Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Day to Saturday, November 24th - Dolphins, Pelicans and Shrimp Boats!
For the past three days we have motored Northern Lights down 180 miles of narrow, shoal-infested channels with no chance at all to sail lest we run around. Only one or two degree course corrections on the autopilot, but lots of interesting scenery along the way. The ICW is lined with many incredible homes sporting long docks with lifts for their boats. There are other stretches where the landscape is pristine, with only wildlife and vegetation to capture the eye. Of course, there are many spots in between these extremes, but the landscape is ever changing. Fortunately, the weather has improved substantially and it has been - almost - warm at times. The locals here in NC & SC tell us this is more like February weather than November. Still in full foulies!

We left Oriental on Thanksgiving day and sailed across the Neuse River and down through a cut to Morehead City. From there we motored down the ICW to a very nice anchorage at Mile Hammock Bay, near Camp Lejeune. There were 5 other boats in the anchorage, one of which had been on the same course as we were a few days ago. Much of the area here is restricted land belonging to the military. We enjoyed the turkey we had roasted the night before along with cranberries and sweet potatoes. It was fun to have our Thanksgiving dinner in the anchorage, but we missed family time. We awoke early Friday to see dolphins jumping in the entrance to the bay. We  resumed our passage down past thriving Wrightsville Beach NC and on to Southport on the other side of the Cape Fear River. Lots of activity around Wrightsville on Black Friday - evidently not everybody there goes shopping - and the weather was comfortably warm so many people were out on their boats. It was a nice change from the remote areas of northern NC. We stopped at Deep Pointe Marina in Southport, NC where the ferry to Bald Head Island departs and borrowed their car for a shopping adventure to the (not-so-local) ABC store for a refill of our Bombay Sapphire stock. In the morning we resumed our adventure passing two other other sailboats after many miles and becoming a band-of-three due to bunching at the several swing bridges along the route. Tonight we are tied up at a nice dock at Osprey Marina, just south of Myrtle Beach SC. It is very woodsy and calm. The marina attendant gave us a little welcoming package with sweet rolls, shampoo, laundry detergent,  crackers and a jar of Pumpkin Butter especially made for Osprey Marina.

Some of the interesting things about this past week have been the variety of what we've seen. Even though it is  "more of the same" a lot, we have had times when there has been lots of "civilization" around us and other times it is quite remote. As we get further south, there seems to be more activity on the water - both from pleasure boats, fishermen and shrimp boats. The inlets are fun to pass by because we can catch a glimpse of the ocean. This seems to be where the dolphins congregate as well. You can see in the picture below one who swam alongside our boat for while. It was amazing! One thing about the inlets is that you must be very careful of shoaling at the entrance. This morning we were following another sailboat and they grounded just a few yards ahead of us. Fortunately they were able to maneuver off while we carefully avoided their track. Also, there is some critical timing involved in passing under the swing bridges since they generally open at specific times. This requires us to "hover" in narrow channels dealing with winds, tides and occasionally other boats. Also, we are seeing lots of different birds - osprey, egrets, herons, hawks and finally......lots of pelicans!

Tonight we are enjoying grilled salmon and our new favorite salad...grilled romaine drizzled with Jeff's balsamic mustard vinaigrette and......the rest of the Thanksgiving sweet potato pie!

Thanksgiving dinner afloat in Mile Hammock Bay.
 The Capt Jeff shrimp boat!
 Crab boat on the Cape Fear River. These guys are out there early in all kinds of weather.
 Our dolphin buddy swimming alongside us near Wrightsville Beach, NC
 An unusual house along the way
 The is lots of dredging along the ICW to keep ahead of the constant shoaling.
Nice scene along the ICW along the way to Wrightsville Beach, NC
 Shrimp boats and pelicans!
 Just a pretty scene at an inlet near Wrightsville Beach
 Early morning shrimp boat near Southport, NC
One of many swing bridges that either open at specific times or on request
Northern Lights docked at Deep Pointe Marina in Southport, NC with the Bald Head Island ferry
Neala's deviled eggs treat - mayo, mustard, horseradish, garlic, scallions and cracked pepper!
Leaving Deep Pointe Marina at sunrise Saturday morning
Jeff tonight at Osprey Marina south of Myrtle Beach, SC.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wednesday, November 21 - Blue Skies!
We were pleasantly surprised to awaken under clear blue skies and calm winds this morning. After so many days of near-gale conditions and gray skies this was a very nice change. Today was a lay day at Whittaker Pointe. Jeff had MiHIN calls in the morning and we installed the new GPS unit in the afternoon. Mission accomplished, we went into town to browse an art gallery and buy some turkey trimmings for our Thanksgiving dinner afloat tomorrow. As we write this the smell of roasting turkey fills the salon. We are heading out early for Beaufort, NC and hope to get past there to a nice anchorage on the ICW.

 Jeff enjoying the marina view from the clubhouse porch
 Shrimp boats in Oriental harbor
 Sunset at Whittaker Pointe Marina. Nice!
 Sunset view off our stern tonight
 Turkey's a cookin' for tomorrow's Thanksgiving feast.

Tuesday, November 20 - Sweet Sail from Bear Creek to Oriental, NC
We woke up early today after a tenuous night's sleep in a deserted anchorage in Bear Creek while the winds howled 20-25 kts most of the night.  Jeff used his Drag Queen iPhone app to ensure we did not drag our anchor in the night. We did not move at all and are very happy with our new Manson Supreme anchor. The chain does clunk over the bow roller; however, and we need to get used to that noise. In the morning, the winds had abated to 15 kts and the anchorage was much quieter. We weighed anchor after sunrise and Neala used our new washdown pump to hose off the muck and even an oyster shell that had attached itself. We gingerly threaded our way through the shoals and back out to the Bay River. Once in the river, we unfurled the Genoa and had a very nice sail down to the Neuse River and Oriental, NC, known as the "Sailing Capital of NC".  This was one of our best sails on this trip. We got a slip at Whittaker Pointe Marina and took their courtesy car to West Marine to pick up the GPS parts Jeff had ordered plus other necessary items. We stopped by Inner Banks Sails and Canvas to visit Mark Weinheimer - brother of Leigh Kostis, a robotics colleague of Neala's. Jeff also got a much-needed haircut (!) and we wandered the commercial docks in town. There we discovered Garland Fulcher Seafood Market, selling all kinds of seafood. We bought a pound of local shrimp and sauteed it in butter, garlic and white wine for dinner. It was yummy!

 Nice sail down the Neuse River. So great to be sailing today!
 Jeff at Garland Fulcher shrimp market across from the commercial fishing docks
 Neala in front of Whittaker Pointe clubhouse. Lovely girl, lovely facility and great harbormaster hospitality.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday, November 19 - Weather? More of the Same.........
We got up and listened to more of the same weather reports and looked at our options for the day. The next marina was another 50 miles away in Oriental NC and the weather called for rain, small craft advisories and 15-25 kt winds. We then spent 3 hours deciding whether or not to leave! Finally, around 11 am we departed for an anchorage on Bear Creek, just beyond the Hobucken Canal, that looked protected. Part of the passage would include crossing the Pamlico River at the western end of the Sound. Local knowledge and cruising guides state that conditions on these waters can get quite uncomfortable in high winds. However, we are Lake Erie sailors! Compared to our run from Erie to Buffalo at the beginning of this cruise this little 2-4 ft Pamlico chop was nothing. Actually, today was a lot like yesterday......cold, grey, and windy with the same desolate surroundings. Tonight we are anchored (using our new anchor and chain!) in Bear Creek. The anchor is holding well as the wind howls outside. We are cozy warm, drinking a nice Malbec and hope to see the sun one day soon!

Jeff in Belhaven with his new "Pirates of the Pungo" hat. Thanks Don & Marjie!
 Docked at Belhaven Waterways Marina
 Heading out of Belhaven for another day of cold and grey.............
 Neala navigating and searching for the next buoy
 Jeff enjoying a hearty breakfast of oatmeal with apples, pecans and brown sugar - perfect for a cold day on the water!
 Shrimp boats along the Hobucken Canal
Just more trees......

Sunday, November 18 - Sixty Miles of Root Beer!
 Last night we had a wonderful, fresh fish dinner at the Coinjock Marina restaurant. Afterward, while walking back to the boat, we chatted with a few of the other cruisers. The current weather report is that there is a gale off the Outer Banks which would impact the waters we all would be traversing today. There was also a concern that the Alligator River Swing Bridge will not open if the winds are over 34 kts. Even lesser winds might keep it closed as the operation is at the discretion of the bridge tender. Also to consider is that there is no good place to stop on that side of Albemarle Sound. So, by leaving, one could be lucky and go through, or be stuck in a tough situation. This morning we listened to the weather reports and decided to go. We were not alone! Several other cruisers left that morning as well knowing we'd be delayed in Coinjock for a few days if we had stayed. And, as everyone knows, we'd sure like to get to a place where we can put away the ski hats!

After 15 miles of the twisty North River we entered Albermarle Sound with 20-25 kts on our stern. The ride across was swift and not great but not as bad as our trip from Erie to Buffalo by a long shot.

 The water here is like Root Beer! There are no white caps, just "floats". This is due to tannins released from the roots and leaves of decaying plants.
These wonderful pelicans are the only indication we are south at all!
 This an example of how we track our progress on the charts. Neala devised these handy little arrows from post-its so we can move them as we make progress.

A couple of hours later we passed through the bar and into the Alligator River where we were happy that the bridge opened and were glad we had taken the chance.  After 20 miles on the Alligator River we had originally planned to anchor, but having gotten an early start, we were not yet ready to stop.

 The bridge swings open 90 degrees allowing boats from each side to pass through.

So, we entered the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal - 20 miles of very desolate scenery. According to our Waterways Guide, this is some of the most remote areas of the ICW. For miles and miles the scenery is the same with the lone tree springing up here and there. It's pretty bad when one gets excited spotting the next marker! Actually, following our path on the charts is quite interesting and Neala is getting to be quite a good navigator.

Just 2 more examples of what we saw for miles and miles.

We had originally planned to anchor an the end of the canal, but decided to continue to Belhaven, NC where we have good friends from the Ashtabula Yacht Club in OH. Unfortunately, our timing was a little off and we arrived after dark to enter the strange bay and marina. (Neala had vowed not to enter harbors after dark after our NYC Harbor experience!) Fortunately, we had our trusty searchlight which we used to shine on the markers guiding us in. We were greeted at the dock by the dockmaster and our friends, Don and Marjie Stark who helped us tie up. Later we had a wonderful dinner at the Stark's home. Marjie packed us a goodie bag to take back which included Dove chocolates - yum! We'd like to commend the Belhaven Waterways Marina for an excellent facility and friendly service.

 Neala, Jeff, Marjie and Don after dinner at their house. A nice ending to a very long day!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

We're in North Carolina........Really???

Saturday, November 17th - Great Bridge, VA to Coinjock, NC
We woke up and impulsive Jeff started the engine and....ready to go! Yikes, Neala had to scurry around getting all those layers on. Really? Well, she noticed that Jeff was in the cockpit in full foulies....hmmmm, is this the Erie Canal? At least the sun was shining today. And, yes, it was another beautiful morning, but oh so crisp.
 Jeff and Neala in full foulies....sure didn't think we'd still be wearing these in NC! Pretty sky, though, I guess we can't ask for everything!
We motored for a bit, went under a couple bridges, then came to our first swing bridge, the Centerville Turnpike Swing Bridge.
The ICW here in southern VA reminds us of parts of the Erie Canal. And, even though we're not in upstate NY, it sure feels like it.
This is what it looks like for a long way through the Virginia Cut. Beautiful reflections and lots of shoreline stumps that we hope are not anywhere near our prop!
Not all of the waterway looks like the above. There were lots of open spaces, too. We thought this was a interesting shot....a lone tree amid the shoreline grasses.

 This was a cool tug we passed in the very narrow Currituck Sound channel. It was carrying a load of scrap metal. Although it appears to be a wider channel, the markers are quite close together and are not actually in it. Veering off to port or starboard means running aground!
 More company trying to pass the tug at the same time. Close quarters, but the power boat reduced speed so we didn't rock all over which was helpful. Actually it's a recommended practice on the ICW.
 One of many "snags" to avoid.
 This is a 46 Beneteau that we were following until we noticed they were stopped! They had run aground on a shoal in the middle of the channel! Even though we were all following the markers, there are unexpected shoals that crop up from time to time. They waved us on and put up a sail to blow themselves off the shoal. We gingerly motored on ahead of them closely watching our depth sounder.
 This is a narrow channel that we had to really navigate slowly due the depth on either side of the channel. We thought it was cool that the port side land was named Long Point - like the Canadian peninsula those of us from Lake Erie are accustomed to seeing on our way to Port Dover.

This is Currituck Sound. The ICW is quite wide here allowing for the 25 kt winds we encountered to heap up some following seas.

There appears to be some weather coming tomorrow and perhaps the next day that would prevent us from crossing Albermarle Sound comfortably, so we are currently docked at the Coinjock Marina in Coinjock, NC. And, yes, it is still cold! There are many other southbound cruisers here, too. BTW, Coinjock is an Indian work for the berries they used to pick in this area......most generally considered mulberries!

P.S. You may have noticed our new Spot Tracker at the top of the page. This allows you to locate  and track our progress on a map.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Southward Ho!

Friday, November 16 - Hampton to Great Bridge VA
We checked out of Bluewater Yachting Center in Hampton VA early and headed south into the Norfolk harbor that contains the largest naval base in the world. True to that, we saw many naval ships docked along the way, a most amazing sight.






Not to omit that there were also many commercial vessels moving in the harbor. Lots of moving parts but not quite as busy as New York harbor during rush hour!

Shanghai container ship headed to Baltimore. The story of our economy.

 US Navy patrol boats were everywhere guarding our assets
 An Army Corps of Engineers ship was here too
 We have no idea what these cranes are for but they remind Jeff of Star Wars

Further south, we entered the narrow Virginia Cut channel that will take us to Albermarle Sound and beyond. There are numerous bridges along the way, the first of which is the Beltline Railway Lift Bridge - normally open.

 The bridge; however, was closed
 While waiting for the bridge to open, we got to view a new aircraft carrier under construction in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, also guarded by a Navy police boat. Jeff spent a couple of weeks there on the USS Requin in 1963. (P.S. Neala was 10 at the time!)


However, today as luck would have it, we waited for almost an hour doing circles in the freezing wind while two of the slowest moving trains one could imagine leisurely crossed the bridge. Finally, we continued, and on to the Jordan Highway Lift Bridge, the Norfolk & Western Lift Bridge, the Gilmerton Bascule Bridge, the Norfolk & Southern Bascule Bridge, the Highway Bascule Bridge, the Dominion Boulevard Bridge whereupon we arrived at the Great Bridge Lock.

 Gilmerton Bridge and  the Norfolk & Southern Bascule Bridge

After the 34 locks of the Erie Canal this little 2.5 ft drop was a piece of cake! We continued on under the Great Bridge Bascule Bridge.


Great Bridge, it turns out, is quite significant in US history. It derives its name from the American Revolutionary War battle of 1775.  The Battle of Great Bridge changed the course of history. The complete defeat of the British allowed the militia to capture Norfolk and give the Americans a naval base from which to harry the British. This battle ended the rule of the British Crown in Virginia! Amazing what you can learn on a cruise from Pennsylvania down to Florida.

Tonight we are tied up at the Atlantic Yacht Basin, where we chanced to encounter the yacht Black Knight - the New York Yacht Club committee boat for the 1983 America's Cup, where we lost the cup to the Aussies. This exquisite yacht is currently owned by a European family and is underway to the Bahamas. Surely, the most beautiful varnish work we have ever seen!

Alas, during the day our GPS died and we had to resort to backups for navigation. Here's Jeff diving the Lazarette in search of the elusive GPS cable (Note the Bombay Sapphire & Tonic in hand).

Later this evening we had a wonderful meal of grilled chicken breasts, grilled Romaine hearts and cauliflower au gratin. Accompanied with a fine, old vine red Zin.

Neala enjoying dinner
Complemented by oranges, blueberries & pecans drizzled with Lavender Balsamic Vinegar from our tasting adventure in Annapolis