July 24 to July 30

July 24, 2011  Happy 29th Anniversary to us!!!  Time sure flies when you’re having fun! 

We set the alarm so we could get up in time to take a cab 2 miles to downtown Beaufort for a 3 hour Outer Banks Cape Lookout Lighthouse Tour.  We ate breakfast, walked Auggie, and called a cab.  He picked us up at 8:20 for our 9:00 tour.  We arrived in Beaufort, just across the river, and checked in at the office for the tour.
At 9:00, Capt. Dave loaded all 5 of us into the 25′ boat and started out towards the Beaufort Inlet.
The wind was already blowing 15-20 knots and the waves and tide were rolling in.  The boat was built to travel well in rough water and we barely got wet.  Capt. Dave traveled in the troughs of the waves, but at times we rode on top of the 4-5′ swells.  (I might have let out a little scream when the boat rode high on a swell, but only Bob heard me.)  There were a few white knuckles to say the least, but Capt. Dave did a great job of getting us there safely.  We first toured Shackleford Banks where we saw the wild Spanish mustangs grazing at the water’s edge. 
There is a herd of 140 horses that roam free on the island.  They eat the lush grasses that are exposed when the tide goes out and drink fresh water from holes they dig in the sand.  We saw quite a few of them and you know how I love horses!  We continued on to Cape Lookout Lighthouse where we would have an hour to explore the beach, lighthouse, and keeper’s quarters museum.  We would have to be efficient with our time.  Bob and I first walked down to the beach.  We both wanted to see a “wild” beach on the Outer Banks.
The wind was blowing so hard that it picked up the sand and stung our legs as we walked.  The beach had beautiful white sand and shells like many Florida beaches, but Bob and I found ourselves alone on the beach.  It was wilderness in both directions for as far as we could see…..no people, no buildings. It is part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. 
I had to put my feet in the water and test the temperature.  It was warmer than I expected.
We walked the beach awhile and found some interesting colorful shell pieces smoothed out from being tossed and turned in the waves. We saw an RV that was outfitted for surf fishing.  Bob had read about them in one of his magazines.  They are available for rent and come all equipped-ready to go fishing.  The guys told us the ferry brought them over to the island with their vehicle.
From there we walked up closer to the lighthouse with the distinctive black and white diamond pattern.  You know how I love lighthouses!

The painted pattern on the lighthouse is known as the “daymark”.  Daymarks help to distinguish one lighthouse from another.  The daymark chosen for Cape Lookout is called the “diamond” pattern.  The daymark is aligned with the black diamonds traveling North/South and the white diamonds if you are traveling East/West.  Cape Lookout is the only lighthouse to change like this.  Check it out in the pictures below. 
We toured the lighthouse keeper’s museum and were able to see Lookout Bight from there.  (That’s where we would have anchored had the weather been better. )

As our hour at the lighthouse drew to a close, we walked back to the pier to wait for the others.  While we were waiting, we saw so many jellyfish beached on the sand.  Capt. Dave told us these type of jellyfish were harmless, so I picked one up.  They felt like hard rubber, not slimy and slippery like you might think.  It was cool to see them up close.
                                         We saw tiny crabs and hermit crabs inside all kinds of shells. 
The other members of our group arrived and it was time to go back to the boat.  This time the ride was smoother since we were going with the waves.  Capt. Dave stopped again near the horses as we made our way back. 

We came back along Harker’s Island and through Taylor Creek along the Beaufort waterfront lined with big houses and lots of boats. 
Capt. Dave said the winds had picked up and the waves coming into the inlet were 5-6′ tall by now.  Good thing we came back the other way–on the inside.  We got back to the dock at 12:00 and stopped at Fitz’s for a cold beer before calling the cab to come and get us.  Downtown Beaufort was really hopping with tourists now, compared to when we got to town this morning. 
We got back to the boat around 1:00 and just relaxed with Auggie.  We cleaned up and went to celebrate our anniversary with dinner at the Ruddy Duck.  Both of us had great dinners and enjoyed the walk back. The day had finally started to cool off and the wind started to die off from blowing strong all day long.  Once we got back from dinner, Auggie and I took a walk where he got to play with 3 kids that just loved him.  There were lots of giggles!  He was worn out when we got back to the boat.  We got the boat ready to leave tomorrow and relaxed with some TV before calling it a day.  We had a great time doing what we love to do best….spending time together on the water.

July 25, 2011  Morehead City to Dudley’s Marina, Swansboro, NC

I am getting so tired of this wind……It was breezy and humid again this morning.  It doesn’t seem like this windy, hot weather pattern is going to break any time soon.  We decided to move on, so at 8:00 we pulled away from the dock and motored out.  The SW wind and tide were working against one another creating standing 1′ waves, otherwise I don’t think we would have seen much wave action this early.  We enjoyed our stay in Morehead City, but wish the weather would have been more conducive to being outside or anchoring out.  Oh well….it is what it is.  We passed one sportfish towing another as we moved through Bogue Sound.  We could see that one of the lines probably got caught in the propeller.  It was frayed and still hanging over the side.
I wouldn’t want to be the one responsible for causing that to happen.  Yikes! 
The tide-driven waves got a little bigger as we motored slowly south.  We didn’t have far to go today so we took it slow, saving fuel, and the ride was comfortable.  The wind changed direction a little and came more out of the west.  The waves increased to 1-2′ as they were funneled between the mainland and the barrier islands.  The current had changed direction and it was going with us now, so although the ride was wet, it wasn’t bumpy.  We made our turn into the White Oak River to Dudley’s Marina.  We were planning to fuel up and spend the night.  It seemed pretty protected in the channel and that helped with docking.  While we were fueling, the wind picked up again and created white caps and waves on the little stretch of water in front of the marina.  The winds had to be blowing 15-20 by our estimation.  I could hardly stand on the dock without getting blown around.
We did some trip planning and weather checking after we got all tied up and secure.  Once we were sure the boat would be fine at the dock, we borrowed the courtesy car to go into Swansboro for some groceries.  When we got back, the winds cranked up again, so Bob went out to clock them with his anemometer.  The winds came in at a consistent 20 mph with gusts up to 28 mph.  It became dangerous to walk on the dock.  We had to put out extra fenders and even borrowed a large fender from our neighbor.  There was a lot of crazy action going on around us.  A barge crashed into the end of one of the docks and broke off a piece, cracking the dock.  Later, a huge 120′ yacht came past looking for a place to dock and had a hard time maneuvering in the wind.  The large outside dock at Dudley’s Marina, was full with the barge , so he was headed across the way to Casper’s Marina which can’t accommodate a large yacht like that either.  They must have found a place to let him tie up on one of their outside docks because that’s where they stayed.  It was amazing to watch him try and dock in the wind.  The yacht was actually listing in the wind, if you can believe that, but we saw it for ourselves.  We hung out on the boat most of the afternoon to keep an eye on things.  We took Auggie for a walk when the wind calmed down a little and watched a movie on TV.  The wind finally started to die off around 5:00.  Thank goodness!  The rocking and rolling at the dock was really getting to me.  We made dinner inside tonight.  The wind just wouldn’t let us keep the fire on the grill lit.  We watched some TV and the wind picked up again.  We’re hoping to get some sleep tonight.  We’ll check the weather forecast again before we decide to stay or leave tomorrow.   

July 26, 2011  Dudley’s Marina, Swansboro, NC (day 2)

The winds finally died off last night to create decent sleeping conditions.  It did pick up again at some point during the night moving the boat around, waking Bob up.  He got up early this morning to check the weather so we could decide whether to stay or go today.  We decided that we would spend another night here at Dudley’s since there were small craft advisories out for points farther south….where we were headed.  Better to be safe, not sorry.  We took a closer look at the dock that the barge ran into yesterday and saw the damage.  Bob informed the owner so that he could take the necessary precautions.  The barge crew came back today to repair the damage they did.
The skies were cloudy which kept the temps under 90 today…the first time in nearly 2 weeks. We were actually able to go outside without getting a blast of hot, humid air.  It was quite comfortable with temps in the 80s for a change and the humidity was down.  We could finally do some work outside without getting sweaty.  The winds were pretty calm most of the day, which went against the weather forecast.  Oh well….    Bob decided he would change the oil in the engines, so he took the courtesy car into town to buy some filters and the oil. While he worked on that, I was able to wash the boat and get it free of all the salt from the wind and waves of yesterday.  When he finished, he washed the cockpit and driving stations.  I cleaned and polished the rails around the boat.  We finished with the boat and felt good about all we had accomplished today.  The boat looked great!
We had a cocktail before dinner and were able to sit out back in the cockpit.  We haven’t been able to do that in over 2 weeks.  What a treat!  We treated ourselves to pizza at Trattoria’s Pizza Parlor just across the bridge in Swansboro.  One of the locals recommended the place, so we asked to take the courtesy car for an hour and drove over.  The pizza was hand-tossed and delicious.  We haven’t had pizza in 3 months, so we really enjoyed it!  
The winds never came up today like they predicted, so we really didn’t have to spend another day at Dudley’s, but we got a lot done today, so it was worth it!  We got a few sprinkles throughout the day, but really nothing to speak of.  We haven’t had a full day of rain on this whole trip and only about 5 days where we had rain at all, mostly at night.  That’s amazing!  Tomorrow we’ll move on to Wrightsville Beach since the weather forecast looks good.  Let’s hope the actual weather matches the forecast.  The day ended with a beautiful sunset and a rainbow.
What a nice way to end a great day!

July 27, 2011  Dudley’s Marina, Swansboro to Wrightsville Beach, NC  (Dockside Marina)

Bob plucked me out of bed at 6:30 to say we were leaving soon.  Yesterday the firing range at Camp Lejeune was active with bombing practice with fighter jets and ground artillery for most of the day.  The jets would go screaming by overhead and then you’d hear multiple explosions.  Today would be another day of practice and when they do, they restrict boat traffic on the ICW with delays of possibly 1-4 hours.  We didn’t want to get stuck in one of those delays, so we pulled away from the dock at Dudley’s at 7:10.  The weather conditions were good–mostly sunny skies, light breeze, and the current was slack for getting off the dock.  For once, the current would be working in our favor.  Nothing was going on at the firing range—yet.
                    As we passed through it, we could see the remains of some of the targets they use in practice.
There was also a smell in the air this morning of something burning close by.  There had been a report of a forest fire in the area on the news the other day.  Maybe that was it.  We’ll have to find out.  A formation of 8 jet skis came by with a tour guide riding 2 by 2.  All  8 of them had their water “rooster tails” showing.  How much fun can riding in formation on a jet ski be? 
We picked up speed a little to make the 11:00 hourly opening of the Surf City Bridge.  As we motored south, we occasionally passed under a dark cloud that dropped a few sprinkles, but nothing significant.  The temp. this morning (82) was perfect and the cloud cover helped to keep it comfortable.  This guy must have thought the giraffe would draw attention to his “for sale” sign.  Otherwise, why would you have a giraffe that big in your backyard?   Hmmmmm. 
The skies cleared and it got sunny and warmer as we neared Wrightsville Beach, our destination for tonight. 

                                        We pulled in and got tied up at Dockside Marina by 1:30. 
It turned out to be a nice day and started to warm up…..just about the time we got tied up.  We had traveled a total of 54.4 miles today.  Bob worked on his treasurer business for the Co-op and Auggie and I just sat for awhile and cooled off in the AC.  Bob and I took a walk up to the Dockside Restaurant and Bar for a beer. 
It was nice to sit at the bar overlooking the water enjoying a beer with a nice breeze blowing.  We sat drinking our beer, watching the boat traffic on the ICW.  It was such a busy place!
After finishing our beer, we went back to the boat to walk Auggie and have dinner.  We were having leftovers from the last 2 days…..pizza and shrimp scampi.  Yum!  The area continued to be busy far into the evening hours as people stopped at the marina by boat for dinner and drinks.  We sat out back and watched all the action until it got too dark to see anything and our eyes got too tired to stay open.

July 28, 2011  Wrightsville Beach (Dockside) to Myrtle Beach (Barefoot Marina)

We pulled out around 8:00 to get a beat on the heat and humidity.  We had clear, blue skies and a light breeze from the SW.  The current was with us, but we were going against the wind.  That was ok because the breeze kept us cool and refreshed.  In passing Carolina Beach  Inlet we could see many boats fishing along the shoreline today.  The winds were perfect out of the SW for smooth water close to shore.  People had also driven down the coast of Pleasure Island to the sandy point at the Carolina Beach Inlet. They would be fine there for fishing, shelling, or enjoying the beach until the tide started to come in.  
We passed Carolina Beach where we had anchored before and continued on through Snow’s Cut.  Boat traffic was light and there was no tug pushing a barge to contend with this time.  The passage through Snow’s Cut was uneventful.  

Once we were on the Cape Fear River, we picked up speed going with the current.  We were traveling at 12.4 mph with the help of the current.  That’ll save some gas.  We passed the town of Southport and had thought about stopping there, but it was still early in the day, so we kept going.
I drove for awhile so Bob could get out on the bow of the boat to wash the windshields.  With the wind and the waves today, the windshield got covered in salt.   He wanted to wash them down, so he could see better out of them.   
As we traveled through the narrow channel at Long Beach, we were warned of numerous areas where severe shoaling is occurring and we were coming up on low tide.  Along the shore we saw numerous oyster beds exposed during low tide.
We saw a couple of sailboats whose keels were sunk in the mud.  This was an extreme case of being “high and dry”.
In passing Lockwood’s Folly Inlet, there were many people out enjoying a beautiful day at the beach and a low tide.  There are miles and miles of beach along the ocean and ICW sides of the barrier islands along the coast.  (It makes me miss FL). 
Holden Beach was a congested area of people playing on the water in all kinds of ways.  About 20 rental jets skies passed us as we left Holden Beach.  We had never seen such a big group of jet skiers at one time. 
All Bob keeps saying in the last few days has been “Don’t these people have jobs they should be at?”  The dockhand at Dockside Marina also told us “that’s what ‘beach people’ do”.  I guess we’ve forgotten that this is the height of tourist season, the kids are out of school, and people are vacationing from Memorial Day until Labor Day.  There were people everywhere! 
The area of the ICW that we were traveling in today, is a 20 mile stretch of long colonies of oceanfront houses, many on stilts, that stand on dredged canals from the ICW to the ocean.  Each home has a dock and pier, so it was “slow, no wake” most of the way.
We crossed the border into South Carolina at 2:15.  We figured out that it took us 10 days to travel through North Carolina (with a few weather days thrown in).  North Carolina has a very long coastline and the ICW parallels it most of the way.  This bridge marks the dividing line between fresh water and salt water or so the sign says.
We had to traverse the area called “The Rock Pile” where the channel is lined with hard shale or rock.  Any mistake in direction could put you on the rocks.  At least this time, we were passing through at high tide!
We arrived in North Myrtle Beach at Barefoot Marina at 3:45.  We had done 70.4 miles of slow travel today, at 10-12 mph due to many “slow, no wake” zones that we passed through.  It made for a very long day!  We were both so mentally and physically tired that we forgot to put out the fenders before we went to the dock.  We have NEVER done that in 25 years of boating!  Once we got tied up and the AC on, we went to register at the office.  Auggie went with us to stretch his legs.  We cleaned up and Bob cooked us some chicken on the grill.  We were happy to eat dinner and relax with Auggie.  It will be an early evening for us tonight.  Tomorrow we’ll explore the beach which is about a mile away and see what is across the ICW on the other side.  

July 29, 2011  Myrtle Beach, Barefoot Marina (day 2)

Things are heating up this week with temps in the high 90s and high humidity.  Next week, they say will be in the more “normal” range of mid to upper 80s.  We had a restful night and a leisurely breakfast.  We wanted to get an early start before it got too hot.  Bob put the bikes together for our 1 mile ride over the bridge to the beach. 
We left at 9:00 hopped on the walkway over the bridge and headed for the beach.  There is great beach access in many places.  We had one right at the end of the street we were riding on.  We parked our bikes and walked onto Windy Hill Beach.  It was only 9:20, but the beach was already full of people and cabanas.  
I tested the water and it was warm.  It was so tempting to go in farther.  Some waves were rolling in, but the wind was coming from the land.  It would be a hot one at the beach today.  
We stayed for awhile and came to the realization that when you live in FL like we do, you don’t get too excited about beaches.  At least not like we used to when we lived in WI.  We are lucky to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the country right in our backyard and easy access to them.  Does that make any sense?  We rode our bikes down Ocean Boulevard to check out the area. 
This one particular building intrigued me….the North Beach Plantation Resort.  What a place!
On the way back, we took a ride through the Barefoot Landing…a group of 100 retail shops and restaurants right across the ICW from us.  It was only 10:00 and the shops were just starting to open.  No one was really out and about yet.
We also stopped to check out the House of Blues.  It first caught our eye, #1 because it’s huge, and #2 it is made entirely of old, rusty sheets of corrugated, galvanized steel. 
We went inside to discover that there was a restaurant and a music hall where they host concerts from some of the big names in popular music.  
They also have a comedy club and gift store on the premises.  It’s a pretty cool place inside the gates.
We rode back to the boat and felt pretty overheated already so we sat in the AC for awhile.  Later, I went up to do some laundry and reading while I waited in the laundry room.  At least it had AC.  While I was gone, Bob washed down the boat to get off all the salt and took Auggie for a walk.  Once we were both finished, we went up to the pool for a swim. (The marina is actually part of a large resort complex with golf courses, pool, restaurant, spa, and exercise room.)
The pool was crowded , but we found 2 chairs at a table with an umbrella so we could sit in the shade.  The water was refreshing and we enjoyed an hour at the pool “people watching”.  We returned to the boat for cocktails and dinner.  Once it cooled off and the sun started going down, it was nice enough to sit out in back and watch the traffic on the ICW until it got dark.  Auggie and I sat out back to watch darkness fall.  It was busy across the ICW at the Barefoot Landing Shops.
There was a beautiful sunset over the bow as we took Auggie for his last walk of the night. 
We all retired for an early start tomorrow.  It’s supposed to be hotter tomorrow than it was today, so we’ll be on the move as early as we can.


July 30, 2011  North Myrtle Beach (Barefoot Marina) to Georgetown (Hazard Marina), SC

We left at 7:45 and already it was steamy and calm.  There was absolutely no wind at all.  Today would be the worst day yet for heat.  Hopefully, leaving early would also reduce some of the weekend boat traffic.  We passed a tug pushing a barge.  We haven’t seen one of those in a long time.  
We stopped for fuel and a pumpout at Osprey Marina before entering the beautiful Waccamaw River.  
                                                    The river is narrow and lined with cypress trees.
There was not one whisper of a breeze and the heat was brutal, yet we saw people sitting in their boats without any cover to create shade. Yikes!  How can they stand it?  The young dockhand at Osprey Marina told us it has been excruciatingly hot and dry the last 4 years.  I guess many parts of the country have experienced unusual weather patterns in the last few years. In listening to the Weather Channel this morning, we were happy to hear that Tropical Storm Don died out and only brought rain to Texas.  We have been watching the formation of hurricanes very closely since hurricane season began June 1.  We passed 3 cruising boats going north today.  It’s funny how we don’t see any for days and then we’ll see a couple grouped together.  One was headed for Toronto, another to Virginia, and the last one had no visible home port, but they were in a big hurry to get there, wherever it was.  The water here is that coffee color, so our brown “mustache” on the bow of the boat began to appear again.  As morning wore on, the amount of boat traffic increased significantly.  Along both shorelines were abandoned rice fields.  By the 1840’s, this area produced about 1/2 of the rice consumed in the entire United States.  Not so much today, but they still produce the special Carolina Gold rice.  Maybe I’ll be able to find some at one of the stores in town.  Our destination today is Georgetown, SC.  Georgetown is a town of 8,950 people.  It was founded in 1729 as a port city.  Georgetown is South Carolina’s third oldest city and one of the best preserved in the Southeast.  It has an impressive collection of 18th and 19th century homes, churches, and cemeteries.
We pulled into Georgetown Harbor and were all tied up by 1:00.  We had traveled 52.5 miles today.  
We were staying at Hazzard Marina.  We settled in, turned on the AC, and put on the windshield and cockpit covers.  That seems to keep the sun out and the heat down.  Our weather website said it was 100 degrees with a heat index of 104.  I thought it would be higher with that kind of temperature.  It was too hot to walk barefoot on the cockpit floor.  Bob and I walked up to the office to register.
The marina has a nice boater’s lounge, laundry facility, and outside covered deck.  We’ll spend two nights here, so we can check out the town tomorrow. Bob and I walked over to the Stormy Seas Seafood Store right on the premises.  They had just brought in a fresh catch of shrimp and we went in to check it out. 
Later, I walked Auggie, but I had to carry him to the grass.  His poor little feet got too hot walking on the cement.   We relaxed and watched a movie until dinner.  Bob grilled steaks out back in the cockpit and we hung out in the AC until the sun started to go down.