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Archive for the ‘North Carolina’ Category

In 2011, our first year cruising, we got what we thought at the time was a late start moving south; we left North Carolina in early November and putzed our way south, making it just south of Charleston SC by the beginning of December.  The following year we were delayed leaving the Chesapeake Bay when my father passed away rather unexpectedly, but still managed to make north Florida by December 1st, as we did for the three years that followed.  This year would be a different story.

Friday, December 2nd — We were still on the hard, but the Red Queen and Cheshire were finally reunited.  The reinstall went smoothly, or so we thought at the time.

Saturday, December 3-4th — Cheshire hung in the slings of the travel lift for the weekend while we touched up the bottom paint on the spots where she’d been blocked.

Monday, December 5th — After a bit more than 6 weeks, Cheshire was back in the water.  While we were in the well with a cherry picker accessible, Cheshire also got a couple of new spreader boots, had her screecher halyard re-rigged and her wind instrument tightened up.  The rest of Monday and Tuesday were spent getting things put back together, the dinghy back on the davits, the sails back up, essentially undoing all of the hurricane prep we’d done pre-Matthew.  In anticipation of some cold days on the water, we also put our eisenglass cockpit enclosure up, which we almost never use but are thankful to have when when it gets cold.  After topping off water tanks and some final provisioning, we bid farewell to our friends in Oriental and were ready to go.

Wednesday, December 7th we finally got off the dock.  The 16 days/15 nights that followed would prove to be some of the coldest we’ve experienced since moving aboard 5 1/2 years ago.

Our first few days out were cold, but uneventful.  We were up before first light most mornings, and underway before sunrise.  With the engine running, we’d have engine-driven heat, and with the sun shining, our full cockpit enclosure behaved a bit like a sun room.  Don’t get me wrong… we were still wearing layers, wool socks, hats and gloves, even inside, but it was manageable.  We’d stay on the water as long as we dared and still manage to have the anchor down before dark.  The latter was easier than we thought, as we didn’t have much competition for anchorages this late in the migration season.  Our evening routine was to cook a hot meal, then huddle under fleece blankets reading until bedtime.  The following morning, we’d get up and do it again.

Instead of hoping offshore, we opted to stay inside (in the ICW) at least to start with, partly due to the cold, but mostly because we wanted to give the engine a good solid test.  It ran well, the weather was cooperative, we had anchorages to ourselves and the bridge tenders were most pleasant (translate: it’s their slow season).  We opted to pause in Holden Beach at their new “courtesy dock” which, contrary to the info we had, was not free.  It did have power however, and after three days on the boat, provided a nice chance to walk a bit.  And of course, the Captain found chicken wings.  And we had heat overnight.

The couple of days that followed took us into South Carolina, along the beautiful-even-in-December Waccamaw River.  We made a stop at Osprey Marina, a favorite of ours, where we scored another jar of their yummy hot pepper jelly and again warded off some freezing overnight temps.

 

Then things got interesting.  As we started to close in on the end of day 5, we were deep in the marshes of coastal South Carolina, surrounded by lands designated as national wildlife refuge  and national forest lands, translate: beautiful and the middle of nowhere.  Looking ahead, the following day would put us in the Charleston area, and we talked of maybe taking a lay day.  It was just after 4pm, daylight was fading quickly, and we were headed for a familiar-to-us anchorage, having calculated we’d just make it before dark.  Mike was at the helm when he noticed that the engine temperature gauge was not right… like reading that the engine was not hot, which is better than too hot, but still…  I took the helm while he popped open the engine compartment in the back of the cockpit, only to find engine coolant spewing.  Not good.  After a few minutes, he figured out that the bracket that holds the coolant hose onto the engine block was missing a bolt, and in its loosened state, had been too close to the alternator belt which had chafed a hole in the hose.  In the middle of nowhere…  With dark fast approaching…

While I stayed on the helm, “steering” our Cheshire without power in a wicked tail current down a creek lined with marsh grass, punctuated with the occasional wooden dock, Mike managed to jury-rig a fix, first with so-called Rescue tape (which didn’t work on a messy hose), then with heavy-duty duct tape (my Dad would be pleased).  He then sat on the cockpit floor for the next 35 minutes, which seemed more like 35 hours, with a fiberglass pole jammed into the engine compartment to hold the hose off the alternator belt, while we fired the engine, held our breathes and motored into the nearest anchorage.  We were anchor down right at dark and on the phone with TowBoat US before the night was out.

For those who are not familiar, TowBoat US is like AAA, except for boats.  There are a couple of companies that provide the service, but in 5+ years, we’ve never had to use it.  Until now. It saved our butts, and is worth every penny.  I don’t even want to think about what the tow would have cost without it.

We made arrangements for them to collect us from the anchorage the next morning.  Jason, our towboat operator couldn’t have been nicer.  He showed up even earlier than expected and towed Cheshire and her crew without incident to Tolers Cove Marina, another familiar-to-us spot near Mt Pleasant SC.   Tolers Cove is mostly a sportfish marina with not a lot of room for transients beyond a day or two, but they were kind enough to let us hang out on the backside of their fuel dock for a few days.  Three hours under tow, including some skinny water and a restricted bridge, and we were safely tied to a dock mail ordering parts.  At least it was a Monday.

Mike found a replacement bolt at a local hardware store, but the funky shaped hose had to be mail-ordered.  We opted for expedited shipping, but weather in Michigan and a “mechanical problem” with a cargo plane delayed things a bit.  Our parts finally arrived mid-morning Thursday.  The hose replacement actually went fairly smoothly.  Then we decided to go ahead and do that earlier-than-usual oil change our mechanic in Oriental had recommended.

Mike started the engine up to let it warm up… except the engine didn’t warm up.  Apparently the low temp reading on the gauge wasn’t entirely about the coolant hose leak, rather a weird coincidence of timing.  Mike decided to pull the thermostat and take a look. (See photo below which in my humble opinion doesn’t resemble any thermostat I’ve ever seen).  Apparently it’s a pretty simple open or closed devise that got stuck in the open position by a tiny piece of debris. At least we were fortunate that it didn’t get stuck closed, which could have resulted in the engine overheating!  In any event,  Mike was able to dislodge the rock, reinstall the thermostat and all was well.  Given the late hour, we opted to skip our planned grocery run and instead walked down to Sullivans Island for a splurge meal at the Obstinate Daughter where the martinis were most delicious.

Another 2 1/2 days on the water brought us to the Savannah area where we’d arranged to meet up with cruising friends Dawn and Paul who were road-tripping up to New England for the holidays.  They gets bonus points for flexibility, messaging back and forth regarding timing, location options, etc.  We were tied up at the dock at Bahia Bleu Marina before noon, allowing for some much needed laundry.  Mother Nature even sent us a freaky warm day so I was able to wash our few, much worn cold weather clothes.  We had a great albeit short visit, including a much needed/much appreciated grocery run.

Our final push, 3 1/2 days, brought the cold weather back, along with some damp rain and occasional fog.  The Captain resorted to taking a pair of scissors to a perfectly good pair of gloves, cutting out the thumb and index finger of the right glove, enabling him to use the iPad we keep at the helm for additional navigation assistance.  We wound our way through the marshes and across the sounds of coastal Georgia, and were disappointed that the sun remained hidden even as we crossed into the Sunshine State.  A bit south of Jacksonville it finally cleared, and our last morning at anchor for this stretch was lovely.

The numbers:

This run from Oriental NC to St Augustine FL was approximately 600 statute miles or about 522 nautical miles, and took us 16 days.

Of those 16 days, we were underway for 12, plus 1 under tow.  We had only 3 lay days where we stayed put, but for repairs, none for weather, the latter of which is remarkable given the season.

Of our 15 nights out, we spent 8 of them at anchor, and 7 at a dock… which is more dock time than our usual, but we splurged a couple of times for dock power on the particularly cold nights (dock power = heat overnight), spent 4 nights on the dock for the engine repair (which included a couple of cold nights as well), and another to hook up with friends for an afternoon/evening.

In a nutshell:

It wasn’t our most pleasant cruise; the engine issue was particularly challenging, but not as bad as it might have been.  I was reminded once again how much I appreciate that Mike is scary smart and able to fix so many things.  We managed to survive the cold, but were reminded that we really are fair weather cruisers. We so missed our usual slower, more relaxed, stop and explore along the way pace.

In the end, we made it to north Florida/St Augustine in time to grab a rental car and spend Christmas with my Mom in the Florida panhandle.  Now we’ll hang here for a few weeks, appreciate the relative warmth and sunshine, catch up with some friends,  and regroup/plan for what comes next… which hopefully isn’t another boat project.

As always, stay tuned.

 

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Today is November 30, the official end of the Atlantic hurricane season… whoo hoo!  It also marks the end of our second month in Oriental, the stay that we’d anticipated would be one month maximum.  And we haven’t left yet…  Assuming we actually do get on the water and moving at some point in the not too distant future, it will officially be our latest start south to date.  We’re also anticipating some of our coldest days on the water, but I’m trying not to freak out about that just yet.  Last but not least, the reason for our still being here, today also marks a solid month since we sent the Red Queen off to the diesel hospital.

In all honesty, autumn in eastern North Carolina has been lovely.  For the most part it’s been cool, clear and sunny.  Occasionally overnight temps dip into the 30’s, and occasionally it rains… like today, but mostly it’s been beautiful.  The cooler temps wouldn’t even be so bad if we were in the water and could use our reverse cycle air-conditioner/heater.  On the hard however, we have only our little ceramic disc space heater, which on our uninsulated boat takes the edge off at best.  We move it back and forth from the main cabin/salon by day to our forward cabin overnight.  Between the space heater and two fleece blankets, we’re pretty toasty overnight.  Some evenings we find a way to be off the boat soaking up the heat of one of the several restaurants in the area.  Other nights we layer up, cover up and read.  Mornings are generally the more challenging.  Often times we’ll take a walk or go out for breakfast while the sun warms things up a bit.  Climbing up and down the ladder umpteen times a day also keeps the blood moving.

Another challenging aspect of living on the hard is that we don’t use the sinks, particularly when we’re doing hull work.  Normally, our grey water discharge drains through a thru hull into the water, which on the yard would make for puddles around the boat, after running down the sides of the boat.  We opt instead for using minimal water (translate: washing hands, rinsing dishes) into a stainless bowl about the size of our sink that I dump and clean out each evening, but actually washing the dishes is done off the boat utilizing a bucket and a hose.  Not so bad actually, until you realize that we’ve been doing this for pushing 6 weeks now.  Needless to say, we’ve been keeping meals simple… one pot if possible.

Yet another challenge is operating w/o a freezer, or more specifically with a freezer that freezes only intermittently.  We’ve learned that our fancy new fridge, the one we installed just last winter, works like a charm, except when the ambient temperature is really cold.  Overnight lows where the cabin temps dip into the 50’s count for cold.  Not unlike dorm fridges, the shoebox-sized freezer box is not really separately insulated.  The problem is that when it’s cold, the fridge doesn’t run as often, which means the freezer doesn’t stay frozen.  Except when it’s a bit warmer, then it’s fine.  Our alternative is to dial the Engel (our secondary fridge used mostly for beverages) back to freezer mode, which we may do at least temporarily when we head south and don’t have the option of grocery shopping a day at a time.

OK, enough about the challenges.  There has been plenty to be grateful for as well.   As always, we’ve enjoyed being back in Oriental and catching up with friends who are based here.  We joined in a new-to-us Oriental tradition, a Thanksgiving morning bicycle ride; rumor has is there were about 90 of us pedaling that morning.  After our simple meals on the boat, a complete Thanksgiving dinner at our friend Mike’s was a real treat, as was the opportunity to “housesit” for our friend Laurie while she was away for a few days over the holiday.  We were reminded of how much we enjoyed a gas fireplace when we last lived on dirt.  In addition to our favorite haunts, there are a couple of new restaurants in town since our last visit, including a Mediterranean place called Layla’s.  Here’s hoping they make it… the location has not been kind to previous restauranteurs.  I’ve also found a local yoga studio, which has been an especially nice counterbalance to some of our boat projects.

At this point, our big yard projects are done.  We’ve replaced a faulty thru hull, completed some routine maintenance on the drive leg, buffed and waxed the hull and put a couple of coats of bottom paint on.  More recently Mike has replaced a couple of fans that died painful rattly deaths, and transformed 200 feet of 5/8″ 3-strand nylon into 6 fancy new dock lines (including splicing the eyes… most impressive to watch I might add).  Meanwhile I’ve been on a cleaning spree, trying to keep the mildew and mold at bay in these damp conditions.

At the risk of jinxing us, I believe the end may be in sight.  The good news is that the Red Queen wasn’t terminal, but did need some professional TLC.  Her transmission spent a stretch in Marblehead, MA in the care of a Westerbeke transmission specialist.  It’s now back in Pamlico County where our mechanic Darrell is putting her back together with some new bits, including a new engine main seal that was backordered for what seemed like forever.  The plan, as of today, is for the Red Queen to be returned to us this Friday.  We’ll spend the week-end in the lift doing the last touch-up of bottom paint on the spots where we’ve been blocked.  If all goes according to plan, we’ll go back in the water on Monday.  We’ll spend a couple more days getting things put back together, undoing our hurricane prep.  The dinghy, stored on a rack at the marina for the last couple of months will go back on the davits.  The sails and cockpit enclosure will get dug out and put back together.  We’ll do some final laundry and provisioning and then, as soon as weather permits, we’ll be on our way.

That’s our plan… in the sand… at low tide.  Here’s hoping…

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hurricane_matthew_cumulative_wind_historyMany apologies to our readers… it’s been a solid month since my last post, and a busy month at that.  Those who also follow us on social media know by now that we survived Hurricane Matthew without damage.  Mike stayed in Oriental and tended to Cheshire while I spent two weeks doing my annual triangle trip (Cheshire > IN > FL> Cheshire) helping Mom with her move down to Florida for the winter.  It was a stressful stretch, binge-watching the Weather Channel as Matthew barreled its way up through the islands, up the coast of FL and beyond, leaving an incredible amount of destruction in his path.  Our beloved St Augustine, FL was hit particularly hard; this piece from the local newspaper has some details and photos, as does this blog post by a fellow cruiser currently based in St Augustine.  There were boats washed up into the marshes, at least one marina destroyed and hundreds of homes lost.  This NPR piece has some before/after aerial photos of the shorelines just north and south of the city.  Needless to say, they are still very much in recovery mode and will be for some time.  Had this storm hit last year at this time, Cheshire and her crew would also have been in town and might not have fared so well.

Further north, Oriental saw only a bit of high water, but no more than a strong nor-easter might bring.  The winds were a bit stronger than in previous storms we’ve weathered here,  though Mike says our anemometer (wind instrument) was being wacky, so we don’t know exactly  how strong.  A bit further inland in eastern North Carolina though, there was some significant flooding.  All in all, we consider ourselves lucky, having dodged another one.

Up and down the eastern US coast, the recovery continues.  In addition to the damage done to boats, marine facilities, and homes along the waterways, the coastlines themselves have been rearranged, with inlets where there didn’t used to be, shallow spots where the bottom of the waterway has shifted around, and many channel markers blown off station if not blown away all together.  The Great Dismal Swamp Canal is still closed.  Many bridges were affected and we’ve heard of numerous cruising boats with taller masts than ours having to wait for water levels to recede before they can pass beneath some of the tall bridges along the ICW.  As anxious as we are to get moving south before the weather turns cold, we’re also OK with allowing some of the dust to settle, so to speak.

Meanwhile, in Oriental, we’ve been staying busy.  Within 48 hours of my return to Mike and our Cheshire, we were hauled out and onto the boatyard for yet another round of projects.  Living aboard on a boatyard is no fun, but I have to say, it’s way more comfortable in North Carolina in October than in north Florida in August.  We had a bit of rain this morning (hence my finally pulling the laptop out for some blogging), but otherwise its been clear and dry, perfect for getting some projects done.  (Rollover the photos below for captions.)

The primary reason for this haul is to have some engine work done.  Our 27-horse Westerbeke diesel has been hemorrhaging various fluids for a few of months now… a bit of coolant, a bit more engine oil and a scary amount of transmission fluid. We watched closely/topped off frequently, hoped to avoid a catastrophic failure further north, Plan A being to pause in Oriental and have her tended to.  Thankfully the Red Queen was on board with Plan A.  (For those familiar with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, the Red Queen moniker is a reference to the movie character…  small, loud and demanding of much attention.)  Unfortunately, it took 10 days after our haul for the planets to line up for having the engine pulled… which won’t be a huge deal unless we’re still in North Carolina for Christmas.  Mike made good use of the delay and saved us a bundle in labor costs by doing much of the engine disassembly in advance.  In any event, the actual engine pull was no small task, involving the travel lift’s crane, and several hands; I mostly tried to stay out of the way and take photos.

As I type, our Red Queen lies in the diesel hospital.  We know she’s got a bad seal… not such a big deal/expense to replace.  We’re awaiting word from a specialist about the condition of the transmission… potentially a much bigger deal.  For now we wait…

In the meantime, there are other as-long-as-we’re-hauled-anyway projects to keep us busy.  Mike’s tending to the messy ones… replacing a defective thru-hull and performing some routine maintenance on the drive leg.  I on the other hand have been distracting myself with cleaning.  After hearing some horror stories lately regarding rigging failures, we decided to dismantle/inspect and reassemble the headstay hardware… the bits that hold the jib (forward sail) and mast up.  Thankfully they were in fine shape, just needed a bit of polishing.  I’ve also been polishing and waxing the hull… always forgetting how much surface area there is on our cat until she’s out of the water.  It’s a big job, but kind of a zen thing for me, wax on, wax off…  I’ve also found a local yoga studio; my body is appreciating the occasional class to help balance all of the more strenuous work.

Other projects on the list… we’ll definitely scuff and apply a couple coats of bottom paint.  Depending on what happens with the engine, Mike’s also wanting to replace the shift and throttle cables, but that’s on hold for now.

And sometimes we play… We’ve gotten to catch up with some old cruising friends, as well as meet some new folks as they come and go with the cruiser migration.  The annual Chili Cook-off was a great success, raising big bucks for the local theatre’s badly needed roof replacement.

Especially being on the hard where cooking/dishes are more challenging, we’ve been supporting some of our favorite local eating establishments and checking out a couple of new ones.  I can also personally vouch for the Pumpkin Spice Latte ice cream currently being dipped at the Bean down on the waterfront.  We love Oriental, and it’s nice to be back for a stretch, but the temperatures are starting to drop.  Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for our Red Queen.

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Our inside run from Norfolk, VA down to our official home port of Oriental, NC was uneventful… not a bad thing.  We took a week, which included catching up with cruising friends Alex and Lisa aboard s/v Tiki Trek, first at the Great Bridge Free Dock and again at Coinjock.  We also made a stop at Belhaven, one of NC’s many little water front communities.  Belhaven itself, albeit tiny, was quite nice.  The free dock there is also quite nice, solidly built, a short walk from town… but unfortunately doesn’t get enough traffic to keep the birds at bay.  We were the only boat there the night we stayed, and it was absolutely thick with bird shit.  Serious nastiness.  We did find a nice hardware store, and had a great meal at Spoon River, a fun and funky farm-to-fork place in Belhaven.  The icing on the cake so to speak was free dessert, compliments of another cruising couple who we’d met at Coinjock who arrived for dinner shortly after us.  For those who might follow: skip the free dock and go for either the less-expensive town dock or the nearby marina.  The Belhaven Memorial Museum, while on the National Register of Historic Places, in our opinions was just downright creepy.

Finally, last Saturday, Cheshire arrived home… at least to one of our homes, at least to the place where this mostly grand adventure started.  As always, Henry found a spot for us at the dock at SailCraft where we spent our first 5 months aboard back in 2011 and have returned to countless times since.  Our timing was perfect, just a few hours ahead of a potluck complete with entertainment where we got to catch up with some of our old friends.

Mostly the news of late though is Hurricane Matthew.  I joke with friends that these storms find us, that on the so-called spaghetti models that one of the lines always goes straight to our Cheshire.  But it’s not funny.  It seems they particularly find us in North Carolina.  In our first few months aboard we were visited by Hurricane Irene in September of 2011 who  brought with her a wicked 9.5′ storm surge.  (See previous posts 1st, 2nd and 3rd re Irene). A few years later, Hurricane Arthur’s claim to fame was being the only hurricane to make landfall in the US that year. He was kind to us though; more on that one here.    Matthew looks like he’s going to be mean and nasty.

As before, I’m more than a bit nervous, but there are two things that make this time around even more worrisome.  The first is that I won’t be here.  Yep, I’ll be miles and miles inland for an already postponed once trip/family obligation, leaving Mike to tend to Cheshire by himself.  To be honest, I have some mixed feelings about it.  We’d briefly considered maybe changing my plans again, however Mike insists that that’s not necessary.  We’ve spent the better part of the last couple of days doing some storm prep, definitely easier with two people.  Sails/canvas are down and stashed, the dinghy is off the boat and stored ashore, and misc. other little things.  Mike has spent the morning building a spider web of lines securing our Cheshire to the dock, but given that its a fixed dock and some storm surge is likely, all adjustable from the boat.  This morning I gave him lessons on how to use our Delorme InReach tracker so that if/when he loses phone service, we can still text updates back and forth.

Matthew’s track seems to change almost daily.  As of this afternoon, it appears he might make landfall near the SC/NC border and track west of us.  That’s a mixed bag actually… with that scenario we might get less storm surge as the wind blows the water north into the Pamlico Sound, but potentially more wind. That said, the storm track has been changing a bit almost with every update.  It’ll be Friday or so before we have a better sense of what to expect here in North Carolina.  Needless to say, my obsessive weather checking will continue.

The second thing that makes this time around more worrisome is that after cruising for 5+ years, we now know dozens and dozens of other cruisers, currently scattered up and down the US east coast, into the FL Keys, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.  That’s a whole lot of friends potentially in harm’s way.  As fed up as I get with social media sometimes, especially during the current political season, this week I’m very thankful to have this tool for checking in with others along Matthew’s path.

I’ll update my Facebook page (tagging Mike of course) periodically  as I hear from him and will follow up with another blog post when there’s more to tell.  In the meantime, we’re sending good wishes to all who stand (or float) in the path of this storm, hoping for minimal damage and destruction.  I really do need to think about a blog tag, something to the effect of “it’s not all sunsets and rum drinks”.  As always, stay tuned.

 

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Guilty again, our “couple of days” pause in Oriental, NC turned into a week.  We spent a couple of days on the free Town Dock before moving up the creek to SailCraft Marina where we started our grand adventure nearly 5 years ago now.  It was great to catch up with  friends, visit some of our favorite haunts, get some laundry done, and pick up a new grill (our old one having self-destructed a couple of weeks back).  Big thanks to cruising friends Joe & Cheri for letting us tag along on a grocery run as Oriental, at least for a few more weeks, is without a grocery store.

Leaving Oriental, we were in new-to-us territory, opting to take a more easterly route up the Pamlico Sound.  With weather brewing, we tucked into an anchorage near the Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge… translate: in the middle of nowhere, to hide out from what was eventually named Tropical Storm Colin.  He wreaked some havoc elsewhere, but in our neck of the woods, we saw plenty of rain (enough to top off our water tanks and then some) and not much wind.  Another couple of easy days up the sound took us to Manteo, on Roanoke Island, tucked in behind the more famous Outer Banks region.  A view of the Bodie Island Lighthouse enroute was a treat.

 

Cheshire and her crew spent one night on the Manteo Waterfront Free Dock (24-hour limit), with a great view of the Roanoke Marshes Light, which worked out great when a former coworker of mine and her family came to visit.  The following day we made another grocery run.   For the record, a grocery named Food-A-Rama ordinarily would not be my first choice, but it turned out to be a great locally owned and operated find.  Way better than the nearby Piggly Wiggly we’d scouted the previous day.  Really though, think about a new name.

LS_20160610_124400 Pea Island Life-Saving Station, ManteoWe’d hoped to be able to rent a car and visit a couple of the lighthouses on the barrier islands, but alas, no rental car was to be had this day.  Instead, we left bikes ashore, moved the mothership out to the anchorage and went back ashore for some further exploring of Roanoke Island.  Our first stop, the much-advertised Pea Island Life-Saving Station was a bust.  This  historic structure, formerly a cookhouse for the station, is now a museum highlighting the contributions of African-Americans in the U.S. Life-Saving  Service (the precursor to the current day U.S. Coast Guard).  Pea Island was the first life-saving station in the country to have an all-black crew, as well as the first to have a black man, Richard Etheridge, as commanding officer.  The bust was that the museum is only open for a few hours a week, mid-day on Wednesdays; our visit was on Friday.  For those interested, read a bit of the history here.

We pedaled  on up to the north end of the island, thankful for the very nice bike path, and stopped into the Coastal North Carolina National Wildlife Refuges Visitors Center.  It’s a new facility since our road trip/visit here most of 10 years ago, a LEED-certified building with some impressive educational displays.  This center covers 12 refuges in eastern NC and VA, a massive area. Perhaps on a future visit, we’ll rent a car and check out the surrounding refuges, along with the couple of lighthouses not-so-accessible to us otherwise.

On our way back into town, Mike spotted an interesting old brick building, now home to the Outer Banks Distilling.  As luck would have it, we arrived just in time to catch one of their twice daily tour/tastings.  Wow!  A fairly new operation, it was started by four guys, two of them brewers, two of them bartenders, who decided to make a go of small batch distilling.  Matt, one of the owners and our tour guide for the day, was one of those folks I speak of sometimes who is just really passionate about what he’s doing.  They’ve done a nice job of renovating the old building, repurposing much of what was torn out… love that.  There are two rums currently available, a white rum and a pecan-honey rum, and while we’re not usually fans of flavored or spiced rum, the pecan-honey version has earned a spot in our space-limited liquor cabinet.  Read a bit more about how this place came together here.

Later in the evening, we sampled some local brews at Lost Colony Brewery before moving on to Ortega’z for dinner.  The pulled pork nachos and crab mac and cheese were both delicious.

 

All in all, we enjoyed our return to Manteo, this time by boat, and will likely be back.  For now though, we need to continue to make tracks north.  We picked our weather and headed out for a sail across the Albemarle Sound and up what’s known on the ICW as the Virginia Cut.

At this point on the ICW, there are two routes up to the Portsmouth/Norfolk area, the northern terminus of the Atlantic ICW.  We’ve done the Dismal Swamp route a couple of times now (catch up here and here), so this time opted to check out the Virginia Cut route.  It was a bit more wide open, so we could sail at least part of it.  It’s also a bit longer, but quicker due to the locks and limited schedules of same on the Dismal route.  We finally hooked up with cruising friends Alex and Lisa aboard Tiki Trek when we both stopped at Coinjock Marina.  The onsite restaurant is known for their prime rib, though I was more impressed with their mussels.

Tiki Trek beat feet the following day while Cheshire opted for a more leisurely day, though full of much dodging of tugs pushing barges (particularly fun when you meet at a bridge), crab pots being actively worked and small boats pulling/dropping water-skiers all over the place.  A bit different than the solitude of the Dismal Swamp route.  On the other hand, there were many osprey nests occupied by mothers and their chicks, and a bald eagle sighting.

After a blistering hot day, Cheshire and crew tied up to yet another free dock at Great Bridge, adjacent to a nicely done little waterfront park that appears to have been taken over by a flotilla of geese and their chicks…  at least at our visit, they outnumbered the humans.  A short walk to a nearby shopping center made for some easy provisioning at a very nice new-to-us grocery called Farm Fresh. Thankfully a front blew through later, and while we didn’t get rain, we did get a dramatic drop in temperature overnight.

We caught up with Tiki Trek again at Hospital Point in Portsmouth, VA and shared a late afternoon walkabout in Olde Towne Portsmouth, followed by beverages and dinner at a the Bier Garden.  We’d hoped to return the following day to check out the Portsmouth Virgina Naval Shipyard Museum and the nearby Lightship Portsmouth, but the main museum is closed for renovations and the lightship is in the meantime only open Friday-Sunday and we won’t be sticking around that long.  Seems there’s always something to put on the list for a subsequent visit.

 

 

From here, we’d hoped to make another couple of offshore jumps on our way to the Long Island area.  Alas, Mother Nature has some other ideas.  With the offshore forecast looking a bit sketchy and some significant north winds coming mid to late week, rather than sit and wait, we’re now contemplating a run up the Chesapeake Bay, vowing not to get too distracted other than the necessary pauses to wait out some weather.

The plan changes frequently, but you can always find us via our InReach Tracker… linked here,  or in the lower right hand column of the blog at “Keep Track of Us”.

Thanks for following along.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Leaving Wrightsville Beach, while the weather didn’t cooperate for an offshore run as we’d hoped, we did manage to spend a couple of days visiting Cape Lookout National Seashore, something that’s been on our list since the first summer we moved aboard.  Even as we headed out Beaufort Inlet on Thursday morning, making our way along Shackleford Banks, we were hearing early reports of a potential “weather event” that might be headed our way.  Although Cape Lookout Bight where we planned to anchor is fairly protected from any wave action, there’s virtually nothing but beach and sea grass surrounding the bight, so not much for wind protection should there be a sizable blow.  Needless to say, we were keeping close tabs on the forecast.

We spent the afternoon ashore, hiking a short stretch of beach, checking out the small museum and of course hiking to the top of the lighthouse.

The Cape is only accessible by boat, either by one’s personal boat, or by one of several ferries.  As our visit was on a weekday, it was fairly quiet.  As evening came and the last ferry of the day departed, it got even quieter. Morning and evening light made for some interesting photography.  These were taken from aboard Cheshire.

We learned some interesting backstory on the paint scheme of this particular lighthouse.  This current version of the Cape Lookout Light, which became operational in 1859, was originally a natural solid brick red.  By 1872 however, two more lights were constructed along the NC coast, also sporting the brick red color scheme.  Apparently there was some confusion, so all three were painted in differing black and white schemes.  The Cape Lookout Light has a special feature though.  The diamond daymark pattern not only identifies the light, but also direction; the black diamonds are oriented north/south and the white diamonds east/west.  Lighthouse enthusiasts may be interested in this website detailing the lighthouses of the NC Outer Banks.

Although the lighthouse is of course the main attraction, the Park Service also maintains a couple of historic areas, one at the far north end of the park (which includes some 56 miles of shoreline, so a bit out of our walking range), but another on the south end that made for a fine morning of exploration the following day.   The Life-Saving Service and later the Coast Guard, built a number of structures in the area, mostly to house keepers and their families.  Often when a building was decommissioned or replaced, the old building would be sold and moved, serving subsequently as a private residence.  The Park service is “preserving” a few of these; others have simply been abandoned to the elements, residents having long ago moved away.  Cape Lookout has been designated a National Seashore since 1966, so is  celebrating a 50th anniversary this year.

After exploring the Cape Lookout Village Historic District, we found a path to the beach and spent a few hours walking the shoreline.  I was thrilled to see much of the dunes area roped off, restricted as bird sanctuary/nesting area.  Even outside of the restricted area, there were plenty of fast moving shore birds to challenge my photography skills, but chirps and peeps of many more drifting over from the protection of the nearby dunes and grasses.

We made a quick stop at a former ferry dock (the new one is adjacent to the lighthouse), and managed a photo of Cheshire with the lighthouse in the background before heading back to the mothership.

A quick check of the weather told us that best case scenario, we had several days of rain coming.  The path of what would eventually be named Tropical Storm Bonnie was still a bit uncertain, but was expected to be more in the direction of South Carolina than towards us.  Nevertheless, we’d seen the highlights of the Cape and decided to haul anchor and head back inland.  No doubt, we’ll revisit this magical place in our future travels.

Just south of the Neuse River, we dropped the hook in a familiar-to-us creek to hide out for the holiday weekend.  We read some, did some planning for the next leg of our adventure and marveled at the inaccuracy of the weather forecast.  We did get some rain… nice to replenish our fresh water tanks… though not near the torrential downpours that were being called for.

Eventually we made our way to Oriental, NC, our Cheshire’s home port.  We spent a couple of nights on the free Town Dock (limited to 48 hours), then decided to stay a few more days, so we moved around to SailCraft Marina, where we started this grand adventure, 5 years ago this month in fact.  Catching up with old friends, visiting some of our favorite spots, regrouping for our next leg…

 

Stay tuned.

 

 

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From the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, we came upon the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge… have I mentioned that I love this stretch of South Carolina.  Midway through the Waccamaw though, the forecast was threatening.  We decided to duck into Osprey Marina… a favorite since our first stop here on our first trip south back in 2011.  We arrived at the dock literally minutes before the heavens opened up.  We spent the afternoon doing laundry, catching rain water to top off the water tanks and soaking up wifi/updating our numerous electronic devices.  Come evening, we decided to order out pizza.  Mike of course did his research and found the best pizza place, though not one of several advertised in our marina goodie bag.  (Side note: Osprey has the best goodie bags on the ICW, which for this stop included, among other things, a jar of Hot Pepper Jelly, apparently the recipe of a local live aboard.)  I found myself in the most interesting position of having to give driving directions to the pizza delivery guy to a place I’d only ever visited by water.  Thank goodness for Google maps.

We motored up to Calabash, another favorite anchorage, on the SC/NC border. We’d hoped to duck out the nearby Little River Inlet for another outside run; alas, Mother Nature would not cooperate.  We continued our inside/on the ICW run the following day, and got lucky with some favorable tides/currents to make a run up the Cape Fear River mid-afternoon and picked up a mooring ball in Carolina Beach.  We ended up staying for three days, taking advantage of the occasional break in the rains to dinghy ashore and do some exploring.  We’d passed through here before, but never stopped to explore.  Between the inclement weather and being about a week ahead of the official beginning of tourist season, it was pretty quiet.

We went ashore Friday morning, thinking we’d beat the rumored-to-be-long lines at the infamous Britt’s Donuts.  Not only were there no lines, the place was closed.  What kind of donut shop opens at 4:00pm on a Friday?  Nearby Kate’s Pancake House proved to be an OK substitute; the Sweet Potato Pancakes were yummy.  After breakfast, we had the beachside boardwalk to ourselves.

Saturday evening we took advantage of another break in the weather and made another trip ashore.  Our first stop was  the Fat Pelican, reportedly voted the best dive bar in North Carolina, a hippy, dippy spot, we found it to have a fine beer selection… a walk-in cooler where you make your selection, pay at the register.  No food here.  We followed up with a splurge meal at the Surf House, the complete opposite end of the Carolina Beach dining spectrum, specializing in local/sustainable… OK, so maybe also a bit hippy, dippy, but an awesome meal.

Sunday morning we decided to make one last attempt at Britt’s Donuts… so glad we did.  I don’t even have that much of a sweet tooth, but these donuts were phenomenal.  Our timing was perfect… no line at all, which was not the case a bit later when we left.  Sorry, no photo…. we were well into our half dozen before I even thought to snap a shot.

We opted to move a couple of hours up to Wrightsville Beach Sunday afternoon, and managed to get the anchor down just before yet another shower.  This morning we finally saw the sun. We took the dinghy ashore for a provisioning run, another Harris Teeter…  I’ll miss these stores as we move further north.  Unfortunately the store is not quite two miles from our dinghy dock, which doesn’t sound like much until you’re hauling a bunch of groceries on foot.  As is our habit, after shopping and checking out, we paused with the cart at the front of the store to repack everything. (Shopping by bike or on foot is very different than by car, though we’ve gotten pretty proficient at it in the last few years.)  Suddenly a woman approaches us, asks if we’re on a boat (OK, so the Tilly hats and Keen sandals are always a tip off) and offers us a ride back to the park where we’ve left the dinghy.  She’s just here to pick up a six-pack… which we ended up buying for her in exchange for the ride back.  Turns out Robin has lived in the Florida Keys and Long Island, NY before ending up here. She and her husband also have a boat and/or are shopping for another boat.  Cruisers helping cruisers, it never ceases to amaze me.

One more wander in the late afternoon had us stumble upon a surf shop where we each picked up a new pair of Reef flip-flops.  Tomorrow we’ll have a leisurely morning, stop at a local marina to top off fuel and, assuming the weather holds, will duck outside for late day/overnight run to Cape Lookout National Seashore… a place we’ve been trying to get to since we first moved aboard.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

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