We’ve seen some weird stuff along the ICW.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018:
We hung around in the morning and stayed on the Carolina Beach mooring ball until noon. The sky was cloudless and super-blue. The water was flat but the temperature was only 40 so we were in no hurry to get underway. Another Looper, Dream Fever, arrived to pick up the mooring ball next to ours, but we were already in the mode to pull out so I didn’t try to contact them. They have the gold burgee signifying that they’ve already completed their loop. Maybe we’ll get to meet them in Norfolk.
By 1325 we were approaching the Wrightsville Beach Bridge. This bridge will only open on schedule and the tide board on the fender only showed 19 feet of clearance. Our mast reaches to 19’ 9”. I radioed the bridge tender to see if he might open for us, but he has to stick to his schedule. He did mention that he’s got 19 feet of clearance at the low steel on the closest to the fenders and an additional 3 feet in the center. I held her close to the center and slipped under with room to spare, but from Jane’s perspective watching from below it was nerve wracking.
I really appreciated the tender’s info and he also said the next bridge was four feet higher, so I’d have no problem there either and by 1412 we were under the Figure Eight Swing Bridge and heading for Nixon Channel. We had picked out several spots we might anchor for the night and thought we’d make it up by Camp LeJeune, but we couldn’t get to the 12 foot Surf City Swing Bridge in time for the 1600 opening. Waiting until 1700 would have put us getting to the anchorage too late, so we backtracked about 3 miles to anchor in a very nice spot at Sloop Point. There is a channel here that runs from the waterway out to an inlet. Once I got us set, Jane pointed out that we are in the channel, but I assured her that we would see absolutely no boat traffic anchored here. Within 5 minutes some locals come whizzing by about ten feet off our stern. Well, the Captain can be wrong after all. Other than a sailboat that came in later to anchor much further up, that was it and we were snug for the night. It was our son Scott’s birthday, so we gave him a call while he was getting ready for a surprise night out in Nashville.
Wednesday, April 18, 2018:
We woke up early and decided right away to pull the hook quickly and try to make the 0700 bridge opening of the Surf City Bridge. I always perform my engine checks and wouldn’t skip it this time either, but buzzed through the checklist and by 0628 we had pulled anchor and were motoring out. We reached the bridge just in time and went right through.
By 0840 we were crossing Chadwick Bay. We must have been running just the right pace because we arrived at the Onslow Beach Swing Bridge timed for his 0930 opening and didn’t even break stride.
After we passed the warning sign for the Camp LeJeune live fire training, we began to hear the booms from their big guns. We continued to hear it well up into Bogue Sound. At times we were running against the current and others it was helping us. At 1030 we were hitting 9.7 mph at 1800 rpms. That’s a nice boost from the moving water. Over the radio we heard a boat getting yelled at by the slower vessels getting overwhelmed by his wake. This was providing a good bit of marine radio entertainment. At one point I heard a captain transmit, “ASSHOLE!!”. When the fast moving boat, Conniption VII came up behind us though, he slowed down somewhat; I guess having gotten tired of being cussed at.
By 1110 we passed across Bogue Inlet. There were some ships getting loaded at the Morehead Terminal, but little commercial traffic to contend with.
By 1420 we were tied at the Beaufort Yacht Basin with help from Bobby. Bobby was a wonderful host and they have a very nice facility including free laundry. We had heard Spiritus calling Homer Smith Marina on the radio so we knew that Eddy and Linda Johnsen were next door. We called them and talked about maybe meeting for dinner. Beaufort is full of history and there are lots and lots of houses with historical signs noting the original owners and year of construction. Many are well before the Revolutionary War. After a walk through the historical section we met Eddy and Linda at Clawson’s 1905 Restaurant. The food was adequate and we greatly enjoyed our time with Eddy and Linda again.
They are a wealth of information about boating and the Great Loop. Later on the boat we did some route planning laying out optional spots to stop over the next week.
Thursday, April 19, 2018:
We got up early and knew it was a day for some exercise. One of the eyes from our burgee staff had broken off and I needed a replacement, so we ran over to the Ace Hardware store over a mile away to make the purchase and that proved to be just far enough for us to qualify as exercise and walked back on a different route. We had to traipse across a low spot and climb the embankment to cross a new bridge under construction.
Jane was doing some laundry (free machines, must use) and Bobby said he was cooking lunch and invited us to join him so we did. He likes to cook for a group and there was plenty. Eddy and Linda reached out and said they would be taking Homer Smith’s courtesy car over to the Piggly Wiggly for a grocery run and would we like to go, so we did. Eddy and I dropped the ladies back off with all their new groceries at the marinas and then we went over to Morehead City to the NAPA auto parts store so I could buy the T-1 oil for my next oil change. We also got invited to join the Johnsens aboard Spiritus for dinner. Homer Smith’s is a shrimp packer and they had received a gift of fresh trigger fish from the folks there. We brought wine and some guacamole that Jane whipped up. Spiritus is a gorgeous 36 foot Grand Banks that is treated with immaculate care. The dinner was awesome and we really are enjoying getting to know Eddy and Linda better.
Friday, April 20, 2018:
Spiritus left early and we took our sweet time getting ready and pulled away from the dock at 0910 without assistance in between the tides and with a north wind of 15 to 20 knots. There was just enough water for us to cheat across the bar in the tiny basin which made our retreat much easier. At 0935 we were in Russell Slough and it was nice cruising on a cloudless but cool day. At 1008 we passed under the Core Creek Bridge and only making 7 mph against the tide. By noon we were in the Neuse River and it was somewhat choppy. The Neuse is about 5 miles wide and opens onto the side of Pamlico Sound. At 1300 we passed Red Marker #4 and Jane noted in the log that we were in a 3 to 4 foot chop. We made our way on northwestward and entered Bay River at 1415 with a speed of over 8 mph under protection from the north wind. By 1433 Sabbatical was resting at anchor in Bear Creek in five feet of water on 50 feet of anchor rode.
We decided that we’d go on to Washington tomorrow. That’s “Little” Washington as in North Carolina, not D.C. We napped and then Jane did some curry magic with leftovers and tofu that was simply incredible. It was a beautiful anchorage and we continue to be amazed at the beauty and our blessings.
Saturday, April 21, 2018:
It was foggy early so we remained on anchor until 0915. By 0940 we were back in the ICW. We stopped at R. E. Mayo Co. in Hobucken to refuel. They cater to shrimpers and commercial vessels so we’re comfortable that the fuel is fresh and know that the price is right. The rickety dock is a challenge and while friendly, they’re not in a hurry to refuel a common pleasure craft. We had to move from the original spot they sent us to and then wait while the fishing trawler Tamara Alane finished unloading their catch of flounder caught off of New York.
We took on 212 gallons at $2.88 per gallon including tax. The re-fueling stop took most of an hour, but we’re in no great hurry anyhow. Once back in Pamlico Sound we turned off the waterway going northwest to Washington. We now put the Reds on the right and the markers were too far apart to see. There was a light wind at our stern and the water was calm but with the width of the Sound it seemed at times like we weren’t even moving. We finally floated through the railroad bridge and after 43 and a half miles had the lovely town of Washington on our starboard side. We were greeted by a tent city of 2000 bicyclists in town for the weekend cycling events.
Jimmy and Ed came out to help us get docked on the T head at the public docks at 1650. The docks here are fixed, not floating, but there is no tide up here. We showered in the marina facility and then walked over to our friend Cathy Bell’s restaurant, Backwater Jack’s. Mary at the hostess stand figured out who we were (Gator hat was a dead giveaway) and Laura came out too. We were greeted as if we’d just returned from sea and had a fine time dining with Cathy’s mom Marty while Cathy and Laura worked the sizeable crowd. It’s a fun spot and at one point, Laura was making the rounds with free shots of Captain Morgan.
The food was great and I stuffed a gut until I could eat no more. They had a great band out on the patio. Cathy was able to join us on the deck and we had a great time drinking wine, hanging out listening to the band and getting entertained by kilt man and the other cyclists celebrating.
They are a fun bunch. Finally around 10:00 pm, tired and ready to turn in, we caught the free shuttle back to the marina.
Sunday, April 22, 2018:
We walked over to worship with Harbor Church in the historic Turnage Theater located just off the waterfront. They have a good preacher that is passionate and long-winded. I thought we were going to miss lunch, but we stepped next door after the service and munched on fried veggies at Grub Brothers. Later Cathy, Laura, and Marty came by for docktails aboard and they brought us a load of Backwater Jack’s swag including T shirts and wine glasses. We had a great visit and lots of laughs and they were gone too soon.
The admiral decided that we should walk to El Charrito for a Mexican dinner. The food was good and once again I ate too much. Why don’t they just serve Tums on the side?
Monday, April 23, 2018:
We got up early and I did engine room checks while Jane took advantage of the laundry room since it was spectacular and the sheets and comforter could use a good washing. At 0900 I slipped over to the George and Laura Brown Library to see what resources they might have to assist with my genealogy research. They have an ample history resource room and a dedicated staff person for history and genealogy research. She was off, but I got her contact info and will reach back out for assistance. Some of the earliest settlers in this area are my ancestors and not everything is available on line. I’d like to have more time here for discovery, but alas it is time to move on. We got off the dock at 1005 with Tom’s help and he noticed that the RR bridge was closed. He called the tender on the radio who said he is expecting a train, but didn’t know what time, so he reopened for us to slip through and out into the sound.
Yesterday’s forecast showed east winds of 10 to 15 knots with a moderate chop. I should know by now to recheck the morning of castoff and even still be wary that they underestimate winds. Once we got out in the sound we were taking it on the bow with the winds out of the east. I went down and removed the burgee so it wouldn’t blow away. As we went further it got worse, but we were committed by this point and I knew it was just going to be rough and uncomfortable. Soon, we were riding a bucking bronco rising up and smashing down into four to six foot waves. When the bow would go down hard on a big wave the splash would go as high as our fly bridge. It’s over 31 miles from the RR bridge to Wade’s Point where we can turn in away from the wind and head up the Pongo River to Belhaven. I later admitted to Jane that there were several waves that very much concerned me in terms of safety. I did not want to see one break over the bow. It was a long and brutal day and Jane said she was scared at times and does not want to have another day like that. Nothing got broken, nobody got hurt and there were no tears, but I know I will exercise greater caution in the future. Finally, at 1420 we entered the Pungo River and relaxed a bit in the calmer waters, but still getting pushed around some with the wind and waves quartering from behind. We passed a couple of tugs pushing barges in the opposite direction. By 1550 we docked at Belhaven Town Docks with help from Harbormaster Greg and a couple of other boaters. Belhaven is known as the birthplace of the Intracoastal Waterway. It appears to be a sleepy little place, but cozy, and we opt to stay for a couple of nights with rain and thunderstorms in the forecast. Greg made reservations for us at Spoon River Restaurant and what a surprise it was. It is billed as true farm to fork and the menu changes monthly. The place is fancily decorated, serves on white linens and puts out incredibly delicious food. They don’t have a wine list, they have a wine room.
I picked out Folie a Deux Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. Today was going to be our day of abstinence but the brutal day on the water gave us reason to choose a different day for that. All the transient boaters in town seemed to be dining here as well. As we finished, Regina and Jim came over to our table because they heard us talking to another boater and that we are from Gainesville. Turns out they are the Loopers aboard Blue Ayes that had been towed into Beaufort a few days before. They remembered that we had come by to see if they needed any help. They are from Atlanta and are Tennessee fans. We asked them to sit and chat and directly the owner of the restaurant came by our table with a goodwill bottle of cabernet. I am getting used to this North Carolina hospitality.