Issue: April 2008
MARINA HOPPING: Cozy Carter Cove

Far from the crowds, but close to Virginia's colonial past, Carter's Cove Marina welcomes cruisers on the lower Northern Neck.

by Diana Prentice

At least once a year, my husband Randy and I sail up the Rappahannock River, often gunkholing in the Corrotoman River's many crooks and crannies or crossing to the other shore to visit Urbanna, Va. But last April, we stopped
short of the Corrotoman when strong northerlies sent us scurrying into Carter Creek for protection. It worked out well. We had read about a new marina on the creek's western branch and took this opportunity to give it a try. As we motored the 11/2 miles from the Robert O. Norris Bridge (Virginia Route 3) to Carter Creek, we called ahead for reservations. (The best bet for reaching the marina is by phone: 804-438-5273.) The entrance to Carter Creek, marked by red "2", lies 12 miles upriver from Windmill Point Light, and Carter Cove is immediately to port past the entrance.

Until recently, Carter Cove's northern shore was strictly commercial, and although some of the businesses there have cut back, most remain in production. Entering the cove, we motored past Ampro Shipyard, where the nearby Tides Inn's classic yacht Miss Ann was docked for maintenance, and then past Kellum Brothers Seafood's busy docks. Next door, the green and white buyboat Capt. Ellery was being loaded with oyster shells. Carter's Cove Marina, however, was quite deserted when we pulled in, so we tied up at one of the outer docks. Soon, marina owner Keith Knowlton was tapping apologetically on our deck, explaining that he had just returned from Annapolis. Knowlton then helped us plan our impromptu visit by giving us some history of the area and offering to give us a lift to nearby sights. He also invited us to a cookout with his parents, who were visiting from Florida. That evening, as we stood around the barbecue grill on a hill overlooking Carter Cove and the docks below, we gazed at the Rappahannock beyond, rougher than a cob, and thought how lucky we were to have found quiet Carter Cove.

The marina's new office is at the head of a walkway by the parking lot. A waterside boardwalk leads to the spotless new showers and laundry room with coinless machines--a true rarity. Former owner Gerald Abbott built these sturdy docks in 2006 on land where his family had operated an oyster business for 80 years. Knowlton and partners purchased the property in early 2007. Abbott remains a good friend, Knowlton says, and a valuable resource. The broad main dock branches on both sides into wide, full-length finger piers that can accommodate vessels up to 50 feet. In addition to the laundry facilities, slip-renters also have free pump-out and WiFi. Knowlton keeps a few basic marine supplies on hand as well.

Carter's Cove Marina, with its laid back, come-on-down-for-dinner atmosphere makes a sharp but pleasing contrast to the Tides Inn, just around the corner. Unlike the Inn, there are no luxurious amenities or five-star restaurants, just a down-home marina with muscular working-river neighbors. Knowlton is proud that Carter's Cove Marina achieved Virginia Clean Marina status in 2007, and happy that his new marina is catching on fast. By this fall, most of its 36 slips were filled with boaters. Plans include the addition of a pool and small restaurant, and more events like last August's successful National Marina Day.