Southport, North Carolina to Norfolk, Va mile zero
Trip Start Oct 19, 2008
58Trip End Jan 05, 2008
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Southport to Mile Hammock Bay
We had a good run up the Cape Fear River but saw a sailboat listing aground just before entering Snows Cut. The skipper apparently missed the dog leg in the channel and stayed on the range too long. Not a pretty sight with anchors run out and a falling tide.
A good run from Wrightsville Beach to Mile Hammock Bay but with severe thunder storm warnings and CuNim clouds building inland. The strong southerly winds kept the line of storms well inland and we seemed to be lucky with the bridges and were the last boat into Mile Hammock bay. It is a fun anchorage as there are always many boats anchored overnight and one is usually
close enough to have a chat with your neighbor. With the chance of bad weather overnight the captains were all making sure that their neighbors anchors set well and the boat was not too close.
Mile Hammock Bay to Morehead City Yacht Basin
Up early to an ugly sun rise and a threatening sky. The Sirius weather plotter showed a line of storms edging down towards the coast. Through the bridge early and along Bogue Sound with a very threatening sky in the west. Several other boats in sight but they drew ahead and soon it was just us and a Caliber being chased by a thunderstorm that eventually closed in on us about three miles out of Morehead City. Chatter on the VHF from Mile Hammock Bay about boats, severe winds, motoring to stay at anchor indicated that the blow was worse to the south of us. The worst of it somehow missed us and we made our way into the Morehead City Yacht Basin behind the Marine terminal and the phosphate plant - not scenic but good shelter from the wind. We tied up directly on a T Head with the dock master and his buddy assisting and some good line throwing by Ros. The weather cleared up but then became threatening again with tornado warnings in two nearby counties. We had a walk to a nearby restaurant and a good meal but the shrimp and grits was not as good as in Charleston.
Morehead City to Oriental
The following morning Dave had to drop some urgent mail off at the post office so we had a good walk through the town and then we had a tasty breakfast at a local café/deli. A walk around the town and waterfront showed that Morehead City actually has more going for it than nearby Beaufort. A late start and up the ICW and out into the Neuse River. A good breeze from the SW and we rolled out the genoa but more warnings of bad weather so we pulled into the marina at Oriental. Docked next to a Beneteau 411 from Canada that had just sailed from Great Sale in the Bahamas to Beaufort in 3 days and had done 11 knots in the Gulf Stream. Dave very impressed. We had a couple of drinks at the Tiki Bar and a chat with some people on a big Hunter from Crisfield, Maryland also on their way back from the Bahamas.
Oriental to Pungo Creek
We started off with a pleasant sail down the Neuse but by the time we reached the ICW cut the wind was honking at up to 30 knots from the SW. Dropped the main and motored through the cut with some consideration of tying up at the Mayo shrimp dock or anchoring in one of the uninviting crab pot creeks before the Pamlico. A look at the chart showed the course to the Pungo River would let us cross the Pamlico on just a genoa with the strong wind from almost right astern. A good but rolly sail with a catamaran and another boat much heavier who shot ahead - Dave said he must have his engine going as well!
We sailed up the Pungo river on a reach and then motored into Pungo creek looking for crab pots with the sun in our eyes. Dave was doubtful of finding a sheltered anchorage but we went in for a look with the fall back plan to get a slip in Belhaven. We found an anchorage up close to a little marina with some shelter from the NW as well as the thunderstorms forecast to move through during the night. We anchored about 250 feet from the marina T Head and just as we were about to settle in for a coldie or two the VHF came to life - "marina to sailboat at anchor". We had noted some characters on the dock looking at us with arms crossed - and sure enough the VHF conveyed "that we were in the channel". Dave informed them there was no channel and thanks for your welcome and the VHF was duly turned off. We watched the thunderstorms fizzle on the Sirius NRAD display and relaxed with a good meal and some wine from Rafiki's wine locker. (after all she is a French boat ) The wind dropped and a weak front came through in the night with just a rain-shower.
Pungo Creek to Broad Creek off the North River.
An early start and up the Pungo River dodging crab pots in the early morning sun glare. We enjoyed the simplicity of motoring through the Pungo River/Alligator River cut and then straight up the Alligator River north and out on to the Albermarle. Just before we got to the Albermarle we reacalled that the entrance was a bit tricky and studied the chart. A sailing boat in front of us suddenly altered course away from the shoal where we had seen a power boat run aground when we were coming south. The boat called us on the radio saying he had touched bottom and asked us where we were from and were we familiar with the area? We allowed that we were familiar with area and our chart was up to date. The other boat asked us if he could follow and we of course said no problem. We provided some helpful guidance and prevented another run aground as he seemed to go off to take a short cut over thin water! We called him back to heel on the VHF. We sailed across the Albermarle in a freshening north easterly together, dodging an awful lot of crab pots and when we got to the North River the other boat again became keen to follow us into Broad Creek, Dave told the other boat it would be narrow. No marks or buoys but we nosed in followed by the other boat who we suggested anchor in the first bay which they duly did. A very remote and beautiful anchorage with two Canada geese who had apparently over stayed their visas. Dave threatened them with the Immigration and Naturalization Service but they paddled up and down completely unperturbed.
The sky had some wonderful high clouds that looked liked the watermarbled first pages of an antique book together with a big cirrus cloud in the sunset that was a perfect parallelogram. Both sons called to wish the mater mate a happy Mothers Day. (our cell phones had been out of service range the previous two days) The Sirius weather map confirmed a developing low off Cape Hatteras so we went to bed with no great hopes for the weather tomorrow.
Broad Creek to Norfolk.
Awoke to gray threatening skies and a strong easterly wind. Our companion had already left by the time we had our corn beef hash breakfast. Out of the creek we encountered short breaking seas on the nose and crab pots - impossible to see reliably. Just as Dave thought it would happen, it did. No steering - crab pot. Engine in neutral and run up forward to drop the anchor to prevent us being blown the few boat lengths onto a lee shore. Just as Dave was about to set a snubber on the miraculously quick setting anchor Ros yelled that the steering was free. Try the engine ahead - all ok. Heave in the anchor and off we go, covered in mud from the anchor, passing a Canadian boat anchored in the middle of the river and piching horribly - presumably with some problem or other. It took a while to recover from our near miss, if we had reacted more slowly or the anchor had not held we could have lost our boat! Onward, up the North River and through the cut to Currituck Sound with a fuel stop at Coinjock Marina. Not a very nice day for weather- we got into the North Landing River as the wind dropped but then the rain came down steadily. We missed one bridge by not keeping up speed through the rather tricky winding channel but asked the Centerville Turnpike bridge if he could delay his opening as there were no other boats. He said he was permitted to do so by ten minutes which we could make by asking Doris the diesel to give her all. After that everything fell into place and we went through the Great Bridge, the lock and the Norfolk bridges behind a friendly trawler. We were hailed by a large tug and barge that said they had issued a securite warning that they were departing the xyz terminal and the indication was we should not be there. We did not respond - how the heck were we to know where the xyz terminal is. Anchored at Hospital Point both rather tired and agreeing the Dismal Swamp route is far more fun. Dave allowed that the boat was not in the Black Ball line and he did not really want to be known as Captain Bully Hall - and perhaps we had hurried back too much.
Overall quite a sense of achievement. We have lived six months on the boat in the last eleven and have ranged as far north east as Marthas Vineyard in New England and as far south as Little Harbour in the Abacos, Bahamas. We think we have done altogether well in excess of 3000 miles and more than a third of them sailed.
We are much better sailors than we were but still have more to learn than we currently know. Most of it has been enjoyable especially sailing in the Bahamas with Peter Ley (Ros's brother) We now intend to have some summer sailing on the Chesapeake which we will really appreciate as a great place to have a sailing boat.
The best piece of equipment on the boat has been the 35 pound Manson anchor we bought for the trip. It set first time everytime and so far, touch wood, has always stayed set in all types of mud and also sand and shell. The Sirius weather and AIS receivers have been very useful and well worth the cost and trouble of fitting them and paying for the Sirius weather subscription.