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