waterway are the same. With this in mind, SI presents on these and the following pages the first day-to-day guide to the Inland Waterway, noting what a traveler should look for and what he may expect—or be surprised—to find along the way.
NORTHERN APPROACHES TO THE INLAND WATERWAY
The coastal waters between New York and Norfolk are usually considered part of the Inland Waterway. Actually they are a jumble of mud banks, unpleasant or downright dangerous inlets, major shipping channels and open ocean. Boats heading south from New York have a 26-mile stretch of unprotected ocean from Sandy Hook to the first inlet at Manasquan—considered one of the two best inlets on the Jersey Coast but hazardous in a strong onshore wind. From there, shallow-draft boats (4 feet or less) can take the twisting, muddy Jersey Waterway to Cape May. Deeper boats stay outside, being careful to avoid the stoutly built fish traps that poke up all along the coast. From Cape May, seagoing powerboats and 30-foot-plus sailboats can make the 168-mile jump outside to Norfolk; but be sure to check weather first because there is nowhere to go in if there is a blow. The safe route from Cape May takes two or three days depending on speed of the boat. First leg goes up Delaware Bay, through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal to Chesapeake City (74 miles) or to Annapolis (122 miles); then a rather pleasant run down the bay to Norfolk with a final stop-over for slow boats at town of Solomons.
THE WATERWAY—-DAY BY DAY
Best Dock in Norfolk at Norfolk Yacht and Country Club (clubhouse closed Mondays) on north bank Lafayette River just west of Hampton Boulevard Bridge; and this is the place to be in Norfolk. Water depth at gas pump is 20 feet at low tide, shelving to zero at water's edge. Yachts drawing 5� feet tie up no more than half way in. Dockmaster on hand 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. six days a week for gas, diesel fuel, water, ice, shore power. Tide drop 3 feet. Dockage free first night, 5� per foot (minimum $2) succeeding nights. For your last-minute engine check phone MECHANIC Tyre Bain, available dawn to midnight; there is phone on dock and another inside main clubhouse. Full club privileges to yachtsmen with club affiliations include excellent dining room (coat and tie) with good food in $2 to $3 range, informal snack room bar (bring own bottle since Norfolk and points south to Florida are 3.2 towns), 15 rooms with bath, Thursday night buffet (until Dec. 7), with dancing 9 to 12, Saturdays 10 to 1. Club Commodore is John B. Maddrey, manager is William L. Halfacre. GROCERIES call Cavalier and they deliver to the boat. CHARTS and navigation books at W. T. Brownley or Eggleton and Co.; MARINE STORES at Paxton and Co. and they will deliver. BEST PUBLIC DOCK is Port Elco Hague Marina—quiet, well-managed, fully equipped and only six blocks from downtown Norfolk. FOR MAJOR REPAIRS try Virginia Boat and Yacht Service in West Norfolk, which has full dock service and is next door to Western Branch Diesel and Service (excellent mechanics) and Dunn's MARINE RAILWAY (handles boats up to 70 feet and 100 tons). SIGHTSEERS drive 20 miles northeast via Newport News ferry to Williamsburg (see map) or to Jamestown (first permanent English settlement in U.S.), or 17 miles to Yorktown (where Cornwallis surrendered). Hertz and Avis rental cars are available. HUNTERS try the Great Dismal Swamp for deer and bear, and contact H. L. Piggott, 205 Mill Road in Deep Creek, Va. He is secretary of Big Entry Deer Club, private club which frequently accepts guests (best contact man is Leo Ford, maintenance man at yacht club). For ducks and geese try Currituck Sound, 35 miles by road from Norfolk. Good guides are J. E. Barnes or E. E. Williams in Knott's Island. GOLFERS try the Ocean View golf course only 4 miles from yacht club; or Cavalier Yacht and Country Club course (open to guests at Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach—20 miles from Norfolk).
head for Elizabeth City, N.C., 44.3 miles via Great Dismal Swamp Canal. WARNING—boats drawing 8 feet or more take alternate route through Virginia Cut to Coinjock, 43.3 miles from Norfolk. Leave no later than 9 a.m. to allow time for lockage and 6 mph speed limit in canal. First railroad drawbridge at south limit of Norfolk Navy Yard is notoriously slow opener. Be sure both spans of twin railroad-highway drawbridge just past red nun 34 south of Norfolk are open before you go through. Watch for logs and snags in the canal. Note that waterway channel markings in upper Pasquotank, as in many subsequent harbors, appear in reverse, i.e., black to starboard, red to port. So obey yellow Intracoastal Waterway triangles (starboard) and squares (port) painted on markers. BEST DOCK in Elizabeth City is Elizabeth City Shipyard on right-hand bank, one-fourth mile past highway bridge. Yard has room for 135 boats, with 20 feet of water in all slips and no tide. Dockage 3� per foot per day. Yard has full crew of three MECHANICS, four electricians, 100 carpenters, a huge machine shop and a MARINE RAILWAY to handle boats up to 200 feet. Yard crew on hand Monday to Friday 8 to 12 and 1 to 5, and docks have gas, diesel fuel, water, shore power and ice on call through the yard office. For dock service after hours see watchman in shed at gate. For repairs Saturday or Sunday phone Wilbur VanSant (manager of yard) at home, but be prepared to pay time and a half. Yard has lounge open 24 hours a day with wash rooms, showers, TV, lounge chairs, magazines and pay phone. For GROCERIES go six blocks to town for Colonial or P&Q supermarkets, or phone W. S. Jones for delivered groceries. LAUNDRY AND CLEANING through the yard office with 24-hour service. BEST RESTAURANT in town is The Circle (see map), a 25�-per-person taxi ride (phone—DAY BY DAY Winslow taxi) for really superior steaks for $2. For quick lunch or breakfast, try Carolina Coffee Shop 6 blocks from dock. For SIGHT-SEERS Kitty Hawk (see map) is 45 miles by car from Elizabeth City, but this is really too far unless you make it a stop en route to SURF FISHING at Hatteras or Okracoke beaches for striper (best wait and surf fish out of Morehead City or Wrightsville Beach). DEEP SEA FISHERMEN (see map) telegraph 10 days ahead to Hatteras, N.C. to reserve boats of Ernal Foster, Clam Stowe or Edgar Styron for Gulf Stream fishing. HUNTING for ducks and geese on west shore of Currituck Sound, contact Guides Cecil, John and Woodrow Whitson through Currituck courthouse.