Barracuda's Blog

The adventures of Kate and Graham and our OVNI 395.

12 November 2018 | Dewees Creek, The Marshes, SC, USA
11 November 2018 | Minim Creek, SC, USA
10 November 2018 | Bull Creek, Waccamaw River, SC, USA
09 November 2018 | Calabash Creek, border of NC and SC, USA
08 November 2018 | Carolina Beach, NC, USA
07 November 2018 | Sloop Creek, Topsail Island, NC, USA
06 November 2018 | Morehead City, NC, USA
05 November 2018 | Oriental, NC, USA
04 November 2018 | Belhaven, NC, USA
03 November 2018 | Alligator Cove, North Carolina, USA
02 November 2018 | Elizabeth City, NC
01 November 2018 | Great Dismal Swamp, North Carolina, USA
31 October 2018 | Norfolk, VA, USA
30 October 2018 | Deltaville, VA, USA
24 October 2018 | Deltaville, VA, USA
19 October 2018 | Deltaville, VA, USA
18 October 2018 | Boston, MA, USA
25 May 2018 | Deltaville, Virginia, USA
15 May 2018 | Fishing Bay Marina, Deltaville, VA, USA
14 May 2018 | Fishing Bay Marina, Deltaville, VA, USA

A wonderful bird is the Pelican. His beak can hold more than his belly can.

12 November 2018 | Dewees Creek, The Marshes, SC, USA
We left our ‘Norfolk Broads’ location at 0800 and headed out through beautiful wilderness. The homes are few and far between now, and there is just mile after mile of marsh and occasional woodland. It’s a wildlife haven, as we saw from the number of dolphins, pelicans and cormorants. We saw our first formation of American ibis today – really impressive with their long necks and curved beaks. Also had some lovely flypasts by squadrons of pelicans in formation. Feeling very lucky.

Nothing much to report today about the route, except that this was the first day we have not gone under or through a bridge, and that it rained a lot – a full oilskin day, for the first time since leaving Europe. But no matter: there’s no such thing as bad weather – just inappropriate clothing.

Our end point was in the salt marshes a bit to the east of Charleston. As we carved off through the rain into the side arm of the river to find a suitable place to stop for the night we were surrounded by loads more pelicans and dolphins, all coming in really close. Too much fun – even in the rain – though peeling off the oilies, turning on the heating and settling in out of the rain for the afternoon has a lot more charm. We have agreed with Chandelle that staying dry is far more important than cocktails tonight.

Now at ICW Mile 455 – 40 statue miles today

Hold on there bald eagle!

11 November 2018 | Minim Creek, SC, USA
We awoke in a very still Bull Creek after a super settled night. The Waterways Guide describes this as one of the best anchorages on the ICW, and we’d have to agree. After an 8am start, our route wended its way through forest until the trees finally gave way to marshland, and we reached Georgetown. We tied to the public dock and went ashore there for provisions. Never judge a book by its cover; from the distance it looked pretty industrial with a large paper mill belching away in the background. However, this historical town could not have been nicer, nor the people more friendly. Small – all of eight blocks wide – with large wooden southern houses and a lot of churches, of all denominations. We arrived just after the Armistice Day services and it looked like everyone had been to church and then gone out for lunch. We enjoyed some fine southern hospitality over lunch (including the offer of the loan of a van, by a total stranger) and then went in search of a few meagre provisions. Meagre was what we got, on the basis that everything was shut: we are in the south on a Sunday. Will try again in Charleston.

We carried on in the afternoon for a bit further until we reached Minim Creek and anchored in the marshes. This is a bit like being in the back-waters of the Norfolk Broads. It’s quite remote with nothing around us except a few other ICW boats and some duck hunters zooming about in their camouflage boats.

We have figured out that we need to do about 35 statute miles on average per day (allowing for some days off at key locations) to get to mid Florida by the end of November.

We started seeing bald eagles today – 3 in total. Yeah! Still no alligators though.

Now at Mile 415 – 34 statue miles today

What no alligators!

10 November 2018 | Bull Creek, Waccamaw River, SC, USA
There was a chilly wind blowing today. First time the temperature has really dipped down for a while. This seems to be a world of extremes at this time of year. If it’s coming from the south it’s lovely and warm, and if it’s coming from the north it can get pretty cold. Tonight is forecast to be down to 3 deg (C).

Left Calabash Creek this morning and headed out past the casino cruise boats, which would seem to take gamblers for a ride around the rivers and creeks for the evening before depositing them back a few dollars lighter. The shores of the ICW here have been fringed almost without a break with condos (especially round Myrtle Beach) and spectacular waterfront houses. A few bridges to get through, as well as the ‘Rockpile’ – a narrow stretch of rock-edged river – all without incident.

During the day we entered the Waccamaw river which has the most beautiful scenery to date on this trip. The shore is lined with deep ancient forest, there is Spanish moss hanging from the branches, the leaves are turning and the water has alligators (so we have read). There is also no light pollution so the stars are pretty amazing. We have moored up for the night in company again with Chandelle up a side creek. It feels very isolated and remote. In reality it may not be that far from civilisation, but it feels like it could be a millions miles away. Drinks on Barracuda tonight with Chandelle as it may be a while till we see them again, given each of our forward plans. But you never know - boating life can provide lovely surprise meetings.

Now at Mile 381 – 39 statue miles today

Across the border to SC

09 November 2018 | Calabash Creek, border of NC and SC, USA
A windy night at anchor in a fairly protected spot. Anchor held fine and all was where it should be when we awoke.

We toddled along for another day past endless summer homes, some beautiful unspoilt marshland with bird life too numerous to mention, and another dolphin as well as a few more hurricane-damaged boats. The numbers of beautiful homes in the area are staggering and we have not even seen what sits along the Atlantic coast. Every now and again we get a glimpse through a sandy cut over to the Atlantic and can see the waves crashing in on the beaches on the other side. Quite glad we are on this side. Sailing down the outside is possible at this time of year but it is complicated by the north-bound Gulf Stream and the relatively few deep water cuts that you can use to get back ‘inside’ if you need to.

One thing you see everywhere here are private docks leading down from the waterside home - see photo for example. A dock seems to need an electric boat hoist to lift up the speedy fishing boat, an electric jet-ski lift and a shaded deck with Adirondack chairs. Feels like we could do with a few of these on the sea loch at home! What do you think, folks?

We anchored in shallow Calabash Creek, right on the North/South Carolina border, which is just heavenly (barring the ferocious midge like creatures). We took the dinghy up to the dock where the fishing boats come in, for a fish, shrimp and hush puppy dinner at one of those little seafood shacks where you want to eat everything on the menu if only you had the room. For desert we were introduced to a southern speciality – butter-fried pound cake – gob-smackingly delicious. Must look up how to make that. We seem to be slipping into American timing, as we realized we had eaten dinner ashore and were back at the boat by 6pm. That said, it is getting dark earlier.

Now at Mile 342 – 47 statue miles today – about a 1/3 of the way to Florida.

Chug Chug Chug

08 November 2018 | Carolina Beach, NC, USA
A fairly settled night at anchor. Only issue was the anchor chain rubbing on the hull of the boat due to the wind against tide thing that happens in channels.

Headed back into the main ICW fairly early and were greeted by S/Y Chandelle who had caught us up. Another day spent looking at amazing houses lining the shores of the waterway, bird-watching and generally following the procession (so a bit like yesterday). We passed an incredible number of holiday homes, all with their private docks and boat hoists. One challenge was to get through two major bridges with out of sync opening schedules and too far apart to manage both on one run: in the event, we switched off the engine and drifted down between them on the tide, as we had our clam chowder lunch. All very relaxed!

Autumn Watch today – dolphins (which seem to swim up and down the ICW), pelicans and cranes (which we thought were egrets). Enjoying the views over the marshes towards the Atlantic (but they don’t photograph well).

Drinks tonight in Chandelle – discussing the Mid Term election results but clearly no personal views were shared!

Now at Mile 295 – 31 statue miles today.

Migrating south

07 November 2018 | Sloop Creek, Topsail Island, NC, USA
Our evening’s entertainment last night was listening to a chap on the VHF radio who had probably had a few and was trying to figure out why his boat was pointing in the wrong direction. The likely reason was he had his anchor chain wrapped around his keel due to tidal flow. It happens. But he was getting nervous. He had also run out of beer and cigarettes, which was making him more nervous.

A very early start today to catch the tide. It had not occurred to us that the ICW would be particularly tidal but the section we were doing from Morehead City had nearly a couple of knots with (or against) if we got the timing right (or wrong). So we wanted to get it right.

Most of the day was spent chuntering along enjoying the waterfront homes of North Carolina. There are some real whoppers. We continue to see a fair amount of hurricane damage – mostly to the boat docks but also to some of the houses. There are also some really interesting looking marshes on the Atlantic side of the waterway (the Outer Banks). Passed through a live firing range – thankfully they missed (or perhaps they were not operating in our area) – could hear explosions in the background though.

We have never been part of a migration before, but that is what this feels like. Today’s three-part photo shows a cluster of boats gathering to go through one of the swing bridges, due to open on the hour and half hour. We’ve been trying to figure our how many people are currently working their way down the ICW seeking warmer weather for the winter. There must be thousands of boats spread out along the waterway heading south. Any answers?

Nature Watch today: pelicans (yeah!), dolphins (yeah!), egrets, cormorants, herons, vultures and of course normal sea birds.

This stretch of the ICW is tricky, with shifting sandbanks and winding channels. We watched two boats run aground today – one of them twice. We give thanks for lifting keels. Currently at anchor, all on our own in about four feet.

Now at Mile 264 – 59 statue miles today (too many). That’s over 300 miles so far.

Back to Moorhead City and the Atlantic Coast

06 November 2018 | Morehead City, NC, USA
A day of several parts. We had a casual start to the day and then dinghied ashore to have a look around town. Oriental is a really delightful North Carolina fishing town that is quiet, calm and very welcoming to yachties. The houses and businesses at the water front of the town had a fair bit of hurricane damage but a major clear up operation was under way - it's clear that we are now heading into the area that was heavily affected by Florence and then Michael.

At midday we upped anchor and left, motoring down to Morehead City through a gale, a massive rain-squall and occasional sunshine, and past lots of really lovely water-front homes. As we motor along there are often loads of birds diving in the boat wakes; I guess the wake brings food to the surface for them. There are a lot of birds around at the moment - geese, cormorants, gulls and terns. Hard to get a good picture of this - sorry.

We came into Morehead City to pick up fuel and water, and took the opportunity to switch out our bow anchors - the little Bruce is good for Chesapeake mud, but the big Delta is better for the sandy bottoms we are meeting now. A useful stop before going to anchor for the night as the sun set. The damage to the marinas along the exposed south front is significant. We saw smashed up pontoons and a fair few sunken boats. But again - with the great resources of this country they are getting it cleared up and repaired. We were told today that there had been 2,000 sunken boats in the surrounding area that had to be recovered after the storms went through.

Now at Mile 205 - 24 statue miles today.

Remember Remember the 5th of November.

05 November 2018 | Oriental, NC, USA
Not sure they have heard of Guy Fawkes here. Thought for the day: had he succeeded, would we have Brexit? Anyway...

Up early for a long motor across the Pamlico River, through a canal and across the Neuse River. A bit dull, grey and a little wet. Not much to report really on this leg. We did stop at the R E Mayo fish dock on the way through, pulling in on their rough wooden dock in between the huge shrimping boats, to acquire some fish and prawns for the night's dinner. We are starting to see the signs of hurricane damage as we head south: Mayo's dock was completely under water during this year's hurricanes, and they had a good two feet of flood rise in the office and store.

One minor aggravation is the overtaking practices of some of the big sports fishing boats, making their way down to Florida from New Jersey and points north - passing close by and slowing either minimally or not at all, creating huge wash which bashes us around and batters the fragile shorelines. There was some good commentary on the VHF yesterday about the manners of a particular boat that shoved its way past at 15kts. However, all this is far outweighed by the majority, sail and steam alike, who are amazingly courteous in negotiating their overtaking by radio and minimising their impact.

Dropped anchor outside Oriental harbour for the night, as the town docks were full, and had a Thai fish curry supper on board Barracuda with Pierre and Celine from S/Y Chandelle and Samuel and Catherine + two delightful children from S/Y Rolianne. We have enjoyed travelling with them for these last few days. They both have faster schedules to meet than we do so we will let them get ahead of us now, but no doubt we will catch up further down the 'ditch'.

Tomorrow is the US Mid-Term elections but we are not allowed to express any opinions.

One of our readers asked if we have to hand steer all the way through the waterway. The answer is no - not that much as, on the straight sections, we can use the autopilot and even when the rivers are bending around a bit we can just give the autopilot little nudges. It is definitely like having an extra crew member on-board.

Now at Mile 181 - 45 statue miles today.

Fall Back

04 November 2018 | Belhaven, NC, USA
Nice to wake up at anchor in the middle of nowhere. A bit of a lie-in, as we changed the clocks today. We think this is a week or so after the UK. Why can we not synchronise on this? Anyway… Our little three-boat procession proceeded its way back into the channel and through the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal. It is interesting to see that many of the Indian names were kept in use even after the Indians were shoved out of the way by the foreign settlers.

You have to stick to the middle of these waterways as the sides tend to have dead tree stumps just poking up out the water (today’s photo), or submerged logs known as deadheads, that you really do not want to hit. This canal is 22 miles long, almost straight, but with reasonable depth and width, and quite a lot of variety of scenery on the banks, from woods full of autumn colour to fields of grasses. Apparently there are bears but I am starting to have my doubts.

Passed a ‘confederate’ boat flying full colours. Wonder who he is voting for on the 6th.

We arrived in the small town of Belhaven, and anchored off. On a trip ashore we generally found Belhaven closed and fairly empty – not much more to say. Not sure whether it is the economy, the season or Sunday afternoon. Looks like we might have found a restaurant ashore for the evening but not banking it just yet. Still, we found wifi and groceries so all is well!

Now at Mile 136 – 35 statue miles today.

Winter is coming

03 November 2018 | Alligator Cove, North Carolina, USA
Awoke this morning to a deck covered in leaves - quite autumnal. We are starting to really enjoy the 'fall' colours in this part of thwe world - which we are told is late this year.

We left Elizabeth City around 9:30 and got in our first sail of the season - yeah! There was a nice NW wind blowing at 15-20 kts (gusting 30) which took us quickly south across the notorious 10 miles of the Albemarle Sound and then down towards the Alligator River. We noted that we had passed this way going north about 6 months ago. We managed a fast pass through the Alligator River swing bridge, another that opens on request, and then another lovely sail up the river to Alligator Cove where we dropped anchor for the night in fairly calm conditions, only disturbed by the wake of the occasional barge passing at high speed all through the night. (No alligators spotted yet, but we live in hope).

We had sailed all day in company with S/Y Chandelle and they kindly invited us over for dinner in the evening. Delicious food and good company! And a good opportunity to compare OVNI notes. Need to think how we can arrange a return match with limited supplies on board?

50 statute miles today, so we are now at Mile 101.
Vessel Name: Barracuda
Vessel Make/Model: OVNI 395
Crew: Graham and Kate
About: Learning as we go....
Extra: Look to this day for it is life...
Barracuda's Photos - Main
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