Saturday, November 28, 2015

Mile Hammock Bay (ICW 0244) to Southport Marina (ICW 0___)

Up at 6:15 again but it is still too dark at 6:30 to leave due to our experience yesterday.  We want better visibility and attention to our course from now on including both us on watch as much as possible so we are letting the sky lighten at little more before we head out.  Laying here quietly at anchor it is so still and quiet that the water looks like old rippley glass and every boat points a different direction in the soft early morning light.  Slowly the eastern reddening sky lent its color to the tranquil bay waters.  Our bow was pointing west with the chain straight down though our anchor is hooked toward the east.

6:50, the anchor is up, and we headed out channel toward the main ICW.  Now I know why we had trouble getting the anchor to set.  Parts of the chain were caked in mud but most of it was clean as a whistle.  There must be lots of grass down there and only pockets of mud for the anchor to grab.  

Up ahead there were diving birds, no, a pod of dolphins surfacing and diving so we kept the RPM’s at minimal speed.  We passed by the main pod and they reversed their direction to accompany us for a few minutes which we thought was delightful.  Soon they tired of us and we both sped off in our selective directions but it was a nice start to the day plus Bob has now seen his first dolphin of our trip south.  With many more dolphin sightings throughout the day I am naming this Dolphin Day!

We decided to stop at Zimmerman Marine Yard in Southport since our alternator belt is still whining. We cranked the engine up to 2000 rpms and sped upriver, passing Carolina Beach where most of the other boats in our pod were stopping for the night and we went against the current through Snows Cut.  Next we entered Cape Fear River and were with the current so our SOG was 10 and 11 knots which helped to bring us in to Southport at 4pm, an hour earlier than predicted.  Boy it’s awesome to have a fast boat!   

As we neared the marina we went through the engine rpms again and…hardly any whine at all.  Go Figure!  The marina is very nice and a lot of people were on their boats.  I had hopes of doing some sanding and varnish work but felt self-conscious running the sander here.  The showers were the best of anyplace we’ve been and the wifi works, no problem, first time, all the time.  5 stars!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Running Aground...Spooners Creek Marina (ICW 0210) to Mile Hammock Bay (ICW 0244)

The Marina opened at 8am and Joseph, a very nice marina employee, helped us with a pump out and took our payment for last nights stay.  We were getting in the habit of getting a receipt for pump outs.  Want to keep the EPA happy.  Anchoring at 4:15pm in an ample sized bay of the ICW, we had only covered 34 miles but had a good reason, or a bad one, depending on how you look at it. 
Running Aground

Another first; today we ran aground.  Traveling along with a good current and wind on our backs, we noticed a 40 foot sailboat up ahead with its sails up and crosswise to the channel.  There were about a half dozen small open fishing boats in the same vicinity.  It was a curious thing we thought but did not decrease speed.  The channel was wide and there had been no need of any buoys or markers for some time.  A 35 foot sailboat in front of us hailed the one with the sails up on Channel 16 with no response.  They took the 40 footer on their starboard side.  As we approached we noticed that the small sailboat had gone hard aground and so was the larger one.  About the same moment we noticed a green buoy G 61A to starboard of both boats and only about 20 feet from the shore.  We made for the buoy but hit a shoal before we got there to make us grounded boat number three. 

Within 10 minutes a ketch approached and 40 foot sail hailed him to stay well to starboard of us.  He also ran aground but was able to reverse free and continue through the channel.  A friendly local boat carried an anchor up current for us but against the current and the wind we could not wrench ourselves free.  30 foot sail called Sea Tow and after another 45 minutes the rescue boat arrived to rescue everyone.  While we were waiting the Krogen Forever Exploring we had seen in Elizabeth City passed us, 

We have a Boat US Membership but their wait was 1.5 hours so we paid Sea Tow to pull us off.  I see a second membership in the very near future.   Apparently boats hit the shoal here all the time so in the future, heads up at ICW 0239, Buoy G 61A just north of Freemans Creek.  We could have waited until the tide changed and maybe taken ourselves off but the wind was not expected to let up and it would have been dusk. 
As for anchoring, this is the first place we had difficulty getting our anchor to hold.  We backed down at least 10 boat lengths before if took hold.  Forever Exploring was already there all snuggled in.  Four sail boats came after us, but there was plenty of room.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Day...Gale Creek East ICW 160 to Spooners Creek, Morehead City, NC (ICW 210)

Scary day today on two accounts.  The first one was when we were going under the highway bridge followed immediately by the railroad bridge in Morehead City.  Since the autopilot does a fabulous job of keeping the boat in a straight line I was letting it do what it does best – drive in a straight line.  At the center of the bridge, however, it suddenly took a hard right turn towards the bridge abutment.  I immediately turned off the autopilot and corrected our course but it was good for my cardiovascular system to get revved up for a while!  The autopilot gets its heading from a magnetic compass, and the railroad bridge is made of steel.  Another lessened learned!  

We had a busy time going through Morehead City which was very confusing and busy with small fishing boats since it was a) 70oF b) beautiful and clear with low wind and wave conditions and c) a holiday, so everyone in the city who had a boat was out on the water.  Just after going under the bridge I saw a dolphin surface once but Bob missed it.  We did not see it again. 

Thanksgiving Day

When we finally made it through the traffic we had slowed to 4 knots due to the tide running against us.  By 2:00pm we were looking for Spooners Creek Marina and tying up.  This is where scary number two comes in.  I had prepared dock lines port and starboard since we didn’t know what to expect and no one was around due to today being a holiday in the off season.  We came in port side to and I was on the dock tying up the bow with Bob on the stern when the bow line came loose from the bow.  Bob had to get it from me and retie it.  I must have done one lousy job putting it around the cleat; one good reason to have loops on the dock lines. 

New Star War Movie opens soon
After securing the boat we walked around, finding a Lowes, Walmart, Staples, Applebees, Best Buy, Panera, McDonalds, etc. but most were closed on Thanksgiving.  We had Thanksgiving dinner at Ruby Tuesday and after bought some groceries at Walmart which was preparing to open for Black Friday sales at 6pm.  They had cleared out the floor for 50 feet behind the registers to make room for all the lines of purchasers.  People were already lined up around their selected items waiting for the plastic wrap over the items to be cut and removed so the rush could begin.  We made sure to be out of there before 6pm.

Only in America

Returning to the boat we prepared for the evening.  Bob had called the marina yesterday asking about coming in today and they had given him the bathroom/shower combination so we made ourselves comfortable.  The rest of the evening was filled with family phone calls, writing, cruise planning, and catching up on wifi items and email.  There is never enough time!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Logging Camp, ICW 101 to Gale Creek East Anchorage, ICW 160

This morning we were up at 6am and Bob started the generator right away for heat, then went back to bed for 10 minutes.  We were still off by 6:30 but as we neared the Alligator River / Pongo River Canal entrance there were four boats ahead of us.  They had anchored closer in and probably all up at 6am like us.  The canal (maybe 200ft wide) is at least twice as wide as the Dismal Swamp with stumps extending about 20 feet from either side still leaving at least 100 feet of width for maneuvering.  

For the whole 15 miles we only saw 2 pieces of floating wood and one significant submerged log which was poised for hull impaling.  The vines, pines and cedars, both dead and alive, made a nice backdrop to the water view and the light mist on the east side gave a ghost-like impression.  Grasses and low brush filled the west bank while most of the east bank was a vertical mud edge about three feet high.  

Fir$t of Many

In the last five miles private property dotted the bank on the west side, some for sale, some downtrodden, and a few very nice looking.  Water access ranged from nothing or ladders to nice large docks and/or long bulkheads to half rotten ones.  Many of the houses were at least 300 feet from the canal edge and built on stilts that looked to be about 10 feet high. Two 60 foot plus vertical height bridges crossed the canal.  About 2.5 miles above Wilkerson Bridge the east bank opened into a wide treeless expanse and we saw our first house on that side. 

Any Takers?

Meanwhile Sprint coverage started and we began trying to find a rental car.  There were only two rental agencies within 30 miles of the nearest town of Bellhaven.  The Hertz number was continually busy and the Enterprise folks were sold out.  The idea was to leave K2F there and rent a car for a quick trip ti South Carolina.  We were going to try to visit Peggy's sister for thanksgiving.  We hadn’t figured out how to go 30 miles on roads to the town of Washington to get to the rental agencies anyway so, onto Plan B:  We plugged on another 3 hours, anchoring in Gale Creek East, ICW 160, at 2:30pm. 

Again, we couldn’t go further as the next place to stop was Oriental at 20 miles over more open water, and putting us there after sunset.  We are getting lazy hanging out in canals!  We know we are south as when we were cleaning the deck after anchoring a local in camouflage with his son and dog in a john boat motored by and asked if we needed anything.  Then he offered that if we needed anything while we were here that we could go to any of the houses in the area.  Sorry Yankees, but no one in New England would do that!   In the south, one of the nicest things you can say to a man is to compliment his dog.  I told him what a good looking dog he had, and you could just see him swell up with pride.  The man, not the dog.
Another first for us:  We were puttering along this afternoon at 1:30 just having entered Goose Creek when a Coast Guard boat came alongside.  We were boarded!  They did a general safety inspection and we got off with flying colors except that they recommended that we dismantle the overboard discharge for the head in the event that we were ever boarded by the EPA folks.  Bob took care of that this evening. Thank you US Power Squadron for giving out the correct information.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Goat Island to Logging Camp, ICW 101

Yes, that is Frost!
 We are off to an early start today, up at 6:15am and jumping into clothes since it was 28oF last night and a tepid 35oF inside the boat.  Bob started the generator to warm things up a bit and I washed down the foredeck to get the ice off the deck and bowsprit so we would not slip bringing up the anchor.  

 The view all around was magical with low whispy fog over the water and the sun just rising.    As Bob started the engine the silence continued.  No hiss, click, hum or buzz.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zero.  I immediately decided that the best course for action was to start a crock pot dinner and be as invisible as possible.  Bob started thinking and checking and troubleshooting and after finding nothing wrong he “hot wired” the engine and it started right up.   

Soon we were unhooked and headed downriver but in a short time Bob found something we had missed.  There was a low bridge just on the north side of Elizabeth City and the next opening was at 8:30.  We opened her up and sped downriver at a speedy 7.6 knots to reach the bridge with 7 minutes to spare.  Isn't GPS wonderful!!  On the other side was Elizabeth City which is self-described as being the friendliest town for boaters and it did have a large selection of places to tie up.   

We took a turn by the dock front park to note the name of the Krogen 42 “Forever Exploring” tied up at the wharf.  Soon we were heading down the Pasquatank River to cross Albemarle Sound.  Two sailboat were ahead of us as we crossed the Sound but we couldn’t seem to gain on them significantly.  Low bridges are great equalizers and there was one on Hwy 64 at the mouth of the Alligator River.  The bridge tender delayed opening a bit and by the time we passed through the swing bridge we were only 7 minutes behind the second sailboat in front of us.  

 By now the sun was shining in through the Pilot House windows and we were down to t-shirts and shorts, basking in the sun like lizards with the door open.  Continuing down the ICW we were anchored at Loggers Camp, Mile 101 at 3:30pm, had early showers to take advantage of the hot water without running the generator and settled in for dinner, steaming hot from the crockpot. I think this is the way to go though I need to experiment with spices since I am trying to cook with minimal salt.  We have a canal to go through tomorrow but at 15 miles long we don’t have time to transit it today.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Dismal Swamp...Deep Basin, VA to Goat Island, NC

Left the anchorage about 8:00 am as we only had two miles to go before the Deep Creek Lock which opened at 8:30am.  We were first in line to go through but I dropped a fender overboard as I was tying it on so Bob had to do some curly cues to get it back.  The Creek has a narrow channel so we were lucky to get it back before it floated into the shallows.  A little tug passed us while we were maneuvering so we became second to enter the lock.  He had also stayed overnight in Deep Basin.

Bob the Lock Master

Our first lock experience was today and I could not imagine having a nicer person than Robert the lock master.  Of course we tied up with no incidents and Robert offered us banana bread and powdered sugar donuts before serenading us with his conch playing.  After opening the lock he drove down to the next bridge to open it for us.

Not much room.

We continued down the Dismal Swamp Canal in bright sunny but chilly (40’s) weather.  It was nice in the warm Pilot House but unfortunately we were not inclined to stop at the Visitors Center which would have cost us a day in time due to the locking and bridge hours. 

We traveled at 5 knots from the northern bridge to the southern lock, catching it at the 1:30pm opening.  Twice we hit something that went “thump” on the hull but never did see anything.  All along the canal trees had fallen into the water though most that were a navigation hazard had been cut off by the canal maintenance crew.  


Lining up

We were hoping to make it to a slip in Elizabeth City but would have arrived at sunset, and also would have missed the bridge opening, so decided to stop thirty minutes earlier instead and anchor off Goat Island.  Maybe someday we will feel comfortable enough to dock in a strange place after dark but now is not the time.  One nice thing about traveling so late in the year is that we frequently have anchorages to ourselves.  I was looking forward to walking around on land and checking out the restaurants, as Elizabeth City is reported to have several quaint eateries.   Maybe next year on the return trip.

Morning behind Goat Island

 Dinner and showers were finished early so we could bundle up with throws to keep warm.  We could turn on the generator but neither one of us wanted to listen to it run.  As a result, we did hear several owls doing their thing.  It is empty and dark here despite the full moon though we did pass two houses along the bank just before the last bend.  


 Just upriver from our anchoring spot there was what looked to be an abandoned double high dock that I would have loved to check out if the weather was warm and if we had extra time.  I’m guessing there was a building not too far off at one time which probably doesn’t exist anymore.  Looked  like a ferry dock.  

Yes, that is frost!

 This area must have been very hard to live in a hundred or more years ago with freezing winters, hot and humid summers, ticks, venomous snakes and minimal dry ground.  Plus the fresh water is as dark as burnt coffee.  Looking at the satellite view of Google Maps shows modern housing tracts are not very far away, probably only limited in distance from the river by environmental concerns.