Sunday, October 31, 2010

Charleston – Don and Liz Bunch arrive

Fine to meet in an aquarium - not in our boat
First we took the day off and toured the South Carolina Aquarium with is only a 5 minute walk from the marina. The exhibits take you from the mountain lakes to the sea, ending with a huge salt water tank complete with sharks. The picture is of a snake in the aquarium, not one we encountered! Being avid snorkelers, we could have watched the salt water tank for hours with the hundreds of fish passing by. Don and Liz arrived then so we headed back and did some sightseeing around Charleston before reprovisioning at Harris Teeter;

Vendor in the Slave Market
There’s a famous local restaurant, Hyman’s Seafood, that has famous clientele, sort of like some of the restaurants in NYC with pictures of famous customers on the walls. I had local grouper caught off the coast of South Carolina and it was fresh, recommended. We strolled through what’s called the slave market where independent vendors set up shop to sell their wares, there much be upwards of a hundred shops in the long building, interesting to look through. We leave on Monday and the waters from here on out are very shallow so we intend to always go with a good tide and not attempt the passage during a low tide, too nerve-racking

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Charleston Maritime Center – Day 2

The Boat Next Door - Oh to be so young
Today was spent working on something I said I would never do again. It’s not exciting but it’s very exhausting. It’s replacing all the hoses in one of the heads, ugh! The hoses don’t bend very well and I’ll never know how the manufacturer ever got the original hoses in place to begin with. 1.5 inch sanitation hose is very stiff and the space is very restrictive. After four hours, I finally got two hoses in place. They’re supposed to last at least five years.

Another reason to be so young...
 Well, after that piece of exciting news we mostly rested up and prepared the cabin for the arrival of Don and Liz Bunch on Sunday. We shopped at Harris Tetter for fish for supper. It’s a great store, like a natural foods store but much bigger and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’ll do our major restocking tomorrow when the Bunches arrive.

There’s a lot of Halloween activity tonight with several boats going out on a cruise with partiers. I thought Halloween was Sunday night but there’s a lot of celebration going on tonight.

View from Fleetwing at the marina
The next stretch of the ICW is very shallow and so we plan on a transit with a rising tide on Monday, it’s less nerve racking to not have to deal with 5 ft water although we may still see that depth even with a favorable tide, time will tell.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Charleston at the Maritime Center

Charleston Maritime Center Marina
The stretch of the ICW from Awendaw Creek to Charleston was very shallow. The only reason we had no problems was because we had a 5.0 ft tide with us all the way. I now have a computer program in mind for transiting the ICW:

Step 1: Look at chartplotter (be sure you’re in the channel)
Step 2: Look ahead (crab pots?)
Step 3: Look at depth sounder (start to worry at 9 ft, slow down below 8 ft, stop at 7 ft, consider options)
Repeat steps 1 through 3, 4822 times.

Of course, step 1 is not always accurate, it doesn’t always match reality – especially when you see the recommended course (magenta line) up on land! However, you always believe the depth sounder!!

Aircraft Carrier Yorktown across the river
 Coming into Charleston, the wind piped up on the nose and we made our way into the marina. I was surprised at how small the marina is but they have cement docks, very stable, and a helpful staff. The marina is within two blocks of the Virginia Aquarium and a huge supermarket. A few more blocks away is downtown Charleston where we ate tonight. We’ll be here for a few days until Don and Liz Bunch arrive on Sunday and plan to set out again Monday.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Awendaw Creek at Anchor – We Make it out of Belle Isle Marina!

It's no wonder the turtles are huddled up on a log!
It wasn’t the calmest morning, I was checking the level of the water every 10 minutes it seemed. I spent an hour making dry runs out of the marina in the dink with the depth sounder, trying to find a deep enough channel. With the wind finally backing off, the water returned and we had a foot more depth than when we came in at the same level of tide. So at 1:00 pm, the tide was high enough for our exit and off we went (didn’t see any more alligators!) We waved goodbye to the dockmaster…

Our backup plan
We traveled down the Minim Creek today, it’s part of the ICW. The water started getting a little shallow when we got close to our anchorage. It’s a little harrowing watching the depth meter every five seconds or so, looking ahead for any logs, watching the chartplotter for the right path to avoid shoals. You just cycle between the three activities constantly while at the helm when the water is shallow. On Friday we plan on leaving the anchorage at high tide to make the trip calmer.

The view from our anchorage
This is a beautiful anchorage and we even found a place to take Hoolie although he wasn’t too enamored of the shore where he had to go (but he did, any port in a storm). We are currently running the A/C in cooling mode, it’s still 80 outside! On Friday we’re supposed to get a change of weather with temps only in the 70’s instead of 80’s like the last few days. We're on to Charleston on Friday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Belle Isle Marina – We Run Aground with the Alligators

Along the Swamp
Well, cruising down the ICW is certainly not boring, at least for us. The day started out calm enough with a cruise through swamps which was quite beautiful. There was lots of Spanish moss, birds but we didn’t see any alligators.

We arrived at Belle Isle Marina on a 3.7 ft tide which when added to their advertised 4.0 mean low water (MLW) depth over the bar coming in should have been plenty. However, as I came in, I saw the water depth dive down below 4.5 and then 4.0 and the boat stopped! How could this be? (I thought) 4.0 plus 3.7 equals 7.7 ft, plenty of water for our 5.0 ft draft. Did the marina pad their numbers? As it turned out, I ran into a common phenomenon for the area, the west winds gusting to 20 kts today blew water out of the shallow bay. I would have thought the marina operator would have figured this out before we came in but no such luck. Like a dummy, I plowed ahead thinking what I ran into was a bump, still wanting to believe the ads about 4.0 at MLW. I made it to my dock on the end finger and was floating at that point in 5.2 ft of water but then the tide started to drop and so now we’re sitting on the bottom. The next high tide of note is at 2:00 pm Thursday, the same height as today but hopefully without the west wind we’ll get more water but who knows?

The Sign Got our Attention
Meanwhile, we’re briefed by the dockmaster on the marina and the first question he asks is whether our dog likes to swim in the water, an odd question we thought. Then he explains about the alligators in the marina! Presently there are only two (!!) and they’re small, under 5 feet (!) Where are they now, we ask. Oh, they move around, he replies. He has a license from the state to shoot alligators over 5 ft. How many has he shot this year, we ask. Nine, he replies. He has photos of the bigger ones he bagged. Hummm. Where do we walk the dog? Right over there but keep your dog on a leash – not to worry we say, it’s a great incentive you have here to keep dogs leashed.

In a second meanwhile, I get in the dink with a depth finder and head out to find a channel, or at least the most water on the way out. Luckily, I bought a new depth finder for the dink, one that shoots the depth through the bottom of the dink so I don’t have to lean overboard with my portable depth finder that requires me to dip it in the water with my hand!! On board, Ann has the binoculars out looking for alligators but doesn’t see any yet. Eventually I return not too happy but with a zigzag course out that may be doable. Sitting in the cockpit pondering the day’s events I see a familiar shape in the distance. Look at that I say, where says Ann. It’s an alligator! Sure enough, about 50 ft behind the boat is the head of an alligator slowly going forward, right where I was trying to find a channel. When it’s dog walking time, I accompany Ann and Hoolie with a flashlight and we march along on the dock to the clubhouse and the parking lot, lots of asphalt with some grass in the middle, I want to see if anything is coming (although I'm not sure what I would do if I saw one coming - the dockmaster said they can move much faster than you think, at least for short distances, he's so encouraging..)

They Hardly Ever Get on the Swim Platform said the Dockmaster(!)
As I write this blog (still aground – the rising tide hasn’t lifted us yet!) the A/C starts to spark, what else can go wrong… After an hour of trouble shooting it turns out to be two wires shorted to each other. Who ever made the A/C put the fan connection in the pan that collects condensate from the cooling coils. So all this time the connections slowly corrode and tonight they decided to short! Well, that was fixable at least and the A/C is back in operation.

Now let’s hope for a good, high tide Thursday – you can see if we make it or not by following our track using the link at left. Such fun we’re having…

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Osprey Marina – Dinner Out Tonight

They Stack'm High Down Here
The winds are piping up to 20 to 25 kts on the nose, the waves are coming off the ocean slapping against the side of the boat, the fairway has narrowed to a red and green spaced only about 100 feet apart and you’ve read warnings about shoaling at Lockwood’s Folly (what an appropriate name!). As I head toward the bull’s eye target between the red and green buoys, a catamaran is racing for the same spot coming in the opposide direction and appears to be arriving at about the same time! Naturally I’m headed for the right side of the fairway, the red side and he appears to be headed for the same spot! Something’s got to give. Since going outside the buoys here is a certain grounding, I either have to maintain my course in the hope that he takes the proper side of the fairway (the left side for a boat going in that direction) or swerve in front of the catamaran to cross over, a risky procedure. For some reason they have someone up on the bow (perhaps they saw us then?) and they finally move to the other side of the fairway and we make it through okay, whew! We saw 7.8 ft at high tide. At low tide that would have been 3.9 feet – a grounding right in the ICW channel!!

No, running the ICW is not relaxing some of the time, especially when passing by inlets which tend to shoal no matter what the Corps of Engineers do to keep them clear. Then there are the peaceful times when you motoring down a wide, calm fairway by beautiful homes and golf courses, mile after mile, that’s relaxing. There’s just enough spice to keep things interesting.

The Famous Pontoon Bridge - Opens on the Hour (Usually)
This morning we left at 8:00 with some wind blowing into the marina and were in very tight quarters. Fleetwing, when lying sideways, just about fit between the two lanes of boats with very little room to spare. You had to pirouette the boat to get it turned which involves turning the boat in its own length (without a bow thruster!) It involves cranking the wheel as if to turn to starboard, put it in reverse, the prop walk causes the aft to go to port, the bow then turns to starboard, you then give it a burst of forward thrust with the wheel locked for a starboard turn, more reverse when you get too close to the boat on one side of the lane, the prop walk continues turning the bow to starboard, another burst forward which further turns the bow, etc. until you’re pointed in the direction you want to go. The boat moves perhaps 5 to 10 feet at most fore and aft but it turns 90 to 180 degrees as desired. It’s a must have skill in the tight quarters down here. Ann wants to learn it too and we’ll practice it in bigger spaces before execution in a tight marina.

We’re at the Osprey Marina tonight where one of the attractions is a free ride into town to an Italian restaurant which we took advantage of. It was a treat for the cook after a long day and the meal was great. It turned out that the chef was from New Jersey as was the waiter. The place was packed but we arrived early enough for a good table. The marina here was very compact and I had to once again execute a pirouette turn to get into my slip. They have a pet alligator that comes out once and awhile to sun himself but we didn’t see him. Ann and Hoolie didn’t go far tonight for Hoolie relief! It will be a shorter day Wednesday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

St James Plantation Marina – Thunderstorms!

Sunrise at Masonboro Marina
We had a beautiful sunrise this morning but the clouds forebode stormy weather. We had thunderstorms predicted for the afternoon but the morning was supposed to be fair but cloudy. As soon as I got on the ICW and turned on the radar, I could see rain coming and we ran right into it. The boat ahead of us had an open cockpit and the captain was in full raingear like we used to be but we were dry and comfortable in our full enclosure, in t-shirts. The wind piped up to 25 kts true on the nose with rain coming down but it only lasted about ½ hour. With the radar and the chartplotter, it was easy to stay on course, we didn’t to try to peer through the haze of rain to see the buoys.

St James Plantation Marina
In this part of the ICW, we’re just paralleling the coast but we can’t see the ocean, too many sand dunes in the way. Also, there’s no anchorages, just marinas but then the cost is only $1/ft so we’re not complaining – and the marinas are first rate, real luxury places. The one we’re at now features a huge condo. I saw a sign where you were charged $600 for food and/or beverage at the included restaurant/bar per year – whether you used up the $600 tab or not. I guess if you want a bar and restaurant on your condo grounds you have to support it.

Sign in Marina - Wonder what the red clothespins means?
Tuesday will be a long day, not many places to stop and we have to cover about 60 miles and go through four bridges that have to open to let us through, always fun.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Masonboro Yacht Club – A Day of Planning

But in a hurricane?
With the shallow waters and upcoming bridge openings, we needed to do a little planning. We prefer to anchor out but we’ve found our options limited when we also have to find a place for Hoolie relief, especially when entering alligator infested waters! We read with interest some of the anchorage reviews where they relate alligator sightings from the boat! I can’t imagine getting in a dink and motoring to shore to give Hoolie some ground for his business and having to worry about alligators – and in a rubber dink! So when we’re passing through swamps, we avoid the popular anchorages and continue on to marinas. The one exception is an anchorage ahead of us that also has a boat ramp nearby that we plan on using for Hoolie. Still, we’ll be on the lookout for alligators. Hopefully, I’ll get some pictures!

House on the Dock - At PYC too?
We’ll leave Monday at high tide to provide a little insurance for travel over the shallow spots by the inlets where there’s always shoaling. Meanwhile, we’ve explored this marina. It was devastated by hurricane Fran three years ago, it was leveled! It has since been rebuilt better than ever. They have five houseboats in addition to the normal array of boats. These houseboats are real miniature houses on floats, not the usual version of houseboats. We talked to one owner tonight, he likes the camaraderie and plans to stay indefinitely. One owner stayed until he was 88. Better here than a rest home I say.

Our First Real Palm Trees
Our plan is now to meet Don and Liz Bunch at Charleston, SC on Sunday and they’ll cruise with us for a two weeks as we head south. They’ve been down the ICW in their own boat three times so they’re old hands at this. It will be fun having them aboard!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Masonboro, NC – We Find Hard Water!

Yes, there are barges on the narrow  ICW!
We never pulled on the anchor at Swansboro, we hung all night on just the friction of the chain on the bottom, I could tell from the GPS readings. I had put all the bridges on the chartplotter so we could time ourselves to reach the bridges at either on the hour or the half hour – two of the bridges only opened on the top of the hour! Well, the strategy worked out fine and we could pace ourselves to arrive just in time for the openings.

So that part of the planning worked out fine. Then we came to Wrightsville Beach and the much publicized anchorage…

Hard Water Too?
“6.0 – 5.5 – 5.2 – 4.9 - ……”, “Why aren’t we moving? Let’s back up – watch out for the dink! I got it pulled in but the painter is wrapped under the dink (Ann)”. Motor in reverse, Fleetwing slides off the bottom into deeper water from whence we came. After a little disorientation, we head further to find a place to turn around to try the other side of the channel. Hundreds of boats everywhere (it’s a Saturday night), no room to turn, go further, find a place, turn and come back. Try the right side of the channel, 6.0 – 5.5 – 5.1 – 4.9 – STOP (before hitting bottom), in reverse – back out again! Look at chart (finally!) and see that the reported depth of the channel to our anchorage was only 4 ft as of 2007 and we’re at low tide – duh! Call for a dock, everyone is FULL (Saturday night, beautiful weekend). We soldier on, Ann calls the Masonboro marina and they have an opening! It’s 5:00 pm, a long day after starting out at 8:00 am. Whew!

We bought our first sailboat from a tugboat captain (of all people!) and their term for shallows was “hard water” as in “There’s hard water by the Statue of Liberty” Well, we encountered our first “hard water” today. Several places on the ICW by the inlets were very shallow. One place got down to 7.9 ft and that was with a 2 ft tide. Everywhere else the depths averaged about 15 ft.

The Moon is just extraordinary
The piloting was exhausting, looking at the depth meter, at the chartplotter, at the location of the daymarkers – it was not relaxing. When you came to a shallow part, the routine was to nudge over to one side to see if the depth increased or not, if not, then nudge over to the other side in hopes for a better outcome. If neither strategy worked, then just slowly creep forward and hope for the best.

We made good time today but we’re so exhausted that we’ll take an extra day and stay at the marina to plan for our next few stages. By the way, the marina is first rate. All the docks are floating (not the norm down here) and concrete so they’re very stable. We had a beautiful moonrise, it’s calm and warm, we’ll rest up for tomorrow.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Swansboro, NC – At Anchor

Hoolie's Enjoyment
We had to negotiate the tangled web of traffic lanes by Beaufort. The chartplotter was a godsend. We surely would have made a wrong turn somewhere without it. The magenta line designating the ICW on the chart ends before Beaufort and only starts again after Moorhead City, between the two points, you’re on your own!

Nice Sunset
After Moorhead City, the ICW is arrow straight and is just a ditch dug out of shallows along the inner shore. The saving grace today was the lack of any bridges we had to wait for, they were all 65 ft high so we went right through. Saturday will be another story, we have to negotiate four bridges with two only opening on the top of the hour. If you arrive 5 mins past the hour, you’ll have to wait 55 min for the next opening! It’s neat trick when the ICW typically has current! We saw up to 1.5 kts today, sometimes with us and sometimes against us. Waiting for a bridge to open with 1.5 kts of current behind you would not be fun. However, we put waypoints in for each of the bridges and with the chartplotter, you’ll get an ETA for each waypoint. In theory you can set your speed to arrive just in time for the bridge to open – we’ll see what happens when theory meets reality on Saturday! At any rate, you can’t just plow ahead at 7.3 kts, our usual speed motoring, you have to plan ahead.
Hoolie has a place of enjoyment on shore, a city park although getting us onshore is a bit of a climb over a wooden breakwater – but it’s no challenge for Hoolie, he just bounded up! We had a nice sunset for a change and all's quiet and calm, ready for the excitement of tomorrow!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cedar Creek Anchorage

Shrimp Boats in Cedar Creek
 We had our first encounter with fog down here. It was nothing like Maine fog, not the thick, soupy fog that doesn’t clear until noon but the wispy morning fog that’s gone by 9:00 or so. With the departure of the fog, the day was bright and sunny with little wind, another motoring day.

We are encountering a lot of boat going south now. I think the snowbirds have caught up with us. The ICW is a steady line of boats going south. I must say that they are a well behaved group so far. Everyone that’s passed us (only motor boats, no sailboats have passed us yet) has called us on the VHF asking permission to pass and saying which side they wished to pass on. Plus, they slow down as we do so the passing is quick and the waves minimized.

Moon Rise at Cedar Creek
Cedar Creek is the only anchorage convenient for getting through Beaufort. We reached the anchorage at 1:00 and thought about going further but couldn’t find a good anchorage near Beaufort or on the other side that was within 20 miles so we stopped early. Several of the anchorages in Beaufort are now filled with private moorings! I guess that’s one way to discourage anchoring is to populate it with moorings – not for rent and not with boats on them, just empty moorings. Seems a shame. Hopefully, further on there will be less of that but we’ll see.

Hoolie had a sandy beach tonight so he’s happy and a full moon is rising in the east, pretty! We rolled a bit when we first came in from the ICW traffic but now it’s very calm, nice.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday at the Zeisings – The Bunches Visit

Note the Pilings Lifting the House
In getting ready to continue down the ICW, we had chores to do. Ann had laundry (you never pass up a chance to do laundry!) and I defrosted the freezer and restocked it with our purchases at the grocery store.
This anchorage is not in any ICW guide so I charted it with my depth sounder and found that I could actually go further in and still have 7ft of depth. We watched one couple bring their sailboat in to a dock right on shore, they own a lot here and had a dock built before they built their house. They had obviously done it many times since they were careful to follow a very specific course in. The Zeisings don’t quite have enough water for us, only 4.5 ft where we require 5 ft at a minimum.

The photo is of the typical style house in this area. By zoning, it has to be built 13 ft above the flood plane which is why they’re all on pilings. During hurricanes, Zeisings’ house looks as if it’s in a lake since water rises above the ground under the house. However, as soon as the storm passes, all the water drains back into the creek and all is calm.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday at the Zeisings

New Bern Bear
 It’s still quite warm here with temps in the high 70’s so we decided to take advantage of the good weather for a trip to New Bern, some grocery shopping and a lunch out. Many of the towns in North Carolina have town mascots. Washington, NC has a crab and New Bern adopted a bear. The town raises money for improvements like a new dock area or support for the arts through the sale of the statues and then buyers pay the town for the painting and decorations of the statues. In New Bern the bears were everywhere, decked out in all sorts of outfits, I took a photo of one such bear.

Pepsi Invented Here!
New Bern has one other claim as the original source of Pepsi. It was invented here by a local pharmacist and the name was later change to Pepsi. As a confirmed Pepsi addict, I had to get a picture of the elixir at the source. We had lunch in one of the places the inventor owned at one time. The downtown area has gone through a renovation and we explored the shops. We’ll be here Wednesday and then we plan to continue our cruise.

Monday, October 18, 2010

2nd Day at Anchored at the Zeisings

Speeding to Breakfast - Zeising's House in Background
You can tell we’re not headed south with any sort of haste. We’re just visiting friends on the way south and we’ll make a few more stops further along, we’re in no rush. I swore off schedules when I retired!

The weather here is very pleasant, in the 70’s with full sun so we’re basking in the warm air. Some time in the near future, we’ll start up again, probably on Thursday morning but who knows, plans change.

People around here do a lot of fishing. You’ll see runabouts all over the creek, sitting in the sun (no shade) most of the day with a fishing pole in the water, day after day. It’s not my cup of tea but it’s what a lot of people do along the creeks here. Bill, who we’re visiting, fishes off his dock and has his own sport boat with a 50hp motor that he uses on the water. Pat catches crabs off her dock and her crab cakes are like nothing you ever get in a restaurant because they are practically all crab, no fillers!

Fishing off the Deck
 So we're visiting, eating well, playing bridge, enjoying the weather and having a good time. I do have a problem with my internet connection in that I can’t get it on my boat and have to wait until morning when I can use Bill’s computer to send out my blog. Other than that, it’s hard to think of a better place to be at this time of year, such is our cruise down the ICW.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

At Smith Creek – We Anchor Outside the Zeisings

Just a Great Marnia at Dowry Creek
We only had 18 miles to go so we had a lazy morning and didn’t leave until just before noon. There was no wind so we motored to Smith Creek where the Zeisings had a house within a mile of the ICW. There is an uncharted path to an anchorage way past where most of the boats on the ICW anchor for the night. We had visited the Zeisings before and took soundings on the best path to get close so we are very protected in 7 ft of water.

Bill and Pat Zeising's House on the ICW
 Bill met us with his fishing boat and we had a fast ride into his house. It’s built on two columns so it’s raised enough to be free of the high flood line during a storm. It’s a beautiful house with a great view towards the ICW. The area used to belong to a paper company that harvested the trees but now they’ve sold it for homeowner lots.

We played bridge and reminisced on old times, good fun (for us!) We’ll be here a few days visiting and probably won’t start down the ICW again until Thursday morning if the weather holds.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dowry Creek Marina – A Trip to Kitty Hawk

The Wright Memorial
Don and Liz Bunch were good enough to loan us the use of their car for the day so we could drive to the outer banks where we’ve never been. We took advantage of the opportunity to see Kitty Hawk where Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first powered flight. The national park there is everything that a park should be. It’s in a glorious setting, there’s lots of things to see by walking around, it’s dog friendly and there’s a sculptor that the kids love to play on and pretend to be in the picture when the scene it depicted happened. You don’t mind your tax dollars at work for such sculptors when both adults and kids can enjoy the result.

The Very First Powered Flight! - Right Here!
 Getting to the outer banks, we crossed over the same bridge that opened for us when we came down the ICW on the Alligator River. There were still small craft advisories out and the few boats that passed through the bridge were really bucking up and down in the rough waters. It’s supposed to calm down Sunday and we’re planning on moving to the anchorage outside Zeising’s house.

Sculpter Recreating the First Flight
Tonight we went to the clubhouse for drinks with the rest of the boaters in the marina. This place is more of a yacht club than a marina and I can’t say enough good things about it. They even had a telescope and I got it working for the first time tonight to look at the moon and Jupiter. They were amazed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dowry Creek Marina – A Visit from Don and Liz Bunch

The Clubhouse at Dowry Creek Marina
After our beehive of activity yesterday, we didn’t do much today. We did take advantage of the courtesy car for a trip to Food Lion to reprovision. The big supermarket seems out of place for the small town.
The marina was planning a party for the boaters, beer can chicken so we went up to the clubhouse for happy hour. The clubhouse is very modern with a TV, bar and a swimming pool. There was even a telescope which needed some adjustment which I used tonight to see the moon and Jupiter with its four moons all arrayed on one side.

Finally, a Clean Boat
Don and Liz Bunch, former members of the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club and long time sailing partners, arrived during happy hour and we all went into town for dinner at the Fish Hook restaurant. Don and Liz very generously offered to leave a car at the marina for our use on Saturday for a trip to the outer banks where we’ve never been. We took them up on their offer so Saturday we’ll do some exploring and take lots of pictures. It’s starting to turn cool at night now so we just let the small ceramic heat idle on low to keep the cabin warm, wonder what the temps are up north?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dowry Creek Marina – A Boat Cleaning!

Dawn at Pungo River Anchorage
 We are due to get high winds along with small craft advisories the next two days so we tucked into the Dowry Creek marina to ride out the bad weather along with lots of other boats headed south. It’s a great marina at $1.35/ft with a swimming pool, a clubhouse for transients and very friendly staff. As is the custom down here, the docks are fixed and you have to negotiate the four piers forming the dock. We’re starting to get the hang of it. The trick is to snag the upwind, outer pier so you can prevent the boat from rubbing against the downwind pier. You still need someone on land or on the boat to snag either the upwind forward pier or fend off the forward downwind pier. In the case of this marina, they had dock hands to help at the forward pier and we didn’t rub there at all. Ann was successful in snagging the upwind, aft pier and we made a successful landing, our first!

Dowry Creek Marina
I spent about five hours cleaning the boat, trying successively more aggressive cleaning solvents to get rid of the green slime. Spray 9 seemed to work the best but it still left a residue of faint spots that I wanted to get rid of. Finally, I tried ordinary bleach with did the trick on the last faint stains. Finally the boat is in fairly good shape once again. As I told Sharman in a separate e-mail, it’s not powerboat clean but pretty good nevertheless.

So we’re settled in for the night after lots of thunder and lightening passed by this afternoon followed by the sunset picture in the blog. Friday we’ll use the courtesy car to visit the nearest supermarket for reprovisioning and then watch the high winds we’re supposed to have.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pungo River Anchorage – Slimed at East Lake

We meet Fuzzy Bills!
We awoke to a nightmare of carnage, something called “Fuzzy Bills” had decided that our boat, over a mile from shore, was the perfect place to congregate! There were at least a thousand of them buzzing around and on everything: the enclosure, the aft fuel locker, inside the life buoy, under the zipper between the screen and the plastic window, just everywhere. Wherever they went, they left a “deposit” of green stuff that doesn’t want to come off with just scrubbing. Our lovely boat is a complete mess of green droppings. It took us all day of shooing out to get rid of our unwanted passengers. We’re at anchor tonight but Thursday we’ll go into a marina to clean up this mess, what a pain!

At least we had a nice sunset
Other than that, it was a great day. We were both flustered and in cleaning out the side curtains, we lost the motor cover that Ann had made! The motor is now naked, not proper. On a positive note, the weather continues to be warm and we’ve taken down the enclosure (too hot). We were expecting cooler weather and I’m sure it’ll come soon but it’s not here yet. Tonight, at least, Hoolie has real ground to do his business on at this anchorage. We got a call from the Bunches tonight and will meet them on Friday at our marina for dinner. We still plan to be at the Zeisings on Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

East Lake Anchorage – All Alone

Elizabeth City is the blimp capital of the world - all blimps except Goodyear are made here
We only had about 30 miles to go so we took our time and was the last boat to leave Elizabeth City free docks in the morning. We are still not used to the four piers they call docks here. There is one for each corner of the boat and leaving the dock we at least were able to not knock against the sides of the boat. Coming in was a different story, we’re still learning.

We were told to not follow the magenta line which indicates the ICW on the charts but instead head directly for the entrance to the Alligator River via the green day marker outside the river from Elizabeth City, that route cuts about 5 miles off the trip and it worked fine with a minimum of 10 ft over the bar. Going down the ICW you learn to listen for shoaling reports and the best ones we’ve found are on Active Captain. It’s a website that allows boaters to update conditions they’ve encountered in real time.

Haven't had many sunset pictures
We are out in the boonies! We are the only boat and there are no lights on shore and we’re closer to the outer banks than inland. Taking Hoolie ashore was an adventure. The surrounding land is all marsh, little solid ground. The first stop was rejected by Hoolie! He didn’t like the looks of it. We moved on to grass rooted in about 6 inches of standing water and he made do by staying on top of the grass, he doesn’t like to get his feet wet. When we came back to the boat, the mosquitoes descended! They have formed a living coating over all external surfaces. They were never this bad in Maine. The full enclosure helped some but we eventually had to retreat to the lower level.

It’s perfectly calm now and Wednesday we’re headed for the Pungo River anchorage but we’re heard that the mosquitoes there are fierce too.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Elizabeth City – At the City Docks, Fee Zero

Bridge Just South of Vistor Center - Operator Manned the small shack at left all day
Every boat but us left in time for the 8:30 lock opening. We just wanted to hang out and not be rushed so we left around 9:30 for the 11:00 opening. Along the way we banged into three “somethings”, small floating logs we guessed. We had the canal all to ourselves and as slow as we could go, we still arrived too early at the lock and had to tie up, an awkward experience given the 2 kts of current behind us and the lack of cleats on the facing dock in front of the bridge just before the lock (the bridge and lock open together). First the bow swung out and then the aft and after bouncing back and forth a couple of times, we finally got the boat under control.

Can anybody identify the snake we saw?
Proceeding through the bridge and lock, the canal widened and deepened and we felt comfortable increasing speed above the 5 kts we had been maintaining in the debris laden canal. It’s really quite scenic. We saw many turtles, a great blue heron and a swimming snake among other creatures. The trees were just starting to turn and are due to peak in the next two weeks.

We made our way to the free docks at Elizabeth City and were met by the “Rose Buddies”, a group of civic minded individuals that greet boats at the docks. They helped with the lines and invited us to a 4:00 pm free greeting party at the docks. We were given an overview of all the activities in the city and an offer for a free ride to and from the local supermarket. It was fun to meet all the other boaters at the event. The couple next to us at the dock had been cruising continuously for the past 4.5 years! We are neophytes!

The Rose Buddies - Elizabeth City Greeters
Looks like bad weather coming our way Friday and Saturday so we have to plan our stops carefully tonight, our plans are up in the air for Tuesday.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dismal Swamp at the North Carolina Welcome Center

Typical View at Hampton Roads
“Okay Ann, back her out”, TWANG!, “What’s happening?” I forgot to release the line on the forward cleat!? The boat swings towards the standing pier, RUB/RUB., I finally get enough purchase to release the line and it falls into the water, still attached to the dock cleat. I leap into the dinghy and with one oar, standing in the bow, row back to retrieve the dock line while Ann hovers Fleetwing in the channel. Another adventure begins…

First Lock at Dismal Swamp Canal

Now thoroughly awake after getting up at 5:30, we head out towards the Dismal Swamp Canal. The route takes us through the heart of Navy country at Hampton Roads and lots of busy barge traffic. One time we had five huge ships all headed for us, they were three abreast in the channel, I ducked to the side! We had to wait for a few bridges to open and then took a left turn into the Dismal Swamp canal after the I95 bridge.

The canal is actually a river until you reach the lock when it becomes straight as an arrow. I think we are still ahead of most of the snowbirds and we turned out to be the test boat for changes they made to cope with the 18 inches of rain they had from the last storm. The lockmaster had a cute house complete with a banana tree out front! He advised us that a 10 inch drain pipe had been installed across the bottom of the canal at the Feeder Canal point, which supplies water to the canal required to operate the locks. He and others had asked for the pipe to be buried but it was laid across the bottom instead. He advised us to go through at idle speed. Humm, we thought – how bad can it be? The controlling depth is supposed to be 6 ft and we only require 5 ft, subtract 10 inches and we have 2 inches to spare.

Nice - Lockmaster's House
 So motoring along, I notice many trees along the side of the canal that have fallen in and in passing one in particular, we hit something, tree limbs?, with a terrible scratching, scraping sound – but Fleetwing continues on and clears the obstruction.

Now shocked to alert, we approach the Feeder Canal and we can see the huge pipe as it exits the canal to the left. I put Fleetwing in creep mode and watch the depth meter as it slides down to 5.2 ft as we pass over the pipe. It was 7 to 8 feet on either side of the pipe. I reported both problems at the welcome center and was told it would be given to the lockmaster for corrective action.

Kinda of Narrow - Watch Out for those Tree Limbs!

Everything is peace and quiet now. There are six boats here but only room for three to be tied up at the face pier. So we now have a boat rafted to us. I’m told that sometimes there are as many as 15 boats tied up with rafts all the way across the canal. We’ll take it easy Monday and hopefully not forget to uncleat all our lines!

Peace and Quiet at the NC Welcome Center