We continue South, exploring small towns and stopping at Beaufort, NC for supplies. We then get smacked during our outside passage to Masonboro Inlet.
October 28 – November 3
Saturday morning in Belhaven was warm and sunny. Departure time was a respectable 0930h. We had wind, so sails went up, beam reach, and we had a nice cruising speed of 4.5 to 5.5 knots with no heel. We were heading for Oriental, but would break the trip in two and anchor overnight. We bottomed out briefly around green markers 5 and 7 while I was at the helm, and tried to warn the sailboat behind us on VHF. However, there was no response and we watched him come to a complete halt on AIS. It was an easy day and we anchored well before dark in Goose Creek just off the Pamilco River. We heard some gunshots upon our arrival (duck hunting), but none after. We enjoyed playing Euchre and Azul on Vitae, then Shane and I had a lovely row back to Foggy, under a full moon. (We hadn’t figured out the problem with our Honda outboard motor yet.)
We left this anchorage on Sunday morning at 830h and headed for Oriental, NC. (I was able to haul the anchor myself and our inboard engine started the first try; we were happy.). We motored all day, and I spent most of it down below cleaning and oiling the teak. I did pop up once or twice and caught a glimpse of an otter! We anchored in Oriental and had a look around. It was a cute small town, with a well stocked marine store. Dave and Regina weren’t happy with the anchorage so moved on to Cedar Creek; we stayed the night. Our radio developed a buzz on channel 16 and we spent time triple checking all of our wiring looking for the culprit. Other channels were working fine. Later we found out someone had an “open mic”, they were continually transmitting on 16 causing this issue for everyone. Woops!
We joined Vitae again at Cedar / Cullie Creek Monday night, with dreams of a fresh shrimp dinner. We managed to sail for an hour en-route, a win we were beginning to realize on the ICW. Dave and Regina had visited a nearby fisherman to see if they could get fresh shrimp. Alas – no luck; the shrimp boats hadn’t gone out due to weather. We still had a great night together with dinner and board games.
There were some high winds forecasted in the coming days, and we had supplies being shipped to us in Beaufort, NC. Given this, we decided it was time for a marina stay. We said see’ya later to Vitae on Tuesday, a rainy overcast day and motored for three hours to Beaufort’s Town Creek Marina.
As soon as we were securely tied to the dock and checked in, Shane and I walked the 20 minutes into town. We strolled along the waterfront, window shopped and spotted some of the wild horses on the Rachel Carson Reserve. We grabbed a bite to eat. Beaufort was in full-swing for Halloween, decked out in decorations that rivalled any movie set. I think this was the first year I didn’t dress up for Halloween; but, we did partake in a spooky self-guided tour of the Old Burying Ground, where we saw an impressive group of teens representing the full cast of characters from Harry Potter. On a more sobering note, many of the graves were those of infants and children and the dates on grave stones of adults clearly demonstrated a very different life expectancy than what we enjoy now with vaccines and antibiotics. We ended our night’s Halloween festivities at the Backstreet Pub, which we stumbled upon, and were thrilled to meet some wonderful locals and fellow sailors. In fact, it was in talking with our new found mates Dave and Joann of Rising Sun and Richard and Jen of Dude, we were encouraged to part ways from the ICW to do some outside ocean passages. It was a great day and night. The next morning, Shane joked that the Backstreet Pub only appears on Halloween…I think he’s right. 😉
The rest of our time in Beaufort was spent provisioning, cleaning, pumping out, laundry, filling our fuel and propane tanks…the usual. Shane also changed the transmission oil and cleaned the bilge. We opened our Amazon packages like kids on Christmas morning – new water cans and chain hooks were among our favourite new possessions. Town Creek Marina, was an absolute treat for us; we felt very pampered.
We left Beaufort, NC mid-day on Thursday, having decided to do an offshore passage. Before we left, one of the marina guys warned us to avoid the Beaufort to Moorehead areas during June. June is the month of the Blue Merlin fishing derby, the biggest derby of the year. Should we be in the area in June, we can expect large wakes from fishing boats racing to their fishing spots and little to no room at marinas and anchorages. Thanks, and noted!
Our overnight passage started out fairly well. We jokingly whistled for dolphins, and chuckled when some coincidently appeared a few feet away. We had good sailing weather at first, and when night came, there was little nighttime traffic to monitor on AIS and radar. Shane was “micro-dosing” Gravol prophylactically and was holding up. We had a gorgeous night sky, boasting the Milky Way. The moon was waning, but still bright enough for our mast to cast a shadow on our genoa. Even with full foulies on and the full cockpit enclosure zipped up, it was chilly. I put my ear buds in and danced a bit to stay warm. The wind was from the North and we noticed it was picking up to 20+ knots, so we reefed early before Shane went down below for a snooze. Shane took over from me around 1h for his 5 hour watch, at which time we realized we had plotted a route through an area marked as a military danger area (Camp Legume). Not knowing what to do, we veered off course to avoid it. With that settled, I went down below and slept soundly until about 6h, when Foggy got hit by a large wave and I was thrown from the settee into the table. (I was absolutely fine, but definitely awake!). The last few hours of our sail were gnarly. We only had sustained winds of about 15-18 knots, but we had large waves and swell that we estimate were probably about 2-3 m with an uncomfortable interval. To avoid entering an unfamiliar inlet in the dark, Shane had heaved-to to wait for the sun to rise. Unfortunately, we were pointed in the wrong direction at daylight, and we had difficultly tacking back to the inlet. We would try to tack, then would be pushed in the wrong direction by the waves…and…of course our inboard wouldn’t start. We finally got turned around by back-filling the small amount of genoa we had out.
We anchored a bit bedraggled, and although the anchorage was beautiful (sand, grass, egrets, seagulls, pelicans, etc.), the anchor didn’t feel like it had set properly. Sure enough, our anchor alarm went off as we were decompressing from our sail over hot chocolate before hitting the sack. We reanchored twice, but still dragged. It was the first time we dragged anchor with our Mantus, but we had opposing wind and current, hadn’t yet replaced all our rode with chain and I suspect had questionable holding. So, we pulled up the anchor and travelled down the ICW 20 NM and anchored at Tina’s Pocket on Cape Fear River. Here, we had excellent holding and some protection. We slept half the day, and lounged for the rest of the day, without any plans in place for the next day.
FUN FACT: Blackbeard, born Edward Taches, called Beaufort his home. His old property is now privately owned (so no tours allowed), but is located on Hammock Lane and is known as Hammock House.