Dances with Barges – Northbound on the Virginia Cut

We left Oriental very early on Monday, April 18th, with Cutting Class, the day the winds were finally going to lay down. The next two days are one of my least favorite sections of the ICW, perhaps the very least favorite. We just wanted to get it done.

We awaken to another morning glow in the east. Over the Oriental breakwater.

We awaken to another morning glow in the east. Over the Oriental breakwater.

On our way with the sunrising ahead.

On our way with the sunrising ahead.

It's an easy morning on the Neuse so Al decided to use the time to clean the windshield, inside and out.

It’s an easy morning so Al decided to use the time to clean the windshield, inside and out.

It's fun to watch the variety of local fisherman and crabbers out on the water, doing their thing.

It’s fun to watch the variety of local fisherman and crabbers out on the water, doing their thing.

It’s winding day in and out of rivers and canals. From Oriental the ICW heads into the Neuse River for a short stretch, and then cuts “inland” westward past Hoboken.

The big fishing boats at RE Mayo. "Cape Potter" is getting his named re-painted.

The big fishing boats at RE Mayo in Hobucken. “Cape Potter” is getting his named re-painted.

Hmmmm........ a duck blind for hunting? Looks like it needs a dressing of fresh greenery.

Hmmmm…….. a duck blind for hunting? Looks like it needs a dressing of fresh greenery.

We cross the Pimlico River and turn into the Pungo River. The Pungo River heads north to Bellhaven (we stopped there on both of our previous trips through here) and then turns eastward. The Alligator River-Pungo River Canal is a long 21 miles stretch of straight water.

We cross the Pimlico River and turn into the Pungo River. The Pungo River heads north to Bellhaven (we stopped there on both of our previous trips through here) and then turns eastward. The Alligator River-Pungo River Canal, 21 miles long, connects the Pungo  River with the Alligator River to the east.

The Alligator River-Pungo River Canal is a long 25 miles stretch of straight water. It has some limited charm, but gets boring fairly quickly. You can see where fallen dead trees are pulled off to the side and piled up. Driftwood, anyone??

The Alligator River-Pungo River Canal has some limited charm, but gets boring fairly quickly. You can see where fallen dead trees are pulled off to the side and piled up. Driftwood, anyone??

Three little turtles sitting on a log. Oops! Our wake washes them right off. SO sorry, but there wasn't much we could do? Perhaps they think of it as a water park ride?

Three little turtles sitting on a log.
Oops! Our wake washes them right off. SO sorry, but there wasn’t much we could do? Perhaps they think of it as a water park ride? Hope so!

How nice to come out of the canal into very calm waters.

How nice to come out of the canal into very calm waters.

The original plan was to reach Deep Point, an anchorage on the Alligator River, north of the Alligator River -Pungo River Canal, stop there for the night, and then continue across the Albemarle Sound and on to Coinjock. But both boats decided to keep on going past the Alligator River Bridge and anchor at Sandy Point.

We watched this smoke billowing up for quite a distance as we came through he Alligator River . Never did find out the cause.

Smoke was billowing up in distance as we came through the Alligator River. The smell of burning carried on the wind to us. NPR news reported (listening to a podcast) that this wildfire in the Alligator National Wildlife Refuge was the largest of 3 wildfires in North Carolina, consuming a total of 17,000 acres. 

A very long day, but very worth it. The sun sets on our 85-mile, 11.5 hour day.

A very long day, but very worth it. The sun sets on our 85-mile, 11.5 hour day.

Tuesday, April 19th and we are up and going again, time to cross the Albemarle. Albemarle Sound can be quite rough in certain conditions. It is wide and shallow (15-20 feet at most so the wind can kick up the waves. Today was a good day. It is on the other side of the  Albemarle Sound, that cruisers must make a choice – Dismal Swamp route or Virginia Cut?? In the fall we had “done the Dismal” taking that route from Portsmouth, Virginia into North Carolina. We decided that the Virginia Cut was the way to go on our northbound travels.

We reached Coinjock Marina on the North River in the Virginia Cut by noon. The docks at Coinjock is a singular dock– one long face dock, 1200 feet long! The marina’s crew knows just how to place the boats and are right there to assist as you come alongside. Coinjock is in the middle of nowhere, but that nowhere location is just right for stopping if you are on the ICW between the Alligator River and Virginia border. There aren’t many other choices.

This photo was taken in the dim morning light as we left the next day. Cutting Class and Kindred Spirit were the last boats at the very far end.

This photo was taken in the dim morning light as we left the next day. Cutting Class and Kindred Spirit were the last boats at the very far end.

coinjock bush

The meaning of the word “coinjock” from the marina’s website.

It felt like a summer day in the 80’s, a little warm blip of a day in the midst of the cold days we have experienced. While Al changed the oil and washed the entire boat with fresh water, I did laundry and polished stainless steel.

Kindred Spirit and Cutting Class in Coinjock

Kindred Spirit and Cutting Class in Coinjock, North Carolina

Coinjock Marina has a famous restaurant, known for its prime rib dinners. How could we not try it?

Coinjock Marina has a famous restaurant, known for its prime rib dinners. How could we not try it? (Dim early morning light again)

prime rib

 

The four of us reserved our slabs of beef ahead of time, but showed some restraint – each couple shared a “Mate’s Cut”, the 14-16 ounce cut rather than the Captain’s 32 ounce piece. It was delicious.

 

prime rib dinner Coinjocks

The Coinjock folks have a sense of humor.

The Coinjock folks have a sense of humor.

We left the Coinjock dock before any of the dockhands arrived for the day.

We left the Coinjock dock before any of the dockhands arrived for the day.

It's a little chilly again.

It’s a little chilly again, but we prefer to be up on the flybridge.

 

IMG_5207

We cross the border of North Carolina and Virginia. Not much fanfare. No "Welcome to Virginia" Just a square green ICW 63. If you aren't reading the chart as you go, you wouldn't even notice.

We cross the border of North Carolina and Virginia. Not much fanfare. No “Welcome to Virginia” Just a square green ICW 63. If you aren’t reading the chart as you go, you wouldn’t even notice.

ICW markers are popular with birds for their waterfront homes. Seeing more than before, perhaps because this is our first trip heading north in the spring. Looks like the red marker fell over and a temporary floating buoy replaced it. Didn’t bother that bird at all.

ICW markers are popular with birds for their waterfront homes. It’s spring and everyone is nesting.     It looks like the red marker fell over and a temporary floating buoy replaced it. The closeness to the water didn’t bother this bird family at all.

The day began in a routine way, casting off and heading north, just like the many days that preceded it. After crossing the Pimlico River, the Alligator River, Albemarle Sound, and the North River (Coinjock), you would have thought we were done with potentially rough waters, but Currituck Sound and North Landing River gave us quite a ride! There was more “traffic” on the water than we had seen since beginning of this northbound trip three weeks ago. The bows of sailboats were splashing up and down in the strong winds and very choppy water in Currituck Sound. The top of our flybridge may be 18 feet above the water’s surface, but the water sprayed up and over our bow all over Kindred Spirit. Much to our surprise, and Al’s dismay after his hard work, the “spray” was sometime more like a wave of water. She was so clean….. and this river water is so brown.

Once we were into the narrower stretches of the ICW, the waters calmed and we settled into following the ICW route into Pungo Ferry. Well, things were calmer, and narrower, but there was also more boat traffic as well as barges and tugs.

I call this part of the trip “Dances with Barges.” The drama began with this sight coming around a bend —

"Time to Go", the trawler traveling ahead of us, rounds past a tug and barge that is off to the side of the ICW. This one was Aries, a tug-barge combo we would get to know rather well over the next few hours.

“Time to Go”, the trawler traveling ahead of us, rounds past a tug and barge that is off to the side of the ICW. This one was “Aries”, a tug-barge combo we would get to know rather well over the next few hours.

Aha! Aries was off to the side to let this southbound tug and barge pass by. Time to Go is caught in the middle.

Aha! Aries was off to the side to let this southbound tug and barge pass by. Time to Go is caught in the middle.

The ICW is narrow and winding here so the tugs and their barges aren’t visible until you round a bend. Fortunately, the VHF radios kept us in touch with each other. The barge captions were all patient.

Southbound John Parrish coming at us.

Southbound John Parrish coming at us.

Shortly after - southbound Kodiak coming at us.

Shortly after – southbound Kodiak coming at us.

Southbound Evelyn Doris coming at us.

Southbound Evelyn Doris coming at us.

We are all approaching the North Landing Bridge (a swing bridge) for its 10:30 am opening. Time to Go passes through, and then we pass through, noticing the damage recently caused by a barge.

We are all approaching the North Landing Bridge (a swing bridge) for its 10:30 am opening. Time to Go passes through, and then we pass through, noticing the damage recently caused by a barge.

Aries passes through behind us, with Asylum and Cutting Class steaming up as fast as they can while begging the bridge tender not to close before they get there. Marcia sweet-talked the bridge and Asylum flat out told him that if he began to close the bridge now both boats would be unable to stop in time. They got through!

Aries passes through behind us, with Asylum and Cutting Class steaming up as fast as they can while begging the bridge tender not to close before they get there. Marcia sweet-talked the bridge and Asylum flat out told him that if he began to close the bridge now both boats would be unable to stop in time. They got through!

Aries informs all of us that he will now move ahead and lead the pack to Great Bridge Bridge (not a typo, that’s the name) and then into the Great Bridge Lock. We are all aiming for the 12:00 bridge opening, because it only opens on the hour.

Aries pushes past us with its barge ahead.

Aries pushes past us with its barge ahead.

 Stumps, snags and deadheads line the shore. It is narrow here and no one wants to move over too close and get caught on them. The term “deadheads” does not relate to Grateful Dead fans at all.

Stumps, snags and deadheads line the shore’s edge. It is narrow here and not gets shallow quickly. No one wants to move over too close and get snagged on any sunken deadheads. The term “deadheads” does not relate to Grateful Dead fans at all.

Before we get to Great Bridge, we all had to get through the Centreville Turnpike Bridge's 11:30 am opening so that we could make the noon opening of Great Bridge Bridge. We have become quite a line-up of boats.

Before we get to Great Bridge, we all had to get through the Centreville Turnpike Bridge’s 11:30 am opening so that we could make the noon opening of Great Bridge Bridge. We have become quite a line-up of boats.

This caught my eye as we exited the Centerville Bridge - a Bahamas courtesy flag still flying on the mast.

This caught my eye as we exited the Centerville Bridge – a Bahamas courtesy flag still flying on the mast. Most of us take them down when we return to the U.S. I thought you had to take them down?

Great Bridge both sides

Aries leads the rest of us through.

Great Bridge Lock is coordinated with Great Bridge Bridge. On we all go……… One tug and barge followed by 9 “rec” boats as the commercial guys referred to us on the VHF radio. At least I assumed they mean “rec” for recreational boats and not “wreck.”

Into the lock – Aries with barge on the starboard side, and all of "rec" boats on portside

Into the lock – Aries with barge on the starboard side, and all of “rec” boats on portside

Ready and waiting for the lock to fill.

Ready and waiting for the lock to fill.

And out we go! Rec boats first.

And out we go! Rec boats first.

A few more bridges (open railroad bridges and the Gilmertin Bridge) and we are in Portsmouth. Whew. What a day! We will reconsider the Dismal Swamp route next time. It may be longer and a bit shallower, but it requires no dancing with barges and bridges.

Instead of anchoring at Hospital Point as we usually do, we decided to try the free docks in downtown Portsmouth, two small cut-out harbors.. This one, North Landing, seemed to be roomier and no one else was there at that hour. The only thing we had to contend with was the constant in and out of the ferry boat. But it’s a free dock for the night, so who cares about noise and some wakes???

Portmsouth free docks

Cutting Class and Kindred Spirit, at another dock.

Using our headsets (Christmas present to each other) to dock in Portsmouth. We don’t use them a lot, but when we do they really help. The distance from the flybridge down to the bow or stern makes it hard to hear each other over the engine. At first it felt like “cheating” because we never used anything like this on the sailboats, but it sure does make it easier in potentially tricky docking or anchoring.

A selfie with our bluetooth wireless headsets by Cruising Solutions, a Christmas present to each other.  We don’t use them a lot, but when we do they really help. The distance from the flybridge down to the bow or stern makes it hard to hear each other over the engine. At first it felt like “cheating” because we never used anything like this on the sailboats, but it sure does make it easier in potentially tricky docking or anchoring. We used them here in Portsmouth because there were no dock hands to assist at this free dock.

Kindred Spirit and Cutting Class in Portsmouth.

Kindred Spirit and Cutting Class in Portsmouth.

Not the most exciting segment of the journey, nor the prettiest for sure, but it was part of the journey and has been duly recorded. Done.

Brrrrrrr…….. Shivering Through North Carolina

Anthony was up bright and early to cast off our lines. We hope to see them again when they travel north to New England this summer. Bye!

Anthony was up bright and early to cast off our lines. We hope to see them again when they travel north to New England this summer. Bye!

It’s been chilly, perhaps one might even declare it to be cold. If you are living in a house, 49 degrees may only be chilly, but on a boat without heating, 49 degrees outside has translated into 52- 54 degrees at night in our cabin. That is cold. Now I wish we had brought along our flannel sheets! I have been wearing socks with my Keen sandals to keep my toes cozy.

We departed Osprey Marina in South Carolina with plans to reach North Carolina, at least to Southport, hopefully to Carolina Beach.  The sky was still a dusky gray-blue as we left the dock.

The Waccamaw River's colors swiftly changed from dusky gray-blue to a rosy glow.

The Waccamaw River’s colors swiftly changed from dusky gray-blue to a rosy glow. One of my favorite pictures of our days in Waccamaw River.

This was the first time our northbound voyage that we pulled out the heavy duty cold weather gear - hats, gloves, blanket. Not our best fashion statement, even for cruisers.

This was the first time our northbound voyage that we pulled out the heavy duty cold weather gear – hats, gloves, blanket. Not our best fashion statement, even for cruisers.

Cold rowing on the ICW ! We passed four of these boats in one section. The crews were mixed age groups. As we slowed to pass by, I stood outside and chatted with them. They were cold, too. And closer to the water.

Cold rowing on the ICW ! We passed four of these boats in one section. The crews were mixed age groups. As we slowed to pass by, I stood outside and chatted with them. They were cold, too. And closer to the water.

Big casino boats at dock near the Calabash River.

Big casino boats at dock near the Calabash River.

We made Southport in good time, only 7.5 hours, so we decided to brave the Cape Fear River and continue on. The current was in the right direction, but the wind was from the north. It was a “vigorous” ride, especially through the rip. There were 20+ knots of wind and  5-foot seas.Taking some water over the bow and upwards!

An attempted photo of our vigorous ride up the Cape Fear River. We were on the flybridge – photo taken through the closed plastic. I is easy to see how this river was named. In conditions worse than this, "fear" could be the word of the day.

An attempted photo of our vigorous ride up the Cape Fear River. We were on the flybridge (photo taken through the closed plastic.) It is easy to see how this river was named. In conditions worse than this, “fear” could be the word of the day.

This sailboat was having some trouble In the middle of the river. His anchor had fallen off the bow near the red nun, and a large barge was heading northward. We could hear them communicating on the VHF. to avoid any possible collision.

This sailboat was having some trouble In the middle of the river. His anchor had fallen off the bow near the red nun, and a container ship was heading northward. We could hear them communicating on the VHF  to avoid any possible collision.

The barge passes us by. There can be heavy barge and container ship traffic on the Cape Fear. BTW, the sailboat recovered his dropped anchor after the barge passed him.

The barge passes us by. There can be heavy traffic on the Cape Fear with the barges and container ships, plus ferries. BTW, the sailboat recovered his dropped anchor after the barge passed him.

Turning into Snows Cut, we noticed that the waters had a very curious look. It must have been near a tidal change because very dark water was next to lighter water, almost as though the two bodies of water met but refused to mingle. This occurred on both sides of Snows Cut.

Turning into Snows Cut, we noticed that the waters had a very curious look. It must have been near a tidal change because very dark water was next to lighter water, almost as though the two bodies of water met but refused to mingle. Salt and fresh? Dirty ICW/river water  and clearer ocean water?  We don’t know. This occurred on both sides of Snows Cut.

We were still making very good time, so we passed by Carolina Beach and went on to Wrightsville Beach, anchoring in Motts Channel in our usual spot (10.5 hour day, 78 nautical miles.)

The next day, Friday, April 15, continued to be cold. We opted to remain in the salon and steer from the lower helm. No flybridge today. Wimpy, but more comfortable.

Wrightsville Beach to Swansboro, 48 nautical miles, was a day of timing bridges, even though Al and Anthony had lowered our mini-mast. These bridges require careful timing or you could miss a scheduled opening (they are not “on request”) and be forced to wait anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. — Beach Bridge, Figure 8 Bridge, Onslow Beach Bridge.

As we turned out of Motts Channel , we saw SS Sophie docked just before the Wrightsville Beach Bridge.

As we turned out of Motts Channel , we saw the SS Sophie docked just before the Wrightsville Beach Bridge.

Traveling through the Camp Lejeune section, we recalled the helicopters and military drills in the ICW during our first southern passage in 2013. This time we only saw tanks and orange cut-out men on the eastern side of ICW. Target practice??

Traveling through the Camp Lejeune section, we recalled the helicopters and military drills in the ICW during our first southern passage in 2013. This time we only saw abandoned (?) tanks and orange cut-out men on the eastern side of ICW. Target practice??

Swansboro

Swansboro

Needing a rest stop, we chose Swansboro, a waterfront town we had missed on prior trips. The On the Water ChartGuides and Active Captain both said it was possible to anchor here in the little harbor, but we were the only boat in town, on anchor. Before dropping the anchor, we toured around a bit to check the depths, and went over a little too far — our first grounding of this 2015-2016 travel (if you don’t count the deliberate one to clean the boat’s bottom in the Bahamas.) No worries. A little shifting and maneuvering and the captain had her off the mud and moving again.

The winds were still strong, and the current was running swiftly through this anchorage, holding us in one direction.

The winds were still strong, and the current was running swiftly through this anchorage, holding us in one direction. The boat made circles all night and day, but not in a 360 around the anchor, just in loops. Al kept the iPad on so he could monitor the swinging. Made quite a design.

Zoomed out view on left, Zoomed in view on right.   The boat made loops  all night and day, but not in a 360 around the anchor, just in loops off to one side of the anchor. The anchor is the upper right blue dot. The lower blue dot is the location of the boat when we pulled anchor the next day. Al kept the iPad on so he could monitor the swinging. Made quite a design.

Swansboro was a nice place to walk about and stretch the legs. The “main” street had gift shops and restaurants, most with a unique flavor of their own.

Swansboro waterfront view.

Swansboro waterfront view.

Lunch at Church Street Irish Pub & Deli – good burgers in a funky little restaurant.

Lunch at Church Street Irish Pub & Deli – good burgers in a funky little restaurant.

The most unusual store was named Poor Man’s Hole filled with antiques and vintage “stuff,” great for browsing or unearthing that unique special something that you didn’t know you needed or wanted. But had to have. (We only looked, no buying!)

The upper porch of Poor Man's Hole has matching his and her figureheads. Wouldn't that look nice on our house in Connecticut?

The upper porch of Poor Man’s Hole has matching his and her figureheads. Wouldn’t that look nice on our house in Connecticut?

A feast for the eyes if you like roaming through curious places looking at unusual items.

A feast for the eyes if you like roaming through curious places looking at unusual items. We do!

Look here! We could buy a figurehead to bring home! How cool would that be? We passed the opportunity up.

Look here –  We could buy a figurehead to bring home! How cool would that be? In the end, we passed the opportunity up.

Calm enough to cook a pot of sausage lentil soup while underway. Simmering soup helped to warm the cabin and then our tummies.

Calm enough to cook a pot of sausage lentil soup while underway. Simmering soup helped to warm the cabin and then our tummies.

Our day’s layover in Swansboro became one night and a partial day. After our lunch in Swansboro (followed by a nap), the Captain declared we would pull anchor and continue on (3:30 in the afternoon??) Never dull on this ship. It was a good decision – 2 hours farther and we anchored in a marina community cove called Spooner Creek which was much, much calmer.

Cinnamon apple raisin oatmeal keeps us warm on another cold morning.

Oatmeal with apples and raisins keeps us warm on the next cold morning.

 

Onward to Oriental, arriving around 10:00 am so we had the day to visit with Cutting Class. Here we are in Oriental, together once again! An extra bonus – our friends, John and Debra on Mandalay are also in Oriental.

Cutting Class at one of Oriental's free town docks (available for for 2 nights only within a 30-day time period). Mandalay, a classic 50+ foot steel hull Berger at the marina's dock.

Cutting Class at one of Oriental’s free town docks (available for for 2 nights only within a 30-day time period). We wish more towns and harbors were as accommodating as Oriental.
Mandalay, a classic 50+ foot steel-hull Berger at the marina’s dock. Like us, this is John and Debra’s 3rd boat with the same name. Sometimes you just get attached to a name and identify with it too much to ever give it up.

There was no room at the town’s free dock so we stayed out in the anchorage. Oriental has several “webcams” on their town website, TownDock.net, so we were checking the town docks and the anchorage before we even arrived. Wish more places had webcams!

Oriental TownDock.net webcams

Oriental TownDock.net webcams – Harbor view and anchorage view (These photos were after we left, which is why there are open docks and an empty anchorage!)

Our leg muscles had a nice stretch again with a walk around Oriental. The town certainly looked quite different than our previous 6-day visit in October waiting for Joachim and the torrential rains to pass by.  The streets are dry this time!

For a small town and harbor, there are a lot of fishing trawlers here.

Pleasure boats, power and sail, share the harbor with fishing boats. For a small town, there are a lot of fishing trawlers here.

"The Bean", the local hang-out for coffee, breakfast and ice cream. This time you can walk right up to the steps instead of kayak or wade to it, if at all.

“The Bean”, the local hang-out for coffee, breakfast and ice cream. This time we could  walk right up to the steps instead of kayak or wade to it, if at all.

So, how did Oriental get its name? The small town was originally known as Smith’s Creek, but in 1886 the new postmaster’s wife, Rebecca, thought the village needed a better name. Rebecca was obviously a woman ahead of her time, thinking of marketing possibilities. One version of the naming story says that Rebecca found the nameplate from the 1862 wreck of the  Civil War sailing steamer “Oriental” on the beaches of the Outer Banks and thought that name was more suitable. Another story says she just saw the nameplate in a Manteo home. Regardless, the name “Oriental” made such an impression on Rebecca that the village became known as Oriental a few years after the post office was established and the town was incorporated in 1899.

Oriental is a town that takes its name seriously.

Oriental is a town that takes its name seriously. Note the “oriental” style of lettering on the yacht club’s pavillion.

Dragons abound (and afloat) through Oriental. The dragon is the town's mascot, also continuing the oriental theme of its name.

Dragons abound (and afloat) through Oriental. The dragon is the town’s mascot, also continuing the oriental theme of its name. This is the first time we  saw this little gem of a dragon because in October it was under water.

The Captains of Cutting Class and Kindred Spirit had time to problem solve a Garmin chart plotter issue. Problem solving - two heads are better than one. Problem solved successfully!

Problem solving – two heads are better than one. Problem solved successfully! The Captains of Cutting Class and Kindred Spirit had time to problem solve a Garmin chart plotter issue. A problem that Garmin was unable to solve. Aha!

John holding Zoe, Dan, Marcia, Debra, Me. and Al - group selfie thanks to Al's long arm.

John holding Zoe, Dan, Marcia, Debra, me,  and Al – group selfie thanks to Al’s long arm.We had a another great cruiser happy hour with friends along the way.

From Osprey Marina in South Carolina to Oriental, North Carolina – four days and 170 miles. This northbound journey has been more about the friends we connect with along the way than it is about the places. We are moving quickly. Why? A baby shower for our newest grandchild, a granddaughter, on May 7th is quickly approaching……….

From North to South Carolina

It was a little chilly, but the sun has felt wonderful after all those days (weeks) of clouds and rain.)

It was a little chilly, but the sun has felt wonderful after all those days (weeks?) of clouds and rain.

On Friday, October 16th, we left Southport and headed back into the ICW. In 2013, we traveled outside for this next stretch, exiting through Cape Fear Inlet and back in again at Little River, then out again and back in again in Wynyah Inlet. This time, in the interests of doing it differently, we are traveling inside, in the ICW.

It was a 5-hour day, traveling  33 nautical miles.

 

There was plenty to look at through this stretch of the ICW.

Just past Southport Harbor where we were anchored is a very nice marina, Southport Marina. as we passed by, we noticed another Mariner Orient, a 40 footer. Looks pretty similar to us!

Just past Southport Harbor where we were anchored is a very nice marina, Southport Marina. as we passed by, we noticed another Mariner Orient, a 40 footer. Looks pretty similar to us!

This was such a stately southern mansion. We both appreciated her fine lines.

This was such a stately southern mansion, sitting along the ICW, surrounded by trees and marshes.

Most of this section of the ICW was lined with large waterfront homes, each with their own docks and gazebos.

 waterfront homes1

myrtle beach waterfront homes2

We waved to this guy as he painted his gazebo. He did wave back without falling off his ladder. Question - How does he move the ladder?

We waved to this guy as he painted his gazebo. He did wave back without falling off his ladder. Question – How does he move the ladder?

Looks like this shrimper has seen better days.

Looks like this shrimper has seen better days.

This stretch reminded us of the Florida ICW with canals dug out like street for homes and their boats.

This stretch reminded us of Florida’s ICW with canals dug out like streets for homes and their boats.

I was watching the chart books carefully and looking for a sign, or something, that would let us know when we crossed from North Carolina to South Carolina.

The border between North and South Carolina

This is the  border between North and South Carolina, I think. It was as close as I could tell from the chart books. Why didn’t anyone post a “Welcome” sign???

Along a quiet grassy stretch, we could just see the head of this ibis peeking up.

Along a quiet grassy stretch, we could just see the head of this ibis peeking up.

Marshes on the west side

Marshes and creeks on the west side

Inlets on the eastern side

Inlets to the ocean on the eastern side

Not exactly part of the ICW's natural wild life, but definitely noticeable.

Not exactly part of the ICW’s natural wild life, but definitely noticeable.

We had made reservations at Myrtle Beach Yacht Club in Coquina Harbor for the next 3 days.

We knew form listening to the VHF that you turn just in front of the black and white lighthouse, a faux lighthouse.

We knew from listening to the VHF that you turn just in front of the black and white lighthouse, a faux lighthouse.

Coquina Harbor is a large man-made basin in North Myrtle Beach, near Little River. three marinas  fit inside-  Lightkeepers Marina, Coquina Yacht Club (a condo community), and Myrtle Beach Yacht Club at the far end of the basin.

We turned into the channel and wove our way to the back To Myrtle Beach Yacht Club.

We turned into the channel and wove our way among the docks to the back of the basin to Myrtle Beach Yacht Club.

Myrtle Beach Yacht Club had a good reputation, very reasonably priced and very friendly. The staff and the other boaters were cheerful and helpful. We were given a dock right near the office, the marine store, the laundry, the restaurant, and the pool. Very convenient. There is boardwalk around the  edge of the entire basin, but each dock has a locked gate so you felt very safe.

We were given a dock right near the office, the marine store, the laundry, the restaurant, and the pool.

Kindred Spirit nestled into her slip for the next 3 days.

The pool was "closed" for the season, but when I asked if I could use it that afternoon while I did my laundry, they said go right ahead, but the water is cold! I'm a northern gal, no problem. ;-)

The pool was “closed” for the season, but when I asked if I could use it that afternoon while I did my laundry, they said go right ahead, but cautioned me that the water is cold! I’m a northern gal, no problem. 😉

A little dock party get-together.

Making new friends  – A little dock party get-together. Bud (yellow shirt) was the first MTOA member we have met on this entire trip.

Staying at a yacht club for three days may sound like a vacation, and in some ways it was. Access to unlimited water and electricity is a luxury when you live on a boat. But this was also a good place to get some boat chores done, like the piles of  laundry. The boat also needed a good cleaning inside and out. Other chores are necessary, but not so much fun………

Each slip had its own pump-out station. For the landlubbers reading the blog, the pump-out is necessary for cleaning out the holding tank which holds the toilet waste. Get it? Here is Al with the "self-serve" pump-out.

Each slip had its own pump-out station. For the landlubbers reading the blog, the pump-out is necessary for cleaning out the holding tank which holds the toilet waste. Get it? Here is Al with the “self-serve” pump-out.

The refrigerator and freezer really needed to be defrosted. To speed things up, Al uses a little heat. Then I quickly get everything back into the chilling spaces.

The refrigerator and freezer really needed to be defrosted. To speed things up, Al uses a little heat. Then I quickly get everything back into the chilling spaces.

Hanging out at a marina did leave Al with a little bit of time on his hands. When he has time on his hands, he starts fussing with things. He has been frustrated with our solar panels at times. Although more powerful than on the Morgan, they seem to get shaded too often. If he had his way, he would probably invent some thing-a-ma-jig so that he could tilt and twirl both panels all over the place to follow the sun.

Playing around with the solar panels to get a better tilt on the back one and increase the amount of solar power.

Playing around with the solar panels to get a better tilt on the back one and increase the amount of solar power.

The result of his tinkering?For now, he has the back panel tilted like this.

The result of his tinkering?For now, he has the back panel tilted like this.

Each morning we took a walk on the boardwalk with our coffee, checking out the other boats. Every boater loves looking at other boats.
Coquina Harbor walkway Coquina Harbor wide view on walkLighthousemorning sun on grasses ICW

While doing our chores, we were eagerly awaiting the return of Magnolia’s crew, Anthony and Annette, from their road trip home to Washington, DC. We haven’t seen them in over a year. Their Magnolia is also a Morgan, a 44 Center Cockpit, and is very similar to our dear Morgan. Magnolia and her crew have had feature roles in my past blogs as our paths cross and criss cross. We will always share the bond of being members of the “freshman cruising class of 2013.”

Magnolia, patiently waiting for her crew to return.

Magnolia, patiently waiting for her crew to return. She is a beauty, isn’t she?

 

Rose and John, owners of The Officers Club at MBYC have a reputation for their awesome chicken wings, according to Anthony, Magnolia's captain. He ate those wings back in his youth at their former restaurant in New Jersey.

Rose and John, owners of The Officers Club at MBYC, have a reputation for their awesome chicken wings, according to Anthony, Magnolia’s captain. He ate those wings back in his youth at their former restaurant in New Jersey. After a serious taste test, we all agreed!

Anthony and Annette, Joe and Christine, their friends from Southport, and us. Another great evening with old and new friends.

Anthony and Annette, Joe and Christine, their friends from Southport, and us. Another great evening with old and new friends.

Next day? Magnolia and Kindred Spirit will travel together into the Waccamaw River.

Southport, The Happiest Seaside Town in America

Before I write about Southport, we had to get to Southport, which means heading through Snows Cut and into the Cape Fear River, a 12-mile trip, only 2 hours from one anchorage to the next. We timed our passage in the Cape Fear River for slack tide for a smoother ride.

Different views on each side of Snows Cut

Different views on each side of Snows Cut – sand and trees.

Up ahead is Snows Cut Bridge, a 65 foot clearance, usually. With he recent rains, the marker showed 63 feet. This is no big deal,b ut farther south there were sailboats that could not pass below 65 ft bridges because of the high water - only 57 feet in one case.

Up ahead is Snows Cut Bridge, a 65 foot clearance, usually. With he recent rains, the marker showed only 63 feet. This is no big deal, but farther south there were sailboats that could not pass below a 65 ft bridges because of the high water – only 57 feet of clearance under that one

Whoa! Look at those greens and reds. Sometimes you have to watch very carefully when the ICW merges into a new waterway or passes an inlet.

Whoa! Look at those greens and reds. Sometimes you have to watch very carefully when the ICW merges into a new waterway or passes an inlet.

Cape Fear is a very busy waterway, leading up to Wilmington, North Carolina and out to the ocean just past Southport and Bald Head Island. Tankers, barges and ferries are all coming and going.

As we merged into the Cape Fear River, we could just see the top of a tanker over this little island.

As we merged into the Cape Fear River, we could just see the top of a tanker over this little island. We kept an eye on it.

Naturally, without hesitation, we made sure that we were slow enough (not really a problem) so that the tanker would be well past us as we converged into the same water.

Naturally, without hesitation, we made sure that we were slow enough (not really a problem) so that the tanker would be well past us as we converged into the same water.

Not long after that, here comes another tanker towards us. Check out that bow wake - really pushing a lot of water!

Not long after that, another tanker comes along, heading towards us.  Check out that bow wake – really pushing a lot of water!

The ferries seemed like nothing after the two tankers. Easy to maneuver around.

The ferries seemed like nothing after the two tankers. Easy to maneuver around.

We enjoyed our visit to Southport  in 2013 and were eager to stop and spend a day or two here once again.

Welcome to Southport!

Welcome to Southport!

Entering Southport's harbor, wharf on the starboard side, marsh on the port side.

Entering Southport’s harbor, wharf on the starboard side, marsh on the port side.

Southport has a little harbor, and I do mean little. There is room for 2-3 boats to anchor, at most. We were fortunate that we arrived and anchored just before 2 other boats turned into the harbor. The harbor is lined with docks for fishing boats, has a few small docks for private boats, fishing boats, and several wharfside restaurants. Most people don’t anchor here in the harbor and prefer to go on to the marinas.  We like the convenience of the harbor anchorage and the price.

Kindred Spirit in the harbor anchorage. The photo is deceiving because there isn't as much room as it looks. Sometimes I could almost hear the diner's conversations

Kindred Spirit in the harbor anchorage.  Sometimes I could almost hear the conversations at the dining tables.

On our other side, we could see the ICW over the marshes.

On our other side, we could see the ICW over the marshes.

A white ibis in the marshes.

A white ibis in the marshes near us.

We could see the Halloween blow-up lawn decorations from our boat. I think they were there the last time.

We could see the Halloween blow-up lawn decorations from our boat – same ones as 2013, minus one pumpkin. And the only ones in Southport that we saw.

You just have to wonder what possessed anyone to name their boat, Booger or Trashfest. So at odds with the rest of the scenery.

You just have to wonder what possessed anyone to name their boat, Booger or Trashfest. There has to be a reason, right? It is so at odds with the rest of the scenery.

On our stroll around the town we were again enchanted with the place. Everything is well-cared for and well-maintained. The people are outrageously friendly without being annoying. Southport is home to festivals, artists, history, architecture, natural beauty, and culture; and its residents are understandably proud of their little gem.

"Happiest Seaside Town in America"

Southport was awarded the title of “2015 Happiest Seaside Town”, by Coastal Living Magazine, as the part of their “best coastal places to call home—for a weekend or a lifetime.”

Since this was our second visit, we needed to do something different. After a 30-minute walk, we stopped in the Southport Tea House for a spot of afternoon tea and treats.

Southport Tea Hose, a charming little cottage of serenity.

Southport Tea Hose, a charming little cottage of serenity.

“Step back in time. Leave the hustle and bustle of this world behind.  Upon entering our doors, feel the warmth of the welcome you receive as you are guided to your seat.     Don’t give schedules another thought as you drink in the unhurried atmosphere.”  This quote from their website is no exaggeration and is absolutely true. To our fellow cruisers, on your way south and on your way north, if you stop in Southport, you must take the time to visit the Southport Tea House. You will not regret it!

We are not tea connoisseurs, but could tell the difference between these custom loose leaf brewed teas and the bags we use at home and while cruising. Al tried the raspberry tea with his chocolate tart, and I decided to try Southern sweet tea (for the first time) with a lemon cranberry scone. Patrick, the chef, assured me that his Southern sweet tea would not be too sweet. He was absolutely right. I won’t try it anywhere else now because it would never compare to this. Delicious!! We thoroughly enjoyed every bite and every sip, as well as the company and the ambience.

Our tea time treats. Patrick, the chef and Sherry French, the owner.

Our tea time treats.
Patrick, the chef and Sherry French, the owner. Wonderful people – Thank you for making our visit feel so special.

Back on the boat, it’s a nice treat to take the time to cook a warm and relaxing breakfast on those mornings when we aren’t up with the dawn for a long traveling day.

Coffee with sour dough French toast topped with strawberries.

Coffee with sour dough French toast topped with strawberries. The coffee was made in the percolator to save the batteries, which were getting low.

Al was determined to get our solar panels to face the right direction so that they would would soak up more sunshine.

Al was determined to get our solar panels to face the right direction so that they would would soak up more sunshine and add to our batteries.  Out goes a second anchor off the stern to hold the boat facing south.

For our second day of “let’s do something different than the last time,” we played true tourists and took a 45-minute ride on Southport Fun Tours, around the town in an oversized golf cart. Our guide, “Rev”, entertained us with jokes (he rings the bell for the bad ones), as well as tales about Southport’s history and points of interest. I can’t remember half of what he told us!

The cemetery, always a point of interest.

The cemetery, always a point of interest.

The old jail. Rev pointed out the repaired brick to the lower right of the top left window. A prisoner escaped by digging through there. Really????

The old jail. Rev pointed out the repaired brick to the lower right of the top left window. A prisoner escaped by digging through there. Really????

This is just one of the many waterfront homes that overlook the ICW and out to Cape Fear. What a location.

This is just one of the many waterfront homes that overlook the ICW and out to Cape Fear. What a location.

I love this little stained glass window in the peak of this home.

I love this little stained glass window in the peak of this home. It would look so good on our house………

“Southern live oak” trees are amazing tress with their twisting and turning branches. Just makes you want to go tree climbing again like a child. They are everywhere and most are quite old.  Many of them have the “resurrection fern” growing on them. The fern is not that noticeable during dry weather, because it turns brown and looks dead. But the rains cause a transformation – the shriveled, brown fronds open up and turn bright green again, hence the name “resurrection fern.”

The twists and turns of Southern Live Oaks. In Southport, even the homes change to accommodate the trees -- take a close look at the upper right photo.

The twists and turns of Southern Live Oaks. In Southport, even the homes are built or modified to accommodate the trees — take a close look at the upper right photo.

Rev pointed out the various houses and businesses that have played a role in tv shows and films. For a number of years, North Carolina had a tax exemption for filmmakers which attracted many production companies. The city of Southport has been the location for many TV series such as Revenge and Under the Dome, and Andy Griffith’s house in Matlock. Films which have been made in Southport include I Know What You Did Last Summer, Summer Catch, Domestic Disturbance, Crimes of the Heart, Mary and Martha, Nights in Rodanthe, A Walk to Remember and Safe Haven. BUT, he informed us, the legislature recently revoked that status and now tv and film makers have gone to Georgia. He commented that this has been a huge loss for North Carolina and a big gain for Georgia.

This house was in the 1986 movie, Crimes of The Heart , starring Jessica Lange, Sissy Spacek, Diane Keaton, and Sam Shepard.

This house was in the 1986 movie, Crimes of The Heart , starring Jessica Lange, Sissy Spacek, Diane Keaton, and Sam Shepard. It is now on my list of old movies to watch,especially with a cast like that.

This was the house in Matlock, the tv show starring Andy Griffith, after the Mayberry series.

This was the house in Matlock, the tv show starring Andy Griffith, after his Mayberry series.

And this one was Big Jim's house in "Under the Dome," a very silly and strange tv series that recently ended for good reason.

And this one was Big Jim’s house in “Under the Dome,” a very silly and strange tv series that recently ended for good reason.

Southport is most proud of its fame from Safe Haven, the movie based on the Nicholas Sparks novel. Southport is specifically named as the location and was really filmed here (and we now know that isn’t always the case.) It was released in 2013 and there are still posters and signs about it all over the town. Rev had lots to say about the movie, the actors, and the filming locations.

Top photo - Moore Street Market Bottom - Josh Duhamel's home. I actually photographed this house and included it in the blog from our 2013 visit. It's a darling little house right across from the docks.

Top photo – Moore Street Market
Bottom – Alex’s (played by Josh Duhamel) house. I actually photographed this house and included it in the blog from our 2013 visit. It’s a darling little house right across from the docks.

This little duck statue sits not the brick fence around Alex's house. Rev, our guide, said that the duck is featured in several scenes, but got no billing for it. Yes, the bell rang on that joke.

This little duck statue sits on the brick fence around “Alex’s” house. Rev, our guide, said that the duck is featured in several scenes, but got no billing for it. Yes, the bell rang on that joke.

Rev has this "Wanted"poster hanging on the visor of his golf cart. It's not real - it's the one from the Safe Haven movie for Julianne Hough's character, Katie/Erin.

Rev has this “Wanted”poster hanging on the visor of his golf cart. It’s not real – it’s the one from the Safe Haven movie for Julianne Hough’s character, Katie/Erin. He told us not to call 911.

Al and I hadn’t read the novel or seen the movie, but after this, we had to, right? So on a long, long download over the free wifi we could grab, we managed to rent it from iTunes. The movie’s short description – “A young woman with a mysterious past lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.” Hmmm, ok. The movie was not all that great. In fact, critics really panned it as “schmaltzy, predictable, and melodramatic, … with a  ludicrous plot twist…”  ~~Rotten Tomatoes. Harsh though that sounds, I have to agree. But, I enjoyed watching it anyway just because we were right there in Southport and could recognize the local sights. I do believe that it must have been a very cool experience to watch a film in production right in your own town, for the residents of Southport.

We spent a short time in the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport, a companion museum to the one we visited in Beaufort in 2013. It holds a nice collection of nautical artifacts from the Cape Fear River and sea. The best one was the periscope from the USS Dolphin, a research submarine used by the US Navy from 1968 through 2006.

The periscope outside on the museum's peak. Al tests it out and surveys the 360 degree sights around Southport.

The periscope outside on the museum’s peak.
Al tests it out and surveys the 360 degree sights around Southport, from inside.

Time for dinner decisions. In 2013 we ate at “Fishy Fishy” on the wharf, which was fun. Looking for something different, we heard good and unique things about the “Yacht Basin Provision Company”, also on the wharf. We “drove” to the restaurant by dinghy and “parked” at their dock. This would be a distinctly different experience than our tea at the Southport Tea House yesterday. 🙂  Fresh seafood, casual and friendly, right on the wharf. Definitely casual and laid back.

The exterior of the Yacht Basin Provision Company. Nice and rustic.

The exterior of the Yacht Basin Provision Company. Street side and wharfside views. Nice and rustic.

What’s unique? The drinks are on the “honor system”, including beer and wine. You take what you want from the refrigerated coolers and let them know when you pay the bill. We have never been anywhere else like that!

Inside the Provision Company - casual, fun, and very tasty.

Inside the Provision Company – casual, fun, and very tasty. We ate right on the porch, enjoying the view, the food, and chatting with other folks, patrons and servers.

We like Southport even more on this second visit and certainly recommend it as a stopover for our cruising friends. Take the time to visit for awhile. IF, and this is a huge IF, I were to ever live in the south, I think I would seriously consider Southport. But I do have one recommendation for Southport – You are a lovely and friendly town, but could you please repair your public dinghy docks?? They are quickly approaching a dangerous condition.

Another lovely sunset brings an end to our time in Southport.

Another lovely sunset over the ICW brings an end to our time in Southport.