Long June Weekend 2011
06 June 2011 | Whortonsville, South River
The title of this blog entry was going to be "Return to Ocracoke" but as you can see, it is not. Ocracoke is an island town on North Carolina's outer banks, about midway between Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout. We have been there many times by boat, the only way you can get there, and the plan this time was to attend the OcraFOLK music festival held on the first weekend in June each year. I managed to get a reservation at a little private marina on Silver Lake in spite of the fact that most dockage was booked solid. We usually stay at the State Ferry Dock, but the slips there first come first served and we knew they would be full by the time we arrived on Friday. I felt lucky we had the reservation and called Mr. Williams to confirm on Thursday morning.
Thursday June 2, 2011
I took Friday and Monday as vacation days for our Ocracoke adventure. We left home right after work with a heavily laden Toyota Matrix. We were expecting extreme temperatures so we packed the portable air conditioner for the boat. The car thermometer read 94 degrees when we left home but by the time we arrived at the boat, it had dropped a full 20 degrees to a very pleasant 74. We decided to leave the A/C unit in the car. We also had extra baggage associated with a long stay, so it took a long time to get everything squared away and get into bed.
Friday June 3, 2011
We were up early (for us) at 6:30 to get ready to cast off. We were delighted to find our friend Art was present. We had not seen him in a while and it was nice to catch up. The forecast was for ENE winds at 10 to 15 knots. This, we knew, would probably keep us from sailing to Ocracoke, but I figured it would be manageable motoring and we could always sail if it shifted a little one way or the other. We left at 8:30 and motored out the Brown Creek and Broad Creek channels. Long before we entered the Neuse River, I felt the first of the "Three Sisters" effect. Our friend and neighbor Ruth had told us that her father called the short steep chop on the sound "Three Sisters" because the waves tend to come in sets of three and were a sign of really bad conditions. The farther we went the worse it got. It was not that we were ever in any danger. The little ship was happy as a clam at high water. She just pounded through, splashing tons of water up in the air to soak the crew. We had listened to the forecast several times before we left and we listened again. The latest update had increased the wind speed from 10-15 to 15-20. This is quite a difference for a 30-Footer. We slogged on hoping it would slack off. We had been out for about and hour and a half. Judy was at the wheel because she tends to get a little queasy when it is very rough. The "Three Sisters" were coming at very regular intervals. Each time they were encountered, they nearly stopped the boat in her tracks. I entered Ocracoke's coordinates into the GPS and it calculated a remaining time of 9 hours 45 minutes. This meant that at this rate a 6-hour trip would be expanded to at least 12. It did not get better. We were past the Piney Point mark and in sight of the NR mark after all that time and the prospect of a nasty slog for hours on end did not appeal to either of us. We have been out in some nasty stuff but we have never seen so much wave action for such a mediocre wind. There were whitecaps and froth everywhere. The mate, who was at the wheel at the time, made the command decision to go home and the captain concurred. Our speed over ground went from about 3 knots to over 6 knots as soon as we turned around. The following seas still made a bouncy ride but we entered the channel and got to the dock without incident.
We were back in time for lunch, a tuna salad with fresh greens and fruit. I had not brought any tools or maintenance materials with me so we just relaxed for a while after lunch. We needed ice and a few other small items so we went to Oriental. I went shopping for a boat hook and some marine grade anchor chain. I did not find a suitable boat hook but I did locate 44 feet of 5/16" anchor chain at the consignment shop for less than half the going price of new chain. When I bought my chain the first time, I didn't see any point in spending more than twice as much on marine chain than the galvanized chain found at the big box hardware stores. After the less expensive chain lies in a warm damp chain locker soaked with saltwater for a few years, the reason becomes apparent. Rust. The old chain was looking pretty bad. The anchor rode (rope) looked ok so I didn't have to replace that. I spent several hours laboring over a chain to rope splice that I had performed only once before and I got nice job. It may not be pretty, but it is technically correct and should hold anything we throw at it. In other words, if my splice fails, we will be dealing with much worse problems.
Not getting to Ocracoke was a bit of a disappointment but not a huge loss. We were able to relax and just hang out for the rest of the afternoon. When we were in Oriental buying chain, we went for a walk and noted the wind was still extreme, even in the relatively protected area somewhat up river from where we had been. Had we stayed out, it would not have gotten better and we would have been in for an extremely tiring stressful day. We had spaghetti that Judy had prepared at home, and a wonderful fresh salad courtesy of Judy's dad's garden.
Saturday June 4, 2011
The nice thing about being at the coast on a boat is that there is no real schedule. Planned events seldom happen. In fact using the word schedule or plan in the same sentence with sailing, sailor, sailboat or any similar word should be avoided. That said, the resident barn swallows at Ensign Harbor conform to a very rigid schedule. They hold some sort of meeting at precisely 5:30 AM. We are not sure if it is a staff meeting, parent child scolding or pep rally but it is always loud and lasts for about 10 minutes. Their favorite meeting place is perched on our dock lines about 6 feet from our open hatch over the V-berth. After the meeting, all is quiet until about sunup, so we can return to sleep if that is possible.
We eased into the day with our typical breakfast on deck and talked about what we would do for the day. We had packed for a long weekend so we had plenty of provisions. The weather looked good. Not much wind but probably enough for a nice easy sail. I didn't have to be back at work until Tuesday so we were open to possibilities as long as we didn't go too far. Anchoring at South River for the night seemed like a good option. There is not a lot to do at South River and it doesn't take very long to get there so we decided to wait until early to mid afternoon to shove off. I am glad we waited because just as I was leaving to get ice, our dock mate Stefan arrived. We had not seen him in a while and were glad to be able to chat. His home was damaged in the recent tornado outbreak in eastern North Carolina and we were not aware until he told us. Luckily, the damage to the house was not as bad as what could have happened. We finally allowed Stefan to get to the tasks that he came to perform and we shoved off for yet another adventure.
The trip to South River was one that reminded us why we own a sailboat in the first place. The wind was from the SSW at about 5 to 7 knots. The little C-30 really loves light breezes and she was scooting along at about 4 knots. The conditions were just perfect for the first mate to read or do needlework. It was pushing 7 pm when we finally got the hook down. The wind picked up just before we entered the South River channel. It was blowing from the South at a steady 7 knots. The new anchor chain worked great, as expected. We typically anchor really close to the windward shore, but we decided to anchor in a bit deeper water smack in the middle of the river. This was to discourage shore bound bugs. We are always amazed at the natural beauty of the South River anchorage. In a world of hustle and bustle, deadlines and stress, South River is always the same. It is a lovely, tranquil portion of God's green earth where civilization has not completely taken hold. There is a graveyard and several houses but for the most part it is water, sand, tall southern pines and silence. There was only one other sailboat anchored for the night but she was over a mile away. I hope it never changes. I plan to take my grandsons to this amazing place when they are older.
Sunday June 5, 2011
We enjoyed the natural air conditioning of a 5-knot SSW breeze all night long. Since we were not at Ensign Harbor we did not have to endure the barn swallow staff meeting at 5:30 am so we slept in. At our age, sleeping in is rising at 7:30. Judy made coffee in our vintage percolator on the alcohol stove. We enjoyed a cup while watching dolphins play on the river. After a while, she served sweet potato pancakes, also cooked on the alcohol stove. Canned peaches were also on the menu. Breakfast was simply delicious. The only way to get a really good first mate is to marry one.
The weather was murky. I doubt a meteorologist would use the term but it fit Sunday morning's weather. The bright sunshine at sunrise had given way to a overcast sky and some less than friendly looking clouds. We pulled the anchor out of the muck. I was glad I had stowed work gloves in the chain locker. There was evidence that several jellyfish had encountered the anchor rode overnight. These can cause a painful sting even if the jellyfish is long gone. The black South River mud holds our Fortress (brand) anchor very well, but it sure makes a mess on the deck of the boat. I used the ship's canvas bucket to grab bucketfuls of water and wash the deck while Judy headed us out of South River and into the lower Neuse. We knew the rain was coming so I dashed up (dashing is probably a bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea) to the coach roof with the mainsail cover. I hate dealing with a wet mainsail. It rained just enough to wet my feet then slacked off. The wind had picked up a bit but it didn't last long. We arrived back at the dock and Stefan helped us land. He had finished his weekend projects and was headed home.
We put up the sunshade over the deck, and then had the house special PB&J sandwich for lunch during a light rain. We checked emails and read for a while. We like to walk for exercise but the bugs are a little too friendly in Whortonsville so we decided to combine the need to exercise and the need for ice into a trip to Oriental. We walked for a long while, from the town dock all the way across the bridge and over to Pecan Grove Marina and back. The weather was still a bit questionable but it was a nice afternoon for a walk. Back at the boat we had the rest of the pasta and Judy did some stir fried vegetables for dinner. We turned in early after a long relaxing day on the water.
Monday June 6, 2011
We were up early. Judy got up just after the barn swallow's meeting but I stayed in bed for another 30 minutes. The only requirement for the day was to get home. It is amazing how much time it takes to got the little boat ready before we leave. The trick is to be sure it is still there when we get back so we take special care to make sure she is in first class shape. We cleaned, and prepared for departure. We topped off the water tanks and I doubled dock lines (hurricane season) and pumped the crapper. The boat is now ready for our next adventure. Judy wanted to stop by a specialty shop in New Bern. I took a walk around the waterfront. We had lunch at Arby's (no comment) and left for home.
We had a nice weekend away from work and other pressures. It was a pleasant distraction. Regular readers know that things seldom go exactly as planned. We will return to Ocracoke at a later time.