Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lost. I need my Chartplotter.

When Pam and I cruise on our trawler, the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) basically follows natural and manmade rivers and canals down the east coast, occasionally crossing bays or venturing out into the ocean.  It can often be confusing when one or more waterways intersect and buoys and day markers are seemingly scattered willy nilly about.  To find our way, we have both a chartplotter (sort of like a car GPS) and paper charts (nautical maps).  Pam steers and uses the chart plotter, and I navigate with paper charts.  Between the two of us, we've only gotten off course a couple of times.

Well, yesterday we got an early 8 AM start from North Carolina.  That's pretty amazing for us because we walk three dogs, get breakfast, drink coffee, check Al Gore's internets, pack up, and walk the dogs.  We were underway and making good time and decided to push on straight for Bleecker, getting us there around 10 PM we figured.  We can only run at 60 MPH because of the heavy U-Haul trailer.  It gets a little squirrely faster than that.  Yes, everyone passes us, in all lanes.  Even little old blue haired ladies in Buicks.

Our timing was perfect.  We hit Washington DC well after the morning rush hour, and before lunch traffic.  We passed Baltimore after the lunch crowd and well before the evening rush.  And then it happened.  I was supposed to leave the I-95 channel and take a starboard exit to the Jersey Turnpike and the Delaware Bridge.  I did not.  The road was five lanes wide.  Three ran up I-95 to Philadelphia, and two went to the Delaware Bay Bridge and the New Jersey Turnpike.  I was in the third lane from the left, the right most Philadelphia bound lane, clearly marked I-95.  After a quick discussion, it was decided I needed to get my ass over one lane and head towards the bridge.  I looked in my mirror for an opening to shift right, but there were cars were in a long line, drafting each other NASCAR style.  I swear a few even flipped me off when they saw me look in the mirror.  We were on our way to Philadelphia.

After a friendly debate about who's fault it was, complete with salty sailor words not fit for little ears, our paper chart navigation system shut down.  Shut down as in "Go anywhere you want to go."

Before long, we were smack in Philadelphia area traffic at rush hour.  Everything was gridlocked.  To make a long, boring story short, we're now in a Quality Inn in New Jersey after our paper chart navigation system rebooted.

I'm still not sure what happened.  Clearly, after three years of living aboard a boat that travels at 9 MPH, we're out of our element now.  But I-95 runs all the way to NYC, then Stamford and Boston.  You can theoretically just stay on I-95 all the way and sooner or later find a sign for the New York Thruway.

Pam looked at the road atlas and said we could take I-76 to I-295 to I-95 and then the New Jersey Turnpike.  We took I-76 to I-295 SOUTH/I-95 NORTH.  What??  Then there was a sign saying END I-95.  Insert salty sailor word here.  What to do now?  We then saw a sign for the Jersey Turnpike, so we stayed on I-295 south.  It picked up another version of I-95 again as well as the Jersey Turnpike.  That's when we'd had enough and stopped for the day.

Of course, we didn't stop like normal folks.  I saw one of those blue exit signs that said Comfort Inn.  Perfect.  So I got off exit 8B.  No Comfort Inn.  After some struggle turning the U-Haul around and making an illegal left turn in a right turn only lane, we got back on I-295.  As we passed the exit AFTER exit 8B, I saw a Comfort Inn sign.  Nice.  Let's put the blue service information signs an exit before where the service really is.

How can there be two I-95s?   One that goes to Philadelphia, and another to New Jersey?  Why are Philadelphia drivers among the most obnoxious I've ever encountered and, even though your left blinker is on because you're in an exit only lane they refuse to let you merge into their lane (thank you out-of-Philadelphia driver for letting me merge).

Arrrr.  I can't wait to get to Bleecker and the quiet, peaceful, no traffic mountains, and to get that U-Haul unloaded and off the car.  Sadly, I think the box with the alcohol in it is all the way in the front, on the bottom.


  1. Your arrival in Bleeker will be worth a few VICTORY BEERS!!!

  2. Victory beer? By the time we get to Bleecker, I may head right for the victory vodka. :)

  3. If you're planning further trips, I can tell you there is a MUCH better way to go IMO. We've made 2-3 trips to NC each of the past ten years and don't go thru anything bigger than Harrisburg. Especially since your speeds are constrained. We take I-88 from Schenectady to Binghampton, then Rt 15 thru Getteysburg, bypass DC and rather go thru horse country (Leesburg) and then 17 to Fredericksburg.. You'll not spend a dime in tolls and the trip will be more relaxed and flexible.

    I wouldn't subject myself to the I95 corridor for one mile more than I have to. We also tend to travel on weekends when traffic is lighter and less truck traffic. The road less travelled has much to recommend!

  4. I'm surprised at your route. We drive to NC once or twice each year and take I-88 from Schenectady to Binghampton...then I-81 to Harrisburg, Rt 15 to Gettysburg and then avoid DC by taking Rt 17 through VA horse country (Leesburg) - only getting on I-95 at Fredericksburg. It doesn't cost a dime as well as being more interesting and relaxing.

    Sometimes the road less traveled can be preferable.

    1. Hi Katrinka,

      We always took the I-81 route, but towing a heavy, heavy trailer we decided to take I-95 because it's flat, no mountains.

  5. Welcome to Day #1 for Dave having NO INTERNET service in the middle of nowhere, OR Dave is unloading a trailer full of heavy stuff and he hurt his back, OR Dave is chasing the dogs that are offleash and trying to catch something that looks like a cat with a stripe down it's back. Not sure which it is, but it's going to be good!!!!