15 November, 2014
We got the brass monkey thing going this morning-it’s cold. I don’t mean COLD, but 29 degrees gets their attention here in North Carolina. The Girl pulled out of New Bern at 0800 with some pretty frosty decks. Sun is out, wind 14 out of the North, and the glass is up (1028 mB). All in all, a good day for a drive to Morehead City, NC. Before we move forward, let’s back up a few days to get caught up.
We left Elizabeth City last Sunday under overcast skies, but no wind. The Pasquotank River looked like a bowl of mercury, the only ripples in the surface were ours. Twenty minutes out, the Elizabeth City Coast Guard air base passed by our starboard rail. This is the largest of all Coast Guard air stations, and covers the coast from Newfoundland to Georgia. Shortly thereafter we passed a huge hangar at mile marker 58.2, where blimps (Metlife, Fujifilm, etc.) are built-it was pretty impressive. The Albemarle Sound was uncharacteristically docile as we crossed under windless skies. (This body has a reputation for getting pretty nasty pretty quick, as it is wide and very shallow). Better to be lucky than good. We overtake half dozen sailboats on our way to our anchorage in the mouth of the Alligator River, and after we get the hook down, they all dribble in and anchor around us. Bill is doing boat chores, so Suz and I drop White Star in and run up the river a couple miles to do a recon on the entrance to the Alligator/Pungo river Canal-reputed to be a “trouble area” because of silted in, shallow water. We find plenty of water-no worries for tomorrow morning. Back at the boat, the Admiral is whipping up a “spicy meatloaf” for dinner with Bill and Lisa-he’s excited (meatloaf is his second favorite dinner (to spaghetti)). Our intention is to get up before the sail boaters, as we travel a bit faster, and it’s tough to pass in narrow canals. No dice, 0700 is not early enough, as they’re off the hook by 0645-oh well. An hour and a half later, Suz passes the first of the sailors. Wasn’t too difficult, but would have been easier if they’d have slowed down, instead of speeding up. Two others fall past the rail in the next 20 minutes. Cheesey, hammy, oniony, red peppery scrambled eggs concocted by YT were Suzanne’s’ reward for her nerves of steel pass on the sailors. By mid-afternoon, we’re at R.E. Mayo commercial dock outside of Hobucken, NC. This isn’t a real scenic spot, being under a highway bridge, along a shore which is littered with the debris of decades of commercial activity, but the dock has a shop where we can get fresh, fresh, fresh seafood-and tying up here is $20. When we hop off the boat, we’re careful not to fall through any of the holes in the dock, and give the power receptacles, which were fused into a blackened mass (presumably by high water long ago), a wide berth. The facilities are quaint, there’s a cute pink outhouse for the Admirals, and a blue one for the Captains. The paint jobs are meticulous, and the adornments of fish and things nautical are clever. Down the dock, there’s a solitary shrimper which appears to be very well maintained. Adjacent to it lays a building which appears to function as a processing plant. Inside are the company office and ships store, which has lots of BIG stuff for the commercial boys. We get the rent paid, and score a few pounds of scallops and shrimps. Can’t leave without chattin’ it up with Jan, Joe, and a couple of locals hangin’ out here at the end of the dead end road. It’s Joe’s birthday today, so Jan gives us some of her “Georgia Cornbread”, which contains neither cornmeal nor bread ingredients. It’s more like a brown sugar and molasses cake, which gets pretty crispy on the edges from the addition of some fat. Whatever, it’s good! We get to talkin’ about fishing, licenses and etc.. Seems that the guy that owns the boats (4) here was offered $4.5M for his fishing license, and turned it down-you can only get one if someone dies or sells theirs. (Prices were very similar in Nova Scotia) I guess when you can gross $1M in 3 months of scallopdragging; these licenses should be pretty dear. Scallop dinner, provided by Lisa and Bill, is bittersweet-we’ll be parting company the next day, as we’re heading to Oriental, NC, and they’re hustling down the Intracoastal to make Savannah for family Thanksgiving.
November 11, and the day dawns warm and foggy for our transit of the Pungo, and entrance to the Neuse Rivers to Oriental, NC. We part with “Changing Course” just outside Oriental, and proceed in to the harbor where we drop the hook. There isn’t a whole lot to see in Oriental, but the name sounded exotic, and the Admiral wanted to pull in. On shore, we discover that the “Toucan” grill, which has received a good write up in the cruising guides, is closed on Tuesdays, so I guess we two can’t. Up the road a mile or so is a nautical consignment shop, a labyrinth of shelves and piles of boat doodads housed in a century-old firetrap. I thought of Bill-he loves this stuff too. Next, it was off to the hardware store to get the local news (is there a theme here?). There’s a cute little boutique here as well, so we make our obligatory pass through-some nice stuff for the Admiral here, but we both wonder where these duds would fit in our high-tech, quick-dry world. We pass, and head over to “The Bean” for more chitchat and coffee. The marine supply store, which is pretty well stocked, is our last stop, and is also where we meet Vince, and his buddy Chuck (who is celebrating his birthday today), from the sailing vessel, “Footloose”. Vince is on his 70th transit of the Intracoastal, and regales us with a few tales, and his Sicilian ancestry, which he portrays as a bunch of Mafioso. He tells us that he and Chuck are “looking for bars, rock ‘n roll, and hookers”. I’m pretty sure they’re in the wrong place-gene pool is pretty shallow here. Lots of characters on the ICW.
New Bern, NC is about 20 miles or so off the ICW, but is consistently in the running for “best places to retire”, so we want to check it out. We’re docked at “Galley Stores and Marina” by 1130, with Stan catching our lines and helping us in. The lines are barely secured, and Mark, the owner of the place is giving us the “Chamber of Commerce” rap. He’s pretty proud of his city, and is here to make us feel welcome, and our stay memorable (this is a recurring theme while here-he’s a great host). There are only a few boats here, as it is off-season. Mark tells us that the family on the sailing catamaran a few slips over from us are missionaries on their way to Dominican Republic. They’ve been here in the Fall for the last 6 years on their way from Canada. While we’re having a quick lunch, I see that they’re hooking up a bosun’s chair, and the wife and son (who weigh around 180 pounds between them) are getting ready to haul Dad up the mast. “Do you need an extra hand”? “Uh, okay”. No amount of prayer would’ve allowed them to get him up that mast. While we’re working, I find out that Marty’s a dentist from Ontario, and that the 4 home-schooled kids and his wife, Dawn do relief work in the Dominican Republic every year. After a quick tutorial on the Ford truck that won’t go into “Park”, won’t start, except in “Neutral, and can’t be left on a hill, Mark throws me the keys, and we’re off to get the Admiral’s haircut, and provision the galley. The next day, Mark has brought his extension ladder from home, so that I can get up our mast to replace our “windicator” (weather station), which came in the mail here after Airmar repaired it free of charge-yeah! Over the next few days, we find that New Bern really lives up to its’ reputation. We visit the Historical Center, Tryon Palace (colonial governor’s residence when N.B. was the capital), several historic homes, and, of course, the tourist trolley. Dinner one night at “Persimmon’s” (at the marina, and purportedly the best eats in town), lunch at Morgan’s (upscale tavern food), and Trent River Coffee Company (to replenish our bean supply) rounded out the culinary program. New Bern has one of the best hardware stores ever (established in the late 1800’s), so we stop for a few knicks and knacks before taking part in the “Art Walk”, stringing together the local galleries. Through the day, the temperature fell, and the wind rose, with predictions for sub-freezing temperatures during the night. Friday night’s wine tasting at the marina store (much more than a typical marina store-over 1,000 wines, many cheeses and specialty foods) capped our wonderful 3 day stay in New Bern. We left with an invitation from Chuck and Dianne (who we met at the tasting) to stay at their house (complete with dock) during our return next Spring. That’s just how the New Bern(ians?) are-remind me of the folks in the Maritimes.
1217, and Suz has headed up the Adams Creek canal for our stay in Morehead City/Beaufort. I need to get off the laptop and help out.