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Sloop Les Miserables
The Wave Off!

The trip to Beaufort (pronounce Bo-fort) North Carolina takes at most an hour. However, you do go out near the ocean inlet and the current, wind, number of boaters traveling in and out of the inlet can stress any captain. We managed to find all of the markers and stay in the channel. All went well, or as they say in flying, any landing you can walk away from is a good landing. While entering Taylor Creek to the Beaufort Dock Marina the incredible current from a high tide was sending us down the channel at about 2 knts without us providing any power. We were directed by the dockhand to go past the docking T to turn and the current would push us into the dock so we would need to back down quickly. Merry told Wiley that he should travel not just one dock past the dock we would be going into but 2 since the current was so strong and this would allow for greater control. However, Wiley did not hear her correctly. So this resulted in Merry screaming at Wiley to not turn yet - when it was too late. Poor Wiley! It is difficult to maneuver a boat in these circumstances and he had a screaming wife to add to his stress. The dockhand had selected a dock for us but we were not able to turn into that one but instead Merry was able to throw him some lines (as we entered sideways) he yelled out directions to the captain. The end result was we made it into the dock, generously tipped the dockhand, and began to worry about how we would ever get out of this dock with the strong current. Merry took Wiley to lunch and brews to settle his nerves. We have entered a strong learning curve regarding tides, current, and wind when maneuvering the boat. Sailboats have a mind of their own and adding these elements make it all the more challenging. We are determined to find the best time - slack tide to move the boat to an anchorage outside of the harbor prior to leaving for our next step along the ICW. Slack tide occurs at near the apex of either high or low tide. Now we just need to figure out when that happens.

10/31/2011 | Brian E.
Remember, this is all about adventure so please make sure you have plenty of food... and then don't spend a minute worrying about the tide.

We left Oriental crossing the Neuse River to Adam's Creek. We should mention that crossing the Neuse River takes almost an hour; it doesn't look like a river but resembles a really big lake. We successfully entered the channel for Adam's Creek when Wiley (who was at the helm) once again became distracted by the sun in his eyes and Merry reading him her proposed blog entry about Oriental. SURPRISE #1, we ran aground! The air was once again full of "sailor talk". A brief attempt to back off was unsuccessful. Merry saw a large old Chris Craft named Navigator approaching the entrance to the creek and called on the radio requesting assistance. He generously offered to help and approached the area to pull us off. We requested that he proceed with caution so that he too would not go aground. We decided that Wiley would row a line out from our stern in Dimples to pull us off. Meanwhile, a SeaTow boat showed up and asked us if we would like his help. However, we do not carry SeaTow insurance so refused his services, as it would be very expensive. He commented that we should not have the other boat pull us off by our stern because we could break our rudder. This sent Merry into a tizzy as Wiley was currently in the process of rowing the line out to Navigator. Navigator began to pull us off, without much success, and with Merry yelling at Wiley about the possibility of breaking the rudder while trying to keep the line from pushing against the outboard (used for Dimples) mounted on the back of the boat. Finally, Wiley called Navigator off and Merry once again called Boat U.S. There was quite a bit of wave action against the boat and with the movement caused by the pulling of Navigator - SURPRISE #2 - we floated off! We were able to call Boat US and decline their help and we were once again off down Adam's Creek. However, Wiley's pride and confidence was damaged and so we followed other sailboats - Persistance and Celeste down the channel. Celeste, a 25 foot sailboat, single handed by a fellow from Maui sailed wing on wing down the channel. We admired the beautiful homes along Adam's Creek and really felt that we were definitely in the south as we noted that many of the homeowners had planted Palm trees. We also noted the damage from Hurricane Irene was obvious; boarded windows, roofs with tarps, and docks with missing boards. We felt that we were flying down the creek and noted that we were maintaining 7.2 knots with the wind and current behind us. We soon passed mile marker 195 of the ICW. Around noon, the greatest surprise, SURPRISE #3 happened. We saw approximately a dozen dolphins swimming along in the Creek. We had been hoping to see one and to finally see not only one but pods of dolphins made our day. We continued our attempt to navigate through to Morehead City Yacht Basin and realized that we had gone past the marker we should turn at. We called them on the radio and were redirected. When we entered this marina we were impressed by all of the large - million dollar fishing boats. This area is known for big game fishing and our little sailboat looked like their dinghy when we pulled into the dock. We were able to spend the afternoon and evening enjoying Morehead City. We sat on a floating dock drinking our sundowners and watching a blue heron across on an island while Wiley continued to lament about going aground. it is going to take time for him to heal from this traumatic event and yet most likely it will not be the last time we go aground. As we were sailing along to Morehead City we heard of another boat calling Boat US. A fellow sailor from the vessel Kittyhawk says that there are three kinds of sailors that travel the ICW, those that are aground, those that are about to go aground and those that lie about never going aground. We planned to take on the challenge of going to Beaufort tomorrow even though we know that there are strong currents in this area. We sought a lot of advice from other sailors in Morehead City and also learned of a new online, resource - Active Captain We don't want to miss the opportunity to spend time in the beautiful city of Beaufort.

Leading the Fleet

We left Dowry Creek at 7:15 AM, just as the sun was starting to come up. The sun broke through a cluster of clouds and provided us with great lighting on markers as we were traveling from east to west on the Pungo River. We were the first boat to enter the channel, and became the "mother duck with all the duckling boats" following us south. At the end of the Pungo River we then turned south on the Pamlico River, through Goose Creek, an ICW canal, and Gale Creek. We continued to lead the way. All went well, as all the markers were easy to see. It was fun looking back at the long line of sailboats trailing behind us as all of the "snowbirds" flew south. This was the second time on the trip that we really felt the flow of all of the boaters moving south. However, we read many warnings about shoaling in Gale Creek so we decided to slowly and carefully traverse this area. Along this area we saw shrimp boats and immediately thought of "Bubba Gump". The "mother duck" having slowed down just after the Hobucken bridge resulted in many of the following boats passing us into the Neuse River. In the canal and Gale Creek we were unable to sail, but once out into the Neuse River all of the boats raised their sails once again. We were able to sail until we were out in the middle of the river when we turned toward Oriental, North Carolina. It became very lumpy and with the wind in the wrong direction, behind us, all of the boats were rolling on their round bottoms. We were all watching each other's "sticks" (masts) roll from one side of the boat to the other and sailors later commented on the ride.
We entered the channel to Oriental and turned past anchored boats on our starboard and shrimping boats on our port. Once again we were greeted by a dockhand who helped us with lines as we landed in our slip. Oriental Marina has a lovely restaurant, hotel, pool, laundry facilities and offers towels- shampoo - soap. We joined some of our new sailing friends Marge and Dick as well as another couple from Ohio - Bert and Pru for dinner at Toucan after having a sunset drink from the Tikki Bar. Marge and Dick are sailing their boat to Fort Pierce, Florida where they will leave their boat. They plan on living aboard their boat in the winter and going home to Ohio during the good weather. Bert and Pru have sold their home and plan on living on their boat, Exuberant, full time. Every sailors own intention for their experience is a little different than others and they often try to convince others to follow their path. There is comfort in company when you find others who are making the same crazy decisions that you have or are making. While in Oriental we met the owner of the local health club, who offered use of his facilities for free, and who drove us to the local West Marine. We met a lot of wonderful people including a retired diesel mechanic whose son had died in a motorcycle accident just a month ago. He nonetheless gave us some sound advice about maintaining our diesel. Wiley set up a wooden support for our gerry cans of fuel and water on the boat. We scrubbed the boat and prepared to leave for Morehead City. There are always a lot of little tasks that we need to do to maintain the boat and they often consume a surprising amount of our time.

Dowry Creek

Dowry Creek is tucked in off of the Pungo River (which turns off of Alligator River). We were welcomed by Bret and another dockhand and easily tied up to a finger dock across from Alize - though not the dock we were really assigned. Confused old people -strike once again! Dick, Marge, Wiley and I borrowed the courtesy car, an old white and rusted Chevy Caprice filled with water on the back floorboards, complete with handcrank windows, and which "kinda" worked. Dick drove, and while he is about 5'8" or 5'9" he looked like a tiny old man hunkered down driving this tank of a car. We picked up a few groceries for the pot luck that evening. The pot luck dinner was to include a celebration of one of the kids 13th birthday. All the boaters came together by invitation from Mary the owner and a main dish of seafood pasta & birthday/ice cream cake was shared along with all of the wonderful dishes the boaters brought. The boating community forms quickly; stories are shared, boat cards exchanged, and quick friendships are made. The "boat cards" are one way of remembering all of the people we meet. We now tape them in our log book on the entry of when we met with a little note about them. We need all of the cues we can find to assist our aging brains. Mary, the owner of Dowry Creek Marina, continues to mourn the loss of her husband who passed five years ago as well as the loss of a child. She has faced our worse fears and truly understands what is important in life. She embraces all around her with warmth, kindness, and positive energy. A "slap in the face" to remind us to value the gifts we can offer each other. This is a wonderful stop in a great private marina with immaculate facilities which is slightly off the usual path that should not be missed by anyone who has the opportunity to stay at Mary's Marina - in Dowry Creek.

11/11/2011 | Anonymous
When I reed many of your posts, it is almost always the case... that I feel genuine joy at this once-in-a-lifetime journey you two (possibly deranged) humans have mapped out for yourselves. BUTT, with this post in particular... ("Dowry Creek") an antithesis presented itself... (in MY growingly feeble brian:) it Dawned :) on me that a gift is expressing itself on a regular basis... as two of the most impressive people I will EVER know... touch the souls of so many. In a world where shocking horrors are too far too barbaric and frequent... and hearts challenged, you shine and give promise... and hope. I can think of nothing more important. BRAVO Les Mis, bravo.

P.S. Can you see how buying me a Webster's Collegiate Dictionary all those years ago served no good purpose? Rarely has capital been more ill used.
Crossing Albemarle Sound to Alligator River

We missed seeing an Alligator, but passed on the opportunity to dine on Alligator bites (alligator tail - deep fried! - We are definitely in the south). We joined boats pulling out of Elizabeth City around 7:00 AM the next morning. The procession of boats looked like a beaded string of pearls with us being in the middle. Everyone had at least their jib up and were all on the same heading. We definitely have joined the "snow birds". We were told and have read that the Albemarle Sound can be a treacherous trip. It is much like Lake Erie - shallow waters that quickly kick up if the wind is strong or coming from the wrong direction. However, this did not hold true for us and we had a lovely crossing to Alligator River Marina which is just before the Alligator Bridge. It is a marina and a truck stop. It has a truck stop diner and Dianne the lady who works the counter at the stop shared photos with us of an 8 foot long 'gator' that had been in the marina, as well as photos of a black bear that was previously on the property across from where our boat was docked. Amazingly, we actually got to meet the crew of the "smart people boat" that led the way out of Tidewater Marina in Portsmouth. We shared a lovely evening with wine and cheese with Dick and Marge from the sailboat Alize'. They quickly became our boat buddies as we traveled to our next stop.


We arrived in Elizabeth City around 10:30A after passing through the Elizabeth City bridge and tied up at the free docks. The city does not charge for their docks - however, they do not have electricity nor facilities (other than a porta-potty). The docks are short finger docks with large pilings to hold your lines around. We quickly learned that boat neighbors help by grabbing your lines, using boat hooks, and send them back to you so that you are attached to the pilings. The winds, unfortunately continued from the Southeast, and as we mentioned in our last blog - this is not a good thing. The boat rocked up and down at the dock. It would raise up 3 feet at the bow and drop the same at the stern and rock back and forth constantly. This required "crocheting" the boat to the pilings and figuring out a way to step off the bow of the boat on to the small finger dock - which was sometimes a drop of 4-6 feet. It also meant that we would not be staying on the boat while it was on the dock until the wind shifted - which it was suppose to happen later in the day. We jumped at the chance to walk around the city - checked out the local book store, wine shop, and restaurants. A lovely wine, coffee, and sandwich shop had free WiFi and allowed us an opportunity to charge our computer/ cellphone/ and handheld radio. Elizabeth City has a "Rose Buddies tradition". This tradition started by Fred Fearing in honor of his deceased wife and with some friends that came to be known as the Rose Buddies. Fred and his friends would cut roses from their personal rose gardens and bring them down to the docks where they were presented to each lady who arrived on a boat. The sailors would then be invited to a wine and cheese party at Fred's house. Fred died some years ago, but the tradition continues and this little town hosts a wine and cheese party for the transient boaters whenever there are at least 5 boats. Roses from Fred's garden have been transplanted to the water front near the free docks where they grow today. There is also a beautiful stone monument with a picture of a rose on it in memory of Fred Fearing and his Rose Buddies. We wish we could have gotten to know him. However, we did not miss the Rose party and this one was very special because the honor guest was the Colonel of the Army Corp of Engineers who is in charge of the whole district, including the Dismal Swamp Canal. He arrived in splendid fashion on an army corp of engineers boat along with his entire staff. Wiley got to talk to him 1-1 for a about 20 minutes, with of course, Wiley doing most of the talking. He is young, smart, and a very nice guy. The first evening on the boat in Elizabeth City was much like trying to sleep inside a running washing machine that includes a loud bang every now and then when a wave hits the stern of the boat. However, at about 2:00A the winds shifted to the west, a cold front came through, and the boat settled allowing some sleep. We stayed an extra day in Elizabeth City because crossing the Albemare Sound can be treacherous if the wind is strong. We waited, along with all the other boaters for the calm to come on Friday before we would leave early in the morning to cross the sound to Alligator River Marina.

02/17/2013 | Al Gill
Once Elizabeth City was a nice stop. That is long in the past. The restaurants have closed. The rose buddies were run off by the city before Fred died andthe only people who offer to help now are homeless looking for a handout. No thanks.

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