When we went to sleep Wednesday evening the forecast was for thunderstorms the next day around noon. We decided to get up early to attempt to get to Belhaven (some 57 nm away) as soon as possible. By 6am, we were up and ready to go. However, the weather report was now just rain with a few moderate downpours. The current was still ripping at the marina, so because of that and our tight slip, we decided to wait until the current was nearly slack.
Around 7am, we finally cast off. Adrienne did a great job wiggling us out of the slip and into the channel and we were off and headed north. As we exited the Beaufort Channel, we heard a tug announce that he was leaving his dock with a barge heading north on the ICW. We sped up in hopes of reaching the main channel and passing under the Morehead Bridge before him. Alas we were too late. There was no room to pass, so we slowed down to just 2-3kts. We watched him go under the bridge and we began to follow him. Quickly we realized that he had virtually stopped on the other side and was turning the barge to port. There was no room to pass him. Adrienne began a slow turn in front of the bridge to give him time to complete his maneuvers. As Adrienne said, driving s boat can be like riding a horse – when there is no place to go, turn slow circles.
Once we completed our circle, there was room for us to pass. Adrienne took us under the bridge and past the barge. We were once again up to speed and on our way. It had taken us nearly 45 minutes to exit the docks and make our way under the bridge. We had never realized how active a port Morehead City-Beaufort was. Both days commercial traffic had significantly slowed us down.
Once out of the commercial area, we began to make good time (+9kts), until we hit Adams Creek a little after 8. We then had 5 miles of no wake. It seemed like it took forever. Finally we were out of the creek and into the Neuse River. The river was choppy with winds of 15-18kts. A bumpy ride for all.
By 11:30, we were in Bay River and by noon we were entering Goose Creek. With protection from the winds, the seas calmed and our ride became much smoother. In the middle of Goose Creek is a Coast Guard Station, Station Hobucken; not sure what you have to do wrong to getstation at this forlorn, our of the way station.
By 1pm, we were traveling up the Pamilico River and then into the Pungo River for the run to Belhaven. The winds were fairly calm until we had Belhaven in sight. Suddenly the winds were gusting up to 20kts. Great timing for docking!
The River Forest Marina, our destination, was just inside the breakwater for Belhaven. We made a sharp right and were headed into the marina. We were going to be on a face dock inside of atee dock. Instead of just being able to pull alongside, I needed to go past our spot on the dock and then back in. Just as we passed our spot, I pulled back on the engine controls. Suddenly I had no engine controls. Somehow I had disengaged then. We were moving slowly but inexorably toward the shore about 100 yards in front of us. Fortunately I put the controls back in neutral and regained control. Thank goodness. By 2:30pm, we were tied up and my heart had slowed to almost a normal rate.
Our plan was to spend two nights are the marina, because the weather on Friday was supposed to be plain nasty – rain and wind, cold and grey.
The River Forest Manor once consisted of an inn and a marina. The inn was quite famous hosting a variety of celebrities from James Cagney to Walter Cronkite. Unfortunately, the inn had fallen on hard times, and when we were here six years ago, the inn was in disrepair and the marina was slowly decaying. Last year, a new set of investors bought the Manor and are renovating the marina and the inn. New docks are being built, a new laundry and somewhat renovated bathrooms are complete, but much remains to do. The dockmaster, Henry, who is also one of the investors, couldn’t have been more helpful and we look forward to seeing all the renovations completed.
River Forest Marina had 3 golf carts for boaters to use to get to and from town or to the shopping area with a Food Lion about a mile and a half outside of town. Henry recommended the Spoon River Restaurant in town for dinner, so we hopped in one of the golf carts and headed over there for an early dinner.
It was an excellent recommendation. The owner had taken over several vacant storefronts to create the restaurant. She designed it with a farm to table theme and gets over 60% of her food from local North Carolina farmers and ranchers. The interior has a painted concrete floor with white painted wall hangings and large white paper lanterns covering the ceiling. She also had two large paper peacocks that had been spray painted gold on either side of the fireplace mantle. These she told us had been made by 5th graders that she taught many years ago when she had a different career path.
The food did not disappoint either. To start, we had duck spring rolls, which were very tasty and perfectly fried. I had a local shrimp dish over mashed potatoes and carrot threads; it was delicious. Adrienne had a roasted pork loin over mashed potatoes with grilled asparagus that was also really good. What we really appreciated about Spoon River was the quality of the food and the unpretentious and friendly atmosphere of the owner and staff.
Not only was Spoon River better than any restaurant that had been in Belhaven when we last visited, but the city itself seemed to be reviving with more stores,flowers and lovely homes.
The next day was as predicted: overcast, chilly, windy and rainy. As the day wore on the conditions deteriorated. We took the opportunity in the morning when the when the weather wasn’t too bad to tool into town in a golf cart to run a few errands and then to head up to the Food Lion. Going to the Food Lion in a golf cart is an interesting exercise. You can either go along the main road where the cars are going about 50 to 60 mph or you can run on the sidewalks for part of the way and go on some side streets. The latter clearly was the more rational approach, but we didn’t figure that out until we were halfway there.
Also, even with the traffic we considered ourselves in better shape than our first visit to Belhaven some 5 or 6 years ago. At that time the River Forest Marina was in disrepair. They had a golf cart at that time too, but it had no breaks and was falling apart. Somehow we made it to the Food Lion without getting run over. So a relatively new golf cart with breaks seemed like a major step up. We stocked up and drove back to the marina. This time we were smarter, staying on the back streets almost all the way.
Because of the excellent laundry facilities at the marina and especially because the machines were free, we did our laundry at the marina instead of on board. It was much faster and conserved our on-board water. While the marina had city water, the water was being piped to the docks by old hoses which didn’t inspire any confidence as to their cleanliness.
We spent the rest of the afternoon, watching the weather deteriorate. The wind picked up, gusting well over 20kts, with intermittent rain showers. Suddenly, there seemed to be a parade of boats coming into the marina. We couldn’t figure out where the dockmaster would put them all, but he did it, including putting a ~60ft fishing trawler in a 40ft slip. We found out from one of the boats that the Alligator River Swing Bridge was closed because of high winds. Everyone was looking for spots to stay in Belhaven, the last set of marinas before the bridge.
With the marina being crowded, we decided to leave for dinner a little early before all the golf carts were gone. So at 5:30pm, we hopped in the cart and headed to the Tavern at Jack’s Neck, which was located just across from Spoon River. Like Spoon River, this is a new addition to Belhaven. Adrienne had a pizza, which was pretty good; I had the shrimp and grits, based on the waitress recommendation. Unfortunately my dish was ok but not great.
After dinner, we headed back to the boat and turned in for the night.