The remnants of tropical storm Colin were to clear the North Carolina Coast by Tuesday afternoon. Our sister-in-law has been released from the hospital and is recovering at home. Judy and I seized the opportunity to take a short Carolina cruise.
We spent most of Monday getting things ready. We wanted to take our dingy along and, since I have a small utility trailer, it is easier to inflate it and pull it behind the car than it is to pack it and inflate it at the coast. I had also taken the anchor chain and rode home last time to work on a weak link in the chain. There was plenty of other gear because of the nature of the trip. On these coastal excursions, we try to take everything we will need because supplies are limited. We typically visit small coastal towns but when we get there, we are on foot. There may indeed be a grocery store, but it may be out on the main highway 2 miles from where we land the boat. Anyway, we had enough "stuff" to raise Southern Star's waterline at least 2 inches.
Tuesday June 7, 2016
As is our habit, the first thing we checked when we got up was the weather. The coast was absolutely "socked in". Radar showed moderate to heavy rain covering the entire state from Raleigh, east. It was a predictable scenario because Colin was moving off shore. Every forecast we could find said that the coast would be clear and sunny by early afternoon. It took us longer than expected to get out of the house because there was a lot to do for a long trip. We finally left at about 9:30. Pulling the trailer reduced our speed a bit, and the detour through Clayton for a vegetable plate at the "Rockin' Comet" diner delayed us even more. We arrived at about 4 pm, and I still had a day's work to do. Unpacking and shipping all the provisions was only the start. I had to replace the anchor chain and fill the fuel tank. As it turned out the 5 gallon can of diesel I had brought along did not quench the little ship's thirst. I had to make a trip back to Bayboro for another 5 gallons so the tank would be nearly full when we shoved off. Charlie Gibson (the dingy) had to be taken from the trailer to the water. Judy and I sat it on a dock cart and pushed it down the dock all the way to the boat. We then secured it so that when we left in the morning it would follow behind. We had homemade turkey breast sandwiches for dinner and turned in early. Both of us were exhausted.
Wednesday June 8, 2016
We were up early and that is good because there was a lot to do. I had to take the canvas covers off the boat and all the other little chores associated with leaving the dock. I took one set of our double dock lines off so we could use them on the trip. The weather was spectacular and the forecast matched. Fair skies and 5 to 10 knot westerly winds were forecast. Well, we all know about forecasts... We left the dock at about 8:30. We had nearly 40 miles to get to Belhaven, our first stop, and with a maximum speed of about 6 knots (7 to 8 mph) we had no time to tarry. We learned years ago that if we are traveling we cannot depend on actually sailing to get there. Most of the time the wind is either too little, too much, or from the wrong direction. We depend on the "iron sail" when we have to be somewhere at a specific time. We traveled Browns Creek, Broad Creek, The Lower Neuse River, Pamlico Sound, Bay River and the Hobucken cut (Intracoastal Waterway). We then crossed the Pamlico River and entered the Pungo River. Everything went great. The wind was so light that it would not have moved the boat. The Bay River was essentially dead calm. The Hobucken Cut was uneventful except when the captain managed to bump the bottom a couple of times because he was not paying close enough attention and wandered out of the channel. When we left the cut to cross the Pamlico River, the wind was blowing at least 18 to 20 knots. This was quite unexpected since the forecast was for 5 to 10. We crossed the Pamlico and entered the Pungo to find even stronger winds. Had the wind been on our beam it would have been a great time to sail, but it was a good bit closer than a beam reach. We were able to deploy the big jib sail to stabilize the boat and increase our speed. That worked fine until we got further up river and the wind was nearly on our nose. At that point we furled the jib and slogged on for the last several hours of the trip. Judy had made a reservation at Dowry Creek Marina near Belhaven, so we were expected. I called the marina on VHF when we got close and got instructions on how to navigate their channel. When we got closer to the marina, I called the dock master and got landing instructions. The landing was nearly perfect. We were tied up by about 3:30. The GPS said the trip was 39.4 nautical miles in 7 hours and 1 minute. Our average moving speed was 5.6 knots. Not bad for such a terrific head wind. The dock master asked about the trip, and I said we had more wind than a 30 footer likes. He said "You mean the forecast 5 to 10 that was more like 5 to 10 plus 20?" All sailors know that coastal weather forecasts are to be taken with a grain of salt. We had stayed at Dowry Creek in June of 2009. It is just as nice now as it was then. Without a doubt, it is one of the nicest marinas we have stayed in, and the staff is very pleasant and helpful. Judy made a delicious dinner of turkey sausages and pasta. I enjoyed the dinner but was too tired to enjoy any of Dowry Creek's amenities. Maybe the return trip will be better.
Thursday June 9, 2016
We were up early and ready to continue the trip. We had unplugged the electrical service and cranked the engine. We had even made a reservation at the Alligator River Marina when I decided to step out on deck to apply some aerosol sun screen to my legs. I noticed a small sore on my right shin, where I had removed a tick a few days ago. The bite had an angry looking rash and was itching. I had noticed the itching but had not associated it with the tick bite until I saw it. Mosquito bites and tick bites are not all that unusual for me. The first mate did not like the looks of that rash one little bit. We borrowed the marina's courtesy car and headed for the quick care in Belhaven. The staff there was pleasant and we didn't have to wait too long. I saw a PA who decided that, since tick bites are not all that unusual for me, she would give me the 10 day round of antibiotics instead of the one shot pill. The concern of course is for Lyme disease. If it is caught early it can be cured with the antibiotics but if not, it can be some serious stuff. I had not really noticed any of the other symptoms except tiredness, but that goes with the territory of old folks wrestling a sailboat. It is a lot of work. We went by the local Walgreen and got the prescription filled as well as some cortisone cream for the rash. After a quick stop at the grocery store and putting a few gallons of gas in the car, we headed back to the marina. Of course it was after noon and much too late to head north. I called and cancelled the reservation. To add insult to injury, we noticed a ragged looking area on the headsail. It looked like a tear in the sacrificial sail cover. We lowered the sail and found that the supposedly UV proof thread that our sail maker had used was not so UV proof after all. A lot if stitching had come loose yesterday during the heavy winds. The damage is more aggravating than extensive. I have a heavy enough machine to fix it and very few materials will be needed. The problem is that it cannot be fixed for this trip so we won't be able to use the head sail.
What was left of the afternoon was spent relaxing and researching Lyme disease on the internet, as well as how to make repairs on the sail. We will have a nice dinner and evaluate whether to continue the cruise or head for home. I have not noticed any symptoms yet but I am not sure I want to be too far from home if I do.
Friday June 10. 2016
So far in this entry, I have not mentioned that our intent was to go to Columbia, NC which is on the Southern shore of the Albemarle Sound. We went to bed Thursday night not knowing if we were going to continue or not. After the blown out headsail and the tick bite fiasco, I was not sure I was willing to continue. Going to Columbia would mean a hard 8 hour motor trip through the Pungo-Alligator canal to the Alligator River Marina plus another 7 to 8 hour motor (because the headsail is not usable) to Columbia and therefore two days further from Ensign Harbor. We thought about our itinerary overnight. I felt good on Friday morning with none of the symptoms of Lyme disease. I really did not want to continue heading north toward Columbia, but I was not willing to cut the trip short and head for home. The Dowry Creek Marina has a Belhaven address but, since we had to borrow a car to get to the quick care clinic, it is not in the town of Belhaven. I suggested that we make the short trip to the Belhaven Waterway Marina which is in downtown Belhaven. This would give us the opportunity to explore a little town that we have not seen in many years.
I called and Brenda said they could accommodate us. I told her we wanted to arrive early, around noon and she said she thought that could be arranged. We have stayed at the Waterway Marina on at least two other occasions. It is a very small marina but has all the nice touches that make a good marina, the best of which is a pleasant helpful staff. Les and Brenda have owned the marina for many years and they know what they are doing. We arrived at about 11:30 am, which was earlier than I even expected. Les answered our VHF call and ushered us to our slip along the seawall. I call it a "shotgun" marina because all the boats are lined up end to end along the seawall or bulkhead. There are no individual slips with finger piers.
Les confessed that he could not answer our first VHF call because he was eating ice cream and his mouth was frozen. He highly recommended the ice cream and we thought it would make a great lunch. We were right. I am not sure how many calories were involved, but the caramel ice cream in a waffle cone was almost too good. The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring and trying to decide where we would eat dinner. The boat next was an Island Packet belonging to Mike and Patti. They keep their boat at Pecan Grove just across Smith Creek from Oriental but live in Tennessee. Mike noticed my amateur radio tee shirt and asked me to take a look at the radio on his boat because he was not sure what it was. As it turns out it is indeed a radio designed for the amateur bands although would probably cover the marine SSB spectrum as well. He didn't know if he should keep it or not and my advice was to study and get his amateur radio license so he could use the ham bands as well as the marine SSB bands.
There are 5 excellent restaurants in town. Not bad for a little burg. We decided to bypass the white tablecloth joint that required a reservation and eat at Georgie's Sports and Oyster Bar (SOB). Seating was limited but ample. It was obviously a hangout for the locals. Judy had a crab cake sandwich and I had the Dolphin (AKA Mahi-mahi). Both were excellent.
Again we are going to decide in the morning whether to stay another day in Belhaven or head for home. I suspect we will stay another day since the marina has room and there are several fun activities scheduled on Saturday.
Saturday June 11, 2016
We decided to stay another night since we had cut the trip short. There is a good chance of thunderstorms today but much less chance tomorrow. We had a nice breakfast at "Gingerbread Bakery". Breakfast was about the only thing going on in town and there was plenty of seating in the bakery.
The inaugural Belhaven "Anything That Floats Regatta" was held on Saturday afternoon. What a hoot. There were 5 entries and 4 prizes. Les entered his "side wheeler" named "Tom Sawyer". There were others but none nearly as impressive. Les did not do well in the competition but won the prize for most original. He could have won the prize for "most dramatic sinking" but each boat could only win one prize. It was a fun event with the spectators taking part launching and retrieving boats as well as retrieving run away parts of boats.
We had dinner aboard. After dinner Les and his friend David played and sang on the marina deck. They were quite good and we spent an enjoyable hour listening to some, shall I say, "older" familiar tunes. The weather forecast for Sunday was good. In fact, the weather for the whole trip had been really nice. Mike and I made arrangements to leave at about 7:30am. Les was going to assist in turning the boats around so we would not have to try a 180 in tight quarters or try to back out. It was fairly obvious that Les had turned many a boat in his years as a yacht wrestler. As I said, Les and Brenda really know what they are doing.
Sunday June 12, 2016
We were up and had the boat ready to go by the appointed hour. Les was there as promised. Since we were behind Mike and Patti, Les turned us first. I had the diesel running so as soon as we got turned, we said our goodbyes and left the marina. The trip was long but fairly pleasant. We were finally able to sail when we got to the Bay River. We had a nice steady beam reach for a couple of hours. When we turned near the Neuse River Junction, the wind was much closer, and by the time we were headed to the Broad Creek entrance it was right on our nose again. Had the headsail been usable, we may have played in the river for a while, but sailing without a headsail is kind of like driving a car with one of those temporary donut tires. It works but not well. Mike and Patti's big 38 foot Island Packet caught up to us about the time we turned into Broad Creek. I hailed them on the VHF and we talked for a few minutes about the trip.
Back at our dock we had all the usual landing chores to do. We decided to put most of the other things off because we were planning to go into Oriental for dinner. In the mean time we met Greg and Penny, who have been dock mates for some time. I guess we had all been to Ensign Harbor at different times as we had never met. Since we were going to Oriental for dinner and ice, we called Mike and Patti to see if they wanted to join us. After a bit of telephone tag, we met them and their dock neighbors Pat and Diane at the M&M. The food was OK but the conversation was great. Many tales were told and experiences recalled. Pat and Diane live in Pittsboro, one of the towns we pass through going home. It is really great to meet folks with common interests. Sailing brings a diverse group of people together and a lot can be learned about their other passions and interests.
We stopped at the convenience store for two bags of ice and headed back to the boat. Our portable air conditioner had not been used before Sunday night because it had not been needed. It was nice to come back from dinner to a cool boat. We were both exhausted so sleep was not far away.
Monday June 13, 2016
We had left a lot to do on our "go home" day because of Sunday's heat. It was oppressive. In addition to the usual clean up, unloading and packing there was dealing with the dinghy and motor as well as taking the headsail off the furler so I could take it home and fix it. The weather was noticeably cooler, and we set about all the required tasks. It took a long time and amounted to a day's work for an old guy. Sailing is not all sunsets and fruity drinks. There is a healthy portion of hot, sweaty and sometimes not so pleasant work. I had to pump the head, and the boat needed at least a fresh water rinse because of all the saltwater we took over the rail. We worked together and dealt with getting the dinghy back in the trailer. The cockpit of the dink made a great place to haul the headsail. I packed the outboard, gas can and spent diesel can in the trailer as well. We left shortly after noon for the long haul home. Lunch was at Chipotle Mexican Grill, which for my money is the best fast food ever. If I could just talk them into making grouper or Mahi-mahi one of the meat selections, I would never need to eat anywhere else!
Since we are not on a schedule, I will get the sail repair done and we will be looking for a nice weather window for our next trip. Even though this trip was not even close to what we planned, it was a blast anyway. Judy calls it making lemonade, and we have done it many, many times. As the saying goes "Sailors cannot have plans, only intentions".
Here are some pictures of our time on the water...