Cruising North on the U.S. East Coast
Part 6: Coinjock, NC, to Irvington, VA (120 miles)
On Day 6 we cruised from Coinjock, NC, to Irvington, VA, via Portsmouth / Norfolk. This is an interesting stretch cruising “The Ditch”. There are multiple bridges to pass, as well as a lock to go through, and the route takes you through the heart of Portsmouth and Norfolk with a multitude of very impressive navy vessels before going into the Chesapeake Bay.
Coming out of Coinjock, you cross what looks like a wide open body of water, Coinjock Bay and Bellows Bay. There is just a very narrow channel, which shallows off very quickly, making this a potentially treacherous run. Next up is the North Landing River which winds through a grassy and forest filled landscape. I was surprised how fragrant the area is, and it is delightful to essentially cruise through a forest, as long as you keep your eyes glued to the water to look out for logs and tree stumps, and stay in the center of the channel.
Next comes a suite of bridges and a lock: the Pungo Ferry Bridge which does not require an opening unlike the other bridges, the North Landing Bridge, the Centerville Bridge, the Great Bridge, and the Great Bridge Lock. As timing would have it, we met some boating friends onboard Star Keeper who were docked at the marina just by the Great Bridge. Always fun to bump into fellow cruisers!
The lock is an interesting experience, though less impressive than it initially looks as the height difference covered by this lock is only about a foot or so. When the lock master opens the lock, he invites all the waiting boats he can fit in the lock to slowly come inside and tie up to the wall at either side. The boat lines need to be long enough to allow for the height difference. Once all the boats are tied up, the gates close behind the boats and the gates on the other side open. Once the gates are completely open and the water level has fully adjusted all the boats untie, and one by one come out of the lock to continue their journey.
The next stretch takes you first through an industrial area of Norfolk with multiple bridges. Then, through the center of Norfolk/Portsmouth and past many different types of navy vessels, including several undergoing refits. Finally, it takes you through the port before entering the Chesapeake Bay.
While we could make it from Coinjock straight to Annapolis (our final destination on this trip north), we decided to stop for a few days at The Tides Inn in Irvington, VA. The Tides Inn is a boutique hotel just a short distance from the Chesapeake Bay, on Carters Creek, which is just off the Rappahannock River. To me it evokes images of nostalgic traditional family style resorts (remember the one featured in Dirty Dancing?), with a large white lodge style main building set on beautiful grounds overlooking the water, complete with a croquet lawn and a traditional family reading and games room.
There is also a marina, a sailing school, a small beach with plenty of water activities to enjoy, an outdoor pool, a spa, outdoor giant chess, Frisbee golf, a par 3 9-hole course onsite (and a full course nearby), tennis courts, yoga and Pilates classes and other daily activities, live music on the patio in the evening, as well as S’mores at the fire pit on the beach. The hotel also provides bikes if you fancy a short ride down the impressive hotel driveway into the quaint town. The Mermaid Mule was a delightful cocktail discovery enjoyed pool side.