Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

We continued our travels down the ICW in North Carolina to our next port – Wrightsville Beach. My only knowledge about the town is from Nicholas Sparks’ book, Message in a Bottle, and the movie made about it. Ahhh, reality vs novels and movies. No resemblance. 🙂
This leg of our ICW trip required timing because of the three bridges we would encounter – two swing bridges and one bascule. The distances between each and their opening schedules (either on the hour and the half hour, or just the hour) meant that we had to carefully monitor our speed and progress. Lots of mental math for rates and times, and conversions between statute miles and nautical miles, but no algebra really required. 🙂 We passed through the Surf City Bridge, The Figure Eight Bridge and then the Wrightsville  Beach Bridge. Most of the 15 boats anchored with us back at Mile Hammock Bay were also traveling today, so we hung out waiting for openings and then passed through like a line of school children on their way to lunch. It’s actually fun to call the bridgetender to request the opening and to thank them after you are clear. The “request” is mostly to inform them; evidently they record the names and time of the boats who pass through.

Opening bridges and the line of boats behind us

Opening bridges and the line of boats behind us

This part of the ICW is very different from the past week. No swamp and swamp marshes , and more homes. Sometimes we could catch a glimpse of the barrier islands and even the ocean through an inlet. There were a few nerve wracking shoaled areas during which we held our breath as we carefully moved over them.

The sandbars just past the marker.

The sandbars just past the marker.

More homes along the westerns shore - from simple trailers to very grand places.

More homes along the westerns shore – from simple trailers to very grand places.

A glimpse of the ocean through an inlet

A glimpse of the ocean through an inlet

A charming old oyster boat jugging away going north

A charming old oyster boat jugging away going north

And then there some more curious sights. Please keep  in mind that when you travel at 6 knots of speed, you have plenty of time to look around you!!

~A giraffe statue as a "for sale" sign ~ A fake palm tree marking a shallow area ~ Who knows what this statue is!! An ICW mythical goddess?

~A giraffe statue as a “for sale” sign
~ A fake palm tree marking a shallow area
~ Who knows what this statue is!! An ICW mythical goddess?

We also  had our share of nature sightings. The dolphins really do run along side of the boats in the ICW. There are no  good pictures because I got too excited to hold the camera steady and focus and watch the dolphins. I chose to do the watching without the camera most of the time. But here is one photo — If you look closely you can see the dolphin just alongside of our bow, keeping up with us.

Can you see the dolphin?? This is just so cool!!!

Can you see the dolphin?? This is just so cool!!!

We think this is an eagle. Maybe a bald eagle?

An eagle inspecting the ICW travelers

An eagle inspecting the ICW travelers

Our view of Wrightsville as we entered the channel was mostly very large waterfront homes and docks.

More homes along the westerns shore - from simple trailers to very grand places.

More homes along the westerns shore – from simple trailers to very grand places.

Wrightsville Beach waterfront homes

Wrightsville Beach waterfront homes

Those of us who anchored in the little harbor also had waterfront property.

Southbound sailboats in the Wrightsville anchorage. Can you find us?

Southbound sailboats in the Wrightsville anchorage. Can you find us?

We spent an extra day here rather than move again. Sometimes you need to take a break from daily travel.

Beach time!! Yes, it was cold but we sat on the beach anyway.

Beach time!! Yes, it was cold but we sat on the beach anyway. The sea gulls kept us company.

In our walk to town we found a lovely little park – one of the nicest we have ever seen.

~Welcome arch ~Al relaxes in a butterfly chair ~ table and benches ~ A fountain designed for cooling off - for children in hot weather ~ a little playhouse

~Welcome arch
~Al relaxes in a butterfly chair
~ table and benches
~ A fountain designed for cooling off – for children in hot weather
~ a little playhouse

Are you ever to old to play? We tried the see saw. Silly, isn't it?

Are you ever to old to play? We tried the see saw. Silly, isn’t it?

prep

The PPD Beach to Battleship Triathlon is Saturday. Lots of preparations going on!

Which explains why we saw so many people swimming in the channel and bay near us. Brrrrrrrrr!

Which explains why we saw so many people swimming in the channel and bay near us. Brrrrrrrrr!

Another glowing sunset. If you look very closely, you might see Venus.

Another glowing sunset. If you look very closely, you might see Venus – tiny pinpoint of light in the upper left.

We may be in the south, but we are cold!! It has been in the high 40’s at night. Our cabin registered 56 degrees this morning – that’s 2 degrees colder than we keep our house at night in the winter. But the sun is shiny brightly during the day.

Just a quick update to last night’s blog post. We awoke today to a very chilly morning  – 38 degrees outside and only 52 degrees inside the cabin. Brrrrrr. And I thought we had headed south!
It’s a good thing we studied the currents and planned our route today around them, resulting in a late morning departure. Why? No boats would be leaving this anchorage this morning until after the swimming part of the PPD Beach to Battleship Triathlon. Remember yesterday’s photo about the preparations for this triathalon? At that time we had no idea just how big this event is.

PPD

You can see the bicycles in the back.

Bags for clothing change after the swim are placed here.

Bags for clothing change after the swim are placed here.

This triathlon is Internationally recognized iron distance and half distance. The title sponsor, PPD, supports the event to educate the public on the vital role of clinical research and trials for new medicines. The distances are:
Swim – from Wrightsville Beach, 2.4 miles
Bike – 112 miles from Wrightsville Beach to Wilmington
Run – 26.2 miles around Wilmington, ending at the USS North Carolina battleship

While we ate our breakfast, we had a front row seat to watch the swimming – the swimming was right past this anchorage.

Volunteers on paddleboards and kayaks are spread out along the swimming course

Volunteers on paddleboards and kayaks are spread out along the swimming course

One mass of swimmers coming up the channel

One mass of swimmers coming up the channel

US Coast Guard boat waits at the back to prevent boats from entering the channel there.

US Coast Guard boat waits at the back to prevent boats from entering the channel there.

A mass of swimmers passing the buoy that marks the turn point

A mass of swimmers passing the buoy that marks the turn point

The lead swimmer passing by

The lead swimmer passing by

It must be so cold in that water today

It must be so cold in that water today

This was for all those athletic friends and family members of ours who have run, biked, and swam competitively-  Meghan, Maureen, Adam, Colleen, Alicia.

Beaufort, North Carolina – a mix of chores and travel

We left Oriental on Monday, October 21st  and headed down the ICW again to Beaufort, North Carolina. The trip, mostly through Adams Creek,  was uneventful, but cloudy….. again. We did see two of my favorite ICW signs, so far —-

Dangling Mile Marker 185

Dangling Mile Marker 185

A proposal on the ICW! Did she yes???

A proposal on the ICW! Did she yes???

We anchored for our first day in Beaufort and spent the afternoon walking around Beaufort. We had a nice tour through the museum (does every town have its own museum?), the North Carolina Maritime Museum. The museum combines maritime history, pirates, shipwrecks, whales, fishing industry, sea rescues, and boatbuilding, The volunteer tour guides are exceptionally friendly and willing to spend time with you. Our guide, Tom Myers, took us to the top of the building to look out over Beaufort Inlet.

Looking out at Beaufort Inlet

Looking out at Beaufort Inlet 

The skeleton of a whale that was beached and died nearby on the Outer Banks hangs overhead in the museum. North Carolina’s whaling industry lasted from the 1700s to 1916 when the last whale was reportedly killed off the coast.

The whale skeleton hanging above

The whale skeleton hanging above our heads

The museum also displays artifacts recovered from what researchers believe to be Blackbeard’s pirate ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge.  The wreck of the sunken ship was discovered off the shore near Beaufort. The museum displays the items and also how the archaeological excavation is done.

Is this a statue of Blackbeard or Johnny Depp????

Is this a statue of Blackbeard or Johnny Depp????

Our second day in Beaufort was a “chore day”. We needed diesel fuel and were pleasantly surprised to learn that we averaged .8 gallons per hour since the last fill-up. Although we haven’t been able to sail much, using the jib or main on a good day really helps the engine out.

We had  a cloudy, but dry, day so doing chores was ok. While waiting for the laundry to finish drying, we played a round of corn hole. Michele was ahead most of the game and then Al caught up to tie the game. Yes, the game ended in a tie, and ensured that marital harmony would continue on Kindred Spirit.

How else do you pass the time while waiting for the laundry to dry? A game of corn hole!

How else do you pass the time while waiting for the laundry to dry? A game of corn hole!

The next chore was grocery shopping. The Town Creek Marina had a courtesy car for cruisers to borrow. Yeah! We could buy heavy items and much more than would fit in a backpack or bike basket.

We really feel like cruisers now that we have used a marina courtesy car.

We really feel like cruisers now that we have used a marina courtesy car.

Al was thrilled to go more than 6-7 knots - 30 mph seemed really fast!!

Al was thrilled to go more than 6-7 knots – 30 mph seemed really fast!!

Kindred Spirit also received a thorough cleaning outside on her deck (no more tannin stain thanks to toilet bowel cleanser) and an inside straightening. Wednesday night brought lots of showers – you could hear the rain all night on the deck. We left early the next morning for another 38 mile day down the ICW.

The day brightened and became quite nice. We even used sunscreen!!  This part of the ICW had a different feel and look. The water became more blue/green as we passed the sandy marshes and barrier islands of the Outer Banks. On our port side was —

Marshes along the ICW

Marshes along the ICW

Sand bars very close to the channel

Sand bars very close to the channel

Many homes and docks lined the western side of the ICW channel —

Homes along the western shore of the ICW

Homes along the western shore of the ICW

The best part of the day was seeing the wildlife (the natural kind, not the night kind.)

A group of pelicans just ahead of us

A group of pelicans just ahead of us

One Pelican takes off just as the bow comes close

One pelican takes off just as the boat comes close.

And the very best of all —–

A dolphin swimming right by us!!!

A dolphin swimming right by us!!!

Our resting stop for the night was Mile Hammock Bay, near the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. This is a small man-made harbor within the base that permits public anchoring, but you cannot to go ashore.

Marines pass right by us in the channel as they perform practice drills

Marines pass right by us in the channel as they perform practice drills

There was no doubt whatsoever that this was a military area. All afternoon and into the evening/night, there were practice exercises overhead. Helicopters take off, circle around, return and pick up practice cargo.

Helicopters take off, pass overhead, and land again over and over again

Helicopter going up!

Practicing cargo lifting

Practicing cargo lifting

It was noisy, but it is important work so we didn’t mind. By nightfall there were 15 boats anchored in this harbor, all traveling south.

The sun sets over Mile Hammock Bay. Another day comes to a colorful close.

The sun sets over Mile Hammock Bay. Another day comes to a colorful close.

Oriental, the Sailing Capital of North Carolina

There was a full moon over Bellhaven for our one night stay there. Although it was still raining during the night, it was a lovely sight to see from our cockpit enclosure.

Full moon over Bellhaven

Full moon over Bellhaven

We left Bellhaven in the early morning dampness, after a night of showers (I  am sure you are as tired of hearing about rain and clouds as I am of writing and sailing through it all!) The day was partly cloudy with some peeks of sun. We had some nice breezes and were able to use the jib to assist the engine as we motorsailed through the Pungo River, the Pamlico River, and the Neuse River.

Sailing down the Pamlico River

Sailing down the Pamlico River

Over the past 3-4 days of traveling down the ICW, we have been very impressed and pleased with how incredibly courteous the other boats have been. There is a sense of camaradie and togetherness as you all navigate these waters. The powerboats have been especially sensitive to what their wakes can do to a sailboat if they barge past us at a high speed. They call us on the VHF and ask what side we would like them to pass on or let us know they will give us a “slow pass” with as little wake as possible. Three sailboats were all sailing along in a row through a narrow section of the ICW. We were the middle boat and realized that the boat behind us was named Sheet Music and the boat in front of us was also named Sheet Music, each from different ports. The power boat who passed all three of us made a comment on the VHF  and we all enjoyed the moment of pure coincidence. One Sheet Music said they were the black keys and the other one was the white keys. And there we were, between two sheets!

We were sailing between these these two "Sheet Musics".

We were sailing between these these two “Sheet Musics”.

During the canal portion of the day’s trip, we passed by the R.E. Mayo shrimping company.  All of the shrimp boats were at the dock because it was Sunday. They are not allowed to go out on Sundays. They have space for transient boats to stay at their dock, but I wouldn’t try that on a Sunday! Tight squeeze.

R.W. Mayo shrimping boats

R.W. Mayo shrimping boats

Our next stop was in Oriental, North Carolina. We were excited to see (on the harbor webcam) that the free town dock was open and we headed for it. Al did an amazing job  of maneuvering us parallel to the bulkhead because there were two boat already both sides of the t-dock. We were perfectly parallel, but about 8 feet away from the dock with no more room to go forward or backward. We tossed lines to a nice gentleman who just happened to be passing by so that he could help to pull us into the dock. No go. Literally. I missed reading the fine print that said there was only a 5-6 foot depth here! Before we were aground, we decided this would not work and headed back to the harbor to anchor. We must have been entertaining for anyone who was watching the harbor webcam. Let it be known that later, while eating his ice cream at The Bean, Al was approached by another sailor and highly complimented on his skills at the helm.

Oriental Town Dock - you can actually view it from the harbor webcam.

Oriental Town Dock – you can actually view it from the harbor webcam. Our “adventure” was to the left of that sailboat. You can’t use the bulkhead on the right.

Oriental is a very small community of 900-1000 residents and 4,000 boats, mostly sail (I read this in a guide book, but I have no verification of the sailboat population.) It is known as the “Sailing Capital of North Carolina.”

Oriental, the Sailing Capitol of North Carolina

Oriental, the Sailing Capitol of North Carolina

Oriental  was named after the sailing steamer Oriental, a Federal transport ship in the Civil War. A year after being launched, she ran aground in May 1862, when she was wrecked 33 miles north of Cape Hatteras.  And thus, the town was named Oriental.

We walked around town for a bit after our ice cream. Shrimp boats lined the docks and dragons appeared to be the town animal. I found this curious until I learned that the name “Oriental” inspired the adoption of the dragon as the town mascot for this small authentic fishing village. It reminded me of the Norfolk mermaid.  I think it is a cute idea.

The dragons of Oriental

The dragons of Oriental

Scenes from Oriental during our very brief stay —

Looking over the  breakwater

Looking over the breakwater

Bird on the dinghy dock

Bird on the dinghy dock

A very large jelly fish right by the dinghy dock.

A very large jelly fish right by the dinghy dock.

These three, somewhat derelict, sailboats (two pink and one white) are the talk of the town. They have been anchored there for a year. We are the 2nd white boat to the right, but we wont be here for a year.

These three, somewhat derelict, sailboats (two pink and one white) are the talk of the town. They have been anchored there for a year. We are the 2nd white boat in the back to the right, but we won’t be here for a year. 🙂

Sunset over Oriental, NC

Sunset over Oriental, NC

Shrimp boats in silhouette against the setting sun.

Shrimp boats in silhouette against the setting sun.

The town is small, but everyone is very friendly. While we were walking, we ran into Tom and Joyce, whom we had met very briefly in Cape May. They live here in Oriental and are ICW-Bahamas veterans. Tom and Joyce have been the welcoming committee for our other Connecticut friends who have already passed through.  We decided to have breakfast together at The Bean in the morning. What a nice time we had talking about sailboats, the ICW and the Bahamas. The Bean is definitely the place to be, even on a Monday morning at 7:30 am  –what a busy little spot!  According to one local gentleman, it is known as the adult daycare center. This same person also asked Tom and Joyce if they had told us that everyone in Oriental is in the witness protection plan? Cute.

The Bean, a great little spot with local flavor. ~Joyce, Al, Michele and Tom

The Bean, a great little spot with local flavor.
~Joyce, Al, Michele and Tom

Dawn over Oriental, NC

Dawn over Oriental, NC

We hope to visit Oriental and Tom and  Joyce on our return trip in the spring!

Picking Up the Pace in North Carolina

Here we are in the second half of October and only at ICW Mile 61. We spend a lot of time reviewing charts and books (OMG, the books!! Sometimes I feel as though I am back at work pouring over multiple references and resources. Besides the big charts, we have 6 books to review, plus the internet. Why couldn’t it all be in one place??) We had not been moving quickly because our boat insurance had a restriction that we not be farther south than Cape Hatteras before November 1st. We called them and asked for a waiver which was ok’d. November is less than 2 weeks away and there seems to be no major tropical storms on the horizon. I sure hope I did not jinx that by writing it in this blog.

It was really hard to leave Magnolia in Broad Creek, but we decided to start traveling again. Over the past two days, we have traversed the North River, Albemarle Sound, Alligator River, Little Alligator River, the Alligator River/Pungo Canal, the Pungo River, and Pantego Creek and covered 68 nautical miles. That’s equivalent to about 78 statue miles. Statute miles are used along the ICW, so all of the mile markers on charts and posted along the waterway are in statute miles, not nautical miles. While sailing, we are accustomed to calculating and estimating with nautical miles (1/60th of a degree or one minute of longitude) and knots for speed. Nautical miles are longer than statute miles –  roughly 7 nautical miles equals 8 statue miles. Too much math? OK, let’s just say we are doubling checking our estimates for distance and time.

Examples of ICW Mile Markers. See that one on the lower right? It also has depth on it - only 2 feet!! Stay away from that side.

Examples of ICW Mile Markers. See that one on the lower right? It also has depth on it – only 2 feet!! Stay away from that side.

We were treated to a beautiful sunrise in Broad Creek.

Colors appear to announce the sun will soon be up!

Colors appear to announce the sun will soon be up!

The bold orange appears above the marsh shoreline of the creek.

The bold orange appears above the marsh shoreline of the creek.

All of our resources gave warnings about about Albemarle sound – be careful of the waves and chop. Our trip across the 15 miles was very uneventful. We were able to put the jib out to assist the engine.

The day began with sun on the water.

The day began with sun on the water.

Moving along

Moving along. We keep trying to sail, but so far we haven’t had much luck.

The very best part of the day was the sight of this huge rainbow (yes that means the weather did not remain sunny. There were showers off to the west and north.

One of the largest rainbows we have ever seen

One of the largest rainbows we have ever seen!

Makes glad there is rain.....sometimes. :-)

Makes glad there is rain…..sometimes. 🙂

After Albemarle Sound came Alligator River. We did not see any alligators, but there was a swing bridge that opened upon request. Yes, you only had to ask and not wait for the hour or half hour. I wonder if that will ever happen again??

Going through the Alligator river Highway Bridge - a single pivot swing bridge.

Going through the Alligator river Highway Bridge – a single pivot swing bridge. 

The Alligator River turns into the Little Alligator River, but there is no place to anchor or stop between here and after the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal, so we dropped the anchor off to the side of the ICW at Deep Point anchorage for the night.

It rained again during the night and we awoke on Saturday (OCt 19th) to a damp, drizzly, dismal, dreary morning. The Alligator River-Pungo River Canal connects the two rivers in a VERY straight (manmade) line. It is the longest ICW canal at 22 miles.

It looks as though we are traveling overland, but we weren't. Don't rely on the chartplotter alone! Use your eyes and follow the actual markers!

It looks as though we are traveling out of the channel and over the land, but we weren’t. Don’t rely on the chartplotter alone! Use your eyes and follow the actual markers!

Boats are warned to keep a sharp lookout for submerged snags, deadheads, stumps, logs, and assorted debris in the water.  Boaters help each other over the VHF radio by informing others traveling behind when something is spotted. I had the “opportunity” to spot one first and inform other boats behind us to beware.

All along the sides of the canal - just watch out that none of this is floating IN the channel!

All along the sides of the canal – just watch out that none of this is floating IN the channel!

Some of the debris is caused by waves and wakes from boats that erode the shoreline. The roots of trees near the edge are eventually  exposed, weakening the trees so that they eventually topple over into the water.

Eroding shoreline and toppling trees

Eroding shoreline and toppling trees

Sandy soil eroding

Roots exposed in the eroding sandy soil

There were some pretty sights along the way, even though the grayness subdued any much of the potential colors —

Manmade rock wall along the shoreline

Manmade rock wall along the shoreline

Colorful edge to the marshy shore

Colorful edge to the marshy shore

And then we came upon another bridge, the Wilkerson Bridge. Every single chart and book warns boaters that this bridge is not at the official 65 foot height for fixed bridges. It is notoriously 1-2 feet lower. I hold my breath every time we go under one of these 65ers, but especially for this one.

The Wilkerson Bridge

The Wilkerson Bridge

This is one bridge that really needs the measurement sign.

This is one bridge that really needs the measurement sign.

We arrived at Bellhaven, a good place to stop for the day. From the descriptions in the guides, it sounded as though Bellhaven is focusing on attracting boaters and building a reputation as a hospitable place to stop. Several sources mentioned the free guest dock for an overnight tie-up, complete with water, electric, and a pump-out. We followed the chart, found it, and tied up.

Bellhaven Guest Dock

Bellhaven Guest Dock

Ahhh, but, it is no longer free after 2 hours. That only lasted for the first year. OK. We decided to explore the town for those two hours and then move over tot he anchorage area. After three and a half days, we needed to set our feet onto land!

There is a terrific hardware store with hardware-type things and lots of decorative items, cards, gifts, and more. Both of us found something we needed. We wandered about the town, in the drizzle, looking for a place to have a bite to eat. While standing on the sidewalk, a young woman stopped and asked if she could help us in anyway. She named several possible eateries. Then she shyly said, “This one right here, Spoon River, has a nice menu, too, but I am the owner and didn’t want to mention it first.”  We decided to try it, and are so glad we did! If you come to Bellhaven, Spoon River is a must. Great decor, very friendly server, and a delicious, reasonably priced lunch.

Spoon River ~ exterior and interior  ~Al's Angus burger with real french fries and my fish taco with avocado/cucumber salad

Spoon River
~ exterior and interior
~Al’s Angus burger with real french fries and my fish taco with avocado/cucumber salad

I am very hopeful that I will soon have sunny pictures to share, maybe even a beach?