The Route South

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Installment #5

When I last wrote you, Cindy & MORNING STAR were tied up in New Bern, NC and I was on a plane to Clearwater. I had scheduled a trip back for two weeks to work. That really worked out well because Chip had to have surgery on his knee and he was out of commission most of that two weeks. Fortunately he was on the mend when it was time for him to fly up and visit. Unfortunately, he wasn’t well enough to windsurf at Ocracoke. Maybe next time.
Courtyard - Downtown New Bern, NC

Saturday May 27,2006

I flew in last night in the middle of a thunderstorm. Chip came in the day before. We wandered the downtown a bit, went through the Saturday farmer’s market, had breakfast at the little Mennonite restaurant, made a trip to West Marine and then left for an overnight cruise to Upper Broad Creek. After lunch we had the dingy in the water and the 15 HP motor mounted for an exploration to the upper reaches of the creek. It was absolutely gorgeous! Totally wild and we only saw a few small fishing boats along the seven or eight miles of the creek.

When we got back we had to jury-rig the gas grill burner with a strip of aluminum cut from a beer can and a hose clamp so we could cook steaks for dinner. We took cocktail cruise in the dingy and wound up going by Blackbeard Sailing Club. We were waved ashore and given the tour of their facility by Ken, the dock master. Very friendly folks. We kept our promise to fire a sunset cannon salute, which they returned.

Sunday May 28, 2006

Had a lazy morning. Chip took a spinning rod in the dingy and ran back up the creek. We saw a few juvenile tarpon rolling yesterday and he was determined to try his luck. His luck wasn’t good.

After he returned, we all went dingy exploring in Fairfax Harbor. What a beautiful spot. There was a great marina, some nice looking, low-rise condos and a very handsome residential development, all very low impact. Expensive, but low key. Don’t know why anyone would want to live in Florida when they could have this!

We were back in our slip in New Bern by 2:15 PM. Chip has a plane to catch early tomorrow morning.

Monday May 29, 2006 – Memorial Day

We try to avoid traveling when boat traffic is real busy and since this is a holiday weekend we decided to stay put today.

We put Chip on his plane early in the morning and then spent the rest of the day touring around New Bern and puttering around on the boat.

Tuesday May 30, 2006

Our plans for an early departure were thwarted. Somebody stole Cindy’s bicycle seat! We couldn’t find anyplace open on Monday so we had to wait until 9 AM for the bike shop to open. Thirty minutes and $56 later we were ready to go!

We left our slip at the Sheraton in New Bern for the last time by 10:30 AM, heading down the Neuse River. By 1:30 PM we were abeam Oriental and had rejoined the ICW where we left it two weeks earlier. We rounded Maw Point Shoal, passed beneath Hobucken Bridge and by the Coast Guard station. That’s got to be remote and lonely duty. As we entered the Pamlico River we left the ICW and turned into Bond Creek where we anchored off Phil Rosch’s dock. Phil owns a Marine Trader 44, “Curmudgeon” and he and his lady friend entertained Cindy one night when I was gone.

Wednesday May 31, 2006

Phil came out in his dingy as we were pulling the anchor up. We chatted for a bit and left after promising to stop and stay a while on our return trip. We had the anchor up and were heading out of Bond Creek by 7:45 AM. We crossed the Pamlico River and rejoined the ICW as we entered the Pungo River. We were abeam the small town of Belhaven by 10:15 AM but didn’t stop. We entered the Alligator River – Pungo River Canal, a man-made cut that was straight and a bit boring, but not unpleasant traveling. We entered the Alligator River shortly after 2 PM and had the anchor down in the bight at the south end of the river by 2:45 PM. We are making good time now. We were treated to a military air show all afternoon.

Thursday June 1, 2006

We were up early and under way by 6:15 AM. We are due to cross Albemarle Sound, a body of water with a bad reputation. The wind has been light in the mornings and we want to use that to our advantage. We were under the Alligator River bridge by 8:30 AM and into Albemarle Sound shortly after. By 9 AM we were across the Sound and entering the Piankatank River. As we traveled up the river we passed a huge building which was a dirigible factory in World War II. It is still used today for making blimps. About a mile up river is the largest Coast Guard air station in the USA. We were treated to a steady stream of C-130s flying low overhead. I hope I never have to see one up close and personal under duress!
Blimp factory - Elizabeth City, NC

We arrived at Elizabeth City where we will hold over for the next two days. We were tied up at the FREE city dock by 12:45 PM. Shortly after we were secure, Fred Fearing, the founder of the “Rose-Buddies” showed up. As is tradition, he welcomed us and gave Cindy a pair of pruning scissors and instructed her to cut a rose from the bushes in the small park by the marina. This tradition has been going on since 1982. He does this every day, for every lady who shows up by boat. If there are five boats in the marina they also host a free wine and cheese party. This generous attitude has made Elizabeth City a favorite stopping place for cruisers who, in turn, stay a few days and eat in the restaurants and shop in the stores. One of the local groceries sends a van for boaters who wish to shop for groceries. When you are done with your shopping they take you back to the boat. This service is free. These folks could give lessons on how to treat visitors! All this because of Fred Fearing’s hospitality. Oh yea, I forgot to mention that Fred is 92 years old!
'Liz City, NC - It doesn't get much better!
Free docks! - Elizabeth City, NC

Saturday June 3, 2006

Today we “do” the Great Dismal Swamp Canal. It is anything but dismal today but back in “the day” it certainly was. George Washington surveyed the canal and he and several partners bought thousands of acres when he realized the profit potential because of the timber. The canal was hand dug to a depth of three feet, about 20 miles in length! During the Civil War it was a hiding place for runaway slaves. The Army Corps of Engineers dredged it to a serviceable depth, which is controlled by two locks, one at each end. Today it is no longer used much by commercial traffic but is now frequented by recreational boaters. The trees still overhang the water making almost otherworldly.
Transiting the Great Dismal Swamp Canal

We left Elizabeth City at 8 AM and ran north up the upper Pasquotank River. Its serpentine twists and lush vegetation make it the most beautiful river we have been on yet. It was raining off and on. By 10:30 AM we had run through Turners Cut and waited thirty minutes for the 11AM opening of the South Mills Lock. Since the lock only opens twice in the morning (8 & 11 AM) and twice in the afternoon (1:30 PM and 4 PM), timing is everything. Get there too late and you are stuck for the night! At 11:30 AM we had completed locking through and began the transit of the canal. It was pouring rain by 1 PM when we entered Virginia but by 3:30 PM, when we entered Deep Creek lock the rain had stopped.
Locking through - Dismal Swamp Canal

By 4:30 we had anchored in Deep Creek basin, a beautiful anchorage just off the ICW.
Jerry & Jeanette aboard "Whatever" at anchor in Deep Creek basin

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Week Four

Saturday May 6,2006

Lazy morning. Had breakfast, took on water, emptied the trash and walked up to the marina store (long hike) and bought eggs and mailed birthday and Mothers Day cards. Finally got away from the dock at 10:45 AM. After a brief harbor tour we headed for the ICW and points north. We were passed by two large container ships outbound for who-knows-where as we crossed the shipping channel on the way to he ICW. We traveled until about 4 PM when we pulled off the ICW at McClellanville, SC and anchored in Five Fathom Creek, in the salt marshes of the Cape St. Romain National Wildlife Refuge. McClellanville is small village but they are having a seafood festival this weekend and the little harbor is full of boats. A word about the salt marshes; the Georgia and South Carolina coasts and almost completely salt marsh and the ICW is primarily winding creeks through the marsh. The channel winds and twists and if you travel 50 miles and only make 20 miles as the crow flies. The marsh is beautiful but after a week or so it has become mind-numbing. But tonight we have peace and quiet.

Sunday May 7, 2006

We are up early, as is our habit, and under way by 7 AM. We are back in the ICW by 7:15 and headed north, destination – Georgetown, SC. Just last night we were commenting that we hadn’t seen an alligator yet, which was a surprise, given the marsh we have been in since before Jacksonville. Didn’t even see one going across Florida and Lake Okeechobee. Wouldn’t you know it, at 8 AM I spotted the first gator of the trip, swimming across the channel? He was a big guy, fully eight feet in length and broad across the back. Usually gators will lie in the water with only their eyes and the tip of their snout exposed. When you approach they slowly sink out of sight without leaving a ripple in the water. This guy was different. I guess when you are that big you don’t need to fear much and he went boldly across the channel, swimming on the top of the water. Once the gator spell was broken we saw four or five others within an hour. Now they don’t even rate a mention in the log.

We traveled north up the ICW, across the Little Santee River, entered Four Mile Creek and across the Santee River. At 9 AM we came upon our old traveling partner, “Sara Caitlin”, plodding along at her standard two mph. They travel slowly but 24 hours a day. We go three or four times faster but we stop at night. That means that we pass them during the day and they pass us at night. We have been playing leapfrog since Jekyll Island. I spoke with the captain on the radio. He informed me that they were moving the dredge and its barge all the way to Cape Fear, NC. Today it only took 20 minutes to get around him.

Shortly after 11 AM we turned into Georgetown, SC. We attempted to anchor three times but couldn’t get a good “stick”. Since we wanted to explore Georgetown and since there was severe weather forecast for later in the afternoon and evening, we took a berth at the local marina. Topped off with diesel fuel for $2.45/gal. – 25 cents cheaper than in St. Augustine. We got bad intell about what was open in town so we had lunch on the boat before walking the three blocks to “downtown”. I’m afraid that our informant didn’t understand about small southern towns. NOTHING is open on Sunday AM. Everybody is at church. But after noon many of the stores were opening up, including the ice cream parlor. We felt duty-bound to sample their wares. We worked it off by strolling around the town. It is a delightful little town. Many of the homes have historical plaques dating the houses to the early 1700’s. Remember, that’s before the Revolutionary War! Most of the rest of the houses and commercial buildings were dated around the time of the Civil War (a.k.a: The War of Northern Aggression). It didn’t appear that anything was built after 1900. I guess they were all done by then! The sound of thunder chased us back to the boat and the forecasted rain shower gave me time to get a quick oil change out of the way. The severe weather never did show up…at least not like we are used to in Florida. We gave Georgetown four gold stars!

Monday May 8, 2006

Started the engine at 6:45 AM and got away before 7 AM. Passed through the area known as “the Rockpile” and made our way to Myrtle Beach where we tied up at Barefoot Landing Marina at 2 PM. We saw Steve & Sherrie Keefer, old friends of Sharie and Bob, who we shared a week in Hope Town with several years ago. They picked us up and took us to their house and gave us the nickel tour. They built the house about three or four years ago when Steve was getting ready to retire from the FAA, where he worked as an air traffic controller. We had an enjoyable afternoon with them and capped it off with dinner at Greg Norman’s restaurant which is located right at Barefoot Landing.

Tuesday May 9, 2006

We got away at 7 AM and continued our way north in the ICW. We crossed into North Carolina about 8:45 AM. The tidal current was brutal and it slowed us down so much that we missed the timed opening of the Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge. We had to wait almost an hour for the next opening. Shortly after noon we passed through Lockwoods Folly, an inlet that has been the subject of much talk because shoaling is making it difficult to pass through and the budget cuts in the Army Corps Of Engineers, which is responsible for the maintenance of the ICW. Long story short…they found enough money and we passed a small dredge working when we went through. We saw the bottom come up to within 3 ft. of the bottom of the keel at low tide.

We entered the Cape Fear River and passed “Sara Caitlin” one last time. Shortly before 3:30 PM we tied alongside the dock at Carolina Beach State Park. Cindy fixed a great spaghetti dinner and then we took a walk…more like a hike in the woods. We saw countless birds and several whitetail deer. We are giving this place four gold stars also although it barely gets a mention in the cruising guides. Its only $20 per night including electricity but is short on amenities. No pool, no shopping, no nearby town. Hell for some, heaven to us.
A walk in the woods - Carolina Beach State Park
Carolina Beach State Park Marina

Today we turned the 1000-mile mark on the trip!

Wednesday May 10, 2006

Snow's Cut - Carolina Beach State Park
Had breakfast before departure this AM. Left Carolina Beach State Park at 7:20 AM and headed through Snow’s Cut with the tide under us – we’re doing almost 10 mph! Just barely made the Wrightsville Beach Bridge and the Figure Eight Island Bridge before our luck ran out. We missed the Surf City swing bridge opening and had to wait almost an hour so we anchored and had lunch. At 2 PM we passed New River Inlet and half an hour later we were anchored in Mile Hammock Bay. This is actually a part of Camp Lejeune and you aren’t allowed to go ashore. We saw lots of Corps activity…V22 Osprey’s (tilt-wing VTOL) flying right overhead. Google it for a look at one. We weren’t brave enough to break out the camera. Helicopters flying over ‘til about 11PM. We heard about some folks who anchored there earlier in the week and had a front row seat for night maneuvers! We watched the last half of “Buffalo Girls” on DVD. We now know why Cindy found it in the bargain rack. You’d think that with a cast like Angelica Huston and Melanie Griffith they could have done a better job!

Thursday May 11, 2006

Had the anchor up by 6:30 this morning. Passed through Onslow Beach Bridge at 7:10 AM. This bridge is noteworthy only because it is owned and operated by the USMC. Camp Lejeune owns this area, quite literally. We entered a section of the ICW, which has a large sign with flashing lights cautioning boats not to enter the area when the lights are lit because it is a LIVE FIRE RANGE! We transited this area for about an hour and a half. There are large guard towers at either end and they post a patrol boat at each end to make sure that no one stumbles into an area where they shouldn’t be.
Live Fire !!  Camp Lejune, NC

A few light showers sprinkled the windshield as we approached Morehead City but we never really got much more than that. We were tied up in Beaufort, NC in time to grab lunch at Clausen’s, a great restaurant in an historic building across from the marina. (by the way, this town is pronounced Boh-fort, not to be confused with the SC town of the same spelling) Keith Bishton, the Master Pool builder from Greenville, Sc stopped by in the afternoon. He and Carol have a boat and a place in Beaufort and spend most weekends here. We had a couple of beers and Keith showed us around town before we went to dinner. The promised rain and severe weather didn’t materialize overnight.

Friday May 12, 2006

Got a lazy start today. The bridge doesn’t open between 6:45 and 8 AM so we went out for breakfast and got under way at 8:15 to hit the 8:30 opening. We passed through Beaufort Channel and rejoined the ICW and entered the beautiful Adams creek. Adams creek dumps out into the Neuse River, which we crossed on the way to Oriental, NC. We tied up at the free town dock, which has room for only two boats. After lunch we unloaded our folding bicycles and toured the town. The waterfront is all business. Shrimp boats next to the pleasure boats. A few businesses along the waterfront, backed by residential sections. Not surprisingly, the older homes were close to town with a few newer subdivisions further away from town. We saw a KK42,”Neried” come through the bridge and anchor in the creek. A little while later Neried’s owners, Bob and Betty Rogers, stopped by for a chat. The Krogen community is small and close. The wind has continued to build throughout the afternoon. It was about 25 kts. And our spring line is bar-taut. Cindy bought local shrimp, which she fixed for dinner. Yummm.

Saturday May 13, 2006
Downtown street - New Bern, NC
Old church site - New Bern, NC

Departed Oriental at 6:50 AM, bypassing the ICW and heading up the Neuse to New Bern. Passed the KK Whaleback “Happy Ours”. Chatted them up on the VHF. We met them in Stuart and again in Jacksonville Beach. They left the New Bern Sheraton, our next destination, on their way to Norfolk.
We were tied up in our slip, A16, at the Sheraton by 10:30 AM. I face an afternoon of small chores since I’m leaving Cindy and MORNING STAR here for two weeks while I return to Clearwater. So far we have done 1151 miles. Still can’t believe we are doing this!