Oriental to Elizabeth City

Sunday Evening Sunset in Oriental

Sunday Evening Sunset in Oriental

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Getting an early start to our day has become very appealing for us. We enjoy the cool, crisp air of the morning and also the resplendent rising of the sun. So, on Monday, June 29, we arose early to top off the water tanks, get some ice, and prepare to push away from the dock. Just before 7 a.m., we left Whitaker Pointe Marina in Oriental to begin a 70.5 nautical mile journey northward up the ICW.

Sunrise over Whitaker Point

Sunrise over Whitaker Point

Venturing into the sun, down the Neuse River

Venturing into the sun, down the Neuse River

Most of the day was spent boating in and out of the mouths of several rivers. The first couple of hours were spent sailing down the Neuse River and out into the Pamlico Sound. We then travelled up the Bay River for a short while before taking Goose Creek up to the Pamlico River. Once we crossed the Pamlico River we headed up the Pungo River for several miles. This led us to the 20 mile-long Pungo River/Alligator River Canal, after which we found ourselves in the Alligator River. Approximately 3 miles down the Alligator river we arrived at our anchorage for the night, a large cove with uniform eight foot depths which could hold hundreds of boats (if they could avoid all the crab traps in the anchorage). At first, we had this huge, beautiful anchorage all to ourselves. A little later, another sailboat arrived, but anchored so far away from us in the cove, he was barely visible.

On the Intracoastal Waterway

On the Intracoastal Waterway

Piloting up the ICW

Piloting up the ICW

Cruisin'

Cruisin’

The only noteworthy event of the day was passing beneath the Wilkerson Bridge on the Alligator/Pungo River Canal. This, I am told, is the only bridge on the ICW which has only 64’ foot clearance (other than the known exception in Miami, FL, which has only 55’). The tides at the Bridge are minimal, less than a one foot swing). Of course, our mast is 64.5’, so this was worrisome. We approached within an hour or so of low tide and eased Beatitude ever so gently up to the bridge to see if we would clear or lose our mast. The height boards read 64’ as we neared. It was with great relief that I visualized the top of our mast pass just beneath the bottom of the overpass. Whew! We were thankful to have that over with. Well… there was one other noteworthy event worth mentioning: I actually grilled an excellent steak! Cindy and I enjoyed perfectly cooked, tender and tasty, Filet Mignon. I’ve never been able to cook a decent steak on the grill. Maybe, the evil spell is broken.

The worrisome Wilkerson Bridge

The worrisome Wilkerson Bridge

Steak dinner on the Alligator River

Steak dinner on the Alligator River

An almost-full moon over the Alligator River

An almost-full moon over the Alligator River

Sunset on the Alligator

Sunset on the Alligator

Sunset

Sunset

I also learned something new today. You may have noticed that Beatitude has developed a brown mustache on the bow of both of her hulls. This is caused by the tannic acid which is in the water from the decay and death of vegetation in the rivers. Upon further investigation, I learned about blackwater rivers, slow-moving rivers flowing through forested swamps or wetlands in which are found these tannins from decaying vegetation. The tannins darkly stain the water, giving it the color of coffee or tea. Furthermore, these rivers are primarily found in the Amazon Basin and the Southern U.S. There are a number of blackwater rivers from Florida to the Chesapeake, including most of the ones we traversed today. The water is not “dirty” and is perfectly safe, but the color is a little off-putting.

A Tannin Moustache

A Tannin Moustache

Tea-colored water

Tea-colored water

After enjoying a quiet, relaxing night at anchor, we awoke just in time to see the sun rise around six. When we are cruising, our body clocks seem to become synchronized with the sun. I like it. We pulled out of Alligator River Cove just before 7 a.m., making our way down the river and through the Alligator River Swing Bridge. We crossed this bridge (Rte. 64) just a few weeks ago when driving to the Outer Banks. From there, we crossed the Albemarle Sound and then made our way up the Pasquotank River to Elizabeth City, a town of about 19,000 which has earned the moniker of “Harbor of Hospitality.” We experienced that hospitality first hand upon our entrance into the downtown area. The citizens maintain free slips for cruisers at the Mariner’s Wharf Marina. Beatitude is too wide for the slips, so we took advantage of the free bulkhead (wall) just north of the slips. As we approached the wall, a gentlemen in the park nearby approached to assist with our lines. How nice! So, right now we are enjoying being tied up to the free docking right in town. We can step off the boat and onto the main streets of the city.

The Route 64, Alligator River Swing Bridge which we crossed a couple of weeks ago

The Route 64, Alligator River Swing Bridge which we crossed a couple of weeks ago

The Admiral looking pretty in the cockpit

The Admiral looking pretty in the cockpit

Beatitude docked at the Mariner's Wharf Park Bulkhead

Beatitude docked at the Mariner’s Wharf Park Bulkhead

Elizabeth City, besides being know for its hospitality, is known for a few other things. It is home to the largest Coast Guard Air Station in the nation. Almost one air rescue/day takes place from this base. It was featured in numerous scenes of the excellent 2006 movie, “The Guardian.” It is also home to one of the few airship factories in the U.S. Many of the commercial blimps are made here. Historically, it was important as a port of commerce since the building of the Dismal Swamp Canal, which began in 1793 (more about that in a couple of days).

The blimp hangar in Elizabeth City

The blimp hangar in Elizabeth City

One of the Coast Guard Rescue Planes

One of the Coast Guard Rescue Planes

Since we tied up to the bulkhead by 2 p.m., we had some time to relax on board before heading off to town (across the street) for an excellent dinner at the Cypress Creek Grill (at which Kevin Costner and Ashton Kucher ate while here for the movie). I ordered the S.O.B. Dinner. No… not that SOB! It stands for shrimp, oyster and bacon. A shrimp and an oyster were wrapped together in bacon and cooked. Of course, bacon plus anything is delicious. While in town we discovered that on Tuesday nights during the summer, the city has a classic film festival at Mariner’s Wharf Park (immediately next to Beatitude). Tonight’s bill was the 1937 classic, “Easy Living.” We attended! But, we were ultimately disappointed as five minutes into the movie, the wind started gusting and blew over the screen. They canceled the rest of the movie due to high winds. 🙂 You win some… you lose some!

Beatitude tied to the wall

Beatitude tied to the wall

Walking on Main Street

Walking on Main Street

Dinner at Cedar Creek Grill

Dinner at Cedar Creek Grill

A crowd of 100-150 gathered for the classic movie night

A crowd of 100-150 gathered for the classic movie night

The movie started well, but ended poorly.

The movie started well, but ended poorly.

A Sunday in Oriental

Last night was quite interesting. We saw some rain, but the real story was the wind. From the time we pulled up to the dock and all through the night the wind blew furiously out of the southwest at 20-30 knots, with gusts over 40 knots (as measured aboard Beatitude). This kept Beatitude pinned and bouncing against the dock all night. It took all the strength we had to adjust the lines and arrange the fenders such that we felt comfortable and secure.

Storm damage from the high winds last night

Storm damage from the high winds last night

But, like all storms and tempests, this, too, relinquished its unnerving grip. As the new dawn beckoned, the wind subsided and the sun began to play hide and seek through peepholes in the leaden sky. Beatitude did just fine during the night, and her crew enjoyed a restful night’s sleep despite all the bluster outside.

Beatitude hugging her face dock after the storm.

Beatitude hugging her face dock after the storm.

We decided to attend the service at St. Thomas’ Episcopal church in the town of Oriental this morning. Fortunately, the marina has a courtesy van that can be used free-of-charge for up to two hours when needed. It wasn’t in use this morning, so we drove the van into town for morning service. The church was small (like the town) and the edifice was not as beautiful as many we’ve been in lately. The number of people was also smaller than other recent churches, but the liturgy was still powerful, and it was wonderful to worship God.

St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Oriental, NC

St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Oriental, NC

We had lunch at a nice little restaurant in town called M&M’s. After enjoying some tasty quesadillas, we walked around town for a few minutes. There’s not much to town, so it didn’t take too long to walk around. Oriental, whose population is 900, is named after the Sailing Steamer Oriental, which ran aground off Cape Hatteras in 1862. Apparently, In 1886, the U.S. Postal Service sought to establish a post office in what had been called Smith’s Creek. The postmaster’s wife thought the place needed a better name, so she decided to call the town Oriental after having found the nameplate from the wrecked sailing steamer Oriental on the beaches of the Outer Banks. Oriental is a well-known sailing town, referred to as “The Sailing Capital of the Carolinas.”

M&M Restaurant, home of some great quesadilla's (I had shrimp, Cindy had beans and cheese)

M&M Restaurant, home of some great quesadilla’s (I had shrimp, Cindy had beans and cheese)

A waterfront home in Oriental

A waterfront home in Oriental

The main street through town

The main street through town

Smallpox fighter, Dr. Bell's House.

Smallpox fighter, Dr. Bell’s House.

A local citizen's flower garden

A local citizen’s flower garden

After returning to the marina, we spent a refreshing hour or so in the marina pool. We had it all to ourselves. It was wonderful! We then returned to our vessel for the rest of the evening. We’ll have a light dinner and likely watch a movie.

The Whitaker Point Marina Clubhouse, with pool off to the right

The Whitaker Point Marina Clubhouse, with pool off to the right

Cindy relaxing in the pool!

Cindy relaxing in the pool!

And me!

And me!

Tomorrow, we plan to continue our passage north. We tentatively plan (since all plans are tentative on a sailboat) to be in Norfolk, VA, by Thursday, July 2, where we’ll spend the 4th of July weekend. It will take us four days to get there. We plan to anchor out each night, so the next post may not be for another four or five days. Our friends, Ken and Carol Krause, cruised the ICW for a couple of years in their trawler. He would end each of his updates with the Spanish phrase, “Como Dios manda,” which translated means (roughly), “As God wills.” I believe he told me this is how Christopher Columbus ended each of his journal entries on his voyages. It may not be a bad way to end mine. So… Como Dios manda.

This is a photo of one of the boat stickers that our daughter, Julie, designed for us for Mother's/Father's day.  They look great and will soon be plastered from here to Timbuktu!

This is a photo of one of the boat stickers that our daughter, Julie, designed for us for Mother’s/Father’s day. They look great and will soon be plastered from here to Timbuktu!

To Oriental, North Carolina

On Friday, we continued our northward trek up the Intracoastal Waterway. We pushed away from the dock in St. James at 7:15 a.m., and proceeded toward Cape Fear. Upon entering the Cape Fear River, we were met with 2-4’ waves coming up the river from the south. This was, to say the least, an unexpected finding. I spent the next hour or two hand-steering Beatitude to keep her pointed in one general direction – northward. Fortunately the winds and waves were from behind us. It would have been quite uncomfortable heading into those conditions.

Leaving  St. James Plantation Marina

Leaving St. James Plantation Marina

Friday Morning Sunrise

Friday Morning Sunrise

The Oak Island Lighthouse, one of the newest in the U.S.  It replaced the Cape Fear Lighthouse.  It's light is 169 feet above the water and is visible for 16 nautical miles.  It helps ships avoid the dangerous Frying Pan Shoals.

The Oak Island Lighthouse, one of the newest in the U.S. It replaced the Cape Fear Lighthouse. It’s light is 169 feet above the water and is visible for 16 nautical miles. It helps ships avoid the dangerous Frying Pan Shoals.

Entering the white-capped Cape Fear River

Entering the white-capped Cape Fear River

Once we exited the Cape Fear River, however, conditions calmed once again, making for a pleasant journey up the North Carolina coast. About the only factor that produced any consternation was that we had to go through 3 consecutive swing/draw bridges which operate on a schedule. This slowed our progress considerably, since we had to wait significant time periods in between each bridge. Our last bridge of the day was a fixed bridge, the Topsail Island Bridge. We approached at high tide and had another antenna scraping experience.

Up the NC ICW

Up the NC ICW

One of the three swing bridges.  This one cost us about 45 minutes.

One of the three swing bridges. This one cost us about 45 minutes.

Great Heron

Great Heron

Osprey

Osprey

Pelicans and friends

Pelicans and friends

Homes lining the Atlantic Ocean, just a couple of hundred feet from the ICW

Homes lining the Atlantic Ocean, just a couple of hundred feet from the ICW

Friday, we covered around 63 nautical miles in a little over ten hours. We dropped our anchor around 5:25 p.m. in 12 feet of water in Mile Hammock Bay just southwest of Camp LeJeune, the well-known Marine Corp base in North Carolina. We let out a 7:1 scope before settling down for some expected thunderstorms later in the evening. We were fortunate that all the storms stayed just to our north. We witnessed lots of impressive lightning, but, other than a few brief gusts of wind, Beatitude escaped severe weather.

Mile Hammock Anchorage.  Two other boats when we went to sleep.  Some time during the night another pulled in an anchored very close to the trawler (Sanderling).

Mile Hammock Anchorage. Two other boats when we went to sleep. Some time during the night another pulled in an anchored very close to the trawler (Sanderling).

Nature's Fireworks over Camp LeJeune

Nature’s Fireworks over Camp LeJeune

Yikes!

Yikes!

Saturday morning, we arose early and weighed anchor at 6:05. Our chain and anchor came up covered with the stickiest, stinkiest black mud that you’ve ever seen. Since the anchor barely came up out of the mud this morning, I don’t think we would’ve needed to worry if the storms had hit last night.

Saturday morning sunrise

Saturday morning sunrise

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We pulled out of Mile Hammock Bay and turned to port up the ICW. We waited on the Onslow Beach Swing Bridge until 7 a.m., and then had clear sailing (motoring) all the way to Oriental. The morning was gorgeous with pleasant temperatures and a cooling breeze. By noon, the clouds began to build and storms once again threatened. Radar showed that a line of storms was headed toward Oriental and would arrive about the same time we would. It was a race up beautiful Adam’s Creek and across the Neuse River. The strong winds arrived just before we did. Thankfully, we had help on the dock to tie up our lines. It was a little bit of a challenge with the 20-30 knot winds. At least the rain held off until we could tie to the dock and put out some fenders.

Who's at the helm?!

Who’s at the helm?!

Intently looking at... something?

Intently looking at… something?

The day was otherwise uneventful. We made it through several bridges without scraping our antenna. The only out-of-the-ordinary occurrence of the day was that we had traveling companions. The motor trawler, Sanderling, out of Merritt Island, FL, left our anchorage nearly the same time as us. We cruise along at about the same speed, so we were barely 100 yards apart the entire trip.

Our view for 9+ hours up the ICW on Saturday.

Our view for 9+ hours up the ICW on Saturday.

We’ve now traveled for four days straight. We’re going to stay in Oriental for two nights and enjoy a day around town on Sunday. We’ll hopefully find a church to attend in the morning.

Entering Whitaker Point Marina.

Entering Whitaker Point Marina.