02/11/2007/10:02 pm, Swansboro, NC, Mile 229.2
Seeing as this was our first really big blow since we started this trip, we decided to play it safe and stay at a marina while the side effects of tropical storm/hurricane Noel blew by.
On our way here from Beaufort, we paid close attention to navigation in the narrow channel. It's interesting - if it had been a little wider, I would probably have considered it boring. But since it was so narrow and required such close attention, we paid more attention to all the details. We spotted egrets and pelicans, and at one point had dolphins (Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins, according to the book) swimming right along with us. As we got closer to Swansboro and nearby Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, there was a fighter plane roaring up and down over our heads. The whole area is just at sea level and the houses are often built up high. The bank on our port side nearest the ocean was sometimes built up with homes, and in other places was a grassy sand dune. The area is prone to shoaling, and the depth outside the channel was often just a few feet. I could see how hurricanes and tropical storms can do such damage in these areas.
There was no wind to speak of from the time we arrived here at mid-afternoon on Thursday until the wee hours of Friday morning, but the wind has certainly been howling through the halyards since then and we could see the white caps blowing across the river behind the town. For much of the time, our wind gauge has been reading in the high 20's with occasional gusts to 30 and the odd one over that. Surprisingly, there has been no rain and the day was actually quite warm considering the wind. It got cooler only when the sun retired for the night but the stove warmed up the cabin nicely.
We've spent our time here in getting to know our neighbours as well as taking care of business. "Sulis" is a catamaran parked a couple of slips down, and the crew (Sharon, Ken, Katie, Bretton, and friend Colin) hails from just outside Ottawa, and has Nova Scotia connections as well so we feel quite at home with them. Sharon and I went off to do laundry this morning, and Colin and Ken came over for a conflab about some repair work Jim has to do.
Once again we have been just blown away (excuse the pun given the weather!) by the friendliness of the locals and the visitors. Susan - from the marina - drove Sharon and me to the laundromat and picked us up again later. Bob - from Aquarius, the powerboat next to us - drove Jim to the hardware store, and he and Barb invited both of us in for drinks later in the evening.
I took a little wander around town, taking pictures and chatting with folks on the street. I met up with a couple of fine young men who were most interested in our trip. Bobby, a grade 7 student practicing his skateboarding skills, was so sweetly sincere in wishing us safe travels, and Craig, his older friend, impressed me with his knowledge of and interest in Canadian geography. A couple of charming young girls who were playing along the street called me over to chat and were delighted to have me take their pictures. They were just the absolute picture of carefree, joyful, trusting friendliness and I loved spending time with them. It is so very refreshing to see people who are still interested in talking with "strangers" and it reminded me how much harm we can do when we concentrate on danger instead of careful opportunity when we teach our children good street smarts.
The wind is still howling this evening so we will see what the morning brings. If it quiets down, we'll head onward a few miles, and if it stays up, we're quite content to remain here another day. It seems odd to think that although we are here waiting out the wind on our sailboat, the storm may well hit our families and friends in Nova Scotia with more force than we have felt. We're thinking of you, and wishing you well!
01/11/2007/7:32 pm, Beaufort, NC Mile 204
The air was fresh and the sun was warm as we made our way through Adams creek and along the magenta line (the way the ICW is portrayed on the charts) to Beaufort for some more exploration. The banks of the creek were lined with rushes and reeds - and in some places sand banks. We passed a couple of dredging barges, and a couple more big pieces of equipment laying pipes, as well as shrimp boats with their big arms out to the sides and loops of netting strung around. Whenever we were in open areas we managed to fly our yankee sail and it boosted our speed a good knot.
Since it was Hallowe'en, it seemed only appropriate to go on a ghost walk in Beaufort, so we joined a number of other folks - mostly local - as we walked the streets under the direction of a swashbuckling pirate. He roared at us to stay in line and pay attention as he told us stories of lost sailors, a little girl buried in a keg of rum at sea (to preserve her body till she got back to her mother, don't you know), women murdered by jealous husbands, and of course the most famous of them all - the 13 year old wife of Edward Teach a.k.a Blackbeard - one of his many wives so the story goes. She was, not surprisingly, trying to escape and he didn't approve.
We visited the old burying ground to view that little girl's grave - all heaped with toys - and the story is that the toys get moved around during the night...wooohooo.... The live oak trees spread their branches widely, and it is a much different feeling burying ground from any we have seen before - many trees and bushes - it feels quite dense in there. Believe it or not, our Pirate told us it is considered to be a very romantic place and several weddings have been held there. Interesting locale for a wedding I thought - I wonder what the omens would be for those marriages.
We marched past houses all decorated for Hallowe'en (hardly any real jack o'lanterns though) and swarms of sweet little witches and eerie ghosts and scary monsters going from house to house. One of the best things about that tour was that the arrrgh's and fierce orders of Harvey the pirate could have come out of the mouth of our very own Alex. If I had closed my eyes, I'd have sworn he was with us. Maybe something to consider for your next line of work, Alex??
On Thursday morning, we visited the North Carolina Maritime Museum to see displays of local history and relics from Blackbeard's flagship, Queen Anne's Revenge, which was discovered near here in 1996. It is a well done museum with no admission charge, containing examples of local boats, excellent depictions of the rescue equipment used in the old days along this Graveyard of the Atlantic, and information and displays of all things maritime. We had planned to dinghy along past Carrot Island to see if we could spot any of the feral ponies that roam there and on Shackleford Banks but we ran out of time. They may be descended from horses put overboard by the Spanish, or from shipwrecks along the coast. There seem to be a few theories. It reminded us of the Sable Island ponies in that other Graveyard of the Atlantic off the coast of Nova Scotia.
We anchored in Town Creek at Beaufort - just before the little bridge that allows boaters to continue on down the ICW. Again, there are many familiar boats here as we all travel on and off in the same direction. When we dinghied over to the Beaufort waterfront on Taylor Creek, we saw many more. One thing about this route is that we can all go at our own pace. Some boats seem to prefer the same length of travel days as we do and they keep turning up in the same places. We make some long days and some short ones, depending on the places we want to stop. For us, it is a journey south still, but it is more importantly a journey of discovery all along the way. That is why the stop in Oriental was important, and the stop in Beaufort. We'll make another short day today to Swansboro, but for a different reason.
We're keeping a close eye on Noel - the tropical storm - that is working its way up the coast. (For all you weather watchers, we really like the www.wunderground.com site). We want to be safely tucked away when it passes by so we have booked a couple of nights at Casper's marina. Once the storm has passed, we'll travel some long days to mark off some more miles on the chart. There are more places ahead to be seen and savoured.
30/10/2007/7:22 pm, Oriental, NC
How things do change! The wind was up and nobody else seemed to be moving when we crawled out of bed on Monday morning so we decided to hang out in Belhaven another day. I made biscuits to take the chill off the cabin and our tummies, and then we hopped into the dinghy for another trip to town. This one was much more successful. There was a different lady at the desk of the River Forest Marina who was extremely helpful in tracking down a spare part Jim was after. While he enjoyed some comical interaction with her as she handled customers at the desk and on the phone and on the intercom, I spent my time with her son, Mathias, checking out his drawings and stories of imaginative vehicles and creatures - "even larger than the planet! See? This is the planet!" What a treat to dip back into that wonderful child's world where the imagination can stretch wide open and everything is possible.
Next on the agenda was a good long walk to the spare parts store and the grocery store - a couple of miles away. It felt really good to stretch our legs and expand our lungs, and we met a few other cruiser types doing the same thing. We never did get into the hardware store but heard reports that it carried cheese and wine and who knows what other goodies along with the hardware.
We were delighted to get together with Mike and Kathy from Sapphire, the Bayfield 40 ketch with whom we had shared a couple of anchorages. They're a great couple from Michigan who are on their way south as well. We did some back and forth visiting as we checked out each other's boats and discovered that even with very different layouts below decks, all the typical Bayfield touches are there - the gorgeous wood, fiddlework on the bookshelves, attention to detail in handrails and cabinetry, good storage - and narrow beds!
To finish off a very pleasant day, Jim and I watched a movie (Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt in The Devil's Own) as we munched on homemade burritos.
On Tuesday we were up bright and early and were the second boat out of the anchorage - bound for Oriental. The wind was with us and we made really good time, arriving in Oriental at Mile 180 by about 2 pm. Anchoring was tight in the little harbour but we found a nice spot just inside the breakwater near the bridge - but too far from the town dock for the webcam to pick us up. That's a neat little thing Oriental has going. The webcam picks up the action at the tiny town dock and makes it available on www.towndock.net.
The town has a convenient and well-built dinghy dock with trash cans handy - we've found that is the first indication of a boat friendly place. That friendliness made itself apparent everywhere we went. I could have spent a couple of hours prowling through the wares at the Waterway Provision Company that was filled with all things nautical - both the practical and the fun, for both boats and their crews. I found a new jacket to replace the one that washed overboard in the Chesapeake (and very nearly lost it again when I left it in the coffee shop the next day!) We spent a good while chatting with Jane, who gave us a map and told us about restaurants and where to do laundry and looked up the weather for us. In the midst of that conversation, Claude from Montreal came along. Claude sails a Bayfield 29, Merope, and is not only familiar with our usual cruising waters, but knows the Bayfield crowd in that area. (Hello to Rick and Judy on Home, and to Pierre - former owner of Tradition - both Bayfield 36's.)
Mike and Kathy, Jim and I got together for a great evening at Steamers, a local restaurant where "all-you-can-eat-shrimp" was on the menu. They all enjoyed the steamed shrimp, while I tried shrimp with grits - a very tasty dish of shrimp with garlic and mushrooms and bacon bits served over cheesy grits. Deee-licious!
There was no trouble with wind overnight so we slept reasonably well (well...I did but Jim had heartburn for some reason - maybe all those shrimp?) and then went ashore again in the morning to have coffee and cinnamon buns with the folks gathered at the Bean - the coffee shop on the water. With good coffee and folksy atmosphere all happily absorbed, we reluctantly packed ourselves up and headed out. It was only at about 15 minutes out of the harbour that I started to feel chilly and looked for my jacket. Oops, it was hanging on the back of my chair at the Bean. A quick U-turn back to the harbour- drop the dinghy- drift slowly around while Jim rowed in to get it and then back out again- lift the dinghy- and depart again took about 45 minutes. A woman at the Bean who had seen me buy the jacket the day before told Jim he should have made me row in to get it! There is much to be said for the chivalrous behavior that Bissell men possess is abundance!