04/11/2007/3:12 pm, Mile Hammock Bay, NC, Mile 244.5
The wind dropped and the decision was made. We strolled down the street to experience a fab breakfast at Yana's - full of 50's memorabilia all over the walls - Marilyn Munro, James Dean, the Lone Ranger - complete with a cut out Elvis in the bathroom thanking me for coming in!! Jim said Marilyn was with him in the men's bathroom but she didn't talk to him. The place was full and the food was good - western omelette and grits/2 eggs with ham and home fries - both with fluffy biscuits. (Grits are better with cheese in a dinner entree than with breakfast; they taste pretty much like cream of wheat porridge there.)
We pulled out of Casper's marina and pointed the bow south once more, joining a string of motor and sailboats traveling down the ditch. The powerboats would pass - almost always radioing to signal their intention. That is one very nice thing we have noticed here. I suppose it is because of the narrowness of the channel, but the faster boats generally call the boats they intend to overtake on VHF Channel 16. The conversation takes place on that channel (rather than moving to a conversational channel) and is short, polite and to the point. For example: "Madcap, Madcap, Madcap...this is motor vessel Speedo right behind you. We intend to take you to starboard." Our reply is: "Speedo, we'll slow down and let you take a slow pass (or no-wake pass) to starboard. Thanks for the call." There is no switching of channels unless either vessel wishes further conversation, so it's a fast interaction that doesn't take up time on this hailing channel. Almost all powerboats have passed us with a minimum of wake. On the odd occasion when someone has gone speeding by a slower vessel leaving them to rock and roll in the wake, there is often a sharp comment sent (not from us - why bother? The boat is long gone and probably doesn't care anyway, so why waste our breath?) This system is much better than trying to guess whether the boat wants to pass now or later, which side she favours, and what would be most helpful for us to do.
One of today's bridges opened only on the hour, one on the hour and half hour, and one only during a couple of two hour periods because it is having some sandblasting done. We were SO lucky. We were too speedy for the first one and had to dilly dally for about 20 minutes. This is always a little tricky because unlike a road where everyone just stops still, there is current in the water and the boats drift a little this way and that way, always trying not to get too close to each other or too close to the bridge, but at the same time, trying to keep close enough that we can make an efficient passage through when the bridge does open. Another lovely polite little thing here is that often, the boats call to the bridge master thanking him for the clearance, and he (almost always a he so far) answers back with a "Have a good day Cap'n - you be safe out there.") I just love it!!!
We were a few minutes late getting to the Onslow Beach Bridge, and for whatever reason... maybe because he had only one boat there and he could see a string of us hustling along?... he delayed his opening and we all made it through. These are Nice people here.
We ended our day in Mile Hammock Bay - smack in the middle of Camp Lejeune Military Base. Some of our friends had been here a couple of days ago and had all kinds of interesting military sightings to report. Unfortunately/ or foutunately? We had a blisflully peaceful time of it with just one fighter plane doing touch and go landing practice before we got there. There was one lone boat in the bay when we arrived, and four of us pulled in together. We sorted ourselves out into comfortably distant anchoring spots, and by the time the stars came out there were 24 of us there...now quite cosily close.
Jim and I lowered the dinghy to go visit a sweet little trawler that had passed us earlier in the day. Now this is a story!
My cousin, Russ, had mentioned that friends of his were traveling south and were somewhere near us - being in Oriental the day before we were. I couldn't remember the name of the boat or the name of the people, but I did remember that it was a trawler and the homeport - painted on the stern - was Moncton, NB. Well ... when this trawler passed us, I, of course, hailed them on the radio and said - "Are you friends of my cousin Russell?" And the answer was YES!! Isn't life just grand? (Mary Beth - if you are reading this - I know you'll be rolling your eyes and bent double with laughter! Russ - thanks for the message! We all agreed with Steve that you are the Hurricane Guru.)
So we had a lovely visit with Sally and Steve on Sea Duck, discovering in the process that they live just down the road from our friend Noreen in Baie Verte, NB. Such a small world, this is. We also met Rich and Kathleen on Wind Drum, and rowed over to say hi to Mike and Kathy on Sapphire as they pulled in.
I cooked dirty rice and mustard greens for dinner - gotta get into the southern cooking style - and we watched the movie "The Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood" - again a mood thing since it was filmed at Orton Plantation Gardens near Southport, an area we will pass tomorrow. It's a good movie though - even Jim liked it.
When I took my last look outside before turning in for the night, the sight was just magical. It was a crystal clear night. The stars were brilliant high above us; all 24 of those anchor lights twinkled and were reflected in the glasslike water so it was just as if we were among the stars themselves. Ahhh - moments like these...
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.