What an amazingly beautiful sunrise we witnessed last Friday morning, Oct. 19, as we left Elizabeth City! What spectacular sights we have seen to marvel in God’s wonderful outdoors!
After leaving Elizabeth City we crossed the Albemarle Sound without a hitch. I have seen and heard of numbers of sailors who have had a terrible time going across that larger body of water, but because we left a day earlier to beat the nasty weather, it was a peaceful and enjoyable crossing. We had hardly any wind, and the water was flat. The winds were nasty the next day, so I would imagine it was gnarly out there.
It was fun to leave and travel with the whole Sail to the Sun Rally group. We had four boats ahead of us and I think about nine behind, but you could almost see all of them as we motored along. We can also talk with each other as we are all monitoring Channel 68, in addition to Channel 16 for other boaters. So there is a fair amount of chatter, particularly about things in the water to avoid and other potential issues, such as when we approached a swing bridge that was apparently broken down for a while.
That evening we all anchored at the end of the Alligator River right before the Alligator River – Pungo River Canal. How often do you get to say you were there? Anyway, we all just pulled off to the side river instead of entering the canal and threw down our hooks (anchors). It was a great anchoring spot with good holding, and it was a splendid evening. Wally, our fearless leader, had gotten a hold of a bushel of blue crabs and Bonni Jean, one of the catamarans in our group, invited all of us over that night to feast on them. Even though Sharon and I don’t like the taste of crabs, it was cool to be on their boat and with the other cruisers in the group getting to know them.
The evening ended with a spectacular array of the stars, which was visible just above the glow of the anchor lights of all our boats. I love nights like that!
Early the next morning, Oct. 20, we took off (7:00 am again – when there was enough light) and headed into the Alligator River – Pungo River Canal. Obviously this canal connects these two rivers and it proved to be similar to the other canals we have been in recently: maybe 150 feet across and somewhat shallow with depths of 7 – 10 feet. Interestingly, Bonni Jean, the catamaran mentioned above, was just ahead of us in the canal and two times, when she ventured too close to the side she suddenly did a 180 degree turn and stopped dead as she became grounded. Yikes! So we all stayed in the middle and watched our depth gauges after that. There were also two bridges on this stretch that had clearance of only 64 feet. We have three boats that are within inches of 64 feet, so they paid particular attention to these bridges and there were more than a few exclamations of glee once they cleared under them. One boat, a catamaran named Frisky, actually removed all their instruments and antennas to make sure they cleared.
Our destination that night was the Dowry Creek Marina just outside Belhaven, NC, and we arrived safely. The last 10 miles or so the wind began to pick up a lot to 18 – 20 knots from the north. We were in a wider part of the Pungo River for a bit of that and it was definitely getting choppy! We were very glad we crossed the Albemarle Sound a day early. We were the only boat that anchored out at Dowry Creek, and we’re still not sure why. We were right in front of the marina and had access with our dinghy, so it worked great to get to shore for walks and Max’s potty breaks.
The Dowry Creek Marina had sustained significant damage from Hurricane Florence this past September so many of the docks were under reconstruction or just had boards across them. They did have power to the docks, but there was no running water yet. It sounds like the waters rose so high that it pretty much covered all their docks and washed many of them away.
On Sunday evening, Oct. 21, they held a pig roast at the marina and had our group as well as a number of other boat residents in addition to many neighbors and friends over for dinner. It was a minimal cost and was a feast! All during the day we had to walk by and smell the roasting pig, and it did not disappoint come dinner time. The rest of Sunday was spent getting some projects done, such as replacing our stern light and Sharon doing some sewing on our side curtains, and we had time for numerous walks to give Max some exercise.
We stayed in Dowry Creek on Monday as well as we were not due to get to Oriental, NC, until Tuesday. First, Sharon and I pulled up the anchor and came to the dock to get fuel and a pump-out. It seemed like a great time to do it at that point instead of waiting for our arrival at Oriental when most all of our group would want fuel and pump-outs at the same time. In the afternoon, Wally arranged a tour of a local rum distillery, which was quite fascinating to see, which took up most of the afternoon as we then were taken on a tour of Bath, NC, and Belhaven, NC, – two small quaint nearby towns. It was a good afternoon!
Tuesday morning, Oct. 23, we headed to Oriental, NC. It was a trip of 46 nautical miles, but we were able to throw the headsail out for a lot of it as the wind was off our beam at 8 – 12 knots. With the jib we were able to gain almost a knot of boat speed even with the engine throttled back. Nice! Most of the other boats of our group also put their headsails up and it was cool to look back and see all the sails! There were many other boats not in our group sailing as well as a lot of boats are heading south so their sails were flying as well.
We tied up in a slip at the Oriental Marina and Inn and had a nice afternoon of taking a couple of walks and then going for dinner with two other couples to a local restaurant. We settled into the boat for bed at the usual 8:30 pm or so (the sun is down already at 7:00 pm!) and it was nice to use our furnace heater as we were plugged into shore power. It got down to 42 degrees that night! When we are at anchor we have a great propane heater called Mr. Buddy and it does a great job of taking the chill out of the air. However, the past two times we have used it, it has not started. It uses a 1 lb. propane canister for the propane, but for some dumb reason it just won’t start. I’ll have to look into that. And yes, I have tried different canisters….
I should mention the weather is definitely cooler than it was two weeks ago! It is getting down into the low- to mid-40’s at night and the high 60’s during the day. It actually is a very nice break from the heat we have had up until now, so we are not complaining. We have broken out the winter coats for the mornings we are on the water earlier as it is always chillier when underway.
We spent the day Wednesday doing more boat projects. I always wondered about boaters saying they’re always doing boat projects as I thought eventually you would run out of them. It’s just not true. It seems there are always things to do! The projects for Wednesday was to finish the last two short support posts for the solar panel rack on top of the bimini – and of course it took about two hours longer to do it than the hour I projected! Sharon did provisions, I went to West Marine and the hardware store for a few things we needed, we got the boat vacuumed, Sharon did some straightening inside the boat, and I was able to thoroughly wash the boat. The last thing to do was to fill the water tanks and then we were set. Unfortunately when I filled the front water tank it seemed to fill very quickly and then start overflowing. I thought for sure we had a plug in the fill-tube and I pondered how to fix that, until I realized I had filled the tank for the head instead of the water tank. Duh!! Probably will never do that again! Sheesh!
We had a great Rally shrimp boil dinner that evening and by 9:00 pm were once again all on our boats and in bed. The next day’s run to Beaufort, NC, was only going to be a 23 nautical mile run so no need to get up so early and leave quickly. (Yes, we did get a pump-out of the head tank I filled the day before!)
We did make it to Beaufort with no difficulty. I’ll write more about the town in next week’s post, but we could see a definite change in more homes and boats along the edge of the ICW as we approached the town and denser populations. We also saw some hurricane damage as well and were amazed at how quickly it seemed repairs were being made.
Suffice it to say Beaufort is going to be a great place to stay for a couple of days! The weather is supposed to turn ugly the next couple of days so it will be good to be in a good slip (anchorages around here have quite poor holding so we’re all in slips again). And the town seems very delightful and friendly with some fun shops to go to, as well as a great Maritime Museum. That will be a trip for tomorrow!