Close Enough For Practical Purposes

Day 238: Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Port to Port: Dismal Swamp Visitors Center to Portsmouth, Virginia

Underway: 6:58 am      Motor Off: 1:30 pm      Miles Traveled:       Stayed At: Free Dock

First Things First: First big naval shipyard.

Mile 28 to Mile 0: Officially, we are at Mile 0.5 but I think we can round down this time and say we have finished the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway after 995 miles starting in Stuart, Florida. Wow! We can’t believe we are done with another 1000 miles of the Great Loop. Like all the other legs of our trip, there were surprises, challenges and lots of new connections made. There was never a dull moment.

We crossed into Virginia at 7:32 am. We let Slow Churn pass us again at the lift bridge before the lock – they were going to stay at a free dock there for tonight so we again passed then and waved goodbye, until we meet again. Now we will start an exciting new phase of our adventure by exploring the Chesapeake Bay over the next few weeks and then moving on to New York City and the Hudson. It is all going so fast now – we have been traveling for nearly 8 months and it seems like yesterday when we left St. Paul, Minnesota. How are we going to go back to a normal life. That is going to be a lot harder than this trip has been so far.

The transition from relatively remote wilderness to bustling civilization was abrupt today. As soon as we turned the corner out of the Dismal Swamp channel, we were met with a line of boats traveling north on the eastern alternate route – they must have all locked through together a few miles downstream – and lots of industry. Big ships, tug boats, homeland security, big buildings, tall bridges and lots of cranes of all kinds soon filled the sky in front of us.

  We wove our way through the busy channel and soon found our chosen free dock on the waterfront in downtown Portsmouth. The Visitors Center is just across the little harbor from us, the ferry over to Norfolk docks a few hundred feet to the north and, surprisingly, we are the only boat in this harbor. There was one other boat at the other free dock but we are right next to the main police station here and the Visitor Center has a restroom open until 11:30 pm. Tomorrow, we plan to begin our explorations with a trip to the Maritime Museum in Norfolk and a visit to the USS Wisconsin battleship.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Day 237: Wednesday, April 29 , 2013

Port to Port: North Carolina Visitors Center

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Free Dock

Mile 28 to Mile 28: The morning brought spring rains. It rained all night – a gentle, steady spring rain – no wind and no thunder. We slept soundly all night. We brought some cinnamon rolls over to Slow Churn to bake and share and chatted for a while. We could travel today but neither of us seem real motivated to move on so we will get to spend one more day together before heading north. Tomorrow is supposed to be a lot nicer and the Visitors Center has restrooms, a lounge and free internet so we aren’t suffering at all.

After sitting in the nice visitor lounge catching up on the blog for a couple of hours, we decided to take a hike along the boardwalk at the Dismal Swamp Museum. The recent rains definitely made us appreciate the raised boardwalk we were walking on. Surprise, surprise…we are in a swamp. I can’t imagine the conditions the slaves and other workers had to endure to hand dig this canal through here. Although there are supposed to be large populations of black bear, deer and even some cougar, we only saw a few squirrels and a rabbit. Spring has sprung, though, and everything is fresh and green and even the flowers have started blooming.

We had a date with Slow Churn to make ebelskievers for dinner at about 5 pm so we wandered back to the boat, mixed all the ingredients, gathered the various implements we needed and got ready for another boat party. It’s always a treat to introduce our new friends to these addictive little round balls of decadence. We think they were a big hit since there wasn’t a single one left by the time we left for home. Do I hear the cash register at Amazon ringing another ebelskiever pan sale? At least Slow Churn has the room for an 8 lb chunk of cast iron.

We will say goodbye in the morning – we are leaving about 7 am to get to the bridge and lock early but Roger and Dorothy are early risers – usually up be 5:30 am – so we will say goodbye again in the morning. We may see them again in Portsmouth but you never know when the next time will be.


Skinnier and Skinnier and Skinnier…

Day 236: Sunday, April 28 , 2013

Port to Port: Elizabeth City to the Dismal Swamp Visitors Center Dock

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 23      Stayed At: Free Dock

First Things First: First pontoon bridge across the waterway.

Mile 51 to Mile 28: …not us, just the waterways we passed through today. After passing through a basqual draw bridge just minutes from the Wharf, we gradually wound our way north through a narrow (or so we thought) curvy tree lined river 18 miles north to the Dismal Swamp Canal. The waterway gradually got skinnier and skinnier to where we thought the trees overhanging the banks might touch the sidestays. The scenery was beautiful and we had it all to ourselves. Turtles were resting on every branch and log lying along the banks and geese and ducks were nesting on top of the numerous beaver mounds. Spring is in the air. Then we turned into the Dismal Swamp Canal and the path straightened out and got so skinny that the sides seemed to come to a point of light off in the distance. We just followed a narrow band of reflected sunshine down the middle of the channel. It would be a challenge to pass an oncoming boat by now. But it was calm, quiet and surreal. We finally saw a boat come up behind us and, surprise, surprise, it was our friends on Slow Churn.

We made our way to the Dismal Swamp Visitors Center where boaters can tie off to the pier (thank you North Carolina) and we tucked in behind Seaquel and Slow Churn (we let them pass us again). The pontoon bridge opened as we got close and we were soon docked and ready to explore. We chatted with everyone for a while and then Cindy and I walked across the pontoon bridge to go to the museum on the other side of the ditch. The Dismal Swamp area has a fascinating history – even George Washington owned land in the area. The ditch was used to move logs and shingles out of the swamps in the late 1800’s and is now a recreational canal – mostly for snowbirds and Loopers heading north and south.

We finished the day with a pot luck dinner on Slow Churn – we brought the rice cooker and made rice and beef tips and Dorothy made a wonderful orange chicken dish in her crockpot. We told stories and laughed until after nine -it is especially fun to travel with people you have gotten to know pretty well and enjoy spending time with.

There are only a few miles left of North Carolina before we enter Virginia. We are 28 miles from Portsmouth and Norfolk. Rain is forecast for tonight and tomorrow (100% chance) so we may stay here or move on to a dock up by the next lock tomorrow. We will see what the morning brings.

Getting Ready For the Dismal Swamp

Day 235: Saturday, April 27, 2013

Port to Port: Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled:  0     Stayed At: Free Dock

Mile 51 to Mile 51: I was up early so I quietly worked on the blog while Cindy got her beauty sleep. The city provides free internet at the docks here. This is definitely a must stop place on the Great Loop.

We met and chatted with several other neighbors at the docks here – most are snowbirds heading north to their summer homes. They have generously shared their local knowledge about neat places to stay in the Chesapeake. We are looking forward to exploring a lot as we gradually head north.

We needed to restock our fruit supply and get a few essentials so we were going to hike to the store but Frank and Juanita on Seaquel  (a mast free catamaran) loaned us their bikes to ride to the grocery store. We like to walk but biking takes a lot less time and it wasn’t very scenic along the main highway – just a long stretch of strip malls and fast food restaurants. After our errands, we decided to check out the Albemarle Museum to learn a little more about the history of this area. It is housed in a nice new building just a few blocks from the wharf. This area has a colorful history – from the original native American’s to pirates to war to the tourist era today. The area is now trying to become a regional tourist destination although the economy is heavily dependent on the local coast guard station – the largest in the continental US – and government services like public schools and the courthouse.

We got together with Roger and Dorothy on Slow Churn for dinner – Dorothy made an amazing homemade pizza and we made strawberry margaritas and brought a fruit plate. We enjoyed some hilarious stories of their many adventures traveling up and down the ICW – there is a reason their boat is called Slow Churn (it has something to do with all the shoals and mud flats which seem to have a magnetic attraction to Roger). We finished the night with a brutal game of Doodle Dice. They had never played but that didn’t stop Dorothy from creaming us in her first game. We will hopefully get one more night to visit along the “ditch” before they pass us one last time and head home to New Jersey. We will miss them.

Just to give you an idea of how our fellow boaters view us and our little boat, I have to share a little clip of a recent email we received from Slow Churn:

    “As we have been steadily moving north, we have been stalking another mid-western couple on a boat. This time it is a sailboat, but they have lot of mid western traits. The woman is named Cindy, a common Midwestern name,( I guess), and the man is named Mike, (a four letter name like Bill), and they live in Minnesota, up near Michigan, (I think). The key trait is that they are real nice people.
     Although we pass them on the water, they always end up ahead of us 2 days latter. They are in a 22 foot sail boat with a 8 HP engine, so they only go 5 MPH, but they run for 10 or 12 hours a day, sometimes into the night. We have watched them buzz by, while we are tied up at a marina, watching Judge Judy on TV, just before our dinner.
    They actually stopped for a 2 days, here in Elizabeth City, so we all went out to eat last night and we invited them over for Dorothy’s home made Pizza tonight. Mike brought a bunch of stuff to make fruity drinks, along with a blender to make them in. We don’t have a blender on our boat, and they don’t have electricity on their’s, but with everything together we made some good drinks to go with the Pizza. With some luck, we will run into them again, while they make there way up thru NY to Canada.”
Just so you know, Cindy and I laughed so hard while reading this we were crying. The people you meet on the Great Loop are definitely special.

It’ A Boat Parade

Day 234: Friday, April 26, 2013

Port to Port: Alligator River Marina to Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

Underway: 7:45 am      Motor Off: 1:45 pm      Miles Traveled: 33       Stayed At: Free Dock

First Things First: First play at a small town theatre.

Mile 84 to Mile 51: After a quiet but short night we were up early to see if today would be a good day to cross Albemarle Sound. The winds were light and the sun was shining and several boats has already headed out early so it looked like a go. We filled up our gas cans, checked the weather, used the restrooms and even squeezed in a quick and wonderful breakfast at the café before joining the boat parade heading north.

Conditions were ideal. There was only a light chop and the wind was on our nose for the first hour or so. There are two routes to take – one goes more east through some bigger water and the other veers west and then north through the narrow and quiet Dismal Swamp cut. We chose the latter. More than half the boats went the other way – expecially the power boats.

We made good time and were cruising at 5.5 mph. We were able to raise the sails for the last 20 miles and cruised along on a beautiful spring day at 6 mph under full sail across Albemarle Sound and up to Elizabeth City. They have a bunch of free docks available for cruisers. As we were approaching the town, a familiar power boat came slowly up behind us and we soon were chatting with our friends Roger and Dorothy on Slow Churn. We had passed them again and they caught up again. What a nice surprise. We slid into they slip right beside them where Gus – part of the local welcoming committee – grabbed our lines to help up dock.

Elizabeth City tries to be the City of Hospitality they live up to their name. Friends of guys named Fred Fearing and Joe Kramer, who started this idea to help boaters, work to continue the tradition. They have an international reputation for their hospitality. They even sponsor regular wine and cheese get togethers and, in season, provide fresh cut flowers to visitors from rose bushes transplanted from Joe Kramers original garden. What a great place to visit.

The Visitors Bureau was only a block away and they gave us the codes to the bathrooms and information on groceries and other activities. They even were willing to drop people off at the grocery store. They mentioned a play being presented at the local theatre – The Dixie Girls Swim Club. We have been wanting to take in a local play so we bought tickets for this evening. (You never know what the day will bring on the Great Loop). We went out to dinner with Slow Churn and enjoyed sharing stories again. They are staying an extra day here too so we will get to spend more time tomorrow hanging out and exploring.

The play was hilarious and we met some other boaters there too – Paul and Judy on the Four Seas parked two boats down from us. Just in the last couple of days, we have met probably a dozen new people on some kind of adventure on lots of different kinds of boats. Plus all of the local people at the marinas and towns we visit. We love hearing all of the stories and getting to know our fellow travelers. It’s a wonderful life on the Great Loop.

Tough Decisions

Day 233: Saturday, April 25 , 2013

Port to Port: Tuckahoe Point Anchorage to Alligator River Marina

Underway: 6:38 am      Motor Off:6:53 pm      Miles Traveled: 20      Stayed At: Marina

Mile 104 to Mile 94: We had a touch decision today. The weather forecast was sketchy – a front was coming in after noon with north winds and a little rain but we had planned to stop at a marina about 20 miles north to wait for perfect weather to cross our last nasty body of water Albermer Sound. Conditions looked good in the early morning light. It was actually warm and humid when we got up. The winds were light. And we were only going to go 20 miles. That should be a “breeze” compared to our long day yesterday. What could go wrong?

Well, nothing went wrong. But the last 30 minutes of our journey was the most challenging of our entire trip. The first 90 minutes were fine. Overcast skies but not threatening rain. A nice breeze allowing us to motorsail on a beam reach for a while. A light chop. Then the wind shifted fairly fast to where the sails were just flapping so we took the sails down. Then a slightly darker curl of clouds started coming towards us. It was actually kind of beautiful. But then, within minutes the wind picked up and was probably gusting over 20 mph. Still, the water was relatively flat. That didn’t last long though. As the wind kept blowing across many miles of fetch down the Alligator River, the waves built to where we were regularly getting sprayed breaking through the bigger sets. It was decision time again. Do we continue or bailout to a little river about a mile and a half to the west of us across the now nasty chop and rollers. Thankfully, we made a quick decision. We went for the anchorage.

Our adventure was not over yet though. The waves kept building and now were hitting us broadside. Aurora was doing pretty good but every once in a while, a large series would get us rocking pretty good. Boris kept chugging along. The hairiest part was yet to come, though. Our chosen anchorage is well protected but happens to be a challenge to snake your way into. There are no markers – just hundreds of dead trees and snags with a few crab pots thrown in just to make it interesting. And the waves and current were doing their best to keep us from threading our way in. We could only navigate by our chart plotter and hope the satellites were telling us the truth about where we were. Somehow or another we missed all the snags, underwater logs, shallow spots and crab pots and popped out into calm protected waters. Whew! I don’t want to try that again.

We were anchored by 9:30 am – the anchor held the first time – and were soon dried off and laying down reading and relaxing as the wind kept building and howling outside. Our only frustration is that we don’t have internet or phone. We have been out contact for a couple of days. It drives Cindy nuts.

We had expected to hunker down overnight and try again tomorrow but we decided to call the marina 10 miles north at about 4 pm to get a weather update for tomorrow and reserve a spot. They couldn’t tell us much but Greg and Susan on Allegria overheard our call and called us back on the radio. They happened to be passing by out on the river and told us that is was lumpy but the waves had died down some and that is probably would be okay now to head up to the marina. Well, that sounded a lot better than staying all alone back in the anchorage so we quickly got ready, raised the anchor and retraced our steps back out and headed up the bay to the marina. It was lumpy but we weren’t getting any salt spray anymore.

It took a while but we finally pulled into the marina at a little before 7 pm and found an almost full house of other boats that had pulled in today too. It was immediate social hour. We quickly got things put away and ordered hamburgers at the little restaurant/marina/gas station – they stop taking orders at 7 pm so we were just in time. We chatted with several boaters before we even got off the boat. We met another boater couple – Dan and Sue on Southern Cross – during dinner. They are on a 40’ Freedom which I really like so we invited ourselves over later to take a look inside. We first stopped by to visit Allegria and thank them for their help and advice. They shared some of their adventures and lots of local knowledge with us about the Chesapeake and waters north. We are getting excited to explore some more. We stopped by to take a quick tour of Southern Cross at 9 pm. Our quick tour took 2 hours we were having so much fun chatting and sharing stories. We didn’t get done with our socializing until 11:00 pm – way past Cindy’s bedtime – and we still wanted to squeeze in showers so we would be ready to go if the weather was good in the morning. We have one more big body of water to get across –  Albemarle Sound – before we get to the Dismal Swamp. Lets hope the weather cooperates tomorrow.

We ‘R Crazy

Day 232: Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Port to Port: Cedar Creek Anchorage to Tuckahoe Pt Anchorage

Underway: 6:31 am      Motor Off: 8:13 pm      Miles Traveled: 84      Stayed At: Anchor

First Things First: First (and last) 80+ mile day; first time seeing Pepsi in glass bottles since I was a kid.

Mile 187 to Mile 104: Our goal today was Belhaven at about Mile 135. A longish day at 52 miles but conditions were finally perfect for getting across several large bodies of water – the Neuse River, Pamlico River and Pungo River can get rough in windy conditions so we need to take advantage of the window that we have. We got up early and left before the sun rose. Several boats anchored with us had the same idea and left about the same time. In fact, lots of people had the same idea. I don’t know where they all came from, but by the time we were crossing the first part of the Neuse River, there were 9 boats – mostly sailboats in front of us and another half dozen coming up from behind. Grand Central Station. Everyone has been patiently waiting for a good day to travel.

Well, it turned out to be a great travel day. The wind, tide and waves were in our favor all day. Even with a quick stop for gas at Hobucken Marina, we were at the turn for Belhaven by early afternoon and we still had great conditions. So we kept going to an anchorage another 6 miles east to be done (for a little while) with the big water. But then we were speeding along at the beginning of a long narrow cut at 6.9 to 7.1 mph with the wind and current in our favor (on a warm, sunny day). So we kept going to an anchorage near a bridge at Mile 114. But we were still going almost 7 mph and we calculated that we could get to the next available anchorage at Mile 105 at the beginning of the Alligator River at about 7:45 pm – at sunset – so we kept going. We lucked out and kept our speed over 6.5 mph the whole way and, except for having to anchor 3 times to get the anchor to set, we were tired but secure by a little after 8 pm as the full moon was rising over the opposite horizon from the sunset. Now we only have two more big bodies of water to traverse – the Alligator River and Albermer Sound – before we start down the famous Dismal Swamp on our way to Norfolk, Virginia and Mile 0.

Click Here: Cruising Along

It all sounds easy and obvious after the fact, but we agonized over every change in plans throughout the day. Will the weather hold out? What will the next anchorage look like? Will it be crowded? Will we have enough fuel? Will the current die on us? What will the waves look like on the next bay? Will the wind shift? Although it was a perfect travel day, we didn’t really relax all day. We are ready to be done with these big bodies of water – we can’t wait for the Dismal Swamp.

Movin’ On

Day 231: Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Port to Port: Morehead City to Cedar Creek Anchorage

Underway: 12:20 pm      Motor Off: 5:05 pm      Miles Traveled:       Stayed At: Anchor

First Things First: Found our first puffer fish laying on the dock this morning – threw him back in.

Mile 205 to Mile 187: After an unexpectedly long but fun stay at Portside Marina in Morehead City, we finally cast off our lines after lunch for a short cruise up river to an anchorage about 18 miles away. It took us forever – against a strong north wind and an equally strong unfavorable current. We averaged somewhere around 4 mph. At least the sun finally made an appearance after hiding for several days and the clouds cleared out completely by the time we were anchored.

Boris purred like a kitten all the way today. We are always nervous but especially so after he got twisted around and bent. You never know what could have been messed up. Surprisingly, he started the first pull both for my test after I remounted him and when we left. So far, so good.

We are excited to get moving again and finish up the next 200 miles. We will need a good weather window to get across a couple large shallow bodies of water but all we can do is take it one day at a time and see where we get. We aren’t on a schedule or in a hurry which makes for much safer travel. We will get there, we just don’t know when.

Saying good bye to our new friends Denard and Kay was hard. They have been incredibly nice to us and made our unplanned stay a treat. We will miss them and hope to visit again in the future.

It Could Be Worse

Day 230: Monday, April 22 , 2013

Port to Port: Morehead City, North Carolina

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

Mile 205 to Mile 205: It could be snowing – 15+ back in Mound over the last week with more in the forecast. The ice is still frozen – they may even postpone the fishing opener because the lakes won’t be thawed by then. Yuck!

After a long stretch of ideal travel weather, we have finally had to wait for better conditions. It’s windy, rainy and cool today. Coastal flooding is likely tonight where we have to travel due to high tides and wind driven tidal surges. The wind is gusting to 30+. We have several big bodies of water to traverse so we are camped out until we can travel safely again.

We are not suffering, though. We are being well taken care of here at Portside Marina. They have repaired Boris and I changed the lower unit oil today. I reassembled the motor lift (without dropping any parts in the water) after Bill straightened out the lift bracket. It seems to work as good as new. Denard even dropped lunch off this afternoon. Wow! As soon as conditions improve, I plan to remount the motor and run it for a while to test it.

For fun, we watched a couple Redbox movies, went for a walk during a lull in the rain, made beef stew for dinner and treated ourselves to an ice cream cone. We still didn’t get a nap, though.

We are looking forward to better weather but we are going to be sad to leave. This has been a stop we will remember forever. We feel like family. It came at a good time too because we have been traveling pretty hard lately and we were feeling a little burned out and homesick.

Speaking of weather. Remember our story many months ago about Izola’s Place in Louisiana, Missouri – one of our favorite breakfast places of the trip? I happened to be watching the news yesterday in the marina office and saw a brief clip about the flooding along the Mississippi. One of the pictures they showed looked like her restaurant with water half way up the front of the building. I checked online today and it was her place. This is devastating – someone who works 12 hours a day just to make a living now has to start over from scratch. I can’t believe the hardworking, struggling communities along the river suffering from drought last fall are now getting flooded out. It really hits home and makes us appreciate everyday – even the cold, rainy ones.


Day 229: Sunday, April  21, 2013

Port to Port: Morehead City, North Carolina

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

Mile 205 to Mile 205: Wow, is it windy today. You really feel gusts up to 40 mph. We are really glad to be securely tied up at the dock with nothing really important to do today. Even though our little basin is mostly protected from the north, there are still whitecaps being generated.

We slept in a little and lazed around in the morning. We had a Redbox movie – The Life of Pi – that we didn’t watch yesterday (because of our impromtu party) so that seemed like a good start to the day. We did some reorganizing while watching the movie. This is a great movie – it really should be seen on a big screen, though, with all the gorgeous photography.

I went up to do some computer work and blogging in the marina office and Cindy brought lunch (chicken wings and rice) that we enjoyed sharing with Denard and Kay – they shared some fresh caught trout with us. What a wonderful place to be stranded for a few days. We feel like part of the family.

We are going to be here for a couple more days waiting for good travel weather. If you are going to be stranded, this is the place for it to happen. As I write this, we are sitting in the marina lobby watching TV and enjoying being able to stretch out and relax – Cindy is sitting in her jammies in a comfy rocking chair. Denard gave us the keys to the marina again just in case we were feeling cooped up. Rough life.

Plans Are Meant to Be Broken

Day 228: Saturday, April 20 , 2013

Port to Port: Morehead City, North Carolina

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0     Stayed At: Marina

Mile 205 to Mile 205: After a lot of rain and a little thunder overnight, the wind shifted to the north and the marina basin calmed down making for a relatively quite nights sleep. It would have been a good day to get to the next marina but Boris is still being worked on so today is a day to explore. Sometimes it’s nice to not have a choice in staying or going – we can just relax and make the most of our situation.

We decided to start with breakfast at Georgia B’s – from the outside you can hardly tell it’s open but inside it is very nice. The tables even are custom made with the restaurant logo. Lots of nice touches. The breakfast was wonderful too – 2 eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and a homemade biscuit. Cindy had french toast. We won’t be suffering if we have to stay in Morehead several more days.

Did I mention the harbormaster, Denard and his wife, Kay, have six college degrees between them (including undergrad, graduate and phd’s in economics/finance and biology, respectively. And now they are marina owners. It is interesting where life takes you.

Denard loaned us his truck to go to the Aquarium and Walmart. The Aquarium was crowded with families and kids but that made it even more fun. The main pool had hundreds of fish swimming through it including several sharks. The giant 8” thick epoxy windows were crystal clear and you felt like you were swimming with the fish. We stopped at the beach on the way to Walmart and enjoyed watching the waves crash on shore at a mostly empty beach (windy and cool). We stocked up at Walmart and returned to the marina to eat our bucket of chicken wings and watch a movie. Or so we thought.

Click Here: Aquarium Movie

Denard told us that a couple we met on the dock from the neighboring condo – Jim and Karen – had invited us to the Cape Lookout Yacht Club party. Plans are meant to be broken. We quickly stowed our purchases, cleaned up a little and joined Denard and Kay at the party. What a blast. We met a bunch of great people, drank some wine and enjoyed snacks for a couple hours. We even met Cheryl who grew up in Hutchinson – about 50 miles west of Mound. Her Mom used to work at Tonka Toys in Mound about the same time my Mom worked there. We ended up going to dinner with Jim, Karen, Bill and Susan and having a wonderful evening (although I did pay for eating too many onion rings). When we woke up in the morning we didn’t know what the day would bring. In the end, it turned out to be a great day on the Great Loop.


Day 227: Friday, April 19, 2013

Port to Port: Morehead City, North Carolina

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0       Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: First time getting hit by another boat (I knew I shouldn’t have written about that the other day); first maritime museum.

Mile 205 to Mile 205: The wind is howling and the waves are crashing today so we are staying put to wait for the front to pass before moving on. We went out to a late breakfast at Pete’s – okay but nothing special. We borrowed a couple bikes to head over the bridge about 2 miles to the little town of Beaufort. There are some neat shops there and a highly recommended Maritime Museum. Our friends on Slow Churn are at a marina there too and we wanted to stop by and say high. So off we went.

Well, it probably would have been almost as fast to walk. There were no sidewalks and the walkway over the long bridge was so narrow, you had to walk the bikes the whole way. The traffic was horrendous too. Cindy thought she was going to die. We always feel less safe walking along the road than out on the water. We made it in one piece and low and be-hold, who do we meet within minutes of getting to town – Roger and Dorothy from Slow Churn. They were coming out of the museum just as we were going in. What an amazing coincidence. So we made plans to meet in a little while to go to lunch after we finished with the museum.

The Beaufort Maritime Museum was a pleasure. The coolest part was relics from the pirate Blackbeards ship – Queen Anne’s Revenge. What a strange and colorful part of this area’s history. There is also another building where small wood boats are being built using the old techniques. Hopefully this will be the first of many maritime museums that we get to explore.

We had a fun lunch, did some quick window shopping and headed home to get things ready to potentially leave tomorrow if the wind dies down. Well, our plans are now in limbo. Cindy was on the boat and I was walking down the dock as a Tow Boat US boat was maneuvering a cruiser onto the dock when he got caught in the tide and forgot to look behind him as his backend swung in and hit Boris and twisted her so hard it bent a bracket and broke the latch that holds the motor up. Shit happens but its still a bummer. On the plus side, this is a good place to be stranded for a few days and Denard (the harbormaster) is working hard to get it fixed and back to normal. The winds are going to be howling again Sunday and Monday so we are going to make the best of an unfortunate situation and enjoy our stay in Morehead City. Maybe we’ll have time to do a little longer range planning now. And take a nap. And watch a movie. And take another nap. Cindy likes that idea.

As I’m writing this, we are awaiting the arrival of the storm front (the same one that dropped snow on Minnesota, rain in Chicago and tornadoes in the south) and the wind and rain soon to come. Denard was nice enough to give us the keys to the Marina just in case it gets too wild to stay on the boat. It at least gives us a nice piece of mind to know we have that option. Stay tuned for more news tomorrow.

Click Here: Reflections

It’s Really a Small World

Day 226: Thursday, April 18, 2013

Port to Port: Swansboro to Morehead City, North Carolina

Underway: 8:45 am      Motor Off: 1:33 pm      Miles Traveled: 23      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: First time a harbormaster laughed at us when we said we were 22’ long (in a nice way); first time a harbormaster has greeted us as we came in and shook our hands; first time sharing a dock with a 154’ luxury yacht.

Mile 228 to Mile 205: Finally, a leisurely day. We only had to travel 23 miles to our planned destination – Morehead City, North Carolina – just across the river from Beaufort, NC. We are going to camp out here for a few days waiting for a strong cold to pass through so we can continue on across a couple large open water passages as we head north. We had a wonderful motorsail up Bogue Sound on a warm, sunny day. We learned soon after we were docked that 7” of new snow had fallen in Mound, MN with more on the way and that they had even closed the schools – in late April. We are lucky to be here.

We have two small world stories. The harbormaster, Denard, noticed our Minnesota Gopher hats and commented that the new athletic director for the University of Minnesota – Norwood Teague – has a boat at this marina – he is originally from this area. I would bet money that he knows Cindy’s brother Scott and sister-in-law Sue really well since they have both been actively involved in the new football stadium and other University programs. Even more amazing is our neighbor – Beowulf. Mary – who expertly backed her boat into their slip in a stiff current and wind – noticed our MN boat stickers and we started chatting. It turns out she graduated from Mound High School in 1959 (I graduated in 1975) – she was back to Mound for their 50th High School Reunion a few years ago. She sailed on Minnetonka as a kid, has been to Al and Alma’s and grew up on the lake by the Narrows Bridge where my Dad used to love to fish. What an amazingly small world.

We have another interesting neighbor here at Portside Marina. Her name is Cherosa. She is a beautiful, blue hulled, 154’ long, Swiftsure luxury yacht owned by the Chase family. She had to be towed (by Sea Tow, believe it or not) onto the end dock after experiencing a problem with her fuel system that caused seawater to get into the diesel fuel which led to problems with the generators and engines. That’s a bad thing. I don’t know how full her fuel tanks were but she holds 15,500 gallons – all contaminated. Yikes. They have had to pump all the fuel off and are now cleaning the tanks and testing all the other systems for damage. It is interesting to juxtapose Aurora and Cherosa – we hold about 20 gallons of fuel versus 15,500; we have a 120 mile range versus 3,000; we sleeps 2 (barely) versus 10 plus 7 crew in luxury accomadations; we carry about 15 gallons of water versus 18,550; we cruise at 5.5 mph versus 21; we have 8 hp versus 4,500 hp; we don’t carry a car onboard – Cherosa has room for a Smart Car – her “dinghy” is bigger than Aurora. She makes a good neighbor – she is quiet, beautiful and makes a good wind break. And we have Chase credit cards.

Missiles and Machine Guns

Day 225: Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Port to Port: Sloop Point to Swansboro, North Carolina

Underway: 8:00 am      Motor Off: 3:10 pm      Miles Traveled: 36      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: First time watching missiles being shot off across the ocean and machine guns shooting at drones; first time seeing marines training; first time meeting someone who randomly found our blog before meeting us (Hi Chris – maybe we will see you in Florida someday); first time seeing a parrot at a marina.

Mile 264 to Mile 228: After a quiet night at anchor, we got going just in time to get to the next bridge which only opens on the hour – we almost didn’t make it because we dawdled too much but we got there with a couple minutes to spare. We have been really lucky with the bridges – it is hard to plan 15 miles out with the current and wind.

The scenery was very rural most of the day. Surprisingly, only two cruisers passed us going north – one right away in the morning and the other late in the afternoon. A busy day on the ICW. We must still be ahead of the snowbirds.

We passed by Camp LeJeune which straddles the ICW. It’s not everyday you hear and see people shooting what sound like big and loud machine guns at small drones (hopefully these are $100 Hobby Town model airplanes) with an occasional missile launch aimed at something out in the ocean. They sometimes randomly close the ICW for up to 3 hours if they are shooting across the channel. That would screw up your schedule. You never know what you’re going to see on the Great Loop.

After we got gassed up and cleaned up, we decided to walk to town to stretch our legs and check out the little downtown. Sadly, most of the shops were already closed but it was a nice walk (and you can’t spend money when the stores aren’t open). We had planned to cook pork chops on the boat but we followed some good smells to the Icehouse Restaurant and decided to splurge and eat out. Cindy had an amazing fish sandwich and I had one of the best hamburgers of the trip. As an extra bonus, they serve hot fresh bread as a free appetizer (wish you were here Sarah). What a deal.

Our destination today was Dudleys Marina in Swansboro, North Carolina. It has gotten good recommendations on Active Captain and only charges $0.75/ft. We weren’t expecting much but we were pleasantly surprised. The docks are old but everyone is really helpful – it is a family owned business – they have internet and electricity is included. The showers were clean and hot. There is a gas station onsite ($3.39/gal) and they have a well-stocked ships store. They even have a courtesy car. And did I mention they have a 60 year old parrot named Clyde who likes to sit on the fence outside the store and watch people come and go? Well they do and he does. What more could you ask for?

In Passing: Shackelfoot Canal, Hammock Bay, Alligator Bay, Stump Sound

Worry Warts

Day 224: Tuesday, April 16 , 2013

Port to Port: Southport to Sloop Point

Underway: 8:55 am      Motor Off: 6:20 pm      Miles Traveled:       Stayed At: Anchor

First Things First: First time hearing the surf crashing onshore from our anchorage; first ICW Mile Marker #290 (there are supposed to be more of them but we have missed them all until now).

Mile 309 to Mile 264: Our first goal this morning was to get through the wide open part of the Cape Fear River and back in the more protected channel of the ICW. (Cape Fear just sounds a little scary doesn’t it. It doesn’t help that we have seen a movie by that name which was a suspense thriller to say the least). Conditions were ideal for our transit but that doesn’t mean we didn’t stress out about it for a couple of hours. What if?

In case anyone is thinking this journey is all sunshine and rainbows, you would be mistaken. We worry (some of us more than others) about lots of things. Our worries are a little different from our normal life but the list is long non-the-less. Rain, wind, electrical malfunctions, cold, hot flashes, sinking, leaks, our kids, family, getting hit by a car walking along busy roads to get gas, storms, will the anchor hold, will we hit something underwater, will something hit us, mechanical problems, injuries, falling overboard, where is the next buoy, what’s that noise, getting lost, can we make it before dark, where are we going to stay, when should we leave, waves, tides, will someone hear us on the radio when we need them to, and what is there to snack on are just a few of our worries. We wouldn’t trade this life for our normal life at this point – we have never felt more alive but we do have worries that keep us busy.

We chatted with Slow Churn on the radio as they passed by us in the morning. Fun to meet people you know as you travel along. The scenery didn’t vary much all day – lots of houses and docks along the mainland and marshland and woods along the barrier island side. The wind was on the nose until about 3 pm when we were able to raise the mainsail to give us a boost for the last 3 hours mostly against the current.

Tomorrow we plan to stop at a small marina just before the next large body of water – the Neuse River and Pamlico Sound – we need to navigate to get to Beaufort, North Carolina where we will probably stay for a couple of days to rest and relax. Hey man, no worries.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Day 223: Monday, April 15, 2013

Port to Port: Little River Anchorage to Southport, North Carolina

Underway: 8:37 am      Motor Off: 3:20 pm      Miles Traveled: 33       Stayed At: Free Dock

First Things First: First time in North Carolina.

Mile 342 to Mile 309: After a dark and stormy night (the other kind of dark and stormy), we awoke to overcast skies and wind out of the northeast. It rained steady all night but there wasn’t any thunder and the wind gusts were manageable. It still makes sleep difficult, though, with all the new noises and the uncertainty of the weather. It is also hard to get used to the idea that our home is attached to a thin piece of rope which is attached to a fairly light anchor which hopefully is stuck securely in the mud at the bottom of the river. Only a little disconcerting.

Yesterday we didn’t want to quit, today we couldn’t wait to be done. Our goal was Southport only 33 miles up the ICW. It seemed to take forever. The skies were overcast. The wind was howling right at us all day bringing in a strong high pressure system. The waves were against us. And, except for an hour in the morning, we fought the current all day. We were lucky to go 5 mph. I guess you can’t win them all.

We slogged through the day counting off the miles one at a time. There were several choices to stay in Southport – the city allows transients to stay a day on the end of their municipal dock, we could anchor in the small harbor, we could dock at the Provisions Restaurant and stay overnight for free if we ate dinner there or we could find a marina. We ended up at the restaurant. The free dock was taken by a cruiser that had passed us, the harbor was tiny and a boat was already anchored in the middle and we aren’t desperate for a marina yet. It turns out, the food was excellent and the prices reasonable at The Provisions and we didn’t have to cook. All’s well that ends well.

In Passing: Little Saucepan Creek, Sunset Beach, Mad Inlet, Calabash River, Bonaparte Creek, Lockwoods Folly River, Deadback Water, and Corkins Neck.