Nomadic Spirit left our route north on the Intracoastal Waterway at the entrance to Albermarle Sound from the Alligator River. It was time for a side trip called the Albermarle Loop. This Loop encompasses several marinas offering free dockage to lure boaters off the beaten path, visit small towns on the Inner Banks and maybe even aid the local economy. Here we experienced southern hospitality at its best, visited a few museums and enjoyed small local family run restaurants. Our excursion consitsted of 120 miles and thirteen days. Albemarle Sound has a reputation of rough water and often boaters will wait for a weather window to cross the 12 nautical miles of open water as charted if staying on the ICW. Traveling around the sound was very comfortable for us with settled weather, one exception was a moderate chop for a short day, but we were seldom over a mile offshore. It was a very pleasant way to spend a couple of weeks.
The first stop on this circle route took us up the Scuppernong River to Cypress Cove Marina. New owners Ken and Kelly Moore greeted our boat and made us feel at home. This is a small marina with a big personally. Free laundry and a courtesy car is available for use and there is a Tiki Bar for a few hours each evening for socializing and getting to know the owners better. Blue Crabs were in season and I planned to buy fresh crabs off a local boat, that is until I saw all those legs wiggling and trying to get out of the bucket. I used the excuse that I didn't have a pot on board big enough to boil them, the captain read between the lines and laughed at me! DeeO'gee also enjoyed the visit and had some much needed off lease time with local playmates.
From there it was a grueling day to the Columbia Municipal Dock at just under a mile and a half. This town is being revitalized with an interpretive trail along the waterfront, the Cultural Resource Center and the Pocosin Arts studio, among others. When I registered at the municipal office next to the docks I was asked if i needed anything including a ride for provisions. This stop would not have been complete without a visit to Vineyards On The Scuppernong for wine tasting and unique gifts. Columbia has a way to go to be a destination but they are working on it.
Plymouth is located on the south west portion of the sound on the Roanoke River. It was hard hit by the Civil War and few historic buildings remain in the downtown area. The waterfront has been improved over the last few years with two area for dockage. The town square has a long dock at the gazebo and a bit further up there are piers by the restored and relocated historic Roanoke River Lighthouse. This little town is really trying to bounce back and boaters are often surprised by the Mayor stopping by for a visit and welcoming them. The two day free dockage here extends for several additional days.
Edenton on the northern shore is adorable! Another Roanoke lighthouse was moved to the waterfront there and makes for a lovely sunset picture while enjoying docktails. This is the first colonial capital of North Carolina, the town surrendered immediately to the Union and preserved all those charming homes and buildings including the states oldest courthouse which was built in 1767. A few publications have named this delightful town among the prettiest in America. The trolley tour was an interesting way to hear some of the towns history and view The Historic District and Cotton Mill. Several restaurants within blocks of the docks and even a small movie theater offering a current selection added to the charm. A friendly dock master checked us in, gave us a welcome packet and offered a courtesy car for provisioning. There were so many attractions, including an upcoming Saturday Market that made us want to stay longer, and at only $1 foot for additional days we were tempted.
A planned golf community, Albemarle Plantation is a beautiful stop. I might consider renaming this development Crepe Myrtle Plantation after all the picturesque streets lined with these colorful trees. The dock master was incredible and gave us use of a golf cart to tour the Plantation. Golfing is available at a reduced rate and the driving range was complimentary. A swimming pool, two restaurants and some of the nicest folks anywhere added to our enjoyment. AGLCA Harbor Hosts lived in the Plantation so we contacted them to join us for docktails. Buz and Barbara were most gracious and went out of the way for us!
Our clockwise direction placed our completion perfectly in Elizabeth City and the entrance toward the Dismal Swamp. Elizabeth City was once a major seaport where sailing ships carried goods to and from the new world. Today it hosts pleasure boats that choose to transit the Dismal Swamp, instead of the ICW route, chasing pleasant temperatures to and from Chesapeake Bay.
On this final stop we had two docks to choose from. Mariners' Wharf has free docks for 48 hours. The "Rose Buddies," the waterfront ambassadors, greet visiting boaters with a rose, wine and cheese. I suspect this is more of a tradition during the spring and fall migrations.
Pelican Marina, just a short walk over the pasquotank River Bridge to town, participates in the Albermarle Loop Promotion. Both Docks are a bit rustic but we opted for electricity to run our air conditioning, temps and humidity were running high. Elizabeth City is a pleasant town with almost anything a passing boater would need. The large modern building on the downtown waterfront houses an interesting Albermarle History Museum and the City visitors center. Free concerts on Tuesday evenings, Friday Art Walk and Saturday market at the Wharf Park.
The only stops on the Albermarle Loop that we skipped were The 51 House near Edenton, a nice restaurant with a protected basin and no services. Alligator River and Shallowbag Bay, which are listed on the map though they do not offer the two free nights but do offer a free pumpout. Manteo municipal docks offer free dockage with no amenities but forcasted storms caused us not to return to the Outer Banks. We would love to visit if we are in the area again in the future and would definitely return to Edenton and Albemarle Plantation.