We have failed miserably in keeping the blog up to date on this voyage. It may be because we have made this trip several times before and there is not a lot new to say or it may be that we have made this trip faster than others and there has not been enough time to do it. More likely, however, it is because we have been lazy. So in this post we will try and hit the high (or low) points of the last week.
We were up early Friday morning for the 74 nm trip to Belhaven, NC. Our plan was to leave at first light around 6:45AM. However, we were packed between two boats with the bow of a large trawler (Waypoint) sticking over our stern and our bow only a few feet off the stern of Mad Hatteras, the trawler in front of us. With the swift current at Coinjock Marina, it would have been difficult to get off the dock until one of the other boats moved. The Captain of Mad Hatteras had told me the night before that he would also be leaving at first light, but at 6:45 AM there were no lights on in either Waypoint or Mad Hatteras. So Adrienne and I “serenely” walked the docks waiting for someone to get up!
Finally there were lights in both boats, and by 7:20, Mad Hatteras pulled out with us right behind her, cruising up the North Landing River on our way to an otherwise uneventful trip to Belhaven. The Albemarle Sound, a perennial issue, was only moderately choppy and with far fewer crab pots than normal. The Alligator River was relatively calm, and there was only one or two logs in the Pungo-Alligator Canal. By 4:30 PM, we were tied up at River Forest Marina and ready for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Spoon River.
Spoon River did not disappoint. We started with some lettuce wrapped grilled scallops and sliced cucumbers with a delicious aioli. There were at least six scallops on a beautifully decorated plate. The only drawback to the dish was that the scallops could have been grilled a little longer, but nonetheless they were delicious. For a main course, Adrienne had blackened chicken with a chipotle sauce, mashed sweet potatoes and local vegetables. The dish was both delicious and huge, providing leftovers for several days. I had Spoon River’s take on shrimp and grits. The plating of the dish was spectacular and the taste matched the plating. There must have been at least ¾ of shrimp on the plate providing me with fantastic lunch later in the trip. Adrienne enjoyed an excellent glass of Chardonnay and I had my traditional Spoon River wasabi martini. Then there was dessert – a decadent salted caramel brownie with vanilla ice cream. No leftovers here.
Early Saturday morning by 7:15, we were off to Morehead City, N.C. – 60nm trip. Other than a large log in the middle of Adams Creek, our trip went smoothly and by 2 PM we were tied up at Morehead Yacht Basin. The Yacht Basin has a courtesy vehicle that you can rent for $10 for two hours; I went and got the van so that we could go grocery shopping. As I was walking back to the boat, lo and behold, there was Panache with Ginny, Chuck and Tom on board. I couldn’t believe it. Since they needed supplies as well, Tom and Ginny joined Adrienne and me on our grocery trip.
Returning to the marina, we made plans to meet up for dinner. As Adrienne and I were getting cleaned up, we got a text from Chuck to join them on another boat for an impromptu Annapolis Yacht Club rendezvous. Apparently, there were at least five boats in the marina from the Yacht Club. After enjoying cocktails and boating stories, Tom, Chuck, Ginny, Adrienne and I walked over to Floyd’s 1921 Restaurant. Again, we had a good meal but not close to the level of Spoon River. Adrienne had their version of shrimp and cheesy grits, and I had their triggerfish and shrimp special. Both dishes were good.
Sunday morning, our plan was to leave Morehead City for Bald Head Island at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. At 7 AM, we headed out of the marina and down the ICW to the Beaufort Inlet and out into the Atlantic Ocean.
This should have been a simple passage, except that there many large sport fishing boats heading out the inlet at the same time we were. These considerate boats would zoom past us throwing a tremendous wake rocking us left and right and turning the inlet into a washing machine as the numerous wakes clashed against each other and the jetties. It also didn’t help that there was a large dredge sticking into the channel and blocking part of the passage. Nonetheless, we persevered and soon were out in the Atlantic heading south. The seas were somewhat choppy with 2-3 ft waves at a 2 second period and the occasional 3-4 footer. Not what NOAA had predicted but still manageable. As the morning progressed, the seas quieted and the Atlantic voyage became quite pleasant.
Once in the ocean, we had two choices on how to get to Bald Head Island: one was to stay in the ocean, go around a large shoal called Frying Pan Shoal, and enter the Cape Fear River to get to Bald Head Island, which sits at the mouth of the river; the other was to cruise down to Masonboro Inlet, north of Bald Head Island, and take the inlet to the ICW, which would lead to the Cape Fear River. The first route would take us about 11 hours because of the shoal, but it would avoid ICW problems. The second route would be much faster but would entail going through an inlet that we did not know and dealing with some shoaling on the ICW. After chatting with TowBoatUS about the inlet, we opted for the second route.
By 2:30PM, we turned into Masonboro Inlet. The inlet turned out to be wide and well-marked, and soon we were carefully entering the ICW. Being Sunday afternoon, the ICW was packed with many small local boats and we had to pick our way around them. Fortunately, we made it through the traditional shoaling spots and were soon at Snow’s Cut, which leads to the Cape Fear River. Adrienne was driving and we were carefully monitoring all the Active Captain reports on potential issues in the cut. Just as Adrienne entered the cut, I noticed one report stating that there was severe shoaling just ahead. We have several devices on board with Active Captain, but for some reason, only one device had this report and the report simply referred to an Army Corps of Engineer survey. I quickly pulled up the survey and tried to make sense of where this shoaling was. Finally, I figured it out, only to look up and realize that we were already past the shoaling. Wherever it was, we missed us. Whew!
Soon we were in the Cape Fear River, heading down to Bald Head Island. The marina has a narrow entry channel, which sets crosswise to the current, which was running at 2kts. I was concerned about getting into the marina, but fortunately, it turned out to be relatively straightforward, even if the currents were squirrelly. By 5:20pm, we were tied up – a 92nm 10-hour trip.
After traveling for 6 days, we were ready for a break. We had never been to Bald head Island, so we planned to spend three nights here to relax and explore.
Monday morning, we lounged in bed for a while and did some boat chores – washing the exterior and cleaning up the interior. After lunch it was time to explore, so we rented a golf cart and set off. The island is full of vacation homes. Some of the homes look out on tidal marshes, some are settled among a thick forest area, and some overlook the Atlantic Ocean and Frying Pan Shoal. We started by taking the middle road down the island to a small shopping area. Being November and a weekday, the island was largely deserted; there are only a couple hundred persons who live here off season (some 7,000 who visit during the summer. Yikes!). The shopping center had a nice grocery store but everything else was closed.
The island has numerous nature paths both through the marshland and the forest. We opted to explore one of the marshland paths. The absence of tourists and the lateness of the season had resulted in the paths beginning to be overgrown. Since I had shorts on, my legs were constantly being attacked by sharp blades of marsh grass and by who know what sort of insects. After about fifteen minutes, I had had enough and we headed back to the cart. We drove down to the end of the island and walked out to the beach. The beach here was beautiful – a wide expanse of sand leading down to the shoals. The wind was whipping across the shoals and it didn’t take much imagination to realize how dangerous the shoals are to boats. At this point, we decided to head back to the boat. After a quick snack, I changed into jeans and we headed back out to explore the nature trails in the woods. This time we had a pleasant walk, though we occasionally had to climb over trees knocked down by Hurricane Matthew. White-tail deer occasionally scampered through the trees. We emerged from the woods a mile or two later and walked back down the main road to the cart.
There weren’t many dinner choices on the island. There are two private clubs and two public restaurants. We ate at Mojo’s, one of the restaurants, the first night and it was okay. Monday night, we decided to try Delphina’s. We did not have high hopes but dinner turned out to be quite fine. Adrienne had a chicken quesadilla and I had a Mexican pot roast burrito bowls. Both were quite tasty.
Tuesday, we decided to go exploring on foot. We walked over to “Old Baldy,” the Bald Head Island lighthouse. You can walk up the lighthouse to get a view of the Atlantic but we opted not to stress out Adrienne’s knees. We have seen the Atlantic before. There was a lovely chapel next to the lighthouse where services are held every Sunday. It was open and we were treated to a very simple but elegant house of worship.
That night we ate on board and made Thai Chicken Curry. This sounds wonderful, but it was actually just okay because it was a frozen dinner. Not long on taste, but very short on preparation and clean up. We wanted a fast and easy dinner because we needed to prepare for a very early departure for Charleston the next day. That was going to be a 13-hour cruise. We wanted to arrive in Charleston between 5 and 5:30PM because that was when the current would be slack and the docking easier. But that also meant we’d have to leave by 4:30 at the latest. So it was an early bedtime for us.