23 October, 2016
After three days in Deltaville, VA, our heads were about to burst. The first day’s seminar was presented by ABT, the designer and manufacturer of our boats’ hydraulic system. You probably remember that we built an “all hydraulic” boat (bow thruster, anchor windlass, and stabilizers), as we didn’t think that electrical motors and saltwater were a good mix. But……. that’s a debate for another day. The seminar was a slimmed-down version of one that we flew to California for several years ago, but it was a great refresher for our ever diminishing memory banks. Days two and three covered all things trawler-from electrical troubleshooting, engine room 101, bottom paints, weather, anchoring, and an olio of tips ‘n tricks, all presented by Steve D’Antonio, a nationally renowned authority.
At first light on the 17th, we felt like we were finally on our way. This time, we were headed in the right direction (south). We made the 17h00 opening at Great Bridge, and wedged in to the gas dock at our old haunt, Atlantic Boat Yard, as there was “no room at the inn”. The bridge had been damaged by Hurricane Matthew, and had just recently opened, leaving a clot of boats stranded above it. Coupled with the gang headed south after the Snowbird Rendezvous in Hampton Roads, the closure created quite a traffic jam. I think that The Girl was a little worried that we were going to leave her at AYB for another three months, so when we toodled off the dock at 05h00, I’m sure she was relieved. Running down the ICW, which was strewn with storm trash was a trip, but the full moon helped the Admiral as she kept watch on the bow in the 58-degree morning chill. A few thumps and bumps were the only indignities that we suffered. By the time the sun came up, we were at the start of the twisty-turnies, and the turnpike bridge behind us was closed for the rush hour. Bonus! That effectively made us the only boat on the ICW for just about the whole day (we only saw three other boats and a barge). Running past Coinjock marina in Virginia, we impulsively made a left turn, heading out to Roanoke Island, in the Pamlico Sound, rather than to our intended anchorage at Deep Point. We had planned to visit last May, when weather stopped us at Okracoke Island. Over the VHF, Mr. Carl Jordan, the dockmaster at Manteo, guided us to the harbor through the shoaled-in channel (the Admiral had already pulled up a video on You Tube demonstrating the proper course in). Safely secured, we were greeted by our old pals, Steve and Julia, from “Erben Renewal” (see Bahamas & Nova Scotia). “Lost Colony Brewery” across the street from the marina, gave us the perfect venue for reconnecting with our good friends. Next day, we hauled our trusty, rusty bikes down from the boat deck for some exploration. Our departure was delayed. Even though the machines had been in their bag for the past months, their chains were frozen solid with rust. Armed with oil and a couple pairs of vice grips, each individual link was resurrected to flexibility. Riding the paved bike trail out to the north end of the island knocked some rust off our joints as well. On the way home, we stopped at the National Park on the site of the “Lost Colony”, whose 117 settlers disappeared without a trace in between 1585-1590, while awaiting the arrival of reinforcements and supplies from England. To this day, their fate remains a mystery. After stops at the Verizon store, post office, and Piggly Wiggly (groceries), we tossed the bikes back up to their perch, vowing to keep their goodies oiled in the future. Mark and Mary, aboard “The Good Life”, had just returned from visiting some local relatives, so the 6 of us convened on “Alizann” for some cocktails and conversation. Even though Steve, Julia, Mark and Mary had been at our Rendezvous, we really hadn’t had a free minute to get with them, so it was nice to have some one-on-one.
At 0700 on the 20th, we were off the dock at Manteo, headed for Ocracoke, with “Erben Renewal” and “The Good Life” in hot pursuit. Pamlico Sound was placid, and we had a beautiful, sunny day for the eight-hour cruise. At Ocracoke, we tied up at the National Park Service dock (around $16/night), and headed out to “Smacnally’s” for a brew. What? Closed. The kid at the golf cart rental next door said that they had a power outage that morning, so probably decided not to open. Not to worry. Down the road to “Jolly Roger.” Closed. Next. “Ocracoke Bar and Grill.” Closed. Okay, what was the name of the place that we ate at in the Spring (when we had bikes under us)? “Ocracoke Oyster Company”. By now, the 200-yard walk had become a mile-and-a-half mission. Success! A couple dozen raw oysters, a few baskets of steamed shrimp, and (whose countin’ anyway) Carolina Blonde lagers assuaged our disappointment, sated our appetites, and quenched our thirst. Oh, Man! Forgot we told S & J that we were headed out for a brew. Fortunately, we caught them in time to suggest bikes, and a good time was had by all.
So……you’re probably wondering why we’re dinkin’ around in the Pamlico when we should be heading South (STAT). The weather offshore had been dogmeat, and was going to be, for the next few days. Better to spend time with our buds on these beautiful islands than sit in the marina at Morehead City waiting for a weather window. On the 21st, it looked like the weather would be favorable for an offshore run on or about the 23rd. Given that we were having our mail sent to the Morehead City Yacht Basin, we said goodbye to our friends, and headed to Morehead City. There, we pre-cooked some meals, cleaned up and battened down the Girl, making preparations for a 2-day offshore south. It wasn’t all work and no play. We caught up with some other Krogen friends who were berthed there, and watched my Wolverines dismantle Illinois on the Big Ten Network.
I haven’t really said much about the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Up north, where we had travelled thus far, the damage was limited mainly to the effects of high water, with only moderate wind damage. As we passed down the ICW, the water was still very high, and the channel was strewn with floating debris. Reports were filtering in from South Carolina and Georgia, relating the news that whole marinas had been destroyed, and that the ICW (always dicey in many spots through here) had new shoals and hazards, with many buoys off-station. These reports reinforced our preference for biting off big chunks for our travels south.
The morning of the 23rd dawned clear, with the temperature at forty-eight degrees, wind at 19 knots out of the northwest, and the barometer high (1029mb). Since the forecast had been consistent for the previous 3 days, and the conditions were as predicted, our plan was a “go.” Planning landfall at the mouth of the St. John’s River in around 50 hours’ time, we had possible bailout ports at Bald head Island, Charleston, Beaufort, SC, and Fernandina Beach on the table. At the sea buoy off Beaufort Inlet (Morehead City), we were surprised to see “Ida Rose”, “Bulldog Sally”, and Klassy Kadey, 3 other Krogens, on our AIS, following us out. There was a bit of a beam sea, but we expected that to subside in around 3 hours or so, so we fired up the satellite dish, and settled in for a day with the NFL.