Belhaven to Alligator River Swing Bridge
07 June 2012
We left the slip at Belhaven Waterway Marina as Brenda pushed out our bow with her boat hook (longest boot hook I've ever seen!). The wind caught our bow as Brenda held our stern line in towards the dock. Such a graceful exit in a narrow channel from a lovely place to visit.
Off we went to the Pungo River to head north. I called Atlantic Basin Marina & Boatyard in Great Bridge VA to insure that they would be able to deal with our defective alternator. So with hope for a cure we motored out to the Pungo River listening to Ch 16 on the VHF. Catbird Seat was trying to reach some marina on the VHF with limited success. You imagine these unfolding stories on Ch 16. The prior day the Coasties were broadcasting for several hours to "keep a sharp lookout for a person in the water off Atlantic Beach". It evolved into a "kayak fishermen in the water ". Alas, we were many many miles away from that drama. As the Pungo River narrowed and actually ended we entered the PungoAlligator River Canal. A sparse area with real wilderness. A red tailed fox followed us on the bank for about 0.1 mile watching us. Shortly thereafter Judy spotted a deer standing in the water. Finally, a bear sitting on the bank tracking us with his head. We imagined him a boat counter for the Corps of Engineers! The pleasantness was balanced by a danger sign on a post followed but many stumps 5-10 yds out from the bank.
We transistioned to the wetlands of the Alligator River and then finally the actual river. Wow! Calm waters in the shelter of the canal changed to 1-2' chap with a 15-20kt head wind We bounced our way for 2+ hours more to the Alligator River Swing Bridge. I hailed the bridge tender on Ch13 inquiring about opening and he responded that he had a visual on me. He stated he would stop traffic and open the bridge when we were within 0.5 miles of the bridge. It was delightful to find several people out of there cars and we were the afternoon attraction as we approached. Once thru we did a 90 degree turn to port to see Ms. Wanda at the Alligator Bridge Marina. Ms. Wanda had earlier reminded me on the radio when I asked if they were on the North side of the bridge that she had already explained this to my wife! Obviously, Ms. Wanda says it clearly and concisely once & you should be listening. So, we had the joy of turning west into the sun to find a small marina by the bridge. Good glasses with polarizing lenses are a necessity! We pulled in, tied up and "I went to see Ms. Wanda". The marina is cleverly both a truck stop, restaurant, boat launch & marina. Not much difference between some boaters & truck drivers. Sadly, there selection of 12V appliances was thin! Ms. Wanda guided her new employee with a firm finger on the registration form and "not there honey....here". I wondered if I might help with the inservice but knew better when I was addressed with "not yet honey". After receiving my WiFi, TV room, shower instructions from Ms. Wanda I quietly retired to the boat for the evening. Wondering if Ms. Wanda would be providing any additional input.
In all fairness to Ms. Wanda, she is an efficient multi tasker capable of dealing with both truck drivers and boat owners simultaneously!! I think its the implicit threat of "Now listen up honey!!" that keeps us in line.
Sunset in a Gazebo
06 June 2012 | Bellhaven, NC
Bellhaven, NC 35' 32.2" N Lat 076'37.3" W .Long 6/5/2012
A Gazebo at Sunset
Today was our first day of going north on the ICW from Oriental. Bellhaven is approximatety fifty miles. Jim, Beth and Cameron showed up more awake then us at our slip in Oriental to send us off with their best wishes. So we had coffee, feminist about our past 6 months together and then prepared to leave dear friends and a lovely town of Oriental.
Jim and Cam thru the last lines on board and pushed us off for a perfect beginning. We had rain and north winds with short stacked 1 to 3' waves on the Neuse as we headed north. Judy went out to retrieve ropes but at the captains suggestion she left the coiled up on the deck so she could use both hands to return to the cockpit. We had coffee and breakfast as we cruised north to the ICW cutoff. Since we were straight into the wind we continued to motor for the entire trip. In the process of checking instruments, dials, and things I discovered that we were running on the house batteries. Later in Bellhaven Les the proprietor of Bellhaven Waterway Marina and a motorcycle mechanic confirmed that the alternator was not supplying any charging current. The sign on his trailer "Buffalo Chip/ Sturgis or Bust" were his creds as a motorcycle mechanic. He also knows his way around boats. The marina was the high point of the day. It is small, six boats at max, but the setting is small old village, big water, ducks and geese, a screened in gazebo out on a finger of land surrounded by the water with purple, blue, red sunset in wicker chairs with ducks swimming past. Les has got his priorities right. I only wish that I had went to the gazebo earlier to either meditate, journal or read Rumi. The quietness with water and sunset overwhelmed me. A display of the sacred and magical world.............just now!........... nowhere but here..............GAIA cloaked by the cosmos.
Sunsets, Sea Turtles, Moon Rises, and Flying Fish
20 May 2012
The 70 nm overnight trip to Masonboro (Wilmington, NC) commenced on Thursday (5/10/12) at 10:30 hours when our crew threw off Thalias dock lines. Judy, Cameron (aka Railmeat) and Jim Privett stowed the fenders and dock lines as I turned south towards the mouth of Adams Creek and the ICW to the Beaufort inlet. Jim & I had checked the weather prior to and the morning of the trip. The forecast was for 10 to 20 kts West winds thru the next 36 hours with 1-3ft seas and a period of 11 seconds. There could not be a more ideal weather window.
So, we motor along the ICW for 4 hours towards the Beaufort inlet.
The inlet is the first real taste of the Atlantic. In the past it has been 1-2 ft seas (nice) or 10 ft short stacked seas (ugh!!) with ankle deep water in the cockpit. We motored past the Coast Guard station and into a very pleasant sea state ( 1-3 ft) in the inlet and brought Thalia around to the north for the Cape Lookout bight. 16:00 hrs and we are preparing to drop the hook in Cape Lookout. Jim spots this big head cruising by the boat. Captain Pat suggests a periscope from a drug runners submersible. The crew sends the Captain below as a precaution. If it is a drug submersible the crew does not have the time to keep the Captain on board since they are busy with the hook. More astute eyes recognize the head of a large sea turtle on the second appearance. Judy goes below and in 30 minutes a lovely meal of quesadillas, red beans and rice appear magically out of the companionway hatch. We all gathered in the cockpit for a sunset dinner in the Cape Lookout bight.
A slowly setting sun prompts the crew to get underway towards the Masonboro Inlet. At 20:00 hours we are just outside the bight. Jim and Cameron raise the sails. I kill the engine and off into the sunset toward the outer buoys. We scoot past two freighters at anchor at the three mile limit and continue on a beam reach toward the Beaufort Racon (the outer marker with a unique radar return). Now, enveloped in total darkness , we approach the racon which is about a nautical mile off our starboard beam. With six knots of speed we sail into the darkness since moon rise is about 2.5 hrs away at 01:15 hrs. The wind pipes up (25 kts) and its rail in the water time!! Oh goody….time to alarm the crew, Jim and railmeat, sleeping below. So I let out the mainsheet a bit and then move the traveler over to the leeward and shes back up on her feet with an improved ride and 6 kts of SOG. Judy, my watch mate, comments that the experience is like a movie or Disney ride. Surreal…….In a little cacoon surrounded by black seas with white foam shooting by us. One hour later Judy spots a glowing orb rising out of the eastern seas off our stern. I comment that “its not on the radar so we’re good” and my mate says our radar is not that good! It’s the moon Captain Pat not a drug interdiction by the Coasties. With the moon painting the sea the night seas came alive with the life of the night.
02:00 hours and our shift is done as Jim and Cameron prepare to take over. I brief Jim on our current course, speed, where we are at on the chart, nature of the radar returns, wind and sail plan. We had one unkown radar return at 12 nm out off the port bow by about 20 degrees with no visual on it. About an hour later Jim got a visual on the boat. A fishing trawler. I went below at 02:30 hrs with instructions to get me up if there were any issues or at the latest at 06:00 hrs to see sun rise. 06:00 hours Judy and I are up next and I get briefed by Jim on the nights happenings. Jim and Cameron go below for some rest and Judy MAKES COFFEE!!! so we can watch the sunrise with coffee in the cockpit. It could not have been a more perfect time. Kind seas (1-2ft waves @ 10 seconds), 60 degrees, and a beam reach to the Masonboro buoy. Emerging on the horizon at about 9 nm are large white dots. As we close over the next hour they become better defined and are hotel or condo buildings on the shore of Masonboro. About a hour later we are at the Masonboro buoy and Jim and Cameron come back on deck to bring in the sails while I fire up the diesel. We motor into the channel and towards the SeaPath marina. I hail them on the radio to let them know we are on approach and find out our dock assignment. With fenders on and Judy, Jim and Cameron with lines in hand I approach slowly as lines are tossed. We tie her up and kill the engine. There is a secret pleasure I am experiencing as I methodically go thru my shut down procedures for the boat…..A lovely and safe night passage!
After showers at the marina we spent the late morning/afternoon walking to lunch at the Mellow Mushrooms. During the early evening Jim and I checked the Atlantic weather. The forecast for Saturday was winds NE early am swinging to E by late morning, 10-15 kts, 2-4 ft seas with a period of 9 seconds. So, having decided that Saturdays weather looked good we agreed to leave in the morning after checking the weather. We settled down in the cockpit for an evening meal and as we lounged the evening’s entertainment unfolded on the waterway. Cruising…….Cruising dudes and dudettes in enough clothes to make a single pennant between them holding their beloved adult beverage doing 5 kts in 20ft inboards being seen and seeing!! I suggested to Judy that perhaps we could lower Pommes Frites (our 8ft dingy with a 2hp Honda outboard) and I could sport my love handles and an adult beverage as we cruise with locals. So we spent our evening in the cockpit assisting all young narcissistic cruising couples. No…….we did not lower the dingy and join them! But we did talk about getting cards with numbers 1 thru 10 to hold up as each young lithe couple cruised past our judging position.
Saturday the crew was up by 07:00 hrs and checking weather. The return forecast was am winds out of the northeast and swinging to east and southeast during the late morning. With such skimpy encouragement we got underway by 08:30 hrs. Out the Masonboro inlet and onto a N or NE course. Wind was out of the NE so we pulled up the sails and headed NW while waiting for the wind to swing. We were headed inland and within an hour we were out of water. Someone suggested that we come about on the opposite tack before we run over the swimmers. Just kidding we had at least 1.5 miles to the beach! So, we came about on the other tack. The captain, ever alert to course changes, observed the compass and the wind and proudly announced “ We’re good to go for Morocco! Nice close reach”. Fortunately the alert crew reminded Captain Pat that our destination was Beaufort. Under the guise of democratic crew management the Captain asked “ Whose for Morocco?”. Alas no hands only stern looks! So……………….we resumed a NE heading. Started the motor and took the sails down since we were straight into the wind. The wind never changed from the NE so we settled in with breakfast in the cockpit as we motored NE. Around 16:00 hrs we saw some dolphins about 50 yards inshore of us. They stayed out there for a few minutes before disappearing. Probably an hour later we got into a small school of flying fish. Some had obviously been flight certified since the covered 20 yards with 2 foot elevation. The newbies stayed 1 foot off the water and ran headfirst into a wave. Do fish get headaches? Some might. 19:30 hours we turned on the nav lights and with dinner watched the sun set. With nav lights, radar and six pairs of eyes we approached Beaufort. I was tense as was my two observers. We stayed busy for the last hour of approach confirming radar targets with visual targets, visuals with radar, and looking for visual targets that were not on radar. We saw one freighter going out and two were anchored in the mooring field. We slipped past the sterns of both anchored freighters and toward the flashing red sea buoy marking the entrance to Cape Lookout. Gliding past the second red sea buoy and into the Cape felt sublime….We could relax some. In 5 minutes we dropped the hook backed on it and hooray it stayed. I shut down the engine and started my shut down routine while some went to bed and others stayed up for cocktails. An hour later and all were in bed. A wonderful trip was had by all.
Celebration of Life
06 January 2012
Captain Pat (back from a nap)
Celebration of Life
After a quiet and wonderful Christmas we, the crew of Thalia, were anticipating an auspicious beginning of 2012! There were discussions amongst the crews of Wild Haggis and Thalia on how to avoid the December curse of the Mayans. Oracles would need to be consulted for an action plan. Scout, our weather guru, suggested that we might consult with Jack the Reindeer Dog. A village elder and shape shifter who has demonstrated wisdom in all things future. Jacks advice was “Touch & Dance with the Dragon”, “Find your Wind”, “Drink Soup” & “Stay Dry”!
Well the first hint that Jack could sense the future (could be those cute antlers) came on Thursday in the dark and was terrifying! The deck surface of our docks is 5 to 5.5 feet above the water and attached to pilings. At 19:00 hours we were going down to Wild Haggis. Totally dark, cold 45 F and a water temp of 60 F. Things went from good to seriously bad in 1 second. Judy got off the boat first and I was at the top of the companionway ladder about to step into the cockpit when there was a loud splash sound & Judy yelling “I’m in the water”. Fortunately, she was not injured and remained calm and focused. The first solution was “throw her the horse shoe floatation device. DID NOT WORK!! IT WAS JAMMED IN SO HARD IT WOULD HAVE TAKEN A MINUTE TO FREE IT!!!!!!!!!!!! We are about 30 yards from the nearest ladder that can be released down to the water. I told Judy to swim to the ladder and I would meet here there! I grabbed the boathook and we both headed for the ladder. As she approached the ladder I extended the boathook to her to make contact & provide reassurance. To free the ladder took three tries but then it was down and she climbed up the ladder and was out of the water. It was terrifying for both of us. Holding onto her, hypothermia is real and she had it, I took her back to the boat got her safely down onto the boat and inside. Heat, towels, clothes removal, sleeping bag, hot tea and 45 minutes later she was improving. Jack the Reindeer Dog was right “STAY DRY” !! We’ve had multiple safety discussions and put into action several things to address our failings that dark night. We also find ourselves holding hands like teenagers in love while strolling down the dock or in the village. She did loose a wine bottle, both slippers, and her glasses. But all is well and we have bonded as a “boat couple” like teenagers in love.
Touch and Dance with the Dragon
Now that we are cult followers of Jack the Reindeer Dog we were committed to following his revelations. New Years eve found us in downtown Oriental by the town dock (maintaining a respectful distance) for Dragon Run. The drummers, almost as good as the Kodo guys but with more clothes and Etoh, were on the lawn in front of THE BEAN drumming the crowd into a chanting frenzy. We danced in the street, held hands (that teenage thing again), chanted and waited for the dragon. He magically appeared, like most of life, and swept thru the crowd. The drummers & the chanting crowd persuaded the dragon to dance thru the revelers a second time. It was all COSMIC ENERGY MADNESS. A wonderful time. The crews of Thalia and Wild Haggis returned to Thalia for champagne, cheese, and crackers! GO YACHTES!@* After that the guys went to their sea bunks to sleep, but the ladies, both excellent chefs, went to The Croaker Drop. Boycotted by vegans far and near but Oriental is a commercial fishing port and if you don’t drop a fish at midnight you just might be catching meatloaf!
Find your Wind
Well…..Sunday morning found Captain Pat on the deck moving halyards, lines, removing the stove pipe, and unzipping the sail cover. Noon was the start time for the annual “Instead of Football Regatta”. The wind was to be found out of the SW @ 5kts going up to 15-20 kts in mid afternoon with a temperature rising to 60F. Perfect weather for the course. The start was on a line between Oriental Green 1 and a Football buoy to Adams Creek Green 1 (the SW leg) back to Garbacon Green (the NE leg) and then the finish line at Oriental Green 1. The race would conclude at 15:00 hrs with drinks, soup and awards at the M&M Café. We brought on board the race hardened crew from Wild Haggis. Captain Jim, grinder Cameron and our usual tacticians Beth and Judy. They suggested for optimal results I might go below and do my usual nap and they could wake me for the drinking and awards ceremony but I was too jazzed with the excitement of the race. I kept reciting the only mantra I knew “Om Mane Padre Um” opps wrong mantra so I switched to “Lets Cruise the Line Mateys”!!! Captain Jim’s cooler head prevailed when he said check your boat insurance and there are already 15 boats cruising the line. Faced with being sent below again I stopped my chanting and we weathered Thalia back about 200 meters behind the line. When the five minute gun went off I put her on a starboard tack for the line and started chanting again……but a new chant “Find your wind Captain Jim”! No…..not down below again….No more !@*chanting!@* were the orders from the crew. We came about 30 meters below the football buoy and came about to a port tack in light winds. Grinder Cameron after pulling the gib through in a strong and masterly fashion touched the football buoy for good luck. The wind piped up, was that Captain Jim chanting “I found my wind?!” and we were blazing at 6 kts and passed a few boats. The tacticians suggested we come about to a starboard tack before we hit the 7 foot depths on the charts. There was general agreement except for our grinder…Cameron was now up at the bow ready to be launched if we came to a halt. Never..ever take a teenage grinder they can be trouble! We came about onto a starboard tack and headed for Adams Creek Green 1. Great winds @ 15-20 kts and we are in the middle of the pack. At the marker there was a traffic jam on rounding it. Someone squeezed in between us and the marker. That was exciting and then we started on the downwind leg to the Garbacon Shoal marker. Old captain Pat got out another line and started to tie up the tacticians before they voiced the word “PREVENTER”! Ah…yes I was thinking wing on wing ladies.. So much for the bondage move. We set up a preventer and went Wing on Wing to the Garbacon Shoals Green marker rounded it and headed on a starboard tack for THE LINE. With Bristol Star and several others “eating our bubbles” we crossed the line in the middle of the pack.
Most amazingly, we did not ram anyone, the combined crew celebrated and Pat and Judy walked to the awards ceremony hand in hand (that teenage thing again).
24 December 2011 | Oriental, NC
Captain Pat (Clear & Balmy)
Direct from the CrabPot/Christmas Tree show room in downtown Oriental Judy and I wish all our scattered friends (?) and the soon to be BIRTHDAY GIRL (you know who you are) Peace and Love from Sidney’s. Those who have been to Sidney’s are on the scattered friends secret list.
Many new events have scrolled by in our new “boat peoples” life (aka poor yachties). We’ve spent a couple nights with the Coast Guard on the hook in 40 kt winds at Cape Lookout in November. The 70 lb. Bruce held like a champ so we did not need call over to the coasties for a tow if we were dragging! Thanks to Kirk and Lisa the prior guardians of Thalia. Judy had a chance to learn the anchor and windlass at Cape Lookout. See the pictures from the November trip.
In December the Captain tried to sweep the first mate off her feet with “You want to go for a moonlight cruise honey?”. “Aren’t you too old to be out after dark ?” “Scout the weather wonder dog is forecasting light winds, light chop as a sea state and romantic bliss!” The captain quickly forgot both questions, but the first mate (forever a romantic) started boat preparations and off we went out onto the Neuse River for a moonlight. Ah……….hours of romantic bliss…..Moon River with Andy Williams on auto repeat…turn on the auto pilot…..Discretion requires that I stop there!! The blissful part of our moon light cruise ended with deciding to go into the harbor and drop the hook for the night. Heading into the harbor was stress filled. The first mate up on the bow with a search light looking for things to avoid and the captain helming 15 tons of boat by playing video games. Thank goodness for GPS and chart plotters. I’m happy to report that we remained collision free and Judy wonderfully dropped the hook. A successful end to a new level of adventure for us.
Later in the month I fired up our quad band offshore pirate radio stations (WDF9679 and KD0PJK) and have reached both New Bern, NC and Fort Myers, FL. I did this to announce and comment on the Christmas parade in down town Oriental. Since I was not the senior broadcaster in Oriental ( seniority system) I was forced to broadcast from Thalia. The coveted commentary box from the CrabPot/Christmas tree showroom went to another broadcaster. Maybe next year?
Both Judy and I truly wish all Peace, Love, & Joy to our dear friends……Namaste
OFF TO OCRACOKE
19 October 2011
OFF TO OCRACOKE
Saturday, October 16, we had a weather conference with Scout the wonder dog and our weather guru. We were evaluating going to Ocracoke Island on Sunday and staying multiple nights. Scout waked the piers sniffed the air did a #?!# on the grass with a back roll. He forecast good sailing weather on Sunday! We should have asked for a 7 day forecast but Scout is still in training on marine forcasting. The weather changed on Monday duh! So on Saturday we watered up, Judy went for provisions I drank beer and checked in with my inner captain.
Sunday morning at 06:00 hrs the alarm went off. Coffee and breakfast done by 07:-00 hrs. Then deck without hitting anything! Miraculous!! The captain is learning to drive! Motor out to the deep water, stop the engine and check the wind. North north east at 15kts. So its into the wind for 2 hours on a close hauled reach along a beautifully cool 60 degree morning with coffee and quite sails at 5-6 kts. At the end of the Nuese we enter Pamlico Sound and fall off to a beam reach across the Sound. Another 2 hrs into the Sound its lunch time and the wind dies. We eat lunch for 45 minutes and wait for the wind. No wind perhaps the small cheese offering was not adequate for Scout and it should really have been a hot dog! We fireup the diesel and motor for another +2 hours, talk to the ferry coming out of the Ocracoke channel to ensure we are out of his way and then enter the Bigfoot Slough channel. Half the channel is occupied by The Merritt a vessel dredging the green half of the channel. Radio the Merritts bridge and inquire about passing behind in the red half of the channel. I don’t want him to swing that thing around while I’m passing since we would become an instant new sandbar. We pass the Merritt and into Silver Lake. Visually, we size up the park service camping available to us which looks good so the captain circles the lake while the first mate sets up the fenders and lines on the starboard side. Thirty minutes later we’re tied up. We end a lovely day sail snuggled into our saloon with a nice meal and The Four Seasons by Vivaldi.
Tuesday thru Wednesday
We’ve decided to stay since a 20kt West wind has nailed to the dock and leaving in a small anchorage with lots of concrete docks and pilings is more excitement than I require. The weather says we are staying until Friday. Wednesday we’re expecting 24 hrs of rain with multiple squall lines with +40kts winds moving thru the area. Friday the forecast is for north winds which should blow us off the docks facilitating our departure. Tuesday we moved the boat to a pier facing due West so we can be bow into the wind and not slammed against the docks. We double up all the lines and remove the bimini at dark to the accompaniment of the state bird, aka misquito, go below zip up and consult the calamine lotion. Do we drink or put it on each other. Ms. Judith suggests I read the label but then I remind her that I was a ski patroller so…….my ability to following instructions is limited!
Well….bad weather always likes to come on in the dark since its more exciting for Captain Pat. Sure enough 23:30 hrs the boat starts dancing in its berth. Thalia is happy she likes water and wind. Not wanting the pilings and piers to slap Ms. Thalia in the face, I’m up and out on the deck raincoat and tidy whites to check fenders and lines. A few adjustments and back to bed. I practiced this another two times during the night. I did put on my official sailor shorts for the remainder of the night. I sure you wanted to know that! Day break brought grayness and squall lines moving thru. So here I sit listening to radio Ocracoke, wind howling thru the rigging, squall lines moving thru and white caps.