Blues Skies & Sunshine over North Carolina

A selfie of a happy cruising couple - on the move again!

A selfie of a happy cruising couple – on the move again.

 

Six days of watchin’ and waitin’ for Joaquin in Oriental left us itching to move again. We departed from our favorite underwater dock, and I do mean favorite, because that dock was a safe haven for Kindred Spirit in threatening weather. We are very grateful to Tom and Joyce for sharing their North Carolina location with us in our time need.

 

After the cloudy, rainy, and dismal weather for most of the past two weeks, THE SUN WAS SHINING AND THE SKIES WERE BLUE AGAIN!!!!!! WooHoo!!

It was a short day of travel, just 3 hours, from Oriental to Morehead City, crossing the Neuse River and then into Adams Creek and the Adams Creek Canal (yup, another canal.)

Another canal.

Another canal, but a pleasant sunny day.

HGTV for birds: Left pic is condo living on the waterfront Right pic is single home, country style surrounded by water

HGTV for birds:
Left photo is condo living on the waterfront
Right photo is single home, cottage style surrounded by water

Dolphins! It still surprises us to see dolphins in inland waterways. And it never bores us.

Dolphins! It still surprises us to see dolphins in inland waterways. And it never bores us.

Towards the end of Adams Creek Canal we were greeted by Don on Obsession, an Eagle 40. Al and Don “met” and became digital friends on the website Trawler Forum When Don found this Eagle 40 in Branford, CT and traveled north to see it, Al eagerly volunteered to join him for a first look at it. Now that we were in his home waters, Don brought Obsession out to meet Kindred Spirit, on the water. 🙂

Obsession traveled with us for a few miles. Al and I both agree that we still think the Eagle 40 is one of the handsomest trawlers made.

Obsession traveled with us for a few miles. Al and I both agree that we still think the Eagle 40 is one of the handsomest trawlers made.

Don drove over later to visit us in Morehead City. The two Captains are enjoying a beer and boat talk. It just happened to be Don's birthday!

Don drove over later to visit us in Morehead City. Two captains, relaxing and ruminating about boats. It was Don’s birthday, too – sure hope it was a great one!

One of the photos that Don snapped of Kindred Spirit.

One of the photos that Don snapped of Kindred Spirit. Who can resist a photo of their boat underway? Not us! We think she is pretty handsome as well. 🙂

After Don turned back to his marina, we continued on to Morehead City. One of the deepest ports on the US East Coast, the Port of Morehead City is a busy commercial waterfront.

Matching "candy-striped" tugs waiting for a call to duty.

Matching “candy-striped” tugs waiting for a call to duty.

As we rounded the turn to go in front of the State Port Terminal, there was a large military ship at the dock, with a guard boat passing back and forth along side. Don get too close!

As we rounded the turn to go in front of the State Port Terminal, there was a large military ship at the dock, with a guard boat passing back and forth along side. Don’t  get too close!

We no sooner passed by the ship when a tug and barge came around the next corner -- slow down and wait for it to pass by in front of us!

We no sooner passed by the ship when a tug and barge came around the next corner — slow down and wait for it to pass by in front of us!

Ahh, Morehead City waterfront.

Ahh, Morehead City waterfront ahead.

On our first trip, we spent a few days in Beaufort, NC at the Town Creek Marina. This time we joined Cutting Class in Morehead City, on the other side of the Newport River from Beaufort. I read somewhere that sailors go to Beaufort and powerboats go to Morehead City so I guess we did this right. That stereotype doesn’t seem to hold any more, there were rag tops and stinkpots in both cities.

Sanitary Fish Market - The word "sanitary" makes you ponder just how it got that name. Are there other places that are "unsanitary fish markets?"

Sanitary Fish Market, established 1938

Sanitary Fish Market is a waterfront restaurant with a dock for $25 per night if you eat a meal (or $1 per foot if you don’t.) We had a nice little lunch there to go with our dockage.

I found myself pondering the origin of the name, “Sanitary Fish Market“. It almost implies that there may be others that are not sanitary. Ugh. My curiosity drove me to  their website. Sure enough, as the first waterfront restaurant in Morehead City, the “building’s proprietor stipulated that the building had to be kept very clean. To show compliance with the cleanliness requirement and to let the public know that it was a very clean place suitable for a family dinner, they named it the Sanitary Fish Market. ……Most fish markets at the time were always dirty, so Captain Tony and Captain Ted called it the Sanitary because they wanted people to know it was clean.” And my curiosity was satisfied.

Morehead City is more utilitarian than historical Beaufort, but it has a few shops and restaurants and gave our legs a nice chance to stretch and walk.

The things that caught my eye —

THese

These fish relief sculptures were spaced throughout the sidewalks of Morehead City. I appreciate a city with an aesthetic sense.

A town that caters to canines in a nautical way.

A town that caters to canines in a nautical way. Cleats for leashes?

The blue marlin statue stands as a tribute to the town’s fishing heritage.

The blue marlin statue stands as a tribute to the town’s fishing heritage.

The "Train Depot" established 1857

The 1905 Morehead City Train Depot was recently renovated. It houses the offices for the Downtown Morehead City Revitalization Association and can be rented for special events.

Now this was a surprise to me - trains run right down the middle of the main street, between the two lanes of cars!

Now this was a surprise to me – trains run right down the middle of the main street, between the two lanes of cars!

Boat transoms as interior furnishings. Will Al want to do this in our house???? Top photo - a bar in the Sanitary Fish Market restaurant Bottom photo - candy display in the ice cream shop

Boat transoms as interior furnishings. Will Al want to do this in our house????
Top photo – a bar in the Sanitary Fish Market restaurant
Bottom photo – candy display in the ice cream shop was once a bed. Cool!

Our late lunch left us satisfied and full, so dinner was a walk to the ice cream shop. Be honest, haven’t you ever had ice cream for dinner? The owner told us we should sit on his “happy bench” outside and he would take our picture there.

Eating ice cream on the "happy bench."

Eating ice cream on the “happy bench.”

We decided on an offshore run from Beaufort to Wrightsville Beach to avoid three bridges, two swing and one bascule, that require timing to make the openings. It was also going to be a pretty good day to be offshore. The 70-mile trip would take about 10 hours so we needed an early start.

As I prepared our coffee and breakfast around 5:45 am, the "waning crescent moon" was visible in the dark early morning sky.

As I prepared our coffee and breakfast around 5:45 am, the “waning crescent moon” was visible in the dark early morning sky.

The fishing charter boats leave early!

The fishing charter boats leave early!

This is us leaving Morehead City (Thanks, Cutting Class!). If you look closely you can see us and our running lights.

This is Kindred Spirit leaving Morehead City (Thanks, Cutting Class!). If you look closely you can see us and our running lights.

The Beaufort Inlet is well-lit and easy to follow. We waited until there was light, around 6:30 am.

A warship was patiently waiting for us little boats to leave the inlet before it entered.

A warship was patiently waiting for us little boats to leave the inlet before it entered.

The warship passes behind us, in silhouette.

The warship passes behind us, in silhouette.

Cutting Class took photos of us leaving the inlet —

TOP - It may look as though Capt Al was playing chicken with a warship, but that was not the case! BOTTOM - Kindred Spirit with the sun rising behind.

TOP – It may look as though Capt Al was playing chicken with a warship, but that was not the case! BOTTOM – Kindred Spirit with the sun rising behind.

It was a long day, but a good one. The seas were only 1.5 feet and spaced nicely apart, and the breeze was light. We saw a pair of dolphins playing in our wake and a flying fish hop above the water surface right in front of our bow. Did not get photos of either. 🙁

With autopilot, the Captain can relax and just keep a watch on the surroundings.

With autopilot, the Captain can relax and just keep a watch on the surroundings. Notice the sweatshirt and jeans -it was a chilly morning.

With autopilot and an open sea with nothing around for miles, we can both relax on the bow. What a great place that is ! And the interior helm controls are only steps away.

With autopilot and an open sea with nothing around for miles, we can both relax on the bow. What a great place that is ! And the interior helm controls are only steps away.

 As we ran parallel offshore to Camp LeJeune and Mile Hammock Bay off the ICW, we saw another military vessel in the distance, an aircraft carrier.

 

An aircraft carrier in the distance. Lots of action going on out there. We could hear the ship warn small pleasure craft to stay away.

An aircraft carrier in the distance. Lots of action going on out there. We could hear the ship warn small pleasure craft to stay away.

With my little zoom lens I was able to get this photo - you can actually see the choppers and planes sitting on the deck.

With my little zoom lens I was able to get this photo – you can actually see the choppers (left) and planes (right) sitting on the deck.

All in all, this was a sparkling day!

A beautiful day, full of sunshine and blue sparkling water.

A beautiful day, full of sunshine and blue sparkling water. What a nice change from the tannin colored waters and brown-toned water from the rains. Love this!

We both agreed that departing from Beaufort Inlet and entering Masonboro Inlet were the two easiest inlets we have traversed on either trip so far.

Entering Masonboro Inlet

Entering Masonboro Inlet, hang a right and head into Wrightsville Beach.

Wrightsville Beach - a seaside town.

Wrightsville Beach – a seaside town.

Time to relax for a bit. We really need to slow down and smell the salt air.

Watchin’ Joaquin

Back on September 29th, six days ago, this is what we were constantly studying and worrying about - the spaghetti models for Joaquin.

Back on September 29th, six days ago, this is what we were constantly studying and worrying about – the spaghetti models for Joaquin.

Cruising on a boat is about careful planning, planning with a flexible twist. You have to plan and then you have to be ready to abandon it. We look ahead at the weather forecasts for many days out so that we can plan to be in a safe location in case the weather turns nasty (or nastier). Of our first three weeks, we have been dealing with weather issues for the past two of the three.
Four abandoned plans —

  • We wanted to spend an extra day in Annapolis. With the rains and winds of a front predicted, we decided to get on the move to avoid being stuck for too many days in the Chesapeake. On to Hampton to wait it out. Spent 4 nights there.
  • With good weather we hoped to visit the Outer Banks, somewhere like Roanoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and Ocracoke. Long before Joachim was even a tropical depression, the winds and seas did not look easy enough to cross Albemarle Sound to the Outer Banks.
  • After the Dismal Swamp, we thought we would take a detour and visit Edenton, at the upper end of the Albemarle Sound. From all descriptions it sounded like a friendly historic town with a 48-hour free dock. Scrap that plan – now the tropical depression is on the horizon. Better not take the time for a side trip.
  • Let’s stop at Elizabeth City after the Dismal Swamp journey and meet the Rose Buddies. Nope -now the tropical depression has a name – Joaquin, and everything and everyone went on high alert. Cancel that plan – pass by Elizabeth City and get to Oriental as soon as possible.

Those were the abandoned plans, but what really happened? Last Tuesday (9/29), after our second day on the Dismal Swamp Canal, we anchored in a cove on the east side of the Pasquotank River, south of Elizabeth City, Wharf Bay. After dinner and a little relaxation, night fell and we were swarmed by midges, little insects that buzz but don’t bite (thank goodness!!). Attracted to our lights, they covered our aft cockpit, flybridge, and dinghy. When killed, they left a bluish-green slimy stain on the fiberglass. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Felt like a horror movie. We have learned that the stain eventually disappears in the sunlight (sunlight, what’s that?)

Just one corner of the aft cockpit with the midges. Truly yucky experience, but grateful they don't bite.

Just one corner of the aft cockpit with the midges. Truly yucky experience, but grateful they don’t bite. Advice to other cruisers – avoid Wharf Bay!

We had a long day to Belhaven, leaving in dark before 6:00 am, crossing the Albemarle Sound, into the Alligator River (no alligators) and through the Alligator-Pungo Canal. It was a cloudy, hot and humid day.

Alligator-Pungo Canal

Alligator-Pungo Canal

Moving along through the canal

Moving along through the canal

OOOOOH!! Sunshine ahead. It was brief but a treat!

OOOOOH!! Sunshine ahead. It was brief but a treat!

When stopped to get fuel at River Forest Marina, I suggested to the Captain that it would be really nice to have a dock for the air conditioning and FREE laundry. Totally worth it!

Our route from the Pasquotank River to Belhaven. 9.5 hours, 64 nautical miles

Our route from the Pasquotank River to Belhaven. 9.5 hours, 64 nautical miles

That night, the forecasts for Joaquin became truly scary. I was awake during the night considering all of the possible scenarios we might face. We had no access to television weather reports (which might actually have been a good thing) but we do have several apps and websites that we watch for rain, winds, and wave conditions. The winds and the waves are usually more of a concern than rain. Experience has shown me that winds, in the wrong direction, over 20 knots are uncomfortable, especially in a trawler; and waves, in the wrong direction, over 5 feet with a period of less than 8 seconds add drama to the voyage. Therefore, the thought of a tropical depression (less than 39 mph), tropical storm (39-73 mph), or hurricane (74-110 mph) was ….. frightening. Various scenarios ran through my head (Did I mention that I am the worrier on this vessel?). If Joaquin makes landfall in North Carolina, could we ride this out on the boat? Is there a marina safe and secure enough to remain on the boat? If an evacuation is ordered, would we have time to find a yard to haul out the boat and then get ourselves to a hotel? Or would we end up abandoning the boat??? Yup, a sleepless night for me. The Captain slept fine.

Belhaven to Oriental

Belhaven to Oriental: 5.75 hours, 40 nautical miles. (This is a different scale than the one above.)

A little shrimper in the Alligator River.

A little shrimper in the Alligator River.

The semi-interesting photos of the whole day were of RE Mayo Seafood Company. Nice shrimp boats!

The BIG Shrimpers of  RE Mayo Seafood Company. Nice shrimp boats!

It is easy to become frustrated with weather forecasters, particularly when they have been inaccurate or inconclusive. The predictions for Joaquin’s track were all over the place. Evidently, his early behavior was “unpredictable.”  Chris Parker is the cruisers’ weather guru. We don’t subscribe to his service but have friends who forward us his weather updates and advice when things get nasty. With Joaquin, there were no less than 6 if-then statements in Chris Parker’s weather update. Pick one – it felt like Lotto with no winning options.

This was posted on FaceBook. Funny, but the tracks did look like that - all over the place! Munis the cute little heart in the lower left corner.

This was posted on FaceBook. Funny, but the real spaghetti tracks did look like that – all over the place! Minus the cute little heart on the right.

In the end, we were very lucky, unlike the Bahamas and South Carolina. Joaquin chose not to pay a visit, taking a pass far out to sea. We really did dodge a big one.

In the end, we breathed a sigh of relief with this one.

By Friday, things looked much better for us on the East Coast. We breathed a cautious sigh of relief with this one.

So where did we go to be safe? We hunkered down in Whittaker Creek, near Oriental harbor. Whittaker Creek, forks into 2-3 smaller creeks, all of which were surprisingly small and yet large enough to hold several marinas, two boat service yards, and many private docks. We were fortunate to know people with a dock on Whittaker Creek who were generous enough to share it. We could not believe how tucked away and secure this little creek is!  I had my doubts that anywhere near the coast in North Carolina could be safe from Joaquin, but this dock was a pleasant surprise, and a great anxiety reducer for me. We arrived on Thursday, and were greeted by Cutting Class, a day ahead of us. The dock is large enough to hold both of us. Not only did we have a safe place during this weather, but we had friends, too.

On our way in Whittaker Creek, through the twists and turns. WE wondered aloud, "Where are we going here??"

On our way in Whittaker Creek, through the twists and turns. We wondered aloud, “Where are we going here??”

Kindred Spirit, almost to the dock (Thanks Cutting Class for the pic!)

Kindred Spirit, almost to the dock (Thanks Cutting Class for the pic!)

Nestled in the dock, Cutting Class and Kindred Spirit.

Nestled in the dock, Cutting Class and Kindred Spirit. Take note of whee the dock is compared to the boat.

It truly is a small world. I won’t even explain how everyone knew each other, but suffice it to say, we had a “hurricane party” at a home here with 8 of us who were all connected through Hope Town in the Abacos and yet hadn’t all met each other, yet.

Potluck Hurricane dinner at Dan and Sharon's with Marica and Dan, and Kim and Mark.

Potluck Hurricane dinner at Dan and Sharon’s with Marcia and Dan, and Kim and Mark.

A game diverts the guys' conversations from boat talk to billiards.

A game diverts the guys’ conversations from boat talk to billiards.

Although Joaquin wasn’t going to hit us here, it hasn’t been all sunshine. Haha. Although the worst wasn’t going to happen, there was still significant nasty weather heading this way, winds and lots of rain. So far we have sat through 5 days of rain, on and off, sometimes sprinkles and lots of downpours, with a few hours of sunshine on Saturday.

Oriental is a small and friendly place, with a flooding problem. When the winds are out of the north and east the Pamlico Sound’s waters are pushed south into Oriental. The recent heavy doses of rain added to the volume.

The Bean, a cute little coffee and ice cream shop with water right up to its front step. We are glad we walked there on Friday. Not even possible after that.

The Bean, a cute little coffee and ice cream shop with water right up to its front step. We are glad we walked there on Friday. The water was much higher by Saturday  and stayed high through Monday.

"HIGH WATER" says it all. And it only got worse in the days that followed this photo.

“HIGH WATER” says it all. And it only got worse in the days that followed this photo.

I liked the story of the artesian wells and the concrete bench.

I liked the story of the artesian wells and the concrete bench.

As we walked around town, we saw these metal sculptures on lawns - a turtle, a dog, and a grasshopper.

As we walked around town, we saw these metal sculptures on lawns – a turtle, a dog, and a grasshopper.

Two years ago we met Whitey and Anne in Hope Town and have stayed in touch since then. What a delightful treat it was for us when they drove from their home in Wilson, NC to visit us here in Oriental and to catch up with Dan and Sharon, whom they also know from Hope Town. The best part of this voyage has been connecting with old and new friends along the way.

Lunch at M&M's Cafe, a local restaurant. So wonderful to see Whitey and Anne again!

Lunch at M&M’s Cafe, a local restaurant. So wonderful to see Whitey and Anne again! Please note the blue skies, just for their visit! One hour later, it was raining AGAIN.

This was the first day of rain - 8 inches. But at that point the bucket was sitting on the dock.

 

Although Joaquin passed us by, the effects of the rains before the hurricane, the north and east winds, and then the rains associated with Joaquin continued to push the water in the creek higher and higher. Al put out a bucket on the dock shortly after we arrived – 8 inches. By Saturday afternoon, the creek was rising so he decided not to leave it there.

 

Sunday evening - Both Kindred Spirit and Cutting Class are floating higher than the dock, which s now below the water.

Sunday evening – Both Kindred Spirit and Cutting Class are floating higher than the dock, which is now below the water.

From Sunday to Monday, the water rose over the dock.

From Sunday to Monday, the water rose over the dock. It’s a fixed dock so it doesn’t float as the water rises.

Looking in the other direction towards Cutting Class.

Higher and Higher……Looking in the other direction towards Cutting Class. The water eventually rose up to the third step (steps behind Al with the white stripes.)

I have more of a problem than everyone else because I can’t wade in the water with the compression stockings that I wear for my lymphedema (Maybe someday I will write about how to cruise with that condition. Or maybe not.) I bought a pair of tall boots in a local shop so that I wouldn’t miss any possible excursions. I even needed to wear them to walk down the dock to Cutting Class for dinner one evening.

I carefully stepped along the covered dock. Glad I got the tall boots!

I carefully stepped along the covered dock. Glad I got the tall boots!

Oh no!! When we came back after the walk, the water had risen above my boots. What a dear husband I have! Al dropped the kayak down from the flybridge and brought it over for me.

Oh no!! When we came back after the walk, the water had risen above my boots. What a dear husband I have! Al dropped the kayak down from the flybridge and brought it over for me.

We have sat here in Whittaker Creek for 5 days so far, waiting out the winds and rains.  We won’t be leaving until the water level here drops and the gusting winds and waves out in the bigger waters finally calm down. I’m not complaining, not really, but I sure am ready to move on again. And please, send some sunshine!

Doin’ the Dismal

I still remember when I first heard of the Dismal Swamp Canal as part of the route we must take down the ICW. It sounded, dark and deep and, well, a little scary. In 2013 we were ready to give it a go and head towards it from Portsmouth with our sailing buddies on Magnolia, Anthony and Annette. (“Dismal Swamp Canal = NO…..Virginia Cut = YES“) Just as we “turned the corner” into the canal, we were warned on the VHF to turn back due to the thick choking duckweed that was covering the water. We did, and took the “Virginia Cut”, an alternate route.

Here we are in 2015, and we really wanted to “do the Dismal.” It’s not just the duckweed that scares boaters away from the Dismal; it’s also the shallow depth (“maintained at a six foot mean depth”) and sunken logs beneath the surface. We personally know cruisers who have had significant damage done to their keels or have overheated due to duckweed in the engine system. But…. we are a trawler now with only a 4.5 foot draft which makes the average 6 foot depth of the canal less of a concern. I called ahead to the first lock tender to check the conditions before we set out. He assured me that we would be fine if we had a skeg protecting our prop and if we only kept the speed to 5 knots. No problem. We hoped!

This is a big deal for us. A new route and something we did not do last time. So come along with us for our 2-day trip through the Dismal Swamp Canal……

Another early start to the day, leaving Sunset Creek.

Another early start to the day, leaving Sunset Creek.

We crossed Hampton Roads (a large busy anchorage bay, not a land road) over to Norfolk and Portsmouth through the bustling navy yards. The naval ships were up and about in the early morning and so were the dolphins. I took photos but thanks to the overcast and cloudy day, everything really was a battleship gray color.

A battleship gray morning

A battleship gray morning

Here is the big moment – At red can #36 just past Hospital Point anchorage in Portsmouth, we officially entered the Intracostal Waterway, the ICW. Red can #36 = ICW Mile Marker “0”. Don’t you think they should hang a sign on it??

Red can #36 = ICW Mile Marker “0”. Don’t you think they should hang a sign on it??

Red can #36 = ICW Mile Marker “0”. Don’t you think they should hang a sign on it??

The land of bridges - first a low railroad bridge that is kept open (unless a train comes by) and then the high highway bridge shorty after.

It’s bridge time! – first a low railroad bridge that is kept open (unless a train comes by) and then the high highway bridge shorty after.

The Puffin Bulker, a “bulk carrier” was in dock. What a caught our eye was the escape pod. It reminded us of the movie we had seen at the Commodore Theater in Portsmouth on our last passage through here Captain Philips. Just reminiscing.

Puffin Bolker and its escape pod - remind you of the movie "Captain Philips"?

Puffin Bolker and its escape pod – remind you of the movie “Captain Philips”?

The new Gilmerton Bridge is now operating. Once a bascule bridge, it is now a lift bridge. The good news for us was that its new height was 35 feet when closed – we would not have to wait for it to open.

The new 35 foot Gilmerton Bridge - we can pass under it and not wait around for an opening!

The new 35 foot Gilmerton Bridge – we can pass under it and not wait around for an opening!

Shortly after the Gilmerton Bridge, the sign for the turn-off into the Dismal Swamp Canal appears. Read the sign – it’s kind of cute. “IF YOU HAVEN”T DONE IT YET, YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE MISSING, THE DISMAL SWAMP IS LOVELY AND WORTH MUCH REMINISCING.” We turn in and get ready to “do the Dismal.”

Do the Dismal! This time we will!

Do the Dismal! This time we will!

Some basic facts about the Dismal Swamp Canal:

The name itself is intimidating, conjuring something that is dark, dreary, and forbidden. Early settlers called swamps, “dismals” hence the name. Although that would seem to be redundant, wouldn’t it?

It is the oldest continually operating man-made canal in the United States. In 1784, the Dismal Swamp Canal Company was created, but work did not begin until 1793. The canal was dug completely by hand and must have been excruciating for the slaves who were hired from nearby landowners. It took approximately 12 years of construction under mostly unfavorable conditions to complete the 22-mile long waterway, which then opened in 1805.

The Canal is on the National Register of Historic Places as a Historic Landmark, noted as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and has received the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Designation.

For more information about the Dismal Swamp Canal try these links Dismal Swamp Welcome Center and  The Great Dismal Swamp Megasite

We make the turn and already we are farther into the canal than on our first trip.

We make the turn and already we are farther into the canal than on our first trip.

The Dismal Swamp Canal has two locks to regulate the water level between Hampton Roads and to the north and Albemarle Sound to the South. For those of you who like the technical information —

Here is how a lock works (from Mark and Diana Doyle's On the Water Chart Guide for the ICW, page 24)

Here is how a lock works (from Mark and Diana Doyle’s On the Water Chart Guide for the ICW, page 24)

We reached the first lock, Deep Creek Lock, in short time as it is 3 miles after you enter the Dismal. Deep Creek Lock is famous for its gregarious lock tender, Robert Peek. I had read that he was retiring in October so we were looking forward to meeting him and experiencing this lock before his retirement.

Our locking experience —

When he red light is showing, the lock is not open yet.

When the red light is showing, the lock is not open yet.

We have the green light so we enter the lock after the sailboat. Notice how low the water is.

We have the green light so we enter the lock after the sailboat. Notice how low the water is.

Here is Robert Peet doing his locking thing. Theses a man who loves his job!

Here is Robert Peek doing his locking thing. This is a man who loves his job!

As we wait, tied to the big wall, I wrote our name and date on the wall. Evidently that is a tradition.

As we wait, tied to the big wall, I wrote our name and date on the wall. Evidently that is a tradition, so Kindred Spirit joined the names of other boats who have passed through.

A mileage sign posted at the lock.

An Intracoastal  mileage sign posted at the lock. Hmm. looks like we have a long way to go.

After the four boats were in the lock, the water fills it and lifts us all up higher to the level of the water int he canal on the other side.

After the four boats were in the lock, the water fills it and lifts us all up higher to the level of the water int he canal on the other side.

Robert and Al are chatting. Robert loves to talk and share.

Robert and Al are chatting. Robert loves to talk and share.

Robert Peet is known for his conch horn blowing. As soon as he heard we were headed to the Bahamas, he asked us to bring him a conch shell back on our return trip. He needed a new one.

Robert has a LOT of conchs around the garden in front of his office. He took the time to demonstrate his conch horn blowing skill.

Robert has a LOT of conchs around the garden in front of his office. He took the time to demonstrate his conch horn blowing skill with one of our conchs.

He told me he could teach me how to blow it like he does. Good try, Robert. I still have a lot to learn. He used both of our conch horns and then blew a tune on one of his – a real tune. Click on this 6-second video to hear Robert:

Robert told us he has changed his mind about retiring and will be here in the spring on our return trip. Told us to pull over to the dock on our passage north and have coffee with him in the morning. Probably says that to everyone, but it was a nice chat and visit. I do wonder if the other boats in the lock were getting anxious to get on with things.

Just a half mile down the canal is a little bridge that has to open. Robert, as lock tender, does the lock and then drives to thuebridge and opens it for the boats.

Just a half mile down the canal is a little bridge that has to open. Robert, as lock tender, does the lock and then drives to the bridge and opens it for the boats.

Now we really get into the Dismal Swamp Canal experience. Our sights along the way  —

I took quite a few photos but this one captures most of the view as we followed this sailboat. Our speed ranged form 4.5 - 5 knots most of the way. Slow and steady.

I took quite a few photos but this one captures  the view as we followed this sailboat. Our speed ranged from 4.5 – 5 knots most of the way. Slow and steady.

Most of the old pilings left along the sides now have trees sprouting from their tops. A dreaded deadhead floats by - don't want to hit that! Mile Marker #17, same as our house number at home.

Most of the old pilings left along the sides now have trees sprouting from their tops.
A dreaded deadhead floats by – don’t want to hit that!
Mile Marker #17, same as our house number at home.

We saw some fallen trees tied off to the side with yellow line so that they don't drift out farther.

We saw some fallen trees tied off to the side with yellow line so that they don’t drift out farther.

We crossed a state line! We are in North Carolina now.

We crossed a state line! We are in North Carolina now.

"The Superintendents House". No other explanation available. What do you think Dr. B?

“The Superintendents House”. No other explanation available. What do you think Dr. B?

The Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center is about 18 miles south of Deep Creek Lock and is a “rest stop” for both the highway and the waterway – very unique! The Welcome Center also has a 150 foot long dock for boats, for free. During the busy migration season there can boats rafted to each other 3-4 deep along the dock. Seems to us that the whole canal would be blocked if that happened.

The grounds of the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center. They have a nice little office and gift shop.

The grounds of the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center. They have a nice little office and gift shop, and very helpful staff.

You can walk across the pedestrian pontoon bridge to the State Park visitor’s center on the opposite side to learn more about the Dismal Swamp.

You can walk across the pedestrian pontoon bridge to the State Park visitor’s center on the opposite side to learn more about the Dismal Swamp.

Kindred Spirit and Spindrift together at the dock. Spindrift was a boat from Branford, Connecticut.

Kindred Spirit and Spindrift together at the dock. Spindrift was a boat from Branford, Connecticut.

And then there were four boats at the dock.

And then there were four boats at the dock. We heard that in the busiest traveling days, there can be 20 boats there, rafted 3-4 deep. Can’t help but wonder if any boat could pass by? But then, at that point maybe everyone is staying there anyway?

We followed the tradition of dockside camaraderie and hosted happy hour on our boat. New friends!

We followed the tradition of dockside camaraderie and hosted happy hour on our boat. New friends!

Day 2 on the Dismal Swamp Canal began with the opening of the little pedestrian bridge.

Day 2 on the Dismal Swamp Canal began with the opening of the little pedestrian bridge.

The second day though the canal brought the duckweed, but not to the levels that would choke our engine’s intake. It was just a light covering on the surface and did not extend downward to any depth.

Duckweed swirls upon the water.

Duckweed swirls upon the water.

Looking aft you can see the "path" we cut though the duckweed.

Looking aft you can see the “path” we cut though the duckweed.

Duckweed - up close and personal. It's actually made up of tiny little leaves.

Duckweed – up close and personal. The “carpet” is actually made up of tiny little leaves.

The water through southern Virginia and northern North Carolina is dark brown, like a strong tea or root beer. Tannin is naturally released from the roots and decaying leaves of the baldcypress and juniper trees that line the canal cuts. We had noticed this last time, but the water seemed to be deeper shade of brown here in the Dismal than it did in the Virginia Cut. The tannin doesn’t make the water “dirty”, but it does stain the fiberglass on boats giving them an “ICW moustache” along the waterline.

This next picture is not what you think it is!! The toilet on this boat flushes with “outside” water which usually means salt water. Most boats do. Kindred Spirit, the sailboat, had a fresh water flush system designed by Al. Therefore, we were caught off-guard by the tannin in the water when we flushed the toilet, to say the least. This is a very clean toilet even though it looks gross. The left picture is of our wake, churning up the brown water.

THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU THINK!!! The tannin in the water colors the water int he toilet. You can see the brown color in our wake as well. Just another part of the whole experience. ;-)

THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU THINK!!!
The tannin in the water colors the water in the toilet. You can see the brown color in our wake as well. Just another part of the whole experience. 😉

South Mills Lock is the second lock in the canal, preceded by a bridge. It is a lock that goes from high water to low water.

This time the boat starts outweigh and gradually drops lower as the water leaves the lock.

This time the boat starts outweigh and gradually drops lower as the water leaves the lock.

And then there are sights that are just, well, just weird. What do you make of this? Any ideas? Any?

And then there are sights that are just, well, just weird. What do you make of this? Any ideas? Any?

 

 

The Dismal Swamp is home to one of the largest Black Bear populations on the East Coast, subtropical birds, butterflies, bobcats and white-tailed deer, so the Visitor Center said.

The Dismal Swamp is home to one of the largest Black Bear populations on the East Coast, subtropical birds, butterflies, bobcats and white-tailed deer, so the Visitor Center said, but all we saw were these cute turtles on a log.

The Dismal Swamp Canal brings you to Elizabeth City, passing under a bridge to arrive there.

This bridge is another one under construction. It was a little confusing to see two right sides up, but nothing on the left.

This bridge is also  under construction. It was a little confusing to see two right sides up, but nothing on the left.

We had planned to stay the night in Elizabeth City at their free municipal docks, but our plans changed based on the weather forecast for later in the week (I’ll save that for another blog.) Elizabeth City is known for its hospitality to cruising boats and provides free dockage at Mariners Wharf. There is also a special welcome party hosted by the “Rose Buddies” when there are 5 or more boats at the dock. They give a red rose to each boat. I told my captain that he now owes me a red rose since I missed this.

This was a long blog, but because it was a new experience I really wanted to remember it all. I read somewhere that the Dismal Swamp Canal route is one of those “either you love or you hate it” experiences. I don’t think it is that black and white for us. We are really glad we had the opportunity to take this route, everyone should do it once. Will we do it again when we go north in the spring?? Undecided.

It’s a Small World in Southport, NC

We ventured out of Wrightsville Beach and back into the ICW towards Cape Fear River. Yes, Cape FEAR, the treacherous sounding body of water that does not have an inviting name. The shallows of Frying Pan Shoals extend 30 miles outside of the entrance to Cape Fear River and are known to be dangerous, or at the very least, to be avoided.  And, remember the movie, Cape Fear, starring Robert DeNiro, Nick Nolte, and Jessica Lange (1991)?  To avoid the fearfulness of Cape Fear, you just plan accordingly. We checked the currents and planned our trip down that part of the river to miss the fiercest current. It worked – we had a very peaceful run and arrived in Southport, North Carolina in mid-afternoon.

View along the ICW in southern North Carolina

View along the ICW in southern North Carolina

Sandy edges along the barrier islands

Sandy edges along the barrier islands

A view of the ocean through the Carolina Beach Inlet

A view of the ocean through the Carolina Beach Inlet

Saw a lot of pelicans today, flying diving and just perching

Saw a lot of pelicans today, flying diving and just perching

One lonely little  bird in the grasses

One lonely little bird in the grasses

Southport has been the location for a number of movies, most recently  Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven (he lives in New Bern, NC.) Other movies filmed here are Domestic Disturbance, Crimes of the Heart, Spies, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Summer Catch. I think we will have to rent some of these when we return home. The town is very walkable and very charming. We liked it a lot.

Southport docks

Southport docks

We entered the very tiny harbor of Southport, passing the docks and restaurants

We entered the very tiny harbor of Southport, passing the docks and restaurants

Kindred Spirit at anchor

Kindred Spirit at anchor

Southport homes

Southport homes

Fun signs in Southport

Fun signs in Southport

The world is truly small! We had barely set foot on the street just behind a little restaurant, Fishy Fishy, right on the dock, when a man came right up to us to tell us he was from Middlefield CT and saw our hailing port of Durham, CT!! Middlefield and Durham are neighboring towns and share the same school system. Both towns are quite small so it is out of the ordinary to run into someone so far away. He was so excited at the coincidence. Frankly, so were we! His wife and their friends, visiting from Middlefield, joined him and we had a nice little visit right there on the docks.

After our walking tour, with a little shopping thrown in (we needed more cold weather clothes so we bought sweatshirts,) we decide to have dinner at Fishy Fishy. Its reputation is well-deserved. We had a great dinner and were able to watch Kindred Spirit at anchor through the entire meal.

Keeping a watchful eye on our Kindred Spirit during dinner

Keeping a watchful eye on our Kindred Spirit during dinner

 

 

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.