May 16-Mile Zero; Atlantic ICW Portsmouth VA

Swing Bridges, High Bridges, Railroad Bridges, Bascule Bridges, lift Bridges and a Lock.   Busy day on the water as we cruise 49.5 miles from Coinjock Marina to Mile Zero at Portsmouth Tidewater Marina on May 16.   Leading toward mile zero of the Atlantic ICW; next up will be the Chesapeake Bay.  Not too long and we will quietly cross into Virginia

The sky is overcast as we head out from Coinjock Marina at 7:15 am.   Another day of following a narrow channel that is dredged with very shallow water on either side!    Our goal is to follow from channel marker to channel marker and abide by any Waterguide alerts or Active Captain alerts on our chart plotters.   Combine the shallows with the timing of bridge openings- we are prepared for some delays.   The first bridge opens on the hour- we arrived about 10 minutes late; so waited 20 minutes for the next opening.  Then its 5 miles to the next opening bridge- we stepped up the pace, but the bridge was just closing as came around the bend!       Hurry up and wait.    With sightings of deadheads and logs in the water, we chose to move along to the next bridge at a slow and steady pace.


The boats pass each other along the way, then group up at the bridges that only open every half hour.   We are slow and steady, and often catch up with the fast boats that passed us!
Albermory to Portsmouth


The next marina is located just before the Great Bridge and Lock.   Boats were circling around waiting for the opening making a parade for the boats tied to the dock to watch.

As we approached this marina, we noticed a few familiar boats!    While waiting for the bridge to open, there was a lot of chatter back and forth-    Hey we know you!    Where are you headed?   “”Where have you been?”   “Were waiting for parts”  See you in a few days…     what a great feeling of seeing other loopers that we have met along the way over the past 11 months!!    `For more information check out the other blogs I follow on the side bar.   We snapped photos of Sanctuary and caught a glimpse of Somewhere in Time!


Albermory to Portsmouth


For you history buffs- Great Bridge is a city south of Chesapeake Virginia.   The Battle of Great Bridge on December 9, 1775 was the first land victory of the Revolutionary war.  Patriots won the battle and successfully held the critical port city of Norfolk from the British.  Greatness derived not from the size of the city or bridge, but its role in commercial traffic- supplying weapons and supplies to the area.

At that time a wooden bridge spanned about 40 feet over the southern branch of the Elizabeth River, and it stretched about 10 feet wide.

The modern Great Bridge is a steel and concrete drawbridge with four lanes of traffic spanning over the Albemarle and Chesapeake canal just east of the canal.   

One more bridge before the Great Bridge Lock .

Albermory to Portsmouth

Its been months since we went through a lock, this one raised us a few feet!! This is the Albermarle and Chesapeake Canal Lock.

Albermory to Portsmouth Albermory to Portsmouth

It was also interesting to see the mileage chart posted next to the lock!!    Puts in perspective how far we have traveled from Key West; and what is ahead of.

  •  1236 miles since leaving Key West
  • 452 miles to New York

One of our choices for a marina was Top Rack.  It was too early in the day, so we continued on toward Portsmouth.    Seemed odd that it was empty.   They charge $35 per night for any size boat.


The “preferred route” in this area used to be the Dismal Swamp- here Is a snapshot of the entrance.   It has been closed since October when Hurricane Mathew caused damage to the bridges and put debris in all the canals.   They hope to open it again by fall for the snowbirds that travel south for the winter.


the Dismal Swamp canal was approved in 1784 to improve water transportation for the colonies and work began in 1793.   President George Washington and Governor Patrick Henry of Virginia spearheaded the project.    It took about 12 years of back breaking labor to complete the 22 mile canal- dug by hand mostly by slaves hired from nearby landowners.      After the Civil War the swamp area became a refuge area for fugitive slaves escaping from the land owners.    With thousands of acres of swampland thick with vegetation too thick for horses or canoes,  people could effectively “disappear”.


This bridge clearance  for the next bridge is 144 feet- the highest one we’ve  seen!



Wow  … that all I can say.   Imagine the feeling of cruising through a fairly narrow river lined with these guys on each side!
Portsmouth ICW



For some reason it was a bit confusing pulling into this marina.   However once tied up, it was excellent. Located in Portsmouth, it is a short walk to the water taxi that will take us over to the Nauticus museum.


We are beginning to see more and more snow birds heading north as well as other looper boats.  Many of the looper boats are just starting from this area!    Now we are the more experienced- and love to share our tips to those that have the great lakes and inland rivers ahead of them!      This Great Circle route is of course a loop– so boats jump in and begin according to their location and season.   

We began our loop in summer/ fall- timing to leave Lake Superior in early September.   Boaters on the east coast would need to start in Spring to head up and will pick up the Midwest loopers  later in the summer!    Confusing but not!   The AGLCA  suggests the seasons as Spring UP;  Summer Across Canada, Fall Down and Winter South.       


About mnsailors

Our blog will highlight our travels along America's Great Loop. We sold our sailboat on Lake Superior for a Trawler to do America's Great Loop in 2016.
This entry was posted in A year on a boat, America's Great Loop Adventure, Atlantic ICW, Moon Shadow Log and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to May 16-Mile Zero; Atlantic ICW Portsmouth VA

  1. Teresa Lasher says:

    Great photos and I like the one of us too. Good to chat briefly with you in passing. Safe travels, Teresa & Steve aboard Sanctuary


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