Tuesday, November 19, 2013


From the Captain

Back to the Magenta Line

10/28/13 River Dunes Marina to Beaufort, N.C. 26.7nm

After 10 days of wandering the outer banks, we are back with the program. We joined the ICW again in the middle of the Neuse River an hour or so after leaving Broad Creek. The chart took us to Adams Creek, widened at the far end to a canal that ended near Beaufort. Our plan was to reach Morehead City, where we had made marina reservations. On the way, we got an email that our friends, Craig and Nancy on Mighty Fine, were anchored on Taylor's Creek at the Beaufort waterfront and liked it so much they were spending a second night.

The guidebook tells of current changes on Taylor's Creek and recommends using two anchors. I noticed most of anchored boats had just one. The current follows the ebb and flow pattern that has

The waterfront of Beaufort from Taylor's Creek anchorage

formed our days since the Hudson River. During the flood, the incoming current turns Luna one way. The effect builds for three hours then subsides to the slack current. Then, the direction switches and follows the same 6 hour cycle. Luna turns 180 degrees. The affect is altered by whatever wind blows into the mix. The water is otherwise calm, and there is very little wind. We set just one anchor.

We dinghied ashore and walked around the waterfront. These little towns are similar in many respects. Their reason for existence was as shipping ports, and when bigger ones displaced them, they turned to fishing. Now the seafood packing industry is in decline or perhaps consolidated elsewhere. Since the 1970's, Beaufort and others have been boating towns. There is a cute shopping district by the water front. Houses in the old section are well preserved, many proudly displaying their year of construction, generally in the mid or early nineteenth century. The rest of the town happens elsewhere.

We stopped in a waterfront store and asked where the hardware store and grocery were. "About a mile and a half from here. On Live Oak St. There is a lot of traffic. Not a great walk." We visited the North Carolina Maritime Museum instead. We highly recommend this well-displayed museum. There is a fascinating exhibit of the history of the coastal rescue corps. As in Ocracoke, Blackbeard figures prominently here. His flagship, Queen Anne's Revenge, sank in the Atlantic off the Beaufort Inlet, and just today, we are told, they have raised another cannon from the site. There are many artifacts from the ship in the museum's collection already.

Craig is a bit of a techno-geek, and they invite us over at night to watch the World Series on their flatscreen TV. He can get two different Fox channels locally and has a satellite dish if that fails. The commander bakes a pan of brownies to bring to the party.

Being back on the magenta line lends a subtle shift to the vibe of the trip. The line comes from somewhere and goes somewhere. It's linear. There is an origin and an end.To decide to stop creates a vague sense of dissonance in the well-developed and stubborn part of my inner self that is goal directed and values the successful completion of a task almost above all else. On the other hand, Beaufort seems like a pleasant place to be. We take a (small) breath and decide to stay another day.

10/29/13. Beaufort, N.C.

Today started with no coffee. The burner on the stove lit and promptly died. The propane tank is empty. I called the public marina, and they directed me to a source of propane on Live Oak St., about a half mile away. I unscrewed the tank, carried it ashore, and started walking. The place where he directed me, a dealer of propane stoves and heaters, could fill it, but not until 4pm. They suggested another place, "two long blocks away."

The propane tank weighs 15 pounds and another 10 pounds once filled with propane. But I started walking and found the place--right near the hardware store we asked about yesterday. It wasn't such a bad walk, but I was having misgivings as I hoisted the 25 pounds onto my shoulder and started walking back.

Luckily, a driver hailed me as I was walking on the sidewalk: "Would you like a ride? I know just what you're doing," he said, "and I know exactly where you're going." He is a sailor and is getting his catamaran ready to sail back to the Bahamas for the winter. He's done this trip to and from the propane dealer many times before.

I'm Tennessee Williams' Blanche Dubois, once again depending on the kindness of strangers. Fortunately, among the boating community. kindness seems to abound.

Boardwalk into Carrot Island, the Rachel Carson Reserve

Taylor's Creek is a narrow passage. To the north is Beaufort. To the south, very close to where we are anchored, is Carrot Island, home of the Rachel Carson Reserve. dedicated to studying and preserving the health of the coastal wetlands. It is named for the marine biologist and environmental writer, who did studies here in the late 1940's. Eventually, Carson's book, Silent Spring, led to the banning of DDT and regulation of other pesticides and to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency. I am warmed by the fact that North Carolina would choose to memorialize her in this way.

We motored the dinghy up to the eastern end where there is a boardwalk into the center of the island. We pulled the dinghy up onto the sandy beach that rings the island. We learned that North Carolina has nearly 3 million acres of estuaries, more than any other state in the eastern U.S. Estuaries are tidal marshes that purify the streams running into them and serve as breeding grounds for marine wildlife and habitat for birds. Carrot Island is also the home of a herd of wild horses, whose ancestors were left on the island to graze by a local resident in the 1950's.

We walked onto the boardwalk and could see a few horses on the other side of the island. But later we could take the dinghy inland via a stream deep enough at high tide to allow us to motor up. This provided a very quiet and secluded view of horses, great egrets (cousins of great blue herons), marsh grasses and tidal pools.

We spent the rest of the afternoon back in town. We revisited the maritime museum. Out of the waterfront section, we found a natural foods market (Coastal Community Market), whose proprietress once had a time share in Stowe. We arrived just at closing and missed seeing the historic cemetery where soldiers from the American Revolution, War of 1812 and Civil War, families, free men, and slaves share a lovely, old shaded spot where large trees grow and paths wind among the old tombstones. We had sunset margaritas at a bar down by the docks, historically named, Queen Anne's Revenge.

10/30/13 Beaufort to Swansboro, N.C. Anchor outside Buoy 45B off the ICW.25.2 nm

In the commander's estimation, today was the nicest day yet. The weather was sunny and pleasantly warm. Luna blurbled along under diesel power. The waterway here is a narrow channel down a series of estuaries. Interesting and not overly large houses line the right bank as we go along. Small islands with inviting sandy beaches and low vegetation separated by small channels line the other. Each house has a pier at water's edge, and each pier, it seems, has a lift for a boat. Today, it seems, everyone is on the water, and the main activity is fishing.

There are a lot of outboard powered skiffs, some with couples out for the day, others with young men fishing with nets. There are no fancy bass boats as in the northern Chesapeake Bay. People aren't fishing for trophies here. Everyone waves as they go by. A man not too far off the channel is standing knee deep in the water raking the bottom for clams.

We see several groups of dolphins as we go. Like a familiar neighbor of unfailingly good cheer, they always make us smile.

We find the anchorage next to a small island. Beyond the island another sailboat is anchored. It is a more private spot, quieter and off the main channel. We enter the passage north of the island, but the depth finder starts to indicate shallow water, eventually getting down to a foot under the keel. Wisely, the commander backs up. Later, the owner of the sailboat comes up in his dinghy. He tells us we could get into the channel for sure by going closer to the island. He is a fisherman, and today he has oysters to sell. Unfortunately, we have no way to open them on Luna, so we decline. We also decide to remain anchored where we sit.

We hear explosions in the distance, like fireworks on the Fourth of July, without the aerial display. Ah-WHOOMP, Ah-WHOOMP. We are just a few miles downstream from Camp Lejeune, the large Marine Corps base. They are taking artillery practice.

Later, another friendly boater comes by. He introduces himself as Dave, dock master for Swansboro, and offers us a place to tie up in town ("one of the local restaurants, if you just buy a beer or two.") Or, he will come by later and ferry us in and back if we would like. The commander is making a pizza from a portobello mushroom and asiago cheese we bought at the market in Beaufort. We have some red pepper and left over grilled chicken to go with. We decline the gracious offer.

Dolphins surfacing near Luna

The sun starts to go down. Ah-WHOOMP is heard in the distance. The locals call the sound of freedom. Somewhere nearby a pod of dolphins surfaces Their graceful arches, apparently unphased by the distant explosions, lead one to wonder exactly what freedom does sound like.

10/31/13 Swansboro to Sloop Point Anchorage, Hampstead, N.C. 32.4 nm

Ah-WHOOMP. Apparently the boys on the base are up early to take their best shots. The magenta

line goes right through part of Camp Lejeune. When there is artillery practice, the line of fire goes across the channel, and the ICW is closed for an hour or two at a time. It may be closed for 2-4 days if there is training for amphibious landings on the beaches. Today, we hear the waterway will be closed until 10 am.

Warning at Camp Lejeune

With all the fishing activity, we figured this would be a great place to look for fresh seafood while waiting the the waterway to open. A google search led us to Clyde Phillips Seafood Market right in town. I called and asked if we could get there by boat, and he invited us to tie up to their dock.

On the salty dock at Phillips Seafood

We made our way carefully down the channel and found the dock, tilted in places, missing a board here and there, crooked, and mooring a couple fishing boats in about the same state. The dock wove its way to a packing shed, and we walked through this to the storefront. The whole affair is best described as salty.

Salty is not just a polite way of saying dilapidated. Salty is to dilapidated as Vermont is to recycling. Back in Vermont, and maybe back in time, you used something up, then you fixed it, cobbling it back together as best you could. The constant drive to build or buy something new and bigger is a relatively new phenomenon. Otherwise, you used your ingenuity and whatever you had on hand to put it back together and make it work. The process got easier once duct tape was invented. Once it couldn't be patched up or fixed any more, you left it out on the lawn to use for parts and eventually to become one with the landscape.

Phillips' market may be merging with the landscape, but the seafood was top notch. We bought some

Clam sauce with fresh clams for dinner

fresh shrimp and a dozen clams that we would have for dinner later.

By the time we got to Camp Lejeune, the firing had stopped ,and we passed through without interference. The landscape is empty by the marine base, and more open. The low vegetation back from the banks revealed splashes of pale sages popping through drabber greens and olives of various shades, and brown. It could be a landscape painting perfectly rendered by the guy who does the camouflage clothes for hunters and jungle soldiers.

We passed two swing bridges on the way down, having to wait both times for scheduled openings. Several large cruisers passed us, their skippers slowing down to dampen their wakes. The wakes from small motorboats do not bother Luna when they pass her. When larger boats pass, there is a protocol to follow. As the slower boat, we put the engine to idle, and the passing boat likewise slows down so as not to throw us off course with a large wake. Once past, the faster boat speeds up.

The marine base marked a change in the feeling of the waterway as well. No longer are there interesting houses and people with boats. The surroundings seem emptier. As we motored and sailed

further south (a fairly strong wind off our port bow allowed us to fly the jib, partially furled so we could see the starboard side markers), the waterway coursed inside the beach communities, so more there were more and larger houses in the distance. But it did not have the intimate and friendly feeling of yesterday.

Flight training over Camp Lejeune

11/1/13 Hampstead to Atlantic Beach. 28.4 nm

Today was a disagreeable day: motoring into 25 knot winds right in the nose, two drawbridges to pass. Cloudy. And noteworthy as the day we got to meet TowboatUS for the first time.

TowboatUS is an arm of BoatUS of which we and nearly all pleasure boaters are members. It's an insurance company and an advocacy group that promotes safe boating. It is a Berkshire Hathaway company.

I have read that there are two kinds of sailors on the ICW: those who have gone aground and those who haven't gone aground yet. For a very reasonable fee, TowboatUS sells an insurance policy that covers all the cost of towing your boat, should you need it. Before we left, we bought the gold package, which gives us unlimited towing. There are tow boats all along the ICW should you need one

We didn't run aground. We came up to the second drawbridge at Wrightsville Beach. The bridge tender informed us there was a problem with the mechanism and he wouldn't be able to open until the next scheduled opening, more than an hour away. So, we dropped the anchor in the swift current.

For some reason, he got the problem resolved, and started to open the bridge after about 20 minutes. We hurried to raise the anchor. And in moving the boat around to do so, backed over the dinghy line and fouled the propeller. At that point, the anchor went back down. We weren't going anywhere.

This has never happened before. Our dinghy lines are made of polypropylene, which floats. It must have been the current or the wind that managed to pull the dinghy around and the suction of the propeller drew in the line.

We sent over a safety line and a float, and I put on a bathing suit and went over the side, but was unable to fix the problem in the rushing current. Hence the call to TowboatUS.

Tom was there with his towboat after about twenty minutes. He knows a diver who could go down and cut the line from the propeller shaft. He tied his boat to Luna and drove us through the drawbridge and to a marina on the other side. We filled the water and diesel tanks.

A man came down with goggles and wet suit. In less than a minute, he came up with the segment of yellow line in hand. Luckily, no damage done. No charge for the tow. Not much for the diving.The captain's ego is bruised, however. The commander, as ever, is more philosophical, but resolves to be quicker to call TowboatUS next time. Correctly, she does not want me in the water and under the boat when there are swift currents.

The adventure set us back a couple hours, and our destination, Atlantic Beach State Park marina, was still 10 miles away. The tide was coming in. As you approach an inlet on the incoming tide, the current is against you. Luna slows to about 4 kts. It looks like we might not make the marina before closing. As you pass the inlet, however, the current is with you and Luna speeds up to about 7kts. Looks like we'll have plenty of time. There are at least two inlets between Wrightsville and Atlantic Beach. Gradually, it appears we will arrive on schedule.

Once safely through the narrow channel to the marina and tied in a slip, we gathered up our things for a three day stay on land. My brother, Barney, is picking us up and we're staying with him at his beach house there. A little break from the sailing life. Time to resupply. Get our mail which we have had forwarded to him along with some more water jugs sent from Amazon.com to his house. And some warmer fleece pants from LL Bean to the commander.Get in some nice family time and, weather permitting, even some beach time.

Sunrise at Beaufort
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