Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May 10-16, 2011 (Week 32, Day 218-224)

Tues. May 10, 2011 (Week 32, Day 218):                                                                                                                            Destination: St. James, N.C. (Mile 315) to Wrightsville Beach (Mile 283.2)                                    Departure: 1130 hrs. after fuel                   Arrival: 1600 hrs.                  Mileage: 31.8 SM/29.77 NM                     Weather: hot & humid, blue skies & sun, ? rain & thunderstorm clouds late pm Winds: E calm increasing to 7-13K
A leisurely am after a super calm night; I slept in till 0700 hrs. Each of us had a marina shower, after all, one has to check out all facilities especially when they are a new, never before experienced places. Breakfast at Tommy Thompson’s. A very nice gallery/boutique. After fuelling up at the fuel dock we departed in an easterly direction towards Southport, then the Cape Fear River. A late departure (1130 hrs.) was planned to take advantage of the tides in our favour ie a push up Cape Fear River & through Snows Cut. At 1230 hrs. we unfurled part of the jenny out on the Fear with the current as it ebbs & floods from Cape Fear Inlet; boat speed average = 8.3K, but furled the jenny at 1400 hrs. going through Snows Cut against the current as it ebbs & floods from Carolina Beach Inlet; sustained a speed of only 4.8K. We experienced good water depths along Myrtle Grove Sound & Masonboro Sound; unfurled the jenny to assist, then furled it as we turned around G129 into Shinn Creek. We anchored in 15 ft. with 100 ft. chain. A weather alert was out till 2300 hrs. especially for counties south of Wrightsville. Today we made progress in a NE direction. Graeme puttered while I rowed to the dinghy dock SE of the bridge as this was our 4th time at this anchorage & I had never been ashore. One block east was Wrightsville Beach. It is a grey sand beach with a wide section of many broken shells in the sand then soft “squeaky” sand just before the hard packed grey sand at the water’s edge. Shells+++ littered the shoreline, larger than the shells I saw & picked in the Bahamas. Strange changes in the sky; sometimes blue & clear, sometimes streaking white clouds & other times dark threatening clouds. Supper= pork chop, potatoes & peas. As dark descended a light cloud cover obscured the ½ moon, & lightning & occasional thunder was very apparent to the west & southwest.

Wed. May 11, 2011 (Week 32, Day 219): Happy Birthday Dave!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Destination: Wrightsville Beach (Mile 283.2) to Mile Hammock (Mile 244.5)                                                                                                                                                                                                                Departure: 0830 hrs.                                    Arrival: 1555 hrs.                        Mileage: 38.7 SM/41.23 NM             Weather: cloudy & cool 66F at departure, blue skies, warm sun but cool wind at 1300 hrs. (H=73) Winds: E & cool at 7-18K

 I woke to howling NE to E winds at 0200 hrs.; I checked all boat positions & returned to bed till soon after 0600 hrs. Cloudy & cool--- 2 words I have not used often in a while. By leaving the anchorage at 0830 hrs. we cruised through Motts Channel without any problems, especially G19 & G25 even at low tide & easily made the 0900 hrs. opening of the Wrightsville Beach Bridge. ‘Artful’ & ‘Firecrest’ made the same opening from Carolina Beach anchorage. Five miles down the way we easily made the 1000 hrs. opening of the Figure Eight Island Bridge; in fact the opening was delayed for ‘Artful’, ‘Firecrest’ & a 3rd sailing vessel. We had good depths along the New River with it’s many very small inlets as we were in a flood tide. Unlike the other day, today we travelled against the current the whole day, as you can tell from the statutory miles done compared to the nautical miles + our travel direction was too close to the wind to set a sail. Despite all of this we travelled the 17.4 mile distance to Surf City Bridge with time to spare for the 1300 hrs. opening. No problems at maximum high tide through the caution zone where there is frequent shoaling at the New River Inlet, especially between R74 to R72. Few boats were in the anchorage at Mile Hammock, although several boats arrived late evening. We anchored in 15 ft. water with 80 ft. of chain. Travel direction today was NE. We had invited Lynn & Larry over for dinner tonight so I immediately got into the preparations. Supper= chicken marengo with mashed potatoes & raw carrots & celery. I’m surprised how cool the weather has been even this far north. Partly cloudy, good fresh 10K wind to keep the wind gen. working for part of the night only then calm, no visible stars or moon.
N.B. Northbound proceed from R76 to R74 to R72, ignoring R72C especially R72B & R72A.

Thurs. May 12, 2011 (Week 32, Day 220):                                                                                                                                                                                      Destination: Mile Hammock (Mile 244.5) to Town Creek, Beaufort, N.C. (Mile 202.3)                   Departure: 0610 hrs.                                Arrival: 1415 hrs.                    Mileage: 42.2 SM/45.37 NM Weather: light cloud cover, gorgeous sunrise; blue skies, warm sun but cool breeze mid am till mid pm, then dark clouds came & went Winds: NE to E, variably light

The alarm went off at 0615 hrs. It was very calm & cool enough at departure to wear long pants & long sleeve sweat top. And early enough that we saw a magnificent sunrise. Many boats from the anchorage were on the move early as there was good visibility now by 0545 hrs. We led the way for the Onslaw Bridge opening at 0700 hrs.--> N.B. change: opens on the hour & half hour from 0700 to 1900 hrs. + on request thereafter. On towards Swansboro & Bogue Sound on a falling tide till 0934 hrs.; we were pushing against the tidal current with <5k of wind on our nose so unable to use the sails, passing Browns Inlet, Bear Inlet & Bogue Inlet. Then we had a rising tide in Bogue Sound but no great apparent push observed; SOG (speed over ground) on the GPS was slightly less or similar to the paddle wheel speed at best. We were all quite indecisive as to our actual destination; we were keeping our options open. When the ‘Twomorrows’ arrived at Sanitiary Restaurant in Morehead City they discovered their dock for $10.00 per night to be no longer; replaced by a deck with patio tables & chairs. And Morehead City Municipal Docks = $1.50/ft. with electricity & water but not sure if any shower facilities. This was option #1. Option #2: Taylor Creek--> full! We moved on slowly as we now had to wait for the Beaufort Bridge opening at 1330 hrs. then picked up fuel at Town Creek Marina at 1350 hrs. Option #3: anchor here, north of Town Creek Marina off Gallant Cut Channel--> done at 1415 hrs. (11 ft. water with 80 ft. chain). Option #4: was to continue north & anchor in Adam Creek off Cedar Creek, but this was not necessary. Progress today was more easterly again. Two & a half hours later ‘Artful Dodger’, ‘Firecrest’ & their Canadian friends arrived. Dave picked me up in his dinghy & I buzzed his hair on his boat as this seemed to be the last of our time together. Dark clouds moved in, dispersed & returned, so sunset did not visibly happen. Supper= leftover chicken marengo & mashed potatoes. Night brought calm winds & water, clouds, no stars or moon.

Fri. May 13, 2011 (Week 32, Day 221):                                                                                                      Destination: Town Creek, Beaufort (Mile 202.3) to Campbell Creek (Mile 154.5)                                                                              Departure: 0745 hrs.                                     Arrival: 1510 hrs.                   Mileage: 47.8 SM/47.17 NM                             Weather: cloudy though warm & 60% chance of rain & thunderstorms predicted; unfortunately the order of the day X next several days Winds: nonexistent at departure to light & variable from SE

It is always nice to stay longer in Beaufort, BUT… I have bittersweet emotions; it’s been a blast for the most part, time has pleasantly flown by, but home is home & Ottawa is home! We said our good byes to Dave last night & to Patric this am. We raised the anchor easily & left Beaufort via the Russell Slough Channel, Newport River into Core Creek & Adams Creek. Lots of powerboats passed us. We met a barge & tug as we exited Adams Creek. Then it was out into the Neuse River, west to 1AC marker then NE to R6. Local knowledge told us that you can go from R4 to R2 then directly to G1. The Neuse was favourable to us as far as sea conditions; the SE winds were far too light to set any sail. Tides now were not significant ie height but rather wind & it’s effect on tides were of importance. We exited the Neuse River to the Bay River into Goose Creek then into Campbell Creek after R14 before the Goose Creek enters Pamlico River. Crab pots +++ littered the entrance like you wouldn’t believe; much more this Spring than compared to the Fall. Once past the crab pot field we were greeted by a dolphin & anchored in 7 ft. of water with 80 ft. of chain. Now the sun appeared behind a thin, hazy cloud cover; warm. Dolphins +++ surrounded us. I buzzed Graeme’s hair at anchor. Eight other boats pulled in before sunset. A cloudy evening at sunset time. Supper= homemade pizza. By using the oven to bake the pizza, I suddenly remembered my toaster & not using it at marinas with electricity recently; how easily you fall into a pattern! Potentially we can be in Deltaville in 5 days! A cloudy night, but oh so very calm.

Sat. May 14, 2011 (Week 32, Day 222):                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Destination: Campbell Creek (Mile 154.5) to Alligator River (Mile 101.1)                                        Departure: 0720 hrs.                                       Arrival: 1500 hrs.                          Mileage: 53.4SM/47.1NM                Weather: very warm, hazy & sunny am & pm; weather alert from 1400 hrs. till 2000 hrs. Winds: mirror calm at dawn then gradual increase from E, SE & S during the day to 10-20K

Last night’s calm night led into morning with mirror flat calm water at sunrise; the landscape was breathtaking. A light dew was on the enclosure windows that required wiping. The anchor chain was laden with thick, black stinky mud that I sprayed off as the chain was coming up. We had a parade of boats all in a single file exiting the Goose Creek into the Pamlico River. Though we were fighting a current again we were able to set the jenny which proved to be helpful especially when we turned to port towards Belhaven & especially when we turned after Belhaven along the Pungo River. In these upper parts of the Pamlico & Pungo Rivers the water was hull staining, tannic, coffee coloured as well as through the 22 mile Alligator River-Pungo River Canal. We attempted to sail under jenny through the canal but the strength & direction of the wind was too variable. We had more success after the Fairfield Bridge--> E to SE 10-15K. Suddenly at about 1400 hrs. a weather alert until 2000 hrs. abruptly came over the VHF; heavy rains, winds lightning+++ & chance of hail in all the surrounding counties. As we exited the canal at R58, the winds increased from the E to S to 15-20K, whitecaps & we could see smoke from the fires on the Albemarle we had heard about the last 2 days on the radio. At G39 we turned to starboard & motored about ½ mi. from shore in 9’4” water, dropping 120 ft. chain due to possible storm conditions; another new anchorage added to our repertoire. Winds were howling but thus far the water was fairly calm with <1 ft. chop. Weather permitting, this might be the last anchorage for Lynn & Larry as they head home to Edenton, 44 mi. up the Albemarle tomorrow. IT’S BEEN A BLAST GUYS!!! THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING!!! WE WILL MISS YOU DEARLY!!! Before we head back to Ottawa we plan to visit them in Edenton by car. In light of this, Larry dinghied over 2 jerry cans of diesel. We sat in the cockpit reading & watching the sky. Supper= sausage, pork ‘n beans & dill pickles; ate in the cockpit as it was so warm watching the weather. Darkness arrived; as of yet no weather, no stars but a moon no longer full.

Sun. May 15, 2011 (Week 32, Day 223):                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Destination: Alligator River (Mile 101.1) to Goat Island, Dismal Swamp (Mile 43)                                                                                                                 Departure: 0550 hrs.                                        Arrival: 1400 hrs.               Mileage: 58.1 SM/57.97 NM                                                                                                                                                    Weather: warm, mostly cloudy, few breaks in the clouds with blue skies & sun, few rain showers late pm Winds: S 10-17K

Thankfully the ugly weather did not materialize; only scant rain shower at 0430 hrs. Sunrise was prior to 0600 hrs.; there was a peach coloured hue above the treetops & periodically the sun showed itself between the clouds. Lynn hailed us over the VHF with the news of waves of thunderstorms & winds to the south were predicted to head NE missing the Albemarle; let’s hope! At 0855 hrs. we sadly said our good byes & went our separate ways! The four of us had been together since Oct. 31, 2010! Six & a half months! We miss you already!!! We took the shortcut to 1PR into the Pasquotank River. With a 15+K south wind at our stern we were pushed down the Albemarle & in the Pasquotank we set our jenny for a beam reach sail. We were still in radio contact with the Morrows--> all was going well. We arrived at Elizabeth City at 1250 hrs.; too soon to stop. A few boats were tied up along the 2 (split) sections of the facedock with a couple of spaces still available + few slip spaces were free. The Elizabeth City Bridge (bascule) opened for us on request. Now we were in the beautiful Dismal Swamp! Brilliant vibrant hues of green only Spring can produce of the trees & shrubs. No saltmarsh grasses, no palms, only tannic coffee coloured water & abundant deciduous trees lining both sides of the swamp. We would not make the last locking at 1530 hrs. for northbound boats at South Mills Lock (Mile 32.5), 18.5 mi. away. And at this point there is not much choice for anchoring: (1) at Mile 47, a beautiful spot adjacent to lovely big homes on the eastern shore just before the RR Bridge; (2) at Mile 43, Goat Island; (3) at Mile 33.2, a channel just south of South Mills Lock just before it joins Turner Cut. We chose option #2--> a beautiful, peaceful, protected anchorage; anchored in 9 ft. water with 80 ft. chain just as short spurts of rain showers commenced. The skies were in constant changing flux as we sat in the cockpit reading--> sun, dark clouds in the west, rain showers, a rainbow in the east, wind gusts & flat calms. Supper= nachos. Dark clouds in the west & clear skies & near full moon elsewhere for possibly our last night in N.C.!

Mon. May 16, 2011 (Week 32, Day 224):                                                                                    Destination: Goat Island, Dismal Swamp, N.C. (Mile 43) to Norfolk, Virginia (Mile 0)                     Departure: 0600 hrs.                                      Arrival: 1630 hrs.                     Mileage: 43 SM/41.94 NM             Weather: cloudy, humid, damp, then partially cloudy & sunny & warm till late pm, then windy & dark threatening rain clouds but no precipitation                                                                                                                                        Winds: not of any use today but SW at 9-17K

It was another early rising at 0500 hrs. & an early start from the anchorage because we wanted to be sure to make the 1st opening of the South Mills Lock at 0830 hrs. Graeme thought it might be a short day, only 15 miles to North Carolina Welcome Center (mile 28); I felt we should give it a shot to go all the way to Norfolk & if not at least to the Deep Creek free dock (Mile 11). It was unfortunate that it was so cloudy when we started out & the deeper we moved into the swamp the mistier it got. But it was so scenic! The sounds last night of singing frogs, ospreys protecting their nests, cardinals & other birds, cicadas & the sweet aroma & the different bird sounds this morning. Five sailing vessels & I trawler locked through South Mills Lock at 0830 hrs. followed by opening of the South Mills Bridge--> same person works lock & bridge duties. They were pressing on to Norfolk which convinced Graeme to continue to Norfolk as well. I phoned for a reservation at the Waterside Marina. At 0900 hrs. the grey skies were breaking up; blue skies & warm sun caused the temp to rise to the mid 70’s as we motored along the Dismal Swamp (total of 40.2 mi.) At 0950 hrs. we passed the N.C. Welcome Center; onward to Deep Creek Bridge opening for 1330 hrs. for southbound boats & about 1400 hrs. for northbound. We were way too early X 1-1/2 hrs. despite slowing to a crawl & ended rafting to 2 boats tied at the south dock before the bridge. There were no southbound traffic therefore the bridge tender/lockmaster opened the bridge then the lock for us 6 boats. We finished locking at 1420 hrs. & motored to Norfolk on the Elizabeth River. Again too early we waited 40 min. for the opening of the RR Bridge & the adjacent Gilmerton Bridge at 1530 hrs. (schedule= every hour on the half hour). The winds increased, the skies greyed as we all went our respective destinations somewhere in the Norfolk/Portsmouth area. The marina was jammed packed with trawlers attending a convention re The Great Loop. We were assigned a bulkhead tie up on port between 2 big, expensive trawlers. We entered the marina, big trawlers sticking out in almost every slip, the wind picked up & we had to make a U-turn in a very restricted area between the above mentioned pristine trawlers. Graeme had to keep some speed up as to maintain control as we headed up into the wind to tie up between these trawlers. Owners of the trawlers suddenly were wide-eyed & scrambling, the marina staff were scrambling, the other Loopers + tourists at harbourside were looking on & I was shouting “too fast, slow down”, “we’re too close” & threw the staff the mooring lines at the appropriate time. Low & behold he did it! Graeme did it! He slipped our boat into place like Cinderella & the glass slipper!!! All congratulated him & his response was, “Can I go & change my shorts now!” Instead of 1 night stay, he went & paid for 2! Supper= dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack. A warm night, threatening & stormy clouds that seemed to pass then just a clouded night sky, no stars, no moon.

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