October 17, 2015 – Swansboro to Wrightsville Beach, NC

We were up early today for the run to Wrightsville Beach, 47 nm south of Swansboro.  Originally we were only going to go to Surf Cit, in order to avoid having to dock in the swift current at Wrightsville Beach.  However, the weather tomorrow is supposed to be somewhat nasty, so we wanted to shorten our trip to Southport, our next stop.

As we pulled out of Swansboro just before 7:20am, the weather seemed perfect.  The winds were less than 5 kts and the ICW was calm.  That was good because the trip from Swansboro to Wrightsville Beach is filled with bridges and areas of shoaling.  Our goal was to avoid any drama.  Boy did we fail!!

Our first bridge the Onslow Bridge was about 10 nautical miles away and only opened on the hour and half hour.    If we ran at 9 – 10 kts, our usual cruising speed, we would just make the 8:30am opening.  There were many boats on the ICW with the southern migration in full swing.  Because of the bad shoaling we were all talking to each other – the boats further ahead relaying information back to those following.  We were one of the faster boats, but not the fastest.  We passed many sailboats but a number of faster cruisers passed us.

Sailing South

Sailing South

Our first real shoaling challenge came as we neared the Onslow Bridge.  While the ICW appears to run in a fairly straight line, the channel does not.  At one point the channel curves sharply to starboard and then back to port in an almost S-curve.  It is marked but it looks like you are going to run aground because you are first heading straight at the shore and then turning with only 20 ft to go before you would hit the shoreline.  Last year, going south, we had missed this turn completely and hit the bottom.  Fortunately, this year we were ready and made the turn easily; we did have shallow water with only 7.5 ft of depth, but with our 5 ft draft we were fine.

As we neared the bridge we could see a few boats in front of us and many coming up behind us.  Everyone jockeyed for position with the sailboats allowing the faster powerboats to move to the front of the line.  We were there just in time and we passed through the bridge by 8:35 am.

Jim on the Flybridge

Jim on the Flybridge

Our next bridge was the Surf City Swing Bridge, which was about 18 miles ahead of us and opened only on the hour.  Our goal was to be there for the 11am opening.  We had one other major challenge before we reached the bridge – the New River Inlet, another area of major shoaling.  We would be there on a rising tide and we had a pretty good idea of the best way to run across the inlet, which involves ignoring some of the channel markers and crossing the inlet on blind faith.  We had done it before and knew it worked.  Just as we neared the inlet, a large tug pushing a barge appeared right in front of us, blocking the channel.  To get past the tug, we had to delay our turn beyond the point we wanted to turn but fortunately, once we did turn we had enough water to make.  Again the lowest depth was about 7.5 ft, so we were fine.

Great.  Now we were past all the major areas of concern and just needed to make the bridges on time.  By 10am, we were running a little behind schedule because the current was against us, but we still thought we could make the 11am opening.  We were nearing another area of shoaling but the key was to stay very close to the green marker but still in the channel.  The wind was and current were pushing us toward the green side of the channel.  Suddenly the channel started to get shallower and before we knew it the depth was only 4.2 ft.  We were aground or sort off.  We were still slowly pushing through the muck.  Adrienne and I had a calm and rational discussion of where the hell we were and whether to go to port or starboard – of course we disagreed and things became a touch frantic.  Adrienne said starboard and I said port, both of us conversing in a calm and dignified manner.  Being the gentleman that I am, I acquiesced to her viewpoint.  I used the thrusters to turn us to starboard and upped the throttle as she slowly steered us to starboard.  We eased forward and suddenly we were free. She was right and I was perhaps mistaken   It seemed like a lifetime but it was probably less than 2 minutes from start to finish.

Back on track, we were still able to make good time and were at the Surf City Bridge 15 minutes early.

The Pink House - A Landmark Along the ICW

The Pink House – A Landmark Along the ICW

The Pink House - A Landmark Along the ICW

Waiting for the Surf City Bridge

The Fotilla on our Stern

The Fotilla on our Stern

Strange Craft Along the ICW

Strange Craft Along the ICW

Shortly after 11 am, we were through the bridge and on our  way to the Figure 8 Bridge which opens every half hour.  It was only a little over 15 miles away and if we went 10 kts, we would be there in time for the 12:30pm opening.  That would make it easy to make the 1 pm opening of the Wrightsville Beach Bridge, our last bridge for the day.  If we missed the 12:30pm opening, we would not be able to pass through the last bridge before 2pm.

Alas the gods still did not seem to like us.  The current was against us and getting stronger.  At one point we could only make about 7 kts.  We would be lucky to make the 1pm opening of the Figure 8 Bridge.  At this point there were not many boats around us; the faster powerboats had pushed ahead and the sailboats were far behind.  However, we were being followed by a shrimp boat, going about the same speed as us.  By 12:50pm we were nearing the Figure 8 Bridge, when the shrimp boat called the bridge requesting an opening.  Because it was a commercial boat, the bridge opened for the shrimper on demand.  By 12:54 pm we were through the Figure 8, headed for Wrightsville.  I called the shrimp boat and asked if the Wrightsville Beach Bridge would also open for them early.  They confirmed that it would.  So we kept our pace up and by 1:15 we were at the Bridge.  Instead of us having to wait for 45 minutes, the bridge magically opened and we were at our marina.  Fantastic , but maybe not.

North of the Bridge there had been very little current.  Suddenly south of the Bridge there was a strong current – not that I noticed.  We wanted to be on the face dock but they had assigned us a slip, which required us to turn into the marina and then turn up current. I had to wait for a number of small boats to get out of my way and by the time I turned into the marina, I had drifted further down the ICW than I intended.  Rather than go down stream and turn around, as I should have done, I went ahead and made the turn.  The wind and the current were pushing us hard downstream; before I knew it I was rubbing the end of the dock.  Adrienne was yelling (I mean, calmly instructing me) to move to port but the thrusters did not seem up to the task.  Finally after rubbing along the dock, I was able to get us moving forward.  We were now heading directly and swiftly toward a center console, about to cut it in half.  I slowed us down and was able to turn upcurrent.  Suddenly everything was under control and we were in the slip.  It was 1:30 pm, and I was in need of a serious drink.

We inspected the boat and amazingly there was no damage.  The rub rail had been just the right height to keep the gelcoat off the floating dock.  We were good.

Now we just need to get out in the morning.

October 16, 2015 – Morehead City to Swansboro, NC

We planned on an easy run to Swansboro, a distance of about 22 nm.  Because of the short distance we were able to have a relaxing morning with a real breakfast, unlike most of our mornings when we eat breakfast about an hour or so after we have left the dock.

Morehead City Yacht Basin

Morehead City Yacht Basin

We left Morehead City about 11am.  This allowed us to catch the slack tide at the exit from the Marina into the Newport River.  The current can run strong through the entire Morehead City/Beaufort area. We were also able to have the current with us as we transited the first half of Bogue Sound, the main body of water we had to cross to get to Swansboro.

Morehead City Bridge

Morehead City Bridge

Along the Newport River

Along the Newport River

Crane at Morehead City

Crane at Morehead City

Morehead City Commercial Docks

Morehead City Commercial Docks

We were blessed with another beautiful and sunny day.  The NOAA forecast called for 10 to 15k winds from the southwest, and that’s pretty much what we had.  The wind made the Sound a bit choppy, but it was still quite passable.

Bogue Sound

Bogue Sound

Bogue Sound has a number of shoaling areas, which can make the passage tricky. Fortunately, we got through them all without any problems.

Around 12:30, we attracted the attention of some dolphins that were swimming nearby.  They came right over and started jumping in our wake off the starboard side.  There were about 4 or 5 of them.  It never ceases to amaze me how they can swim so close together, practically touching, at 10kts, jump in the air, and turn on their sides without injuring themselves or each other. One in particular kept turning on his/her side with his eye facing me as I tried to take pictures. I swear they like to look at us as much as we like to look at them.

Dolphins

Dolphins

Swansboro is pretty much at the south end of Bogue Sound.

Near Swansboro

Near Swansboro

Ready for Kayaking

Ready for Kayaking

By 12:45 we were entering the Swansboro area, and by 12:55, we were tied up as Casper’s Marina.

Coast Guard Refueling at Caspars Marina

Coast Guard Refueling at Caspars Marina

The wind continued to blow at about 15kts.  That made rinsing the boat an adventure.  Jim, who got that chore, was pretty wet by the time it was all done, despite trying to aim the hose away from the wind.  It was another bad hair day for me, as we finished up boat chores and settled down to lunch

We decided to “tour” downtown Swansboro, such as it is, to stretch our legs and see if anything had changed since our last visit.  It looked pretty much the same, some cute touristy shops and galleries and some “historic” houses.

Along Water Street Swansboro

Along Water Street Swansboro

Water Street Swansboro

Water Street Swansboro

We wandered into one of the galleries, the Tidewater Gallery.  It was an interesting mix of paintings, tapestries, metalwork, ceramics and photography.  Upstairs was a woodcarver who was working on a piece that had two shorebirds perched on a large piece of driftwood.  It was really well done. The woodcarver, Dennis Delmauro, and Jim got to talking and before I knew it we were in the process of commissioning a piece for Curiosity.

I missed most of the discussions because I was on the phone talking to various Florida people about mold remediation for our new house.  As we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, we bought a house in Palm Beach Gardens at the end of August, and spent the better part of September working with various contractors and a designer to do some remodeling and painting while we were on this trip. Our thought was that this would be a good time to get the dusty, smelly stuff done so that when we got back to Florida, we could just focus on buying furniture and getting the decorating done.

Well, it was a good idea, but of course, we have encountered problems. The painting is happening without any major issues.  But we were replacing some carpet and installing some new flooring in my art studio and hoping to get that done while we were gone. That’s probably not going to happen. We were trying to save some sinks from some vanities that we’re replacing, but the sinks are glued to their counter tops and can’t really be separated without destroying them.  I’m returning to Florida at the end of the month to see how everything is going and to get our furniture, which is currently in storage, moved into the new house.  Well, that was the pan, but that’s not happening now and I’m not sure when we’ll get our furniture.

Then, on Friday morning the project manager for the painting called to let us know that there was a lot of black mold underneath the floor in Jim’s office and that the subfloor was wet and smelled terribly.  This was not good news.  So, while Jim was commissioning artwork, I was on the phone lining up an inspector to get in the house on Monday to determine the extent of the mold problem and what we will need to do to get rid of it, and trying to juggle all of that with the painting work that’s still going on.

I was happy to talk artwork when I finally got off the phone.  After trying to give Dennis an idea of the size of the space we had and its limitations, we decided it would be much better if he just came over to Curiosity and looked at the space himself.  We piled into his car and headed back to Casper’s where we were able to take exact measurements.  Dennis is going to send us some drawings so we can have an idea of what he’s thinking and then we’ll probably take delivery of the finished piece in Florida because he and his wife have a house in Palm Beach Gardens and will be there this winter. Small world!

We were planning on leaving Casper’s around 7:30am the next morning so that we would have enough time to make the drawbridges we encounter on our way to our next destination, Wrightsville Beach.  So, we opted for an early dinner at the Riverside Inn, a short walk up Main Street from the Marina.  The Riverside Inn was as we remembered it from previous visits, although none of our meals have equaled our first meal in 2010 when we stopped in Swansboro on our way north with our other boat, Sea BLyS. Still, Jim’s lobster raviolis were very good, as was my Cajun mahi mahi.  And the sweet potato muffins were as delicious as the first time we had them.  We left with a half dozen for the boat.

It was then back to the boat to put our feet up and get ready for the next day’s c-ruise.

 

 

October 14-15, 2015 – Oriental to Morehead City, NC

Wednesday morning was a beautiful day when we awoke. Sunny skies and light winds.  We wanted to arrive at Morehead City close to slack tide which was mid-afternoon.  Since Morehead city was only 27 nm away, we decided to wait till around 11 am to depart.  What a luxury; we made breakfast and lounged around till about 10:45 am.

By 11 am, Adrienne was steering Curiosity away from the dock, and we were soon in the Neuse River.  What a difference a day makes!  The winds were about 10 kts from the southwest and the river was calm.

Leaving River Dunes

Leaving River Dunes

Entering the Neuse River

Entering the Neuse River

It was a peaceful journey down the Neuse, enlivened only by the presence of the Amara Zee, a flat-bottomed sailboat with its masts down, modeled on a Thames River sailing barge.  It is apparently home to the Caravan Stage Company, a group of about 20 performers who, according to the NY Times, “deliver waterfront productions of experimental opera that might be described as Cirque du Soleil meets Occupy Wall Street.”  Apparently they got kicked out of New York.  It was certainly a strange site on the Neuse River.

Amara Zee

Amara Zee

A we neared the turn for Adams Creek, a large barge emerged from the cut being pushed by the Beaufort Belle – the same tug we had seen the day before.

Barge Exiting Adams Creek

Barge Exiting Adams Creek

Beaufort Belle

Beaufort Belle

After a quick call to the tug, we passed it port to port and eased into Adams Creek, a waterway that cuts from the Neuse River to the Newport River, which Morehead City is located on.  Unlike the Pungo River-Alligator River Canal, Adams Creek has a number of houses lining its western side, though the eastern side seemed largely to have remained as marshy low county.

Adams Creek - Western Bank

Adams Creek – Western Bank

Adams Creek - Eastern Bank

Adams Creek – Eastern Bank

Much more exciting for Adrienne was the presence of dolphins.  I saw at least four and two of them swam alongside us for a minute or two.  Adrienne tried to get a picture but they were too quick.

As we neared the end of Adams Creek, we realized that we were going to be too early for slack tide at Morehead City, so Adrienne, who was driving, slowed us to less than 6 kts.  It drove me crazy.

Adams Creek - Southern End

Adams Creek – Southern End

By nearly 2 pm, we were entering the Newport River, just as another tug and barge were entering the Creek. We passed each other without incident.

Pushing Barge Into Adams Creek

Pushing Barge Into Adams Creek

Barge Entering Southern End of Adams Creek

Barge Entering Southern End of Adams Creek

Half hour later, we turned into the entrance for Morehead City Yacht Basin and by 2:30 pm, we were tied up.  There was definitely some current but the tie up went smoothly.

Adrienne checked us in while I rinsed the boat.  Despite the calm seas, we had picked up some salt spray, so a thorough rinsing was in order.

The rest of the afternoon was relaxing; we called Katherine, our daughter, who is teaching in Germany for a year and chatted for over an hour.  The Yacht Basin had great wifi, so we were able to use WhatsApp and chat for free with Katherine.  The advantages of the Internet Age!

For dinner, we wandered over to Floyds 1921, a local restaurant recommended by the dockmaster.  It was a short five minute walk from the marina.  The restaurant had tapas but of the most unusual kind.  We ordered the Shrimp Napoleon that consisted of two fried cakes of grits with mozzarella cheese in the middle and covered with a Tasso ham gravy and shrimp.  It was kinda of like shrimp and grits meets  lasagna.  It was quite tasty but definitely could have used some more shrimp.  We then ordered the Red Neck Egg Rolls, which were Chinese egg rolls stuffed with Carolina pork BBQ and served with a Thai Chili Sauce and Wasabi Slaw.  They were really good.  In addition, to make Adrienne happy, we had a boring salad.  The Dockmaster had given us a card for a free dessert, so we ordered their apple streusel.  It was a special that night because it was part of the restaurant’s special German Oktoberfest menu.  The streusel was ok, not nearly as good as Adrienne’s homemade streusel.

That night we relaxed on the boat and took advantage of the high speed internet to watch an episode of Dr. Who.  Crazy, but entertaining.

Thursday was another beautiful day, and it was great to be able to take our time waking up and getting breakfast.  Well, at least Adrienne was able to do that.  I had made arrangements the previous day for a diver to take a look at the port side of the hull just to make sure that log we had hit in the Alligator River hadn’t damaged the stabilizers, the paint or the props.  We didn’t think so, but wanted the reassurance before we headed for the ocean in the latter part of next week.  The diver arrived promptly at 8:30, and after examining the hull, the stabilizers and the running gear, pronounced Curiosity in great shape.

With that chore out of the way, we hopped in the marina’s courtesy car and made our way to Harris Teeter for some provisions.  On the way back, we decided to cross the bridge to Beaufort to remind ourselves what Beaufort looked like compared to Morehead City.   We had stayed in Beaufort when we were heading north in the Spring.  This was our first visit to Morehead City.  Beaufort definitely comes out on top in terms of charm, attractive appearance, and quality and quantity of restaurants.  Morehead City is more of a working city.  A train track runs down the middle of the Morehead City main road and leads right to the commercial shipping docks.  There’s just not a whole lot of charm you can get out of that setup.

Newport River as seen from Morehead City Bridge

Newport River as seen from Morehead City Bridge

Morehead City Harbor

Morehead City Harbor

Working Harbor - Morehead City

Working Harbor – Morehead City

On the other hand, Morehead City has made efforts to spruce up its waterfront.  And while it’s not nearly as nice as Beaufort’s, it has its attractions.

We decided to tour this area on foot after lunch. The day remained pleasantly warm and sunny.  It was a short walk to the waterfront area.

Docks Along Morehead City

Docks Along Morehead City

Art Work Along Morehead City Docks

Art Work Along Morehead City Docks

We were happy to see some antique stores and art galleries. We wandered into the Carolina Artist Gallery, which is a co-op of local artists. A number of the artists had works on display, and there was a show of artists from all over the country on the subject of “Soul of the Woman.”  Most of the pieces fit the theme well.  But the second place work puzzled us and the woman who was managing the gallery that day.  It was a painting of the bow end of a sailboat crashing through a wave.  Maybe the sailboat was a metaphor for a woman?  A woman crashing through life? We didn’t know.

Carolina Artists Gallery

Carolina Artists Gallery

We returned to the boat to finish up laundry, fill up the water tank and other exciting chores.  Around 6, we wandered back to the waterfront for dinner at the Full Circle Café, a small restaurant that opened only about 1 month earlier.  We were the first customers to arrive, but many people soon followed and filled the small space.

The Full Circle Café has an interesting menu.  It’s a mix of salads, burgers, pizzas and ramen noodle bowls.  The flavor combinations were not the usual.  The ramen bowls tended toward oriental flavors, and the pizzas were just eclectic.  We opted for an iceberg wedge salad and a pizza with shrimp, assorted olives, artichokes, roasted tomatoes and goat cheese.  It was very good.  All those ingredients worked, and the crust was thin but crusty and flavorful.

After dinner, it was back to the boat to get ready for our cruise the next day, take in some Thursday night football  and relax.

October 13, 2015 – Belhaven to Oriental, NC

Our original plan had been to sleep in on Tuesday morning and have a late departure for the River Dunes Marina in Oriental, NC – a distance of only 33 nm.  However, the weather forecast was for 10 kt winds in the morning increasing to 15-20 kts in the afternoon.  We figured if we left around 8 am, we would be in before the winds increased.  Wrong!

Just before 8 am, we pulled out of Belhaven Marina, and headed south down the Pungo River to the Pamlico River.  The winds were not bad on the Pungo, between 10 and 15, but by the time we reached the Pamlico the winds were already blowing at 15-20 kts with waves of 1-2.  Not a problem for Curiosity but certainly not what NOAA had said.

Adrienne at the Helm

Adrienne at the Helm

By 9:30 am, we had turned into Goose Creek, a water way that cuts from the Pamlico River to the Bay River.

Goose Creek

Goose Creek

Along Goose Creek

Along Goose Creek

The creek was well-protected from the winds and our trip through was uneventful.  We saw a sailboat sailing north on the creek, which definitely seemed like the wrong way to be going.  Halfway down the creek is the little (emphasis on little) town of Hobucken, which seems to consist of the Hobucken Bridge, the Hobucken Coast Guard Station, and R.E. Mayo Company.  As I said last year, it seems to me that if you were stationed at the Hobucken Coast Guard Station, your career is not on the rapid advancement track.

Hobucken Bridge

Hobucken Bridge

Hobucken Coast Guard Station

Hobucken Coast Guard Station

Fishing Boats in Hobucken

Fishing Boats in Hobucken

R.E. Mayo Company is a working commercial fish house, and several fishing trawlers were lined up in front as we went pass.  You can also dock at R.E. Mayo if you want for only 40 cents/foot/night; the only power they have is 110v but they do have an outhouse for your use.  We thought you would have to be pretty cheap or desperate to tie up here.  Nonetheless there was one sailboat moored to the dock. Adrienne said there were definitely no women aboard that boat.

Fishing Boats in Front of RE Mayo Dock and Seafood

Fishing Boats in Front of R.E. Mayo Dock and Seafood

RE Mayo

R.E. Mayo

Moored at RE Mayo - Cheap Dockage

Moored at R.E. Mayo – Cheap Dockage

By 10:30 am, we were exiting Goose Creek and entering Bay River.  The winds were in the 15 to 20 kt range and the river was rough.  A half-hour later we were in the Neuse River with sustained winds of 18kts and seas of 2-3 feet.  Again nothing that Curiosity couldn’t handle easily but it was a nasty day for us.

Passing the Beaufort Belle on the Rough Neuse River

Passing the Beaufort Belle on the Rough Neuse River

Fortunately we did not have much further to go.  As I began the turn from the main channel of the Neuse River to Broad Creek, the wind was gusting up to 29 kts.  It was just howling.  After about 15 minutes, however, we entered Broad Creek.  While still windy, it was much calmer and we were able to prepare for docking.

As I mentioned, our destination was the River Dunes Marina, which sits a few miles up on Broad Creek and has an array of large concrete floating docks with spacious T-docks.  The marina put us on the first T, and with the help of the two capable dock hands we were quickly tied up around noon.

With the constant wind we got a lot of spray on Curiosity, so the first order of business was to give her a good bath.  Once that was done we were able to relax a bit and enjoy lunch.  It was a beautiful day with temperatures near 80, but venturing outside was hazardous to Adrienne’s hair from all the wind.

We attended to a few more chores and then went for a walk around the facility despite the wind.  The marina’s address is Oriental, NC, but it is several miles from the main town.  As far as we could tell, there was nothing much in the area except the marina, which is actually part of a private community.  According to a couple we met at Belhaven, construction on the surrounding homes began about the time of the Great Recession.  While a number of homes were built then, along with the clubhouse, bath house, boat house and other facilities, many of the lots remained vacant for years.  We could see that as we walked around.  There were quite a few open lots, some with “sold” signs on them and others just open.  On the other hand, the houses that were there were lovely.  The homes we saw were large with large double decker porches, built in the North Carolina low country style.  We also saw what looked like a small and attractive chapel of some sort.  There was no sign identifying it and the doors were locked so we couldn’t peek inside.  It might also have been some sort of meeting house.  All in all, though, the River Dunes marina and surrounding community were very nice, well-maintained and sensibly thought out.

River Dunes Marina

River Dunes Marina

Curiosity at Dock

Curiosity at Dock

River Dunes Clubhouse

River Dunes Clubhouse

Large House - River Dunes

Large House – River Dunes

Meeting House in River Dunes

Meeting House in River Dunes

River Dune Houses

River Dune Houses

There is also a restaurant onsite, but we opted not to have dinner there.  I’ve got the beginnings of, what I hope is, a mild cold.  So rather than infecting the rest of the dinner guests, I chose to eat aboard.  We had plenty of fixings for a good meal and spent a quiet evening on board, getting ready  for tomorrow’s cruise.

 

October 12, 2015 – Coinjock, NC to Belhaven, NC

Another early morning.  We were up at 6 am for a 7am departure from Coinjock; Belhaven was 74 nm south.  The winds were light when we got up but there was still some current.  Adrienne was not happy about maneuvering us out of our tight space with a sail boat right on our nose and a trawler 2-3 feet behind us.  Fortunately the gods smiled on us, and there was an orchestrated departure from the docks.  A very large trawler that was three boats behind us left early in the morning.  That left plenty of the room for the boat two boats behind us to drift back and exit easily.  We then helped the boat behind us with their lines.  They were able to drift back and then exit with plenty of room between them and us.  Then it was our turn.  Adrienne backed us up and we easily slipped out past the sailboat, turned and headed south.  The sailboat then exited shortly after us.  A well-choreographed dance.

Cruising Down the North Landing River

Cruising Down the North Landing River

Our journey down the rest of the North Landing River was uneventful and we were soon in Albemarle Sound.  This can be a messy body of water, but today it was relatively calm with 10 kts wind and 1 foot seas.  It was a very grey day which made seeing crab pots difficult, but we avoided them all.

Entering Albemarle Sound

Entering Albemarle Sound

Albemarle Sound - Pretty Grey Today

Albemarle Sound – Pretty Grey Today

Around 10 am, we entered the Alligator River headed for the Alligator Swing Bridge.  We passed a number of boats as we neared the Bridge, knowing we would probably have to wait for them at the bridge before an opening.  Indeed we did.  I was up on the flybridge, adjusting our position from time to time as the wind kept blowing us around.  Curiosity seemed to be acting very strangely, not responding to my various engine maneuvers.  I could not figure out why.  Fortunately Adrienne noticed that I had not turned off the autopilot, so every time I used the engines to move us one way the autopilot moved us the other way. Turning off the autopilot worked miracles.   Oh well, live and learn.

By 10:45 am, we were through the bridge heading south along the last stretch of the Alligator River.  I was down in the salon, when I heard a loud thump followed by a second thump.  I raced up to the helm, where Adrienne was driving.  She had seen nothing but obviously we had hit something, probably a deadhead, a partially sunken log.  Fortunately, it looked like we had just grazed it.  The props, steering and stabilizers all seemed to be acting normally, and other than the noise the boat had not reacted to the thumps at all.  A little while later, we heard someone report a log near where we hit, so that must have been it.  It could have been under water until we hit it and popped it back up to the surface.  In any event we seemed to have suffered no damage.

We entered the Pungo River Canal around 12:45pm and were grateful for the calmer winds and flat water.  The canal runs through a no man’s land of North Carolina, i.e., no cell phone coverage!  But it’s a beautiful stretch not marred by the intense development that has occurred along so much of the ICW further south in North Carolina.  At one point I saw what I thought was a crab pot in the middle of the canal.  But the pot was moving.  It turned out to be a deer swimming across!

Entering the Pungo-Alligator River Canal

Entering the Pungo-Alligator River Canal

The Long Pungo-Alligator River Canal

The Long Pungo-Alligator River Canal

The only issue with the canal is dead heads.  There are a lot of exposed stumps along the banks and God knows what else floating below the surface.  We were on the lookout for any sort of debris, but were fortunate to make the passage without incident.  Some of the boats behind us were not so lucky.  About midway through there was a lot of VHF chatter about a large log that was floating in the middle of the canal.  We don’t think anyone hit it, which is always a good thing.

Stumps Lining the Pungo-Alligator River Canal

Stumps Lining the Pungo-Alligator River Canal

The Tea-Colored Water of the ICW in North Carolina

The Tea-Colored Water of the ICW in North Carolina

Once we exited the canal we entered the Pungo River for an easy run to Belhaven.

Pungo River

Pungo River

This year we decided to stay at the Belhaven Waterway Marina, which is located in downtown Belhaven.  In previous years we have stayed at the River Forest Marina, a golf cart ride away from downtown, and Dowry’s Creek Marina, which is several miles away.  We arrived around 4pm, and the experienced owners had ball fenders out for us and got us tied up without any trouble.

River Forest Marina

River Forest Marina

Houses Lining Water Street in Belhaven

Houses Lining Water Street in Belhaven

One of our main reasons for choosing the Belhaven Waterway Marina was its easy access to the best restaurant in town, the Spoon River Restaurant.  We ate there last year for the first time and loved it.  The owner is very personable, and the chef is fantastic.  People come from 50 miles away to eat there, which tells you a lot about the quality of restaurants in that part of North Carolina.

We had reservations for 7, but wandered in around 6:30 and they took us right away.  Our waitress was charming and friendly and gave us an extensive explanation of the menu.  We started off with a wasabi martini, which I had had last year and enjoyed, and a large, and I mean large, glass of white wine for Adrienne.  The portions at the Spoon River are generous, to put it mildly, so we skipped appetizers and just ordered dinner.  I chose their crab cakes, made with fresh, local lump crabmeat.  Hard to beat that.  And Adrienne ordered the fried chicken, which was served over kale and mashed sweet potatoes with a lemon butter sauce.  Both were just delicious and hit the spot after a long day in the boat

Adrienne especially like the wine, an Uppercut sauvignon blanc.  When we were leaving we started to chat with the owner and a fellow boater who was in to purchase some wine.  Adrienne mentioned how much she had liked it, and the owner insisted we take the remainder of the bottle home with us. That was unexpected and totally unnecessary, but that’s the kind of place this is.

We returned to the boat to relax for the rest of the evening.  We had originally planned to have an easy morning the next day because we were planning to go only about 40 nm to the River Dunes Marina, just north of Oriental.  But the NOAA forecast for tomorrow now called for 10k winds in the morning, increasing to 15 to 20 from the southwest in the afternoon with a small craft advisory beginning at noon.  Consequently, we decided to leave at 8 in the hopes of avoiding most of the blustery conditions.  We readied the boat for our 8am departure, tried to watch some football and turned in for the evening.

October, 11, 2015 – Norfolk, VA to Coinjock, NC

We were up early Sunday morning for our 50 nm trip to Coinjock.  Just before 7 am, Adrienne steered Curiosity away from the dock, and we headed out to the Elizabeth River.  It was a cloudy day, but the winds were light in Norfolk.  The forecast down on the Currituck Sound was for 15 kt winds and 1 foot waves.

The harbor was relatively quiet.  A few tugs on the river but not many other boats.  As we passed the Norfolk and Portsmouth shipyards right at 8 am, I could hear the Star Spangled Banner playing as the flags were raised.  I am not sure if the flags on the ships in harbor or at the shipyards themselves.  It was very strange to hear to wafting over the river.

Hanging Out on the Marker

Hanging Out on the Marker

Cargo Ship Cranes

Cargo Ship Cranes

Norfolk Terminal at Dawn

Norfolk Terminal at Dawn

Downtown Norfolk

Downtown Norfolk

Norfolk Shipyard

Norfolk Shipyard

Tidewater Yacht Marina

Tidewater Yacht Marina

There are many bridges between Norfolk and Coinjock and we had timed our departure to coincide with opening times.  However, Norfolk has been doing considerable work to replace old bridges and raise the vertical clearance.  To our delight, we did not have to wait for any bridge to open.  All the railroad bridges were open and we did not get caught by any passing trains like we had on our way north.  The Steel Bridge has been replaced by a high bridge with 65 ft vertical clearance, and the Gilmerton Bridge has been replaced by a 35 ft drawbridge under which we could easily pass.  The only slowdown was the 6 knot zone that extends from the Norfolk Harbor at Tidewater Marina to Money Point, just before the Gilmerton Bridge.

Before we knew it, we were at the Great Bridge lock.  It was a little before 9 am, so we had about 30 minutes before the lock opened.  We could have slept for another half-hour before leaving Norfolk!!

There were three sailboats waiting in front of us, and other boats lining up behind us.  We were all idling and trying to stay out of each other way until the lock opened.

At 9:20 am, the gates of the lock opened and we are moved slowly into the lock.  The lockmaster was moving us up close together, so we could all fit.  Adrienne took the bow line and we were right on the tail of a sailboat.  I dashed down for the stern line, but I had not quite got Curiosity to a full stop.  We also most kissed the sailboat in front of us, but I ran back to the helm and stopped us just in time.  Lesson learned, with no damage.  The water was high for the Great Bridge lock and we dropped about 2 feet, twice as much as normal.  Tides are still high from all the rain.

Great Bridge Lock

Great Bridge Lock

Exiting Great Bridge Lock

Exiting Great Bridge Lock

Soon, we were out of the lock and under the Great Bridge Bridge, and continuing south.  There was a lot of debris in the water at this point, mostly small but there were a couple of logs, three feet long or so.  Fortunately we were able to avoid hitting any of them.  By just before 10:30 am, we were at the Centerville Turnpike Bridge.  Because it was Sunday, the bridge opened on request and we were quickly through.  We had a half–hour to make the 11:00 am opening of the North Landing Bridge, about 4.3 nm away.  At nine knots, we would just make it.  As we got closer to the bridge, there was a large tug the Evelyn Doris, pushing a barge and only going about 3 kts.  He moved slightly to starboard and we were able to slip pass him.  It was tight because the channel was narrow but we both had plenty of room. We made the bridge with a few minutes to spare.

Dismasted Pirate Ship

Dismasted Pirate Ship

Hanging Out on the Marker

Hanging Out on the Marker

Once through, we were able to cruise at about 10k through the Virginia Cut.  It was still overcast, but quiet and calm.  For most of our transit through this area we were surrounded by thousands of swifts or swallows that swirled and looped around the boat, the water and marshes.  When we looked off in the distance we could see huge clusters of these birds.  It was amazing how they could fly so fast, dipping and rising, without hitting us or each other.

Winds remained in the 10k to 15k range for the rest of our cruise to Coinjock.  We crossed Currituck Sound without any trouble despite the wind, with waves in only the 1-foot range.  By about 1:45, we were approaching Coinjock and by 2pm we were tied up with the help of the excellent dock hands at Coinjock Marina.

Coinjock Marina is one long face dock right along the ICW.  There’s nothing else in Coinjock except the Marina and its well-known restaurant, famous for large prime rib dinners.  As a result, most boaters on the north or southbound migration stop at the marina.  It seems they’re always full.  That also means the dockhands pack the boats in very tightly on the dock.  We pulled up behind a small sailboat, and the dockhands had our anchor hanging over their stern with one foot to spare between us.   It was so close that I asked the dockhands if they issued marriage licenses.  It was quite intimate.  Right behind us was an old Hatteras, maybe two feet between their bow and our swim platform.

Upclose and Personal

Upclose and Personal

We fueled up, taking about 400 gallons of diesel.  Coinjock has great prices on diesel, and they do such a high volume of fuel that their fuel is always fresh.  They also pumped us out while I was fueling.  Overall, a very efficient process.

Adrienne rested her back, I did an engine check, we watched the Ravens lose in overtime (ugh!!), and then it was time for dinner.

The Coinjock Restaurant was full as always with both locals and boaters.   Adrienne had the prime rib and I had fried shrimp.  Both were excellent.  The portions were so large that we had plenty of leftovers for lunch and even another dinner.

After a short stroll, it was back to the boat.  By 9:30 pm, we were asleep.  Another early day tomorrow.

October 9-10, 2015 – Deltaville, VA to Norfolk, VA

Our destination was Norfolk, VA, some 56 nm from Deltaville.  Whereas the Bay was completely flat and the winds almost nonexistent our first two days, both on Friday decided to kick up a bit to keep things interesting.  We had winds out of the southwest at 10 to 15k, hanging mainly in the 15k range, with a steady 2- to 3-foot, and sometimes 4-foot, chop all the way.  The ride was bumpy, but not terrible.   If we had had this kind of ride the first two days of our trip, we would have thought “no big deal.”  But we had been spoiled by those two days of serene cruising and so felt every bump all the more.

We knew we were near Norfolk when we were preparing to turn into the shipping channel for the Elizabeth River and saw a large Navy vessel heading out.  Couldn’t miss it, both because of its size and that lovely gun metal gray.

Leaving Norfolk Harbor

Leaving Norfolk Harbor

We fought the current all the way into the harbor and dodged the usual mix of pleasure craft, barges, tugs, dredges, container ships and Navy vessels.  Although we have been through Norfolk several times now, the array of aircraft carriers, destroyers and other large ships never fails to impress.

Aircraft Carrier - Norfolk Naval Base

Aircraft Carrier – Norfolk Naval Base

Ships In Port

Ships In Port

Tug Hard at Work

Tug Hard at Work

The John Lenthall Heading for Sea

The John Lenthall Heading for Sea

Coming Down the Elizabeth River

Coming Down the Elizabeth River

Cape Johnny Pushing a Barge

Cape Johnny Pushing a Barge

We were also impressed by a massive 1000-foot container ship that was making its way out of the harbor at a healthy 10k.  We stayed well out of its way.

1000 ft Cargo Vessel

1000 ft Cargo Vessel

Size Does Matter

Size Does Matter

By 2 pm we were docked at the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club, which is located in the Lafayette River.  The club has nice concrete floating docks, which we appreciated as we pulled up.  The wind picked up (of course) as we tried to negotiate the 2k current at the dock.  But we got tied up fairly quickly on one of the Ts with the help of Dino, the assistant Dockmaster.

We washed the boat down, tidied up and then met Jim’s sister, who lives in Norfolk.  She and Jim headed off to a hardware store to get some supplies to fix two issues that came up as we were preparing to leave Deltaville.  The first was the latch for the locker in the foredeck where we store fenders and lines.  Jim opened it to stow the fenders and found that the latch came almost out of the plate.  The screws that were holding it down just lifted out apparently because the backing had deteriorated.  Not a big deal, just something that had to be attended to.  The other issue had to do with the varnish on the teak railings.  We had just had the railings revarnished this summer, and when we were leaving we noticed that a bubble had developed in the railing where a plate covered a hole for a pole.

Needing Some Repair

Needing Some Repair

We contacted the people at Burr who had done the work and who would have repaired the spot had we still been in Annapolis.  But since we were on our way south they gave Jim instructions on how to repair it.  So off Jim and his sister went to find the necessary supplies.

I remained on the boat and took it easy because I pulled my back trying to get one of the ball fenders out of a lazarette locker when we were preparing to dock at the yacht club.  The back wasn’t terrible, but it was sore enough to get my attention, and I didn’t want it to get worse

We enjoyed a nice dinner with Jim’s sister at the club and turned in early.  Our plan was to leave the following day at 7am for Coinjock, NC.

That was the plan, but we weren’t sure if we’d be able to go because a front was forecast to go through the area Friday night.  We were concerned about the conditions on Currituck Sound, which we would cross on Saturday, and Albemarle Sound, which we would cross on Sunday, if we stayed with the original schedule.  As of Friday night, NOAA was predicting 10 – 15k winds and 1- to 2-foot waves on both Sounds.  When we awoke on Saturday morning, however, and checked the forecast, NOAA had issued a small craft advisory for Currituck Sound with gusts of 25k and a 2- to 3-foot chop.  The forecast for Albemarle Sound for Sunday was no better. Both sounds were still doable, but the conditions would make for a very bumpy ride and there was no reason to push it.  So we decided to spend another day in Norfolk.

We spent Saturday taking it easy and doing boat chores.  Jim attended to the foredeck latch and the railing varnish.

Boat Maintenance

Boat Maintenance

He also cleaned up a mess we discovered under one of the seats in the salon where we store nonperishable food and lots of cans of Coke.  One of those cans leaked.  So Jim had to empty the area and clean it out.  I wasn’t able to help too much because of my back (at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).  The leak meant that Jim had to go in search of a plastic container that would fit in the space and accommodate around 20 Coke cans.  Walmart had just the thing.

Saturday was overcast, damp and gloomy.  But all was not unpleasant despite the weather and boat problems.  We had quite a bit of dockside entertainment during the morning and early afternoon.  Some of the local high schools were conducting sailboat races on the Lafayette River right in front of the yacht club docks.  Perceptive people that we are, we thought something was up when we noticed all these people bringing chairs and coffee mugs and camping out on the T-docks on either side of us.  The water was soon filled with Flying Junior sailboats milling around two courses.  One course was directly in front of us, and it was on that course that the little kids with a minimum of sailing experience were going to race.  It was a blustery morning with temps in the mid-60s, and these kids were having a terrible time with the conditions.  Many of them capsized before the race began.  Some crashed into the marks.  Some almost crashed into each other.  We thought a few were going to crash into us.  We probably shouldn’t have been laughing at them but it was hard not to!

Having Trouble Before the Race

Having Trouble Before the Race

Looking Good

Looking Good

Some Good, Some ...

Some Good, Some …

In Trouble

In Trouble

Oops!

Oops!

The more experienced and older kids raced after the little ones, and they were noticeably more skilled.  In fact, some of them seemed to delight in coming about right off our starboard side and seeing how close they could come to us without hitting us.  Jim was not amused, though as a child racing at this same club he had done it to other boats many times.

I continued to nurse my back during the day.  I put our onboard heating pad to good use and that seemed to help quite a bit.  I’m hoping that between the rest, heating pad and a medicinal glass of wine at dinner tonight that I will be considerably better by tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow, we head for Coinjock, North Carolina.

October 7-8, 2015 – Annapolis to Solomon’s Island to Deltaville

The summer has ended and the fall migration to the south has begun.   We are aboard Curiosity, heading to Deltaville, VA, as I type this entry.  So much has happened this year, it hardly seems time to head south again.

It was a tumultuous summer for us.  We decided in late April to sell our house in Maryland and move to Florida.  We figured it would take most of the summer to sell the house and therefore we would have plenty of time to get the house ready for the move.   Of course, that’s not the way things worked out.  We put the house on the market in mid- May and ten days later had a cash offer from a buyer who wanted to settle right away.  After the inevitable delays, we were out of the house by the end of June, all our belongings in storage and living on Curiosity, which was docked in Annapolis.  We did all this before buying a house in Florida.  We had looked at houses in Florida earlier in the year, but didn’t see anything we were prepared to make an offer on.  But we identified the area of Palm Beach County where we wanted to buy, Palm Beach Gardens, and that was half the battle.

By mid-July, the number of houses on the market was quite small.  Even so, we flew to Palm Beach Gardens to look at houses after the July 4th holiday.  After two days of searching, there was still nothing that met our needs.  We were on our way to the airport, when our real estate agent called and asked if we could come back to see one more house.  It wasn’t even on the market yet.  Fortunately we had about 20 minutes to spare, so we dashed back to Palm Beach Gardens and in our 20 minutes quickly looked at the house.  It was just what we wanted.  We dashed back to the airport, just made our plane and the next day made an offer.  After some haggling, we had a house, with closing set for the end of August.

We spent a hot summer living on Curiosity and enjoying being in downtown Annapolis.  In late August, we drove one of our cars down to Florida in preparation for the closing.  However, the weather gods wanted to have some fun with us.  Hurricane Erica was set to hit southern Florida the very day we were to settle.  Fortunately it turned north and we had a house – none of our stuff but at least we had a house.  Adrienne spent September in Florida, working with contractors and designers to get some renovations and redecoration done.  I flew back to Annapolis to deal with Curiosity, and then Katherine and I drove our other car back to Florida.

Our plan was to stay in Florida till October 4th or so and fly back to Annapolis to begin our journey south on October 6th.  But once again, the weather gods intervened with Hurricane Joaquin.  Its original path had a bullseye painted right on the Chesapeake Bay.  We hastened back to Annapolis early to tend to the boat; fortunately Joaquin turned out to sea and all was good.

So finally, at 8am on October 7, we pulled out of our slip in Annapolis, bound for the warmer climes of Florida.  It was a beautiful day.  Very light winds and calm seas.  By 1 pm, we were safely tied up at Zanhiser’s Marina on Solomons Island, a quick run of 46nm.  No drama, no fuss.

After the inevitable chores, we went for a walk around the town.

Historical Plaque - Solomons

Historical Plaque – Solomons

Solomons was once a thriving oyster town, but now it caters only to tourists during the summer months.

J.C. Love & Sons Oyster House

J.C. Love & Sons Oyster House

We were there at the very end of the season, and the town was virtually empty except for a few locals.

Main Street - Solomons

Main Street – Solomons

Even the gulls were resting on a deserted pier.

The Flock on the Patuxent

The Flock on the Patuxent

There is one good restaurant in Solomons, CD Café, a very short walk from Zanhiser’s.  Adrienne and I had dinner there – she had a salad and a white pizza and I had a NY Strip.  Plenty of leftovers for lunch.

The CD Cafe

The CD Cafe

After dinner, we headed back to the boat for an early departure the next day to Deltaville, Virginia.

We were up at 6:00am on Thursday for a 7:00am departure to Deltaville.  Deltaville is about 63 nm south of Solomon’s Island and we wanted to be by early afternoon since low tide was at 2:50pm.   The two marinas we were considering – Dozier’s and Deltaville Marina – both have skinny water at their entrances, and we did not want to arrive at dead low tide.  Our other option – Fishing Bay Marina – had plenty of water but would have taken us several miles out of our way.  However, once we were up, we changed our mind and set course for Fishing Bay.

We left Solomon’s right on schedule at 7:00am, just in time to watch the sun rise across the bay.  It is amazing how quickly it rises once it starts.

Dawn - 1

Dawn 1

Dawn 2

Dawn 2

Dawn 3

Dawn 3

Dawn 4

Dawn 4

The bay was again almost glassy for much of the trip and Curiosity just cruised along at 10 kts, while burning only 8.5 gph. For a boat our size that is great mileage at that speed.

The bay was full of tugs, barges and cargo ships, heading both up and down the bay.

Commercial Traffic

Commercial Traffic

I think all the captains were glad for good weather after the fierce storms of last week.  There were also a large number of sailboats and trawlers heading south.  Bucking the trend, we did meet another Fleming 55, Alchemy, heading for Burr Yachts for the winter.

Our journey was again peaceful, almost boring, and by 1:15 pm, we were tied up in Deltaville.  Fishing Bay Marina is somewhat run down with the docks needing some updating.  But there was plenty of water and an easy approach to the dock.   Apparently the docks had all been underwater last week’s during the storms.  Fortunately, not today when we arrived.

Fishing Bay Marina

Fishing Bay Marina

Fishing Bay Marina Docks

Fishing Bay Marina Docks

Looking Down at Fishing Bay Marina

Looking Down at Fishing Bay Marina

After lunch and a little crossword relaxation, we went for a walk.  The marina is in the middle of nowhere.  We walked up the road about a mile, and all we saw were burnt out bean fields and a few houses with no trespassing signs.  Still, the area was peaceful and quiet and very much in the country. We were still several miles from the main drag of Deltaville, which itself does not have much to offer.  So we turned around and headed back to the boat.  Looks like it will be a relaxing evening on the boat.

Tomorrow we head to Norfolk.