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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!