9.11.2001 … Underway from Annapolis to SW Florida

Sunday, September 9, 2001 …enroute from Annapolis, MD to SW Florida, 9.9.2011 was the third full day of our new commuter cruiser lifestyle.  With the wind in our sails, Winterlude was flying down the Chesapeake, and we arrived early Sunday afternoon outside Norfolk where we were planning to anchor.
But it was so early and such a beautiful day to sail, we changed our “plan”.  Norfolk, and the “official” beginning of the ICW off Hospital Point, MM “O” had 8 bridges and one lock.  Maybe a Sunday afternoon would have less traffic and waiting time on bridge openings than Monday morning.   Plus it’s imperative to take advantage of wind to actually sail on the ICW whenever you can!  After enjoying a great sail past what looked to us like the entire US Navy, we stopped just south of the Great Bridge Lock for the night.NorfolkNavyShips
Monday, September 10, 2001 … We sailed south on the ICW to Alligator River Marina, stopping for the night just north of the bridge and entrance to the Alligator River portion of the ICW.   This bridge cannot open if there’s much wind, so we wanted to get a really early start Tuesday morning to get under the bridge before the forecast wind piped up.
Sunrise 9.11.2011 Alligator River Marina, NC

Sunrise 9.11.2011 Alligator River Marina, NC

Tuesday, September 11, 2001… Sunrise and we leave the Alligator River Bridge behind us, enjoying a motorsail on just the jib.   Moments after the shot below was taken headed down the Alligator River, we passed a Swiss flagged sailboat headed north.  The boat called on the VHF to tell us to listen to the news, a plane had flown into the World Trade Center  — no details.

I immediately got out the GlobalStar satellite phone (since sold & we have Iridium now) and got online … unfortunately all I could get was headlines as the CNN & MSNBC websites were both overwhelmed with traffic slowing down response … and with a 9600 baud modem, I timed out before I could get more than just the headlines … which were grim!  It was such an unbelievable experience sailing in such a tranquil environment and realizing that not far from where we enjoyed almost total solitude, there was such horror, pain and suffering.
Alligator River, Early AM 9.11.2011

Alligator River, Early AM 9.11.2011

Before we knew the extent of what was happening, military jets were zooming overhead, presumably from Camp Lejeune, NC and it sounded like preparation for a confrontation on US soil.   Later than morning, my daughter Aly called, concerned because she knew we were underway somewhere on the east coast, but didn’t know where.  After talking to her and hearing more about what was happening, we decided to stop for the evening in a marina rather than anchoring out which was our original plan.

Along with several other cruisers, we sat in the bar at River Forest Marina in Belhaven, North Carolina watching in disbelief at the horror and destruction that unfolded earlier that day.

Sunrise 9.12.2001 River Forest Marina, NC

Sunrise 9.12.2001 River Forest Marina, NC

Wednesday, September 12, 2001  … how ironic is it that the sunrise is just as gorgeous as the day before, yet the entire world has changed forever.

Every day is precious and we must enjoy it to the fullest.  Somber but still not understanding the full extent of the situation, we left River Forest Marina and headed to New Bern, NC to Northwest Creek Marina, arriving early in the afternoon.

Quietly, we spent the rest of the day learning how to prepare the boat for hurricane season to the specs of this marina who’s claim to fame is they’ve never lost a boat to a hurricane. It’s no wonder with all the required rules and regulations.   We had never taken all our sails and canvas off or done half the preparation we learned at Northwest Creek Marina!  Their regulations would prove very valuable to us in later hurricane season preparation!

New Bern, NC was our first exposure to the “cruising community”.  Our flight was scheduled back to Indianapolis on Friday, September 14, 2001… on Midway Airlines, which had immediately declared bankruptcy and shut down operations with the events of September 11.  So our flight was cancelled, most of the airports were shut down anyway and we had no way home.

Why at the time it seemed so very important to get back to the “office” and back to work is still beyond me. Maybe it had to do with seeing family again. Luckily Brad and Holly, acquaintances via the Cruising World Bulletin Board, looked us up when they heard we were staying at the marina in their neighborhood. We enjoyed margaritas at a great local mexican restaurant we would have never found without them, got a tour of their boat, Pelican,  and Holly recommended we call a friend at the local Avis office regarding transportation home.  We called, they had one car left, did we want it!   YES YES YES!!!   Driving home, the American spirit was never so evident — flags flying and patriotic symbolism everywhere.

Never before had it been so evident that “Freedom is Never Free”.  Thank you to every single person involved in our US military effort to preserve our freedom and keep us safe, then and today.


  1. Great post! None of us will ever forget where we were that terrible day!


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