Dowry Creek Marina, Belhaven, NC to Lamb’s Marina, Elizabeth City, NC — May 14, 2014

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Light breeze this morning out of the south with clear and sunny skies.  We plan on going to the Alligator River Marina today unless conditions are good for crossing the Albemarle Sound. Last year we had very windy conditions with winds from the Northeast.  This year we arrived at the Alligator River Bridge just in time for an opening and the water had a hint if a southerly breeze.  We did not hesitate and we crossed the Sound and headed to Elizabeth City.

The cruise from Dowry Creek goes thru the Pungo River/Alligator River Canal that is about 25 miles long.  Most of the shore for the length of the canal is cypress swamps with quite a few dead trees.  Lenore did spot a eagle in a tree along the south shore of the canal.

There was not a lot of traffic.  A trawler that was at Dowry Creek last night left just after us and was about 2 miles behind us.  They passed us in the canal and were about 1 1/2 miles ahead of us when we got onto the Albemarle Sound. They went the Virginia Cut route while we headed for Elizabeth City.

As we were crossing the Albemarle Sound the wind at one time actually died to nothing and the water was relatively smooth.  When you couple this with the 90 degree temps it was pretty warm in the cockpit. We noticed that the bascule bridge in Elizabeth City only opened on the 1//2 hour between 4:00 and 6:00 so we decided to pick up the pace some so we would arrive at the bridge well before 4:00.  That got us a good breeze in the cockpit to cool things off.

We considered staying at the Elizabeth City Town Docks.  They are free and the locals will hold a happy hour if there are 5 boats. There was a cautionary note that the docks were exposed to a South wind so we decided to stay at Lamb’s Marina.  It was another 3 miles past the town docks and it is quite the place.  The Active Captain comments were right on with their description and they had given it 4 stars.  The marina is essentially a trailer park with a boat basin.  We are really pushing the upper limits of the size of boat they can take. They have a grocery store, really more like a convenience store and a courtesy car. Pretty good price on diesel at $3.90/gal. and it is a flat rate of $35 per night.

The folks are friendly and the local boaters are very helpful.  We are next to a catamaran that has a women and 3 cats aboard and 2 boats away from an English Bulldog, Lilly. None of the boats could be even loosely considered pristine.  There are a couple of boats that are going to be sold by auction.  Interesting place.

There is rain and thunderstorms in the forecast for tomorrow.  It looks like it will arrive in the evening so we will go to the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center in the morning.  Not a long day as it is only 22 miles but most will be at no wake speed.

River Dunes Marina, Oriental, NC to Dowry Creek Marina, Belhaven, NC — May 12, 2014

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Day started a little cloudy but the fog moved in within an hour.  The Sedan Bridge boat was gone when Candy and I came out for our walk at 6:10.  As we were finishing our walk I noticed that Phoenix was leaving the marina.  He is headed to Dowry Creek Marina for the evening. He is looking for some crew to go from Norfolk to New York City, with no stops, on the outside.

We sat around till about 8:30 when it appeared the fog was lifting.  The marina got in touch with me because Phoenix was aground in the marina channel.  I talked to him on the VHF and he said he was soft aground but unable to move himself.  I told him I would give it a try.

We approached him and he was actually out of the channel but he said he had 5′-0″ of water where he was.  I backed up to him and he had rigged a bridle to his rear cleats.  I attached the line to my rear starboard cleat and slowly floated forward and when the line came taught I put it in gear and he put his engine in reverse and his boat moved and came back into the channel.  Mission accomplished.

We moved out into Broad Creak and as we turned toward the Neuse River the fog appeared to get a little thicker.  We had the radar on and I could see a reasonable number of targets that were staying relative to us.  We traveled up the Neuse River to the Bay River and about 4 miles onto the Bay River the fog did lift.

It had actually been comfortable when it was foggy but with the sun out it warmed considerably.  I think the temps got into the low 90’s for the day.  There was not much wind and it was at our back so as we moved north we could not feel any wind.

There were quite a few boats out and we passed several sailboats and a couple of trawlers.  It turned out that a lot of them were headed to Dowry Creek also. There was a large group of Sail boaters from Oriental that were on a 10 day trip.

We had a happy hour at the marina and most of the transients attended.  It was a good time and a way to meet some of the other boaters.  Talk about small worlds.  The gentleman on Phoenix arrived late in the afternoon and he met an old friend on the dock that he knew from Vermont. This friend and his wife are living on the boat in the Dowry Creek Marina. Neither one knew the other would be there.

We are staying over 1 day to do laundry and rest a little before making the next push north.  The next section is the Alligator River and the Albemarle Sound which were somewhat of a problem last year. The winds for the rest of this week are predicted out of the south and light to medium so that would be good if true.

Casper’s Marina, Swansboro, NC to River Dunes Marina, Oriental, NC — May 11, 2014

01 Owner is A Proud Swansboro Resident

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The wind was blowing today and the sky was cloudy this morning.  They were predicting a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon.  the water was a light chop because there was no real fetch or depth for the waves to build.

We were underway about 8:00.  We did our slow cruise up the ICW and I started to watch the color in the southern and western sky. It appeared to me that the sky was darkening so after about 10 miles we picked up the pace and went on plane to try and make River Dunes before any rain/thunderstorms.  I was checking the National Weather Service Radar and they showed some rain offshore in the Atlantic but nothing close by.

We did slow for passing boats in either direction, near the Port of Morehead City and for all the no wake zones in the canal to the Neuse River. The wind appeared to have died down and maybe was 10 mph.

It was Mother’s Day and there were a lot of families out in their runabout and pontoons just cruising the water.  We had a few faster cruisers that went by us but they did a slow pass also so that was good.

The sky stayed about the same for the entire trip. Not dark but not sunny.  River Dunes was as we remembered it from last year.  It is a residential community with its own marina basin off of Broad Creek.  With a separate basin there is no boat wake or even waves against the hull.

A little after we came in, a sailboat, Phoenix, came in and he asked to share a ride into Oriental this evening for dinner.  I had already reserved the courtesy car. The gentleman on Phoenix was single handling and on a return trip to Vermont.  He has been gone from Home for 3 years.  He had been to Europe and sailed the Mediterranean. Rather young person, maybe 40 or so.  The Phoenix is a 36′ sailboat that drafts 6′.  He had some interesting stories.  He crossed the Atlantic with a crew of 4 and he and his wife had cruised the Mediterranean.

We were joined in the courtesy car by 3 other gentlemen that came in late on a 54 Sedan Bridge.  They were taking the boat to the Chesapeake from the Bahamas.  They are leaving in the morning at first light.

Well the weatherman was wrong.  We never had any rain during the day or evening. Dinner was interesting in Oriental.  The restaurant, M & M’s was busy and the service was less than great but we still had good food.

Tomorrow we leave for Dowery Creek Marina just off the Pungo River, East of Belhaven NC.  We stopped there last year and enjoyed it.

 

Seapath Yacht Club, Wrightsville, NC to Casper’s Marina, Swansboro, NC — May 9, 2014

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The wind was still blowing this morning but not to bad.  During the night it had shifted from directly on the starboard side to about 30 degrees off the stern. It had me a little concerned about getting off the dock but I had one of the marina dockhands down next to the boat and essentially backed out into the channel, no problem.

We did not need to wait for any of the bridges today.  We passed under 2 that were listed at 12′ clearance but the tide was near low and we had about 18″ of clearance on both the Surf City Bridge and the Onslow Beach Bridge.

We were hailed on the VHF by a boat called Field Trip.  We last saw them in St Augustine and first met them in Alton IL on the rivers.  I could not raise them on a working channel so Lenore went down to look for their boat card so we could call them on the phone. While Lenore was down below my phone rang and it was Field Trip.  They were just leaving Swansboro and I was amazed that we heard them from about 45 miles away.  Anyway we talked to them and gave them a few suggestions based on our experience from last year.  Hope we catch up with them again.

Traffic was not to bad today, but there were still a lot of small boats and fishermen on the water.  The small boats do not really cause a problem but I do need to be aware they are around and make sure I can take evasive action if necessary.

One of the boats we have been kind of traveling with since Georgetown, After Taxes had a problem yesterday.  They ran aground on the ICW in the channel but with the assistance of another boat and the rising tide they got off.  They came up to the anchorage at Wrightsville Beach where they were anchoring with Linde and Terrapin. After they got the anchor down they went to start the generator and it would not start.  They looked into the engine compartment and there was a lot of water sloshing around and the generator was partially under water.  They pulled the anchor and went to the closest marina with a lift. The marina put a large pump in the bilge and ran it for a couple hours before they could haul the boat. Apparently they had run aground another time in the not to distant past and since that time they have had some water leakage problems in the bilge but nothing serious.  They investigated a number of times but couldn’t find where it was coming from. Well when they ran aground yesterday the crack in the hull worsened to the point that they had all that water in the bilge.  They will have repairs made and it will take a week or so (estimated now) and then they will be on their way.

We went by the Camp Lejeune Marine Base.  The signs on the ICW say to stop if the lights are flashing because they are taking gunnery practice with live ammo.  We were fortunate the lights were not flashing.  There were a few signs on the shore telling people to stay out – unexploded ordinance in the area. Pretty effective way to keep people out.

The wind really started to blow once we got within about 5 miles of Swansboro.  You could see the whitecaps on the ICW.  It made docking very interesting but at least I got to back into the wind to get into the slip.  While on the dock I had to leave my cap on the boat because the wind would have taken it off.  Probably was blowing 30 mph or more.

Swansboro is the home port for the couple on the boat Journey.  We met them in Green Turtle Bay Marina and saw them in Chattanooga last fall. They are actually the harbor hosts and are hosting a dinner tonight at their house.  They thought the house would be better because the boats are rocking in the wind.

We plan to stay here 2 days so Candy can get a medicated bath for her skin tomorrow.  She has been scratching an awful lot.

Mytle Beach Yacht Club, Little River, SC to Seapath Yacht Club, Wrightsville, NC— May 8, 2014

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Candy and I were out early today. There was a large boat, probably 60′, that came in yesterday evening and they put them on the gas dock not to far from us. The boat was from Marblehead MA.  They left this morning at 6:00 as Candy and I were starting our walk.

The weather was perfect again and we got underway about 8:00.  No stops along the way today but we did hear Terrapin and After Taxes on the VHF radio.  As we passed the Little River Inlet from the Atlantic we saw Linde anchored out and they hailed us on the radio.  They are hoping to catch us one night at a marina so we can compare notes on the trip. They are planning on anchoring out in the Wrightsville area tonight.

We had very little traffic up to where we entered the Cape Fear River.  There was a large container ship just coming in from the Atlantic and it had its name written in Arabic on the hull.  He was moving pretty good, probably 14 mph and we were moving a little over 10 mph with the tide. I stayed out of his way and let him get well ahead of us and then pulled in behind him.  We followed him for about 10 miles until we cut off for the ICW near Carolina Beach.

The traffic on the water was not to bad until we got to the Carolina Beach area and the rest of the way to Wrightsville.  Lots of pleasure boaters that you would think it was a weekend.  They were all over the place with pontoon boats, personal water craft, center consoles, etc.  All different sizes.  I was concerned in some places for the wake I was putting out but then a 30′ powerboat passes me on plane and my wake is like a ripple compared to his.

Wrightsville is a real popular place with an awful lot of development all along the ocean shore.  It looks like condominium after condominium. No wonder there are so many people around. The area along the ICW is packed with restaurants and marinas on both sides.  It appears to be a real popular area.

Wrightsville Beach is on the ICW and east toward the Atlantic.  When you drive a little further in you are in Wilmington NC. Lenore and I used a courtesy car to go into dinner and had a great time at a place called Slice of Life.  It is a cross between a Sports Bar and a Pizza Place.  Food was really good and we raised the average age of the customers.

 

Straight Creek to Alligator River Marina, NC — May 4, 2013

(FOUND THIS BLOG IN THE ARCHIVES AS A DRAFT SO I THINK IT WAS NOT PREVIOUSLY POSTED.  SORRY FOR THE SLIP-UP)

The winds did not seem to be blowing quite as hard in the morning.  Candy and I were up about 5:00.  Still no luck on the swim platform.

Talked to the bridge tender before 6:00 and found out that the winds were not the problem but they had a maintenance crew working on the bridge.  They could not project the time it would open but he would announce it on the VHF an hour before they were ready to open.  Not much to do except clean the boat and do some reading. Candy finally had a “accident” about 9:30.  She had held it for about 27 hours.

We finally got word about 12:45 that the bridge would be opening at 1:45.  We pulled the anchorage and got underway.  Took some time to get from the anchorage to open water but the waves were better and we were able to get on plane to make it to the bridge on time.  The bridge finally opened about 5 minutes late and there were about 12 boats waiting to go thru.

We debated going on to Elizabeth City NC or stop at the Alligator River Marina that is just on the North side of the swing bridge.  We thought if the water on the Albemarle Sound was like the Alligator River we could make Elizabeth City in about 2 1/2 hours.  Everything was fine for the first 4 miles or so as we navigated thru a shoal area.  Once out from behind the shoal area the waves were the worst we seen since Lake Michigan as far as height..  They were is the 4′ to 5′ range with some that looked even bigger.  The real bad part is that because of the shallow water there is no space between the waves.  It is like those shallow lakes, St. Clair and Erie.

We turned around and went back to the Alligator River Marina.  The Marina is actually a gas station/marina on the side of the road.  No place to walk to that is close.  It has about 20 slips and a long dock for fueling and general tie up.  Inside the store is also a restaurant that has a grill and a deep fryer and I must say the food was pretty good.

Needless to say Candy was happy with lots of grass to sniff and we were able to go for a nice long walk.

The winds are supposed to be less tomorrow.

 

Alligator River Marina to Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center, NC — May 5, 2013

Fairly cloudy this morning with a few sun patches but the temps were 50 to start and did not climb much past 60.  We left the marina about 8:00 and headed north.  The wind was out of the Northeast about 15 to 20 mph.

We got back to the Albemarle Sound and the waves were mostly 3′ to 4 ‘ with some 5′ thrown in for good measure.  The going was pretty rough with a lot of bouncing real hard on the large waves.  We had about 12 miles to cross the Sound and the waves started to smooth out just a little after about 4 miles with a good number of the 5′ gone.  By mile 8 all the 5′ were gone and most of the 4′ were gone.  By the time we crossed to the other side it was a nice ride and we followed it all the way into Elizabeth City, NC.

We contacted our friends Don and Kate on Fandango and they had left their marina and were about 4 miles ahead of us on the Pasquotank River.  We continued up the river toward the Dismal Swamp Canal that is essentially a wildlife sanctuary,  The land was originally obtained by George Washington and he and other investors were going to drain it and use the land for farming.  This never worked out and over the years the land changed hands several times.  Finally in the early 20th Century it was donated as a National Park.  There is a lot of decaying vegetation and cypress trees and the water is brown with Tannic Acid.  It is so dark it looks like root beer or coffee. There are locks at each end of the Dismal Swamp as it drains the surrounding country side and is fresh water.  The waterways leading to and from the Dismal Swamp are salt water or brackish water.

We had to wait for the lock because it only opens 4 times a day. There were 3 boats at the lock besides the Champ III. Fandango, A small Pacific Trawler and a sailboat. We locked thru without any problems.  We traveled up the Canal to the visitor center where you can ties up to their docks for free, but there is no power. All 4 boats tied up and took up the whole wall.  Another sailboat heading south arrived about 1 1/2 hours later and had to raft off.

The original north bound sailboat that we locked thru with is from Norway.  There are 3 young men on the boat and they are on a year’s journey from Norway,  They left last August and sail down the European coast and down to Africa and then across the Atlantic to the Bahamas, Cuba and then into the US.  They are now headed north where they will sail past Nova Scotia, Labrador and on to Greenland where they will pick up their 4th crew member and then sail home to Norway.  They need to be back for school in August.  I guess they are doing their own Loop of sorts.  The sailboat is not big, maybe 35’ and it is fairly old but these guys are having a great time.

The Pacific Trawler is an elderly gentleman that is traveling with his dog Tundra.  Tundra is a Great Pyrenees that weighs in at 125 lbs. and is docile and would not hurt a flea.  He looks as big as the boat.

Dowery Creek Marina to Strait Creek Anchorage, NC — May 3, 2013

Day started out normally but early.  We were underway before 7:00 as we wanted to make Elizabeth City, NC.  The winds were moderate but no problem getting off the dock and underway.

About 1/2 way thru the Pungo River/Alligator River Cut the winds were starting to blow a little harder with more gusts.  As we approached the Alligator River we heard on the radio that the swing bridge was closed because of the winds.  They had been measured at 28 and 32 mph.  This was probably around 11:00 and we still had another 15 to 20 miles to go to get to the bridge.  The bridge has a clearance of 14′ and we need 12′-6″ to get under.

The Alligator River runs pretty much from Northeast to Southwest,  It ranges form 6′ to 12′ deep and is 2 to 3 miles wide.  The wind was blowing out of the Northeast right down the river.  Waves were about 2′ to 3’+ but the real problem was the wind as it would blow the sheets of water over the boat when the boat went thru a wave,  We found out that zippers are not necessarily watertight.

We arrived at the bridge and talked to the bridge tender.  He said the actual clearance was 14′-9″.  I looked at the water under the bridge and it did not look too bad.  The bridge has fender boards to protect the piers and I thought they would act to break the waves and calm the water under the bridge.  We slowly moved toward the bridge and Lenore is the lookout for the height clearance and she said it did not look good. Also the water under the bridge was not as calm as I had hoped so we turned around.  We went back about 3 miles and anchored off the east shore at Bay Point.  We were 1/4 mile offshore but the waves were about 1′ and the wind was moving us around so the boat was rocking.

We were anchored there for about 4 hours when we received a call from the boat we had been traveling with for the day, Rock Chalk, Marc and Shelley from Texas.  They had looked for an anchorage as soon as they heard the bridge was closed because they needed 15′ clearance.  They were anchored in a small creek off the west shore about 6 miles back.  The wind was blowing but the water was fairly calm.  We did not debate this too long and headed for their location.  We found the unmarked channel and made our way in thru the dead trees and stumps (what would we do without chart plotters) and after Bay Point anchorage this water was like glass.

We had not been able to find a spot for Candy to go ashore because it was all swamp area with cypress trees.  I tried coaxing here to go on the swim platform on a piece of carpet but no luck.  She just hung in there.

The word from the bridge tender was that the bridge would not reopen until the winds had subsided to less than 25 mph for a period of time. He said with their current forecasts that they might not open until Sunday and this was Friday.   The bridge is open 24 hours a day and usually opens on request so there is always someone in the bridge house.  In talking with Rock Chalk we decided to call the bridge tender in the morning and get an update.

River Dunes Marina, Oriental, NC to Dowery Creek Marina, Belhaven, NC — May 1, 2013

Another cloudy day to start with a few sprinkles thrown in.  The winds did not seem to bad in the marina and the water was a 2′ to 3′ chop on the Neuse River.  The wind was from the north and we were headed right into it for about 6 to 7 miles before we turned to port to head into a cut.  This part was the Pamlico Sound.

Inside the cut we passed several fishing boats moored on the west side of the cut.  These appeared to be all rigged for shrimping but we are a fairly long way from the ocean to I am not really sure what they fish for.

Once we were thru the cut we were in the Goose River that leads to the Pamlico River. We passed a tow but in this area a town is usually one barge and the tug.  They are nothing like what we saw on the Illinois River and the Mississippi River.

Today we were in the thick of the traffic headed north.  Lots of sailboats and power boats.  Not sure where they were all staying for the night because there are not a huge number of marinas around this area.  I am sure some of them anchored out because there are a lot of spots for anchoring.

This whole section of the ICW has pockets of development with residences but the pockets are not large and well spaced out. Only saw a couple of marinas along the way.

After the Goose River we crossed the Pamlico River and entered the Pungo River that extends quite a distance in and Dowery Creek is probably 3/4’s of the way up the Pungo River.  The further up the river we travelled the less the winds effected the water and the ride smoothed out considerably.

Dowery Creek Marina is not a fancy place but they do a good job of making you feel at home.  They have a Club House and a Swimming Pool.  The Club House is used at 5:30 for cocktail hour for the boaters in the marina for the night.

We had a nice surprise at Dowery Creek.  Once we were all tied up I was in the office and you could see a squall coming across the rive and I noticed a trawler coming into the marina.  Well it turned out to be Fandango with Kate and Don that we had traveled with on the Mississippi, Ohio and Cumberland.  We had not seen them since mid-October at Green Turtle Bay in Kentucky.  What a good time at the cocktail party renewing friendships with Don and Kate.  We also had a chance to see some of the people we had met at marinas or talked to on the radio over the last couple of weeks.  More marinas should have this arrangement.

Casper Marina, Swansboro, NC to River Dunes Marina, Oriental, NC — April 30, 2013

Kind of a gray day to start with and light winds.  The sun did come out until later in the morning.  This section of the ICW has really 3 parts to it.  The first part is along the Atlantic from the New River Inlet to the Moorhead City area where the ICW turns inland thru a combination of a river and a cut.  The last part is the Neuse River that is not extremely deep (average maybe 15′) but is several miles wide and the water can kick up here on windy days.

We did not leave until about 10:30 this morning because I had a gentleman out that helped straighten a bent bow rail.  We bent it a couple of weeks ago when we were docking in Beaufort SC.  A line was put over the rail instead of under.  The straightening went pretty well.  The rail is not nearly as noticeable as it was before we started.

Starting later gave us a lot less traffic on the ICW because everybody who was moving for the day was ahead of us.  A reasonable number of boats going South on the ICW. The area between Swansboro and Moorhead City has a reasonable amount of development, houses, along the way. The ICW is fairly wide in this area but the spoils areas where they put dredge material has over the years created some long narrow islands along side the ICW channel.

Moorhead City is right across the inlet from Beaufort NC and you actually make the turn to the river/cut between the two cities.  Because of the islands and dredge spoils areas you really do not get a look at Beaufort NC.  We have several pictures of industrial shoreline in the Moorhead City area with a railroad bridge, warehouses and loading docks.  None of it looks real active right now.

The River/Cut area is less developed overall.  There are pockets where housing has been built and about 10 miles outside Moorhead City, there we two marina/boat yards next to each other that serviced large yachts and mega yachts.  Seemed kind of strange to have these yours well off the Ocean but I guess that affords them protect from the hurricanes.  The last portion of the river area was quite developed with homes along the shore and some of these were fairly large.

The Neuse River section was wide open with little development and the wind had kicked up so there was a chop on the water.  It was about a 10 mile cruise down to the River Dunes Marina on Broad Creeks.  This is a large upscale marina that is part of a residential development.  They have limited the home styles to “southern” within the community with about 6 different home layouts and outside features to choose from.

The docks were great and the marina had a swimming pool and hot tub area.  Situated around the swimming pool where cabana style little structures that the walls on 3 sides essentially lifted up so you can have the breeze come thru without being in the sun.

Met one other boater in this marina that we have first seen in Georgetown and have more or less been on the same schedule.  The boat is a 44′ DeFever and they are from Connecticut.