July 17 to 23rd

July 17, 2011 Norfolk/Portsmouth, VA to Coinjock, NC

We set the alarm to get up in time to leave at 8:00, but we both woke up before the alarm went off. We pulled away from the dock a little early at 7:45 to make sure we would make the bridge opening at 8:30. Going under our first RR bridge, we came face-to-face with a ship going the other way. He wins! We waited until he came through.

From there, we motored the 5 miles to make our first bridge opening, but…..foiled again! The RR bridge in front of it, which is normally open, was closed for a train. We waited….and waited….for over 30 minutes for the train to arrive and slowly….ever so slowly, it made its way closer and closer to the bridge–then stopped right before it got there! The RR workers got off and poked around the train for 15 minutes before it started to move again. The RR bridge finally re-opened at 9:15, but the bridge tender would not open the street bridge for us. She said there was 15.5′ of clearance enough for us to pass under. When we got up close enough to check the fender boards, we found that they showed a clearance of 16′. We discovered that we could have gone UNDER the street bridge this whole time. With 16′ of bridge clearance (we need 14′ with the antennas down), it was a tight squeeze, but we made it. We hurried over to the Top Rack Marina on the other side of the bridge to fuel up and still make the next Steel Bridge opening at 10:00. We finished fueling and made the bridge opening just in time. From there we had less than 3 miles to go to get to the Great Bridge Lock with an opening for southbound travelers at 10:25. Once we left the Top Rack Marina, it would be all new territory for us. We had come to Norfolk via the Dismal Swamp Route from Elizabeth City, NC and would go back via the “Virginia Cut” for a change of scenery and because it puts us closer to the Outer Banks which we want to explore. The Lockmaster loaded us into the lock with another boat at 10:25, but the corresponding bridge on the other side would not open until 11:00, so we just hung out in the lock while he lowered us 1 ft. and then stayed tied up there until 11:00.

I donned my life jacket (it’s a rule) and Auggie and I got off the boat to walk around. I didn’t spend a lot of time on shore because all Auggie wanted to do was eat the goose “candy” (droppings). It was very pretty there, with many crepe myrtle trees of pink, rose, and purple colors in bloom.

We traveled down the North Landing River (VA Cut) for another 5 miles to Centerville and waited for the Turnpike Swing Bridge to open. It went up really fast.

After that, we motored over another 10 miles of winding river, through 2 more bridges, and on to Pungo Ferry. (Where DO they come up with these names?) The river here reminded me a lot of the Dismal Swamp–lined with cypress trees and stumps, only wider. Since it was Sunday, we encountered a lot more recreational boat traffic along the way. The cypress trees disappeared and gave way to swamp grass and a wider river. Good thing, too, because we had to pass a tug pushing a barge loaded with landing craft.

As we reached Pungo Ferry, there was a group of boaters hanging out at the beach enjoying their Sunday afternoon. A jet skier came up behind us, and jumped over our wake a couple of times for a thrill.

At 1:00 we crossed over the border from VA to NC. The river really got wider as we entered Currituck Sound and slowly motored the last 15 miles to Coinjock—a blip on the NC Cut. It had been nice (85), but humid while we were in the river. Once we got into Currituck Sound, there was a nice breeze blowing to cool things off a little. We had some small waves and whitecaps on the surface of the water. The sky was blue with little puffs of clouds scattered overhead. Once we got into Coinjock Bay, the water calmed off considerably and it was an easy ride into Coinjock, arriving at 2:40. JW, the dockmaster, helped us tie up and we settled in at the dock for the night after a run of 48.9 miles today. Coinjock was named by the Indians for the berries in the area.

Four other boats pulled in after us. A 58′ Hatteras Sportfish pulled in and the delivery captain told us they were delivering the boat to Miami on Thursday. Thursday in Miami? We couldn’t believe it! That includes stopping to have an anchor installed too. They would be running offshore in the ocean from Beaufort, NC to St. Augustine, FL. Amazing! That’s almost 400 miles a day! We watched the Women’s World Cup Soccer game on TV and then went to dinner at the Coinjock Restaurant. We treated ourselves to prime rib and mashed sweet potatoes. Yum!

After dinner, we took Auggie for a walk and checked out the other boats at the dock. We also checked on the weather for tomorrow and the tropical depression #2 that is forming off the coast of FL. Things look pretty good so far. We watched a little cable TV and got caught up on the news. It turned out to be calm, peaceful night.

July 18, 2011 Coinjock to Manteo, NC

We had a leisurely morning and were in no big hurry to leave. We did our thing and got to talking with a boater from MI, who was headed to Chesapeake Bay. We sold him our chart book since we would not need it anymore and he was happy to get it with all my notes in it.

We finally pulled away from the dock at 8:45, heading to Manteo on Roanoke Island in the Outer Banks of NC. I was a pretty day–blue cloudless sky, light breeze, and temperature at 80. We traveled south on the North River to Albemarle Sound–a shallow, but large body of water that can get pretty nasty in even a little breeze, but today it wasn’t bad. We had 1′ waves in the beginning of our 11.5 mile crossing of Albemarle Sound, but soon the water turned glassy and calm.

We passed north over Roanoke Island to Roanoke Sound between the island and the Outer Bank island of Bodie. From there, we entered Shallowbag Bay and Manteo’s harbor. From a distance, we could see a huge sand dune on Bodie Island.

The dunes are part of Jockey Ridge State Park and can be 110-400 feet high. Many visitors come to hang glide from them. When we passed by, we could see at least 3 hang gliders standing on the top of the dune, ready to take flight. We could also see the Wright Brothers Monument from a distance. I read that on top of the 90 foot dune known as Big Kill Devil Hill is a 60 foot granite monument. It is on the site of the world’s first powered, sustained and controlled flight. Orville and Wilbur Wright traveled to the Outer Banks for their flight experiments because of the wind, slopes without trees and sandy soil for soft landings. The first flight lasted 12 seconds and carried Orville 120 feet. The last longest flight lasted 59 seconds and carried Wilbur 852 feet. (My picture isn’t that good.)

We waited for our slip assignment and then entered the Manteo Waterfront Marina. George was there to help us tie up and we were all settled in by 1:00.

We hung out for awhile and then took Auggie for a walk into town.

Manteo is near the site where, over four hundred years ago, the First English colony was born on American soil–then mysteriously disappeared. Over 100 years ago the Town of Manteo was incorporated and named in honor of an Indian Chief who befriended that “lost colony”.

He got tired and hot so I took him back to the boat and Bob and I walked around the area by ourselves. Our first stop was the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse.

From there we walked over to the Maritime Museum, up and down the streets checking out the shops, restaurants, and over to the marina.

We spotted the Elizabeth II, a 16th century sailing ship across the marina. It’s a representation of the merchant ship that Sir Walter Raleigh used to establish England’s first New World colony at Roanoke Island. The settlement took place 20 years before Jamestown was established. It was established between 1585-1587.

Bob and I returned to the boat to have cocktails before dinner and spend some time with Auggie. We checked on the weather. We were especially interested in tropical storm, Brett, and where it was going. It doesn’t look like we will get much of anything, but a little wind. We hope to be inland by the time “he” arrives. Auggie and I sat out back in the boat and watched people go by. We took a walk down the waterfront and into town past the Tranquil Inn, a very quaint local hotel.

Back at the boat, we watched a little TV and called it a day. Tomorrow we’ll take a bike ride and explore the area. I want to check out the shops as well. Our trip today took us a total of 82.1 miles.

July 19, 2011 Manteo, NC (day 2)

We enjoyed “sleeping in” knowing we had nowhere to go. Bob made us eggs for breakfast. What a treat! We spent about 4 hours planning our trip for the next 5 days. We have to consider the winds from Tropical Storm Brett which are starting to affect the area and the heat….temps inland are in the upper 90’s, but are in the lower 90’s near the shore. Tack on the humidity and the heat index really rises. We need to have AC in those kinds of temps. We made our tentative plans for the next 3 days and then we’ll re-evaluate. After lunch, we took a bike ride along Wingina Avenue north to Roanoke Gardens on Mother Vineyard Road. The neighborhood is known as Mother Vineyard. In this neighborhood grows the largest scuppernong grapevine on the island which dates back to the 1500s.

We did the loop through the neighborhood which took us past the shore with views of Roanoke Sound, Nags Head, and Jockey’s Ridge. The route took us back to the bike path and back along the main highway. We were gone an hour or two and then we went back to the boat to cool off. Bob took me shopping for my anniversary gift and then went back to walk Auggie. I took some time to walk around town and check out the shops. The day was heating up and the afternoon winds had increased. The sky was mostly cloudy and it looked like it might rain. Rain would be a welcome relief. We hung out and tried to stay cool the rest of the afternoon. Tomorrow we hope the winds are favorable for traveling south. It never rained and we turned in early to get an early start.

July 20, 2011 Manteo Waterfront Marina to Dowry Creek Marina (Belhaven, NC)

We wanted to get an early start to beat the winds and the heat, so we left at 7:30 to eventually head south down the Alligator River.

The skies were clear and the temp was already 80. The breeze had started blowing about 4 AM, but there was not yet the 10 mph winds they were predicting. We were somewhat protected from the wind as we made our way around the top of Roanoke Island, but once we turned down the Alligator River, we headed right into the southerly wind that had generated some waves. We almost had a HUGE delay when the Alligator River bridge tender told us he couldn’t open the bridge because a barge was doing some work there. Lucky for us another boat going north requested an opening too, so we were both able to pass through without a problem. I personally think the barge was not an issue…..just a bridge tender who had an attitude problem. Either way, we continued on after only a few minutes of delay. We entered the Alligator/Pungo River Canal at 11:45 and motored at 10 mph for the 21 miles of narrow canal. We had traveled 18 miles at cruise speed through the wide river itself.

We reached the southern end of the canal at 1:45 and entered the Pungo River continuing on another 6 miles to our destination, Dowry Creek Marina, for the night (just 4 miles east of Belhaven). If there was any big wind today, we didn’t feel it much or see it in the waves. The last 4 miles on the water were like glass.

We had a very pleasant run today of 75.7 miles in 7 hours and arrived at our destination at 2:15. We were tied up, sittting in the AC (the cockpit thermometer read 96), and sipping a cold beverage by 2:30.

We went to check in and look around. The office is in a two story building which includes the laundry and showers.

There is a nice pool and boater’s lounge on the grounds. The owner had some very interesting artwork (bottle tree) on display that she created.

The marina was mostly empty except for a few boaters who helped us tie up and the docks were in a weird configuration, but the rest of the place was very nice.

After about an hour at the dock, we felt the wind pick up and heard thunder outside. In checking the sky, we could see lightning flashes and a possible storm approaching from the northwest. Would we get some needed rain today? It did rain lightly for about 10 minutes, but not enough to rinse off the salt from the boat. After we cleaned up, we made dinner and relaxed with a DVD. We were all drained of energy from the heat today and just wanted to relax the night away. The wind picked up as we went to sleep, but that didn’t deter us from slumberland. We both fell fast asleep.

July 21, 2011 Dowry Creek Marina (Belhaven) to Sea Gate Marina (Morehead City), NC

Walking out of the door this morning felt like a blast from a sauna. The humidity must have been 100% since nothing dried from the short rain shower we had yesterday. Bob go up before I did at 5 AM and I followed at 6:30. We wanted to be gone by 7:30 before the wind came up and pinned us to the dock. We were wedged in a corner of the marina and might have a difficult time leaving if the wind is up. We pulled lines early and Bob, with his expert driving skills, backed the boat away from the dock and all the way down the narrow lane to where he could spin the boat around and pull out. It was very hazy with a light breeze from the SW. We were traveling into the wind which would be our saving grace. We were all alone out there until we got near Hobucken, when we passed a sailboat and a Coast Guard boat going north.

There is a Coast Guard station there, along with an collection of shrimp boats and a commercial fish market.

Bob saw a small boat fueling up there, so he yelled over and asked the price of gas. It was $3.65/gal. so he made a quick decision to stop and fuel up. While we were fueling up, a fisherman came in with his catch of 100 flounders.

It was a busy place for everyone but the shrimp fishermen. Their boats were in port and broken down they said. We were in and out of there in about 20 minutes. The water continued to be glassy until we hit the notorious Neuse River.

We were going south against the wind and the 1-2′ waves. It would have been a wet ride, but we ran at cruise speed to keep the boat dry. The Neuse River can be nasty in a strong wind, but we were lucky it wasn’t bad like they predicted. We decided to change our plan of stopping at River Dunes Marina near Oriental, NC (1/2 way down the Neuse River) and go the entire way, stopping at Sea Gate Marina at the bottom of the river. River Dunes Marina was our place to stop if the Neuse River conditions were bad today. We decided to do the whole Neuse River passage since the conditions were comfortable. Auggie slept on the seat by my side the whole way and shared my fan with me. We tucked in close to the shore and it got calmer yet.

Today we saw a lot more cruising boats traveling north than we have seen in a long time–6 sailboats and 4 trawlers. Most of them had home ports somewhere along the east coast. Maybe they were “loopers” finishing up the Great Loop and returning home. As we left the Neuse River and entered Adams Creek, the breeze died and it was sweltering hot. We listened to the NOAA marine weather forecast and there was a heat advisory warning out for all of northeastern N. Carolina through Saturday. The temps for us near the coast are a little cooler than further inland with a high today of 88 (heat index of 103). I don’t know if they made a mistake in their report, but they also said the temp in Washington, DC would be 91 with a heat index of 127. Wow! Can that be correct? We arrived at Sea Gate Marina at 1:15 and we were done for the day. AC here we come!

We checked in at the office and found out where all the facilities were. I decided to do some wash since it was cheap and convenient to the boat. We hung out in the AC most of the afternoon and Bob went outside to cook dinner once it cooled off a little (if that’s possible). We would head off to Morehead City tomorrow. We had stopped across the river at Beaufort on the way up, so we would give Morehead City a try on the way down. At least that’s our plan for now.

July 22, 2011 Sea Gate Marina to Morehead City, NC (Yacht Basin)

We poked around this morning after getting up at 7:30 because we only had a few miles to go to get to Morehead City where we would spend the next 2-3 nights. We pulled away from the dock at 9:20 after the winds had already started to blow strong out of the SW.

The next 3 days are predicted to have strong winds from a low pressure system that has been stuck in this area for over a week. This system has brought high temps into the upper 90’s to many areas in NC with high humidity. It is expected to move on out of here on Monday. I know other parts of the country are experiencing some of the same record temps and even hotter, so I can definitely relate. We had a short stretch of open water to cross this morning before we got to our destination and that was enough to make us glad that we had traveled down the entire Neuse River yesterday instead of saving half of it for today. The winds were stronger today and very gusty, starting very early in the morning. Our short 10.3 mile ride got us wet and salty and we were concerned about docking in the marina with the wind. Bob did some expert driving and brought us safely to the dock at 10:30 with the help of the dockhands who caught our lines.

We were content to stay tied up for the next couple of days until the conditions improve. We checked in at the marina office, got our bearings, some restaurant recommendations for our anniversary dinner on Sunday, and sat down to have lunch. After lunch, Bob gave the boat a thorough washdown while I spruced up the inside with a little vacuuming and cleaning. Later, Auggie and I took a walk to check out the grass in the area. It doesn’t take long to get hot and sweaty outside, so we didn’t stay out long before we were back at the boat and in the AC. Later, Bob and I took a walk down to the nearby convenience store to see what they had. We walked to the waterfront along the ICW to see what the water conditions were. There were white caps and 1-2′ waves rolling in.

Some people were enjoying the day in the water at the island along the ICW. That seemed like the place to be in this heat.

We walked along Arendell St. to the Ruddy Duck Tavern to check out their menu. We were scouting out a place to have dinner for our anniversary.

We decided to have a beer and some nachos. Then we’ll skip dinner tonight or maybe have a sandwich later. After returning to the boat, I took Auggie for a walk and then went to clean up. We would just hang out until the sun went down, taking the heat of the day with it. Tomorrow is supposed to be windier, but we’ll find something to do to stay cool.

July 23, 2011 Morehead City, NC (day 2)

Yesterday made me crazy! I couldn’t take the heat anymore. It was too hot to do much and there were things I really wanted to see and do. I was bored just hanging around. I vowed to have a better day today. It was a little hotter today and windier….if that’s possible. We got to sleep in and have a relaxing breakfast. We did some trip planning and remembered some places that we needed to go back to that we skipped the first time. We also made plans to take a ferry tour over to Cape Lookout Lighthouse and Shackleford Banks Island where the wild ponies run. We had wanted to take our own boat out there and anchor in Lookout Bight, but the weather wasn’t cooperating and I was bummed out about that. This tour will be one way we get to see and experience the same things. We gave Auggie a bath which he loved! I think he was enjoying the cool water. Later when he dried, we gave his beard, face, and paws a trim. He is so cooperative for his haircut. I think he really likes it! Around 2:00 we decided to take a walk over to the Ruddy Duck for their cheap beers and to check out the boats and people on Sugarloaf Island. We got a good seat at the bar to see all of the action out on the water…..and there was a lot of it, even with the strong winds.

We had a beer and some calamari before we walked out on their pier to view the action. We walked a little farther down the waterfront to check out the city marina and a few other eating establishments. Bob sat next to King Neptune and asked him for some favorable boating weather. Let’s hope he listens.

Just that short 10 minute walk made us all hot and sweaty. At least the breeze by the water kept us from thinking how hot we really were. We grabbed Auggie once we got back to the boat and went up to the boater’s lounge. From the second story lounge, we could get a good view of our boat and the marina.

We were the only ones up there, so Auggie got to be off his leash and walk around to explore the area. Bob and I found a Harry Potter movie on the TV, so we hung around to watch it for awhile.

When it ended, we went back to the boat to make dinner and wait for the sun to go down. We took Auggie out for his evening walk before relaxing with some TV.

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